Doing it on the cheap - Redeaux!

In looking at my website stats, my "Doing it on the cheap" post is #1. There is no other post that even comes close, even my Cycle Oregon page has less hits by a 10x margin. And now I present an updated and expanded version of...

Triathlons: Hot to be a Triathlete on a budget.


Triathlons are not for the faint of heart and, apparently, not for the thin of wallet. 

"So Triathlon is the new golf?" I was so flabbergasted that I didn't quite know what to say. This could not possibly be true but there was the data in black and white-

"According to a study initiated by USA Triathlon, the average triathlete is a married 38-year-old with an income of $126,000. Forty-four percent have kids living at home; 60% are male. They spend in excess of $4,000 annually on bike gear, athletic footwear, race fees and nutritional supplements. Nearly half have traveled more than 500 miles for a race."

-Natalie Zmuda, Advertising Age

$4000 a year on gear, race fees, and food? PER YEAR? Seriously? If it doesn't turn out to be a fad then there is significant money to be made marketing/selling gear to triathletes in the coming years. 

...Unless that triatlete is me. I may be squarely in the demographic quoted above but I spend NO WHERE NEAR that amount of money on my craft.

Is it possible to be a triathlete and do it on a shoe-string budget? My answer: ABSOLUTELY!

Let's break it down into the main categories mentioned in the article above and see how you can do it without breaking the bank. To be fair to all you lady triathletes out there I called upon an old friend, Valerie, who finished her rookie race in 2011 and did it for just-over $200!

Finding the Best Deals

TIMING IS EVERYTHING: Best advice I can give you - plan what you need NOW and start researching and window shopping. Notice I didn't say buying? That comes later. If you wait until the last minute to find what you need you will either spend WAY too much (i.e. list price) or find yourself loaded down with worthless gear that doesn't fit or meet your needs.

Once you know what you are looking for, you can take your time and wait for the right sale.

The best time of year to buy gear is the last month of the season and the 2 months following (August-October in North America). That's when shops are clearing out the current year's merchandise, prepping for Inter-bike, and getting ready to stock up on the latest products. If you can settle for the previous year's clothing or gear you can save some serious dough.

Deal Websites: My favorite site lately has been Chainlove but you can also find great deals on Amazon and many others. Also look for "deal of the day" on sites like Western Bike WorksREI, and Competitive Cyclist. These sites are great but if you don't know what you are looking for they are useless. Do your footwork first and they are much more valuable. 

Clearance Sales: The REI seasonal clearance sales, the clearance section of just about any shopping website, and even Performance Bike and Bike Nashbar are a great place to find hidden gems. Case in point: My bike commute shoes are a pair of size 49 Canondale Roam shoes. I found them on a fluke on Bike Nashbar for nearly 75% off (less than $30). 

The Clearance Rack: When I go shopping at any store (clothes, electronics, and especially sporting goods) the first place I go is the clearance rack/section. Some of my best finds have been at REI, the Nike Factory store, and, yes, Target (amazing low prices on basic workout clothes such as base layers for running). Go to ALL of your local bike stores (LBS) and check out their clearance rack/table. You will be surprised what you can find marked down by 80% (like every set of gloves or glasses I have ever worn). 

Race/Training Clothing

I put this category first because it crosses boundaries with the different disciplines on race day and, most of the time, while training as well. 

Tri shorts: A good pair of tri shorts will serve you well on the bike and still be comfortable on the run. I prefer the Pearl Izumi Tri Shorts, men's model of course. List price: $55. If you are going to skimp on something, for heaven's sake don't skimp on your shorts. Do it on the...

Tri top: This is where there is the most flexibility. For short races a normal bike jersey will do but for the longer races you need something that won't chafe your armpits or other sensitive upper-body areas. Once again, Pearl Izumi Tri Top (Sleeveless) is a good choice. List price: $55.

Tri Suit: The even cheaper way to go is to combine the jersey and shorts into a tri suit. The Pearl Izumi Tri Suitlists for $99, $10 cheaper than the shorts and top combination. 

I hate to sound like a broken record for Pearl Izumi but they seem to have a lot of clothes that fit me (size XXL). There are other options out there but they are harder to find and often more expensive. 

That about covers race day clothing but race day itself is less than 1% of the total time you will spend all year in your sport. The rest is spent training. While training, especially on single-sport days, you can wear something a little more tailored for the current sport. If I'm going to spend 120 minutes on the bike doing a long ride I would much rather be wearing bike-specific shorts. There is a lot of flexibility there. I will cover each individually below.

Swim exit to T1, Beaver Lake Tri 2010Swim Gear

Race Swim Suit: See Tri shorts/suits above. For race day there really is no substitute. In big races (i.e. Ironman events) there is an enclosed changing area where you can change into a tri-suit if you desire but not so in shorter/local races. I actually saw a couple of women changing in the transition area of T1 during a race. One would hold up a big towel around the other while she changed, then they would switch. Their T1 times must have been somewhere around 10 minutes.

Training Swim Suit: This is where you can get ultra-cheap. Any suit that fits for swimming, and allows for freedom of movement, should do the trick. I use a cheap pair of swim trunks while Val uses a womens model Speedo suit that she has had for years. 

Goggles: Talk about cheap! You can get goggles for as little as $5. I use the Speedo Baja Goggle which I picked up from a local sport retailer for $10. Just as with any equipment it has to fit. 

Swim Cap: Since these are provided with your race this is one of the few no-cost items on the list (well, almost no-cost, since race entries aren't exactly free). I didn't think much about using a swim cap during training swims until I took a lifeguard class. Those bright-colored swim caps make it MUCH easier to find a lost swimmer underwater, especially when visibility is limited.

Beaver Lake Tri 2010 Swim StartWet suit: This is by far the highest priced item in the swim section. For race day wet suits can be rented in most major cities for anywhere from $40-70, depending on type and length of rental. If you live in an area where you must train using a wet suit (like I do) then purchasing one may be a better deal. These can cost anywhere from $100 to as much as you want to spend. Second hand wetsuits are plentiful around the end of the season via Ebay, Craigslist, or even your favorite retailer (think rentals models clearance). I bought my wetsuit for $150 from Chainlove.com, a 2XU SC:1 sleeveless wetsuit. 

 

Bikes and Bike Equipment

The Bike: There are no other pieces of equipment in your list that will meet the cost of the bike. You can use an existing bike (like Val did), buy a used bike for under $100, or spend as much money as you want (the sky is the limit in some cases). Now, before you run out and spend more than the value of your car on a real tri-bike, remember that even Chrissy Wellington won her first Ironman Kona on a Drop Bars with clip-on aero bars. Of course that bike was a Cervelo P2C tricked out with full Dura-ace groupo and an HED wheelset. Even Lance said, "It's not about the bike." The best place to start is a bike that fits your budget and your body.

A word about bike sizing: Any good LBS should be able to size your bike to you. If you are going to spend hundreds of hours training, commuting, and/or racing on a bike in an aero position a fit is more important than you may realize: as with other repetitive strain injuries, the right positioning and posture can prevent countless hours of pain and thousands of dollars. A post-purchase bike fit is covered by most insurance companies to make sure your bike is adjusted to fit your specific body needs. 

Bike Accessories: After you buy a helmet (required at all races in the US) the basic item you need is some type of hydration (i.e. water bottle and mount). The cheapest are only a few dollars. Other essential items are bike shoes, with compatible pedals, and perhaps a bike computer. My friend Val went old-school with a set of clip-pedals for under $20, which is what I would consider the bare minimum for any race. Without clips or a clipless pedal/shoe combination you cannot capture the energy of upward/backward pedal strokes and will waste precious muscle energy on the down-stroke, which is the same primary muscle group you use when you run. 

Bike Computer: There are a TON of toys you add to your bike, including GPS devices with mapping and directions (I use an old Garmin Edge 705 or Forerunner 310XT), but why not just use your smartphone? If you have an iPhone, Andriod, or Windows Phone then you have all that functionality already. Go download a free fitness app and you will have speed and GPS data. You can even add on a heart-rate monitor to your iPhone for under $100.

Repair Kit: Some racers, especially in the elite class, really go light on their repair kits or even skip it completely. If you, like me, are one those "finish at all costs" type of athletes then a good repair kit is essential but it doesn't have to cost much at all. A basic flat kit, an extra tube, and a CO2 pump will weigh only a pound or 2 and can cost less than $20. 

Bike-specific Clothing (Training): Jerseys and shorts can be a very personal item in terms of fit, use, and style but one thing is for sure: a good pair of bike shorts goes a long way. Or at least it can help you go a long way with lower body impact than a cheaper pair of shorts. Best advice I heard early on: buy a really cheap jersey and use the money you saved to buy the best shorts you can afford. Your nether-regions will thank you later (as opposed to screaming).

Beaver Lake Tri 2010Running Gear

Running Shoes: Along with tri shorts, running footwear is another area where you should be careful about getting overly cheap. Properly fit footwear is the first requirement but it must also fit your running style. A quick visit to a podiatrist or running store for a gait analysis (i.e. how do you run?) will help determine the best type of shoe. I have been wearing Asics Gel Kayano shoes for the past several years and LOVE the feel, although I have been experimenting with minimalist footwear with some success. 

Once you know what works best for you there is nothing to stop you from buying online. My favorite source for shoes has been Ebay. Search for your specific make/model/size of shoe and you can find screaming deals for as much as 50-70% off, especially if it is "last year's model". 

Run-specific Clothing (Training): This is where I get super cheap. My running shorts, shirts, and base layers come from either the clearance rack at Target or my local sporting good store. Total cost: $15 per set. 

 

Race Fees

This one can get a little ridiculous if you are not careful. In 2009 I completed 3 races, 2 sprints and an Olympic distance. My total race fees for the year: $222 ($72, 75, and 75 respectively). 

I prefer smaller, more local events than the larger M-Dot events (i.e. World Triathlon Corporation, or WTC, owners of the Ironman brand). While very well run the M-Dot events support upwards of several thousand racers and cost a lot more than the local non-profit events I usually participate in- 

  • Ironman 70.3 (US prices): $250-300 (depends on registration date)
  • Ironman 140.6 (US prices): $600-700

 

Nutrition

Gels, Protein Shakes, jelly beans, etc: This one is like arguing religion or pizza toppings (very contentious in some cases). No matter your preference in this category you can find numerous vendors our there and, if you shop smart, you can find good deals. Watch the clearance sales and bulk buy web sites for the best deals. I usually spend less than $50/year on nutrition. 

A warning about clearance "nutrition": Watch the expiration date. I bought some Honey Stinger Waffles recently (my new favorite food for distance riding) and found they expired in 6 months after purchase (hence the low cost). Don't stock up big if they won't last.

 

Summary

How much did I spend in 2011? (my last big race year prior to 2014)

Race day gear (per year, as spent in 2011)

  • Race clothing: $0 (bought my Tri-shorts in 2010 for $30, no new jerseys in 2010)
  • Swim gear: $15 (new goggles, wetsuit was purchased in 2010 for $150)
  • Bike gear: $150 (new chain, rear cassette, and front/rear tires)
  • Run gear: $65 (new shoes)
  • Nutrition: $50 (new gels)
  • Race fees: $75 (only 1 race in 2011)

My 2011 total: $355 (i.e. nowhere near the $4000 number above).

How much did Valerie spend on her first tri in 2011? (An off-road Tri in eastern WA state)

  • Race clothing: $0 (borrowed Tri-shorts for the race, but have since purchased a Tri-suit at TJ Maxx)
  • Swim gear: $0 (used existing goggles, no wetsuit)
  • Bike gear: $20 (new toe-clip pedals)
  • Run gear: $80 (new shoes)
  • Nutrition: $50 (new gels, should last into 2012)
  • Race fees: $60 (only 1 race in 2011)

2011 Total: $210

Was this a typical race year for me? Well, almost. My race fees would have been about $150 higher (i.e. 2 races) if I was able to better coordinate my schedule. My typical race schedule is for at least 3 races, 1 of them a half-iron distance (i.e. 70.3 but it's not an M-dot event). My race fees should be closer to $300.

The Race Rookie Year

What if you are new to triathlon and looking to complete your rookie race? Let's assume you are starting from absolute zero and do a little math...

  • Race clothing: $100 (Tri-suit)
  • Swim gear: $20 (cheap swim suit and googles)
  • Bike gear: $600 (bike, clipless pedals, shoes, shorts, jersey)
  • Run gear: $100 (running shoes, shorts, shirt, base layer)
  • Nutrition: $50
  • Electronics: $50 (basic heart rate monitor)
  • Race fees: $100 (typical for a local Sprint/Olympic-distance race, not an M-Dot event)
  • Total: $1020

This assumes you have no gear whatsoever, which is not true for most athletes. 

The moral of the story: you can EASILY spend less than $1000/year on triathlon gear and race fees if you are careful. I will grant that my goals are not as lofty as some. If you are shooting for 1 or more Ironman races this year (140.6) then your budget may be a bit larger. Spending that much time in training puts a lot of stress on your body and clothing which wears it out faster and sometimes requires you to buy the more expensive clothes in the first place.

But for "normal guys" like me (hence the website name) it is very easy to be a tight-wad and a cheap-skate. Just don't tell my wife or she may cut my gear budget even further. }B^)

Quick Update and Detour...

A quick update on my status and a slight detour...

Last spring my son Patrick decided he wanted to try mountain biking. So we packed up our bikes and headed off to a local park to try our hand at single-track. At this point I didn't own a mountain bike so I was riding my commuter bike, a Specialized TriCross Disc. It didn't end well for me, in a way. After less than half a mile of riding in the mud and muck, we turned around. My 1.6" tires were not built for this type of riding. And Patrick beat me back to the parking lot by a sizable margin. The grin on his face was incredible.

So I've been shopping for a new bike. My injuries and other priorities earlier in the year put that on hold but last week I pulled the trigger. I plan to use this bike for fun rides with my son, bike camping, and our big ride across the state (someday). 

2014 Specialized RockHopper 29, my newest ride.

So, the detour... Over on my other website, RideAcrossWashington.com, I wrote up a blog post  detailing my shopping experience and my first real trail ride with my son. It was an amazing day.

Patrick at Soaring Eagle Park in Sammamish, WA

Red-Tac Island Hopper Ride Report

Most married men complain about their in-laws, specifically their Mother-in-law (i.e. the mother of their wife). Rather than go into the vagaries of standard social convention, I will end it all by saying that when I married my wife I hit the "in-law lottery." My wife's parents are two of the coolest, most laid-back, accommodating people I have ever met. They are VERY hard working, every waking minute is spent working, even though they "retired" almost 15 years ago when they sold their business. They even come to my races to cheer me on!

My In-laws (i.e. the Grandparents) wait with my boys at the finish of the 2009 Issaquah Tri

With that in mind...

I live in Sammamish, Washington. My wife's parents live in Tacoma, about 50 miles away (the direct route by car). Living in such close proximity allows for frequent visits to the Grandparents. And each year I tell my wife that I want to ride to their house. This has been going on for 5 years now. Well, I finally found time to do it and with a route that was relatively safe. 

My first idea was the direct route, as calculated by MapMyRide. I tweaked it a bit and came up with this route via Lake Washington Blvd, the Interurban Trail, and lots of city streets through Puyallup and Tacoma to the lovely town of University Place.

Yes, there is a town called Puyallup (pronounced pew-ALL-up). It is home to THE BEST FAIR in the world, the Washington State Fair. Oh, and Fischer Scones. Gotta get me some of those... <drool>

Fisher Scones at the Puyallup Fair...but I digress.

Some facts about this route-

  • Distance: 63.25 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1280'
  • Scenic Factor: 4 out of 10

OK, I totally made up the "scenic factor" but I plan to use it again in the near future. Maybe even in this post. This route does ride along Lake Sammamish and Lake Washington, and has a nice view of Mt. Rainier off in the distance, but it is also VERY suburban in nature. The other thing about this route that bugs me is the last few miles into University Place: the bike lanes are virtually non-existent.

So I considered another option, this one involving a trip to Seattle, a couple of ferries, and an island. Oh, and a little Defiance thrown in for good measure. It came out in 3 sections: Sammamish to Seattle, Vashon Island north-to-south, and Point Defiance to University Place.

Facts about this route-

  • Distance: 48.0 miles
  • Elevation gain: 3021'
  • Scenic Factor: 7 out of 10

This route cuts off nearly 20 miles and includes 2 ferry rides, plus it is on trails, side streets, and rural roads the entire way. Piece of cake, right? What I didn't notice about this route was that the elevation gain is DOUBLE the longer route above.

On ride day (Aug. 2, 2013) I rode into work, then took off from my office in Redmond on my way to Seattle. It figures that the day I plan to do my first big ride since my surgery was also the first day in nearly 2 months that we had any rain. Yes, I'm that good at weather planning. The interesting thing about rain in the Seattle area is that people freak out when it rains. You would think that since it rains a lot in Seattle that people would be used to it. You would be wrong...

Riding the 520 trail, westbound through Bellevue, passing cars stopped on the freeway.So once again I was glad I planned to do this route on trails and side streets. The other route would have been a lot more dangerous. I still had a few city streets to navigate as I connected to various trails along the way.

There must be a trail around here somewhere...

Oh! There it is!

Narrow trail in Bellevue, glad there is no traffic!Through Bellevue, the Mercer Slough, and under I-90.

Bridge over the Mercer Slough in Bellevue, WA

Under Interstate 90 in the Mercer Slough in Bellevue, WAUnder Interstate 90 in the Mercer Slough in Bellevue, WAThe I-90 floating bridge across Lake Washington has a bike path on the north side of the bridge, one of the most traveled bike paths in the country. It is a lot of fun to bomb down the hill, get into a tuck, and hammer across the bridge. Unless the wind is blowing in your face and you can barely keep 15 MPH.

I-90 floating bridge from the Seattle side.Once on the Seattle side you have the choice between a leg-burning climb up and over the hill, with a grade approaching 20% in places, or a quick ride through a 1/4 mile long tunnel. It's not a tough choice given the distance I planned to ride.

East entrance of the I-90 trail tunnel in Seattle, WAFrom the tunnel I wound my way through bike paths, making only 1 wrong turn, used a couple of side streets, avoided the ever-present road construction, and found my way to the Seattle Ferry Docks at Pier 50. 

Pier 50 in Seattle, home to the Seattle-Vashon Water TaxiI missed the boat by about 10 minutes so I had the opportunity to relax my legs and take a few pictures.

The Seattle-Bremerton ferry at Pier 50 in SeattleThe Seattle skyline in the background with cars waiting at the Seattle ferry terminal.Flynn waits patiently to board the Seattle-Vashon water taxiThe Seattle-Vashon Water Taxi, operated by King County, arrives at Pier 50 in Seattle.Bike parking inside the water taxi was very easy...

Bike rack in the Seattle-Vashon water taxiThis is where things got interesting. If I had been paying attention to my elevation profile I would have noticed that, once you reach Vashon Island, there is a HUGE climb from the ferry dock up to the main part of the island. I would have a better elevation profile to show off, and may even a Strava segment under my belt, if my Garmin Edge 705 hadn't decided to stop and restart the route in the middle of climbing. Ok, maybe it wasn't "massive" as hills go in this area but it was about a 12% grade for just over a mile, gaining 450' of elevation. 

The island itself simply oozes beauty. I saw a LOT of deer...

Doe and fawn along Vashon Highway on Vashon Island. My phone decided not to focus on anything of note.Anyone wanting to do some rolling-hills training should definitely consider Vashon. I don't think there was more than 50' of flat pavement anywhere on the entire route: lots of rolling hills, sweeping curves, and great vistas of Puget Sound. And halfway through I realized that Vashon "Island" should really be called "Vashon Islands" since it is really two islands smashed together. Remember that climb coming off the ferry? I got to do it again halfway down the island (450' in 1.3 miles) as I passed by this harbor/marina on the west side.

As I climbed the grade in the middle of the island I came across a "roadside attraction", as the street sign put it, which purveyed information about the history of Vashon Island and its exploration by European mariners.

History of Vashon Island in 50 words or less.

Quite possibly the coolest thing about this island is the Vashon Island Bike Tree. I had heard rumors and stories about this bike but nothing does it justice until you see it in person. I was amazed at how small and well-preserved it is. It is actually a kids bike (tires are no more then 12" in diameter). It is definitely worth the trip and very easy to find. Unfortunately someone has removed the handlebars.

The ever elusive Vashon Island Bike Tree, in all its glory.After more rollers than I care to count I finally hit the down-hill grade that signaled the south end of the island. The Vashon-Point Defiance ferry dock was remarkably small and, to my great surprise, uninhabited.

Vashon-Point Defiance Ferry dock with Point Defiance Park in the background.The ferry ride itself isn't that long but it only sails at the top of the hour. This meant I had the chance to rest some more and take a few pictures...

Vashon Ferry dock looking across the water to the Point Defiance ferry dock, with the ferry en route.

With only a handful of cars on the ferry I started out with my bike simply laying on the floor, until I noticed the bike parking area up above.


Ramp leading up to the bike parking area.Bike Parking and seating area on the Vashon-Point Defiance Ferry.By the time I left the ferry, dusk was making it impossible to use my cell phone for pictures. 

Riding out of the ferry dock I found yet another big climb of 450' over about a mile (sound familiar?). And, for future reference, when exiting the ferry at Point Defiance, use the sidwalk to make the steep climb out of the ferry area: the road is a very narrow one-lane affair. As I slogged up the hill (in the dark) the cars on the ferry (all 6 of them) backed up behind me. It was a little un-nerving to hear the pickup behind me spin his tires on the wet pavement as he stopped and started again. I exited the ferry at 9:10 pm so there was virtually no pedestrian traffic. The sidewalk would have been a much safer option.

The next 6 miles were some of the slowest I have ever ridden. The hill at the end, although only about 70', felt like 700'. My legs were cooked. Like "chicken falling off the bone" cooked. When I finally arrived at my destination I could barely stand, let alone walk.

Total distance: 46 miles

Total elevation gain: 3003'

Total time: about 5.5 hours

Total riding time: about 3:20:00

GPS routes: Part One, Part Two

Lessons learned: 

  1. Check the elevation profile and know where the climbs are located so you can pace yourself accordingly.
  2. Bring more food or stop for snacks along the way: the small snacks I brought along were not nearly enough foor for a ride of this length and duration. In hind-sight I should have stopped in the small downtown area of Vashon for a break and some food.
  3. Yep, I'm out of shape.

In the end I'm glad to cross another ride off my bucket list. The views were amazing and it was indeed an adventure worth the effort.

Rubber-side down! 

}B^)

2013.1 Year In Review

"But Lee? 2013 isn't over yet? How can you be doing a 'Year in Review' post in August?"

I had a bit of a slow start to 2013.1. Here are my stats as of Aug. 5th-

Biking info (2012 and 2011 results in parenthesis to compare)

Number of rides: 34 (down from 74 and 125)

Miles biked: 320.18 (down from 734.32 and 1690.30)

Elevation gained: 22,050' (down from 45,902' and 108,485')

Total Saddle Time:  28:21:27 (hh:mm:ss) (down from 57:54:19 and 138:08:35)

Run info (2012 and 2011 results in parenthesis to compare)

Number of runs: 2 (down from 17 and 24)

Miles: 6.33 (down from 58.34 and 91.91)

Elevation gained: 164 (down from 3,574 and 8,274')

Total Run Time: 1:11:00 (hh:mm:ss) (down from 10:11:19 and 17:31:48)

 

Starting weight: 299.6

Ending weight: 306.0 (net change: +6.4 pounds)

 

Races/Events finished:

None.

 

Overview:

Is that pitiful or what? That's what I thought, too. Reflecting back my problems started somewhere about September, 2011, not long after I finished the beautiful ride of Cycle Oregon 2011. When I came home from that ride I weighed about 260 lbs. and felt pretty good. Over the next couple of months I was hit by the usual cold/flus/bugs that my kids dutifully bring home from school, which really knocked me down. I mentioned it in my 2011 and 2012 year reviews as well: I considered them bad years but I was getting progressively worse each year, not better.

I noticed my sleep was terrible: I would routinely wake up in the morning more tired that when I went to bed. Sleeping in until 8 or even 9 am become routine, which left very little time for exercise, let alone bike commuting. 

The last straw was my weight, breaking 300 lbs right at the beginning of the year.

Something had to give. 

The first thing I did was schedule some time with my family doctor. I gave him my sob story and he ordered up a round of tests, which I was pretty sure I knew the results before I would see them (negative for diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure). What I didn't expect was the diagnosis of hypothyroid and possible sleep apnea. The Doc started me off on thyroid replacement hormone (with follow-up appointments to check hormone levels) and a referral for a sleep study. 

Before I could get in for the sleep study, though, I had yet another set back. I woke up one morning fully prepared to ride into work. I was all dressed for it, bag packed, and ready to go but my body was telling me to stop: something just wasn't right but I couldn't put my finger on it. The next day I woke up with significant pain in some rather tender areas. Since I had had no recent trauma or injuries I went in to see The Doc again. After explaining my symptoms, The Doc calmly said, "Sounds like you have a hernia." After failing the "turn your head and cough" test (every man will know what I'm talking about) the diagnosis was official (Follow that link only if you want the gory details of exactly what went wrong. You have been warned!).

Prognosis: full recovery after required surgery. Recovery time of 4-6 weeks. The words of Bill Cosby were sooooo true, "They didn't tell me they were sewing my knee to my chest!" For almost a month I couldn't walk very fast, stand up fast, or ride my bike. Oh yeah, and I still wasn't sleeping well. I was in sad, sad shape.

My surgery was on May 17th, a Friday. The surgeon was Dr. Eiji Minami, an amazing surgical specialist at Overlake Medical Center, although my surgery was at Evergreen Surgical Center. Dr. Minami was one cool customer: The time from when they put me under to when I woke up in the recover room? Just under 60 minutes. The best part: no sutures/stitches! I am absolutely in love with surgical adhesives (i.e. they glued the incision closed). 

With that hurdle crossed it was back to the sleep study. I went on down to the Evergreen Sleep Disorders Center for my sleep study. After a false-start with a take-home sleep study (i.e. the WORST bloody nose I have had in my life) I went in for a full, in-house sleep study (i.e. not at my house). They connected 24 sensors and electrical leads to my scalp, face, throat, chest, back, side, and legs. I looked really weird. (like this is news)

Wired up and ready to sleepAll those sensors made it very difficult to sleep. I have to say it was the worst night's sleep I have ever had. 

Diagnosis: moderate sleep apnea (not severe but not mild either).

Prognosis: much better sleep with a CPAP machine, which I brought home on Aug. 5th. My first night was 2 nights ago and I have to say it did make a difference in how I felt in the morning. I have high hopes for the future.

How about my rides since my surgery? My first post-surgery bike commute was on June 28th and, wouldn't you know it, the road department went and made all the hills around here longer and steeper! 

I was really dreading that first commute. In the morning I was joined by my son Patrick for the commute in to work. He really likes to ride, even if it involves climbing a big hill to get to my office.

Patrick riding with me to workPatrick riding down "the hill", i.e. NE 42nd WayI was really dreading the first ride up Sahalee Way, even if it is the easier of the 3 options for coming home (lowest grade at 10% but 1 mile long). Fortunately I ran into a friend, Gustavo, who I have raced with twice and ridden numerous times. He offered to follow me home to make sure I actually arrived. That was music to my ears!

Gustavo riding home with me on my first post-surgery ride home.Just as I thought, Sahalee Way was a killer. I struggled up that hill like I have not done in quite some time. I'm sure there were many drivers dialing 9-1 and just holding their finger over that last 1 in case I didn't make it. And then at the top of the hill I found another surprise friend...

Gustavo and Varugis waiting for me at the top of Sahalee WayAnother friend from work, Varugis, a very dedicated bike commuter and fast hill climber, just happened to meet up with us. He took the "brutal" NE 42nd Way climb up the plateau and passed right in front of Gustavo. Thankfully we barely paused to say hello, otherwise I might have fallen over from shear exhaustion. They stayed with me until I passed their subdivision (they live in the same neighborhood).

Gustavo and Varugis splitting off to head homeI was sooooo thankful they were able to ride with me. There is something about shared-suffering that makes it a lot easier to bear. 

Since that day I have ridden to work 6 times, one of which was a long trip to Tacoma to meet up with my wife's parents. (report on that to come later)

And so, on August 6th I am declaring the start of a new year, which I am calling 2013.2. What does this mean? It means I am hitting the reset button and setting some new goals:

 

  1. Ride more miles in 2013.2 than I did in all of 2012.
  2. Do at least 1 Sprint Triathon.
  3. Ride to the Company Meeting.
  4. Do at least 1 "jog home" commute, where I jog the 8 miles home from my office.
  5. Do at least on long ride, such as Tour de Blast (at the request of Gordon)

 

Lessons Learned

 

  1. CPAP machines are awesome! Not terribly comfortable but mine does help me sleep.
  2. My motivation is clearly tied to the quality of my sleep.
  3. Go to The Doc earlier next time, without waiting 18 months and gaining 40 lbs.

 

Now to get started on jogging. This should be easy, right?

}B^)

 

2012 Year in Review

And you thought 2011 was bad? Straight to the stats... 

Biking info (2011 results in parenthesis to compare)

Number of rides: 74 (down from 125)

Miles biked: 734.32 (down from 1690.30)

Elevation gained: 45,902' (down from 108,485')

Total Saddle Time:  57:54:19 (hh:mm:ss) (down from 138:08:35)

Run info

Number of runs: 17 (down from 24)

Miles: 58.34 (down from 91.91)

Elevation gained: 3,574 (down from 8,274')

Total Run Time: 10:11:19 (hh:mm:ss) (down from 17:31:48)

 

Starting weight: 288.4

Ending weight: 299.6 (net change: +11.2 pounds)

 

Races/Events finished:

Issaquah Triathlon (Sprint)

Ocean Shores Sprint Triathlon (Sprint)

Federal Escape Triathlon (Olympic)

 

Overview: (see the race reports for details)

My own advice to myself from last year still rings true: "Be a man! Take some Pepto Bismol and ________!" (Fill in the blank with every event I missed last year)

Wow broken record time? Another quote from last year: "No more excuses. This year was lame. Next year will be better." I say that every year. How will this year be different, considering I am already way behind last year, which I said was a bad year?

Last year started out strong but ended poorly. My poor performance in the Federal Escape Olympic forced me to rethink everything. I spent most of August with family trips and other non-training activities to regroup. Then in early September I had a minor setback: I broke my toe just before going on a long ride into Seattle (more to come on that later). Breaking my toe (only a minor break) was just the wind up. When the pitch was actually delivered I struck out big time. That strike out was our back-to-school schedule, which I am still trying to figure out. 

In the last 3 months of 2012 I rode my bike a grand total of 10 times. No so impressive when you consider that in the same period in 2011 I did 33 and in 2010 I did 25. 

This year I'm starting out slow and just now beginning to see how to coordinate my ride/training schedule with all the personal appointments (i.e. pickups/drop-offs for the kids' classes, swim, sports, etc). The next few months will really tell the tail. It really scares me that I am less than 90 days from the Issaquah Tri (my traditional first race of the year) and my training is horrible. 

But I have an ace up my sleeve...

Patrick at the start of the Federal Escape Kids' Tri...Or rather a young man. My son decided that he wanted to do the FULL Issaquah Sprint Tri this year! I promised him that if he trained hard enough he could do it and, not only that, I would stay with him to make sure he finished the race. A sprint tri is a big jump up from the little kids races he has been doing. In 2012 he finished 3 such races and barely broke a sweat. So far this year he has significantly improved his swimming and can do 250 yards in the pool without stopping (a personal best for him). He has a long way to go but is well on his way. 

So what happened to the Grand Columbian? I decided top drop this race in July after the Federal Escape and good thing I did! The broken toe incident (ride report coming later) happened less than a week from when I would have been racing in my first half-iron distance race.

Did I do Cycle Oregon 2012? Short version: no, I didn't get off the wait list. My strategy of waiting until it sold out backfired. I was so far down the wait list that there was no chance of getting into the real ride. Too bad, since 2013 appears to be not nearly as exciting (i.e. I most likely will not do it).

Lessons learned:

  1. Broken toes suck. Must join the "protect our toes" society.
  2. I need to find a new way to deal with illnesses and still train. More to come...
  3. Focus earlier in the year on distance running and cardio volume.
  4. My best and more consistent results are still from bike commuting, which I try to do 3-5x per week during the spring/summer and early fall months.
  5. Commuting home on foot on Fridays are a great way to get in an 8+ mile run once a week. That will start in April.

 

Rubber side down...

Hitting the Reset Button...

We used to call it the "3 finger salute" in my programming classes: when your code was so bad that you crashed your computer and had to hit ctrl-alt-delete and start over. 

Well, I'm doing it already for 2013. But I didn't crash this time...

The Federal Escape Olympic last year really rocked my world. I did so poorly that it forced me to reconsider my plans for the entire year and finally drop my race schedule completely.  

And then life happened. And it happened again... and again...

Even though it was 7 months ago I am just now adjusting to our "new" family schedule of school, sports, and other activities which has forced me to limit me to only 17 rides since last Labor Day. 

And so I am starting afresh with my goals. In the coming week I will post several new things and something. Expect to see...

  • 2012 Year in review
  • 2013 Ride/race schedule
  • My weight loss progess in the right side bar (totally ripping off Fatty)
  • Training with/during/despite Illnesses
  • Bike commuting: When?
  • Bike commuting: Rain, Rain, Go Away!
  • The True cost of commuting
  • Bike Thefts and Recovery (i.e. how to get your bike back WITHOUT getting shot)
  • A new site layout and design

Sounds like a lot, eh? I actually have more than that in store. Even though I haven't updated my site since BEFORE Lance confessed to the big "O" my site is getting more hits than ever.

Triathlon is a great sport. I hope I can contribute even more to it.

And so on I merrily stagger... }B^)

 

The Impact of Lance on the Average Amateur (i.e. me)

So today Lance gave up his fight against the USADA. I can imagine him throwing his hands up in the air shouting, "Fine! Whatever! I'm done!"

He's not gaining a lot of sympathy, being called a liar and a cheat, but the impact of this controversy may actually hit your's truly. Why, you may ask? Because, empowered by the publicity of this campaign, the USADA is greatly expanding their testing of amateur athletes.

I am torn on this issue. My position on professional athletics is that they should all be tested. How they do the testing and the process for appealing and monitoring for corruption is another debate that I will not attempt to address herein. What about amateurs?

Is it OK for someone who competes on an amateur level to abuse testosterone, EPO, HGH, etc.? (Hint: quite a fewactually do) No, they should not but should they be subject to the same rules, guidelines, and procedures as the pros?

Like I said, I'm torn.

Sorry, rant time… 

Outside Magazine today published an article that got me thinking more about this...

This quote from the article represents my main problem with amateur testing:

“Millions of amateurs who compete under USADA guidelines as members of organizations like USA Triathlon and USA Track and Field have no idea which medications—even over-the-counter ones—could bring a suspension. Forcing people to follow the same rules as the pros could turn them away simply because of the hassle.”

There are a lot of hobbyists (like me) and weekend-warriors who have no clue about the USADA/WADA guidelines for banned substances (and have no interest in learning). I have frequent sinus and allergy issues and my favorite remedy (pseudoephedrine, the main ingredient in Mucinex-D, Sudaphed, Claritin-D, Zyrtec-D, and a host of other drugs) is a banned substance. What other supplements, drinks, or medications do I take that are also banned? I really don’t care. 

I have made it clear that the reason I'm racing has nothing to do with the other competitors on the course. I don’t race in an attempt to beat someone else: I race against myself. If you think that statement is ludicrous I point you to my last race result where it is clear that I had no chance at a podium finish in my age group, let alone the entire race, and probably never will. My personal schedule and commitments do not allow for the level of training necessary for me to be even an AG competitor and certainly not on the overall category. Maybe after my kids are out of the house (8-10 years in the future)?

So here’s the punch line: no one need fear me beating them at a race. If they ask me to be tested I will politely decline and then avoid sanctioned races while I wait out my inevitable suspension in protest. I’m not going to change my diet/nutrition to appease the USADA and their doping policies just so I can compete in a sanctioned race. I don’t need the hassle.

An interesting side note: Why is doping so prevalant? Because it works.

Another update: BEST POSITIVE DOPING TEST EXCUSE EVER!! 

Race Report: Federal Escape Olympic Triathlon 2012

Date: 28 July 2012

 

Location: Five Mile Lake Park, Federal Way, WA

Photo GalleryFlickr.com set

  First off, let me say that I really enjoy the Federal Escape. This was my second Sprint distance race back in '08 and my first Olympic distance in '10 so I was very glad to see this race fit into my race/vacation schedule. This race was to serve as my "ramp up" to the half-iron distance in September, the Grand Columbian Super Tri.

Race Morning

Race time was set for 6:30 am with a pre-race meeting at 6:20 am. That means I had pick up my packet, set up my transition area, do a warm up swim, and be ready to race by 6:20. Did I mention Five Mile Lake Park is 45 minutes from my house? That put my departure time at 4:30. Ugg. So I was up at 4am (not my favorite hour of the day). One of my wife's favorite sayings came to mind: "Just because the time exists doesn't mean I have to witness it." I woke up my son (Boy #1, who asked to do the kids tri), cooked up some sausage, eggs, and toast, and off we went.

A note about breakfast: I usuall only eat oatmeal and yogurt with applesauce for breakfast but with a 45-minute drive ahead of us I needed some extra food to tide me over until the start, hence the bigger than normal breakfast.

We arrived with at the park plenty of time, even getting one of the prime parking sports in the park. The weather was perfect for tri racing: overcast and cool. For some reason this swim course always seems bigger than it actually is. When you look at my swim times I pretty much nailed my 1500m time.

 

 

Pre-race

The water was pretty warm, somewhere in the neighborhood of 70F. It was so comfortable that I almost took off my wet suit for the race. Boy #1, always the scientist, asked me why I would still wear my wet suit if the water temp was warm. I then demonstrated the buoyancy enhancements provided by my suit: I am at almost zero-buoyancy when wearing my suit.

So, after setting up my transition area, it was off to the lake!

 

Lee headed toward the water for a warm-up swim before the Federal Escape Olympic Tri.

The reddish-brown water color of Five Mile Lake always amazes me. You can barely see 4 feet. When you come up on a swimmer in front of you it is really hard to see them, especially if they are wearing a black wet suit. Imagine seeing a pair of disembodied feet flailing about in front of you: it can be quite disturbing.

As I walked into the swim area I saw what appeared to be something floating just under the surface of the water. It looked like a small, delicate piece of lace. As I touched it it became obvious what I really was: a piece of galvanized steel pole securely anchored in the lake bed. It had been cut off just below the water line. A guy next to me got the attention of the race director and he put a big buoy on top of it. Apparently the King County Parks folks were supposed to remove it before the race but it didn't happen. To give you an idea of the strength of this pole, this is the same kind of steel pole used in chain link fences.

 

I found a steel pole as I was wading into the water.


The Goal

For this race I set quite a lofty goal for myself: to finish the swim in 45 minutes and the entire race in under 3 hours. It worked out like this:

Swim: 45:00, T1: 2:30, Bike: 1:10:00, T2: 1:00, Run: 54:00, Total: 2:52:30

 

The Swim

The swim start was a water start (up to our waists) with 2 waves, self-selected. I opted for the second wave. The swim was 2-laps around Five Mile Lake, which encompassed almost the entire lake.

One of my favorite pictures from the race, courtesy of Boy #1-

Start of the Olympic Distance Race.

About 8 strokes into the swim something was off. "Why are my eyes so wet? Oh, it helps to put down my goggles." Yes, I started off the swim with my goggles UP on my forehead. Oops. Luckily I was in the back of the pack and was able to easily tread water and put them on the right way.

You know it's going to be a rough day when you get leg cramps in the first 200m of a 1500m swim. That was 1/4 of the way into the first lap. I use a freestyle method where you do a minimal flutter-kick to save your legs for the bike/run so getting leg cramps this early in the race was disconcerting.

The leader of the swim was going at a pretty fast pace, especially compared to me. He and several others passed me about 100m before the end of lap #1.

 

At the end of the first lap (750m) we had to get out of the water, go around a sign, and back in for another lap. At this point the cramps were gone and I was "in the groove."

 

About 200m into the second lap, the same place I had cramps earlier, I started getting some serious heartburn and nauseousness. I was able to control it but that really slowed me down for a few minutes. A few more people from my wave passed me. At this point I was swimming essentially alone.

In the last 200m I was able to increase my pace significantly but as I exited the water I still felt a bit nauseous with some lingering leg cramps.

Swim result: 1:00:03, OA: 90/90, AG: 14/14 (M30-39)

 

T1 

It was easy/boring, just the way I like it. Boy #1 was there to take a few pictures and cheer me on.

T1 Result: 3:44, OA: 76/90, AG: 14/14 (M30-39) 

 

The Bike

My nutrition plan for the bike leg was simple: drink 24oz of Accelerade, my race drink of choice, before the end of the bike. This was easily accomplished throughout the bike leg.

The bike course is 4 laps around a 6-mile loop of rolling hills that go around Five Mile Lake. The rollers are interesting: you climb up one hill (max grade on one hill was 8%, according to my Garmin) and then zip down the other side. I was able to stay in my aero position for most of the bike course.

The first lap was very strong/fast. I even played tag with a couple of people. These opportunities waned as the race went on. Due to my slow swim the 3rd and 4th laps were a bit lonely. 

On the 3rd lap I was feeling a little slower and by the 4th lap I felt like I was out of gas. I seriously considered calling it after 3 laps but I sucked it up and finished.

  

Bike Result: 1:23:15, OA: 68/90, AG: 12/14 (M30-39)

 

T2 

I felt a little slow in T2 but kept moving.

T2 Result: 1:25, OA: 68/90, AG: 12/14 (M30-39)

The Run

The run course was 2 x 5K loops around the outside of the lake with rolling hills just like the bike course.

As I exited the park I realized I forgot my gels. There went my nutrition plan (what little I had) for the run.

"Run" is such a strong word: what I did was more like a speed-shuffle. This run ended up being one of the hardest things I have ever done in my entire life.

I did a lot of walking in each mile. My typical pace of 9:30 miles was very optimistic and my goal of 9:00 miles was a pipe dream.

At random points throughout the run I had leg cramps, back spasms, stomach cramps, headaches, a stiff neck, nausea, bicep spasms... I was a wreck!

*Who has bicep spasms during a run?*

One my wife's favorite lines from 101 Dalmatians kept going through my head- "And my nose is cold, and my feet are cold, and my tail is cold..." Yeah, I was complaining a lot to myself.

The first (and only) aid station on the run was at mile 1.5. I picked up some electrolytes and a  Hammer Gels. Talk about a life saver...

Almost called it again after the first lap of the run. Somehow I kept moving and did the second lap.

I eagerly found the aid station again and gulped down 2 cups of electrolytes and another gel.

I finally was able to raise Boy #1 on the radio with 1/2 mile to go and he was there to get my picture as I finished.

 

Run Result: 1:11:44, OA: 86/90, AG: 13/14 (M30-39)

Total Time: 3:40:09, OA: 88/90, AG: 14/14 (M30-39)

 

Post Race

I am not sure I have EVER been this tired after a race. I was absolutely wiped out. My post-race recovery involved a lot of sitting while we waited for the the kids tri to start. I wasn't that sore so much as physically and mentally drained.

Lessons learned:

  1. Yet another Rerun: TRAIN, TRAIN, TRAIN. I need to pick up my training to 4-5x per week for at least 1 hour at a shot. I am well below that right now.
  2. Warm up swim was very beneficial but remember to put on your goggles at the start.
  3. Speaking of goggles, wear the non-tinted goggles next time.
  4. T1 continues to be too slow. Longest time suckers: putting on bike jersey and bike shoes/socks. Might be able to shorten it by buying a tri suit or shirt and finally using those tri shoes I have in the garage.
  5. Need to find a pair of shoes I can run in without socks.

Kids Triathlon


Earlier this year I made a deal with Boy #1: if he did a race with a real swim (i.e. in deep water) i would help him train for a real triathlon next year such as the Issaquah Sprint Triathlon. That would be a big step up to 400m from the splash-n-dash type races he has been doing. His first one was around 70m in Ocean Shores 2 weeks before but this one was supposed to be 100m.

The kids swim turned out to be more like 75m but only half of it was in deep water. So what did Boy #1 do? He waded out until the water was up to him shoulders and then swam the rest of the way and then did the opposite on the way back.

 

 

The rest of this is easy for him: a 1 bike and 1/4 mile run, which he did without really breaking a sweat.

 

The Run

The post-race food was his absolute favorite...

 

 

Recovery

With a low heart rate and very slow times my muscles really didn't put in the workout I anticipated. Without the workout muscle recovery was very fast: I never really developed muscle soreness. The real problem was the mental and physical fatigue which lasted throughout the day on Saturday. I even went to bed early.

The day after the race was a Sunday. I was so wiped out that day that i almost didn't go to church. With the extreme fatigue and moderate nausea I'm not sure I got much out of church at all.

Now here's the weird part: by Monday morning I was fine but my wife had similar symptoms.

My family doctor said that my difficulties were probably a food-borne bacteria but we were unable to pin-point something that would have been eaten only by me and the wife but not the kids.

 

What's next?

This race made me seriously reconsider my plans for the rest of the season. My only other race this year is a biggie: the Grand Columbian half-iron distance tri. Will I be ready? Not a chance. I need a good 3 months of solid training with 12-15 hours per week in order to be ready for such a distance. i think I can be ready for another Olympic distance event but that would also require me to step up my training a bit. I'll post again in a couple of weeks with my decision.

}B^)

Race Report: Ocean Shores Sprint Triathlon 2012

Date: 14 July 2012

Location: North Bay Park, Ocean Shores, WA

Photo GalleryFlickr.com set

My goal was to do 4 races this year but finding a way to fit in that many races into a 3-month timeframe was looking to be nearly impossible.

Then one day my sister-in-law calls up to talk about their planned trip from the Mid-West out to see us in Washington. In going down the list of things to do in our area (which in and of itself turned into a fun brainstorming activity for my boys) her teenage son Sam asked if it were possible to do a triathlon with me during their visit. I was intrigued and went to searching and found the Ocean Shores Tri & Foot Fest which fit neatly into their planned visit.

My nephew Sam (my wife's, actually...) is a tall, slender, natural born athlete, as opposed to me, a tall, not-so-slender, works-really-hard-just-to-finish athlete. I knew right away he would take this sport just like he has just about every other sport he has tried out.

So we did some email-based planning, borrowed a bike from a friend of mine (THANKS Lauren!), and packed up the family for a trip to the beach.

For those of you that have never been to the Washington coast it isn't typically "shorts and sandals" weather. Indeed the most common apparel worn at the beach in Washington is long pants and a parka. Perhaps even a rain slicker but don't bother with an umbrella because the wind will destroy it in a matter of minutes.

...but do bring your kites!

Pre-race

There would be 3 of us racing, Sam, myself, and my oldest son (Boy #1).

We arrived at Ocean Shores the night before and immediately drove to the park to check out the race venue. As expected the park was a very small park at the north end of a inland lake (i.e. we wouldn't be swimming in the ocean or Gray's Harbor). The water temperature was cool but tolerable (low 60's?). With nothing really set up for the race we spent some time on the playground and watched a few people doing practice swims in the lake.

After playing on the local state beach we checked into our hotel and picked up some dinner from Alec's By the Sea, a fabulous little seafood joint not a mile from our hotel. It was at this point that I realized we had almost missed packet pick-up! So off we went to pick up our race packets.

The Goal

This race has a slightly longer swim than my previous sprints (800m as opposed to 400m) so this one would be a bit different. My training this year has not been what I had hoped: consistency remains my biggest weakness. With this in mind I set a somewhat conservative goal for this race-

Swim: 20:00, T1: 2:00, Bike: 35:00, T2: 2:00, Run: 27:00, Total: 1:26:00

Race Morning

The morning of the race Sam and I set out early from the hotel on our bikes and rode the short distance to the race venue (about 1.5 miles). We arrived with plenty of time to setup our transition areas and get ready for the race but just as we were about to go "review the course maps one more time" the first wave for the sprint tri went off. Whoops, time to race!

Sam's transition area for the Ocean Shores Sprint Tri.

The Swim

Sam and I were fortunate that there was a second wave. }B^)

We waded out into the water and got set for the start. We didn't have to wait very long. When they sounded the starting horn I turned to Sam and said, "Good luck!" It turns out that I didn't see him again until after I finished.

The water was colder than I expected. When we arrived at the park the air temp was pretty warm and I almost didn't wear wet suit. Boy, was I glad that I did. After a few minutes I was into my swim rhythm and off to the races! As I did so, I passed a few people, a rare occurrence!

Here's something else you don't see during a triathlon: a woman doing the back stroke. Not just for a few yards but for the ENTIRE race. With the sky completely cloudy/overcast there were no overhead methods for sighting. Every few minutes she would turn her head sideways to sight off the shoreline of the narrow lake. In the last 50m she turned over and did the crawl stroke. How do I know all this? Because she paced me almost the entire race.

I came out of the water feeling really strong with only a little dizziness.

My Swim result: 23:04, OA: 61/93, AG: 11/12 (30-39)

Sam's Swim Result: 14:43, OA: 7/93, AG: 2/4 (<18)

T1 

T1 was uneventful and relatively easy. I looked around but there was no Sam. He was long gone. I told him not to wait for me in T1. Good thing too, because he would have been waiting around for 8+ minutes.

My T1 Result: 3:48, OA: 66/93, AG: 11/12 (30-39)

Sam's T1 Result: 3:26, OA: 56/93, AG: 3/4 (<18)

Transition Area Exit to the bike course.

The Bike

This was the FLATTEST bike/run course EVER, as evident by the GPS elevation profile-

Total elevation gain: fifty (50) feet. That's not an exaggeration or estimation, that is what my GPS recorded. The only "hills," if you can call them that, were a couple of little bridges over the canals. Once I found the right gear I didn't shift for the first half of the race.

Course difficulties for me started around mile 1 where I almost missed a turn. The sign was on the inside of the turn and I missed it completely. If the woman just in front of me had not turned I would have taken a bit of a detour. I passed her shortly thereafter and kept up enough of a pace to pass a lot of other riders along the way.

The ride was nice but very disoriented with no real landmarks to key off. The weather was overcast, so there no sun or clouds overhead. Even the shore was not visible so I really had no idea where I was on the peninsula.

As I headed south and then west there was a slight headwind which shifted to a tailwind on the way back. This helped me keep the last 5 miles right around 20 MPH (3 minute miles).

As the course entered a new-looking subdivision I saw a sign announcing "100' to turnaround" with a guy who said something to me that I couldn't hear. A little further was another sign,"50' to turnaround," and then nothing. With no other riders in front of me as far as I could see I had a decision to make. Where was the turn around? Do I turn around now or ride to the next turn and hope for another sign? There was no turn around sign, no chalk-paint in the middle of the road, no sign marking the exact turnaround point. I decided to turn around about 100 yards past the 50' sign.

I looked for Sam during the entire bike ride, expected to see him as he came back on the out-and-back course, but I never did. Perhaps he was fast enough that I missed him along the way? He did beat me by quite a bit on the swim.

Total distance advertised as 12.4 miles, GPS clocked 12.92.

Felt great coming off the bike and my speed/splits combined with HR show it: negative splits in the last five miles and a downward trending HR through the entire ride.

My Bike Result: 42:32, OA: 29/93, AG: 8/12 (30-39)

 

T2 

As I entered T2 I immediately looked for Sam's bike but it wasn't in his spot. I guess I didn't miss him on the bike. I changed my shoes and went out on the run.

My T2 Result: 1:58, OA: 70/93, AG: 12/12 (30-39)

The Run

I felt strong as I left T2 on the run (running is never easy for me) but it was obvious that I was doing well.

And the stats hold up that assumption: I negative split each mile. I even passed several people on the run, something I rarely do.

The run turn around was WELL marked with a volunteer right there. Why wasn't the bike course similarly marked/manned?

I came back to the finish feeling great! I tried something new this year and purchased a "finish line video" from the race organizers. Was it worth $10? I guess so, since my family missed seeing me at the finish line by only a few seconds. }B^)

 

My Run Result: 29:25, OA: 43/93, AG: 11/12 (30-39)

My Total Time: 1:40:45, OA: 41/93, AG: 11/12 (30-39)

Finish line!

Post Race

After crossing the finish line I immediately went to the transition area to look for Sam: still no bike. that meant he was still somewhere out on the bike course? I grabbed some food and waited. After about 15 minutes he finally came into T2, big smile and all-

Sam finally arrives in T2 after a LONG bike ride.

It turns out that Sam and 4 others missed the bike turnaround completely and went all the way to the well-marked Olympic Distance turn around point, doubling their bike distance unnecessarily. Whoops. That took Sam out of the running for his AG podium. He would have no doubt picked up at least a 3rd place spot, perhaps even 2nd.

He went out on the run in high spirits and came back barely breathing hard (at least by my standards; I'm usually gasping for breath at the finish line).

Sam getting de-chipped at the finish area.

Sam's Bike Result: 1:34:43, OA: 90/93, AG: 4/4 (<18)

Sam's T2 Result: 2:12, OA: 79/93, AG: 4/4 (<18)

Sam's Run Result: 26:33, OA: 25/93, AG: 3/4 (<18)

Sam's Total Time: 2:21:35, OA: 81/93, AG: 4/4 (<18)

Lessons learned:

  1. Rerun: TRAIN, TRAIN, TRAIN. At least in a more consistent manner. Will I ever learn?
  2. No warm-up swim, should have arrived earlier to allow for this. I avoided a disaster by wearing my wet suit.
  3. Arrive earlier to allow for a course review. May have helped Sam avoid his bike mess.
  4. T1 continues to be too slow.

Kids Triathlon

Boy #1 decided to try the Kids Tri but this one was not your average splash-and-dash: the swim was at least 50 yards through deep water.

Boy #1 listening to the pre-race instructions and getting set to get wet.

As they got into the water for the start it was obvious that the kids didn't like the cold water. Boy #1 kept saying "It's cold!" but eventually he started swimming. 

The kids were supposed to swim across the channel, touch the kayak, and return to shore. More than half the kids turned back at some point without touching the kayak. Boy #1 was slow but he eventually made it, swimming on his back for part of it.

He eventually got a pretty good stroke going and made it back to shore.

According to Boy #1 the bike and run courses were "quite short and easy." He finished strong and in good spirits.



Me, Boy #1, and Sam after our races.

Interesting things seen at Ocean Shores

I have never seen an Ellipticycle until this race (ElliptiGo?). Apparently the race officials let him ride it.

The best place to buy touristy type stuff: SHARKY'S! (That's our hotel in the background)

Recovery

There's nothing better for race recovery than sitting in a car for several hours. *cough* *cough*

We stopped off overnight in Tacoma to visit the Grandparents and took a nice trip around the Chambers Bay Golf Course. The ride up the hills really helped burn off the lactic acid and kept me from getting overly sore.

Overall recovery was quick and easy due to the relatively easy nature of this race: it was fast and flat which means I could have pushed harder. If I do a race like this again I'll know that I can push harder than I do on other courses.

What's next?

For me: The Federal Escape Olympic is coming up in 2 weeks followed by the Grand Columbian Half-Iron Tri in mid-September. 

For Boy #1: He wants to do yet another kids tri at the Federal Escape. This will help judge if he is ready to start training for a real race next year.

For Sam: Not sure yet. I asked him to write up a race report and I'll post it when I can. I think he did exceptionally well and would excel at other races in his home state of Minnesota.

}B^)

RACE REPORT: ISSAQUAH TRIATHLON 2012

Boy #1 at the finish of the Issaquah Triathlon, his 3rd kids tri.Date: 2 June 2012

Location: Lake Sammamish State Park, Issaquah, WA

Photo GalleryFlickr.com set

The Issaquah Triathlon remains one of my favorite races and, no, it's not because it was my first (which it was). It gives me a great barometer of my training during the off-season (or lack thereof) and is a very well run and fun race. It's even more fun when the water is warm but that hasn't happened in years.

Beginning with the 2009 race my oldest son (i.e. Boy #1) decided to do the kids triathlon. He did it again in 2010 but we both had to miss the race last year due to family scheduling conflicts. This year we were both "all-in" as it were, not missing it for anything!

Packet pickup was at a hotel virtually across the street from the race venue, Lake Sammamish State Park. When we arrived, all 3 boys in tow, Boy #3 informed me that he wanted to race. I said, "That's nice. Let's talk about it later," as I grabbed my packet and got my race number. At every step along the way Boy #3 reminded me again that he wanted to race. As I finished getting my number marked on my leg/arm he once again asked me if he could get a number. Did I mentioned he was excited about this race? We had a little talk about trying hard things and doing our best and he was very excited. As I filled out the form he kept asking me to hurry up, thinking they might run out of shirts or something. In the end he got his race packet, race number markings, and exited with a HUGE grin on his face.

Boy #3 at packet pickup, getting his first tri number!

Pre-race

The night before the race I was surprisingly calm and slept very well even though my wife was quite sick and unable to do much of anything that weekend. Once again Grandma and Grandpa came to the rescue to transport the boys to the kids Tri so they didn't have to sit unsupervised in the park while I did my race. That would not have ended well.

At the start I found someone else with the Super Grover jersey! The woman on my transition rack said she found it several years ago on eBay and had to have it. I agree, that is one of my favorite jerseys and I wear it to all my races, even though it is a pain to put on in T1.

The Goal

On every race I set a goal time and this one was no different. Several years ago I set a lofty goal to finish this race in under 75 minutes and for some reason I thought this was doable this time around.

2010 goal

Swim: 8:00, T1: 2:30, Bike: 40:00, T2: 1:30, Run: 23:00, Total: 1:15:00

The Swim

For the two weeks leading up to the race Boy #1 was kind enough to give me daily updates on the water temperature at Lake Sammamish, even though I knew it was going to suck.

Water temp on race morning: 62F, 6 degrees warmer than the 2010 race but still quite cold. A quick warm-up swim before the race really helped to acclimate my body to the shockingly cold water. I can't imagine having to start without a warmup.

After the obligatory "mandatory race meeting" I only had to wait for about 15 minutes for my wave to be called. At around 7:15 am they called us into the starting pen but there were too many of us and they split us into 2 packs. I was 2 people short of being in the back of pack #1, where I wanted to be, so there I was standing at the FRONT of the second group. My traditional strategy of "wait for everyone else to go first" kind of went out the window. I'm not exactly sure why but as the horn sounded I positioned myself in the middle of the pack where I stayed for the entire swim. A group of 5 of us stayed together until the last 50m where they pulled away from me. The water temp didn't affect me as bad as I thought it would. What did throw me off was the sand bar near the end. Here I was in deep water swimming away when all of a sudden, in one of my arm down strokes, I come up with a handful of sand. I pushed away from it and was able to swim to the finish. In the end I was able to stay in my crawl stroke for nearly the entire race except for a short time after the second buoy where I did the breaststroke for a few yards to catch my breath.

Did I mentioned the sharp rocks? The swim this year, as well as last year, were at the smaller beach on the south end of the lake. Despite having a sandy beach the lake bottom is strewn about with very sharp little rocks that REALLY HURT. This slowed me down considerably coming out of the water.

Swim result: 12:46, OA: 439/527, AG: 50/61 (35-39)

T1 

I am glad I hit my "lap" button on my Garmin as I exited the water because I was curious just how long it was from the swim back to transition. Wow. A quarter mile from the lake shore to the exit to T1? They recorded the time as you entered transition so my swim time includes a that 1/4 mile jog, which added about 90 seconds to my swim time. I need to find a quicker way to complete T1. I should have been in and out in under 2 minutes, not 4:25.

 T1 Result: 4:25, OA: 453/527, AG: 55/61 (35-39)

The Bike

As I began the ride, after blowing my swim time by almost 4 minutes, it was obvious that I was not going to make my bike goal: I was tired, my legs already hurt, and my attitude was somewhere around "meh?". Overall the ride went well and with little to no issues. After the first decent down the small hill on East Lake Sammamish Parkway my attitude improved dramatically. There is no substitute for a long, sustained push over 30 MPH (max speed of 38.6 MPH). I hit the turn around, climbed the hill again, and did the same push on the other side. As I looked at my watch it was obvious that I wouldn't hit my 40 minute goal but maybe I could do 45? Nope, not this time. By the time I got into T2 it was obvious my legs were cooked. Hey, at least I beat 50 minutes!

One missing thing: there is usually someone who plays leap-frog with my after we settle into the bike. Not this time. I passed a couple of people but it was amazing how many VERY fast riders passed me.

Bike Result: 49:48, OA: 356/527, AG: 47/61 (35-39)

T2 T2 Result: 2:11, OA: 433/527, AG: 55/61 (35-39)

The Run

...and then the pain set in. Not cramps, per se, just pretty intense muscle soreness. I didn't push it that hard on the bike, did I? Apparently I did and I had to walk several times just to maintain forward momentum.  By the time I hit the finish line I was DONE. Boy, was I done.

Sprint factor: Was I able to sprint at the end? Not a chance, even though my watch recorded me on a 7:29 pace for the last 20 seconds of the race.

Run Result: 31:24, OA: 461/527, AG: 59/61 (35-39)

Total time: 1:40:32, OA: 428/527, AG: 53/61 (35-39)

Post Race

This race illustrated very well my lack of consistent off-season training. I did a lot of rides and runs, just not strung together into a pattern that would lead to increased fitness or at the intensity I wanted/needed. In the end I can't ask for much more: I finished without incident, and overall I'm happy that my finish time represents the effort I did (or didn't) put into training. Now it does concern me that a little over 3 months away I want to be finishing my first half-iron distance tri, which will require extensive training in July and August, typically my worst months for training.

Lessons learned:

  1. TRAIN, TRAIN, TRAIN. At least in a more consistent manner. Will I ever learn?
  2. A warm-up swim DOES help! Boy, am I glad I did!
  3. Need to improve T1 time considerably.

Kids Triathlon

My kids arrived just as I was walking over to the transition area after my race. We had to hustle to get them to their race on time, which means I had to skip the brauts for now. We did make it, thanks to the help of the Grandparents!

 Getting ready for the start of the kids tri

See how excited they are? Really, they are excited about the race, just not too thrilled about the cold water temps and sharp rocks. Oh, and that the rain was really starting to come down.

Boy #1 said he was going to try to swim the short little course but in the end he waded through it.

Boy #1 coming out of the water after his "swim".

By the time he got to T1 the rain was POURING. I helped him clean off his feet and put his shoes on and he was off.

It was at this point that I heard the crying. Boy #3 was having a terrible race. He went to run into the water and the rocks stopped him cold. He came out of the water very upset and didn't know what to do next. A very kind woman helped him along the shore to the transition area where I found him. I consoled him, helped him dry off, put his coat on him to help warm back up, and he actually continued on the bike, albeit in a bad mood.

Boy #3 recovering in T1 in the pouring rain.

As Boy #3 left on the bike, Boy #1 was coming in, like a rocket. He quickly ditched his bike, helmet, and gloves, and off he went on the run. We was so fast that he beat Grandma and Grandpa to the finish line so we don't actually have a picture of him finishing. He clearly needs to step up to the next level in triathlons after proving that the kids tri was not a challenge to him at all.

Boy #3 eventually made his way around the bike course and was still pretty upset when he came back into transition.

I decided that Boy #3 needed my help on the run so I ran along with him. He calmed down and was able to do pretty well all the way to the finish line. By the time he finished he was actually somewhat happy.

Boy #3 finishing his first kids tri!

To improve attitudes we made sure that both boys found the chocolate milk and bratwurst in the finish line food. By the time we left happy attitudes did in fact abound.

Post race food! Enjoying some bratwursts after the Issaquah Triathlon.

Recovery

My recovery over the next few days started out pretty good but had a weird side effect: my neck was incredibly sore for the next 3 weeks. So much so that I had to make 2 trips to the Chiropractor and apply ice and stretch every night for a month.

What's next?

For me: I need to seriously step up my training, particularly running and swimming, if I want to do the Federal Escape Olympic in late July and the Grand Columbian half-iron in September.

For Boy #1: There are 2 more opportunities this summer for him to actually swimthe swim leg of the kids tri. The Federal Escape has a longer tri for older kids which includes a 100m swim. I told him that if he completes this race I will help him train to compete in the FULL sprint triathlon next year at the Issaquah Tri. I will even race with him, sacrificing my race time to stay with him to make sure he finishes. At this point he is not quite sure this is what he wants but time will tell. He is making great strides in his swimming lessons so we have high hopes.

For Boy #3: He is also taking swim lessons and wants to do the kids tri again next year. This time with water shoes.

}B^)