A blog for (semi) athletic middle-aged men (and women) holding on to (the last vestiges of) their youth
by training for and competing in running, cycling, swimming and triathlon events!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

No Motivation

More than a week has passed since the Vineman Ironman 70.3 and I'm back to the routine of home and work, but really struggling to find motivation to train for the Chicago Half Marathon on September 9. I got up and ran yesterday but slept in this morning. I had intended to go to the Castle View High School track and put in some speed work, but just laid in bed instead.

I love the anticipation that leads up to big events like Ride the Rockies and Vineman, but I don't like the feeling I get when it's over. I'm sure I'll snap out of it soon.

I finally downloaded my Vineman "track" from my Garmin Forerunner to the MotionBased TrailNetwork. So if you are interested in retracing the route on your own, you can view it -- or even download it to your Garmin GPS device -- by clicking on the map (at left).

One of the cool things about MotionBased is you can get all of the data from your rides, runs, and events like Vineman, including the weather! Turns out it was even hotter than I thougth. According to MotionBased the high temp during Vineman was 89.6 and the humidity was 88 percent. That's a Heat Index of 120F. It's no wonder I was struggling towards the end of the run!


Sunday, July 29, 2007

Heading Home

It's Sunday morning and we're sitting at the airport in Reno getting ready to head back to Denver. One week ago at this time I was 2/3 the way through Vineman, finishing the bike and heading out on the run. At the time I was wondering what possessed me to take on such a challenge. One week later I'm already thinking about doing it again next year!

But that's a long way off. In the meantime, I can focus on my next goal -- running the Chicago Half-Marathon on September 9. Events like Vineman and the Chicago Half are what keeps me motivated to get up early to run (or swim or ride). Without goals like this, it is too easy for me to hit snooze.

So over the next month I will be focusing on my running with several of my colleagues (at left) who are running in the Chciago Half Marathon to help kick off "Beef Week" in Chicago, home of this year's National Beef Cookoff on September 11-13.

The Chicago Half is only my third half-marathon ever...and third this summer! My goal is to finish under two hours, at a pace of about 9 min/mile. That's about :45/mile faster than I ran the Rocky Mountain Half back in June and about 1:45/mile faster than my Vineman run (also a half-marathon).

The past week has been a wonderful time of rest and relaxation. I went for some long walks and short runs so my legs wouldn't forget how, but tomorrow morning training begins anew. Better grill up some lean beef tonight to start refueling my legs!


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Vineman Retrospective Part III. The Run

After finishing the 56-mile bike portion in 3:08:19 -- an average of 17.8 mph -- I was about 20 minutes ahead of schedule. All I had to do was average 10 minute miles and I'd finish well ahead of my goal (6 hrs. 30 mins.) for the Vineman. So, I ran into to the transition area, parked my bike and sat down to put on my running shoes. As I left the transition area my legs felt strong, but a dull pain in the ball of my left foot foreshadowed the ordeal that lie ahead.

My brother Jon met me as I came out of the transition area and jogged along side me (wearing flip flops!) and asked how I was feeling. I said I felt great but thought maybe my sock was bunched up under my left foot so I stopped, sat on the curb and checked. Nothing wrong. Just felt like the ball of my foot was bruised. So I got up and took off on the 13.1-mile run.

I ran the first three miles in 9:25, 9:42 and 9:44. Not a bad start. But then the heat, my aching feet, and eventually dehydration took its toll on me. I dropped from 10 min/mile pace in mile four to 12:17 min/mile in mile nine! This was just after we made the turn at LaCrema Winery and I should have been cruising home but I was exhausted. Many people slowed to a walk and I thought about it often, but just tried to keep my feet moving.

This paid off in miles 11-13 when I started to sense the end in sight and picked up the pace. I finished with 10:26 in mile 12 and 10:53 in mile 13. My total run time was 2:22:01, essentially 22 minutes slower than I anticipated. But in the end I finished at 6:28:43 -- one minute and 17 seconds ahead of my goal (6:30:00).

My brother Jon met up with me at the one mile marker and jogged alongside (in his flip flops, of course!). When he asked me how I felt this time I had a one word reply, "pain." But he encouraged me with talk of sitting around his backyard lounging by the pool. Jon peeled off to take a short cut to the finish line and just as I rounded the corner for the final sprint, my daughter Shelby came bounding in and challenged me to a race to the finish by saying something like, "If you don't beat me, I will beat you" (meaning with her fists!). I politely declined, saying something like, "Dad," "can't" and that one word again, "pain."

But having Shelby run the final 100 yards with me was priceless. I will never forget it. The picture says it all: me, straining to keep my feet moving and Shelby with her recently purchased "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" under one arm bounding along beside me, taunting me.

I didn't have quite the same feeling of elation crossing the finish line as I have in shorter triathlons. This feeling was more of relief, gratification that it was over, and struggling to hold it all together and keep from getting sick or blacking out! But Leslie was there with sponges and water, cooling me off, and the rest of the family was wisely keeping their distance!

But I did recover enough to limp to some outdoors showers, rinse off the muddy river water from six hours earlier, and get my bike and all my soaking wet, sweaty, gear loaded up to head to Sacramento.

Vineman was over. I had finished under my goal. I was exhausted but elated. Content and tired, I caught a nice nap on the two hour drive to Jon's house, where I have been relaxing by the pool all week, accepting Jon's offer from Sunday afternoon...somewhere around mile 13.



Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Vineman Retrospective Part II. The Ride

I was so pumped about finishing the swim two minutes under my goal. And as I ran to my bike and headed to the start of the ride, my personal cheering section of my wife, two daughters, brother, sister-in-law, and two nephews were screaming at the top of thier lungs. Needless to say, when I got on my bike the adrenaline was flowing!

Right at the start of the ride was a short climb up from the beach to the main street of Guerneville. I stood on the pedals and sprinted up and never looked back. I was off on a 56-mile roller coaster ride through the vineyards of Sonoma County -- Korbel, Stonestreet, B.R. Cohn, Chalk Hill -- are just a few of the ones I recognized.

I had given Leslie some estimated times of arrival at various checkpoints along the route and my entourage planned to set up at one point when we crossed under Hwy 101 at mile 28.4 in Geyserville. But I was riding much faster than I anticipated, averaging 18.5 mph in the first hour! So I passed the checkpoint about 20 minutes ahead of schedule and missed them entirely.

I consciously backed off a bit in the second half of the ride knowing I still had to climb Chalk Hill and then run 13.1 miles! But Chalk Hill turned out to be a little bump in the road compared to the hills I ride every time I leave my house in Castle Rock. As I neared Windsor High School and the end of the ride I was still averaging 17.8 mph -- about one mile-per-hour faster than I'd do.

The entourage was at the school when I arrived 4 hours into the event -- still holding a 20 minute lead over my goal. As I have told many people, I was only racing myself in this event. So my thought at this point was "I'm racing myself and kicking my own butt!"

I took my time in the transition from the ride to the run, sitting down to put on my running shoes. I was holding a 20-minute lead over my goal and felt I'd earned it! Little did I know that every minute would count as the heat and my feet would conspire against me on the run threaten my ability to finish under goal.

But I'll save that for tomorrow. Now it's off on a walk with Leslie. I haven't felt like running or riding yet...and may not all week!


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Vineman Retrospective Part I. The Swim

Over the next three days I am going to recount my Vineman adventure in the three main segments of the event -- the Swim, the Bike and the Run. As with every USAT sanctioned event, it all began with the swim.

Leslie and I arrived at Johnson's Beach in Guerneville just in time to see the first wave of elite athletes coming up from the beach on their bikes. By my calculations, they must have finished the swim in about 25 minutes. I'd be happy to do twice that time!

After getting my bike and gear situated on the rack in Transition 1, I put on my swim gear and waded into the murky waters of the Russian River (I expected it to be much clearer) for a warmup swim. This was my first time in open water since May of 2006 at the Heritage Park Triathlon in Olathe, KS. And I as I started swimming I remembered why it is so important to practice in open water -- it is so different than swimming in a pool with lane markers. After a momentary feeling of panic that I hadn't fully prepared for the river swim, I calmed down and started to warm up.

When it came time for the start of my heat I moved to the far side of the river along the banks. I like to get away from the other swimmers so I don't kicked, bumped, smacked, etc. in the frenzied start of a heat. With over 120 swimmers starting at once, it looks something like salmon swimming upstream to spawn!

I started slow but settled into my breathing pattern as I headed upstream to the turnaround point. At several points the water got so shallow some people stood to walk but I kept swimming, even with my hands touching bottom at times. It just seemed wrong to me to be wading instead of swimming! I had fun with the swim -- waving to my nephew standing on a bridge over the river, saying "thanks" to the kayakers who were there to provide assistance, if needed. I think it kind of startled them :)

At the turnaround point I checked my Garmin Forerunner (yes, you can swim with it) and it showed 27 mins – right on schedule to finish in around 50 mins since the second half was downstream (and slightly shorter). So, I kicked it into a little higher gear and headed back towards the beach.

Feeling strong, I hit the beach two minutes ahead of my goal. As I ran toward my bike in the transition area, I shed my Zoot speed suit, cap, goggles and swim socks (a lifesaver when running in the gravel areas of the bike transition).

[Note: Leslie took this picture of me running up the beach with the sun glinting off the river -- It's out of focus but I kind of like it]

I was pumped up and ready to get on my aluminum horse and ride. In fact, the ride would go much better than expected and was the highlight of my race. But that’s a story for another day.

Stay tuned…


Monday, July 23, 2007

Vineman Pics

Here are some pictures taken by my sister-in-law Betty at yesterday's Vineman...

Coming out of the water after a 1.2-mile swim in Sonoma's Russian River.

Coming in from the 56-mile ride feeling great about finishing 20 minutes ahead of schedule!

Taking off in the run with my brother Jon running alongside (Jon also finished the last mile with me, running in flip flops the whole time!)

My daughter Shelby finishing the final sprint with me (notice the new Harry Potter book under her right arm!)

At the "photo finish" (professional photographer take your picture in front of the IronMan sign right after you cross the line)

More later...


Sunday, July 22, 2007

I am Vineman!

Daren here. Alive and, well, my legs are too tired to kick. I finished just under my goal of 6:30. In fact, according to my Garmin Forerunner 301, I finished in 6:29:59 – one second under! But it was actually several minutes. I just forgot to hit “stop” after crossing the finish line. The only thing on my mind at the time was making sure I didn't lose the cookies I ate on the run (they had Oreos at every Aid Station!).

That run was the toughest thing I have ever done. As you know from Leslie’s post (she was too busy tracking my progress across Northern California to post again), I had a good swim (for me). I got into my rhythm and swam at my pace the whole way and finished 3 minutes under my goal. I also had a great ride. I averaged 17.8 mph and finished in 3:10, 20 minutes under my goal of 3:30. I was shocked.

Then came the run. Either I pushed too hard on the bike or just underestimated the pure torture of running a half-marathon in searing mid-day heat after a 1.2-mile swim and 56-mile ride! It was brutal. My legs were tired for sure but the worst part was the heat and my feet. It was about 90 degrees and 88 percent humidity! And my feet felt bruised and bloodied. I kept expecting to see red stuff oozing out, but never did. I do have a few small blisters, but nothing major. I guess it was just the constant pounding of my 200+ lbs. over 13.1 miles!

So, my run was a little slower than expected and ate up the 20 minutes I had gained on the bike. In the end it evened out and I still finished under my goal.

Now we are sitting at Imagery Winery tasting some great California wines. Of course, that was my other goal for Vineman :)

[At left: that's me with my sister-in-law, Betty, my official photographer!)

More later...


Leslie here...

and not so eloquent as Daren! He's doing great after his restless morning. He came out of the water by my unofficial Seiko timing in 47 minutes... three minutes ahead of his expected time. He came out of the transition area on his bike strong and with a smile. Will try to get some pictures up, but we're rushing out of the hotel now to try to see him as he passes Aid Station 2 at mile 29 of the ride which should be about 1 hour 55 minutes into the ride portion!

More later! Leslie

Mind Games

I woke up around 3:00 a.m. this morning after about 4-1/2 hours of sleep. As I was hovering in that semi-conscious state between awake and asleep my mind became filled with negative thoughts and images -- panicking in the water, bike breaking down, bonking on the run. It's funny how the mind works at night. So irrational. And yet the thoughts and images seem so real. Finally I snapped out of it and consciously began replacing the negative thoughts with positive ones -- finishing the swim, cruising on my bike, crossing the finish line.

It's 5:30 a.m. and all my gear is packed and ready to go so I thought I'd post one more time. By the time you read this I will probably be in the water, on my bike or running through the beautiful vineyards of Northern California. Face west and send positive thoughts my way. I have been bouyed by the support and encouragement of all of you. I am so thankful for my circle of family and friends and look forward to seeing each of you soon and trying to describe the feeling of crossing the finish line.

That's why I do this. Crossing the finish line, cresting the summit of Independence Pass, riding up to the St. Louis Arch after a four-day, 400-mile trek across Missouri. Setting a goal and reaching it. It's a great feeling.


Saturday, July 21, 2007

8:06 p.m. and All's Well

Walking home from dinner tonight I looked at my watch and the time read 8:06 p.m. -- exactly 12 hours before the start of my heat tomorrow morning. A sign or just a coincidence? Either way, I am relaxed and ready to get some sleep.
My brother Jon, sister-in-law Betty and nephews Alex and Brandon joined us in Santa Rosa today. Having them here has been great. Something about having my big brother around has helped me relax. We all went to dinner together tonight at Syrah Bistro and I had a wonderful Montana Legend Ribeye steak, a little wine and lots of bread and beans (protein and carbs!).

Earlier today we went to Windsor High School to register and attend a pre-race meeting. It was all a little overwhelming as I observed hundreds of extremely fit triathletes walking around and listened to the race referees talk about giving penalties for drafting, blocking and illegal positioning! I've never participated in a triathlon of this magnitude before and it's a little intimidating!

After registration we drove to Guerneville to survey the race start at Johnson's Beach on the Russian River and drove part of the bike route to get a feel for the lay of the land. It's going to be an awesome ride. The river is a lot muddier than I expected. At least as muddy, if not more so, than the lakes we used to swim in around Kansas City. But the good news is that the current doesn't seem too swift.

After getting back to the hotel form Guerneville I finally got my bike reassembled. Thankfully I had all the parts and could figure out where they go. I waited way too late in the day to get that done. The one thing I can't do without is my bike! If anything had gone wrong I'd have had to scratch the race. But it's all good and now I'm off to bed. I'll be up at 5:00, leave the hotel by 6:00, arrive at the start no later than 7:00, get my bike ready, swim gear on, get in the water and be ready to rock at 8:06.

This is my final post until I cross the finish line. Until then...


Good Morning Sonoma!

It's a beautiful morning in Santa Rosa, CA. I woke up at 7:00 and couldn't get back to sleep. My mind was racing with thoughts of everything I need to do today so I got up and walked a block from the hotel to the Flying Goat coffee shop for a bowl of their homemade granola and a latte. Leslie and the girls just joined me a few minutes ago and we're going to get them some breakfast before we head out for the LBS (Local Bike Shop).

After picking up some necessities at the bike shop (I realized this morning that I also left my water bottles at home), we're going to head over to Windsor High School to register and attend a pre-race meeting. The High School is the finish line for the bike portion of the route and the starting line for the run, so I also have to drop off my running shoes so they'll be there when I arrive by bike tomorrow.

My heat (Men 42-44) begins at 8:06 a.m. (one of the last heats to start) so I should be finishing the swim around 8:56, on my bike by 9:00, arrive at Windsor High School around 12:30, strap on my running shoes and head out on the run. If everything goes according to plan I should cross the finish line back at Windsor High School around 2:30 p.m.

Time to go. Check back in later today for an update!


Friday, July 20, 2007

36 Hours and Counting...

We arrived in Santa Rosa in Sonoma County, CA, about 9:00 p.m. this evening after an uneventful flight and nice drive up Hwy 101. Leslie and I went out for a nice dinner at LaCoco's Cucina Rustica in the Historic Railroad Square. I wanted to enjoy a good meal with a bottle of Sonoma wine tonight since I will have to watch what I eat and drink tomorrow night. So I had Veal Osso Bucco (braised veal shank) with a yummy Seghesio Zinfandel (from nearby Healdsburg). It hit the spot.

As Leslie and I sat at dinner we tried to figure out which of the other diners were here for Vineman. It was pretty easy to pick out the hard core athletes. But I'm sure there were others (like me!) who didn't necessarily look the part ;)

The plan for tomorrow morning is to sleep in and then find a local bike shop where I can pick up a few items I left back in Denver. Most importantly, a set of Allen wrenches so I can put my bike back together!

Transporting a bike via airplane is not an simple task. In the past I have picked up a used cardboard bike box -- the ones new bikes are shipped in -- from my local bike shop. But I've never felt like cardboard was sufficient to protect my bike from overzealous baggage handlers, so I broke down and bought a Serfas Bike Armor bike case this afternoon at Bike Source in Highlands Ranch, CO.

I was running late and still had to get home to pack, so fortunately Bob from Bike Source helped me disassemble my bike and pack it in my new case. Bob is awesome. As it turns out, he's a good friend of Eric Schuster, the guy who sold me my bike at the Bike Source in Overland Park, Kansas. I love Bike Source. There are only six Bike Source stores in the U.S. -- three in Ohio, one in Charlotte, NC, one in KC, which was two miles from my house, and one in Denver, which is about two miles from my office. What are the chances?

Anyway, Bob was so helpful I gave him one of the last "Beef. it's What's for Dinner" jerseys out of the original 30 produced, which I happened to have in my car after showcasing it at the Summer Conference. If I have my way, there will soon be Beef jerseys showing up all over the country, spreading the message that lean beef is an important part of a healthy lifestyle!

In fact, one of the Beef jerseys was recently spotted on RAIN (Ride Across INdiana) -- a one-day, 160-mile ride along historic National Route 40. That's my colleague Melissa's dad looking lean and mean on the big ride. 160 miles in one day is HUGE -- longest I have done in a day is 120. Think about it...at 16 miles per hour (which is a swift pace) that's 10 hours of pedaling. That takes some incredible muscle endurance. It's gotta be the beef!

Until tomorrow...


California Here We Come!

2,000 triathletes will descend on Sonoma, CA, this weekend for the Vineman 70.3 Ironman Triathlon -- and I will be one of them! Somebody asked me today where I expect to "place" among those 2,000. As I told them, my only goal is to finish. There are going to be plenty of serious triathletes at this event -- it is one of only four half-Ironman distance triathlons that is a qualifier for the 2007 Ironman Triathlon World Championship in Kona, the big daddy of them all.

Actually, as I wrote in a previous blog, my goal has been to finish in under seven hours -- 50 minutes on the swim, 4 hours on the bike and 2:10 on the run (including transition times). However, after some words of encouragement from Tom (a Ride the Rockies friend) and Nancy (my swim coach, uber triathlete and cheerleader from KC), I have pushed myself hard in the past two weeks and now believe I will finish in 6 hours and 30 minutes -- 50 minutes on the swim, 3:30 on the bike and 2 hours on the run, plus transitions and "refueling" stops (Nancy tells me the key is to keep eating so I don't "bonk.")

I blew off the Snug Run last night in order to stick around the hotel and say goodbye to all my new beef industry friends, so I went for a short, hard run this morning -- a 3.1 mile course around my house -- and felt great. I averaged 8:40/mile, my fastest run at this altitude (6,400 ft. above sea level). My legs and lungs are ready for the big event. I'm not sure about my nerves, though. I woke up this morning feeling a little "anxious." This is a big deal to me and the butterflies are fluttering around in my stomach. I think I'll settle down once we arrive in Sonoma tomorrow, get registered, attend the pre-race meetings and drive the course (all except the swim, of course!).

Forty-eight hours from now I will be past the halfway mark on the swim and heading back downstream towards the bike transition area. Hard to believe the time has come to fulfill my end of the bet I made to Nancy (swim coach/uber triathlete/cheerleader) last July in KC before moving to Colorado. We made a pact that if I did Vineman she'd come out to Colorado in June 2008 for Ride the Rockies. So, the deal is on, Nancy, better find the steepest hills in eastern Kansas and start training!


Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Final Countdown

Three days to Vineman! This week has been a little rough on my training schedule. My plan was to "taper" my workouts -- shorter, harder workouts -- by running five miles on Monday, swimming Tuesday, running three miles Wednesday, swimming Thursday, and running one mile Friday morning.

Well, I did run Monday morning and felt great, averaging under 9:00/mile for the first time on my regular five mile course near my house. However, this is the week of the beef industry's Summer Conference in Denver and I had to cancel my Tuesday swim and Wednesday run to attend early morning breakfast meetings, all day meetings and late evening dinners. But I got back on track this morning with a short, intense swim at the Castle Rock Rec Center and I am planning to run a 5K tonight in downtown Denver.

I will run tonight with about 40-50 other members of the Irish Snug Running Club. The Irish Snug is a pub in downtown Denver with a weekly 5K (3.1 mile) run every Thursday evening, followed by a free spaghetti dinner and $3 pints of Guiness. What a deal! I did my first Snug Run two weeks ago with three of my colleagues who are training for the Chicago Half Marathon on September 9. A competitive 5K is perfect for my tapering schedule this week.

If I can I will try to get in a short, hard ride tomorrow morning before disassembling my bike to pack it up for the trip to California. And, if allowed, I hope to get in a short swim in the Russian River on Saturday after I arrive just to get a feel for swimming upstream!

So that's the plan for my final three days before Vineman. I hope you'll stay tuned to DDublog this weekend for updates on my mental state after I arrive in California and the enormity of the goal ahead becomes reality!

Swim, bike and run on!


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Words of Encouragement

Dear Friends and Family:

I have received so many encouraging, supportive, and funny e-mails from my friends and family over the past few weeks. It has really boosted my confidence and kept me going in my final weeks of training for the Vineman (5 days left!). I thought I'd share some of my favorites...

"Jeezzzzz Daren, you make me want another Jack and Coke…just another sh*#%y day in paradise…Good luck on the training and the triathlon. I’m very impressed. Maybe you’ll inspire me to get back on my bike. Maybe. "
-- Tom S. from VA (with his harem)

"I have to tell you, my 1st 1/2 marathon was at my 1st 1/2 ironman. Your legs are ready for the change & your heart rate is relatively low b/c your not pushing It. Just be sure to eat the entire race & you'll be fine. Run a mile for me :-( Looking forward to seeing you!"
-- Nancy S. from KC (my swim coach!)

"Just reading it gives me chest pains! Glad you are thriving."
-- Henry H. from DC

"Totally gonna ask for the flat iron from my butcher, who always gives me these totally fat boy ribeyes. Daren, you’re my hero, training so hard for your tri. Me and my work/exercise pals are still trying to squeeze one in before the end of the year, but the most attractive one is called Tinsel Triathlon (December) in lovely Hemet, CA. It features (in this order), a grueling 5k flat run, followed by a 15k flat bike ride, and ending with the dreaded 150 meter swim in a heated pool. Now that’s what I’m talking about!"
-- Adam K. from San Diego

"I think you will do much better than your target (especially on the bike). Let me know your results even if you do not finish or do as well as you like. Those distances are abusive. Too far to suffer and get by but too short to justify the long training routine. The good news for me is that I almost always did better than my target. One small improvement will jump your time significantly."
-- Tom L. from Denver

"You are a blogger!!! I've got to get with the times and reach that elusive rodeo cowboy/pr executive audience with my own blog - topics like "What's Tougher: New Biz Presentations or Drawing a Horse Named Hell Hole?"
-- Dave K. from KC

"This is awesome. I find myself getting crazier with age, but it's a good thing. Just remember, no wine the night before the race. That just might be your biggest challenge. Best of luck... I can't wait to hear about it!"
-- Janelle D. from KC

"Good luck on your triathlon. It seems that you have taken goal-setting to the extreme at this point, so I hope you still find it fun. It definitely sounds crazily challenging."
-- Tanya P. from St. Louis

"Your excitement and accomplishments were just the inspiration I needed to get up and do something extraordinary; and boy am I tired! This running this is hard work!! In all seriousness, congrats on the great RtR event, and kudos for tackling the Half-Ironman. They should feature you in an upcoming Beef commercial, chowing down for dinner, with enough energy to go the distance. Best of luck with the whole thing, and I'll be following along, for sure!"
-- Keith D. from KC

"WOW! Congratulations on your goals. I could never do it! And I can hardly believe that man in your blogsite it you! Say it isn’t so? Wishing you the best in your Vietnam California trip and tri. You go! Eating beef tonight,
-- Kerry M. from Atlanta

Thanks for all your support. I couldn't do this without my friends and family behind me.


Monday, July 16, 2007

California Cruisin' in Style!

Check out these pictures I just received from my colleague, Caroline, of her dad cruising along the beaches of Southern California in his new "Beef. It's What's for Dinner" cycling jersey. That's the farthest the new jerseys have traveled since being unveiled last month during Ride the Rockies in Colorado. I love it!

Caroline's dad is helping spread the word that eating beef contributes to a healthy lifestyle by providing your body with the nutrients it needs to stay healthy and strong. Not only does it taste good, beef is also a great way to fuel your body. By supplying a nutrient bundle in every bite, eating beef is a great way to make your calories count. A 3 oz. serving of lean beef contributes less than 10% of the calories in a 2,000-calorie diet. At the same time, it supplies more than 10% of the Daily Value for these nutrients.

Our new "Team ZIP" (Zinc, Iron and Protein) fitness apparel will soon include running shirts with the tagline "Running Powered by Beef." The cycling and running jerseys feature a mouth-watering picture of two porterhouse steaks being grilled up with some red, yellow and green peppers. It looks good enough to eat!

A group of my colleagues and I are training to run in the Chicago Half-Marathon on September 9 -- the Sunday before the National Beef Cook-Off in Chicago. You better bet we'll be wearing our new Beef running jerseys and spreading the healthy beef message!


P.S. The jerseys were made by a local Greenwood Village, Colorado company called Pactimo. They are great to work with and the quality is amazing. Best of all, the minimum order is only five!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

One Week to Vineman!

Today was a day of rest...if you can call a five hour drive home from Garden City restful. But at least it was a day of rest for my legs. And it was great to get back to Castle Rock for a beautiful Sunday evening. The trip to Western Kansas served as a great reminder of why I love living in Colorado -- low humidity, cool evenings, and no bugs (well, OK, we have a few, but nothing like Western Kansas!).

As we left Garden City we drove past the Brookover Feed Yards and I noticed something I hadn't seen in the darkness on the way into town (particularly since I was asleep and Leslie was driving!). Anyway, a huge sign atop the grain elevators at Brookover Feed Yards reads "Eat Beef -- Keep Slim." I love it. And I am living proof that it works.

I've had a lot of comments on the "DDubs Before and After" picture on my blog. "Say it isn't so," wrote my friend Kerry. "Is that really you?" asked a colleague. Yes, that is really me back in 1995 when I weighed 270 lbs. And guess what protein I ate most often at the time...chicken! Seriously. I thought eating chicken would be healthier for me and help me lose weight. As you can see, it wasn't working.

What did work was getting physically active. Getting physically active requires fuel for your body. And the best way to fuel the body and lose weight is to make the calories count. Calorie for calorie, beef provides more vitamins and minerals than chicken. Beef is one of nature's best tasting multivitamins. In the American diet, beef is the number one contributor of protein, zinc and vitamin B12, number two of vitamin B6, and number three of iron and niacin.

So when we got home tonight I grilled up a great tasting multivitamin called a Flat Iron Steak and served it up with multigrain bread, caesar salad and roasted balsamic sweet potatoes (see recipe below).

So, if you are eating chicken because you think it's good for you, try grilling up a great tasting Flat Iron (see my post from last week -- "Beef. It's What's for Lunch!" -- for my grilling tips). It's packed with nine essential nutrients and I guarantee it won't taste like chicken!

Roasted Balsamic Sweet Potatoes

1 tbsp. brown sugar
1/4 c. unsalted butter
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. kosher salt
3 large sweet potatoes (red-skinned); peeled and cut into 1/4 inch pieces

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large skillet over medium heat, bring vinegar and sugar to a boil, stir to dissolve sugar. Reduce and simmer about 3 mins. (until thickened). Add butter and salt, stir to dissolve butter. Add potatoes and stir to coat. Season with fresh ground pepper. Spread potatoes evenly on rimmed baking sheet. Bake until tender and golden (about 40 mins.).
Bon Appetit!


Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Smell of Money

Ahhh, the smell of Garden City in the morning! No, it's not the smell of flowers, as the name might suggest. More like the smell of the stuff you put on your garden to make the flowers grow. Some call it "the smell of money." I'm talking about the smell of manure. It's seems inescapable in Garden City and the smell was strong this morning as I headed out on a 60-mile round trip bike ride to Ingalls, KS, on a stretch of the old Santa Fe Trail (now U.S. Hwy 50).

Fortunately it was a cool, still morning in Western Kansas. It can get pretty windy out here as the wind comes rushing o'er the plains. But the flag outside the Holiday Inn Express wasn't moving as I climbed on my Cannondale Road Warrior and headed southeast to Ingalls .

On the way to Ingalls I stopped at the scenic overlook at the Irsik & Doll Ingall's Feed Yard. As far as I know it is the only feedyard in the country with a scenic overlook! Thousands of head of cattle are fed out here before they go off to one of the processing facilities in the area to become beef. Cattle spend most of their lives grazing in pastures from Texas to Montana and from California to Florida. Some are "finished" on grass and are sold in restaurants as "grass fed beef" but most are finished at a feed lot on a high-quality feed ration consisting primarily of corn. This is what gives U.S. beef the great "corn fed" taste that is craved all over the world.

[For more information on grass-fed vs. grain-fed beef visit www.beeffrompasturetoplate.org]

Once in Ingalls, I rode to the house where my wife's grandmother and grandfather lived from 1957 until they both passed away in the 1980s. Nobody has lived in it since, but it is still in the family. As far as we know it was the first house built in Gray County (circa 1878) and was the home of D. Welborn "Doc" Barton, the man widely credited with bringing cattle to Western Kansas (from Texas) and sheriff of Gray County in the late 1800s. Leslie's Aunt Ida (pictured in front of the house) is working to get it listed on the National Register of Historic Places. As you can see, it needs some fixing up and that would help!

After leaving Ingalls I hammered back to Garden City to join the Hazelton family reunion picnic at Finnup Park, home of the Lee Richardson Zoo and the world's largest, free, concrete, municipal swimming pool (more than half a city block!). We had barbecue beef brisket sandwiches for lunch that tasted great after my long ride and provided plenty of protein for my leg muscles to recover. Best of all, (yep, you guessed it), brisket is one of the 29 lean cuts of beef!
My legs felt very strong today and I averaged 17.0 mph for the ride, by far (>2 mph) my fastest ride this year! I feel very good about the progress I have made in the past two weeks and am ready for the Vineman 70.3 Ironman bike course, a 56-mile ride passing dozens of wineries (see map at left). It is supposed to be challenging, but not too difficult, with 1600 feet of climbing, including a 385-foot climb on Chalk Hill, which comes at 45 miles into the ride. I think my challenge will be to make sure I remember to save my legs for the 13.1 run that follows.

Ride on!


Friday, July 13, 2007


I went for a short run this morning to test my legs and lungs after my ten-miler on Wednesday. I'm happy to report that everything checked out AOK! In fact, I ran my 3.1 mile course through the Meadows in a personal best time of 26:56 (I've run faster 5Ks, but not at altitude!). That's a pace of 8:41/mile. Not terribly fast, but a big improvement over what I have been running this summer (about 1:00/mile faster!).

[Above: that's me running past Invesco Field (Mile High) in Denver during the Rocky Mountain Half Marathon.]

So, I think I'm ready for the run portion of Vineman -- a 13.1-mile out-and-back course from Windsor (CA) High School to LaCrema Winery in the Russian River Valley (see map at left).
I'm not sure what the elevation profile of the run looks like, but based on the bike, I don't think it will compare to the hills I run around my house in Castle Rock!

We're off to Garden City, KS for the weekend and I will be taking my bike out on one last long ride tomorrow before I begin tapering next week.
Ride on!


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Beef. It's What's for Lunch!

And dinner, of course! But today we had Beef Shoulder Petite Tenders for lunch at the Iowa Beef Industry Council. The beef shoulder petite tender is one of three "new" cuts of beef -- including the Flat Iron and Ranch Steak -- that were all part of the chuck pot roast until they were "discovered" by researchers at the University of Nebraska. What they discovered is, when separated from the chuck roast they make great grilling steaks.

I love the Flat Iron and it has replaced the ribeye as the cut I grill most often. One reason is that one Flat Iron costs $7-8 and will feed my family of four (with leftovers!). It also happens to be the second most tender cut of steak (the tenderloin is #1). Best of all, my kids love it!

[At left: the Flat Iron was featured in one of my favorite ads!]

You should be able to find the Flat Iron in the meat case of your favorite grocery store (if you can't, ask the guy behind the meat counter to start stocking it!). You may not be able to find the beef shoulder tender in your local grocery store...yet...but you will see it popping up on restaurant menus along with the (Flat Iron and Ranch steaks). In the meantime, perfect your grilling skills with my tips for a grilled Flat Iron steak:

1. When you start the coals (or 20-30 minutes before you fire up the gas grill), coat the Flat Iron in your favorite marinade or sprinkle with your favorite steak seasoning. [Hint: place coals on one half of your grill or leave one burner on your gas grill turned off.]
2. Sear the steak on both sides over direct heat for about five minutes on each side (to seal in the juices), then move to the side and close the lid.
3. Leave it alone for 30 minutes then remove from the grill and let it "rest" for 5 to 10 minutes before carving.
4. Carve into slices against the grain and serve warm.
5. Save the leftovers for breakfast and treat yourself to steak and eggs!

If you do find a petite tender, follow the same tips above but reduce the covered cooking time by half (15 minutes) and be sure to use an instant read thermometer to determine doneness (145F for medium rare or 160F for medium). I highly recommend cooking to medium rare for the best beef eating experience!

Grill on!


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

If it's Wednesday, I must be in Iowa!

What a great day to be alive! I ran 10 miles this morning through the Iowa State University campus -- past Jack Trice football stadium, Hilton Coliseum, Fraternity Row, Welch Street and back to my hotel. The weather was perfect -- 65 degrees, sunny, a light breeze. More like May than July.

My lungs loved the oxygen-saturated air at 955 ft. above sea level (I guess training at 6,300 ft. really does work). For the first three miles I felt like The Running Man. So I kept pushing and ended up averaging 8:50/mile over 10 miles. That's a full minute per mile faster than I averaged during the Rocky Mountain Half Marathon on June 10 in Denver! My two fastest miles were mile seven (8:26) and eight (8:29) and I finished strong with a sub-9:00 mile ten.

So was it my attitude, the altitude or the delicious tenderloin filet (yes, tenderloin is one of the 29 lean cuts of beef) I had for dinner last night at the Olde Main Brewery in downtown Ames? Whatever the reason, today's run boosted my confidence several notches and I am feeling good about my training with 10 days left to Vineman.
Bring it on!


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

It's Tuesday Morning in Castle Rock...

...so it must be a swim day. I've been swimming every Tuesday and Thursday morning at the Castle Rock Rec Center since February (when I'm in town, that is). I leave today for a three day trip to Iowa and then we head to Garden City, KS, for Leslie's family reunion this weekend, so this will be my only swim this week.

[At left: you can see Castle Rock rising in the distance behind the rec center].

The elevation at the Castle Rock Rec Center is 6,300 ft. above sea level. I'm hoping training here is going to help when it somes time to swim in the Russian River at the start of Vineman (elevation 56 feet!).

The 1.2-mile swim course starts at Johnsons Beach in Guerneville and proceeds upstream .6 miles to the turn-around point. That's right, upstream! Apparently the current is not supposed to be too strong in July. They say it should take a 25-minute mile swimmer about one minute longer to make it to the turn-around point. Unfortunately, I'm not a 25-minute mile swimmer. I'm more like a 40-minute mile swimmer! So my goal is to be out of the water in about 50 minutes.

Here's a complete map of the Vineman course (by the way, if you click on any of the pictures they will enlarge to full size). More about the bike and run courses in future posts.

Swim on!