Down Under and Back to Work

Africa and Antarctica. Those are the last 2. The last 2 continents for me to step foot on. I can check Australia off that list following our 8 day trip last week. We had a great time in both Cairns and Sydney. The weather cooperated, the kids were well behaved, and I didn’t spend one second working out. Not a one. But hey, give me a break, the race is still a few months away, my body was starting to break a little before the trip and I didn’t want to spend perhaps my only week in Australia….EVER…..running and swimming. So we hugged koala bears, rode monorails, listened to didgeridoo music and walked about 1,000 miles. Loved the people in Australia. They were very friendly. Even Liam was saying “G’Day Mate” by weeks end.

We actually got back to Guam a week ago, but it took me another 6 days before I finally started training again. Taking a vacation and then getting back into a training routine is a bit tougher than I thought. For starters I had to catch up at work. That forced me to stay at work later than usual during the week. So instead of getting home at 5:00 and going for a run, bike or swim, I was getting home at 6:00 and spending time with the kids before it got dark at 6:30 and they went to bed at 7:30. Priorities mate. Of course I should mention my desire to get back to working out wasn’t exactly pinging the meter either. However, despite all the eating out we did in Australia I came back the exact same weight as I was when I left, 169.8. In fact I have been between 169-171 for about 3 months now. Not sure what that means exactly, but I thought it was rather interesting considering all the training I had been doing. Bottom line, I remained lazy for a few more days.

Saturday I got back in the pool. I wasn’t sure what to expect with my conditioning. I mean I am 41 now and taking two weeks off is the equivalent of a 22 year old taking 2 months off. The body just doesn’t have the reserve it once had. But, I was pleasantly surprised. I ended up doing 750 meters (sprint tri distance) and I did it in 18:10. That was a full minute and a half better than my previous time for that distance. Although to be honest I was getting fairly tired the last 100 meters and probably couldn’t have gone much further. But I was happy. My goal, now that I have no more breaks scheduled between now and the race, is to build up my endurance to be able to swim 2500-3000 meters. Then, 750 meters at the race will seem like nothing. So, each time I go out I will try and boost my distance by 250 meters. For all you math wizzes out there that is 1000 meters for me later this week when I go back for another dip. I took yesterday (Sunday) off but this morning I did the stationary bike at the gym before work. I set the bike on level 8 and did the random workout. I find that to be the best for me because it gives me a variety of resistances and is a little more realistic to being on the road than some of the other programmed workouts. I went for 20 minutes and covered 6 miles exactly. Also burned about 175 calories. I didn’t go too hard because I also wanted to do some core exercises and weight training (and my bony butt hurts on that bike after twenty minutes! Need to build up some butt callous). I think I am going to get back into the weights a bit. My neck is feeling better and I want to keep some tone and flexibility. Did 80 crunches and 20 knee raises followed by free weight workout covering my biceps and triceps. The whole workout (bike included) was only 50 minutes. Perfect for me as I was able to shower and still be to work by 6:45. Next up will be the run. The treadmill seemed to be giving my knee trouble before the trip so I am going to stick to the road for now. Tomorrow I will try and put in a few miles on the road or track and see how the knee holds up.

Even though spending 2 weeks away from training (and blogging) made it difficult to return, I realized I have to get back to it. Rumor has it that there is a triatlon race in June, a full month before I was scheduling myself to do the triathlon. Uh-oh. My pride may get in the way and trick me into thinking I can do it. So, I may be down to 2 months before I race! Could it be that this training is causing a chemical imbalance in my brain which is giving me delusions of grandeur? Who knows. I’ll start with a 5K this Friday and go from there.

Until next time.

Me, Zinnia, Liam and Keilani in front of the Sydney Opera House

 

 

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Low Tides and Sore Knees

It has been 5 days since my last post and a lot has happened. I have eclipsed a new milestone in my swim training, developed a case of patellar tendonitis and, most importantly, watched my Ohio State men’s basketball team advance to the Final Four. I’ll get to see them play their semifinal game against Kansas on Sunday morning at 11:00 AM here in Guam but if they win I may not see the Finals. By then I’ll be in Australia with the family and I am not sure Australian TV will be showing the game Tuesday morning at 10:30 AM. The sacrifices one makes for traveling Down Under. But who knows, maybe there will be a little sports bar near our hotel (or in our hotel) that will open up for all the Americans to come watch a satellite feed of the game. Of course if OSU loses to Kansas in the semifinals then I could care less about the finals and will be sitting on beach Tuesday morning.

 

Wait a minute, is this a Buckeye basketball blog or a triathlon training blog? Actually all the triathletes out there would probably answer that it is neither, but I am trying like hell to make this the latter. Last Friday was my run day and I was able to crank out 3 miles but I noticed during the first mile my left knee was very sore. In particular the area right over my kneecap. I have had patellar tendonitis before and it always gets better with some rest and Motrin. I toughed it out for 3 total miles and the knee actually was feeling better by the end of the run. But I know that I was going to have to watch the knee closely and not do too much. After all, I had run a 10K the previous weekend (see picture below of Zinnia and I after the race) and had followed that up with a 3 mile run a few days later. Perhaps my knee was trying to tell me something. The timing actually is not that bad because I was not expecting to train much while in Australia and that may give my patellar tendon time to calm down. Of course what did I do on Monday (yesterday)? I tried running again before work on the treadmill. What happened? Duh! I was in pain. I actually hobbled around like a man twice my age for about a mile and a half before finally deciding to shut it down. The knee never really warmed up and felt good. Maybe it is the treadmill. I remember that when I was training for a half marathon 4 years ago my knee developed the same thing on the treadmill and I seem to recall it getting better once I transitioned to strictly road running. I may try one more run before we leave on Sunday, but it will be on the road/track. If the knee still hurts I will stop and wait until we get back to Guam to try again. Fortunately I have time. The only bad thing is my Navy PRT is in 3 weeks and I am really hoping to be able to do well on the run. I don’t think I will lose much endurance by stopping for only a week, but who knows. Fortunately, the sore knee is not affecting my swimming or biking so my cardio workouts are still going strong.

 

Speaking of swimming, Zinnia and I went out to San Luis Beach here in Guam on Sunday. We had actually gone for a 30 minute bike ride on the Navy base immediately before that and had planned on doing a mini “brick” workout where we would follow up the bike with a swim. We did the bike no problem and were feeling good enough to hit the open water. Keep in mind, I have yet to swim in anything other than a lap pool. I was a little nervous, but actually was looking forward to it. My endurance in the pool has improved quite a bit and I now feel fairly confident now that I will not drown in the first 50 meters. So, we get to the ocean and start walking out from the beach to where it gets a little deeper. And we walked. And walked . And walked. Before long we were out about 150 feet from the beach and the water was still around my thighs (maybe 3 feet deep). Turns out the tide was low. We were there at 3:00 and we found out later that low tide was at 3:30. We could have kept going out, but the reef was probably only another 50 feet out and at that point it just drops off. Not a big deal other than the fact that there were several SCUBA divers in that area and we didn’t really want to be swimming amongst them. We opted to swim another day and ended up playing with the kids (and grandma) on the beach. At least we got the bike ride in. Today (Tuesday) I went back to the pool after work for what I thought would be a nice 750 meter swim. I felt great as I started out. 100 meters….200 meters….not getting winded at all. My stamina has really been increasing. You may recall that when I started a month ago I could only go 50-75 meters before I would have to hug the wall for 15 seconds. Then I learned the breathing thing and a little bit more efficient form and I was able to swim 100-200 meters before having to do a lap with a side stroke to catch a little wind before switching back to freestyle swimming. I had gotten up to 1000 meters in one swim before, but today I just pulled an Energizer bunny and went 1250 meters! Now, all you triathletes out there, don’t laugh….I know this is just a warmup distance for you, but for someone who could really only swim 100 meters a month ago this was huge! That is 50 laps if you are scoring at home. I really found a nice rhythm at abouth the 250 meter mark and kept it the rest of the way. I kept track of my splits and here they are (for those of you that care):

100M – 2:18

250M – 6:05

500M – 13:20

750M (sprint tri distance) – 19:55

1000M – 26:30

1250M – 33:33

So I swam for 33 minutes straight without stopping and without doing any side stroke laps. All free style. And the most time I ever spent on the wall was 1 second. I really attempted to just touch the wall and turn and push off. I was really pleased with my swim. I can now start to envision myself swimming the 750 meters in the open water. I can also see my training getting up to the 1500-2500 meter distances before July. I figure if I can train my body to swim 2500 meters (probably an hour or so in the pool) then I will feel very confident about completeing the 750 meter triathlon distance (20 minutes). So the 30 minute hurdle has been cleared. I think the next hurdle will probably be the open water swim hurdle. No distance or time for that, just get in and get the flavor. Then I will have a 2000 meter pool hurdle, followed by maybe a 15-20 minute open water swim hurdle. The last obstacle will likely not be able to be experienced until race day and that is swimming amongst a group of other people. I am not sure how that will play out but I am thinking my strategy will be to swim away from the main group, either to one side of them (the outside) or behind them. I have 3 months to think about my race strategy though. The good news is that my swim is improving significantly. My biking is steady as she goes. I’ll probably have to start increasing my time and distances once I get back, eventually working my way up to 15-20 mile rides in April. The run is on hold for the next 7-10 days I think, but I plan to boost that once the knee gets healthy, and plan to start working the roads more than the treadmill.

Other questions for me to answer in April:

Do I want to buy bike shoes (with clips)?

How strict do I want to get with my diet?

Should I incorporate some weight/strength training into my routine?

The answers and much much more coming up in future blogs. Stay tuned, I’ll be back in 2 and 2!

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The thrill of 27 mph!

I remember owning a 10 speed bike when I was in high school. I used it primarily to get from house to house within the neighborhood in the summer. If there was a pickup game of hoops at Doug Waddle’s house, I’d hop on the bike and ride over. A wiffleball game at Matt Christoff’s place? Take the bike. It was a vehicle of convenience. I think I once rode it to the high school about 5 miles away but it felt like I may as well have ridden to California…or Neptune. So, it is a little shocking to now get on a bike and ride it 8-10 miles as part of a nice easy workout. Forget the fact that the bike I now own, a Giant SCR-1, weighs less than my 8 month old daughter. Forget that the gear shifting required me to study a youtube video to learn the basics. Forget that the bike is now equipped with an onboard device that spits out time, distance, mph and about 5 other pieces of data for my riding enjoyment. No, I am just referring to sheer distance and speed. You see, apparently in the triathlon world it is rather important to ride the bike far and fast. Knowing that yesterday after work Zinnia and I headed to the Naval base for a little evening trek. I donned my helmet, my gloves, set my computer, made sure my water bottle was in its proper place, and made sure my biking shorts were providing adequate padding in the proper places (I think you know what I mean)….all this for a bike ride! Are you kidding me! We set out at a solid pace and headed out on a beautiful road that runs right along the water. Soon we were going up steep hills, making sharp turns and heading down long roads. At one point I was going down a steep hill named “Slug Hill” rather quickly (I assume because when you are going up the hill one moves at about the speed of a slug). I was actually afraid to keep pedaling because I knew I was going darn fast. I glanced down at my speedometer and it read 26.9 mph! Holy Crap! Eyes on the road….eyes on the road. 27 mph on a bike that must only weigh about 4 ounces is a bit scary the first time. Now, I know professional riders cruise around at this speed for fun and often hit speeds of 60 mph in the mountains, but for me 27 mph was downright terrifying. I actually started hitting the brakes just to calm myself. I mean a rock on the road here…..a fly hitting me in the face there….and wham!….I become a 27 mph missle heading directly into the bushes. Overall it was a good ride and we ended up doing 9.5 miles in about 38 minutes. At the end, my butt was a little sore, my legs were burning a bit and I had sweat covering my face….so I think it was a good ride. I will need to bump my distance a bit in the future (the triathlon distance for the bike is 12 miles) to get my endurance up.

Tonight after work it was back to the pool. I was able to knock out 40 laps again (1000 meters) in 28 minutes. 1000 meters is now not so difficult. The first 200 really get my heart pumping and I swear I won’t be able to finish, but I seem to then be able to settle into a nice groove. Sort of like running, except you swallow more water and can’t wear an iPod. As I was swimming in my lane I noticed the guy in the lane next to me was just flying. I mean he seemed to be doing 2 laps for every one of mine. I wasn’t trying to race him mind you, but I did feel a little inferior being right next to him in the pool. At one point, about 15 minutes into my workout, the guy was resting on the wall as I approached in my lane. I touched the wall and turned to head back in the other direction for another lap. I caught his eye and he looked at me and gave me a thumbs up as if he knew me. I smiled and kept swimming. The whole lap I was wondering who in the heck this guy was. Did I know him? Why was he giving me the thumbs up? Was he mocking me because I was so slow? At the end of the next lap for me (probably 2 for him) we were at the wall at the same time again. This time I looked at him and realized who it was. It was a colleague of mine from work, a fellow physician who just happens to be an Olympic caliber triathlete. No…I am not kidding. The guy competed for Guam in the triathlon at the Pan-Pacific Games last year. He can just fly in the pool. Anyway, we started talking and he was actually kind enough to give me a few tips. Apparently he was studying my technique as he was whizzing by me lap after lap. It was very nice of him to give me a few pointers. I had told him at work a few weeks ago that I was training for the summer sprints and he was very supportive. That’s one thing I have noticed about the fellow competitiors here. Everybody is so supportive. It is uncanny. Even at the races themselves people are encouraging one another and helping each other. It doesn’t matter if you are an Olympic caliber triathlete or in your first race, everyone roots for everyone else. It makes training and competing so much more enjoyable (at least for this 41 year-old guy who has more of a desire to survive than win). I am not sure if that is just Guam, or if it is the triathlon world in general, but both Zinnia and I love the atmosphere. So, I got my free advice and continued on with the last 400 meters or so, taking his advice to heart and I really did notice a difference.

I’ve been at this for 3 weeks now and I am still enjoying it and I have noticed quite a bit of improvement in all 3 modalities. At this rate I think I can be ready in 4 months. I have tried to give myself 2 days rest a week (took Tuesday off this week and will probably take Sunday off as well). Tomorrow morning is a 3 mile run before work on the treadmill and then some core exercises (push-ups, crunches). Also need to do some focused stretching tomorrow. My flexibility has improved somewhat due to my stretching that I do before workouts, but I need to do it after the workouts as well. I have noticed a little stiffness in the mornings and I think some of that would go away if I just stretched after a worked out and maybe even before I go to bed. I’m not 22 any more and stretching will be one of the keys to keeping my body functional for the next 4 months. That and a chiropractor!

6.2 miles at 6:00 AM

For those of you who have run a 10K before I am about to tell you something you already know…..6.2 miles is a pretty decent distance to run! Throw into the mix that the race started at 6:00 AM, the course was hilly and there were wind gusts up to 30 mph and you have all the ingredients for a novice runner to have one heck of a miserable Saturday morning. Actually it wasn’t so bad. There were lots of people there (probably near 100 runners) and the race staff was very friendly and supportive. But that damn wind had to have been blowing into our face for 5 of the 6 miles…..or at least that is what I convinced myself. My time was 53 minutes and change. Under a 9:00 mile pace which is decent for my first 10K. My goal was first to survive (check), then to break an hour (check) then to finish with an 8:00 mile pace (missed that one). Now I have something to shoot for on the next one. Zinnia also did well finishing in 1:04.00. Her shins were killing her, but this was the first time she ever ran 6 miles at one time…..EVER! I had done a few half marathons a few years ago, but this was breaking new ground for her and she did great. The 1 hour barrier is her next goal.
So that was my first event since my training began. Now it is back to the hard work of preparing for the triathlon. My bike returned from the shop over the weekend and it is all set up with the computer. I think I will take it out for a ride on Tuesday. It has been a week since I have been on it. I don’t like the fact that I have gone a week without at least doing one of the modalities once. I will have to make up for it by hitting the bike 2-3 times this week. The bike is my least worrisome part of the race, but I still need to log miles on it to get my endurance up. I am hoping to be able to do 20 miles a week for the next month and then gradually add more over time. Tomorrow I am going to go back to the treadmill at the gym before work. I am going to just do a 3 mile run with some mild weights before work. Should be just a 45 minute workout (25 minute run/cool down and 20 minute weights). It will be good because the NCAA BBall tourney will be on the TV and I can watch that while I run. That sure makes the time go by faster.
In 2 weeks we are going to Australia for 8 days and I probably won’t do much training, although I am hoping to run and swim a little there. But in the next 2 weeks I want to train 6 days a week with 2 days for each modality. So this week will be Monday and Thursday run, Tuesday and Friday bike and Wednesday and either Saturday or Sunday swim. I may even try and throw a short 3rd bike ride in there somewhere if i feel up to it. My run tomorrow will be 3 miles and on Thursday will be 4 miles. My bike will hopefully end up being between 15-20 miles for the week, and my swim should be around 750-1000 meters each of the two swim days. If I can do that for the next 2 weeks I will be in good shape heading to a weeklong vacation(where I will likely lose a little bit of my endurance). I’ll make sure I bring the iPad to Australia so I can post updates from Down Under (just in case I find a nice beach to run/s
Finally, I want to give one word of advice. When running a 10k in the morning, it would be wise to not throw a Birthday party for your 3 year-old child with 30 invited guests that afternoon. After the run, running around the island picking up cakes and bouncy houses, setting up bouncy house, grilling food, setting up tables and chairs and hosting a party for 3 hours….my body was beat down. I had not felt that tired in years! Seriously. I had sore muscles where I had forgotten I even had muscles. Of course it was all worth it to see Liam so happy(and it was a great party). This was the first party where I think he really understood what was going on and why people were there. He had all his friends over and couldn’t stop smiling all afternoon. Even today, the first thing he said when he woke up this morning was , “I had fun at my party.”. Aww. And all I could think of was ,”where in God’s name is the Motrin!”

My Wife Did It!

 

Before I get to the last two days of training for me I have to start this blog with the news that my wife completed an ultra sprint triathlon today. There are a group of women here on Guam that have triathlons every month to help them train and experience a triathlon. They swim 200 meters, bike 10K and run 3K. Zinnia was pretty anxious about this last night, mostly because of the swim. 200 meters is a reasonable distance but she (we) have only been in the open water one time and as reported in a previous blog, it didn’t go so hot. Drowning has a way of getting people (including me) into a tizzy. But today she did it all on her own. I was at work but got the text mid-morning that read, “Finished!”. I was very excited for her. Now she wants to keep going and do more. As I may have mentioned, she was the one who first had the idea to do triathlons and she motivated me to train with her. Now, she has one event in the books and once again I am motivated to go do the same. As long as she keeps inspiring me I’ll do fine.

As for me, the past two days have been filled with new milestones and plenty of fatigue. I took Sunday off to rest, but I did take my bike into the shop to have a “computer” installed on it. The device will be able to tell me distances, speed and other fun facts while I am riding. It’s a wireless gadget that will hopefully give me lots of good gouge on the bike….gouge I can then track, monitor and report to all of you keeping score at home. Yesterday (Monday) I was back at the training though with an early morning appointment with Dr. Treadmill. Still finding the best time of day for me to train is before work. I can get 45-60 minutes in at the gym, shower there and then head straight to work and still be early. Not sure I would say I do more before 7:00 AM than most people do all day (old commercial reference), but I do quite a bit. So yesterday I decided I wanted to complete a 5 mile run in preparation the 10K this Saturday. I had been gradually increasing my distance by running 3 miles during the week 1-2 times and then doing a “big” run on the weekends. I popped on the iPod, turned on the OSU-Michigan State basketball game on the treadmill’s TV (that’s right, it started at 5:30 AM Monday here due to the time difference …perfect timing) and took off. If only the triathlon allowed me to use the iPod and watch TV I would be set. I got so into the game and the music that the miles and time flew by. I did briefly think of stopping at 4 miles, but I knew you bloggers wouldn’t let me live that down, so I pressed on. 5 miles in 41 minutes….and…..done. I finished just as the first half of the game was closing. I felt decent afterwards and had relatively little stiffness last night and today. Perhaps I am starting to get into shape. Anyway, I will try and run maybe just a mile or two on Thursday and then shut it down. Saturday is the 6.2 mile race that I am hoping to just finish. Anything under an hour will be a success. Luckily Zinnia is running with me, so I have my lucky charm.

Today I wanted to swim but didn’t dare go back to the pool before work, what with all the dark pool monsters that hang out there at that time of day. So, instead I opted for a water rendezvous after work. Sadly I didn’t leave work until after 5:00 and wasn’t at the pool until 5:45. I knew I wanted to get at least 500 meters in to build on the 750 meters I did over this past weekend. I started out very strong…too strong. I got winded after just 100 meters because I was trying to go too fast instead of finding a nice rhythm. I ended up doing 25 meter sidestroke laps every 100 meters (75 meters freestyle/25 meters sidestroke) for the first 300 meters just to get my pace down. But, I stayed “Off the Wall” (every time I say that I think of Michael Jackson circa 1979) and kept my body moving to build endurance. After 300 meters I had a smooth rhythm and my breathing (above water inhale and below water exhale…..finally got that down) was very controlled. After that I didn’t do another sidestroke lap, just continuous freestyle. I was doing a 2:45-3:00 100 meter pace. Not particularly fast, but smooth. I just kept going and going. 500 meters. 750 meters. 1000 meters! Yes, I figured I would keep going and see if I could get to 1000 and I did….in 29:10. 40 laps! All with practically no rest on the wall. Just 2 weeks ago, as I struggled with my breathing, swimming form, and conditioning I could barely do 10 laps without vomiting (and that included resting on the wall for a few seconds between laps). I think the key to my progress was a couple of videos I watched on youtube. I think I just searched “triathlon swimming” or something and got a few good instructional videos on breathing and technique in the water. One in particular was called Total Immersion Swimming and the instructor has a series of vids that help the beginner. I have applied those lessons to my workouts and I have seen my results improve by about 500% in 2 weeks. I also purchased last weekend and wore today my new speedo swim shorts. No…not thay type of Speedo…these are long lycra shorts that come down to my knees. They are really comfortable and reduce drag in the pool compared to my other baggy swim trunks. So, I am getting aerodynamic! Probably took a whole 3 seconds off my time, but I look like I know what I am doing now. What with that and my goggles people probably are mistaking me for Michael Phelps.

Tomorrow is another off day. March 14 here in Guam. My son Liam turns 3! His party isn’t until Saturday (the afternoon following the morning 10K), but tomorrow is the actual birthday. I want to make sure I spend all the time I can with him. Going to leave work to go have lunch with him, Zinnia, Keilani and my mom and then come home after work and just be with him. The little guy is getting so big. He knows his mommy and daddy are doing a lot of running, biking and swimming and probably thinks we are a bit crazy. But tomorrow it is all about him. It is also the 3rd anniversary of my father passing away, so March 14th will always be a day of celebration and reflection……but not for training.

The pic above is the pool on the Naval Base in Guam, taken this past weekend. Typical March day in Guam….88 and sunny. The lanes are arranged for 25 meter laps here.

Back at it on Thursday. Later!

How Sean Got His Groove Back

I have to tell you that after the swimming incident a few days ago (see previous post), I was pretty shaken and was even wondering if this was something I wanted to pursue. I mean what idiot thinks he can do a triathlon swim when he gets scared swimming in a pool in the dark? But I figured the race is still so far away I have to keep clawing away and see what happens. Thursday after work I went for a nice bike ride on the Navy base while Zinnia ran with her running club at the track. I rode for 25 minutes and was able to get some good practice in with gear shifting, turns and riding with speed. Probably went about 6-7 miles (I need to get a bike computer that tells me my distance…still plan on it very soon). After I finished I rode up to the track and Zinnia was still practicing with the group. I just made a spot decision to go for a run with them….biking shorts and all. I ended up running a mile and a half with a short stop after 400 M. I felt good that I was able to run at all after sitting on a bike for 25 minutes. The butt does tend to get a little sore for folks like me with a skinny butt and no previous training. I am sure I looked a little goofy with my padded butt running shorts, but it was still fun and I got my first taste of transitioning between the bike and run.

Friday morning at 0530 my Directorate at the hospital had a mock fitness test. We are about a month out from doing our semi-annual fitness test with the Navy, and the enlisted in my work area wanted to gauge where they were by doing the test now. I decided to play along. The test consists of doing as many sit-ups as you can do in 2 minutes, then a short rest, how many push-ups you can do in 2 minutes, short rest, and finally a 1.5 mile run on the track. I still need to work on my push-ups, but my sit-ups and run were better than I had done last fall when I did the last fitness test. In fact, my run was WAAAAAY better. No doubt that all this training is helping my cardiovascular endurance. My run time was 10:45 which is about the best I have done in 5-6 years! It really felt good to be out there running with the young kids and keeping up with them. I have never been a true runner (ran cross country one year in high school and threw up more than anyone else on the team combined I think). I trained for and completed a few half marathons about 3-4 years ago, but have done little since. This triathlon training (in just a few short weeks) has really put me in better shape in a hurry. I can only imagine what kid of shape I might be in come July if I can keep this up.

Today was a very good day. This morning Zinnia and I went to conquer our fears. We went to Gab Gab Beach and decided to swim in the open water (we actually swam in the waters you see in the sunset picture at the top of this page). We were both able to do short bursts in the “ocean” without panicking. With our two kids watching with grandma from the beach (hoping they wouldn’t watch their father make a fool of himself) I went for maybe 100-150 meters total. I just wanted to get the feel for it. The water was pretty choppy and even a friend of mine who was at the beach said he thought the water was rougher than usual. I did get to taste just how salty the water is! Wow! That is miserable stuff. Also got a few drops under my goggles…felt like my eyeballs were on fire! I didn’t panick in seeing the sea floor and all the wildlife/coral that is down there. I am nowhere near ready to swim 750 meters in the open water, but at least I know I can get out there and not drown. I was very happy with just that brief encounter with the sea. After that Zinnia and I decided to hop over to the base pool just to get some actual distance in. I had been watching a few videos the past few nights on youtube about swimming for a triathlon and picked up a few tips about form. Here’s something though that will help me more than anything else. I found that I was actually holding my breath when I swam. Apparently breathing is kid of important when swimming! I would take a breath every 2-3 strokes when my head would come out of the water, but then, when my head was under water, I would be holding my breath! Seems intuitive to blow it out in little bubbles, but I wasn’t doing that. So, today I went out there and focused on blowing air out as I was under water. I also slowed my stroke down, shortened up my hand entry into the water and rotated my core more with each stroke. I also wanted to not stay on the wall every 25-50 meters, so I went in with the mindset that I would sidestroke some 25 meter laps if I was tired, but I would not stop on the wall. With that I set out this afternoon to just get a light workout in. I ended up doing 32 laps! 800 meters! In about 25 minutes. The whole breathing out through your mouth/nose when underwater….yeah…that works….big time. I had tons more energy. You see, ths is where a swim coach would have been handy to me years ago. Here I was all this time holding my breath and pooping out from fatigue after 100-200 meters. I did 800 today and quite honestly could have done another 10-20 laps. I did do 4 total sidestroke laps (100 total meters interspersed throught the 800 meters), but that is OK because it kept me going and reinforced that I can do that when I get tired and get my breath back if needed. Very, very happy with the turn of events today. Confidence is back. Now just need to get my pool endurance way up so that I can switch to open water in the near future and swim with more confidence.

Tomorrow is a 5 mile training run. Getting ready for next week’s 10K.

Xterra Guam triathlon was today and many of my friends were in it and did very well from what I can tell. Perhaps next year I can enter that race (1500 meter swim, 40K bike…mountain bike course…and a 8K run through the jungle). Who knows. We’ll see. For now, I need to worry about just improving every day.

Until next time….

Dark Pool Monsters

I took Tuesday off from all activity and I felt good this morning when I woke up to swim before work. I figured I would cruise over to the pool at 5:00 AM, swim 500-1000 meters and be on my way. WRONG! First of all, I get to the pool and I find out the obvious…..it is freakin dark outside at 5:00. I mean the pool has lights under the water line to illuminate the pool, but above water is pretty dark in the pool area. The moon and a few dim lights are all that are on. I am not afraid of the dark, but the pool sort of looked like something out of a horror movie. All it needed was some mist rising from the surface and a dead body floating face down and it would have been perfect. Second, I am the only person there. Well, actually there was a lifeguard on the opposite side of the pool. At least I thought the shadowy figure sitting in a pool chair across from me was the lifeguard. Could have been the dead body from the movie set. But there were no other swimmers to be found. I guess “O-Dark-30” isn’t a popular time to swim. Third, the water was a bit cold. I know, I know this one is a bit wimpy, but outdoor pools at that hour, even in Guam, are much cooler than they are in the middle of the afternoon. I got used to it, but it took me a few minutes. Reminded me of jumping into Hampton Beach in New Hampshire when I was a kid. Fourth (yes, I am still going), the lanes in the pool were facing a different direction. Every time I have gone swimming there the lanes are set up going the width of the pool (25 meters). Well, apparently the morning rules are that the lanes be set up along the long axis of the pool (50 meters). I realize an extra 25 meters should not be that big of a deal, but when you are a novice swimmer like me every meter counts when you are looking for a wall to hang onto. So, all of this was going against me before I even started. I was now going to be swimming laps twice as far as usual, in a horror movie pool scene, in North Atlantic water temperatures with nobody around for miles to save me if I drowned (unless the dead body in the pool chair was in fact a lifeguard…..to dark to confirm). It’ not good when your heart rate is 100 bpm BEFORE you start your cardio workout. But there I was, in the pool, goggles on, because dammit I have a triathlon to train for!
I take off on lap 1 and I realize a few strokes in that the lighted water beneath me is very clear. I mean I could read a newspaper off the bottom of the pool, that’s how clear it was. Then, when I bring my head out of the water to breathe, it is pitch black, like I cannot see anything. Then back into the pool where it is lit like a light bulb…..and so on. My biggest problem came about halfway through my first lap….around 25 meters. It was there that the pool went from about 5 feet deep to about 20 feet. Just fell off. Now, I have swam in the deep end of this pool several times during the day and have known how deep the pool is. It hasn’t fazed me. But today, seeing that crystal clear pool bottom WAAAAAY down there, it sort of freaked me out. I suddenly came to the realization that this death pool was pretty damn deep and I was not the best swimmer in the world. I started swimming faster to get to the wall, which for some reason was 25 meters further away than I was used to. I finally got to the wall, completely out of breath, and turned back to head to the shallow end. I started back and was now sure that something bad was going to happen. Either the boogie man was going to jump into the pool and get me or the bottom of the pool was going to start sucking me into the abyss beneath me. I certainly didn’t want to be sucked down to Challender Deep and the lifeguard/boogie man still hadn’t shown any signs of life, so I was in all out panic mode. My arms were a little heavy from the 50 meter sprint I had just completed, my heart was now beating in “scared sh!tless” mode, my body was still a little cold and suddenly the triathlon training didn’t seem like such a good idea. I completed the 100 meters, and even rattled off another 25 meters before stopping and standing in the shallow end and walking out. Epic Fail.
Not sure how I will be able to handle the open waters of the ocean. Sure it will be daylight and there will be other people around, and the water will be a little warmer, but, with my goggles on I’ll be able to see the ocean floor and all the fish! I have heard that the course is along a coral reef and it does drop off to 20-30 feet at the farthest point out. I don’t want to see that. I mean if I am scuba diving with an oxygen tank sure, but not when I am swimming. I need to get over this fear. I know I need to get back in the water. A good friend and triathlete told me today about an area at the beach where I can swim in the ocean and it isn’t very deep. There are fishes there and a little chop so I can get used to it. There are walls there to swim beside in case panic sets in again. He used that area to get over his initial anxiety and I think Zinnia and I are going to head there this weekend…….during the day!…..to check it out.
Bike tomorrow. It can’t get much worse than today.

Ready to take a rest day.

Okay, day 3 and I am quitting.

No, not really, although when the alarm goes off at 4:30 AM, the last thing you want to do is go run 4 miles. I debated on whether to run them outside the gym on the track, or inside on the treadmill. It was fairly windy when I got to the gym a little after 5:00, so I opted for the treadmill. I had been doing 3 mile runs the past few times I have hit the treadmill and I wanted to bump it up a bit to get ready for my 10K (6.2 miles) on St. Paddy’s Day. So the plan is to run 3 miles during the week and then increase by a mile on the weekends. So, I stretched it to 4 miles today and was able to do it in 32 minutes and change. I have to say that the swimming I have been doing is definitely helping my run time and cardiovascular endurance (or at least that is what I am telling myself). I had the treadmill set between 7.2 and 7.5 and never felt terribly tired, although when I finished my legs were a little “jelly-oid”. I figure I’ll do 3 miles again maybe Thursday then this weekend hit 5 miles, next week do 3 miles md week and then be ready to go at 6:00 AM on Saturday the 17th for 6.2 miles. That should be an interesting day. After the 10K I have to start getting the house ready for Liam’s 3rd B-Day party that afternoon (which entails going and getting a bouncy house, blowing it up and assembling tables and chairs as well as picking up a cake and then hosting a few other kids and their parents….all on jelly legs).

So, I have been at it pretty hard for the last 3 days. I think I read somewhere that you should give your body a break every now and then. Yep, agree with that philosophy. Going to shut it down tomorrow and let the muscles regroup. I will probably end up doing 5-6 days a week training. 5 for sure and maybe a 6th day of training if my body can take it. One of the keys for me will be flexibility. I have always been the least flexible person I know. I honestly couldn’t even touch my toes 2 weeks ago. I have been stretching daily in preparation for this training and can now touch my toes, but stretching the entire body and keeping it as injury free as possible will be a key for this old body. I ain’t 22 anymore, and when I get up in the morning my body reminds me of that. Not that I am crippled, but I do have aches and pains from my knees to back to neck on a pretty regular basis. Throughout the day, as I stretch and move, it loosens up. The problem is: These races are mostly before 7:00 AM in Guam because it gets so hot and humid during the day. So I need to get stretched and ready to go early in the day.

Another important factor for me will be diet. I will save this for another blog in the near future, but suffice it to say I have to eat healthy to keep my body primed. I have given up soft drinks and fast food (except an occassional Subway sub) as a starting point. I have already noticed a difference in the way I feel sticking to water and healthier food options.

Well, as tomorrow is a day off I will likely not be blogging, but will be back in a few days with updates on the training. My buddies in the States are heading to Vegas this week and I wish I could be there with them. I have already sent one of them some $$ in hopes that he can pick some winners for me. I may be stuck out here in the Pacific, but my spirit will be on the Vegas strip this week.

The pic is from the start of the last sprint triathlon here on Guam a few weeks back. Zinnia and I went to check it out and see if it was something we were up for. Needless to say, we were all in, with both feet. This picture is, to me, the scariest 5 minutes of the whole race. All these people, in such a close space, swimming and kicking….I am just hoping I don’t get konked on the head. Not to mention I will be scared to death just to be swimming out to sea….no walls to stop and rest on.

Thanks to all of you who have commented on the posts. I look forward to reading them daily!

Day 2, The Bike

This morning I awoke ready to get on my new road bike for the first time. It is a Giant SCR-1 and it is really cool. Very lightweight and built for speed (in my non-cyclist opinion). I hadn’t actually been on a bike in years so I was a little nervous about how I would handle it. Around 7:30 this morning I put my helmet, my bike shorts (surprisingly comfortable and much needed cushion) and gloves and hopped aboard. I had to get used to the gear shifting and that took me a few minutes to figure out. I just rode around in my neighborhood, which has a fair number of hills. I don’t have an odometer on my bike (hope to get one in the near future), but I rode around for 20 minutes. I figure I did around 5 miles or so. There were times going up the hills when I was working pretty hard, but then I came down the hills and was able to coast a little. Overall I was very happy with my first time out, although I may have a sore butt and legs tomorrow.

Late morning Zinnia and I headed over to the local bike shop, Hornets. She wanted to buy a pair of bike shorts and I wanted to take a look at bicycle shoes. I didn’t get any, but I am wondering if I should get some. If anybody reading this has an opinion about bike shoes I would love to hear it. I know they clip onto the bike and keep your feet from slipping off the pedals, but I don’t know if they are helpful during a triathlon when you know you will have to take them off and switch to running shoes for the run. I have some more research to do on that. Zinnia found her running shorts (and a swim cap) so she is getting her tri wardrobe piece by piece.

Finally, this afternoon Zinnia wanted to go get in the pool on base and I decided to go with her. I have to stop here and say that it is really nice having my mother here visiting. She is able to watch the kids which allows Zinnia and I to train together. Otherwise we would be training at different times while the other person watched Liam and Keilani. But, this afternoon my mom took the kids to the local park down the street and Zinnia and I went to the pool for laps. I ended up doing another 400 meters with a little better endurance today than yesterday. I was only stopping to rest for about 10-20 seconds every 50 meters (after swimming the first 100 without stopping). Zinnia also did well swimming 300 meters total (with rests every 25-50 meters). We are getting there, but the swim will be the hardest challenge for sure. Neither of us are natural swimmers and neither of us spent much time in the pool as kids growing up, so we have some catching up to do.

My body is telling me it needs a rest as my arms are a little tired and stiff tonight and my left knee is a bit sore. A little Ben-Gay and motrin and I’ll be ready to go tomorrow. I have already slotted Tuesday as my rest day, so tomorrow I think I will just go for a run. With the 10K coming up in 13 days I need to build a little endurance for that. Hopefully I’ll be able to rattle off 4 miles tomorrow before work. Up at 4:30 AM, off to the gym, on the treadmill by 5:00, off the treadmill by 5:40 and then maybe cool down with some crunches and push-ups. Have to be at work by 7:00 so I should have plenty of time. Great way to start the day. As long as I can make it out of bed (the toughest part is always getting the feet on the floor and moving towards the kitchen) I’ll be fine.

The pic is me this morning outside my house right after my 20 minute ride. As you can see, it was a great morning for a ride. I should clarify my pic from yesterday. The one with me and the kids was taken at Anderson Air Force base’s beach here on Guam. The pic that is at the top of the page (sunset pic) is of Gab Gab beach where Zinnia and I hope to train with some open water swims.

Until my next post……

Day 1, 135 to go!

Well, Zinnia and I have decided to take Nike up on its slogan and “Just Do It”. We have decided to train for a sprint triathlon here on Guam. The event is July 17, 135 days from now (4 months 14 days). We are doing it for lots of reasons…..get in shape, lose weight, competitive instincts, boredom, challenge, etc. We are both looking forward to the journey and hopefully the success of completing a 750 meter swim, 20K bike and 5K run.

I should tell everyone right off the top that I am not a triathlete. As of today I can probably run a 5K in about 25 minutes, swim 100-200 meters in a pool before having to stop to get air in my lungs, and as for biking, well I have only done the stationary bike and I can do about 6 miles in 20 minutes. I recently purchased my first road bike last weekend and have yet to actually ride it (although I hope to get out tomorrow). So, I need a lot of work on the swim, a fair amount of work and experience on the bike and just a little bit of work on the run. I am currently 5’11” and weigh 170 pounds.

I have been running a bit the past few weeks, mainly to keep in shape for the upcoming fitness test I have scheduled with the Navy. I feel pretty comfortable now running 3 miles in 24-25 minutes and hope to keep building on that over the next few months. I am already scheduled to run in a 10K on St. Patrick’s Day and am hoping to be able to break an hour (50 minutes would be great). Today I hit the pool for only the third time in the past month. I plan on stepping that up once I complete the 10K in 2 weeks, but for now I will be going 1-2 times a week. Today I was able to swim 100 meters straight and then had to rest for about 20 seconds before swimming a few more laps. Overall I ended up swimming 500 meters in 19 minutes, but pretty much needed to rest every 50 meters for the last 250 meters or so. It’s a work in progress and right now I am just happy I am not drowning. As I said, I haven’t even been on the road bike yet. We’ll see how that goes tomorrow.

I plan on using this blog to provide daily (or semi-daily) updates on my activity, diet, and  plans. These will be mainly to hold me accountable for sticking to my goals, but if anyone else finds inspiration or humor in it, then that is a bonus. Feel free to comment, provide advice or feedback, or just sit back and enjoy the ride. I hope to be able to show you that a 41 year-old, somewhat out-of-shape man with degenerative disc disease in his neck can get to a point in 4 short months where he can finish a sprint triathlon and compete with folks half his age.

By the way, the pic above was taken by me at Gab Gab Beach on the Naval Base here in Guam. This is one place where we plan to do some open water swim training.