Tuesday, May 24, 2016

3rd Time is a Charm?! 123.6 Miles of Fun!

Two weeks ago my wife and I completed Ironman Texas for the 3rd time.  I have had a love hate relationship with this race. I have had my fastest Ironman time in my first finish at Texas, then had my worst marathon time and worst meltdown ever in Ironman in last year's finish.  The third time had to be a charm, right?!  Well, it certainly did not lack in character building and lessons learned.  This was my 5th Ironman event and everything was falling into place as the event approached. We changed our training and I saw great changes, my mental game was as relaxed as ever, and we even had a new living experience set for the upcoming event.
The calm before the storm

Ironman Texas takes place in The Woodlands, a planned community north of Houston. The swim is in a large lake and in years past entered into a canal to the transition area.  The bike in years past was one large loop to the north and west made of rolling hills and ended at the same transition as the swim.  Finally the run has been 3 loops around the neighborhood and canal which sees tremendous fan support possibly nearing 15,000 spectators. The run course is truly the gem in this race, while not challenging, it is entertaining.   Notice I said in years past for the swim, bike, and transition? Well race week brought changes!

My wife and I knew prior to going that Ironman was having difficulty securing a bike course.  So much so that Ironman offered to give us entry into any open Ironman event since they were not even sure there was going to be an event. Two weeks to go to the race they advised they had secured a bike course, though it was 18 miles short of the 112 miles that make a bike leg in Ironman events. This was attributed to flood waters that had damaged roads and this was the best that Ironman could do.  It wasn't until we arrived that a map was available of the route.  The bike course was 95 miles and had 84 turns, which equated to about 1 turn every 0.7 miles.  Kerrie and I had mixed feelings but were pretty upbeat since we would not be getting bored on the bike. 

The lead up to the race was pretty low key.  Our SAG support (my youngest sis, her husband, and my mother) made the trip and helped us continue some long standing traditions which always helps us to keep pretty chill. On the day of check in we found out the swim course was now changed and the race became a two transition race.  I am pretty sure I saw triathletes grey matter all over the area as we
We have never been so close
walked through the expo.  Can you imagine 3000 triathletes finding out a course has been changed for the umpteenth time then being changed to something radically different!  Again we tried to remain chill and informed the our SAG about the changes and how they got to move around a bit more.

With all the drama of race changes aside we managed to remain calm and focused on our respective plans.  With great thanks to Lesley Paterson and Simon Marshall of Braveheart Coaching we had new plans, a new philosophy, and a new approach to conquer our goals at Ironman.  We adopted the philosophy of "WGAF" or "Who Gives A F&^k?!" Let me tell you having that mantra repeated throughout the race helped to keep everything in perspective.

Race morning:
Air temp: 80 degrees at 5:30 am - high of 105 chance of thunderstorms in afternoon!!!
Water temp: 82 degrees (no wetsuit)
Wind: 0-4mph S

Swim- TYR Speed brief & Goggles - With the new routing the swim was essentially a total of 2.4 miles in an out and back manner. The swim is a rolling start, with a self seeding lineup.  Well the seeding (or how fast you think you will swim) was chaotic or better yet non-existent. It wasn't a big concern for me as I have handled prior mass swims well and usually get through traffic. This swim was much the same as in my past.  I was relaxed and steady. Buoys were easy to spot and I felt I swam a consistent line.  I think I hit just about every buoy with my arm so I knew I was on course.  I did take one foot to my goggle but otherwise the swim was uneventful.  Time: 1:15:29

My notes: Raise Hell (song by band Dorothy)
Bike- cycling Bibs, cycling Jersey, TT bike-  Well the large loop was no more as was the 112 miles.  Exiting the change tent I was excited and ready to go riding. The clouds had cleared and the sun was out. I had my ride planned (every 5 min drink, every 30 min gel, every 60 min eat, repeat for 5 times). Coach advised I needed to take in approx. 1000mg of sodium and 250 calories an hour. I fueled with Scratch electrolytes, Scratch chews, Honey Stinger gels, and Salted Nut Rolls.  The ride itself was not as bad as originally appeared.  The turns were many but a good bike handler could lose very little speed through them.  We rode through residential neighborhoods, commercial streets, and some highways ( the six lane kind!).  At about an hour into my ride I finished my first bottle of four, reached to grab my next one and it was gone.  I figure it popped out after a railroad crossing.

It would be at least another hour before I could get my special needs bag which had my next two bottles, so I had to resort to using on course drink, Orange Gatorade. I hate Gatorade, especially Orange flavor Gatorade.  Well I had no choice so down the hatch it went until my special needs.  I found myself sinking into a dark place prior to my planned stop at mile 52 for my bag.  It had gotten very hot, very quickly and the many turns left me unable to find a comfortable position.  I stared at the tape on my top tube and tried to get my head back in the game.  Special needs stop came, I grabbed my bag, went potty, and felt a bit better for about another hour.  Though that dark place returned and I found myself just wanting to get off my bike and be done.  The ride was flat and if it was a normal time on the bike for me it would have been a very fast course, but this was a  new approach with trying to hold my pace back.  I entered T2 happy to be done but quietly dreading the run.  Time: 4:39:44


Run- running shorts, t shirt ring spun cotton, Altra Zero shoes, swiftwick socks, hat- I took my time in T2 change tent.  Last year I had vomited here and I did not want that to happen again.  I could tell my core temp was crazy high so I spent some time drinking ice water and eating in preparation for the heat to come. I left the tent and walked out to sunscreen and the crowd.  I began an easy trot with the plan to run/walk and keep my core temp in check. The 3 loops were 8 miles each with an aid station at every mile or so.  The heat of the day was yet to come but it was already over 95 degrees and I was roasting. My plan was to take things a mile at a time.  An easy walk/jog through mile one found me a smidge optimistic about the remaining leg. My first lap was ok.  I was feeling ok but resigned to walk more than jog because I could not get cooled off enough.  I found that I was hungry in between each aid station.

Actually running before the storm
I grabbed grapes, oranges, water, ice, Gatorade (lemon lime), and coke at every aid station. I dunked my hat at every water stop to help with the heat.  At mile 5 there was an angel of a man that had a secret cooler filled with ice cold watermelon.  It was amazing and I felt a bit renewed.  After the melon I could feel some confidence coming in my run and began to stretch my run longer than my walk time.  I entered into the canal portion of the race and hit "catapult corner" which is party central and my spirits were lifted for the next 3 miles. As I finished lap one clouds began to move in and I was able to run a bit more and feeling more confident.  The hunger persisted which was good because it motivated me to get my butt to the next aid station.  At mile 9 I grabbed an ill fated potato chip.  Now I don't know about you, but eating a dry, very salty chip with a dry mouth and swallowing it while running is not an easy thing to do.  I could not get it down, nor could I cough it up.  It was stuck.  I had only one option, puke.  I puked. Good news was the chip came out, along with everything else.

The bad news, this must have upset someone upstairs.  He decided that the parking lot I now soiled needed to be cleaned.  Yes you can blame me, the rain started.  It was nice at first.  Light drops, a breeze, the temperature dropped, and best of all, I could run!!!  For the next 4 miles I was in heaven.  The rain was steady, but with every mile it got heavier.  There were plenty of Forrest Gump jokes as the gentle rain turned into angry sideways rain.  The trails began to flood to near ankle deep.  Lightning was every where.  I passed over a bridge and had heard rumors that  the race was stopping.  Just when it was all coming together for me, they were going to stop me. I passed mile 14 and was told to go to the next timing mat and then seek shelter.  Shelter was another 1/2 mile from the mat. Myself and 500 other athletes were now undercover of canopies and a lodge in a residential neighborhood. As frustrating as it was.  I welcomed the chance to stop. I sat, rang out my socks (futile I know but mentally it was awesome), drank, and got to know some folks.  We waited patiently and after a 28 min stoppage in the race the volunteer captain stood in the middle of the road and announced the race was back on and then shouted "GO!!!". 
(link below is a great pic of running for shelter)

The view of everyone wobbling and trying to get their legs working again was priceless.  The temperature had dropped to 70's and the humidity was gone, and a steady drizzle was present.  It was glorious. The crowds which were immense on my first lap had now disappeared but I felt stronger with each mile and finished with my fastest Ironman marathon time to date.  The finish line was amazing as ever and I think the conditions surrounding the race made it even more epic.  Time: 5:26:34

Overall, I really like this race.  I have a very difficult time in hot weather but I will get things figured out.  My wife had a tremendous race and I love to see her smiling as she crosses the finish line every time. Post race was better than years past, no vomiting, no passing out.  So some work to do for the future but in all another success.  Overall time: 11 hrs. 43 min 07 sec. asterisked PR!

Thanks to the ever present SAG crew : Mom, Jess & Brandon
Thanks to Coaches: Les & Si
Thanks to Wife: Kerrie - when is the next one....
Thanks to our boys for letting us have our time
Thanks to dad for supervising the boys for us.

All smiles and all wet!!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Elkhart Time Trial: a Family's Race Against the Clock

I fell in love with time trialing about 8 years ago.  I had no idea of what to expect.  Being a triathlete I was in a state of ignorance of what it meant to "race against a clock".  In road cycling there is a class of race called a time trial.  It is essentially a single rider, released in measured intervals, ride a set distance, and try to beat the other rider's time without knowledge of it.  I have won a managed towin a  state title in this event and have won this particular series once before, and have been top three for about the past 4 years.

At the start, Jerome in the background
Our local bike community holds a monthly series called the Elkhart Time Trials, hosted by Zealous Racing Team. Once a month anywhere from 40 - 80 riders line up to race 7.5(ish) miles on the flattest, straightest road, in central Iowa.  The course truly has it's own personality.  The first event is held in April and then every month till August.  Each month the course is the same but the biggest change is weather.  We can have winds that literally blow the riders off the road, heat that will destroy even the most hydrated, rain, and not to mention the seasonal crops surrounding the road that affects both wind and rider. Points are accrued in each race with 20 points going to first, 19 for second, and  so on.  Each month is tallied and by the end of the series the rider with the most points wins in their respective class. 

Rider's head south to a traffic cone sitting in the middle of a desolate road roughly 3.6 miles from the start, round the turn, and scream back to the finish.  The course is level with a total of 50 feet of gain. The pavement is nice, and traffic volume is very low, as the race course is open to traffic. If the winds are brutal, which they usually are, each rider secretly wishes for the tractor to pull out and lead the way home.  Of course drafting is illegal, and any outside help is also frowned upon.

Well the April race has come and gone. Though this was a special event for our family. This was the first time that all four of our family members raced. My wife Kerrie (who has won the women's class in prior years), my oldest Connor, and now my youngest Cooper has become an official time trialist.  I entered the event knowing I had to hurry my finish to get to ride with Cooper at his start.  It is accepted that experienced riders ride alongside or near new junior riders to ensure their safety and the safety of others.

The weather for the night was a bit unusual in that it was warm!  It was mid 70's with a steady 20mph wind from the south, which was slowly shifting to SE. This was absolutely my dream conditions.  I love to hammer a hard headwind and reap the benefit of a tailwind home.  Overall time record for this race is under 15 minutes, that is an average of 30 mph. For myself I have a PR of 16:01 a bit over 27 mph.  My first race of the series has generally been the slowest so this left me at the start line wondering how I would fare.

We have liftoff
I lined up first, which I never do because I love to have "carrots" down the road.  The timer gave the countdown and off I went. The wind was noticeable, so I kept low and poured as much into the pedals as I could.  I made the turn smoothly, got out of the saddle and put the hammer down.  I was roughly at 24 mph avg at the turn, and my speedometer did not drop below 30 mph after the turn.  The ride remained uneventful, and being first off the line I had clear road ahead.  I crossed the line in 16:44 averaging 26.9 mph. 

I had no real time to recover as I had to get back to the line for Cooper.  He was nervous but steady.  His main concern was whether Jerome could hold him ok for the start.  Which we all found quite humorous.  His count down came and went, Jerome released him, and off he went.  He wasn't much for chatting and he was holding a steady 12 mph in what was now a SE headwind blowing still at 20.  For any normal 8 year old they may have stopped and said forget it. But Cooper assured me he was fine and continued to push his pace.  About a half mile from the turn you crest a hill and see the mirage that is the turn.  This was Cooper's defining moment, he said he was hurting a bit but, pressed to the turn never dipping below 11mph.  After the turn he had a huge smile. He quickly accelerated and was near or at 20 mph for the trip back.

He pushed and pedaled to the line calling out his number at the finish like he has watched all of us do for years. He had done it.  He earned the finish in a time of 31:58, averaging 14 mph.  He was satisfied and happy, but once he got in the Jeep he was quick to fall asleep.  As for Kerrie she won the night for women overall, an Connor won the junior night.  After seeing the results, I found that I won the night overall as well.

All smiles, first race in the bag
 This was a great start for our family and it was a blast to be a part of.  All smiles and happy legs.  We  look forward to the upcoming races and hope to defend our respective titles.

Data File: Loop 1 is my race (note I always start it a bit before the timer says go, and don't stop it immediately after the line)  Loop 4 is Cooper's ride

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Kent Park: A Season Eye Opener

Kent Park Road Race is hosted by Atlas Racing and benefits Children's Center for Therapy. It is held in Kent Park near Oxford, IA and is perhaps the unwritten season opener for Iowa road racers.  The race itself is a challenging early season race with a humbling appeal.  Once again my son, Connor, and myself entered the Cat 4 field with hopeful thoughts. This is my 4th time racing this event and I have had good success in the varying fields. This was the 1st time racing with Connor in the same field which posed new challenges for me and will continue to be challenging for every event I choose to jump into.

The final descent - you can see the start on the right and the quick left to the finish at the end of lake

1st quick descent and climb
The course itself is a blast to ride.  It usually has three distinct challenges; weather, hills, and fitness. The event is held in a park on a closed 4 mile loop.  We do 6 laps (24 miles total) of well paved, smooth road. The race start is staggered with Cat 1,2 together, then 3's, Master's, 4's, 5's, Women, and finally Juniors.  Each wave is separated by roughly 1 min.  The course is a downhill roll into a hard left turn, then sweeps right and up a 16% grade to what will be the finish line at the top.  As you recover through the line the road sweeps right then dips hard left where the pace quickly accelerates.  For the next 2 miles it is a relatively flat road with subtle sweeps and accelerations up very small hills.  This quick section is tree lined and today happened to have a tailwind. The road pitches left and the fun begins. 

Descent and climb #2 pure evil - the climb is in distance
The left turn brings an onslaught of wind and the first of three miserable climbs. The first descent is fast and sweeps right,  taking a line from outside to inside and sweeping right can reward the rider with gaining position at the top with little effort. With quick exit climb at only 7% the riders are able to carry a bit of speed. At the top the road again sweeps left and quickly drops the rider into a steeper descent.  The speed is incredible nearing 40mph down, though the exit is not as easy.  The road quickly pitches to 14% and the long climb of roughly 3/4 mile begins. Exiting the climb the road again sweeps left and leaves the rider vulnerable to the wind, which today was howling.
 A right hand sweep again drops you into the last major climb before the finish. Again the climb is 14% for about 3/4 mile.  Exiting the climb and sweeping to the left gives you the fastest descent, again over 40mph, past the start line and a fight to get position for the finishing climb.  This is done 6 times unless you are lapped then you get one less!  Everyone in the race finishes on the lead lap.

Descent and climb #3 absolute hell

Weather for the race:
10 am start 40 degrees at start warmed to 60 degrees by finish, Sun, wind at 25-30 mph out of the South
Cat 4 group 15 riders
 The race as I saw it:
Connor and I arrived early and were able to ride 2 laps prior to the race start. He had been battling a chest cold for the past two days and both Kerrie and I knew this may not be a good race. Connor has also been doing a new structured workout leaving him with some new pains and soreness, though when questioned he said he was fine. As for me the warm-up was not entirely reassuring. I am in the midst of Ironman training which is now 6 weeks away and could really feel the heaviness in my legs.  It was a day for both Connor and I where the heart and head were willing but the body was not.

Connor not, so happy..
At the start I did something I regretted for the next 60 minutes. We rolled easy picking up speed with the subtle downhill, then, I hit the gas. Yeah that was not smart. But I thought I had good reason which I shall explain. First, I love to race. I don't care so much about the results, so I wanted to see who wanted to play. I had a Sakari rider pull up next to me at the base of the climb and was excited about my eagerness. Second, I was definitely not the strongest climber in the field and that first climb across the line it was my thought that if I could get up first, that by the time I hit the top I would be mid-pack and ready for the race to unfold and sit in until the second to last lap, where I planned to attack big again.  That was the plan.  Well, for reasons in the first paragraph the race did not go to plan.

I crossed the line, near the front end of the group and I began to look for Connor to make sure he was with me.  I did not see him in the group. He crested off the last wheel and was clearly struggling. I dropped back and quickly found he and I chasing once again.  I tried to stay steady and keep him on my wheel to bring him back to the group.  Through the sharp left turn, we began the mission to get into the group.  For the next 1.5 miles we chased finally catching him up into the group before the first fast descent.  That is when I heard the sound. Much like a toilet bowl flushing.  Coming out of the first climb Connor was struggling to breathe and was unable to hold position in the group.

The finishing climb - post race
We quickly lost the group but I hoped the race would come back.  It was not to be. The race quickly became a character builder.  We will call it a nice training ride.  We chased with some effort for the next lap but couldn't make a dent and I could see the pack slipping further away. By the third lap, we had resigned ourselves to ride out the race. We were caught on the end of lap 4 which meant we only had one loop to finish up. It has been a long time since I have been lapped but I know that it does not represent the effort of Connor nor I.  It just wasn't there.

Connor and I had a good talk following the race.  We try to take lessons to build and keep life in focus. We crossed the line with smiles and finished safely. On paper he beat me to the line but I don't care about the finish. We spoke briefly about my jump at the start, he wasn't happy with it, but forgave me.

 Connor is just starting his journey this season.  He will get stronger, healthier, and smarter. He has his goals and it is races like this that he will draw upon to strengthen his resolve. Kent Park ate us up.  I spent another 45 minutes just riding to finish some extra training, while Connor changed and recovered.  Congratulations to all finishers on a tough course, on a tough day.  

Connor's power profile below

Monday, February 29, 2016

Froze Toes...More like Blown Over

Welcome reader to my first race review of 2016.  As some may know I consider myself both a cyclist and triathlete, and compete in both actively.  I have posted race reports before and encourage you to check some out.  This will actually be the first time I am reviewing a cycling race so I will bring the race to you as I saw it unfold from inside the Cat 4 race.

Prerace smiles
In bike racing we are separated by Categories.  These range from Junior, Cat 5 (entry), 4, 3, 2, 1 (pro).  A racer can hold a license starting at age 9.  I have been a Cat 4 racer for a while now, not that I am sandbagging, but I have been waiting for my oldest son to reach that level. He is 14 (race age 15) and is competing in his first year as a Cat 4. I have deemed myself his personal domestique (a worker bee) for the season or until we move up a category to 3's. Since he is also a junior he races with a handicap in a sense.  His gearing is different than mine.  He is limited in the amount of gears he has to choose from.  This is done in order to help teach the youth of our sport to spin, learn fundamentals, build strength, among a multitude of other reasons.  I say this because when he is racing against me or the others in Cat 4 his gearing is a distinct disadvantage. He has to use drafting, teammates, and leg speed to overcome what the older guys have in gears and power. 

Connor (my son) has come a long way and this race was a sort of coming out party for him as a bike racer, or if anything a "wholly crap it only gets faster from here" wake up call.

I found me wanting to get out of Iowa and away from the trainer and found a race in Columbia, MO.  It was called Froze Toes and it is the closest open road race that I could justify us driving to (only a 4 hour drive from our house).  We left early in the morning and headed south to hopeful
warmer temps.

A windy 'Murica
Weather on arrival:
60 degrees, sun but with overcast moving in
28 mph sustained winds from the SW

The Course:
A 31 mile loop with 4 turns headed north, turn to east, then 15 miles of hell with turns to the south, then west for an uphill finish into the wind. This is a rolling course with mild hills, and a finishing 2 miles that could rival the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix.

The Race:
I had spoken with some other racers upon our arrival who had completed the race earlier and gotten a good heads up of what to come.  It was my feeling that the group would hit the gas and not let off until the 3rd turn of the race hoping by then they had a small break.  A small group working together in the winds could get away leaving the bigger pack fighting to organize and catch them and most likely not being able to do so. Well this strategy did get employed in our race.

As soon as the group rolled past the neutral line someone stomped on the gas pedal.  With the wind at our backs we were cruising at 30mph and I found myself pedaling with relative ease.  I had made sure Connor was up ahead and looking to make the front group. I was going to sit back in the pack save myself for the headwind and work my way to him eventually. Well, remember what I said about his gearing, at 30+ mph he is out of gears and unable to make life easier by shifting, he had to spin his legs at over 125 rpms for 10 miles or so. While in contrast I am pedaling easy at 90rpm or not pedaling at all.  About 4 miles in I could see the break forming and there were 3 groups beginning to take shape.  I found myself in the 3rd group and quickly made a move to the second pack.  I found Connor in the 2nd pack and could see he was spinning to stay but looked strong.

I moved to the front of the pack to slow the effort a tad.  A lot of energy was being used to try and catch the break and I knew that most, if not all of them, would come back with the winds we would be turning into soon. Controlling a pace can be difficult but I think the riders were happy to slow a bit from 30 mph to 27 mph.  I found another rider to share some of the work with and he agreed to work to keep the pace steady.  Our group was about 25 riders with about 10 riders off the front and about 10 riders off the back in the 3rd group. For the first 10 miles 3 to 4 riders in our group worked to keep pace and I did my best to make sure Connor did not work at all and stayed on my wheel.

Post race smiles

As we came through the first turn to the East the group maintained pace and we could see the lead pack still.  This was a short section with the wind and man did it feel great.  As we came to the 2nd turn the race was now on. The group pushed the pace immediately exiting the turn and blew the pack apart with the strong crosswind.  Connor had to use the other riders to maintain position. Unfortunately with the pack strung out he caught the wind and got blown off the back.  I saw this happen and could see the dark place starting to come across his face.

I sat up and let the group go to slow myself down so I could shelter him and get him back to the finish line, because 16 miles of 30 mph winds alone, sucks. He managed to push himself to me.  I shared a gel pack with him, gave some words of encouragement, and told him to not give up because the race had just begun and the riders would come back to us.  I consider myself a diesel engine on the bike. I can mash the pedals hard for long time.  And in this moment that was what it was going to take to get back to the group.  We never lost sight of them and possibly only 1/2 mile of lonely, desolate road separated us. Once he caught my wheel, riders began to loose the pack.

My constant pace saw Connor and I gaining on the dwindling group ahead of us. One by one we caught riders.  I never relented the pace and Connor never left my side.  With about 1 mile to the final turn we caught the pack again which had dwindled its numbers to about 7, but I had managed to collect about 15 riders and bring us back together.  There was still a small group off the front of us and we would not catch them. So Connor and I decided to go with a pack finish.  Going into the final turn the roads turned to absolute crap. the were rutted, filled with potholes, and very difficult to find a solid path on.  I moved Connor to nearly the edge of the road and found the most stable of lines.  We were only allowed the use of one lane of road with crossing the yellow line being a disqualification.

The sign of a good race
The riders were not too jumpy and we pedaled easy until about 1000 meters to go.  I got Connor to move up to about 3rd rider in our group at the bottom of the hill. I chose to ride behind him and block as long as long as I could. As we began to crest the hill to a false flat, Connor held his position, but the hill kicked up just enough in the final 200 meters that the pack began to press and the field sprint was on.  I watched as Connor shed his last little bit of energy and finished well but nearer the back of the pack.  I was the last one in our pack to cross the line.  Connor placed 22nd I was 26th out of 45.  In our pack we had roughly 6th place to me.

For those data geeks:

Intel is always important and I try to be very aware of positioning, so when I lost the main group I was unable to figure where we needed to be. But for Connor our goal to finish in the pack was met.  He proved he has the skill and desire to succeed and it should be a great year to come.

Kudos to all riders for being careful and racing well.  This was a well organized race and a solid group of riders.  There was only one flat tire and no crashes that I was aware of in our race. 
Just a couple of turkeys

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Same guy, New direction

Ready to hurt for 15 minutes
Well hey there.  Been a while, nearly two years since I last took to the keyboard.  My life has changed in a few ways.  I now have a teenager/high schooler and a 3rd grader/thinks he is a high schooler.  My wife and I still compete in Ironman racing though we  are resigned to one a year due to the above growing boys.  Cycling has become a family passion as much as wine (not so much a family passion there as much as it is my wife's and mine).

I have been reflecting greatly on the company that I started nearly 5 years ago and where it is headed.  I can safely say that it has changed. I set out to help people learn to be better athletes.  I would like to think I truly helped most of those that solicited my services.  Over the past year I turned to focus on consulting and or any other needs such as speaking at lunch and learns and the like.

So hear I am. 2016.  My wife and I have another Ironman scheduled and again we are headed to Texas.  The rest of our year will be spent chasing our boys sometimes literally on their bikes across the US. I am excited about this newest chapter.  Seeing my boys go fast and learn the life lessons that only bike racing can teach is exhilarating. Hard work, team work, sportsmanship, and a desire to succeed are among the many qualities that every race brings. 

My family takes precedence over everything. My boys are growing fast and I certainly don't want to miss any of it.  Whether I am racing with them, against them, or cheering from the sidelines I want to be involved. Family is what made me and that is where you will find the same guy with new name. I have always challenged those to be better in all that they do.  And today I challenge myself to do the same.

Connor attacking at State Championships

Which brings me to where I think my little company is headed.
I do believe that change is good.  It makes us better, stronger, and more prepared to handle what life brings. First there will be a change in my company's name.  I had put a lot of thought into this and my motives have changed so will the name.  In February I will change to "Bern'd". Since I am not just a coach and have more desire to take my company in a different direction I think the new name will make me more identifiable.

As for the future with Bern'd you will see more posts on races, new races and series, and other musings. I will still offer coaching, but honestly, it is for the beginner athletes.  Consulting and speaking will also be available.  I hope to continue with some race production as I have a criterium scheduled (the Wyatt Woods Shootout) and possibly a return of my Stinkfoot 5k/10

I hope to have more to come and invite you to follow me in this journey.

Mi Familia - Me, Connor, Kerrie, & Cooper

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Ironman Texas - Only $140.60!

It has been quite a while since I have scribed my thoughts and views in this little blog of mine.  So I had a little free time and have decided to jot my thoughts down and give you a review of my last race Ironman Texas.

The race is in a beautiful location known as The Woodlands.  This is, as my brother-in-law kept saying, a planned community.  It is just northwest of Houston, TX and has everything an athlete and spectator may need.  The town surrounds what is called the Waterfront where bars and shopping line a system of canals wide enough to accommodate a water taxi system. My wife and I chose this location due to timing and what our schedule would allow.

The training leading up to our race was quite eventful.  We had the coldest winter in quite sometime.  And the spring winds did not allow for many safe rides outside.  By the time Texas rolled around we may have gotten four long rides outside all of which in winds with steady 20mph breezes, no open water work, and numerous treadmill workouts due
to weather concerns.  So we got to the race venue with some big questions, though one answer we had was no matter how windy it was we could definitely manage that.

We took our Iron-sherpas, Jessica and Brandon (my sister and her husband). They wanted to come as they have had a blast at our previous Ironman races. We left the children at home and struck out for a long weekend in southern Texas. The drive was thankfully uneventful and only took 14 and 1/2 hours!  We arrived at The Woodlands on Thursday with the race taking place on Saturday.  We got checked in and began to hydrate and eat in preparation of the days to come. Our hotel was only about 1.5 miles from the race site and all accommodations were easily accessible by bike or a short walk.

Friday was our warm-up day.  It would be our first open water swim of the year! Air temp was mid 70's and the water temp was 71.4 degrees.  Prior to the swim we looked at last year and saw that it tended to be a warm swim.  This year was unseasonably cool. Which worked well for us.  We had brought both our wetsuits though my wife likes to use mine and I don't like to wear one if I don't have too.  The practice swim was perfect. My wife and I entered the murky water and swam for the entire 800 yards.  The water was cool but definitely tolerable without a wetsuit, especially for 2.4 miles.

The rest of the day after we checked our bikes, we sat out by the pool read our books and just chilled.  The evening brought about a glass of wine and early to bed.  Did I happen to mention it was also our 15th wedding anniversary! We couldn't have imagined a better way to celebrate.  The next morning our sherpas arrived right on time and we headed out to the transition area to drop our bags and make the mile walk to the swim start.  Along the walk we saw a man wearing diving goggles and a snorkel offering "Swim un' Lessons for only $140.60" which brought levity to our perceived death walk!

The Swim:
The swim is a mass tread water start with an out and back then a turn to the right into the canal system. I swam in my trusty speedo and an old pair of goggles. Though by the time the gun went off only about 1/2 the racers were in the lake.  Thankfully Kerrie and I had headed out early and swam to the back of the mass chaos.  My swim was smooth until the first turn which was a fend for yourself and thank goodness you made the turn moment.  I made the second left to head to the canal relatively unscathed. I found nice open water and just felt at ease.  Making the turn into the canal I had to be aware of the narrow concrete walls on either side.  As much as I tried to stay in the middle of the canal I kept finding myself skirting the wall.  The swim is unique also in the fact that my sister was able to walk along and follow us for the entire mile into transition.  I made the final buoy only 50 feet from the exit and absolutely got clobbered.  Apparently the two guys behind me felt it was more important to grab and pull then to exit calmly.  I stopped my stroke proceed to turn around and let them know to chill out. All in all my swim was a PR at 1:14:02 (1:13:00 at the exact exit).

The Bike:

In transition I made the change to bibs and my tri top.  My fueling was one water bottle (to be changed at every water stop), one electrolyte bottle (24 oz. 2x Vega mix to be changed at bag pickup @ mile 60), 2 PRO Bars, 6 Chia bars (I carried 1/3 picking up the other half at bag pickup).  The fueling was good.  I actually had to stop twice to pee at mile 20 & 60, both of which were good signs given the rising temperature and humidity. The route was a single loop of 112 miles incorporating parts of Sam Houston National Forest which was beautiful.  Winds were out of the southwest at around 15 mph. The ride went Northwest and coming back Southeast in a circle. It was scenic and rolling course.  The around mile 70 we got onto a highway for about 20 miles that was a chip seal road that rattled through your bones and was impossible to find a smooth route.  I had to work hard not to go fast as the course leaned to my strengths on the bike so I kept a steady cadence and really rode well. I had worked through some packs and was relatively on my own for quite a large part of the ride. I rode a disc on the rear and tri spoke on the front and it felt like butta.  Rode a PR at 5:24:00 at an average speed of 20.7mph.

The Run:

The run course was a three loop course of 8 miles.  This took you past the finish line twice, through a beautiful neighborhood, some bike trails, and finally a raucous Waterfront which absolutely energized me.  I had changed into a short pair of running shorts and the same tri top I wore on the bike. My fuel was going to be completely course supported carrying only 2 Chia packets with 2 more at bag pickup.  My plan was to run/walk the first loop.  I ran for 10 min then walked for 2 min, which I followed and felt pretty good.  On the second loop I began to feel a bit bloated and tried to use the potty with no avail. I had stopped sweating and knew these were bad things. I made the conscious decision to walk the next loop in hopes that my stomach would pass whatever was stopping me up.  I took in a sip of coke, water, ice, and powerade (totally gross and I think the ultimate cause of my discomfort). With every loop the Waterfront area was an absolute party area with 3 miles of tents, drinking, fans 3-4 deep, and nice swat on the butt at every bridge.   The last loop I found my sister and I changed out of my tri top into a soft cotton shirt which was heaven. I began to feel a bit better and started to run a bit, especially running the last mile. Crossing the line felt amazing.  The energy was great and it was a PR!  My first IM marathon under 6 hours.  5:59:00 with a total IM time of 12:52:09.

I met up with my sister and B-in -law at the finisher chute.  They had said that Kerrie was about one loop behind me.  I told them I would go get some fluids and wait for her under the bridge and would then let them know she was coming so we parted ways.  We had 4 cell phones between us and questionable batteries in all.  I grabbed a cold pop and could barely stomach it.  I made my way down the stairs to the Canal to wait for Kerrie to pass by.  It was about an hour and some until I saw her.  At which time I had then moved into the finisher chute to award her her medal which the directors were going to let me do.  I sat down to relax and waited, and waited, and waited.  I looked and wondered where she was and why she had not crossed! I knew when to expect her and it was now an hour and 15 minutes past that time! I gave up hope, I had a dead cell phone, my sister had dead cell phone, no way to contact and find out where everyone was.  I slowly walked out of the chute hoping to see her and sure enough out of the darkness I hear her call me.  I was so relieved and came to find out later she was 5 feet from me, but I was out of it and completely missed her come through at the time I thought she would be there.

All in all it was a great race.  My wife did amazing. I am so proud.  We missed the boys and a special thanks to our iron-sherpas who really went above and beyond to help us enjoy this goal.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

4th Time's a Charm - Glaveston 70.3 Reviewed

For the fourth year in a row my dad and two boys travelled with me to the southern coast of central Texas.  A lovely sea town called Galveston.  Many people ask, why there or just plan why?  For them I answer and ask, "Have you lived through an Iowa winter, why not?"  I find that this race gives me a great goal to work for through the winter months.  The winter training helps to build the mental toughness required to be successful in endurance sports.  It is also a nice way to see my fitness level and experiment with any new methods I may be trying to employ.  With that being said the trip has been a nice way for my boys and dad to have some "guy time" and get away for a bit.

With that being said on to the guts of the review.  Galveston poses two main challenges to me every year.  The first is heat and the second is wind.  The swim is a tread water start in a protected salt water bay on the north side of the island with two left hand turns.  The bike (wind) is then ridden on the south side of the island going from southwesterly then turning around and heading northeasterly on an unprotected coastal road.  The run (heat) is then concluded in a 3 loop run within one of the feature attractions of Galveston, Moody Gardens.

The race start for the pro wave was at 7am, I say that because my wave did not start until 7:55am.  The sun was up, calm, waters, and overcast skies. Water temp at race start was 65 degrees, air temp was 64, I thought I wouldn't notice the difference, I was wrong! I wore a sleeveless long john wetsuit and used the full 3 minutes of tread to acclimate to the water temp. At the gun and for the first time I had really no significant event in the water.  There were a few interactions here and there with various swimmers but mostly just a nudge to let folks know I was there.  It was a smooth and steady swim. Total swim time for 1.2 miles: 35:10 (1:49 avg 100, 74 out of 539 in age group).

Clouds were still covering the sky but the winds had picked up.  I had planned for the wind though.  This was my fourth attempt here and have become accustomed to the steady blow that is the wind off the Gulf of Mexico.  The course starts south to the seawall and then we turn right and the journey begins 24 miles to the turnaround.  The wind was at my back, so I decided to ride a bit conservatively knowing I had a long push back into a strong headwind (20mph steady from the east) that would be unrelenting.  At the turn I was averaging about 23 mph, following the turn my speed did drop but not too much.  This year they did make a change into how we returned to transition in that we rode on a dilapidated airport tarmac.  This was a crazy place to ride, lots of cracks, potholes, two cones to mark a nearly 3/4 mile course, and even aircraft tiedown hooks.  I avoided all of them, luckily. Total bike time for 56 miles: 2:28:59 (22.55 avg mph, 39th out of 539 age group).

Coming off a year of ultra endeavors I have had an epiphany about my running.  Enjoy.  Enjoy the time, Enjoy the experience, and absorb it all.  I focused on heart rate, pace, and thanking everyone I came across.  My plan was to run in between every aid station and to finally beat the Texas heat that has always taken it's toll on my body and usually left me wilted and beaten.  This year it was not going to end that way. I left transition with an easy pace and focused on my first lap to keep my heart rate in the 140's.  Mission accomplished. 

My second lap, felt just as good though I was dealing with a new issue that I failed to prepare for - I had developed two blisters (big) encompassing the middle part of my big toe to the ball of my foot.  Both feet had the same blistering.  I never wear socks, though I have recently been wearing a new pair of shoes that would not allow for sockless wear.  So I had to gut it up and gut it out. At mile 6.5 nature called and a potty break was in order following that I readjusted my socks and continued on my merry way. Aimed to keep my heart rate in the 150's, and again Mission Accomplished.

The final lap, was just awesome.  I was relaxed.  I even felt like I had a kick.  My breathing was easy and my feet were screaming!  Every walk through the aid station caused a recurrance of the pain until I could get back to speed and ignore the burning under my feet. I skipped the last aid station and focused on finishing strong and steady.  Heart rate was to be damned and all I wanted to see was my boys cause that meant the end was near!  I finished strong, running all the way through.  Mission Accomplished.   Total run time: 2:07:47 (9:45 avg pace, 91st out of 539 age group)  Total race time: 5 hrs 18 min 48 secs

This past year I have made many changes to how I approach my races, training, and life in general and I have finally reaped the rewards. 
My nutrition for race day:
Pre swim: two scoops stone cut
 oats and a cup of coffee
Bike: two packages Earth's Best Baby food - pumpkin and squash flavor, one bottle (20oz) electrolytes, 8 oz Ensure, new water bottle every aid station
Run: water/electrolyte mix every aid station, one Baby Food packet pumpkin and squash

I tried to never focus on a time goal.  For once I never looked for an overall time during the race.  I just let the race happen.  I followed my plan and it worked.  So often folks follow a training plan but never have a plan for the race.  They focus solely on a time.  By focusing on my race plan I was able to walk away satisfied and happy with a solid performance.  Thanks to all those that followed me during the day and those that sent well wishes.  I encourage you to go to www.atcp.org and make a donation.  In your upcoming season seek a purpose in what you are doing, make a plan, and execute it.  Then you too can walk away satisified and ready for the next step.