Had my breakthrough…

I headed out on a run yesterday – my training plan called for a 45 minute run in a comfortable RPE (my plan isn’t using zones, but loosely interpreted I wanted to stick in Zone 2).  I figured about 4 miles at a very conservative pace would do the job.

It was a blustery 43 degrees in Wilmington, DE.  Not too bad, and the sun was shining.  I strapped on my Garmin 910xt (I use the HR monitor as well as the footpod for cadence) and I was off.

I settled into my running playlist that is peppered with tunes in the 170-180 bpm range.  I felt great, but I was waiting patiently for that “wall” of discomfort that normally appears somewhere between .8 and 1.5 miles.

It never came.

The run felt glorious.  I just didn’t just feel good – I felt like that kid in the Twilight movies that could turn into a werewolf on-demand.  My feet were gobbling up pavement, and I was able to keep my HR down enough to increase my speed to just about my 10K race time from last year.  I was shocked.

I allowed my mind to wander.  Geez, could I just keep running all afternoon?  I had limited time, but I ended up going 8.2 miles for a strong 90 minutes.  During my “mind-wander”, I couldn’t help picturing myself running somewhere hot, somewhere humid, somewhere black.  C’mon, you know where…




I really began to get this odd feeling that I could not only survive longer distances (Olympic and HIM on the schedule this year), but I could begin to conceive of a time down the road where a full Ironman distance race could be within my vision.

I know – “Slow down there big boy – one nice 8 mile run and now your all crazy-talking…”

It’s beginning to intrude on my thinking multiple times per day.  I’m beginning to believe that I might someday belong to that esteemed group of folks that have become “Ironman”.  My workouts have become longer and more focused.  My diet has become more consistent (my wife is helping a great deal with this, since not only has she gone VEGAN but she’s been eating nothing but RAW for 3 weeks now – and down almost 15 lbs).

A person can become very “dangerous” when he begins to believe in himself…


A little bit about me, and why I think I’m doing all this…

A few of my triathlon Twitter friends (“Tweeps” as it were) have recently blogged about their lives and got a bit personal in their approach.  I’ve recently been giving more thought to why I’m doing this and the things in my life (or missing from) that is driving me on this journey.

It’s a pretty deep issue I think.  I am sure I’m not unique in that there are aspects of my formative years as a “yoot” that have set me up for this.  I’m not going to over-share here, but I guess I’ll bullet out some of the high and low points.

I was born 1972 in the Philly burbs.  Pretty normal early childhood I guess, but from a young age I think I was trying to earn my father’s attention and admiration.  In the mid-80s – folks split up during my middle school years – it was pretty ugly.  I guess as a distraction I threw myself into band in middle school and high school.  I became heavily involved with my high school music program.  This lead to a big part of my development and my psyche, especially in the competitive arena.

Just an aside about the band thing.  Most of you might have gone to a high school with a decent band.  My high school went through my four years never placing lower than 2nd in any adjudicated competition.  That included three state championships.

Since band was about the only thing I really “owned” – I decided to major in music ed in college.  From my (high school) junior year on I also marched in the highly competitive world of Drum Corps International.  This involved auditioning for a non-profit drum and bugle corps, earning a spot, committing the time and significant money to tour tuition, and then leaving right after classes end and jumping on a 52 passenger bus for the summer.

We finished 6th in the world this summer, and I had the time of my life, pushing hard everyday.

We finished 6th in the world this summer, and I had the time of my life, pushing hard everyday.  My mullet and I are top row – 5th from right.

These drum corps tours involve rehearsal days that can easily go into the 16 hour range, very little food, sleeping on gymnasium floors and bus seats, and 128 college-aged kids all working towards the same goals.  It’s HIGHLY competitive and physically grueling.  In fact, studies have been done on the physical demands of an 12 minute performance, and the heart rate and VO2 metrics show marathon-like conditioning.  One season I went on tour with very little spring conditioning (I was working as a trainer at a local gym and was doing a lot of POWERLIFTING) at 225 lbs and low-ish bodyfat, and between June and early August I dropped down to 200 lbs at about 7% body fat.  Check out this video to see one of my old teams in action.

So in my background, I come from a highly competitively-charged  environment.  I’ve taken to other hobbies in the meantime that have a competitive angle to them – namely trap shooting.  You keep a handicap average, and in my few years of actually trying to improve I got pretty darn good.  I actually considered selling my prized trap shotgun as a way to fund the purchase of a tri bike, but I was fortunate to be able to swing the purchase without it.  I guess I thrive on trying to one-up myself, and to try to gain approval from those around me.

Here I am with my girls!

Here I am with my girls!

Fortunately my family supports me and cheers me on, and without them this wouldn’t be nearly as fun or fulfilling.


First swim workout with the team

The alternate title to this post is “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger”…

The swim was the most difficult part of my two races in 2012.  My first race (the Marshman Triathlon) was derailed with a tough swim experience.  While overall it was a positive first race, it could have been so much better, and it was my fault as I did not stick with my race plan and I lost my head.  In October, my swim at the Cape Henlopen Triathlon was a cold-water, against-the-current ocean swim, and it wasn’t easy.  So with those two rough swim experiences in my rear-view, I realized quickly that I need to meet these limitations head-on this off-season in order to survive Olympic and Half-Iron distances.

My kids got involved with our local winter swim team, so while they swam most Tuesday and Thursday nights, I often joined them in the pool in an extra lane reserved for members and parents.  I quickly built more endurance and worked on drills and refinements on my own, but I realized that in order to go to the next level I needed a push.  That’s where my triathlon team came into play.



I found this local group of triathlon competitors just doing an easy Google search last summer.  It’s free to join, and my participation helps earn points in races managed  and sanctioned by Piranha Sports.  We’re lead by a multisport coach and the group is affiliated with a local health club with an extremely competitive swim program, so pool access and coaching resources are readily available.  I met several of the team members last summer when I joined in for a Wednesday night swim at Lums Pond State Park, and this summer we will be having those open water swim sessions every Wednesday night.

I exchanged messages with Coach Glenn this week, and he suggested that based on my level, I’m probably ready for organized Saturday morning practices at the club.  It’s free, and the health club donates the pool for that 90 minute session as a sponsorship to the club.  Glenn couldn’t make it on Saturday, but he briefed his assistant coach to be on the lookout for a “clueless noob”  🙂

Practice started at 7am, and we set off.  I jumped into the slowest lane, but it actually became apparent that I I was a little faster than the others, so I moved up to a faster lane.  After a 300 yd warmup, we went into 75 yard on 1:30 (aerobic/race/sprint), and I found that 12 of these back to back was very challenging.  We went into some longer intervals after that (200, 300, 400) trying to push the back half of each set.  Coach Kathy mentioned to me that I was too fast in my arms and I never really rooted my “catch” before my pull.  After about an hour of beating, we did some drills with a kickboard and fins, and it was at this point that my calves severely cramped up.  I experienced this at the tail end of a great swim session on my own, and I think it has to do with under-hydrating (I actually brought hydration but lft it in my car!).  I missed out on about 100 yards of kicking drills as I walked some laps around the pool, but all in all the workout was about 3,000 yards (although I failed to start my Garmin during a couple of intervals).

The people were incredibly nice, and I got some great compliments on my form and technique from the other swimmers.  Kathy said she would continue to watch me next time I came back, but to concentrate on my recovery and catch..

I’m writing this on Sunday afternoon, and my calves still ache a bit from the cramping yesterday – so this turned into a day off.  I really feel excited and I can’t wait to get back into the water.  All in all, I found that I was pretty prepared for my first group swim practice, and if I can continue to swim and push at that level I should be in better shape for 2013’s races.


Aaaand – we’re now into March…

So February was here and gone in the blink of an eye.  It’s tough to believe that March is upon us.

According to my calendar, my half-iron race is a little more than 27 weeks away.  The training plan I’m using is designed for 20 weeks, so that means about April 21st.  So I’ve got about 6 weeks until I can officially start this program and end it on time.


So what do I do to fill in the time?

  • March will be dedicated to getting STRONGER and LIGHTER.  These are two outcomes that are somewhat diametrically opposed – usually strength  means some degree of size.  I plan to lift two days per week through the middle of April, concentrating on posterior chain and large compound movements.
  • Swim hard – tomorrow morning will be my first organized swim practice with my tri team the Delaware Swim and Fitness Center TriDawgs.  I joined them for two open water swim practices last summer, but these Saturday morning sessions are 90 minutes of structured, coached, and intense work.  I’m in no way ready, but I need to step it up and there’s no reason to wait any longer.
  • More speed work on the bike and the run.  I’ve been doing a lot of lower intensity zone 2 stuff, and it’s time to go shorter and more intense.

My hope is that I can drop another 5-8 lbs while getting a little stronger.