About This Blog

As time permits, in-depth musings on myriad subjects will be posted. Abbreviated adages will be announced via Twitter.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

IMTX Race Report

Ironman Texas was over, as in finished, a week ago. Sadly, it has taken me that whole week to finally sit down and write up a race report. So, here goes.

Nicholle & I took off Thursday morning to head to The Woodlands. Prior to departing, I had wanted to get in one, final Indo Row workout at the Y, so I did, following up with about fifteen minutes of spin class. Nicholle & I would likely have stayed a bit longer in spin, but the usual instructor was out, and the substitute was not in sync with what I had in mind for a proper taper.

Rather than take the Saturn up the road, we loaded up the Insight and set off, periodically stopping to ensure the straps on the aged Saris Bones were tight enough; they were. We hit The Woodlands by noon, right on schedule, and were able to check in our hotel a lot early. From there, it was off to the Athlete's Village for packet pickup. Apart from some longish lines, things went very smoothly, and new acquaintances (race friends) were made. Shortly thereafter, the obligatory pre-race purchases were made from the Ironman store to psychologically prep me for a finish: You can't wear the stuff if you don't cross the line.

Thursday wrapped up with a scheduled massage at Massage Envy and dinner back at the hotel (pizza & ice cream). Friday would be a frantic day, and Saturday would be…well, race day.

Come Friday morning, it was up fairly early to head to Northshore Park for a practice swim. Jason, Rodney, and I rode on over and met up with Bruce, Holly, Leah, and several hundred other athletes.

As for the lake, I typically respond to inquiries about the swimming venues with "I've swum in worse," but, for Lake Woodlands, this was the worst. Shallow, muddy, mucky, and just plain nasty, this lake had one thing going for it: The temperature. Friday morning's temperature was in the upper 70s (77, if memory serves), which I found ideal, considering that I planned to swim in just a tri kit, sans wet suit. After just under 30 minutes, my swim was done, and I felt fairly comfortable for race morning, so it was back to the hotel to see if all parties involved had come together to get the elusive MS Society kit to me. While they did, the kit wound up not working out; sizing made it entirely too tight, which was both uncomfortable and revealing, where certain parts of the anatomy were concerned. Sadly, in spite of the leaps and bounds exhibited by friends and family, and with World MS Day coming up on the 25th, I decided to race in the tried & true Bicycle Heaven kit, largely to Nicholle's insistence. If my wife was behind me for that choice in kits, who was I to refuse?

Early in the afternoon, Nicholle & I made our way to transition to drop off the Slice and the sundry bags needed for race day. Afterwards, Dad & Mom met us back at the hotel to chat and go over race day plans. Everything was coming together very nicely, including the earlier-than-expected arrival of Dan the Running Man Powers from Dallas. Yup, the catalyst for getting me into this whole triathlon & Ironman thing (which, ever-so-nicely, led to the meeting of the woman who would become my wife) was making a trip down for the race. Knowing so many would be at the finish line, with so many more monitoring via Twitter & Facebook, I was all but guaranteed to have a great race.

Race morning arrived, and Dan & I were dropped off near transition by Nicholle (many roads were blocked off, so she could only go so far). After getting fluids set up for the bike and the run, Dan & I picked our way along the run course down to Northshore Park. This was a bit of a hike, but manageable. A quick change and a couple of trips to the port-a-potty later, and I was making my way into the water. As I cross the timing mat, Black Sabbath's "Ironman" played over the PA system. "How hackneyed" was my first thought, but then I started wondering if I should have taken off my wedding ring. Talk about your omens. Both of them.

2.4-mile Swim | 1:27:27

Ironman Texas was an in-water start, which was OK, as far as I was concerned. However, the conditions were tremendously cramped for the slated 2,650 registered athletes (just under 2,200 were purported to have finished, although I've no idea how many actually started). Coupled with the blaring music on the PA system, I didn't even hear the gun go off. Rather, once I head the yelling and saw arms, legs, and heads moving, I started the watch and waited a few minutes before beginning my strokes. Once I did, though, it was bad news: On my first stroke, someone kicked my (left) hand, and my wedding ring slid right off my finger, gone. So, I stopped, freaked, and tried to decide what to do, knowing that the lake wasn't too deep. After what seemed like an eternity (3-5 minutes?), I convinced myself that, ring or no ring, there was a race going on -- a race I had paid a lot of money to do, trained a fair amount for, and had countless people waiting for me to get going.

All that pool swimming, and even the few swims I managed to get in at Boerne Lake were poor preparation for picking my way through so many athletes, some with good swimming abilities, many more without. But, pick my way through, I did, slapping, kicking, and whatnot to an untold number of individuals, with many, many, many more returning the favor. In a word, the swim was a cluster. But, the finish must have been spectacular to watch, for the canal seemed to be lined on both sides with cheering spectators. And that was just plain awesome. While the split was nearly ten minutes slower than my target time, I took it for what it was, thankful to get onto dry land so that the race could really begin.

112-mile Bike | 5:25:00

Timing just did not allow Nicholle & I to drive the bike course prior to the race, so I had only word of mouth to go by for what I was to encounter. That, however, turned out to be just fine. Other than a quick stop to adjust the speed sensor of the Knog NERD, the bike leg was everything for which I had trained: Cloudy, windy, and humid. The Slice had been rigged to be perfectly accommodating for these conditions.

The course was just as described, with rolling hills over smooth pavement (exception: ~3 mile stretch around mile 80), which made for a near-perfect bike split. The NERD was a tad off on calibration, so, were the course on-point at 112 miles, I showed 115.xx, which threw a few things off for pacing, but nothing insurmountable. I rolled into T2 five minutes ahead of my anticipated bike time, putting me within striking distance of an 11:30 finish, a full half-hour faster than the for which I was gunning.

26.2-mile Run | 4:13:40

Few things bike-related are worth the money apart from getting professional fit to one's bicycle, especially for the 140.6 distance. Despite the fitting taking place over two years ago, Cobb still has me dialed in perfectly for the Slice, resulting in a rejuvenated feeling in the legs coming off of even a 112-mile hammerfest. This was to be an amazing run.

Coming out of T2, around two o'clock, I kept reminding myself that I needed to pace properly, in order to avoid literally burning up on the run course. Granted, much of the cloud cover was still in place, but the sun was peeking through in some spots, and the humidity was unreal. Still, I found someone with whom to pass the time -- Mike, from Chicago -- and the Garmin 310xt he was sporting kept us running at a decent clip. However, I dropped off of him after a tad past two miles when I developed a cramp in my right arm, attempting to fish a sponge out of the back of my jersey. Once that was resolved (in case I forget to mention it later, Ironman Texas had the most amazing volunteers), I was back on/ahead of pace, catching back up to Mike in a few miles and then dropping him before finishing the first of three loops on the run course.

Dan & Nicholle were out by the riverbank to cheer everyone on (even me!), and I caught sight of Mom just before the split for the finish and second/third loops. Curious thing about that: There was no indication that runners were, in fact, headed in the right direction for the split, resulting in a bit of confusion among several competitors; nobody wanted to be DQd for an honest mistake. But, all was right in the end of the first loop, and laps two and three went by even better than the first. The beauty of a short, multi-loop course like IMTX has to offer is that, after the first loop, one is able to calculate how best to pace themselves each lap and in each section of the lap. This did not seem like running a marathon at all.

That said, there was some slight discomfort/pain on the run: Chafing in an uncomfortable region down south. Stupid me didn't think to stop for Vasoline from the med stations, which resulted in my walking more than what I wanted but not near as much as was walked at CdA in 2009. However, when it was clear that I would not only meet but also crush my goal finish time of twelve hours, I was able to push through the pain and cross the finish line looking and feeling fresh, ready to go for more.

Total Time: 11:16:09

Unlike many others, I did not cross the finish line with my arms raised. Yes, I beat my time from Coeure d'Alene by nearly an hour and my goal time by nearly forty-five minutes, but I wanted to cross the line in the same fashion which I raced: Steady and controlled. I let out an emphatic "Yawp!" when I hit the timing mat and an even more exuberant "Boo-Ya!" when I checked my watch. The volunteers at the finish, like those on course, were extremely helpful, yet were somewhat taken aback that I was chatty and asking them how their day was going. Just being friendly, I suppose. We were in Texas, you know.

Dan was the first to meet me at the finish, but Nicholle soon came along; I was so happy to see her, yet so saddened to inform her that I had lost my wedding ring a little over eleven hours ago. Even Dad & Mom were excited, even after such a long day out in the sun. Really, for as much as the competitors do, what with all the swimming, biking, and running, the spectators really have it much worse: "Sit. Wait. Cheer." is what one shirt, dubbed "IronFan" read. And that had got to take its toll. Fortunately for me, my IronFans carried themselves like true professionals.

Ironman Texas went extremely smoothly, but the aftermath was a different story. There was a fair amount of confusion at the finish line, as to what was where, and how to go about things, but this could have just been me being so wiped and in disbelief that it was all over so seemingly suddenly. A bit of miscommunication, coupled with my desire to continue moving in order to avoid cramping up, caused Dan & I to get separated from Nicholle & I my folks, but things were eventually straightened out.


So much went into this race, and I don't just mean time and money. There was an obscene amount of training, graciously afforded by my supremely-supportive wife, and shared with fellow triathletes & educators, Jason & Rodney; even registering for the race likely would not have happened had it not been for those two guys. Equipment is also a heavy factor on a distance race like this, and Bicycle Heaven kept my bikes and me rolling throughout the year (and have throughout the years); there is no finer shop with no finer employees I have had the great fortune to know. Also on the bike front, John Cobb deserves another shout out for 1) Getting me interested in this whole bike fit & time trial approach to cycling; 2) Designing such a great saddle as the HC170 -- it is a lot minimalistic, but it works very well for me. Worn on the bike and the run, Rudy Project continues to earn praise for making such stellar sunglasses: The Sportmask Performance continues to be my "go-to" sunglasses for when the need for performance, with regards to comfort and visibility, is paramount. Dan, Dad, and Mom get a lot more thanks for making the trek out to The Woodlands just to watch me race…for 11+ hours. I'm sure they each had better things to do with their weekends, but I sure am glad they chose to spend it in the vicinity of the course -- and the same goes for all of you watching me online, especially you, April. Thank you to Cindy and the gang at the SA chapter of the National MS Society for the framework for raising funds & awareness for you, for Nicholle, and for the countless others out there affected by MS. Thanks, also, for working so hard to get a racing kit together for me. I'm sorry that the sizing & such didn't work out.

All of the aforementioned must make way for one person who trumps you all: Nicholle, my wife (yeah, I'm biased). Be it Ironman or just making it through a day at the office, she is my rock, my cheerleader, my very reason for striving as I do. Thank you, Nicholle, for putting up with me and this silliness of shooting for another Ironman. Thank you for feeding me, cleaning up after me, cheering me on, and checking me in reality when needed. Especially when needed. I could not have done this without you and will not be doing it again, as promised.

Thus ends this chapter in my life. Once was great, twice was even better, but there won't be a third. It would be too tough to top. However, multisport will continue to be used as a tool to raise funds and awareness for the National MS Society. The fund raising continues at http://www.off242.com/donate through October 2011. Please, donate early, donate often. :)

Regardless of if you've donated or not, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Good evening, John.

At this point, neither are acceptable options; the UPS depot is 20+ miles in the opposite direction of where we headed for the race. Fortunately, my parents are making a trip to The Woodlands on Friday and will be able to pick up the parcel from my house, so long as it is delivered tomorrow, Thursday, May 19. Since I will not receive the parcel until Friday, long after any real warm-ups or trials can be performed, I am leery to race with it on Saturday. I hope you can understand.

John, I really do appreciate that Jek Sports was able to comp the MS Society for this kit and work to get it to me in what may seem like a timely fashion. Yet, I am also sorely disappointed in the length of time it has taken for delivery. A confirmation was made a week ago that the kit would be shipped, without fail, this past Monday, for delivery on Wednesday; even that was pushing it, especially since discussions began nearly two months ago. It is realized that production does take time. Additionally, some time was lost in getting a design approved, which was beyond the control of Jek Sports. However, if there was even an inkling of a notion that the kit was not able to be delivered before an acceptable date (I believe early May, in order to allow for sufficient trial, was mentioned), it would have been really nice to have had this communicated more than 52 hours before the race; 12 hours before I am to depart.

With all of this said, I do thank you for the work Jek Sports does in assisting the MS Society and its Bike MS participants in looking sharp in cycling jerseys. I just can't promise that I will be able to toe the line at Ironman Texas in a Jek Sports kit, much as I, and my wife who has MS, was looking forward to it.


Friday, May 13, 2011

What, Me Worry?

Talked with the manufacturer of this storied MS Society tri kit yesterday. Though they've had the approved design since early-April, the finished product will not ship until Monday, arriving Wednesday afternoon. We leave Thursday morning for The Woodlands.

Much as I want to race in this made-just-for-me-and-for-free kit, I'm just not sold on the idea of doing a 140.6-mile race in a kit I've not so much as tried on. Still, the kit will be packed but so will the Bicycle Heaven kit. That one I know is race-worthy.

Still, I'm not going to panic. Not even going to worry. It'd mess up my taper, and with eight days to go, it's just not worth it.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Join the Movement

In less than two weeks' time, Ironman Texas will be over.

On the off-chance you'd not heard, I am participating in another Ironman triathlon on May 21, in The Woodlands, Texas. While this will be my second time at challenging the 140.6-mile distance, May will mark the debut of a full-distance Ironman race in Texas. A full Ironman race consists of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, and 26.2-mile run -- all within the same day. As of my writing this, the weather forecast calls for a high of 93, high humidity, and a light, southern wind. Then again, this is Texas, and a lot can change over the next dozen or so days.

What won't change is the following:

  • Race day will be May 21, beginning at at 7:00 AM. A 12-hour finish, would have me crossing the finish line by 7:00 PM.
  • My race number is 1467. This can be used to track my race-day progress at ironman.com or ironmanlive.com.
  • I am raising funds to support the National MS Society.

While fund raising is not required for my participation in Ironman Texas, your donations will help fund the myriad programs of the NMSS. Some 85 cents of every dollar donated goes into supporting these programs (the MS Society apparently has low operating costs), which include everything from developing & testing new treatments to counseling services for the newly-diagnosed and their families. In the short time since her diagnosis, Nicholle & I have been able to receive some of these services. As time goes on, we may become more reliant on them. Others are already, which is why your help is needed now.

If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation to the National MS Society, please visit http://www.off242.com/donate. There, you will find a link to my fund raising page for the 2011 Bike MS: Ride to the River, which serves as the online channel for my own fund raising. Despite the significant distance Ironman Texas will cover, it is but the first step towards a larger goal.

I hope you will follow me some on the 21st. If not through ironman.com, then perhaps on Twitter, @off242. Updates will be posted during race day on my progress, as well as for how fund raising and other preparations for Bike MS proceed.

As always, thanks for reading.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Less Than a Month

...to train & taper.
...to nail down gear.
...to figure out what I'm going to wear.

A 2-piece tri kit, of course, but I'd been working with the MS Society and one of the companies they use for cycling jerseys for a tri kit, and I thought for sure that it would happen. But, here it is, less than a month out, and the art work was only this past week approved. On that final art work was where I noticed that they jersey had sleeves. After some email exchanges and phone calls, it was decided that the jersey would not, in fact, have sleeves. However, something the way the guy at the kit company talked made it sound like he'd never made a tri kit before; it sounded like cycling gear.

So, once again with the emails. Once again with the waiting game. Time, unfortunately, is not on my side. MS Society kit or no, though, I am racing for them. For Nicholle. For the other women & men out there affected by MS. And I have less than a month to prepare.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Ten Thousand Dollar Question

Today was a day off for me -- a comp day for being blessed with a student teacher this semester -- and it was to be a full day of training; Ironman Texas is just over a month out.

N's alarm roused me from a dream about installing software of laptops in a computer lab (yup, full time nerd, right here), so it was off to the gym with me. Because of some construction in the walkway to the pool, I had to take the long way through the gym itself, rather than cutting through the locker room. This diversion afforded the opportunity to be approached by a fellow triathlete, an older gentleman herein referred to simply as "Joe."

Joe's attention was caught by my Buffalo Springs Triathlon shirt, so the conversation was quick to get off to the subject of triathlon, Ironman in particular. We briefly exchanged race stories, and I mentioned that I was training for Texas next month. Joe suggested I join him and his cronies for some training, given that he and all of them were multi-time Ironman finishers. It was then that it became apparent that Joe was anything but average.

For starters, there was the fact that it was just past 6:00 AM, and Joe was about to go off on a run with his friends. He invited me to go with them; guess he failed to notice the flip-flops and the behemoth of a swim bag over my shoulder. Then he suggested I join them for some open water swims in the Guadalupe -- something I have been interested in doing, given that said river is 40+ miles closer to home than is Boerne Lake. Greater distance, too. Trouble is, Joe and his group do the swims on Friday morning at 7:00 AM. My second mentioning that I was a teacher and had to be at work early seemed to be brushed off; a teacher from SAISD had joined them just this past Friday, so why couldn't I?

Inevitably, the subject of money came up as my reason for Texas being my last Ironman. Joe agreed that Ironman does get to be expensive. He spent a minimum of $6,000 on each of his five…sometimes upwards of ten. Thousand. Dollars. I mean, you gotta have a coach, right?

After a few more minutes, Joe excused himself to get going on his run, and I finally made my way out to the pool. It was to be my second Iron-distance swim this month, and it was good. Despite my feeling twinges of a sore neck from an ill night's sleep on Saturday, I managed to shave off nearly two minutes from my time just a over a week ago: 1:10:55 for the 2.4 miles.

A couple of hours later, I found myself at Local Coffee, meeting with a guy regarding MS. A friend from the MS Society suggested we sit down and talk, for he and his wife are about ten years down the road from where N & I are now. There is no teacher like experience, so I was grateful for the opportunity to listen, share, and learn. Rest assured, I was infinitely more impressed with this gentleman and how he focuses his energy and abilities than I was with Bob and his dropping ten grand on a single M-dot race. No doubt, I have respect for those of us who are physically able to push our bodies that distance, time and again, but, then I remember that WTC, owners of of the Ironman brand, is a for-profit entity. Further, the outlandish amounts of money that individuals the world over are willing to throw at that brand, manufacturers of equipment (wet suits, bikes, helmets, shoes, nutrition) , coaches -- whatever -- it, again, made me question: Why?

Right now, the answer is because it is late in the game for gearing up for Texas, and I have goals for this race beyond the finishing time. Texas will serve as a launchpad for me and my fundraising for October's Bike MS: Ride to the River. Cindy and others have been instrumental in working to outfit me in a one-off tri kit promoting the MS Society, and I look forward to sporting it at Ironman Texas, as well as at all future triathlons. Hopefully, others will don it, too, and the average Joe will become much more aware of how money can be better spent on making a cure for MS a reality, instead of chasing a dream 140.6 miles, again and again.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

No Fiesta

Today was the Fiesta Wildflower bike ride. This would have been my second century in three weeks, but, alas, it was not to be. By mile 60, my body was trashed.

Yesterday, N & I had 90-minute massages in order to relax, as well as get some knots & such worked out of our respective bodies. Unfortunately, the massages were late in the afternoon and did not permit what I felt to be sufficient recovery time before this morning's ride.

What was fortunate is that the ride went along familiar routes, not too far from home. When I knew, for certain, that I would not be able to finish the remaining 65 miles of the ride, the calvary was called, and N & Marzipan met me at a petrol station ten miles from home. That's how spent I was: Unable to pedal ten piddly miles.

Ten miles and one shower later, I was in bed and fast asleep. Narco Kitty did her thing extremely well.

While today was no party, ride-wise, it did provide some valuable insight for training.
  1. No deep tissue massages within 24 hours of a main event.
  2. Stretch the night before and the morning of an event.
  3. Heart rate monitors aren't the be all & end all for monitoring performance. If you'd like to buy mine, it's posted in the Slowtwitch classifieds.
  4. Always have an escape plan.
  5. Any day where you can learn something from your training, regardless of what the training involves, is a good one.
Thanks for reading.