Magnum PI Ironman - A Race Report

The other day I was watching Magnum P.I. on Netflix, something I used to do with my family when the show was in its original run in the early '80s. Yes, my Netflix queue is full of shows like MacGuyver, Knight Rider, Highlander, etc. What caught my eye is that in episode 18 of season one, the season finale, Magnum competes in the Ironman! 

OK, it's not exactly the Ironman Championship in Kona but it is close enough. 

SPOILER WARNING: KEY PLOT POINTS DIVULGED. If you haven't yet seen this episode (season 1, episode 18), I highly recommend trotting over to your streaming provider of choice and check it out. The entire series of Magnum P.I. is available on Netflix as of Nov. 1, 2014. 

Episode Details

Plot summary

Magnum is hired by Babs to find her missing fiance Roger. She cannot afford to pay for his services for more than one day. Her fiance is... blah blah blah... he needs to find a guy who is also being chased by some other shady characters and the best way to find/save him and the girl is to participate in a triathlon. Cool!

Race Summary

First off, the events are in the wrong order (swim/run/bike) but we'll overlook that and call it creative license. If they did put them in the right order, and called it the Ironman, the producers would have probably had a disagreement with the M-Dot guys (were they even enforcing the brand in 1981?). It fits better in the plot that way because a bicycle race is much more exciting than a foot race: they can do a quick montage of the swim and run while focusing more on the bike. 


He runs and swims often, as shown in just about every episode of the TV show, including the opening credits. He frequently does sea-kayaking (surf-kayaking), snorkeling, and is seen playing basketball, softball, and, my favorite, running from the resident guard dogs at the Robin Masters Estate. Overall he is in good shape. 


They don't show packet pickup but they do show a Hawaiian band and hula dancers greeting the athletes. This scene also shows a banner with the name of the race, "The Iron Man Classic".

Copyright 1981, Universal Television, Glen A. Larson Productions

Copyright 1981, Universal Television, Glen A. Larson Productions

The racers do have their numbers written on their shoulders. Magnums's number is 62.

Rick and TC give him a thorough pre-race rubdown while Babs, acting as his "trainer" shoves a salt tablet in his mouth.

Copyright 1981, Universal Television, Glen A. Larson Productions

Copyright 1981, Universal Television, Glen A. Larson Productions

They line up for a mass start and are off!

Copyright 1981, Universal Television, Glen A. Larson Productions

Copyright 1981, Universal Television, Glen A. Larson Productions


The first thing I noticed was that the swim was done VERY close to shore, within 75 feet (20-25 meters). The race distance was 5 miles?!?! (not 2.4) He swims without a wetsuit or swim cap, as do almost all the racers, which makes me wonder how much drag is created by his hairy chest and long hair. He does wear goggles with clear lenses.

His stroke isn't too bad and he breathes on every left stroke. His form is wonderful compared to some competitors who swim with their heads completely above the water.

From the start line, Rick, TC, Higgins, and Babs drive along the course in the Island Hopper van to meet Magnum at T1. Here the race team experiences a problem known to many triathlete spectators...

TC: "Which one is he?"

Rick: "He's right there! Can't you see?"

They then show a wide shot of the swimmers coming in to shore and it is not clear where Magnum actually is. The swim is typically the least exciting part of spectating at any triathlon. At least the band and hula dancers are there as well.


The first transition area is a picnic table in the sand, with all his gear brought in by his transition team of Babs, HIggins, Rick and TC. The general public are in and around T1 area, which is not closed or marked in any way. Babs is in charge of his "4 ounces of glucose", TC is in charge of towel, tank top, and shorts, while Rick is handling socks, shoes, and foot powder (!). Rick and TC hold up a towel while Magnum changes his shorts. Higgins attempts to encourage Magnum by giving a rousing speech describing the Greek battle at Marathon as Rick and TC help Magnum on with his socks (with foot powder!) and shoes. 

Copyright 1981, Universal Television, Glen A. Larson Productions

Copyright 1981, Universal Television, Glen A. Larson Productions

As he sets out on the run Babs shouts, "Knees to chest!" A comment no doubt to remind him of his run technique.


The run goes along beautiful roads and paths with views of the surf. The entire run in a short montage and moves directly into the bike. During the montage Magnum does a voice over to advance the plot. It is here where we get the title of the episode, where Magnum talks about how he had to try hard because "Beauty knows no pain."

Copyright 1981, Universal Television, Glen A. Larson Productions

Copyright 1981, Universal Television, Glen A. Larson Productions


Not shown as the montage flows seamlessly from run to bike. Apparently T2 happens but we don't see it. I can only imagine it was like T1.


Earlier in the show Higgins announces that Magnum will be sponsored by Robin Masters, who will buy him an "Italian Racing Bike", which the internets say is a Bianchi with the decals removed. Magnum's helmet is a typical 80's minimal style (foam core with plastic). Most of the bike course is not closed, moving through "Austin Memorial Gardens" near Waimea Falls Park O'ahu. Inside the garden they have to dismount to walk over a bridge then ride across some packed dirt, not an ideal road bike course but perfect for Cyclocross.

Copyright 1981, Universal Television, Glen A. Larson Productions

Copyright 1981, Universal Television, Glen A. Larson Productions

At one point during the bike leg TC counts the riders in front of Magnum and determines he is in 14th place. At that exact point Magnum has figured out a major plot point, thanks to something Higgins says, he decides to turn around on the bike course to go back into the garden to save Roger. As such he never finishes the race. As he gets off the bike he is quite tired and can barely walk, as would be expected after such a ride.

Copyright 1981, Universal Television, Glen A. Larson Productions

Copyright 1981, Universal Television, Glen A. Larson Productions

Post Race

After a scuffle involving Roger, Magnum, Babs, and a guy with a gun, Higgins points out that "you know you have no chance of winning." Magnum, now holding the gun, looks at Higgins, then at the pistol in his hand, and back at Higgins as we fade to black.

Magnum is then seen resting in the main house of the Robin Masters Estate with his feet on ice as they watch the news highlights of the "Iron Man Classic". They see footage of Magnum riding backwards on the course, much to TC's chagrin, until the news reporter compliments the rider on his resolve and repeated mentions Island Hoppers, TC's tour company, and shows the logo on Magnum's jersey.

Where might he have placed?

Swim: As far as swimming goes his stroke is slow, short, but not terribly inefficient. Hmmm, sounds like me? His pace would easily put him in the rear 2/3 of the pack. The footage gives no visual perspective of where he might be.

Run: Magnum claims he can "run 8 miles a day in under an hour". That puts him at a 7:30 mile pace, which is moderate but not in contention to win the race. If he could hold that pace for a marathon (doubtful) he would have a 3:16 split, which would have been faster than the real 1981 winner John Howard by about 6 minutes, and only 9 minutes slower than the Men's run best in 2013, Joe Kashbohm at 2:59:48. What is more likely is that he was doing 8:30-9 pace, which would make his run split 3:45-3:55, squarely in the middle of the pack.

Bike: As stated previously, he was 14th up until the point that he turned around. We aren't shown at what point he did turn around so we cannot gauge how much he had left at this point. Based on his swim and run pace as well as his 14th place observation he was no doubt moving up the field. If this is the case he may have finished in the top 10 or just outside it.

Conclusion/Lessons learned:

  1. An Ironman can be a great place to get away from it all and solve an attempted murder case.
  2. Even guys with shaggy hair and a big 80s mustache can get a top-20 finish at Ironman.
  3. Sometimes the most boring person in your life (i.e. Higgins) can give you the inspiration you need when you least expect it. 
  4. In the end, saving the life of a petty thief is more important than finishing an Ironman. Wait... what?


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, 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



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.



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^)

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 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.


First Brick of 2011

Today was my first brick of the year! I did 24 minutes in the pool followed by 48 minutes on a bike at the gym, following Day 2 of Week 1 of my 20-week training plan.

First off: what's a brick? It's a workout where you do one workout followed immediately by another, typically a swim followed by a bike or a bike followed by a run. I did my first brick training for my first tri back in '07 (it wasn't pretty): while in the gym one day I did 20 minutes on a bike and then walked over and tried to run on a treadmill. My calves locked up tight and had to stop walking after 5 minutes and sit down. Much has changed since then. Back to today...

The swim: 24:10, ~800 yards Lap Pool at the Pro Club, Bellevue

Yes, I'm slow. My 100m time is somewhere around 2:30. The pool was a 25 yard pool and felt a little on the chilly side. Flip turns continue to elude me but I'll work on that later when I'm not so pressed for time. This was my first swim since my crash back in August. I had a lane in the lap pool all to myself and kept up a constant pace of 28 strokes per 25 yards. On the first lap I had a mysterious foot cramp that was quite painful but went away before my first turn.

The bike: 48:00, 13.5 miles, avg. 17.8 MPH

The bike ride was 48 minutes of the hill profile on a Lemond Trainer. One of these days I'll use the USB feature on the bike and download my ride stats for further analysis. Training Peaks is on my list of things to investigate this year.

Conclusions: Wow, it's been a while. Overall I did pretty well considering I haven't been in a pool in nearly 5 months. No major revelations today but it is only the first week of training for the new year.

Speaking of which, the gym was pretty crowded with all the New Years resolution folks. Sometime around mid-February the gym will be back to the regulars that actually keep resolutions, although by late March I'm doing all my runs and rides outside and by June all my swims as well.



Race Report: Issaquah Triathlon 2010

This was my 4th time finishing the Issaquah Xterra...

…I mean Issaquah Tri.

It sure felt like an Exterra or Cyclocross event. I have never seen Lake Sammamish State Park with so much water in the grassy areas. The mud was ankle deep in some of the transition areas. The deeper puddles (i.e. small lakes) were roped off and nearly knee deep. The usual run course was completely re-routed onto more solid surfaces both inside and outside the park.

The water temp really slowed me down on both the swim and bike. At the end of the race I recovered much faster than I anticipated which usually means I left a lot of fuel in the tank (i.e. I could have gone faster on the course).

My son was constantly checking the Lake Sammamish water temperature leading up to the race. The temps started out around 60F the weekend before and then dropped down to 56F the night before race day thanks to a very cold and heavy rain storm.

I walked down to the water to warm up about 30 minutes before my start time. BRRRR! Did I mention the water was cold? I think I saw some ice float by...

Biggest surprise: the number of people who didn’t have wetsuits. This was my first race in a wetsuit. I usually count the number of people without suits: the number is usually 3-5 for the entire race but this time it was 3-8 per age group. While I was setting up my transition area I met a guy doing his first race in an old pastel-colored O’Neil waterskiing wetsuit. Well, to each his own.

Swim: 12:10 748/839

As the horn sounded first wave of men started off a bald eagle was started out of a nearby tree, flew a circle around the swim area, and returned to his perch, most likely to sleep off his headache from the air horn. A few minutes later I was shivering in the water waiting for my heat to begin. When my heat finally began my body went into shock. The water was incredibly cold away from shore and seriously prevented me from getting into any kind of freestyle rhythm: I ended up doing the breast stroke for more than half the course. After what seemed like an eternity I staggered out of the water and into T1 nearly 2 minutes slower than last year. The cold water really threw me for a loop and negatively impacted me for the rest of the race.

T1: 4:09

The run into transition was easier than I thought. The muddy ground was quite soft and squishy between the toes. I took the extra time with a water bottle to rinse my feet a bit before putting into my socks which turned out to be unnecessary. As I exited transition in my bike shoes they filled with water and mud.

Bike 48:22 391/839

The bike is typically where I shine, thanks to my bike commute schedule, but not this year. My legs took a VERY long time to warm up from that cold water. The other impacting problem was the very long and narrow exit out and then approach into the park which did not allow for passing. This created about a mile in each direction where everyone was at the mercy of the riders in front of them. In a race staggered start and a duathlon it made for some frustrating minutes lost. I was shooting for 40 minutes or under and was quite shocked at my time.

T2: 2:19

I traded my muddy bike shoes for an old pair of running shoes that I had remembered to bring (i.e. not my nice, newer shoes).

Run: 25:52 612/839Muddy shoes after the run

The run was almost enjoyable. The sun came out and started to warm things up. I even ended up with a bit of a sun burn. The new run course was an out and back loop on sidewalks through the park. I didn't have my GPS running but I swear it was under 5K. I was very happy to be at the end of that race.

Total: 1:32:53 OA: 539/839 AG: 88/113

Once again, it was a fun day. The weather, mud, and cold water made for a very interesting and educational experience.

Lessons learned:

  1. Old running shoes are great for short races if you don't want to get your new shoes muddy.
  2. If the water temp is less than 62F, go for the LONG SLEEVED wet suit.
  3. Do more warm up in the cold water before the race to better acclimate to the frigid temps.

Looking forward to next time!

Race Report: Issaquah Triathlon 2007

I was digging around some old docs and found my old race report for the 2007 Issaquah Tri. This one is important to me because it was my first Triathlon of any distance and a great turning point for me personally.

Report, as written on June 3, 2007-

Wow, I actually did it and achieved my goal (finish in less than 2 hours). I arrived just in time to sit in traffic as the over 1000 participants waited to get into the parking lot at Lake Sammamish State Park at Issaquah, Washington, just east of Seattle. There was plenty of time for me to set up my bike and other things in the transition area and meander over to the starting area. While waiting in the line for the restroom I found a friend of mine from church who was participating in the Tri with his wife. It was nice to know someone else who did the race. They both beat me by at least 10 minutes (way to go!).

The swim start for my heat was at 7:18 am sharp. I stayed in the back of the pack and then did the breast stroke for just about the entire 400m swim. The water temp was perfect (for me anyway) at around 70F.  This was my weakest of the three events by far. My time coming out of the water was about 18 minutes (more on that below). The first transition went well considering I didn’t have a wet suit to fool with. I put on my shirt, cleaned my feet, donned my shoes, and off I went.

As I was just starting my bike run I saw the race leader coming back from his bike run. He won with a time of 58:35, almost 1 hour faster than me. To put that into perspective, I did the bike portion of the race in just over 55 minutes. The next closest competitor to him was almost 5 minutes behind. I did pretty well on the bike. I noticed that a lot of people around me didn’t use their downhill gears: I passed a lot of folks on the downhills with minimal effort. The one hill we had to go over and back on was a slow rise up about 300 feet. Lots of people looked at me funny as I sang Christmas songs to pass the time (i.e. "Walking in a Winter Wonderland", "Frosty the Snowman", and "Have yourself a merry little Christmas"). I was feeling really good coming out of the second transition.

The run felt really good except for one thing: of the entire course, only 1/4 of it was paved. The remaining was over grassy fields, dirt roads, or sports fields. My ankles were really bothering me as I approached the finish. Most of the course was shaded which turned out to be a blessing as the sun came out near the end. As I broke out of the trees for the final time I saw Wendy and the boys there to cheer me on. I sped up and somehow found the energy to sprint across the finish line.

Here are my official results:

Swim 00:18:23.6  T1 00:06:27.9  Bike 00:55:05.8  T2 00:04:37.9  Run 00:27:49.1  Finish 01:52:24.3 

Overall I am very happy with the entire experience and my performance in this, my rookie race. The 5K time is less than the 5K I ran last month (29:37). The only thing that went wrong for me on race day was that I forgot my shoes. I had to turn around and drive home about 3 miles from home. Good thing I remembered. I can race without a shirt; I can race without socks; but I certainly cannot race without shoes.

Recovery Day 1 – Sunday June 3
Today went pretty well. Muscle soreness is much less than I expected. Took some ibuprofen before church to make sure I could make it through 3 hours without much misery. The biggest issue so far is the recurring muscle spasm in my shoulder that has been acting up for some time: it got a lot worse starting last night but nothing serious. I am continuing the elevated calorie diet which should return to normal on Tuesday.
Recovery Day 2 – Monday, June 4
Feeling much better even though the heat at night kept me awake (no one in Seattle has A/C). Shoulder spasms are almost gone.

Race Report: Beaver Lake Sprint Tri 2010

Date: Aug. 21, 2010

Location: Beaver Lake Park, Sammamish, WA

Photo Gallery: set

Total time: 1:59:56, OA: 309/362, AG: 17/19 (Clydesdale)

Swim: 9:15 262/383

T1: 3:28

Bike: 1:00:00 337/383

T2: 2:12

Run: 45:01 323/381

This is my second time. I love this race because it is so close to our house and has excellent scenery to distract me from the pains of racing. This time the wife and boys came along to volunteer at the race. They were in charge of setting up the food area and making sure all the food items were well stocked. Boy #1 had a part-time job as my personal photographer as well.
The morning of the race was kind of cold (about 47 degrees) but the lake was around 75! That made for a great scene on the lake with the mist hanging over the water. The boys helped me set up my transition area with my bike, jersey, and shoes.
The swim was a lot of fun, actually. The water was warm enough that I really didn't need my wetsuit, although I did wear it for added buoyancy. I had my best 400 meter swim time ever (9:12). I got out of the water in a very good mood and set out on the bike course.
The bike route took us out of Beaver Lake Park, DOWN Duthie Hill Rd (dropping about 420 feet in 1 mile), along Fall City Rd (Highway 202), and then back up Issaquah-Fall City Rd. That big hill is a long and hard staircase climb back up the 400+ feet back to the lake. I have done this particular climb several times before, most recently about 6 weeks earlier during the Flying Wheels Century, so I know how high it is and when the hill stops. There is a section near the top that drops down quite a ways before climbing back up even higher as you get back to Duthie Hill Rd. This is where my problems began. I was going waaaaay too fast coming into a turn (I missed the 20 MPH turn warning sign) and completely misjudged a turn. I came into it too fast and in the wrong position. I hit my brakes as hard as I could, skidded off the road, hit a rock retaining wall and flipped over into the gravel, landing on my head and then my bottom.
Immediately another rider was next to me checking me out, asking questions, and helping. After about 15 minutes of “collecting myself” I got up, dusted myself off, adjusted my bent front brake, pulled some rocks out of my helmet, and got back on my bike. That other racer stayed with me the entire time. I wish I had looked at his race number so I could have thanked him later but I didn't and never saw him again. Since I was already at the top of the big hill I rode slowly back to the transition area at the park.
As I entered the park, one of the race officials said, “You must be the guy that flipped over. Are you OK?” I said yes and then continued on to my spot. Without even thinking I took off my bike shoes and helmet, put on my running shoes, stretched my neck a bit, and then went out on the run. The thought of not finishing the race didn’t even cross my mind.
The first mile of the run was very painful and slow (12+ minute pace). Just after the 1 mile mark I was passed by a barefoot guy that was pushing 80. I found out later that he was indeed 80 and finished the race. He passed me and gave words of encouragement. A few minutes later something inexplicable happened: my cramps went away, my neck loosened up, and I was able to increase my pace to 9 minute miles. As I passed Mr. Barefoot he cheered me on. Unbelievably I finished the 4.3 mile run only 2 minutes slower than the last time I ran it. Considering how sore I was that night I have no idea how I even ran 1 mile, let alone over 4.
Aftermath: I didn’t go to the ER but my doctor did check me out. The next day I had spine, neck, and head x-rays which came out clean (i.e no broken bones). I had no concussion, no broken bones, no cuts, only bruises and sore muscles. Since I finished the race it was hard to tell which muscles were sore from normal racing and which ones were sore from the crash. My right knee had a huge bruise swollen to about the size of a grapefruit on the left side of my knee cap. Based on the impact marks and my estimated speed (about 25-30 MPH) the doctor said that my helmet had definitely saved my life and had at least saved me from a fractured skull.
Recovery: The night after the crash it was very hard to sleep. I had a lot of time to think about what had happened. The events of the crash played back in my mind over and over and over. Why did I think I could make that tight turn going so fast? How did I miss that 20MPH sign? Did I use my brakes the right way? Could I have missed that rock? The words of my Red Cross CPR/First Aid instructor kept coming to mind, “If you come across a person who you suspect has a spinal injury, do not let them get up. Have them remain still on the ground while you stabilize their head and neck until paramedics arrive.” I didn’t do that. I got up and finished my race. I should have stayed there and waited for help to arrive but I was too stubborn. I risked my life for a stupid race without thinking about the impact on my family. Eventually I got to sleep but I didn’t rest well until after my x-ray results came back. I got that call on the morning of August, 26th, my birthday. And what a fabulous birthday present it was, too! (negative for spinal fractures)
So my racing season for 2010 was over. With a couple of weeks I was doing much better and even completed a couple of short runs (20-25 minutes each). I did physical therapy with a great doctor to make sure that my neck muscles healed properly and quickly. My bike only needed minor repairs and was back in service within a week. Will I race again? Yes. Will I be more careful from now on when it comes to turns? ABSOLUTELY.

Race Report: Federal Escape Olympic Tri 2010

On Saturday, July 31st, I participated in my first ever Olympic distance Tri, the Federal Escape. This was my first Olympic distance event ever and I must say that it was a stretch. I feel about like I did the first time I did after my first sprint distance in ’07: quite sore and very satisfied that I left everything out on the course. My race style is best described as “freight barge”: I am very slow and deliberate but once I get up to speed I will finish the race.


I woke up at 4am race day which is very unusual for me. I’m usually sleeping like a rock and my wife has to almost push me out of bed to make it on time but not today. For some reason I woke up before my alarm and had butterflies in my stomach (also very uncharacteristic). Breakfast was a simple course of oatmeal (no milk) and soy nuts. I picked up some muffins the day before to eat in transit but for some reason I just wasn’t hungry. I arrived at 5-Mile Lake Park with time to spare so I liesurely set up my transition area.

At the pre-race meeting the race organizer with the bull horn caused a lot of confusion as he was describing the course: he kept getting the number of laps wrong for each leg of the race. I’m surprised he didn’t tell us to go through T1 twice before going out on the bike.

Swim – 52:09

Water temp: approx. 75F. I almost didn’t wear my wetsuit. Overall I don’t think it was necessary at all. The air temp was quite cool (55F) with a bit of wind so, if anything, it helped keep me warm waiting for the race to begin. The water was so much warmer than the air that it caused a lot of fog with wisps of steam coming off the lake. This created a quiet, almost serene environment as the race started.

The swim area had some rocks but the best part was the plastic toy speed boat filled with pebbles.

One of the guys I warmed up with grew up in that area. They used to call 5-Mile Lake the “Root Beer Lake” because the water is so cloudy and red/orange in color. Underwater visibility was very poor, limited to about 3 feet. It was weird to look out underwater and see your skin colored red. As a result of the limited visibility there were a LOT of collisions at the start and until the pack thinned out around the first buoy. I think I kicked someone in the face but that’s the extent of incidents where I was involved. One other recommendation: don’t wear tinted goggles unless the sun is really, really bright. My slightly tinted goggles decreased underwater visibility quite a bit due to the water color.

In my training I never did work up to 1500m so this was the furthest I have ever swam since I was a teenager. Several of us were about the same speed and swam as a small group at the back of the pack but really thinned out on the second lap. There was one guy who paced me about 20-50m behind for the entire race. With about 300m to go he turned on the jets and came up to pass me. I used this as an incentive to also turn up my speed but he was just too fast. At 50m left he passed me and kept up his speed right up until he got out of the water where he walked the 50m or so into T1. Since I was so close behind him it was very easy to pass him by jogging into transition. Sorry dude, you passed me on the swim but I got the faster swim time. }B^)

I do vividly remember being passed by Chris Tremonte: I estimated that he was doing more than twice my speed which makes sense when you look at the race results (actually 2.35x faster).

My slower swim time put me squarely in the back of the pack which led to some lonely times out on the course later on...

T1 – 2:59

Lots of people standing around. It was weird to dodge and duck people getting set for the sprint race. Some of the folks were slowly stripping off their wetsuits so they must have been in the Oly. This was one of my better T1 splits even though I forgot my body glide.

Bike – 1:18:27

Avg. speed: 17.82 MPH

Lots and lots of turns and rollers! The course was easy and best classified as an urban road race. The rollers and frequent turns (4 laps on the Oly) made it hard to get into a rhythm but I was still able to average almost 18 MPH. This was greatly improved over 2 years ago where I averaged 15.5 MPH during my 3rd sprint tri.

The temp at the beginning of the bike was still in the high 50’s so the first couple of miles were a little chilly as I dried out.

I’ve never seen so many drafters in a triathlon! On 3 of the 4 laps there was someone close enough behind me as I finished the lap that a race official would scream, “NO DRAFTING!” I didn’t see anyone handing out penalties: did anyone actually get one?

As usual I found myself in a group of 3-4 riders who ride the same pace and play tag for 20 miles. It was fun to “reel them in” on the down-hills (my weight allows me to go a little faster on the down side) and then try to keep them behind you on the short climbs. They all went into T2 after 3 of my laps since they no doubt swam 15-20 minutes faster than I did, which left me pedaling my last lap virtually alone. It was weird to be biking along at race pace with no one in sight behind or in front of you.

My only complaint: who the @#$! was running the high-frequency noise generator at around mile 4 on the bike course? Other than being very annoying it did serve to get me out of my seat and sprinting to get away from the ear splitting tone. I’m sure some senior citizen installed it to keep away those meddlin’ kids.

T2 – 1:11

No crash this time. In ’08, while doing the sprint tri, I crashed during my dismount when my failed to unclip as I stopped. I ended up sliding on the rough pavement. Both gloves were shredded and my left leg and arm had a bit of road rash. Nothing of note this time. I changed my shoes, ditched my helmet and gloves, and off I went on the run course.

Run – 59:33

The run wasn’t bad. The rolling hills were tolerable and my legs held my expected pace. I had to walk a couple of times to get my heart rate under control (up in the 160-165 BPM range) but other than that the run was almost enjoyable. Several people who passed me (sprint runners) gave me encouraging words. The 22-year-old who won the sprint gave me a hearty pat on the back when he passed (I was walking at the time) and I could have sworn that someone said my name when they passed. Of course it doesn’t help to have a suffix for a name.

The second lap was somewhat easier with more folks on the course from the Sprint race. My stomach started to rebel with about 2 miles left but, thankfully, nothing came up. I can usually gauge the amount of energy I have expended during a race by the amount of speed I have left in the last 200 yards: if I can sprint in the last part of the race I know that I left some gas in the tank. Not this time. I was able to hold my speed through the finish but in the end my tank was empty.

Total time: 3:14:16 AG: 12/14, OA: 83/88


SWAG celebration! Started with the bread with jelly, fresh fruit (plums, bananas, and oranges), protein and lara bars, and top it off with soap and shampoo. Too much stuff.

Overall it was a great experience. My first Oly went off without a hitch and almost exactly in line with my time estimates. I’ll probably do this race again in 2011.

Would I recommend this race? Yes: the course is relatively easy, race is well run, and not crowded at all.