Monday, September 27, 2010

Friends NEVER let friends GU before swimming...

2010 USAT Sprint National Championships

I spent the third week of September on the road with 30 students from the Air War College as part of the Navy-USMC elective I teach there... it was a great week as we were joined by the Commandant (MG Kane) for tours of ships, subs, squadrons, LCUs, and LCACs in Norfolk and then an entire day at Parris Island to see how they "make a marine"... great fun had by all but not a great way to prepare for the USAT National Sprint Championships. Fortunately we arrived back at Maxwell early on Friday morning which presented an opportunity for Sherri and I to have a nice lunch out... my plan prior to lunch was to just get my race packet on the morning of the race but after a discussion at lunch I decided I was going to drive up and back to Tuscaloosa on Friday afternoon to pick it up and have less to worry about race morning... a GREAT decision! The race packet and expo were great... the goodie bag was also very cool... a nice USAT transition bag, a running hat and shirt, Yankz speed laces, and various nutritional samples and LOTS of ads... along with all the other race day essentials... bib #215! The drive up and back was truly uneventful!

So how did I get here... well back in August I came up with the idea to drive up to Tuscaloosa, AL on Saturday, 25 September to watch the USAT Age Group and Elite National Championships. Then we realized that Colby had a soccer game in Tuscaloosa on Sunday and the USAT Sprint Championships were on Sunday morning... given there was not a qualification requirement for the Sprint race and registration was still open... I signed up for it... I wanted to race at least one more event before the season ended and this one seemed to fit the bill.

Saturday 25 September 2010

Following Colby's game on Saturday... a disappointing tie with an "own goal" late in the 2nd half.. we headed home for spaghetti dinner, the Auburn-South Carolina football game and packing. We hit the road for Tuscaloosa at about 1930... a 90 mile drive on mostly 2 lane country roads... we rolled into the hotel in time catch the last part of the 3rd quarter of the game... Auburn magically pulls it out in the end... everything is falling into place nicely except for one thing... FORECAST for Sunday... 70% chance of rain! After the game I mixed up my EnduroxR4 recovery drink in one bottle, a bike bottle of GU Electrolyte Brew Drink Mix (Lemon Lime) and a bike bottle with just water and put them in the fridge to cool over night... then hit the sack only to read just a few pages before calling it a night!

Sunday 26 September 2010

Surprisingly... I fell asleep really quickly and did not have that nervous feeling about the race... I set the alarm for 0530 expecting to watch the clock all night... yet I awoke at 0520 after a very restful night's sleep. In keeping with what is now part of my race tradition... yes, one event does make it a tradition... I got up to shower and shave... why change what seemed to work last time? If I had only followed that mantra later... After showering I got Sherri and Colby up to get their day of cheering me on started... plus I needed Sherri's help with the race number tattoos. I put on my new tri suit (Orca 226 tri tech shorts and tri top) and headed to the complimentary breakfast room for coffee... by the time I got back to the room Colby was dressed and looking for breakfast. He headed to the breakfast room where he apparently entertained all of the triathletes there while I got ready and gave away by all accounts some of the family secrets. Sherri helped me put on my 4 tattoos... #215... one on each bicep and one on each shin... I had spent Saturday morning putting my race day numbers on all of the other gear.. one sticker on the front of my bike helmet, one sticker on either side of my race cap, one on the seat post of my bike , one on my running belt and one on my transition bag and I am thankful I did not wait for race morning to to all that! I rechecked my transition bag to ensure I had everything... forgot to plug my Garmin 405 in the night prior... not a big deal but a detail I left out... then nearly left the room without my bottles from the fridge... glad I had Sherri there with me! We departed the hotel about 0620 for the University of Alabama campus... it was obvious that it had rained during the night and the skies did not look promising... as we drove to the campus there were a lot of flashes of lightning in the distance and an ominous black sky. We found the designated parking garage but I decided to park on the street... but the rain had just began to fall and I decided that the garage was a better option since I still need to pump the tires up one more time... and remember telling Sherri... "I REALLY wish I had come out and driven the bike course yesterday!"... so I found a spot in the garage and started to gather everything up... I pumped the tires up and checked again to make sure I had all the essentials... a car pulled up next to us and a nice couple got out... we began some small talk when she noticed my Cajun Man shirt on and commented... "Oh Cajun Man... we were just there a couple of weeks ago... MAN WAS IT HOT!"... I responded with "My Brother and I were there as well... and the run was brutal in that heat!"... we exchanged some niceties and were on our way!

A lesson I have learned... triathlons are an individual sport... and the folks you meet at these events are just as genuine and as friendly as you can be... they are all very encouraging and love to share in a positive manner!

Transition opens at 0630

We walk down to the transition area in the light rain...just shy of a 1/2 mile walk... we make our way onto the grounds and I head into the transition area to set up... Sherri and Colby find their way around the various tents and such to get a spot just outside the area where I am setting up... it is lightly raining and so I decide to wait a while before setting everything out to avoid everything getting soaked as it looks on my Blackberry WeatherBug page that the cell over us is going to clear out... all three of us walk around taking in the sights and walk down to look at the swim... 750 meters in the Black Warrior River... there are a bunch of boats putting out the buoys to mark the course.... it is amazing just how long the distance looks when it is not broken into 50 meter increments in a pool!  We walk down to the water... 84 degrees... at least it is warm... just wipe the dead fish on the banks out of your memory... we walk back up and I take a "nervous pee" in one of the porta potties... the race day jitters have officially arrived... but in a good way... that "get fired up" kind of jitter... and in the interim the skies have dried up and you can see some sun peaking through... all is good!

We head back up to the transition area and I begin the process of setting everything up... there are a lot of techniques out there and everyone has their own style.... I set mine up as I did before and run through my mind the process and really the art of transition... everything stacked in a particular order... one of my goals is to shorten my time in transition... I am ready! Time for my Gatorade Prime to get a jump start on hydration. I then walk the T1 route backwards to ensure I know where my bike will be... I use the flags lining the area as a reference point... first yellow flag on the left... about mid way in the transition area... perfect! The loud speaker is barking out directions... giving everyone the status updates... loud music in between.... lots of commotion... the anxiety level is increasing... focus on every competitors face... nervous banter as final preparations in transition are made... one last review... mental transition complete... "ALL COMPETITORS SHOULD BE MAKING THEIR WAY TO THE SWIM AREA... TRANSITION CLOSES IN 10 MINUTES!"

The Swim- 750 meters

I exit the area... find my fan club and we make our way to the terrace overlooking the river... a great vantage point to watch the race begin.... at this point I make a crucial mistake that will have an impact on my swim performance... I decide to take a Vanilla Bean GU... I let Colby try it and we agree it tastes great... I give Sherri and Colby a hug and kiss... and head over to the entry to the dock... I am in wave #2... the silver caps... there is a call for wave #1 to get in the water... this is going to be an in water start... no biggie... been there done that... I do some jumping jacks to get the heart rate up and blood flowing... people are stretching all around me... windmilling their arms... sprinting short distances... doing yoga poses... complaining about the USAT... wishing each other luck... "see you at the finish"... BBBBBBBBBBRRRRRRRRRRRHHHHH the horn goes off... wave #1 is on their way... our start is 7 minutes behind them... the silver caps make our way down the plank and onto the dock... I look down the railing and see Sherri and Colby about 300 yards down... we wave and I blow her a kiss... I look at the water and think of my Brother... "You Got This!"... it is going to be different not doing this event with him... so I sit on the edge of the dock with my feet in the water and the guy next to me says... "How much longer 'til we start?"... turns out he is the oldest male competitor in the event... Dean Davis from Ft. Myers, FL... 81 years old... in just a little over 2 hours he will have completed the race... I tell him "3 minutes"... he responds... "Well.... I guess we better get in then....".... and so we do! I do a few strokes then make my way out from the pier in line with the start buoy... BBBBBBRRRRRRRHHHHHHH... we are off...

Now... my strategy was to go all out in the first 100 yards to clear some water and then settle into my natural pace... I have clear water in front of me and by all accounts this is looking great... goal is less than 15 minutes... this is going great... and then Mr. GU makes his presence known... this is where that seasoned triathlete piece of advice comes to mind... "Don't every try something new on race day"... and much like throwing bones at the Craps table I have been winning and parlaying those wins to the next roll... but I just crapped out and now I am left with nothing... except indigestion.... now you know that feeling you get when you ate one too many slices of pizza or buffalo wings and you feel like you need to belch but can't... and it feels like there is an air bubble trapped in your chest wanted to be coaxed out? Usually with a little encouragement you can work it out but that is nearly impossible while swimming... and so the physiological struggle begins... I try to power through it and start to use mind tricks to divert my attention from the feeling in my chest but it is just NOT working... so I decide to swim some breast stroke in hopes of getting just one good burp... that only seems to make it worse as I am taking mouthfuls of river water in with each breath... and although I am not proud to admit this... I resort to doggie paddling... at this point I am about 400 meters into the 750 meter swim... I doggie paddle for want is only a few seconds but feels like an eternity and decide to go back to freestyle as I am more unhappy with watching people pass me... I make my way up to the first turn buoy and breast stroke my way in traffic around the buoy... back to freestyle... a quick 25 meters and another right turn... I again breast stroke around the buoy and get caught in the anchor line of the buoy which cuts across my chest and under one arm... crapped out again... I manage to free myself from the line and go back to swimming freestyle... quickly though the pain my chest gets unbearable and despite only being about 150 meters from the beach I can no longer take just how uncomfortable I am... I do a quick ORM in my head realizing I am in an dire situation and decide to flip over and execute the survival back stroke in hopes of that belch... no such luck after about 5 strokes so I flip back over and decide to just suck it up and push to the finish... I make it to the shore and the guy in front of me goes to stand up and doesn't have the legs under him to hold him vertical... he falls back on me and I brace him in the small of his back and push forward... he takes one wobbly step forward and then right back on me again... I again brace him and push forward and we exit the water together... John Leroy from Las Cruces, NM... 73 years old... as he runs up the ramp out of the water... "THANKS FOR THE ASSIST YOUNG MAN!"... he proceeds to beat me out of T1 by over a minute...

SWIM COMPLETE... 17 minutes of sheer agony and a clear reminder for the rest of my races to NOT trying something new on race day!


I slowly make my way into T1.... and to be perfectly blunt about it... I am worn out... that was a lot of effort... TOO MUCH in fact... both mentally and physically... I then sit down in T1 and put on my socks and cycling shoes... stand up and put on my helmet and glasses and stuff my back pockets with 3 GU packs... in the background I can clearly hear Colby... "GO DAD!!!"... I unrack my bike and hustle over to the mount line... I get onboard and I am off... 3 minutes 39 seconds... a minute and a half faster than Cajun Man despite sitting down...

Bike- 20KM

About a minute into the ride and I make sure I started my computer and reset my Gamin... BBBBUUUURRRRPPPPP... oh man... what a relief... BBBBUUUURRRPPPP... whew... I felt so much better... that relief gave me a chance to recoup mentally and focus on the bike ride. Now the goal for the bike was less than 45 minutes on what was a slightly hilly course and an average spin rate of 90... so I regroup and hunker down. At the 3 mile mark I break out a ROCTANE GU (Vanilla Orange)... now I know what you are thinking but this was not something new... and I had plenty of water (not of the river variety) to wash it down... and within minutes I am up on speed and cadence and passing people.. this is good. This course had 3 turn around points in it and several nice climbs on the 12.4 mile loop around T-town... one advantage I had was at the turns as compared to the tri bikes... I was on my Trek 2.1 road bike and able to make fast, sharp 180 degree turns without losing all my speed... the tri bikes had to slow way down... but most would eventually catch me on the straight aways down course. The bike was going great... it was hard to determine average speed with all the up and down hills but I was right on for cadence and taking whatever speed I could get. As I approached the 7 mile mark I took note of just how dark and ominous the skies had become again... and just as I reached the 10 mile mark the skies opened up and it started to rain.... and I mean RAIN! I quickly reached in my pocket to pull out another GU... Jet Blackberry... good but not what I was looking for... I swapped it out for the Chocolate Outrage... OH MAN was that good and the timing was perfect... as I reached the 11 mile mark we entered a long down hill descent into the finish and I put the hammer down in the driving rain... 35.6 mph... kicking one hell of a rooster tail... passed 6 tri bikes on the descent... feeling great at this point... hit the dismount line and got off the bike... 43 minutes 8 seconds (17.3 mph average)... bike goal met as I made my run down a slippery decline into T2...


I quickly find the first yellow flag on the left to spot my area... I rack my bike... off with the helmet and sunglasses... on with the running visor and race belt... then just as I flex my right foot to slide off my cycling shoe I get a jolt of pain up my leg from my calf muscle only to look at it and see what appears to be an alien the size of a golf ball trying to get out of my leg through the muscle... I quickly relax my leg... the pain stops... off with the shoes and on with the running shoes... again... I hear Colby in the background... "Looking good Dad... run fast!"... and I am off... 1 minute 18 seconds... a full 40 seconds faster that Cajun Man... reduction in Transition time goal met!

Run- 5K

I quickly settled into a nice pace that was both comfortable and believe it or not... relaxing! I was running my race despite being passed by some of the top female racers... just as my training has proven... about 3/4 of mile to get my running wind and a steady HR of 155 feels like a good balance... I take water at each aid station on the way out despite the pouring rain... a quick sip and the rest on my head... it feels really cold on my head so I know my temp is up but I feel like I am on cruise control... I pass several runners at my current pace of just under 9 mins... I hit the turn around point and start heading home by picking up the pace just a bit... at about the 2 mile mark I hear a voice come up from my right... "How you feeling today?"... "Great" I respond... and over the course of the next 3/4 of a mile we carry on a conversation and I pick up the pace to run with him... 8:02 pace... we hit the last aid station and I let him go... "Finish strong!"... "You too.. nice chatting with you and congratulations!" ~ Bill Gaertner from St. Francis, WI 66 years old and been doing triathlons for 30 years.. he finished just ahead of me and ran an 8:06 pace... as I round the corner in the park path along the river I can hear the announcer... we must be close... I enter into the chute and people are cheering us into the finish... I hear foot steps behind me and someone in the crowd behind yells... "C'mon... you can catch him!"... HEY... they are talking to the guy behind me... oh now he can't catch me... I sprint around the last corner and into the straight away to the finish line.. "Number 215 is Scott Askins from Prattville Alabama!"... YES... I did it... a quick look at the watch... 26 minutes and 49 seconds.... 8:36 pace... one minute and a half faster than Cajun Man... wow does that feel great!

Post Race

What a relief.. I felt great... I realized then that I really could have pushed myself on the run despite a good time... and given the start with the fiasco in the water I am tickled with my effort... I walk over to the results tent and I get an instant print out of my times... I do a quick scan on each to compare with the goals I had set for myself... they all look good other than the swim... but lesson learned there for sure! Then I quickly find my fan club... get a wet hug from Colby and a kiss with virtual hug from Sherri... I give Sherri the ticket to look at and as she is digesting it... I tell her to look at my Division place... #14... I finished #14 in my Age Group... 40-44 for you smart asses out there and you know who you are... that means I earned one of the 18 spots on Team USA and the opportunity to compete against 50 other countries in the 2011 ITU Sprint World Championship in Beijing, China next September... HOLY CRAP... that was one of my goals for next  year... I am stupefied... 14 of 36... that is just too cool! I make my way over to the massage line to get some work done on the right calf.... as we wait Colby takes advantage of the post race food and eats my share.. sausage biscuit, bagel and some Gatorade.

One of the post race gifts from USAT was a blanket that had a soft cotton side and a water repellent plastic side.... turns out this thing was really nice to have as the cold rain and my decreasing core temperature quickly had me shivering... while we are waiting for the massage they announce that the results are now official. A quick stop by the Results tent to check the final numbers and what do know... someone above me was penalized 2 minutes and I jumped up to #13 in my Age Group... even better!

Following the massage we headed back to the Transition area... everything I had brought with me was soaking wet from the rain... I gathered up everything and we headed back to the car and then the hotel for a hot shower... life is good!

Following the shower we checked out of the hotel and headed out for lunch... that Five Guys burger and fries never tasted so good... I then treated myself to a Starbucks iced vanilla coffee and we headed off to Colby's soccer game where he proceed to score 4 goals and 1 assist in an 8-5 win... what a great day!


- Never try something for the first time at a race
- Triathlons are an individual sport but having family support is crucial to success
- Triathletes, for the most part, are really, really nice people
- Setting and achieving goals is fun
- Your mind is your strongest weapon and with the right attitude you can convince your body to press on
- Without failing you will never really know just how far you can go
- Balance between triathlon training and family time is critical (Thanks Jonser!!)

This event concludes my triathlon season for 2010... I cannot put into words just how much getting involved in this sport has changed me... physically and mentally... I am already looking forward to 2011 when Maddison and Colby will complete their first triathlons!

Attitude trumps pain!!

Monday, September 13, 2010

I am officially a Triathlete...

Sunday 12 September 2010

CajunMan Triathlon- 1/2 mile swim, 20 mile bike, 3.1 mile run

0510... I have been watching the clock for nearly every 45 mins since turning the light off last night at 2200... am I nervous or is it the combination of beans, Tabasco, and pepperoni pizza making my stomach churn? I just cannot take the anticipation anymore and decide to get up... I head to the shower... and yes... I am probably the only guy to shower and shave the morning of the race but this routine has gotten me this far... so why change that... I have plenty of others things I am going to change later...

0530... I make some coffee in a feeble attempt to force a reduction in my race day weight... Brad has a bagel with peanut butter and some water... I have a Erin Baker Oatmeal Raisin breakfast cookie and water... we nervously unpack and repack our backpacks again just in case... we pull the water bottles full of Cytomax from the mini fridge... laugh about our race numbers on our bikes... check the pressure in the tires of our bikes... fill the cooler with ice and bottles of chocolate milk... put GU packets in our cycling jersey pockets... make sure we have our swim caps... goggles.... pack and repack our backpacks again... laugh at our race numbers and how crappy the hotel room is... we are cool!

0615... head out the door to walk our bikes over to the transition area to set up our area... we are #97 and #98 respectively... prior to entering the transition area we get body marked with our number on each tricep and our age on the left calf muscle... upon entering the grassy transition area on airfield grounds we find our rack to be the second to last in the first row of the area... we nervously look around at all of the competitors... each setting up their area with precise attention to detail... some in uniforms from clubs they belong to or for whom they are sponsored... some in shorts, t-shirts and flip flops... we see bikes worth nearly as much as our trucks... focused... every last one of them... Triathlons are an individual sport...

0640... having put our stuff in the transition area we decide to walk around and check things out... go check out the water again... hit the Porta potty... pick up our timing chip which we are told to put on the left ankle... the air is filled with the smell of jambalaya and Cajun food... and the sound of blues music... the sun is just starting to make an appearance over the trees on the east side of the lake... there is an excitement in the air... you can feel it.. you can hear it... you can sense it.. we chat with some of the competitors... trade stories about why we are there... we check out the swim area...  a clockwise swim around 3 buoys... we watch the fish eat the bugs off the surface and marvel at just how big they appear... realizing that in less than an hour we will be out there churning it up with them... some guy tells us a ridiculous story about swimming in a pond invested with water moccasins... dork... time to set up the transition.

***** Now there are lots of techniques for this portion of the event and arguably an area where you can save some significant time if properly planned... Brad and I had done our reading online in the various forums and put together what we thought would work for us... laid out our stuff in a very specific pattern... in reverse order of how we would put the gear on (ie, HRM then shirt then helmet)... all in all I was very happy with my plan but realize I can save some time next time around.

0715.. time to make our way to the start area for the swim.. now I have to point out at this point that once you exit the water you have to climb some steps and then run uphill on asphalt and down a road into the grassy transition area (.15 mile run)... we decide to preposition our flip flops at the base of the hill so that when we exit the water we can run with them on and that turned out to be a brilliant plan as both of us passed folks that were barefoot...

0720... "Orange and Blue caps in the water".... Orange caps were wave #1 and consisted of Male 50+ and Relay teams... Blue caps were wave #2 for Males 40-49... then Green for Males 30-39 and so on... we get into the water and make our way over to the bank to wait our turn as this was a "deep water start"... meaning we had to swim out in the deep water and tread about 4 mins until our start time... INTERESTING way to begin and I distinctly remember thinking to myself... "wouldn't this suck if you were to go out during the treading part?".... "Blue wave 1 min".... "10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1... GO!"....

0734... my first triathlon begins... HOLY CRAP... I am doing this... all of those months of training had led up to this moment... start swimming... don't go out too fast... breathe... smooth strokes... don't over kick.... WHAM ... I take a heel to the chin... so hard in fact that I am convinced that I have lost a tooth... I immediately start treading water, run my tongue over my teeth... they are all there... but my head is cloudy... so I breast stroke for about 50 yards and get my bearings... feeling better I go back to freestyle and just start concentrating on all of the things I had been doing in the pool... after about 30 strokes I look up to take a bearing on the first buoy... looking good... back to swimming... I start to relax in the water and string together smooth strokes... as I reach the first buoy I see two things... my Brother rounding the buoy and a guy hanging onto the line of the buoy catching his breath... I make the turn doing breast strokes and head off for buoy #2.

Now it is worth pointing out that one thing I learned in my swim sessions in the pool is that I got comfortable breathing to only my left side and subsequently I tend to drift to the left and hug the left lane marker... and en route to the second buoy I have to keep making course corrections back to the right... but I approach buoy #2 and again breast stroke my way around it and then head to buoy #3..... 2 distinct memories at this point... I keep running into a guy to my right who I seem to pass and then get passed... easily a half dozen times during this leg that happens but most memorable was when I turned to the left to take a breath only to see a Green Swim Cap... HOLY CRAP... what a moment... that guy started 4 mins after me and just passed me... very humbling and more interestingly... very motivating... so I go back to trying to relax... long smooth strokes when suddenly I am right up on the buoy... I breast stroke around it and head for the barge... I am 100 yards from completing the swim... the part I feared the most... and the funny part is this... I was not a fan of the one open water swim I did in training and yet today I never even thought about what was under me or that there were fish or that I could not see the black line on the bottom... I was completely consumed by the race and focused on competing... very cool... next thing I know I am out of the water and running up the stairs... fans are clapping, cheering, snapping photos... I JUST SURVIVED THE SWIM... 18 minutes and 10 seconds... slower than I wanted but this is awesome!

I run in my flip flops passing people who were barefoot through a crowd of people cheering and clapping... very surreal moment... I round the corner and onto the grassy area to the back where my bike is located.. I see Brad getting dressed... I immediately start putting all of my stuff on... HRM, cycling jersey, GPS watch, RoadID bracelet, cycling gloves, socks, cycling shoes, sunglasses, and helmet... take a quick drink of water and we are off... exit out of T1 (5 min 10 seconds) and head to mount line... get on my bike and start my watch... we are off... so having exited the airfield and gotten out onto HWY 90 I look down at my bike computer only to realize that I forgot to reset the trip odometer... I fart around with it for about 30 seconds and then abandon the idea knowing I can use my GPS watch and just use the computer for speed and cadence... for the first 2 miles I cannot seem to get my cadence more than 80 rpm... 90 was my plan... at about the 3 mile point I reach in the left back pocket of my cycling jersey and pull out the Jet Blackberry GU packet... with 2X caffeine... I suck that down and wash it down with some water... the next time I look at my bike computer I am spinning 93 rpm and 20+ mph... WOW... this stuff really works. I can see Brad about 300 yards ahead of me for the first 8 miles... I finally catch up with him and we ride side by side as we pass the half way point... he gives me one of his chewy energy blocks which was really tasty... 10 miles into the ride and things are going great... I am passing people and getting passed... I distinctly recall the guy who won it going by me... 25+ mph in full aero, tech'd out gear... he was flat hauling the mail... I slip back from Brad and am able to keep him in sight as we continue... mile 13 and I break out Chocolate Outrage GU from the center pocket of my cycling jersey... now I have to tell you that this stuff is so good I could just about eat it anytime... it is spectacular... I wash it down with some water... one tip I got from my Ironman buddy John Lafreniere is to drink every 10 mins even if you don't want to... GREAT ADVICE... I was alternating Cytomax Natural Performance Cool Citrus in one bottle and water in the other... and the plan was to finish the bike with both bottles empty... as we say in aviation.. runway behind you does you absolutely no good... things are tracking nicely.

*** Mile marker 14 on the bike... a break through moment for me personally as this was the first time during the race that I acknowledged to myself that finishing was a physical possibility... I knew my training had put me in a position to finish but so many things can happen along the way that can prevent you from finishing and for some reason it was at this point that I knew I was physically able to finish the race.

I continued to keep Brad in sight as we exited the back country and made our way back out onto HWY 90... into a stiff head wind... I watched my speed drop 5 mph at the same cadence due to the wind... it was brutal... we entered back onto the airfield and headed to the dismount line and onto T2... 1 hour 2 mins 57 seconds (19.1 mph average)... my best time yet on the bike!

I met up with him at transition and being behind I chose to run in my cycling jersey and simply discarded the helmet for a hat and a quick change of shoes... a sip of water and we were off and running... (1 minute 58 seconds in T2)

Now the run was an out and back 5K (3.1 miles)... on one of the service roads that runs around the perimeter of the runways... it started out flat and we were running a fast 8:02 pace... I told Brad that my legs were too heavy and the pace was too fast for me to start... one thing I had learned in my training was that it takes me 3/4 of a mile to get my wind... but once I get it I am good to go... so we slow down... at about the 1/2 mile mark I pull the last of my GU packets out... Tri-Berry... my least favorite as it turns out.. more Chocolate Outrage next time... and I also learn that this stuff is hard to get down while you are running with dry mouth with a lack of water... fortunately I swirl it around in my mouth and we come up on the first water station... I take two cups... wash down the GU with one and pour the other on my head... we had just come down a hill and I mentioned to Brad that the hill was a killer... there were people walking up it on their way back... we needed to focus on beating "the beast" as I called it... but now I have my wind and we begin to pick the speed back up... as we hit 2 more water stations heading out I take 2 cups of water at each one... drink a mouthful and pour the rest on my head and neck... IT IS FLIPPIN' HOT as there is not a lick of shade and since we are now below the surface of the runways there is absolutely zero wind... we hit the halfway point... Brad high 5's the volunteer as we make the turn... we are headed to the barn... we hit the 2 water stations again going back and again I drink a mouthful and pour the rest on my head and neck... we come around the last turn and I say to Brad... "beast in sight"... as we get to the climb we are passing people walking... together we keep pushing the pace despite overheating knowing that once we crest the hill it will be less than 1/2 mile to the finish... we continue to pass people and pushing the pace... now we have to run past the finish line on the inside of the fence surrounding the airfield and then exit the airfield making a 180 degree turn and back towards the finish... as we enter the chute... the sides are lined with people shouting out words of encouragement... what a surreal moment... we are about to complete this... I say to Brad... "Can you see the clock?" because I don't have my contacts in... he says... "It just flipped over 2 hours"... as we enter the final 50 yards the announcer says... "WELL well... here comes number 97 and number 98.... not sure who is going to finish first!"... Brad and I know the answer.... we knuckle bump each other and then raise each others arm in victory as we cross the finish line together... 28 mins 17 seconds (9:07 pace)... we did it... we are officially triathletes... we hug each other... look to heavens and tell Dad... "that was for you"... 1 hour 56 minutes and 35 seconds of pure enjoyment... I could not be any more proud of what we were able to accomplish... having trained separately and executed together! We finished tied for 25th out of 45 in our Age Group 40-44... not bad for a first attempt!

Following our finish... we handed in our timing chip... picked up our t-shirt... headed to the water cooler and shade... then got in line for a quick 5 min massage which I honestly think was part of the reason that I am not sore today... we then grabbed some freshly cut watermelon and checked the results... I will never forget Brad looking at his watch and saying... "What time is it? Is it really only 9:40 am?"... our goal was to finish in under 2 hours and 30 minutes... when we headed into the finish I said that it would have been cool to finish in less than 2 hours and it looked like we had just missed that mark...but then it dawned on me that we started 4 mins behind Wave #1 and clock was based on the start of Wave #1... the result is that we shattered our expectations by 34 minutes... I won't lie.. that feels pretty good! Chocolate milk never tasted so good...

Our lives have forever been altered by this event... what started as simply a challenge has led to a passion for the sport... we are both now addicted to triathlons and the side effects of better health fueled by competition... not against each other but against yourself... that competition will make us both better people in so many ways... fear the training not the race... challenge yourself... challenge others... sign up and see what you can accomplish!

*** A special shoutout goes to our buddy and Ironman mentor... Scott "Jonser" Jones for all of his counsel and encouragement along the way... he is an inspiration to both of us and forever a contributor to our success.

Attitude trumps pain!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Weekend in Lafayette, LA

Friday 10 September 2010
So... Friday I was able to hit the road just before lunch as I headed out with my truck loaded down with all my gear for the CajunMan Triathlon in Lafayette, LA... about a 6 hour drive if you set the cruise +5 from the posted speed limit. The plan was to meet up with my Brother Brad at the Days Inn in Lafayette which is walking distance to the event site. I got there a little after 5 pm with him having arrived about an hour prior... he mentioned that he walked over to check out the swim area and wanted to know if I wanted to check it out... so off we were...

As luck would have it... we arrive to see a guy running one of those big street sweeping machines and a guy scurrying around putting up flags and cones and such... we were able to get his attention and as luck would have it... Rusty... as it turns out is the event coordinator! We introduce ourselves and tell him that this is our first triathlon... and that we don't really know what to expect... BAM... today was our lucky day as Rusty had just climbed out of the lake from a swim and began to give us the 101 on the swim portion of the event. Those precious 15 mins we spent with him set the conditions for what would be our success on Sunday... THANK YOU RUSTY!

Now relieved about our first real open water swim we head off to find some "real" Cajun food for dinner. After a quick Google search on reviews we decide on Prejean's ( I can only say this... if you find yourself in Lafayette you NEED to make time for a meal there... here's the run down...

Appetizer- Fried Green Tomatoes... Fresh green tomatoes lightly breaded and deep fried and then smothered with sautéed crawfish and shrimp in a Sherry cream sauce

Me- Etouffee of course... Three time Gold Medal Winner crawfish Etouffee served with a plump homemade crawfish pie and steamed white rice... HOLY CRAP was that good... and spicy!

Brad- Pepper Jack Shrimp... Four large shrimp stuffed with pepper jack cheese and Tasso, wrapped with apple wood-smoked bacon then fried golden and set atop Crawfish Cardinal sauce served with rice dressing and corn macque choux... our waitress recommended it and she nailed it!

***** review from both of us!

Now.... let's get back to reality and talk about the Days Inn in Lafayette... it was convenient which will earn them 1/2 of a star... leaving them a grand total of NEGATIVE ONE stars... if we make this an annual event, which we plan to do, we will stay someplace else and forego the convenience... that is all I have to say about that!

Saturday 11 September 2010
We get up on Saturday morning with an agenda... first we seek out some good coffee... did I mention the hotel sucked? and so again... after a Google Map search we head out for Starbucks... the first thing I will mention about today is that the folks in Lafayette are aggressive drivers.. but we find Starbucks and all is right in the world again!

Having our coffee in hand we head out to drive the 20 mile bike course... it starts out paralleling HWY 90 right in front of our hotel... did I mention that the hotel sucked?... on a feeder road and then jets out into the oncoming lane which was blocked off my the local police with traffic rerouted... very nice! About 2 miles down there is a hard left hand turn that sends you out into the country for a big loop on some beautiful back roads... the roads are not in the best condition but they are well marked by the race coordinators with bright orange paint on the pot holes and cracks with big white "CAUTION" painted on the road before hand... as well as mile markers painted on the right hand side! We take in the subtle uphill sections and note the conditions on the turns... there is plenty to look at and some absolutely beautiful houses along the route... as my Brother says... "You got this!"... it is relatively flat compared to all of my training rides and I hope that pays off on Sunday!

We finish the loop which exits back out onto HWY 90 and into the Lafayette Regional Airport... right in front of the Days Inn... did I mention how back that hotel sucked? Anyway... we finish the bike course and head off to pick up our race packets. The pick up point was the Smoothie Factory... we get our packets (rules- this will be a humorous point later, race numbers, maps, etc) and a goody bag... we were both pleasantly surprised at the great stuff in the bag... cycling socks, high tech t-shirt, performance running visor, racing belt, water bottle, koozy, plastic cup, coupons and such... WAY COOL! They also have a table set up and are selling stuff... we both pick up a black high tech t-shirt with the CajunMan logo on the front and "Drafting is for Architects NOT Triathletes" on the back... Brad also gets a Powershot of Wheat Grass... so good that they give you Pineapple juice to wash it down!

Having our goods... we head off to one of the local triathlon stores because my tri shorts had not arrived by the time I left on Friday... I score a great deal on a pair of Pearl Izumi race shorts and they are giving away free triathlon stickers... awesome!

Now that we have everything we need for the race... we head South on HWY 90... destination??? Avery Island, LA... home of Tabasco Pepper Sauce ( ... what a great unplanned treat. We make our
way to Avery Island and head to the factory for a tour... amazing that it takes more than 3 years to make a bottle of Tabasco but even more amazing that they make ice cream using it. Following the tour we hit the Country Store where you can try all of the products they sell... including stuff not found in the USA... Tabasco Worchestire Sauce, Tabasco Soy Sauce, Sweet and Spicy Tabasco, etc... we try the chili, the pickles, the ketchup, the mustard, the salsa, the ice cream... we are flat out hungry now.. so we pick up some things to take back to the family and head over to the food wagon for some red beans and rice with Boudin sausage. Now... of course we have to try all 8 of the Tabasco sauces on the beans.... which eventually leads to almost as much sweat as we would produce on race day. After the beans we drove to every legal boundary on the island and took in the beauty that Avery Island has to offer... what a day!

Following our Tabasco endeavor... we head back to Lafayette... with a planned stop at the grocery store to pick up some bottled water, chocolate milk (my choice of recovery drink), crawfish tails to take home to the family and end up picking up some Gatorade Prime Pre-Game Fuel... breaking Rule #1 of triathlons... DON'T TRY SOMETHING NEW ON RACE DAY... one of many rules we will break but more on that later! We arrive back at the crappiest hotel I have ever stayed in and decide it is time for dinner... and pizza sounds good to both of us... so we again put our trust in Google and head out to Pizza Village based on the reviews... and they did not disappoint... we both had an amazing salad with homemade italian dressing and 8" pizzas.. mine with green olives and pepperoni and Brad's had sausage and mushroom... neither one of us could finish after the salads... but the pizza was outstanding!

We head back to our cave... otherwise known as the Days Inn... to pack, unpack, repack then unpack and repack again... our backpacks for race day. While we are getting everything together... I am putting my race number on my bike and my Brother says... "All the cool guys cut their numbers"... to make them as small as possible... me being a cool guy at least in my mind.. decide I want to be cool and proceed to cut my number down and staple it on the edges to make it sleek... it looks awesome... holy crap I am going to be racing in the morning... too cool! So... Brad ends up doing the same only making his even smalller as he has experience in cycling races. With full bellies and bags packed... there is nothing left to do but nervously kill time watching college football and the clock... now at some point Brad decides to read the information provided in our race packets... only to find a sectioned titled.. "The most commonly broken rules of triathlons"... and there it is... Rule #9... "race numbers shall not be altered in any manner"... OH CRAP... can we tape the excess paper cut off back on it? will anyone notice? oh well.. too late know... turns out the list of rules most commonly broken is kind of a checklist for us... how many can we break... hilarious! Back to drinking water...

We end our evening with a phone call to our Grandmother who turned 91... she had apparently worn everyone else out but had a wonderful day... she is going strong at 91... we love you Nana Banana!

Alright... it is 10 pm... race gates open at 0530... time for some restless sleep in my hammock... which the Days Inn refers to as a bed...

Attitude trumps pain!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Race week....

I would be lying through my teeth if I told you that I am not excited, nervous, antsy, questioning my training, worried about forgetting something, concerned that I won't finish, will freak out during the open water swim, hurt myself this week, eat something bad, not eat enough, oversleep the morning of the race, not be able to sleep the night before the race, have car trouble on the drive there, start too fast on the swim.... I think you get the idea! But apparently that is all perfectly normal... which is a first for me!

Back in March of this year I challenged my Brother to compete in a Sprint Triathlon with me as a diversionary tactic to get us both motivated to improve our health and give us something to focus on besides the everyday events of our jobs and recent loss of our Dad... so we looked for a race that was halfway between Montgomery and Austin and that was in the late Summer or early Fall to give us time to train. We found the CajunMan in Lafayette, LA which is on 12 September and consists of an 800 yard swim, 20 mile bike and 5K run and is almost exactly halfway for each of us. I will confess this... I will never forget the moment I actually pushed the "SUBMIT" button on the registration page because I knew at that point that I was committed and there was no turning back. As I learned more about the race I found out that in the past they have donated portions of the proceeds to the American Brain Tumor Society which added another significance to the event having recently lost our Dad to brain cancer... it all seemed to fit together nicely and it was now a reality!

So... you know me... time to get my OCD tendencies to work for me on this one... find some books, become a member of online forums, subscribe to Triathlete magazine, build a spreadsheet (why?... because I can!), purchase a GPS watch, find an excuse to buy a new bike (Trek 2.1... to replace my 1987 Panasonic DX-3000... thank you very much!), get a shoe fit, buy a race belt, figure out what BodyGlide is all about, research wetsuits, join USAT, learn to train by tracking heart rate (back to the spreadsheet), learn how to swim competitively, etc.... HOLY CRAP... that was just Day 1!

After the initial overwhelming feeling and realization of what I had just signed up to do... I thought to myself... why on earth did you do this? This is actually going to require a lot of effort...  never mind a couple thousand dollars (I blame the OCD)... but it is what it is at this point!

So I set out to start a "Couch to Sprint Triathlon" training plan and begin to talk with the folks in my office who do triathlons. Sara Santoski loans me her book full of training plans and I pick one that looks to fit the bill... then proceed to procrastinate for a few weeks. I eventually break out a calendar and work backwards on the plan to figure out when I need to start it. After we get settled in Prattville I begin the training... I once saw a triathlon bumper sticker that said "Fear the training... Not the race!" Turns out that is a pretty good moniker to live by! The initial training sessions in swimming and biking were really depressing as I was not in the physical shape my mind thought I was but the beauty of the plan was that it was designed to take you from the couch to a Sprint distance in 12 weeks and so I learned my first lesson the hard way... follow the plan... because over exertion leads to pain/injury which in turn leads to non-training. So I benched my ego and decided slow and steady would win the day!

Now an interesting thing happened along the way... as I began to train I started to see small victories along the way and the more I trained... the more I really started to enjoy it! Now I won't lie... I did miss a few workouts in the beginning for various reasons (all lame of course) but then I settled into stride and found myself actually  looking forward to the training not dreading it and it became a mental thing of not missing one! The introduction of the Garmin 405 GPS watch with the ability to download training data WAS INCREDIBLE and I really began to analyze my workouts and correlate how I felt with what was recorded. This small thing allowed me to understand the physical cues my body sent my brain and I was able to train better giving more incremental  improvements in each discipline without crossing the line leading to injury... technology is amazing!

Fast forward... week 12 of the plan... a light week in preparation of race day on Sunday! I had an amazing week of training last week and felt a turning point in my brain as I realized on Sunday that I can do it... I have been mentally positive the entire 12 weeks but there has always been that nagging doubt in the back of my head... I know I can complete each event individually... can I do them strung together??? I now feel I can and that has led to both excitement and anxiety... one thing is for sure though... I can hardly wait for the weekend!

One thing I have learned throughout this process is that you can certainly do it alone if you choose to... but having a coach/mentor/friend can really improve both your training and relieve some of the anxiety. I have the luxury of having a world class triathlete (Scott "Jonser" Jones) as both a life long friend and mentor whom I have nagged incessantly with newbie questions... all the while he is in the midst of his own training for Ironman Canada (Age Group winner) and Ironman Kona as well as running triathlon training camps for his athletes... yet he has never hesitated once to help me out! You see... Jonser started training me back in April of 1991... first to be a Patrol Plane Commander... then an Instructor Pilot... and today to complete my first Sprint Triathlon... for that I am forever grateful... thanks Jonser!

Race week... it is finally here... all of the sweat is about to be put to the test... I know one thing for sure... my Brother and I are ready... we have both put in the effort required to succeed... it is now time to execute! I am looking forward to crossing that finish line with my Brother and having the first one in the books... I plan on it being the first of many! Attitude trumps pain...

Friday, September 3, 2010

Heritage of Air Power Racing Series

One week from today I will be on the road headed to Lafayette, LA to meet up with my Brother as we complete a goal we set together many months ago... to complete the CajunMan Sprint Triathlon which consists of a 800 yard open water swim, 20 mile bike ride and 3.1 mile run. Both of us committed to begin training for the event which in the past has made contributions to the American Brain Tumor Society and we decided it would be a great thing to do together to honor our Dad who we lost a little more than a year ago to brain cancer. What started out as simply a diversionary goal will become a reality next week... more to follow but suffice to say that at this point I am exceptionally proud of how hard both of us have prepared for this event. Goal is to complete the triathlon... secondary is time!

Several weeks ago I signed up for an event being sponsored by the Air Command and Staff College here at Maxwell AFB... the Heritage of Air Power Racing Series (HAP). The Series consists of four races to be held at Maxwell throughout the instructional year. The races, which will grow in length as the series progresses, are: the Mitchell Mile on Sept. 3, the Quesada 5 kilometer on Nov. 19, the LeMay 10K on Feb. 5, and the Tunner 10-Miler on April 2. Each race is named based on iconic Airmen in the school's curriculum and each race course will include a storyboard about the Airman being celebrated. The Mitchell Mile is named in tribute to Billy Mitchell, an early air power advocate. The Quesada 5K honors Elwood R. “Pete” Quesada, a World War II air victory architect and an aviation pioneer who took part in an early inflight refueling flight, according to his Air Force heritage biography. The LeMay 10K is the namesake of Curtis LeMay, the Strategic Air Command chief during the Cold War and the fifth chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force. The Tunner 10-Miler is the namesake of airlift authority William H. Tunner, who commanded well known airlifts such as the World War II “Hump” operation, the Berlin Airlift and the Korean Airlift. The acronym for the race series is itself significant. HAP pays homage to Hap Arnold who, according to his official Air Force biography, was the commander of the Army Air Forces in World War II, and also “the first and only general of the Air Force, a five-star rank bestowed by an act of Congress.”

Today we completed the Mitchell Mile and I ran it in 7 mins and 12 seconds... something I am exceptionally proud of considering just a few short months ago I would have been in the 10 minute plus category.

Unless you are the lead dog, the view is always the same!