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!

Saturday, December 31, 2011

On New Year's Resolutions: Setting Fitness Goals for 2012

I'm not big on making New Year's Resolutions. As I wrote on New Year's Day last year, "I'm just not big on once-a-year promises that will likely be broken before the end of January." I prefer to set goals rather than make promises. For me, when it comes to staying in shape, that means actually signing up for events. If I know I have a half marathon, century bike ride or triathlon to train for -- especially one I have paid to register for -- I will get up to swim, bike and run on these cold winter mornings when the bedcovers feel like those lead blankets you wear when getting x-rayed, snuggly trapping me in bed!

I was really struggling as I crossed the finish line at the Boise Ironman 70.3 triathlon in June, prompting me to think about whether I want to tackle this distance ever again!
I've been thinking lately about what events I want to tackle in 2012. Should I go for another Ironman 70.3 triathlon? After last year's painful experience in Boise, I'm thinking not. How about Ride the Rockies? I've taken two years off after riding it five straight years. It's always an epic adventure and I would love to see some of my RTR friends again. Should I shoot for my first marathon or stick to halfs and try to break my personal record (1:46)? Lot's of questions but no decisions, until today.

I parked my road bike in favor of my mountain bike this past summer. I love both but want to get back out on the road more in 2012.
This morning I received an e-mail from my riding buddy Troy prompting me take a look at my calendar for 2012 and make some decisions. Troy had three local rides on his list and I decided to join him for all three: Elephant Rock in June, Colorado MS150 in July and the Buffalo Classic in September. Making those decisions helped me focus on what I really want to do this summer: get my Cannondale back out on the road (after essentially parking it this past summer in favor of riding my Specialized Stumpjumper on the Ridgeline Open Space Trail) and ride with good friends.

I love riding on Hwy 105 along the Front Range of the Rockies, past ranches and amazing scenery like Coyote Ridge (in the background).
I also decided to enter the lottery for Ride the Rockies 2012. This year's route will be announced at the first annual Ride the Rockies Route Announcement Party on Saturday, February 4. Tickets are $30 in advance and all proceeds will benefit The Denver Post Community Foundation. Attire is "cycling formal" (favorite RTR jersey and finest jacket/jewelry). Sounds like a fun event for a good cause.

That pretty much locks down the schedule for bike rides but I plan to mix in a few good runs, beginning with the Cherry Creak Sneak 10-miler (a new distance this year!) on April 29. That makes a good early season goal to keep me motivated (and I already paid the registration fee so its official!). My plan is to wrap up the season by shooting for a new personal record in the half marathon sometime in the Fall, maybe back in KC where I set my PR in October 2010.

So today was a day of setting some goals in place that will help me achieve most people's #1 resolution: to lose weight and/or get in shape. Only in my case it's really a matter of maintaining the weight and shape I have worked hard to achieve over the past 17 years!

Ride on!


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Great News for BEEF Lovers! BOLD New Study Shows Beef Plays Role in Cholesterol-Lowering Diets

My buddy Adam paired up these two
beautiful ribeyes to form a beef "heart."
(Disclaimer: Ribeye is NOT one of
the 29 Lean Cuts of Beef. It is,
however, one of my favorites!)
BEHOLD, beef lovers, I bring you BOLD news of great joy! A new study published in the January 2012 edition of American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that eating between 4.0 and 5.4 oz. of lean beef daily as part of a cholesterol-lowering diet can help lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol by 10 percent! According to the study, "beef can play a role in a cholesterol-lowering diet, despite commonly held beliefs."

Finally, some research that backs up what many of us have already known through personal experience. It's not the beef that leads to heart disease, its what you eat with it and what you do with it. Common sense and experience tells me that heart health is a total lifestyle issue.

When I was 30 years old, weighed 270, got no exercise and followed a high fat and high carb diet (including 3 Pepsis a day), my doctor told me I had high triglyceride and LDL levels, two early signs of heart disease.

The new MyPlate recommends at least
6 oz. of lean protein every day, more if
you are moderately physically active.
Today, at age 47, I get plenty of exercise, eat beef every day, and am trying to include more fruits, veggies and whole grains in my diet. Essentially, I try to follow the MyPlate recommendations including at least 6 oz. of lean protein every day (for men 31-50 years olf, click here to see the sex/age recommendations chart). That's a minimum number. If you are physically active more than 30 mins/day beyond regular activity you may need more.

Of course, my protein choice is beef because I believe beef offers more essential nutrients my body needs to be physically active for fewer calories than other proteins, including vegetable proteins. And now we have evidence that including lean beef in a cholesterol-lowering diet can improve heart health even better than heart heatlhy diets that emphasize plant proteins.

Specifically, the BOLD study (Beef in an Optimal Lean Diet) found that diets including lean beef every day are as effective in lowering total and LDL “bad” cholesterol as DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) and other heart-healthy diets, many of which emphasize plant proteins.

“This research sheds new light on evidence supporting lean beef’s role in a heart-healthy diet. Study participants ate lean beef every day and still met targets for saturated fat intake,” says Penny Kris-Etherton, PhD, RD, distinguished professor of nutrition at PSU and the study’s principal investigator. “This study shows that nutrient-rich lean beef can be included as part of a heart-healthy diet that improves risk factors for cardiovascular disease.”

I love it when science validates common sense and real life experience!

Merry Christmas,


Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Results are In!

After all my worry about a cold, wet run in this morning's Denver Rock and Roll Half Marathon, I woke this morning to see stars in the morning sky. Then I almost missed the race messing around thinking I had plenty of time before realizing the wave start was at 6:55 not 7:55! But I was able to find a parking spot five blocks from the start/finish line and had a nice warmup run to my spot in Corral #2.

Elvis could have stayed thin like this guy if he had been a runner and eaten more beef insteaad of Peanut Butter and Banana sandwiches. Did he know takes four times the calories (670) to get the same amount of protein from peanut butter as you get from one serving of lean beef (154)? This guy does ('cause I told him)!
With little time to think about what I was doing the race started. I felt like the first mile was very slow, weaving in and out of the crowd of runners. But when my Garmin Forerunner buzzed signaling the one mile mark it showed 7:54. I felt good so kept moving at the same pace and my next six miles clocked in at 7:44, 8:00, 7:58, 8:08, 7:51 and I crossed the halfway mark averaging sub-8s.

Then I started playing the mental games that always seem to plague me, alternating between thinking I may be able to finish with a new PR (1:46) to saying, "there's no way you can keep up this pace for another six miles." I think the negative thoughts won out over the next few miles and I slowed to 8:10, 8:11, 8:09, 8:21, and 8:49 (although I'm not sure this is accurate because my Garmin was showing two-tenths ahead the 11-mile marker and only one-tenth at mile 12 -- I think mile two was short and mile 11 was long).

At this point I almost gave up on a new PR until I finished the next mile in 8:06 and my Garmin was showing 1:38 with one miles to go so I kicked it up a notch and finished the final mile in 7:51 and the final .1 at a pace of 7:01 (downhill sprint to the finish!).

My official time was 1:46:43, just 43 seconds off my PR but more than three minutes ahead of my goal and crushing my previous best at altitude (2:08:52 in the Arby's Rocky Mountain Half in 2007) by over 22 minutes!

Smash Mouth rocked the party at the finish line in Denver's Civic Center Park.  
1:46:43 was good enough for number 842 out of 8,939 runners (top 10%), 551 of 2,941 men (top 20%) and 53 of 307 (17%) in my age group (M45-49). I am very happy with those numbers but most of all I felt good, had fun and the sun was shining as Smash Mouth took the stage at the finish line party! The bands along the route were nothing special given all I had heard about how cool Rock and Roll events are, but Smash Mouth made up for it great set of All Star, Walkin' on Sunshine, I'm a Believer and a Van Halen medly including Runnin' with the Devil.

All-in-all it was a very good day (even my Chiefs won).

Ride On!


Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Denver Rock and Roll Half Snowathon?

After returning home yesterday from a week in California I woke this morning to the first snow of the season. It's still snowing in Castle Rock but according to the Weather Channel it is raining downtown and will continue off and on for the next 24 hours. Forecast for the start of tomorrow's Denver Rock and Roll Marathon/Half Marathon is 41F with a 31 percent chance of showers. Lovely. If it weren't for the $100 entry fee I'd be very tempted to bag on this one.

The first snow on our new deck. Not sure I am ready for this!

My two-week half marathon training program hasn't gone precisely according to schedule, given my crazy travel schedule, but I got in some good runs and am feeling reasonably optimistic about my new goal of break 1:50 for the third time in my life. Here's the rundown on the full two-week training schedule results:

Week One
Saturday, Sept. 24 -- 6-mile trail run completed in 57:18 (9:32/mile)
Monday, Sept. 26 -- 3.1-mile (5K) run completed in 25:21 (8:10/mile)
Wednesday, Sept. 28 -- 6-mile run completed in 48:09 (8:01/mile)
Friday, Sept. 30 -- 3.1-mile (5K) run completed in 24:00 (7:44/mile)

Week Two
Sunday, Oct. 2 -- 6.2-mile (10K) run completed in 49:28 (7:58/mile)
Tuesday, Oct. 4 -- 5-mile run completed in 45:16 (9:03/mile)
Friday, Oct. 7 -- 3.1-mile (5K) run completed in 28:02 (9:02/mile)

Running with my younger brother Evan (left, at the Good Samaritan 5K in September) always motivates me to push it to the next level!
The highlight of the week was running with my brother Evan and brother-in-law Matt this past Sunday at the beginning of our vacation in California. The competitive nature of our relationship always motivates me to push harder, simulating race conditions. I finished second in the Tres Hermanos 10K behind brother Evan. It was my second sub-8 run of the week and came on a very hilly course (but not as hilly as my final two runs of the week in the northernmost area of the Sonoma Valley).

The driveway to our villa in Healdsburg, CA, was steeper than any hill I run around my house in Castle Rock, CO.
Today I plan to get in a quick mile on the treadmill at the Castle Rock Rec Center. Just enough to ge tthe blood flowing and loosen my legs after the car/plane/car ride home yesterday. I may have a few tannins left to sweat out, as well! Then its off to the Health and Fitness Expo to pick up my race packet wearing my new Team BEEF jersey!

Ride On,


Friday, October 7, 2011

My Two Week Half Marathon Training Program Update: Eating, Drinking and Running in Wine Country

Our home for the past five days. Life is good!
 My two week half marathon training program is coming to an end. And so is our long-awaited vacation in the wine country of California (near Healdsburg in Alexander Valley). In the past week I managed to squeeze in three runs (a 10K on Saturday, five miles on Tuesday and 5K today) in between visits to Silver Oak, Plumpjack, Kendal Jackson, Seghesio, Hartman, Chalk Hill, Ferrari Carano, Bella, Chateau Montelena and V. Sattui wineries! We also ate at Bouchon in Yountville, had a private chef cook us a four course dinner at the villa and grilled cowboy coffee rub strip steaks last night. 

So forget the running update, let's talk food and wine!

I love Silver Oak, but Plumpack across the street was a little less pretentious and their cab was just as tasty!
My favorite winery stops were Plumpjack, Seghesio, Ferrari Carano and Chateau Montelena, all for different reasons. Plumpjack on Monday on the way up the Napa Valley was the best cabernet we tasted. We drink Seghesio zins often so it was fun to visit the historic winery Tuesday and send home so selections you can't find at Bubbles in the Rock. Ferrari Carano yesterday was a beautiful location at the far northern end of the Dry Creek Valley and the sun emerged for the first time all week as we came out of the cellar.

Chateau Montelena is a beautiful setting in the north end of Napa Valley.
Chateau Montelena wins for overall setting, tasting, and history. This is the winery that stunned the French when their Chardonnay won the 1976 "Judgment of Paris" wine competition (the story behind the movie Bottle Shock).

Chef Quimby's Wagyu Beef Shortibs two ways.
My favorite meal was the dinner prepared by Chef Quimby at the villa, part of the package my cousin so graciuously purchased at a charity auction and invited us partake in. The four course dinner featured Wagyu beef short ribs two ways (braised and grilled) for the main course. It was my favorite beef of the week, well-marbled and full of great beef flavor, and the rest of the meal was equally decadent. My second favorite were the Strip Loin Steaks with Cowboy Coffee Rub and Spicy Pico de Gallo (see recipe below from the Healthy Beef Cookbook) we grilled at the villa last night (and enjoyed for lunch today at V. Sattui).

The "Eye of Rib" at Bouchon.
The "eye of rib" steak at Bouchon was a ribeye with the spinalis dorsi removed (the really tender, flavorful "cap" on the outside of the ribeye steak). The steak was cooked perfectly (medium rare) and the au poivre sauce was very good, but I can prepare a better steak for a fraction of the price (as we did last night) and I love the cap so kept wishing they hadn't removed it!

The Cowboy Coffee Rub recipe calls for beef shoulder center steaks (also called Ranch Steaks). I couldn't find a I substituted three strip steaks (one of the 29 lean cuts of beef). We also like this on ribeyes and flat iron but I buy whatever steaks look the best in the store that day and these strips were at least 2" thick and nicely marbled -- and they were on sale for $6.99/lb. I wish I had pictures but suffice it to say they were amazing, bith for dinner that night and a lunch picnic Friday at V. Sattui in Napa, on our way back to the airport in Sacramento.

Cowboy Coffee Rub is one of my new favorite ways to prepare steak. Try it, you'll like it...

Steaks with Cowboy Coffee Rub and Spicy Pico de Gallo
Total prep and cook time: 25 mins (varies depending on how you cook your steak!)
Makes 6 servings

Spicy Pico de Gallo
1 cup chopped red onion
1 cup chopped seeded tomatoes
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantor
1 1/2 tsp. minced pickled jalapeno pepper slices
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt
Cowboy Coffee Rub
1 Tbsp. freshly ground coffee beans (I used a medium roast)
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt or table salt
1 1/2 tsp. brown sugar
1 tsp coarse-grind black pepper
3 beef shoulder center steaks (Ranch Steaks), cut 3/4 inch thick (about 8 oz. each) - I used strip steak the first time and flat iron the second time
1. Combine Spicy Pico de Gallo ingredients in medium bowl; mix well. Set aside.

2. Combine Cowboy Coffee Rub ingredients in small bowl. Press evenly onto beef steaks. Place steaks on grid over medium, ash-covered coals. Grill, covered, 9 to 11 minutes for medium-rare to medium doneness, turning once.
3. Carve steak into slices. (We let the steak rest 5 minutes before carving.) Serve with Spicy Pico de Gallo.

Ride on!


Saturday, October 1, 2011

My Two Week Half Marathon Training: End of Week One

The 3" Ribeye at Cagle's in Lubbock, Texas!
One week ago I decided to sign up for the Denver Rock and Roll Half Marathon on October 9. That gave me all of two weeks to train after basically taking the summer off from running races and just enjoying staying in shape by riding my mountain bike and running the trails in the Ridgeline Open Space near my house. One week later I have logged 18.2 miles and running some of the best times since I set my PR in the Kansas City Half last October (1:46 even).

This week I was on the road, traveling to Lubbock, Texas, and Wooster, Ohio, meeting with the people who provide the great-tasting beef I eat every day to fuel my training (thanks, cattlemen and women, for working hard every day to care for the animals you raise to make beef!). Wednesday in Lubbock, I went for a run on the campus of Texas Tech University. I love running on college campuses. There are always plenty of sights to see, running by basketball arenas, baseball diamonds, football stadiums and coeds on the way to class!

The Dos Rita at Ruby Tequila's in Lubbock.
Texas Tech is a huge campus so I could easily run six miles without covering the same ground twice. I wanted to run eight minute miles but wasn’t really feeling it as I left the Overton Hotel towards campus and finished the first mile in 8:40. I picked up the pace a little and finished mile two in 8:10, but then I started feeling good and finished the final four miles running sub-8s (7:51, 7:53, 7:55, 7:34). I really pushed that last mile trying to finish under 48 minutes but the final score was 48:09.33 (8:01/mile).

The Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center
in Wooster, Ohio
Two days later I woke up in Wooster to cool, rainy, 50 degree weather, a full 45 degrees cooler than Lubbock (where they haven’t seen as much rain all summer as Ohio got in the past 24 hours). I ran on the campus of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC), site of the 2012 National Beef Ambassador contest. I really wanted to run sub-8s today so pushed hard from the start and finished the first mile in 7:54. The second mile was mostly uphill but I kept pushing and my Garmin registered mile two at 8:11. Determined to finish strong, and will a little help from a grade I ran the fastest mile I can recall in a long time (7:08) and finished the 5K in 24:00 flat (7:44/mile).

I feel good about what I accomplished this week, especially considering the long hours on seven flights traveling from DEN-LBB-DEN-ORD-CLE-ORD-DEN (on the last leg as I write). Saturday is a rest day then on Sunday I’ll do an LSD run (long slow distance) of 10 miles (at around 8:30/mile). Then it will be time to taper towards the run on Sunday the 9th, with runs of five miles on Tuesday, three on Thursday and one on Saturday (to keep the legs loose and blood flowing).

I have no idea if this training program will work, other than my experience following a similar routine last year prior to the Go! St. Louis and KC half marathons. And so far so good for the Denver Rock and Roll Half. I’m thinking 8:30s is very doable so am revising my goal to run under 1:50.

Ride on!


Monday, September 26, 2011

Day Three of My Two-week Half Marathon Training Program

Today was day three of my two-week half marathon training schedule (see What I Did on My Summer Vacation) -- a 5K run at race pace. I did what I call the Meadows 5K, a route I have mapped around my house that begins with a one-mile downhill, followed by rolling hills, and ending on a .75-mile uphill grind.

Evan and I get checked in for the Good Samaritan 5K in Castle Rock.
My goal today was to run at race pace, harder than I typically go when running in the morning with my dog Casey. My best time on this course is 24:19 (7:50/mile) on August 23 of this year. Today I ran it in 25:21 (8:10/mile), the exact same time I ran in the Good Samaritan 5K a week ago with my brother Evan.

Evan finished 4th out of 55 runners at the Good Samaritan 5K in Castle Rock.
Evan finished fourth with a 22:56, and I finished 9th out of 55 competitors. It was my first race since Ironman 70.3 Boise back in June and it hurt. Today wasn't nearly as painful. I have a hard time really pushing myself when I'm not in a race setting.

This kid edged me out at the finish to take 8th overall and push me to 9th -- my first top ten finish ever!
Saturday was the first day of my half marathon training. I ran six miles on the Ridgeline Trail at a nice, easy pace of 9:32/mile. Yesterday I took a 21-mile road ride, my first time out on the road since June. It felt good to be back on my Cannondale, flying down Wolfensberger Road at 45 mph! Think I'll have to try and squeeze in a few more road rides the Fall before the snow hits Colorado!

Next up: Five mile run on Wednesday.

Ride on!


Saturday, September 24, 2011

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

I took a long summer vacation this year -- from competition. After Ironman Boise nearly killed me I decided to take the summer off and enjoy it. I just wasn't having fun training for Boise, and the event itself was just downright painful. I haven't swam in open water since I froze in Lucky Peak Reservoir. I 've only been on my road bike once since suffering through the 56-mile ride through the barren outskirts of Boise and I haven't run further than six miles since the 13.1-mile run on the Greenbelt along the Boise River.

And yet, I may be in the best shape of my life. I've stayed active, running regularly and mountain biking on the Ridgeline Open Space near my home in The Rock. And, of course, I've been eating lots of lean beef to fuel my physical activity. And I've been having fun -- and eating well -- doing it!

The Ridgeline Open Space offers 15 miles of hiking, running and biking enjoyment right outside my back door!

The Ridgeline Trail offes views of three 14ers on the Front Range: Pikes Peak (14,110), Mt. Evans (in the distance, 14,240) and Long's Peak (14,259)
Mountain biking and trail running are very different than road biking and running. Steeper climbs and descents, rocky terrain, and wildlife (mostly deer, an occasional coyote and my dog, Casey) keep it interesting. More intense exertion at shorter distances mean less time with similar results. I am at my optimal weight (210) and feel great and I am running some of my best times at altitude (sub-8s on the road and sub-9s on the trail).

So, I decided today to sign up for the Denver Rock and Roll Half Marathon two weeks from tomorrow. Vacation over. Kinda have that end of vacation melancholy. Now I actually have to follow a training schedule, but its only for two weeks!

Last year I came up with my own two week half marathon training program for the Go! St. Louis (1:50:34, my third best half) and Waddell and Reed Kansas City (1:46, my PR) half marathons. Now, this is not a couch to 13.1-mile training program. It begins with a good base-level of fitness. I run 2-3 times per week (at least 3 miles each run) probably averaging around 10 miles per week. I ride once or twice a week (more in the summer months), probably averaging around 50 miles per week on the road or 15 on the trail.

So, beginning with a good base level of fitness, here is my two-week half marathon training schedule for the Denver Rock and Roll Half:

Week One
Saturday (today) -- Six mile trail run (completed in 57:18 or 9:32/mile)
Sunday -- Rest
Monday -- 3-mile run (race pace)
Tuesday -- Rest
Wednesday -- 6-mile run
Thursday -- Rest
Friday -- 4.5-mile run (race pace)

Week Two
Saturday -- Rest
Sunday -- 10-mile run
Monday -- Rest
Tuesday -- 5-mile run
Wednesday -- Rest
Thursday -- 3-mile run (race pace)
Friday -- Rest

I will probably ride or run on Saturday to keep my legs loose, but easy pace for a short distance.

The race is on Sunday, October 9, in Denver. This will be my first Rock and Roll event. Should be fun. My goal is 1:57 (Sub-9s), which would be a personal record at altitude. My only other race in Denver (5,280 ft. above sea level) was my first half marathon, the Arby's Rocky Mountain Half in 2007, which I completed in 2:08:52 (9:50/mile).

Ride (and run) on!


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

My Ironman 70.3 Boise, Part 3 (The Run)

I managed a quick burst of energy to smile
and pose for the official photographer
Exiting the bike-to-run transition my left foot was throbbing, my left knee was aching and my legs felt like they could seize up at any moment. Other than that I felt great. Oh wait, there was the stabbing pain between my shoulder blades (I believe resulting from my head out of the water "polo style" swim three hours earlier). How can I forget that?

As I headed through downtown Boise (aka BoDo) on the 13.1-mile run course, I came across the Team BEEF cheering section: Traci O'Donnell (and her husband Jim), Katlin Davis (and her parents Phil and Yvette), Janice Streng and Jesse the intern from the Idaho Beef Council, Idaho beef producer and blogger Kim Brackett, and Wyatt Prescott from the Idaho Cattlemen's Association were there, I think (I know there were all at the race but honestly can't tell you for sure if they were all together at this point). Seeing them provided a great boost of adrenaline. Time to dig deep. Finish strong.

An unknown Team BEEF member approaches
the finish line
By the time I reached the Greenbelt path I knew I could do this. The flat, shaded bike path along the raging Boise river (near flood level) was just what the doctor ordered. The two-loop, out-and-back course meant I'd see lots of other Idaho Team BEEF athletes at various stages in the run. Some would be completing their second loop headed towards the finish line. Others, like me would be on their first loop with miles to go.

Everytime I saw another Team BEEF member I shouted "Give me some BEEF!" and high-fived them. The camaraderie was tangible. We supported and encouraged each other to keep moving. Eventually the high fives turned to low fives and then a wave or slight hand motion or head nod in their direction as I felt the sharp pain between my shoulders blades every time I deviated from the steady, even running motion. Even taking a Dixie cup of Gatorade from a volunteer and tilting my head back to drink it became a problem.

Dane is looking strong as he strides toward
the finish line
Around mile three on the first loop of my run I saw Team BEEF elite athlete Dane Rauschenberg approaching from the other direction, completing his second loop. Dane's wave began five minutes before mine and by this time he had opened up about an hour-and-a-half gap (he finished in 4:52). Amazing, especially considering this was Dane's first Ironman 70.3 distance event.

There are serious athletes like Dane and then there are weekend warriors like me. And then there are professional athletes like Ben Hoffman from Colorado, the overall winner, who finished about two and one-half hours ahead of me!

The highlight of the run, by far, was the Boy Scouts at Aid Station BEEF. Every time a Team BEEF athlete approached they began chanting "BEEF!" and didn't stop until you were trailing out of sight. After the first time through I began looking forward to seeing them on the return, then again on the second loop and one last time towards the end. Like a Hot Wheels track motor they sucked us in one side as we ran low on momentum and shot us out the other with a fresh burst of speed.

OK, so maybe speed is a bit of an exaggeration but they kept me going. As I left them for the last time I knew the end was near. I can't remember how far that last stretch was, maybe 1.5 miles, but every stride was painful and I was running very low on fuel. Exiting the Greenbelt for the last time onto the streets of BoDo I saw the finish line in the distance. I didn"t have any kick left. As I crossed the finish line my right hamstring cramped and a "catcher" steadied and walked me towards the official photo platform, draping an emergency blanket around my shoulders. I worried I might hurl at any moment as wave after wave of nauseau came and went.

Exhausted, relieved that it was over, I waited in line for my official photo

I managed a quick burst of energy to smile and pose for the camera but I had nothing left. I left it all on the course, which is the way I try to finish every race. If you feel fine within five minutes you left too much in reserve. It took me over an hour to feel like a human being again. But later that night I had enough energy to go out and celebrate with Leslie, Dane, and the Idaho Beef Council and Cattlemen's Association team that had been grilling and serving beef sliders to all of the finishers for over six hours in the BEEF Recovery Zone.

I finished in 6:30:48, the slowest of my three
Ironman 70.3 events. But I finished.
My third Ironman 70.3 distance triathlon is in the books. So what's next? I think I'll sign up for the Denver Triathlon in July. So should I go for the shorter sprint distance (800 meter swim/23.5K bike/5K run) or the longer Olympic distance (1500 meter swim/40K bike/10K run)?

Hmmm. Given that the bacteria sampling results for E. coli in Sloan's Lake are approaching advisory level, I'm thinking shorter may be better :)

Ride on...


Monday, June 13, 2011

My Ironman 70.3 Boise, Part 2 (The Bike)

The swim to bike transition is one of my favorite times in a tri...second only to crossing the finish line!
Exiting the water I was happy the brutally cold swim was over and my favorite part of every triathlon lay ahead: The Bike. I was a cyclist for several years before my cycling friends talked me into attempting my first tri in 2003. I've always considered the ride portion to be my strongest of the three events.

The wet suit strippers
Running up the long hill into transition I stopped, dropped and let the wetsuit strippers pull off my synthetic rubber whale skin. More than 1,200 volunteers, nearly one for every athlete, did a great job throughout the course, guiding us at every turn, handing out water, Gatorade and Power Bars and Gels at the aid stations and offering words of encouragement.

Wet suit off, helmet, gloves, glasses and cycling shoes on, I began the 56-mile ride. But it quickly became apparent that the leg cramps in the water were going to make this ride painful. And the headwind on the descent from Lucky Peak Reservoir meant there would be no coasting on the ride. But the worst part of the ride, by far, was the long, desolate stretch of road through an industrial section of town highlighted by its total lack of scenery to keep my mind off the pain in my legs.

Heading out on the 56-mile bike course (#865) I was hopeful I could pick up
some of the six minutes I lost on the swim. 
After 40 or so miles of bleak terrain and unforgiving wind (apparently not as bad as last year) the ride reentered Boise and headed back towards the capitol. The final ten miles of mostly downhill were welcome but at this point I began feeling the dreaded hot foot that plagued my first Ironman 70.3 in 2007.

Hot foot is caused by pressure on the nerves that runs between the metatarsal bones in the ball of your foot. It's called hot foot because your toes feel like they are on fire. The pain can be excruciating on the bike, but even worse when running, as the pressure on the nerves intensifies with every step.

I stuck my bike dismount, stopping just short of the line. If there had been judges on this part of the event I would have received all 10s!
Crossing the bike finish in 3:12:21 (17.5 mph average) and a total elapsed time of 4:11:06, I knew my goal time of six hours was shot and my PR of 6:06 in Boulder was safe. There was no way I was going to pull off a sub two-hour run. I thought I might possibly be able to better my Vineman time of 6:28:43. Possibly. If I could run at all.

As I sat on the ground to put on my running shoes I contemplated quitting once again. But once again I told myself, "Just finish." I decided then and there that even if I had to walk the 13.1-mile run course I would cross the finish line. So I got up and headed down the long aisle of bikes towards the run exit.
Heading out on the 13.1-mile run course, the final leg of Ironman 70.3 Boise
As I started to jog I felt the familiar stab of pain each time my left foot hit the ground, my left knee ached and my right calf and hamstring felt like they could both seize up at any moment. Clearly, then pain would continue for at least another two hours.

Next up: The Run.
Ride on...

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Hot, Cold, Cramps and Pain...My Ironman 70.3 Boise Part 1 (The Swim)

As I stood sweltering in my wetsuit approaching the dock on Lucky Peak Reservoir I watched as the first waves jumped in the water and began the swim. I quickly noticed people struggling and one woman was pulled from the water shortly after she began. Thus began my Ironman 70.3 Boise.

When the time came for my wave to jump in the water I didn't hesitate. I wanted as much time to aclimate as possible before the horn sounded. The shock to the system was immediate. As cold flowed down the back of my neck into the wetsuit I gasped for air. "Just breathe," I thought, and got calmed down. But then my hands began to hurt. The only part of my body that was covered, other than my face.
Arms raised...trying to exude confidence as my mind was saying "Don't do it!"

When the horn sounded I started swimming, head up (polo style is what my swim coach Nancy Strickland calls it). The first time I put my face in the water the gasping returned. Just breathe. I couldn't. It was like sticking your face into a bucket of ice water. So I continued swimming polo style. Having practiced this in the pool for short distances I knew I couldn't do this for 1.2 miles. Too inefficient. I would expend too much energy. So I stuck my face in the water and tried breathing on every stroke. Gasping. Just breathe. I couldn't do it.

That's me just to the lefts of the yellow starting line bouy. Just breathe!
Bouy to bouy I headed towards the first turn. One thing about swimming head up was that I swam straighter than normal. I have a major issue with weaving in the water. I knew if I could make it to the first turn I could finish. I thought about quitting and remembered the look on the face of the woman as she left the race minutes in. All that training, anticipation and angst for nothing. "Just finish," I told myself.

Rounding the first turn I settled down and was able to keep my face in the water for brief stretches. Stroke. Breathe. Stroke. Breathe. Then the cramps hit. First my right calf. Then my left. Then my right hamstring. are you kidding me? Half a mile in to a 70.3-mile race and I'm cramping. Not good. What do you normally do when you get a calf cramp? Scream, right? Then what? Stand on it or grab your big toe and pull, right? How do you do that treading water? It's not easy.

That's me in the center of the picture approaching the loading ramp. Face in the water!

Rounding the second turn I was now breathing OK and able to keep my face in the water, but was dragging my legs uselessly behind me. I couldn't bear to look at my watch, thinking I was probably approaching an hour in the water. I thought of Leslie standing on the shore getting worried. I could see the swim finish now. The light at the end of this very dark tunnel. So I picked up the pace and finally reached the dock. Then I saw the concrete of the boat ramp below me...then the carpet they laid for us.

Struggling to get out of the wetsuit.
Happy to be on land...alive!
 Standing, stumbling, I ripped off my goggles and neoprene hood and screamed, "This sucks!" As I crossed the swim finish timing mat I looked at my watch 51:xx. Slow, but not as bad as I thought. More important, I was alive. And the swim was done. But the pain was just beginning. Next post: The Bike.

Ride on...


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Let's Do This!

Dane and I check out the swim course at Lucky Peak reservoir
"More than 1,450 triathletes -- professionals and age group athletes -- are registered for the fourth annual race that starts at noon in the cold waters of Lucky Peak Reservoir," reads the front page of the Idaho Statesman.

The noon start is a strange twist for this event. Typically I'd be at the starting area getting ready to swim at this time of morning. Instead I'm sitting in the Metro Cafe at Hotel 43 enjoying a latte and bowl of oatmeal. Doesn't seem like race day, but it won't be long before we head out to catch the shuttle to Lucky Peak Reservoir.

The water temperature, reportedly 53F, remains my biggest concern. Leslie, Dane and I drove up yesterday to drop of our bikes and stick our feet in the water. Sure enough, it's cold. Dane doesn't seem too worried. But then again he plans to spend about 28 minutes in the water (my goal is 45). I was encouraged, though, by the clear water. This will be the first triathlon I've done in water with visibility greater than 1-2 feet!

While we were at the reservoir we ran into Pam Reed, who back in 2000 became the first woman to win the 135-mile Badwater Ultramarathon outright (which climbs from the lowest point in the country in Death Valley to Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48!).  She repeated that feat in 2003.

Pam Reed (center) tells Dane and me how much she loves BEEF!

When Pam saw my Team BEEF shirt she immediately said, "I eat a steak the night before every race." She also shared the story of her 490-mile run in the Self Transcendence Six-Day Race (she is the American record holder in this event). What she told us is that she craved steak throughout the race. As she wrote in her book, "The Extra Mile, One Woman's Personal Journey to Ultrarunning Greatness," "We all went back to the hotel, where I had a bath -- I couldn't even stand up to take a shower. Then I put on some clean clothes and went to dinner." Her friend Craig Bellman explained, "Pam wanted, I don't know -- a hamburger or steak. Some large slab of beef."

At 5'3" and 100 lbs, Pam told me she used to eat pizza and pasta before a race but she couldn't ever eat enough to really fuel her body. Beef, she said, fills her up; and gives her body the nutrients she needs. I think I love this woman!

Traci O'Donnell (left) and Idaho Beef Council staff took Dane (right) and I to dinner at Fork in Boise
Of course we took her advice and fuled up on beef last night at Fork in Boise with the staff of the Idaho Beef Council. Beef is the official protein of Ironman 70.3 Boise and beef council staff and volunteers will be handing out beef sliders at the finish line in the BEEF Recovery Zone. I can't wait to see them there and celebrate with other members of Idaho Team BEEF

Well, it's time to pack up my run gear bag to take to the bike-to-run transition (T2), then catch the shuttle to the start. Let's do this.

Ride on...


Friday, June 10, 2011

Facing Fears and Overcoming Anxiety

I woke this morning a strange bed at Hotel 43 in Boise with my heart and mind racing. I was thinking about tomorrow's swim in Lucky Peak Reservoir, the first leg of Ironman 70.3 Boise. The swim leg of every triathlon causes me the most anxiety. I suppose its the fear of drowning that brings on the waves of trepidation.

Makes sense, I suppose. After all, I nearly drowned in my first triathlon back in 2003. My first open water swim event, I was not prepared for the frenzy of arms and legs that looks like a school of piranhas attacking their prey. One hundred yards into a 550 yard swim I was in trouble. Panicking and gasping for air I couldn't put my face in the water so resorted to breast stroke, back stroke, side stroke and dog paddling my way through the rest of the swim.

I could have quit. Triathlon organizers take swim safety very seriously. Spotters in kayaks and boats in the water keep an eye out for swimmers in trouble (and they were watching me!). All I had to do was raise my hand and they would have plucked me from the goose-poop infested pond they call a lake at Heritage Park in Olathe, Kansas. But I knew if I gave up my first triathlon would be my last. And here I am in Boise preparing to compete in my 10th tri.

Tomorrow's swim is just a little longer than that first one...1.2 miles to be exact. I've done three swims at this distance but this will be my first one in cold water. The water temp in Lucky Peak Reservoir is a frigid 53F. Doesn't sound that bad until you consider I'll be bathing in the cold water for approximately 45 minutes (I am not a fast swimmer!).

Of course I will be wearing my wetsuit. But for the first time I will also don a neoprene swim hood in spite of the advice at yesterday's athlete briefing from an experienced Escape from Alcatraz triathlete. He said doubling up the latex swim cap is sufficient and that a hood covering your ears can mess with your sense of balance (I always swim with earplugs anyway). I'm wearing the hood, thank you.

Crossing the finish line in Boulder this past August.
There's always plenty of people offering advice at these events but I find that the more I listen the higher my anxiety level rises. The best advice I've ever received came last year before Ironman 70.3 Boulder when USA Triathlon Coach Nancy Strickland told me to visualize the swim, coming out of the water, getting on the bike, running, breathing hard and crossing the finish line.

It works. That's what I did lying in bed this morning to bring my racing heart back to normal. And that's what I will do today when I am driving the course with Dane Rauschenberg, my Team BEEF friend who will be competing in his first Ironman event. Dane is an amazing athlete and spokesperson for Team BEEF who always has an encouraging word. As he told me once, "You can't cross the finish line if you don't show up at the starting line."

Dane appeared on KTVB's News at Ten last night in Boise talking about beef's role in a healthy diet. Check out the great BEEF ad in the background!

I will face my fears, overcome the anxiety and show up at the starting line tomorrow for my heat at 12:39 p.m. My goal is to cross the finish line at 6:38 p.m. completing the 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike and 13.1 mile run course in under six hours and setting a new personal record at this distance (6:06:20 set this past August in Boulder).

Regardless of whether I break my record my ultimate goal is to cross the finish line and head straight to the BEEF Recovery Zone sponsored by the Idaho Beef Council. I'm visualing it now...and my mouth is watering.

Ride on!