My Top 10 Beginner Triathlon Tips

Having just gone from a guy who could barely swim and didn’t have a bike to a guy who could finish a sprint triathlon (albeit at a modest pace) in the span of 5 months I thought I would offer up a few tips in case any of you are thinking of heading down this road. Now, I took 5 months to train mainly because I was scared to do it any sooner. There were, in fact, a few races before the 5 months were up and in retrospect I probably could have completed a sprint in 3-4 months. A lot will depend on how much time you have available to train and how proficient you are in the swim, bike and run starting off. Assuming you are currently in the same shape I was in March, which was: could only really swim about 100 meters without stopping, could probably bike 8-10 miles comfortably but hadn’t spent a whole lot of time on a bike in years, and could run 3-5 miles at a 8-10 minute/mile pace…..then I say you can be ready in 3 months with 3-4 days a week training. Here is what I would recommend.

10. Pick a race and set the date. Hold yourself accountable. I did so by starting this blog. It was always right there in front of me. The race date changed, but I knew I had to keep training because I was blogging about it. People would ask me how I was doing and I knew I couldn’t just quit. Look up triathlons in your area online. Almost every area has a group that organizes races and likely has a website with an event calendar. Plus, it’s fun to set a goal a few months out and start the journey.

9. Invest in quality gear. For me it was a bike for starters. Obviously I needed one if I was going to do this. I asked a few people I know about their bikes, read some online articles and went to a nice bike store and talked with the employees there. It helped that my friends here on Guam were very knowledgable and the guy at the bike store just competed in the London Olympics in mountain biking for Guam. I was able to get a good bike at a decent price. Expect to spend $400-$1000 for a nice road bike. You can spend more than that, but I think that is probably a good start. Also, I invested in things like bike clips, bike shoes, bike helmet, bike gloves, a GPS on my bike, swim goggles, triathlon shorts and shirts, a nice pair of running shoes, and a sports watch for triathletes (Garmin). Most of this stuff is fairly cheap at your local sporting goods store. I would say everything I bought (including the bike) added up to around $1000-$1200. Again, not cheap, but in the end having good equipment makes a big difference and makes it more fun to train.

8. Make a schedule for yourself. try and outline a routine that works for you and your lifestyle, and of course try and stick to it. In the beginning I was pretty good about keeping to a schedule. I tried to alternate run/bike/swim/rest days. It gets tough when you go on vacation or a life event gets in the way. That’s OK. I had those and took a week off here and there. In fact, I think I took about 3 weeks off in the middle of my training when I went on vacation and then struggled to get back into a routine. It happens. The good part is that once you start back into it, your body will tell you to keep going. I would recommend at least one day a week of each modality (run/bike swim) and at least 1 day off a week to rest (I usally took 2 days off a week even when I was going full go). Then again, I am 41, so your body might recover quicker than mine.

7. I would attend a sprint race. Go to an event in your area or view one on TV or online if that is all that is possible. Know what you are getting into and make sure it is something you want to do. Having seen a few in person last January and February I knew it was something that looked fun and was attainable if I worked hard enough. I saw the comraderie between the triathletes and thought that would be a fun thing to be a part of. And, I saw folks that were either older than me or were in the same condition as me doing it and knew I wasn’t completely over my head. Seeing it live got me psyched to know it was something I wanted to shoot for.

6. Listen to your body. There were days when I went out to train intending to do a 5 mile run and my knees would hurt after a mile or two. Or I would want to do a 1500 meter swim and I was just worn out after 750 meters.  Could I have pushed through? Yes. But to me this is supposed to be an enjoyable experience. It does take some effort and you must endure a little pain in training to improve…no question…but if you think you are pushing towards an injury or your body just isn’t responding to the push…shut it down and live to fight another day. Like I said, I am a quadragenarian and I know that a knee or back injury would spell doom for me. It could put me on the shelf for weeks. So, if I had put some training time in for the day and was feeling pain, why risk it? Know your body and know what you can endure. Now, that isn’t to say that on a day when you just don’t feel like working out you should not do it. That is more often mental fatigue and that I had to push through many times. I think we all do or else we tend to be satisfied with the status quo and we don’t progress. Getting through that, believe it or not, is part of the enjoyment of the trianing.

5. Try and eat right. Not to say that you cannot enjoy fast food here and there, but for the most part try and stick to a good diet filled with protein and low in fats. I am lucky that my wife and I both love things like chicken and vegetables, fish (well I like that, my wife not so much) and light pastas. We hardly ever eat out and almost never eat fast food. It is a bit of a blessing because I know that sometimes a person’s lifestyle dictates what and when they can eat and fast food is the best option. There are plenty of online recommendations for quick food recipes that are cheap and easy. We tried a few over the months, but found ourselves sticking with a lot of chicken, rice and spinach. Oh, and I also did consume a fair number of protein bars. Not sure if they work, but it is a nice pick me up in the middle of the day when the blood sugar dips. Beats grabbing a candy bar or donut. Hydration is another underrated concept. My body just felt “better” when I was hydrated. It takes some work to stay up on your fluids with all the training, but you get used to it.

4. Swim in the open water early and often. This was my biggest regret in retrospect. I swam almost entirely in the pool to train. I was able to build endurance and practice my stroke and breathing, and for that it is extremely helpful. But having now done an open water race, you need to get out there and swim in the ocean (or lake/river etc…..wherever the race will be held). There are so many variables that the open water race brings to the table that are hard to train for in a pool. The chop of the water, the current, the depth, the salinity, the bouyancy, etc.. You may never get the chance to train while swimming next to a group of people, and for that you will just have to figure that out on race day, but you can eliminate a lot of fear and anxiety by doing some open water swim training before the big day.

3. Brick workouts are great. This is when you do 2 or more modalities on the same training day back-to-back. For example maybe you do a 1000 meter swim and then follow it up with a 10 mile bike. Or maybe you do a 12 mile bike and then a 3 mile run. It helps to feel what it is like to make that transition and use different muscle groups. It also helps with the transition piece of the triathlon (switching shoes or drying off and putting on the bike gear). That is a piece of the race that is probably overlooked, but is important. You need to know what to bring and how to go from one event to another. It won’t be the biggest thing to worry about, especially if you are a real novice like me, but it is something to practice nonetheless. Brick workouts made me realize that I needed to keep pushing to increase my stamina. It’s one thing to be able to run 3 miles….it’s another to run 3 miles after riding a bike for 12 miles. Trust me, they are very different runs.

2. The week before the race, try and rest up. I did a few smaller training days, like a 3 mile run one day and a 750 meter swim another day. No brick workouts. No rigorous routines. And I did nothing for the 72 hours before the race. I just let my body rest. I think it helped. Sort of like the concept of cramming for a test. Cram all you want, but then take the day or two off before a test to let your mind relax. Same with your body. Once you reach the week of the race you should be fine, so just let your body relax, let the inflammation cool down, eat well, try and get good nights sleep and prepare mentally for the race.

1. Have fun on race day. I was lucky to go to the race with a friend who also is a very relaxed guy. We met another friend there who was very supportive and fun. All the other triathletes I spoke to before the race were enjoying themselves and were being supportive of my first race. I am sure folks were a little anxious, as with any competitive event, but for the first one don’t worry about the time. Just get it done, enjoy the experience and then get ready to do it all over again…because it is pretty darn cool.Image


Mission Accomplished!

Before I get to the actual race that took place today, I have to give a big shout out to my friend Jeff, who tracked with me through the swim portion of the race and kept me on track. He certainly is a faster swimmer than I will likely ever be and he was given permission (by me) to take off at any time on the swim. I was 100% confident I wasn’t going to drown, but I also knew it was going to be a bit of a struggle (more on that below). But Jeff was like an older (even though he is younger), more athletic brother who wouldn’t let me get too far behind him without checking on me. Solid move my friend and thanks so much. However, the next race (January) I fully expect you to go at your usual pace. Maybe by then I can keep up.

I hydrated quite a bit yesterday and as a result I was up at 3:00 to use the bathroom. TMI, you say. Well, I tell you that because when I was back and bed at 3:02 I started to think about the race a bit. A bit too much actually. And, you know how it goes from there, I never fell back to sleep. Finally just got up at 4:45 and started to get ready. Nice breakfast of oatmeal, banana and juice had me feeling pretty good. Jeff came by right at 6:00 and as we were loading the bike on the car we were discussing how ominous the skies looked. It wasn’t raining, but dark clouds were rolling in and the winds were gusting. We decided to head down to the race anyway, but agreed that if storms hit before the race, we were not going to do it (that decision is made easier by the facts that the entry fee was only $15 and it is a 5 mile drive from our houses to the start line). During our 10 minute ride to the race the skies opened up, the rains came in heavy and the winds continued to blow. We actually almost just turned around and headed back home, but we were already up and on our way so we pushed on, both fully expecting the race was not happening for us. By the time we got to the race the rain had stopped but it still looked pretty bad out. We walked over to the registration area and met another friend who said he was definitely doing the race, so at that point we had no choice. I mean we couldn’t just walk away at that point. It was official, I was going to participate in my first triathlon, bad weather or not. By the time I offloaded and set up my bike and clothes/gear, registered, had my number written on me with a Sharpie (#347) and headed down to the water the clouds were breaking up and the skies were starting to lighten. I think the sun might have actually popped out to say hello at some point. I was fairly excited, but still calm enough that I felt confident.

That confidence quickly went south once the swim started. The swim, as you know if you have been following this blog, is by far my least favorite and least confident part of the race. I mean  BY FAR. Plain and simple, I am just not a swimmer. To quote Harry Schearer from a 1980s SNL skit, “I’m not a strong swimmer”. I started out well enough but about 50-100 meters in I took in a full gulp of salt water with what was supposed to be a full breath of oxygen. I didn’t panic too much, just took a couple of side strokes while I coughed and got my wind, but it did ruin any chance I had of getting into a nice rythym. For the first 350-400 meters I basically would swim 10-15 strokes, take a quick look at where I was heading, readjust my line, take a few side strokes, then swim again. I also took in a fair amount of salt water over the course of that first half of the swim. I think it was a combination of being too wound up, worried about people around me, taking in salt water and trying to look ahead to see where I was going. Basically just inexperience swimming in a crowd during a race. Although by about 200 meters in there wasn’t much of a crowd around me. The second half I think went a little better. For one thing, I actually swam more instead of side stroking. The last 100-150 meters was pretty good and by the time I was in a nice ryhtym, the swim portion was over. My time was around 22 minutes (I was wearing a Garmin watch to record all my splits, but at the end of the race it just showed I did a 15 mile swim..ha! I had hit the button that I thought switched modalities, but apparently not). The race site will be posting the times soon so I can check the actual time. I had been doing 750 meters in the pool in 16:30, so this was MUCH longer. BIG difference between pool and open water, obviously. If I am going to do this again in January I will need to get into the open water and practice….a lot! I wasn’t the last one out of the water……but there weren’t many behind me.

The bike went pretty well. I transitioned a little slow (still trying to recover from the salt water drinking contest called a swim) but once I got on the bike I think I did about as well as I expected. The course was basically 4 laps along a road right along the water. The weather was still touch and go and the wind was probably gusting up to 25-30 mph. Heading out away from the water it was in our faces and heading back towards home it was behind us. So, the first lap out I was thinking, “Crap! This is going to be brutal!”. But then coming back on lap 1 I was flying. Sometime during lap 2 the skies opened up for about 5 minutes. Just a complete deluge that in truth felt pretty good on my body, but didn’t make biking any safer. Oh, and the guys with the special bikes, with the 808 carbon tires and the aerodynamic helmets…yeah….they’re fast as hell. Stay out of their way. I just heard them go by…din’t really see them. My shoes/clips felt good and I probably conserved a bit of enery with those, even though the course was very flat. Again, not sure of my exact time, but I am thinking it was around 45 minutes for the 12 miles. And a very important thing happened when I finished the bike portion and pulled into the transition area for the run….I remembered to clip out of my pedals. No wrecks.

I switched out of my bike shoes and into my running shoes. I was feeling pretty warm so I just took off my tri shirt and went shirtless for the 5K run. I squeezed out an energy gel and gulped down some gatorade and headed out. At first my legs were heavy, and I worried about my stamina. I was running into a stiff wind and wondered how I was going to do this. I just kept telling myself, “One foot in front of the other…don’t stop moving” About 5 minutes into the run I am fairly confident the energy gel I sucked down at the transition point kicked in. Suddenly I was feeling good and running faster. My legs didn’t feel as heavy and my breathing was solid. I actually passed some people on the run. The run is my strongest leg of the race, but coming on the heels of the swim and bike, I worried I would lose that edge. Of course everyone else feels just as worn out by that point in the race. The last 1.5 miles I had the wind at my back, the sun had come back out and I felt good. I think my run was around 25-26 minutes. My final time was 1 hour 40 minutes and I was pretty happy about that, especially considering 5 minutes into the swim I was struggling just to move forward. I finished feeling strong and of course wanting to do it again in the future to improve on my performance. I can already think of ways to take a minute off my time here and a minute there.

Pretty cool journey. Still have a ways to go I think, but 4-5 months ago I know I couldn’t have done what I did today. I watched one of these exact races back in February and I vividly remember thinking, “No way I could do this”. Today I did that same race. And I intend to do it again. The Guam Triathlon Federation has some duathlons in October and November (run/bike/run) and then picks back up with a sprint tri series in January (3 races in about 2 months). It would be cool to be able to do those. Of course I need to swim, swim, swim before then and get into the ocean more. I can also improve my overall conditioning with more running and biking. My transitions were pretty slow (deliberately so) and they can be improved too. I trained a lot these last few months, but in all honesty I could have done a lot more. I took weeks off at a time when I went to Australia and went to Texas. There were times when I could have gone to run and didn’t….for a few days or more. Life has a way of getting in the way of things like “triathlon training”. Especially when you are 41 years old with 2 small kids at home. I know I am not heading to Rio in 2016 for the Olympics, but I do want to improve on this time I had today. And I want to just stay active for my overall health and for my kids to see how fun beiong active can be. Maybe I can get down to 1 hour 30 minutes or better by January. Who knows. That’s the fun part. It is a journey.

I will post a few more blogs in the next week as I reflect back on the race and the way ahead, but for now I will sign off. Fatigue has set in. The pic below is me during the bike portion of the race. I have more pics on my facebook page and will post a few more on future blogs.Image

Game Time!

It is now the eve of the race. In 11 hours I will be taking off on the swim of my first triathlon. I suppose I am a little anxious, but I have been feeling good about it for the past few days. My mindset is to finish and enjoy myself, so that helps mentally. I have no particular time in mind, although I think I would like to cross the line under the 2 hour mark if I had to pick. I will be driving to the race with a friend who has done many of these before so that will be nice. He is also laid back about the competition, although after training with him last week I am fairly certain he will leave me in his tracks fairly early. We have both agreed that if it is raining hard tomorrow morning we might wave off on the race (it is the rainy season here and it has been raining quite a bit the past few days). I certainly don’t want my first experience to be one where I cannot control my bike and are bike and run are in sopping wet clothes. Call me a fair weather triathlete, I know my limits. Hopefully the weather cooperates and this goes off without a hitch.

This week was slow. Intentionally so. I swam 1000 meters on Wednesday for my last swim and Thursday morning I ran 3 miles before work…..that was it. I haven’t been on the bike since last Sunday. I have rested the last 2 days to let my body heal a little and be ready for the race. Tonight I gathered all my gear and checked them all off my list. Goggles, tri shorts and shirt, bike helmet and shoes, bike, sunglasses, bike gloves, water bottles for bike, run shoes, socks, hat, energy gels and bars, 3 towels (different sizes) flip-flops, change of clothes…..I think I am ready. Probably didn’t have the textbook per-race meal tonight but we had it early and I am just hydrating now. We grilled a thin steak with corn on the cob and rice. I have been drinking lots of water today. Tomorrow I am planning on waking up around 5:00 and having a breakfast consisting of oatmeal, banana, water and maybe an energy bar if my stomach feels ok ( not too nervous). I am leaving the house around 6:00 when my friend Jeff picks me up and it is only a 10 minute ride to the start line. Race starts at 7:00.

It has been a long journey to get to this point. When I started thinking about this several months ago I could really only swim about 50-100 meters in the pool before having to stop. Of course then I learned how to breathe while swimming and now it is much easier. I had never swam in the open water. I still have only done it 4-5 times, but the last one I did last weekend went well. I didn’t even own a bike 5 months ago! Now I have a road bike with clips and shoes. I routinely bike 10-12 miles whenever I go out now. I had run before this training began but now I must find the strength to do so after swimming and biking first. So 5 months ago all I would have been able to do was swim 100 meters in a pool, then run 3 miles (didn’t have a bike). And tomorrow I intend to swim 750 meters in the open water, bike 12 miles and then run 3 miles. Through it all I have noticed that my endurance and stamina have improved dramatically and interestingly my weight has hardly changed at all. I think I may have lost 3 pounds the entire time I have been training. I think I am ready.

Well I will sign off for now. I hope to be strong enough tomorrow to write a post race blog with my account of the race and my thoughts on the experience. If not tomorrow then for sure later in the week.

No Turning Back Now!

Well, it is on! One week from tomorrow (August 19) I will be taking part in my first triathlon. I officially registered today and will be at the starting line next week. My training has been going fairly well, much more consistent than my blog writing I have to say. First goal in the race….survive. Second goal….break 2 hours (hey, it’s my first one so cut me some slack!)

Today was a very good day. I swam in the open water twice. I have still been a bit apprehensive about the deep sea so I have been doing almost all my swim training in the pool on base. But with the race 1 week away I knew I had to get out there. Zinnia and I went out this morning and swam about 500 meters (my Garmin had us at 504 meters to be exact…very cool device). The water was not rough at all and the depth was probably only 5-10 feet for most of the swim, although I could see a pretty big dropoff to my left as I was swimming. Initially it was pretty scary seeing the water drop from 10 feet to blackness, and to see schools of fish swimming around, but having a bit of conditioning helped, as my breathing stayed controlled an my strokes steady. The only bad part about that swim were the rocks I had to stand on when we first got into the water. They were very rough and I noticed tonight I have a small cut on the sole of my left foot. I am hoping this doesn’t affect me over the next week.

This afternoon a good friend, Jeff Borut, and I went for another swim at a different beach (and then piggy backed a bike ride on after that). Where we swam is actually the waters in the sunset picture at the top of this page…Gab Gab Beach. This swim ended up being close to 900 meters and went out over much deeper waters. I am so glad I did it though because I really found the underwater scenery pretty cool and almost calming as I swam. The water was probably 30 feet in some spots with the sea floor covered with beautiful coral and sea life. There were bigger fish and I know I swam through at least 1 huge school of fish.There was almost no chop to the water, but we did have to stop about halfway through the swim because we got into some shallow water (3 feet) for a small stretch and we just couldn’t swim comfortably. Things I noticed when swimming out in the “deep”. 1.) The water is actually noticeably colder when swimming over deeper water than shallow water. It actually feels good though because your body is working so hard. 2.) I was struck at how beautiful things are down there. I almost wanted to stop swimming and just snorkel or dive down for a closer look. The coral is amazing. And like I said, it seems very peaceful. Makes swimming pretty enjoyable. And 3.) The salt didn’t bother me as much as it had in the past. On my few previous open water swims the salt in the water would burn my nose and face. Today I really didn’t notice it as much. When I finished the swim I had to blow my nose but otherwise I was fine with it. Good goggles thoguh are KEY! When I started out the swim my goggles weren’t airtight against my face and a bit of seawater got into my goggles and really burned my eye. But, a quick adjustment and all was fine for the rest of the swim. Jeff, who has done several triathlons, told me the course for the race doesn’t have water nearly as deep as what we did today in the deepest parts and that I will be pleasantly surprised on race day by the swim portion. I am going to hold him to that.

After the swim we got on the bike (my clips in place) and biked 9 miles. I think Jeff was trying to kill me. I can’t prove it, but I am suspicious. We started out by going up a very, very steep hill within the first 200 meters. So, 2 minutes into the ride and I am already out of breath and reaching for the water bottle. There were also 3 other hills along the course that really wore me out. Jeff handled them fine and even though I was trying to keep up with him, he ended up having to slow the pace for me to catch up a couple of times. I will say the clips do help with the hills. I felt like I wasn’t working as hard on the downward pedal because I was able to pull up on the other pedal. Still, it wasn’t easy. Sort of hard to tell though when you feel like throwing up from ascending a 6% grade hill for a minute! But, I was able to keep the bike moving forward and didn’t have to stop, so I know I am getting in better condiditon. At the end of the 900 meter swim and 9 mile bike I felt exhausted. In my defense it was 2:30 PM and the heat was sweltering in the middle of the day with the sun just pounding down on us. The race takes place at 7:00 AM and is over usually before the heat gets unbearable.

So in this final week before the race I need to start seriously thinking about a few things.

1. What to bring and how to organize my transitions. I just hope I don’t forget something important like my helmet or shoes. I need to practice laying things out so I will remember everything.

2. What to eat the day before and the morning of the race. I’ll need to really hydrate the day before and I want to make sure I eat a meal that won’t go through me too quick (if you know what I mean). Going to read a little about that this week. If anyone reading this has some tips, feel free to share.

3. How much more training to do this week. With a cut on my foot and my back a little sore tomight I will probably take it easy this week. Maybe a run tomorrow to get the stiffness out and then another mid week mid week along with 1 swim and 1 bike during the week and then take a few days off before the race. Perhaps resting Friday and Saturday. Of course, I am not trying to qualify for an Olympic team here. Come Sunday I am really approaching the race as a fun event that I hope to finish in under 2 hours. So, I might as well rest up for it, right?

Should be fun. With the Olympics on these past 2 weeks I have been really inspired by just how amazing these athletes are. Their endurance and competitiveness are quite impressive, not to mention how ripped all their bodies are.  At 41, my body just doesn’t perform athletically (or recover) like it used to, but watching the Olympians, my mind wants to get out there and compete. Good thing my body reminds my mind how crazy it is every now and then. Don’t have any pics to post for this blog entry, but will have plenty after the race next Sunday. I may even get nother blog entry in before the race. Stay tuned.

To Clip In or not to Clip In?

So a lot of my friends who are triathletes (or at least have done triathlons…it’s not like they are professionals)  have asked me over the past several months if I “Clip In”. The conversations generally go like this:

Me: Yes, I am training to compete in a Sprint Triathlon in a few months.

Them: Oh. Do you Clip In?

Me: Umm, what the hell is that?

Them: (awkward pause) Your bike. Your shoes. Clip in.

Me: No, I wear my running shoes and use pedals.

Them: Oh.

Anyway, it appears to me from these engaging conversations that there is no other way to admirably perform on the bike during a triathlon than to do so while being clipped in. From what I can gather there are special shoes that have clips on them and they “lock” into a spot on the bike pedal and allow one to ride more efficiently, if not faster. Sounds like it is all the rage and everybody is doing it….except me. I am going to have to look into this. I cannot be wandering into triathlete circles without the proper gear! If anyone reading this has an opinion about this I would gladly be receptive to your thoughts. What is the cost? Will it make my ride easier? Can I then be part of the group that asks other novices, “Do YOU clip in”? These are things I need to do before making a decision as life changing as this one.

As for my training, I have been keeping up pretty well this week. Biked 9 miles in 35 minutes on the 4th, worked out at the gym and ran 3 miles in 25 minutes on Thursday, swam a total of 1500 meters on Friday night (did a ladder workout with sets of 50m, 100m, 200m and 300m at various speeds….probably the most difficult workout I have done, but completed it in 40 minutes with several 1 minute rest periods mixed in), and went back to the gym today for weight training. Tomorrow I may try one of my Sean Hussey Triathlons again. You know, complete a swim, bike and run of some distance close to the distances in the sprint tri. Maybe a 750m swim, a 10 mile bike and 2.5 mile run. We will have to see how I feel tomorrow. I have the whole day, and with the family still away in Texas, I have nothing but time. One thing is for sure though, if I decide to bike tomorrow I will not be clipped in.

Hope everyone had a Happy 4th of July. I know my daughter Keilani did. She turned 1 and got to wear this very patriotic outfit! Till next time.



Training Resumes

It seems like forever since I wrote a blog entry. Looking back it has been almost 2 months. Euro 2012 hadn’t even started yet, ObamaCare hadn’t been decided on by SCOTUS and I was a whole 2 pounds heavier! But I digress. I have continued to train modestly, riding here, running there, but in all honesty I had sort of been struggling with the proper motivation needed to compete in a triathlon. That has changed now, and I am back in training mode. I’m back baby!!

I did, however, compete with a team of 7 others in a 50 mile relay race across Guam about 3 weeks ago. Started at 5:00 AM and finished around noon. I ran 2 legs of the race (every team member did 2 legs…and also had 2 legs to run on). I had a 4.7 mile leg along the beach (with about 1 mile of that actually being ON THE SAND!). Then I had a killer 2.0 mile leg that had a monster incline for about 1.5 of it. You know what, gravity is heavy! I felt like I was running up stairs….for a mile and a half!! Anyway, we made it, had a blast, got a medal, and then shot a picture of the team and the team with their families at the finish (see below). The Guam Sea to Sea Relay was a success and is one of thos unique things that being on Guam allows you to be a part of.

Back to the training. Zinnia and the kids left last week for Texas for 2 weeks and so I have had a lot more free time in the evenings and weekends. I had been running, and biking fairly often for the past month (swimming was rare…only once a week usually) but since they left last week I have been like a training machine. I am so bored (I miss them) that I have nothing to do EXCEPT train. Saturday I actually went out and did the first annual SEAN HUSSEY TRIATHLON. For those of you who have never heard of such an event, well let me tell you, it is a 750 meter swim, followed by a 8 mile bike ride followed by a 2.0 mile run. Yep, I decided to have at it. I timed myself and didn’t include the transitions because I actually had to go from the pool (that’s right I swam in the pool, not the ocean….still need to work on that) to the car in the parking lot to get the bike off the bike rack on my car, then back to the car after the 8 mile ride to put the bike back ON the bike rack before running. So, it wasn’t a good lesson in transitions because I had to basically stop for 5-10 minutes in between each modality, but it was still the closest I had come to doing all 3 events back-to-back-to-back. Did the swim in 17 minutes and change, the bike in 33 minutes and the run in 16:30. So, overall it was about an hour and 7 minutes, not inluding the time transitioning. I was happy that I didn’t completely exhaust myself and was able to do as much as I did. Things I noticed:

1. After swimming, my head is a bit dizzy. I think it is from the water in my ears and constantly turning my head to breath during the swim. It takes about 2 minutes to equilabrate before I feel normal again.

2. Wearing tri-shorts is different than bike shorts. My butt hurt a little because I am used to wearing the very padded bike shorts. I wore the tri shorts this time and after 8 miles on the bike seat I started to feel it a bit on me bum.

3. After the swim and bike, starting the run is hard. My legs felt like tree stumps. Very heavy. They eventually loosened up a bit, but the first half mile was a struggle.

I’ll probably do it again this weekend although I may try the full sprint tri distance of 750 meter swim, 12 mile bike and 3.1 mile run. Just to see how I stack up. The family is still away so what the heck!

Today I went to the gym before work and lifted weights then ran 2.5 miles after the weights. Would have run 3 but was running behind and really needed to get going from the gym to get to work on time. Then, after work I went back to the pool and did a stack workout where I swam 100 meters, rested for 1 minute, swam 200 meters, rest 1 minute, 300 meter swim, rest, 300 meter swim, rest, 200 meter swim, rest and then finished with a 100 meter swim. Good workout. 1200 meters total. Was doing my 100s between 1:50 and 2:00 minutes, my 200s at 4:25 and my 300s at 6:45. I am not Michael Phelps by any stretch, but the key thing is that I am feeling stronger in the pool. My form feels better and my endurance is definitely improving. As I have said before the swim is my most worrisome modality. For one it is my weakest link, and also it is the first event and it sets the tone for the whole race. If I come out of the water exhausted it is going to be hard to bike and run after that. I really want to make the swim my best event. Still need to get more time in the open water and I do intend to get in there. A friend of mine has offered to swim with me in the ocean and I may have to take him up on that just to get in there and do it.

The event date has changed too. Originally I had a July date as the race day, but apparently that is an Olympic distance event. Umm, no I will not be doing that right now. So, the next Sprint distance event is August 19. Perfect. Gives me an additional month to train. Basically 6 weeks from now to get ready. I think I can be ready by then. My training has increased. My diet has been really good as Zinnia was given a meal plan to follow by her trainer and it is extremely healthy and fit for someone who is in a rigorous training program (although with her gone I am on my own and need to keep cooking for myself). And my motivation is high right now as I see some of the improvements that I am making with strength and endurance. I hope to be back blogging at least once or twice a week now so it will keep me honest leading up to the event. Stay tuned,  and hold on, things may get a little bumpy from here on out.

Team Ups and Downs and their Supporters (that’s me on the far right with Liam, Zinnia and KBear in the stroller)

Team Ups and Downs. 8 runners, 50 miles, 7 hours, 6th place overall! (From L-R: Stan, Shea, Jeff, Me, Melissa, Jeremy, Craig and team captain Chad)

Training Picks Up and Liam Wins a Medal!

Before I talk about me let me just first say that my 3 year-old son Liam entered a bike race today (Saturday). It started at 7:30 AM and he got up at 6:00 and went to the race and actually practiced beforehand. Again…he is 3. His bike has training wheels. When 7:30 came he lined up on the starting line with 8 other boys and girls under the age of 4. Some had training wheels, some had no pedals (they just walked their bikes around the course) and a few had legit bikes and were pedaling. Anyway, Liam finished, got a round of applause from the small crowd that had gathered at the finish line and was given his medal and T-shirt. After the race we learned he had finished 3rd in his age group (perhaps the 3 year-olds only, but who knows) and also received a gift certificate to the local bike shop. He was so excited. And so the story of a biking legend begins. See the picture below for Liam’s post-race press conference with medal.

This afternoon, after Liam’s race, Zinnia and I went to the beach and decided to do our own little dualathlon. We were going to swim in the ocean and then bike. I have really only swam in the ocean once for any considerable length, so I wondered how this would go. I was surprised that I wasn’t at all nervous. The tide was high so the water at San Luis Beach was plenty deep for a good swim. I ended up swimming for about 7 minutes and I figured that was about 250-300 meters. Hey! It’s a start. The race is still 2 months away and I want to now start swimming in the open water at least once a week. Seeing the fish didn’t bother me. Nor did the salty taste in my mouth. But, the saltwater really burned my nose. To the point that when I got out of the water I had to blow it constantly. Hopefully I will get used to that. Anyway, the water was a bit choppy but I swam through it. I need to get up to about 20-25 minutes of swimming without stopping in the open waters. That will likely be what my time will be during the race. If I can get to that point over the next two months I should be ready for the race. If not, heck, I may drown. No biggie. After the swim Zinnia and I put our biking clothes on and took off. We rode for 10 miles and it took 40 minutes exactly. We did pretty well. There were some pretty big hills we went up and those were killers after swimming (even if for only 7 minutes). We were fortunate that the sky was overcast and there was a breeze, because the temperature was 90 degrees and it was early afternoon and it could have been brutal. Still I had completely finished my water bottle by mile 7. I’ll need to make sure I have enough water when I do this again. So, I got a little used to the transition from swim to bike. Not bad. Amazing how quickly you dry off in the Guam sun after swimming? Of course then you just get wet again from sweat.

This week I trained more than any week over the past month. I went to the gym Monday and Wednesday mornings and lifted weights and did some mild cardio. Tuesday I actually gave my body a day off, but Thurdsday I biked 12 miles. This was the first time I had gone 12 miles and I did it in 44 minutes. I was by myself while Zinnia ran with her running group on the track at the Navy gym. I pushed myself pretty good and felt really good about the training. I pretty much do all my biking on the Navy base. They have nice bike lanes on the side of the road and I feel pretty safe riding there. Zinnia and I have developed a course that we follow that pretty much ends up being 10-12 miles. Maybe by July I will be doing the course twice (20 miles) to prepare for the triathlon. After the 12 miles I actually attempted to transition to the track and run with Zinnia. I hopped off the bike at the track, took my helmet off and started running right away.  My legs felt like tree trunks. They were so heavy! But, I pushed through it and was hoping to be able to complete 1-2 miles. But, there was a problem. 1 lap in and my calfs, both of them, began to cramp. I was probably a bit dehydrated from the intense heat and not drinking enough water on the bike ride and my legs decided they weren’t keen on the whole “run-after-bike” thing I was attempting. So, I rested for a few minutes and ended up doing 2 more laps, but didn’t even complete a full mile. I did learn a nice lesson on hydration though.

Friday night I had a 5K on base and was hoping I could get my calfs and the rest of my body up for it. It was at 5:30 at night but the sun was just beating down on us with no clouds. Had to have been in the high 80s. And the course was hilly. Nothing dramatic, just was never really flat. Even a small hill becomes Everest when you are tired and hot. And this was after a full day of work. But I ended up finishing in 24:30. Considering the hills on the course I was OK with that. A few of the hills had runners stopping and walking. I stopped once on a hill for about 10 seconds but then quickly started again. I learned a few years ago that if you stop for too long it is almost impossible to start up again. So, I went at an 8:00 mile pace. I am sure my time during the triathlon (also a 5K but AFTER the swim and bike) will not be very strong given that my legs may be full of jelly, but I would hope I could do it in around 25:00.  Below is a pic of me crossing the finish line at the 5 K last night. There were a lot more people behind me than in front of me, so I had that going for me.

Watching my diet pretty close too. No soft drinks this week (except for a few sips of diet coke after the race last night. No fast food. No cookies from Subway. No chocolate bars in the afternoon as snacks. Lots of water and protein bars for snacks. Fruit smoothies on weekends. Oatmeal as an after dinner snack if I am hungry. Trying to do the right things. Hoping the Cinco de Mayo-to- July 4th body transformation experiment pays off.


Cinco de Mayo in da Poolyo

Slow week of training…busy weekend. Since getting back from Australia a few weeks ago I have been finding it hard to find the time to train during the week. I have gotten up once or twice before work and hit the gym around 5:30, and after work has been just as difficult to find the time day after day. The pool hours have restricted me from swimming after work during the week and God knows I am not going back in the pool with the morning pool gremlins. I am reminded quite often that the ocean is always open for swimming…which is true….but I am still struggling mentally with the open water. That is something between me and the beautiful, fish-filled, coral-bottomed Philippine Sea in Guam. I will work through it eventually. I have to. So, suffice it to say my weeks have been filled with work and kids and not so much with tri-training. But, time is getting short and I need to get back to the basics and build endurance. I got off to a good start this weekend.

Friday night Zinnia and I just made up our minds to go for a bike ride. It was probably close to 5:00 when I got home from work, I was tired from a long week of work,  but we changed quickly, loaded the bikes on the car and headed to the base. My mother is still here in Guam and fortunately for us she loves to be with the kids, so we are able to leave the kids with her for an hour or so while we go ride. That will change a bit in 3 weeks when she goes back to Las Vegas. We were a little time restricted because we had to be back at the house by 6:15 to meet someone. But, we got a good 10 mile ride in in just around 40 minutes. The weather was awesome with a light breeze coming in off the water and an overcast sky which kept the temperature down. I feel good about my biking and I actually enjoy being on the bike more that the other two modalities. My legs really burn when I try and push it up the hills, but I still enjoy it. Today there was a 100 mile bike ride on Guam, and although I never gave it a thought to enter, I do think I could probably ride a bike for 100 miles and still enjoy myself. Well, maybe not 100…but 50 for sure! With the Sprint Tri only being a 12 mile ride (20K) I will be fine….as long as the opening swim before the bike doesn’t kill me.

Swimming, as I have stated many times on this blog, is my weakness. It is my kryptonite. That being said I have come a long way in the past 2 months. I started this journey being able to swim only 100 meters before having to hug the wall for 2 minutes and pray not to throw up. Now I am routinely doing 750-1250 meter swims without stopping at all. Of course all of this has been in the pool. My friends who have done triathlons tell me the open water swim during the race is easier. “More bouyant”, “drafting”, “currents”, and “race adrenaline” have all been mentioned as to why this might be. I am really counting on this to be the case come race day. And the bottom line is I need to get in the ocean and swim soon so I know that I can do this. Over the weekend I swam both Saturday and Sunday…both times in the pool. Saturday was my first swim in a week or so and it showed. My, how quickly we lose endurance. After 250 meters I was gassed, but I kept going. I was able to complete 1000 meters, but it took me 25:01 to do it. I was going pretty slow and when I finished I was on vapor. Absolutely exhausted. If I had needed to go hop on my bike and ride 12 miles I am not sure I could have done it. I was a little pissed at myself for the effort and decided that Sunday I would go back to the pool and do it again.

(Side note: Saturday night Zinnia and I went out to a Mexican restaurant for Cinco de Mayo. We were joined by 3 other couples and their kids. All three of these couples also participate in the runs and races I have been blogging about. Great people, great time, great occasion. Just throwing that in there to stress that training for a triathlon, or any race for that matter, is sooooo much easier and more fun when you have the right people around you training too. Zinnia and I have formed friendships with quite a few people as a result of this and everyone is just fantastic. In a way we are all going through this together and that shared experience brings us all closer.)

Sunday the whole family headed back to the pool. I was planning on doing a brick workout, meaning I was going to do 750 meters in the pool and then transition to a bike ride and try and do 12 miles. The problem was that the weather didn’t cooperate. I did the 750 meters in the pool just fine. In fact, I was much better than Saturday. I felt stronger and was able to catch my breath and settle into a nice rhythm. 18:32 was my time. I still want to get that down to around 16:00-17:00 in the pool, and I think I can do that if I stick to my training schedule of swimming 2-3 times a week. By the time my swim ended though it was raining hard. I hadn’t really noticed while I was swimming, but when I stopped I realized that all the people at the pool had either left or were under cover. I decided to not try and ride my bike in the rain. I worried about the slick roads and I didn’t need to be crashing my bike during a training run. So, the brick workout will have to wait for another day. On a related note, I wore my tri-shorts for the swim and they worked well. I should have no problem wearing them for the race. They were comfortable and fit well.

This week I am dedicating myself to hit the gym before work at least twice (hopefully three times) to run and lift. That, plus maybe a bike ride after work one night and I should be good. I already have my bags packed and ready to go for tomorrow morning. Also, I am having a little competition with myself. From Cinco de Mayo to July 4 (2 months) I want to see how much I can change my body. I am going to pay close attention to what I eat and drink (no soft drinks, very low sugar intake, and higher protein meals and snacks), workout with the weights in the mornings, and do lots of tri-training cardio. Not sure if anything will change but it makes it fun for me for the next 2 months to try. I am doing a “before” shot and hopefully the “after” pic will show a positive change.

OK, I am off to drink a broccoli and egg milkshake with whey protein. No, not really. I am not that crazy. Actually I am off to bed now to rest my body for the 4:30 wakeup call. 2 months to go now…..time to turn it up a notch.

48.6 at 4:00 AM

I did no training this week. None. That isn’t to say I didn’t run, but I didn’t have one day of just workout training. Let me explain. Tuesday I had my Navy fitness test that I have to do twice a year. Because I had to do it at 5:30 AM on Tuesday and because I am 41 years old I elected not to do any hardcore triathlon training on Monday. You know, so I could be ready Tuesday morning. Why I still think like this I have no idea. I mean I know I will pass the fitness test, and I also know I will not break any records. So why do I care enough to rest my body the day before? No idea. One of these days reality will hit me and I won’t let a 1.5 mile run, and 2 minutes each of pushups and situps alter my days leading up to the test. So Tuesday morning I was out there with about 8 other Navy folks, all considerably younger than I, doing pushups, situps and running in the dark. 10 years ago, when I was a doc with the Marines I had no trouble banging out 70 pushups, 100 situps (2 minutes for each) and then run 1.5 miles in 10:00-11:00. As time  passed those numbers have changed. I am now only doing 40 pushups, 80 situps and my run last fall was near 12:00. I had hoped my training would bring my time down. As you may recall I was originally hoping for 10:30 but had altered that goal to a more realistic 11:00 last week. Well, the training helped. I ran 10:38…… My best time in nearly 5 years! 6 laps around the track and I was able to stay with and pass all the youngsters running with me. Felt good about that that. Still, my 45 pushups and 78 situps needs some work. Maybe I will set a goal for those for the fall test this year. 60 and 100? Why not? Let’s get nuts!

Wednesday I was too sore to train ( don’t do pushups that often and I felt it Wednesday) and Thursday and Friday I held off so I could be ready for the Perimeter Relay on Saturday morning. This is an annual race here on Guam that begins at 4:00 am with a team of 10 runners and a course that is 48.6 miles long. There are preset handoff points and each runner on each team has to run 2 separate legs of the relay. Zinnia and I were on a team with several of her friends from her running group and a few others who were friends of those friends (See pic below). Great people and we had a blast. Getting up at 3:45 to run is not what I would consider exciting, but with 60 other teams out there running and cheering and having a good time it made the day enjoyable. We had a van and we just drove from handoff point to handoff point with the team, transferring runners and staying cool and hydrated. My first leg of the relay was leg 9 ( of 20). It was 4.2 miles and had a long downhill stretch followed by a slow, mild incline. By the time I ran it was around 6:00 am and the sun was rising. Perfect weather to run (75-80 degrees, slight breeze, although a bit muggy). Running downhill was brutal on my knees but I made it through ok. Finished my leg in 32 minutes. My second leg was #17 of 20 total and it was a killer. Only 1.8 miles but the last mile or so was straight uphill. And I mean the type of hill that requires you to downshift your car into 2nd gear just to get up it. My legs were still a little weary from the first leg I did. It was now about 9:30 and so the temp was into the high 80s and the sun was beating down on me. I got about halfway up the hill and hit the wall. I felt like I was unning at a 45 degree angle! I actually had to stop a few times just to keep my legs from falling off my body (I was pretty sure the burning in my quads was going to cause this to happen). I eventually made it but it was brutal. I failed to time myself on that but I am pretty sure it took a looong time! So for the day I did 6.0 miles with some big hills. Today…….as a result….I am sore. I imagine this is how one’s legs would feel if they were hit several times in the legs with a baseball bat. That kind of sore. The distance didn’t get me but the hills did. I was using muscles to control my downhills and explode up the uphill that I haven’t been using much during my tri training. I am paying for that today. Zinnia did very well and actually had the anchor leg for our team finishing the last 1.4 miles. We both enjoyed ourselves and are planning to do it again next year. Overall our team time was about 6 hours 35 minutes. Not bad I thought for a bunch of fairly amateur runners on a hot day. The winning time, by the way, was 4 hours 36 minutes. 2 full hours ahead of us! Those guys ( a few of whom I know) were crazy fast and held 6 minute mile pace throughout the race. Amazing.

So that was my week. Always fun things going on and fitness activities are usually at the center of it. Such is the life here on Guam. I plan to get back to swimming and biking this week. I need to start hitting some training milestones in the next 1-2 months. For now, I just want my muscles to stop hurting!

Here is a pic of my team as well as members of another that all run and train together on the Navy base. Our teams finished within 5 minutes of each other. I am in the top right corner and Zinnia is 3rd from left in the front row. This pic was taken after 6 1/2 hours of running by us all!


**UPDATE** Just saw the final standings for the Perimeter Race. There were 17 team coed teams that participated. Our team finished 5th in 6 hours and 40 minutes. The other team from the picture above was 4 minutes ahead of us and finished 3rd! There were also about 40 all men’s teams and 7-8 all women’s teams.

Salsa Dancing

Just wrote a 1000 word entry only to have it wiped out when I tried to add a picture. Not sure what happened but I am pretty sure the website is in cahoots with the makers of my blood pressure medication to make sure I keep them in business for decades to come. Well played wordpress…well played.
Deep breath. Sip of water. And….Take 2…Ready….Go!

Anyway, what I was saying was that if anyone out there knows how to Salsa dance I would be glad to pay for your services for some lessons. Zinnia and I went out to a Latin night at a local club in one of the big hotels this Saturday and I realized just how ridiculous one can look doing Salsa. I have this thing all wrong. I am training for a triathlon, but really what I need to be doing is learning how to Salsa dance. Those guys who were dancing well were smooth and turned more heads than any triathlete ever will. I mean I saw some of these guys and I am pretty sure they can’t swim, ride a bike or run to the bathroom let alone complete a triathlon, but they know how to exude coolness. Look, I am only trying to impress one woman here, but that is hard to do when all you want to do is the “Dougie” to Latin music. My rural Ohio upbringing didn’t expose me to enough Latin music growing up to keep me from looking like a fool. One day I will learn to lead a latin dance with my wife…and I WILL look cool….I just don’t know when that will be. Who wants to help? C’mom it’s people helping people. Who wants to be part of a miracle? I realize this has nothing to do with a triathlon, but it is my blog, so you’ll have to deal with it.

Now that the folks at the pool have decided to close the pool down for half the day to allow high scool students to train and small kids to learn how to swim, my training time at the base pool may be compromised for the next month. I was able to get to the pool only once this week, yesterday, and swim 1000 meters in 24:45. Because of the time restrictions for adults, I may have to face my fears soon and go back and visit the morning pool monsters at 5:30 AM (when the pool is open to me). Either that or take my bathing suit to work and try and get a session in at the pool by the hospital over my lunch break. The problem is that as my training distances get longer, so does my time committment. 1500 meters will take me 35-40 minutes in the pool plus another 15 minutes to shower and change. That’s a full hour and my entire lunch break. Hmm. Tough decision. These restricted pool hours only last another month until the school kids are on summer break, but this is a crucial time in my training. I would like to get out this week and do 1250 meters and then do 1500 meters next weekend. We’ll see how that goes.

Zinnia and I did a 5K on Friday night. I was a little worried how my knees would hold up. I have been battling a left knee patellar tendonitis the past few weeks. It has been aching at work as I go up and down the stairs and I didn’t know if I would make it through a 3.1 mile run. I decided to run with Zinnia, at a bit of a slower pace, and enjoy the run and see how I felt. There were 2 pretty big hills on the course, including one aptly named “Slug Hill” no doubt for the pace at which one ascends the hill. Despite a little pain coming down the hills, my knee felt great. Zinnia and finished together in 29 minutes. Not bad for a Friday after work run. I had gotten off work, rushed home, changed, put the kids and my mother in the car and got to the race 10 minutes before the start. We registered, put on our race bibs and stretched right up until the gun went off. We cut it close. But we enjoyed the run along the water as the sun was setting. And my knees felt good during and after the race. That bodes well for my upcoming Navy fitness test on Tuesday morning. I was originally hoping to finish the 1.5 mile run around the track in 10:30. That may be a bit ambitious considering my lack of run training over the past month. But I think 11:00 is realistic. More to come on that in about 36 hours. That will be one of my training runs this week. It is a short one, but will be a fast one too. Perhaps next weekend I will take it slower and try to run 5-6 miles. And I think I am done with the treadmill for a little while. Going to stick to riad or track runs for now.

As for the bike training, Zinnia and I did a ride together mid-week and went 10 miles. We pushed ourselves pretty good. I still want to get up to doing 12 miles and more (race distance is 12 miles) just so I can know exactly what the race distance feels like. I think it is a mental boost to know you can do each distance. So far I have surpasesd the swim distance (750 meters; although not in the open water….my next hurdle this coming month), the run distance (5K) and have been close to the bike distance (20K). Once I complete a 20K bike (hopefully this week) I will start incorporating some block workouts into my routine probably once a week on the weekends. That is where you combine two (or more) modalities into one training session. So I would bike 12 miles and then get off the bike and immediately run a 5K. Or swim 750 meters and get out of the pool and go bike 12 miles. I need to start working on my transitions. I have, to this point, been training to build endurance in each area separately . Now I need to start training like a triathlete.

It was a typical weekend in Guam. Zinnia and I ran a 5K on Friday night. On Saturday we all went to a few tourist attractions in the afternoon (Two Lovers Point and the Fish-Eye) and then went Salsa dancing Saturday night. Today we ate out for brunch and then spent the day at a water park (where I proceeded to fry the top layer of my epidermis). I couldn’t ask for a better place to be right now. Guam is a great place to raise little kids, a great place to be outdoors and a great place to train for a triathlon. It’s a perfect day to train 365 days a year here.

Here is a picture of me, Zinnia, Liam, Keilani and my mother Colleen at the Fish-Eye 4/22/12.