Getting Ready for My Half, and Planning Offseason

So with the storm named “Sandy” bearing down on us, I took the last few days to tighten up our home’s perimeter.   I took a trip up to the roof to clear gutters and leaves.  On Saturday we hosted 12 little girls for my daughters’ Halloween Party, but up to about 10 minutes before the first kid arrived, my father and I were “elbows-deep” in my basement’s sump pump system!

As it ended up, we had some high winds and lots of sideways rain, but aside form a few branches that came down around my neighborhood we were fine.  In fact I think my kids were a little bummed we didn’t get to try to rough-it!

My sister lost a huge tree that might have caused a car accident in front of her house, as well as another mammoth tree falling right on top of her SUV.  Everyone was fine (they were at their in-laws), but it was a sobering photo to receive over text:


















  • So I was able to get in a couple of nice runs leading up to the storm.  I think I’ll be fine for the half – I’m going to treat it as a long training run, and I’ll do the best I can to enjoy the surroundings and the atmosphere.  I think an 11 minute mile is a fine pace for this time around.
  • I am in the process of reaching out to a couple of area swim coaches to get some eyes on my technique.  Once my travel for work calms down this should be easier.
  • The “TriDawgs” have Saturday morning practices at a swim club I do not belong to.  I’m hoping to get down to a few of them to push myself.
  • I am eyeing some bike trainers and aerobars on eBay.  I plan to have my LBS do the install and fitting for the bars, as I’ll probably buy a new seat post from them as well.

Gearing for a 70.3 in 2013

So in my previous post I’ve identified the main goals, and over the past few days I began to consider the methods and tactics I’ll need to employ in order to reach those goals.  This is all new and uncharted territory for yours truly, and I know that the work will be hard.  I’m hoping to work hard AND smart, and I think these action steps will lead the way.

In order to really ROCK the 70.3 distance, I feel that technique improvements in my freestyle technique, and power gains on the bike will help my overall time and performance.  I also believe that dropping weight will help on the run.

In order to hit my goals for speed, distance and power, the reality is that I’m going to need to drop some body weight.  Lugging 230 pounds 70.3 miles can be done, but the journey will be that much more enjoyable (?) and worthwhile if I’m more like 200 and less like 230.

Bodyweight benchmarks for 2013:

  • I want to drop 10 lbs between now and 1/1/13 —  220 lbs on 1/1/13
  • I want to drop 10 lbs more by 4/1/13  —                      210 lbs by 4/1/13
  • I would like to be sub-200 by 8/15/13

This will mean that i would be at a much healthier bodyweight for a late summer or early fall 70.3 (Pocono 70.3 or perhaps REV3Half-Full in Maryland).  This schedule is pretty gentle (not a crash diet) and will allow for good solid training to take place without trying to diet down to get to a specific number and compromising power and fitness.

Late October into November –

I am running my first half marathon on 11/11/12, so my training is very run-focused right now.  My plan is to get through the race and then recover and begin a power-focused training plan in December to help build strength, especially in my core and legs.

December through end of January-

I will be weight training two times per week, sprinting and hill repeats, and mixing in spin classes.  I’ll also be doing some very targeted strength training to help build swim power as well.  I’m hoping to have acquired an indoor bike trainer (have my eye on some CycleOps fluid trainers on eBay right now.  The name of the game is to get stronger and slimmer, as well as begin to develop the power and speed needed to get faster.  I love this article on speed building as well as this piece on strength training for the swim.

One other thing I need to attend to is the fit of my bike, which I will re-address once I pull the trigger on some clip-on aerobars from my LBS.

The big action steps:

  • Stretching and “The Stick” after each and every run.  I will not blow this off any longer, since it makes recovering for the next session that much tougher.
  • Spin and Yoga – I plan to use a local studio that is partially owned by some competitive triathletes/coaches, and the combo of strength/power/yoga is too sensible to disregard.  I can no longer ignore this.
  • Run training – there will be tempo runs, hill repeats, and threshold workouts to be sure.  No more shirking these responsibilities.
  • Swim analysis – while I think that I’m pretty solid technically, I’m sure there are some things I could benefit from, and the only really scary part of the 70.3 is the swim.

I am not envisioning a bike upgrade anytime soon (aside from the aforementioned aerobars).  I need to worry about the engine and less about the equipment.  I will be purchasing the cadence meter for the bike to go with my Garmin Forerunner 910xt and the Footpod, as I think the RPM metrics are going to help paint a better picture for data and improvement.

I am going to begin schedule planning and blocking out the periodization for the spring summer and fall months on a high level.  I’ve got a couple of mock training plans that I’ll be using as a guide.

Outseason and Goal-Setting – What’s Next?

So I’m still buzzing from the weekend and the wonderful time I had at the Cape Henlopen Triathlon.  I felt it on Monday, but my body just felt as if I did a brick workout the day before. I headed to the gym and did some weight training yesterday, and the squats, deadlifts, and kettlebell work are going to be key for better strength and power.  Admittedly I’ve only used weight training sparingly over the past year, and it’s something I plan on building into my outseason schedule.

On that note, I can’t help but look forward to 2013, and what races will land on the calendar!  My process will be to start with the very broad and move towards the specific.

The first thing I want to do is take a good, hard, honest look at where I am right now, and where I want to see improvement:

  • SWIM – While I feel very strong and confident in the lap pool, I am struggling in open water.  My first race was a huge wake-up-call when it came to the lake swim (although getting pummeled will do that to you) and Cape Henlopen felt very much the same.  My breathing was labored and the combination of the waves and wetsuit made for a miserable time.  I think it’s going to be a combination of stroke efficiency and open-water experience.
  • BIKE – Since the bike normally represents the longest phase of any race, time gains made here make an immediate impact.  During my ride at Cape Henlopen, I averaged right about 20 mph, which is great considering my normal hard training effort usually yields 14-16 mph.
  • RUN – I’m never going to be a fast runner, and my fastest race pace is somewhere between a 9:00 and 10:00 minute mile.  I would like to be faster, and the gateway to more speed is speed workouts.  I’ve been more concerned with distance and better technique, and I have improved in these areas.
  • BODY WEIGHT – This is a personal area, but I din’t need to be a member of Mensa to understand that dropping some weight should help all of the above.  Hauling 230 pounds around a racecourse is going to take more total effort than 200 pounds.


The performance level goals I would like to achieve in 2013:

  • Swim pace of 1:50/100 in open water races
  • Bike speed in races approaching 25 mph
  • Run race pace capability of 8:00/mi in a 5K
  • Body re-composition bringing body weight down to >200 lbs
  • Race in 2 Olympic Distance events – possibly a Half Ironman (highly dependent on swim progress)

My next post will address the tactical means to accomplish this.

Race Recap – Cape Henlopen Triathlon – Lewes, DE

When I tell people I live in Delaware, about 25% of the time I get the impression that they are trying to determine if Delaware is a CITY in either PA or MD.

Actually Delaware is a pretty cool place to live.  We have a major rail that puts us in any major city on the Eastern seaboard easily.  We’re a quick hop to Philly or Baltimore.  We have our own beaches that rival those of our more popular neighbors.  Also, did I mention we have TAX FREE SHOPPING!

My race this weekend was centered in Cape Henlopen State Park, which actually has bay-facing and ocean-facing beaches.  As luck would have it, my swim was in the big blue (more on that later).

So way back in June I grabbed a hotel room at one of the secondary national chains.  It’s not 5-star, but there’s a certain level of expectation when you see a decent rating on the American Express travel website (I’m a points-monger with AMEX).  My wife and I packed the kids in the SUV and headed out on Saturday morning.  It was about a 2 hour drive down, and long car rides do not normally sit well with my daughters (6 and 8 years old).  The movie we played in the car helped though, and we pulled into the state park for packet pickup and hotel and checked in.

Once upon a time when I was bitten by the tri bug, I didn’t know that Clydesdale was an option, so my packet was set up for M40-45.  I thought about changing it, and figured i would do it on Sunday morning if I had time.

When we got to the hotel I booked, things unraveled a bit.  To say the hotel room was substandard would be a gross understatement!  It stunk of cigarette smoke, like a poker game just broke up 5 minutes before we walked in.  I immediately got on the phone with AMEX and my wife called a motel we saw on the drive from the race site.  We pulled a quick switcheroo, and much to our delight the privately-owned motel was light years better than the ashtray I originally booked.

While my wife and youngest went out to explore a bit, I stayed in the room with my bike to do a quick go-over for the race.  I had the best of intentions when I checked tire pressure, and then proceeded to shear the top of the presta valve off inside of my pump head!  Luckily two doors down from the motel was a bike shop, and these guys rushed my repair right before closing, coming up huge for me!  BikeLine had a mechanic available at the race site, howver i wanted to fall asleep knowing my bike was squared away (you will see why this was the right decision in a minute).

We planed on having dinner with my dad and stepmom, and a couple that they are close friends with that happen to live in Lewes.  We found this awesome restaurant called “Fish On” that allowed us a reservation for 8, even though they don’t take reservations normally. The food was awesome (my 8 year old impressed the grown ups by ordering a crab cake!), and I sufficiently carbed-up for the race with Creamy Cajun Penne Pasta  (Shrimp, Crab, Chorizo, Spinach, Roasted Tomato, Cajun Cream).

Then it was onto an early bedtime.


Somehow, we ended up running a bit late in the morning.  The girls woke up and were very cooperative, which was a huge help.  If you have kids that are disgruntled in the morning, you know how much it can slow you down.  I ate a bagel and a banana, and hydrated.  I also shot down a 5-Hour Energy in place of coffee, as I didn’t want the GI issues that come along with coffee.

We headed over to the park, and the parking situation was less than optimal.  We had a 20 minute walk or so to the tents, and if I had a bike problem I would have had major issues getting them rectified at that point.  I kissed everyone and then headed to transition to set up.  I walked up to my rack, and the guy next to me had a time trial bike that looked like it could have belonged to Sammy Hagar (it was red and ‘turbocharged’).  His stuff was also strewn across three rack positions, but it turns out he was a newbie just like me and he either bought or borrowed the bike from a friend.

Man, why can’t these guys just bury the hatchet and reunite?

So I was ready, and the competitors began the long LONG walk to the beach.  My family already headed down a different pathway, but they took us down the way we would run back into T1 (transition from swim to bike).  It was a blacktop path, that turned into loose sand, so immediately I saw this would be challenging on the run out of the water.

One other “glitch” – when I signed up for the race I did not enroll in the “Clydesdale” division, because I didn’t know what it was (men over 200 lbs, and I am very much over 200).  I was told I could easily switch divisions on the morning of the race if I wanted to, but with everything running short of time I could not pull that off.

We headed to the beach and then proceeded to walk down the beach to the swim start area.  It didn’t take an oceanographer to deduce that we would be swimming into the teeth of the current, based on the way the waves were breaking.  I heard from another athlete that the race organizers have to make the call several hours before the sun comes up, and that sometimes the winds shift after sunrise.  I think it’s safe to say that this was one of those situations.  I headed over to the start, met some of my TriDawg teammates and got ready to go.

On the beach before the start with Lauren and Grace


I lined up on the far extreme left side, meaning to go way wide of the buoy.  My tactic worked as I only had contact with one other swimmer one time.  The water was a lot colder than was announced the day before (they announced 71 degrees at check in, but on race morning it was 65).  I still had the same trouble that plagued me at the Marshman tri a month ago, and that was breathing.  I felt terribly stressed and panicked and could not take a full breath between strokes.  I would swim freestyle as much as I could, then flip onto my back for some backstroke, and then repeat.  Again my swim experience was miserable, and I was very slow as compared to my age group competitors.  The worst was the run across the loose sand of the beach and dune path.  At one point I lost it and I wiped out into the wooden fence that holds the sand dunes!  I pulled myself up and walked it off.  Once I reached the blacktop path I saw that the sneaker and flip-flop “drop zone” (here everyone left their throw away footwear) was not actually throw away – most of the shoes were gone as the competitors were throwing their shoes back on and running to T1!  I wish this would have occurred to me because it would have made that run much better.

Swim time – 24:11

I’m not having nearly the fun i appear to be having…

Transition 1

I took my time in T1 since I was sucking wind from jogging up from the beach, and my feet were angry at me.  I swigged some hydration (diluted Gatorade & GNC Blox), clipped on my helmet, threw on my bike shoes and off I went.

T1 time – 3:50


My plan was to hop on and MASH IT!  I did just that.  In the first mile I passed a bunch of people.  The course was flat, and many of the folks I talked to said that wind would be the wildcard.  I tried to stay in aero as much as possible – my bike does not have aerobars so I stayed low and in ‘the drops’ on my handlebars.

The course was a pretty simple loop with a couple of technical turns.  The scenery was beautiful but the wind was howling quite a bit.  I planned to slug down another GU gel around mile 10, but I found that a time saving cut-corner might have cost me.  I made two bottles of my drink mix before my last training ride, and one was untouched on the ride, so I put it into the garage fridge.  Instead of mixing up a new batch, I just grabbed it and rolled. I made a fresh batch in another bottle that stayed in transition, but the stuff on my bike turned rancid and sour.  I still gagged some down to help the gel go down, but thankfully I didn’t get sick.  I knew I didn’t want to bonk, and there wasn’t any other nutrition available on the bike course.

I came back into transition strong, and ran the bike back to the rack for my quick change to the run.

Back to T2

Bike – 42:48 (averaged close to 20 mph, which is WAY faster than my hardest training ride)

Transition 2

In triathlon, T2 is the easier of the two, since you don’t have to deal with wetsuit issues.  It’s really just trading bike shoes for running sneakers (and bungee laces make this so fast), helmet for visor/cap, and off you go.

T2 – 2:01


Since I cranked it on the bike, my goal was to just keep steady on the run.  I was figuring a 10-11 minute mile, but the course was much more hilly than I thought.  My Garmin Forerunner 910xt was not giving me data, since I messed up the settings before entering the water, but i did have heart-rate coming to me real-time.  I was finding it hard to stay below 150, and I wanted to keep it under control as much as possible.  The hills surprised me, and we ran up through the fort that was built during WW2.  It was longer than the 3.1 miles – I am convinced of that!

My family met me about 150 yards from the finish line (we didn’t work this out beforehand) and the girls tried to run with me to the finish, but dropped off.  We should have gotten good photos of that, but it honestly didn’t occur to us.

Yeah, I’m pretty whooped by this point.

Run – 32:49

TOTAL – 1:45:41

If I had been in with the Clydesdales, I would have finished about middle of the group.  In the 40-45 group I was 2nd to last, but a 5 minute improvement would have put me close to the middle of that more competitive group.

Either way, I was very pleased with the race.  Again the parking and logistics pre-race were goofy with this Piranha Sports event, and I know some of that is outside of their control however these two races are perennial events.  I was disappointed to find that they ran out of commemorative pint glasses 2 people in front of me in line!  It’s not like they don’t know how many people are registered to participate!

Here I am with my girls!

We hung out for a bit with my family, and then headed back to the motel to pack and shower.  We then headed home and made it home in time for the Eagles game and an afternoon of Chinese Food, October craft beers, and rest!

My wife and kids have been very supportive and a great cheering section for me throughout the last year.  Even on days when i don’t feel like making it happen, they help hold me accountable and for that they have my love and appreciation!

Next post – outseason plans and goals.

Time for Cape Henlopen Triathlon!

Well, the SUV is packed, my wife is drying her hair, and we’re all ready to jump in the truck and head south to the Delaware beaches.  We still haven’t eaten (eek) but we’re grabbing something on the way.

While I do the majority of my training in the wee small hours of the AM, I really appreciate my wife and kids allowing me the time to try to get the best out of myself.  I’ve learned so much about myself as a person, and I look forward to continuing on this journey.

The water temp is about 70 degrees, so I’m not 100% on whether I’m going to go “wetsuit” or not.  There is a very VERY long sand run into T1, and I’m thinking that I might just be able to run by people struggling to run with a wetsuit on.  On the other hand, the wetsuit gives me my best chance of a better and more confident swim, so I’m 50/50 right now.

Wish me luck!

It’s Race Week People!

I’m banging out this blog post sitting in my hotel in Chicago as I’m town with a large contingent from my company for the HR Technology conference.  I’m sitting in a room at the Chicago Hilton, on the same floor I visited back 4 weeks ago when I was at this same hotel for another conference!

I did make it a point to head out EARLY AM yesterday on a COLD frigid run around Grant Park.  All of the gates, barriers, corrals, and tents were still up at 5am  and security was out every half-block or so to patrol the area.  I had some fun with a few of them, as I ran up looking lost asking “Is the Finish Line around here?”.

It’s race week – my 2nd sprint tri is Sunday, and there’s a lot on the line for me.  After my tough swim experience in my first race, I need to come out of this race confident without any big issues!  My wife, kids, and my dad and stepmother will be there cheering me on, which while very positive also adds a bit of pressure.  I’ve prepared, and I’ve committed a significant amount of time to training – time that could be spent in other ways with my family.  I’ll say my family has been supportive, however I think that support has come at a bit of a cost.

So we’ll be heading down to Lewes, DE to the hotel on Saturday morning.  I’ll have packet pickup to do, and I think there might be a short swim clinic I’ll attend.  My wife is looking forward to hitting a few of the tax-free shopping outlets, and e’re all heading to dinner on Saturday night at a brilliant seafood restaurant called “Fish-On”.  Pasta will play a part in the meal, I’m certain!

My day is full today with work and then my evening flight home.  The rest of the week looks like this:

  • Wed – Swim
  • Thursday – AM run and PM weights and core
  • Friday – 8 mile bike and short swim workout with wetsuit (not bricked)
  • Saturday – Recovery walk/jog
  • Sunday – GO TIME!

I’ll make an effort to get as much rest as I can.  Any other race week suggestions you can offer me?

How Did Tuba Fix My Swim?

So ever since my difficult swim at the Marshman Triathlon, I’ve been battling what I’ll call a confidence problem.  I’ve been feeling “bleh” on the topic of swimming, and I know myself well enough that this is a temporary funk – nothing more.

I’m still astounded that my body has responded to triathlon training.  My weight is now in the mid-220s (back in June when I bought my bike I was in the high 230s) and my borderline ADHD transfers well-enough to the multi-modal training required by triathlon events (swim, run, bike, weights, yoga/flexibility, etc).

So I’ve been going through this uncomfortable period following my rough swim.  I know you’re thinking “WAAAAH!  SUCK IT UP!”, and that’s exactly what I’m saying to myself.  The brain is a weird and complex thing, and in a quiet moment I remembered back to something an old brass instructor I had in college told me (* note – my degree is in Music Education with an instrumental concentration on Tuba Performance).

I was having a rough time with a particular piece one semester, and my professor sensed that most of the issues were “between the ears in the squishy grey stuff”.  He asked if I still had my old original 8th grade mouthpiece – something entry-level that I could use instead of my professional-grade custom designed mouthpiece.  I did in fact still have it in a drawer since I’m a pack rat!  He told me to use that mouthpiece for exactly one week, and took my new one so I wouldn’t cheat during the week (I had a duplicate, but I didn’t cheat).

My dad and I – Chesapeake Brass XMAS Concert 2008

So I headed off on a week’s worth of practice studio time with the old mouthpiece – which normally saw lots of 8th grade-level “OOM-PAH” concert band parts (middle school and high school tuba parts are not very sexy!).  It felt off to go back to something that was once so familiar, but in a weeks time I returned to my professor and played the piece on the old mouthpiece.  He then asked me to play through the first movement of the piece on the old mouthpiece, which I slogged through – grade of performance approximately a B-minus.  He then handed me my good mouthpiece and had me play it again – grade of performance an A-minus (keep in mind one week prior I was a solid C, so both were marked improvements).

This is me – summer of 1990 marching with the Crossmen Drum and Bugle Corps – Franklin Field Univ of Penn

Why did this happen?  By giving my brain something else to focus on, I got out of my own way and allowed things to naturally happen.  Sometimes the brain just needs a little bit of interference to focus on so that the good outcomes can rise up to the top.

OK – so how does this translate to swimming, and getting over my issues?  On the way to my workout yesterday, I stopped of and bought three things:

  1. New goggles with a brighter tint (contrast to my dark smoke goggles I’ve been using)
  2. Nose clip
  3. Swim Paddles

You can guess the rest.  Everything FELT different.  The world was brighter underwater.  I could focus on breathing JUST through my mouth (believe it or not really helps me), and I broke up the workout a bit by adding a couple of 100s with the paddles (never used before).

End result – I had a good swim experience for the first time in a month.