Thursday, December 30, 2010

Back from Mexico, Back to Training

Had a great trip to Piedras Negras over the holidays... My daughter and I went down there for a mission trip in conjunction with a couple of local churches. There were tons of donated clothes, toys, shoes, etc. to be sorted and distributed, kids clubs to run, and a lot of construction at a new soup kitchen. Orlando and his wife Merriam run this new soup kitchen, and they have a great vision to feed every child in their neighborhood at least one meal a day Monday thru Saturday (right now they only have supplies for Saturdays). It's always inspiring to see people that have truly dedicated their lives to helping others (to the point where they and their 4 kids will skip meals to make sure there is enough to feed the others). Here's a few pictures from that trip:

 Working on inside of soup kitchen

Fence built (to keep out wild dogs that have been killing the goats)

Group photo at one of the Kids Clubs

This lady just had to have a beanie baby when she saw them! : )

With the holidays and Mexico trip behind me, it's back to the training grind for IM Texas. I'm at the point now where the long bike rides have reached 90 miles and the long runs up to about 15 miles. I'm trying to keep my emotions and expectations in check, and just take each day of training one at a time. There is so much that can happen between now and race day; and on race day itself; so the smart thing to do is try and enjoy the journey as much as possible, and not get caught up in too much hype about the race. The fitness will be with me regardless of what happens on May 21st, right? : )

Here's to a Happy New Year!
Help the kids!

Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation: to find a cure for childhood cancer for kids like Ishani ... Please help them by donating HERE

Hope For Kidz: program to help educate children in Haiti

Friday, December 10, 2010

Just a few updates

Wow, things have been really busy... so just a few quick updates:

- Completed my USA Triathlon Level I Coach recertification. So, 2 more years that I can torture people and have them pay me for it.

- Heading back to Piedras Negras, Mexico soon for a mission trip. Hopefully will have a couple stories and pictures in the near future.

- Still training for IM Texas. Five more months of this before the actual race... wow. Well, I guess it's really only about 4 months of training before the taper. That makes me feel a little better, but just a little.

- Boston Marathon will come up before that, and I'm thinking of doing a local half marathon in January. Hadn't really thought about this in advance, but winter training means you don't get a lot of chances to do shorter races to test out all your hard work.

- For the half marathon and Boston Marathon, I'll be promoting Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation again. Need to rev that back up a bit. Ishani has stayed cancer-free so far; which is terrific news!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Haiti on my mind

Haiti has been in my thoughts a lot lately... the recent outbreak of cholera, the turmoil around the elections, the anniversary of that terrible earthquake coming up in January; plus I've been thinking about my trip out there a couple months ago, and just set the date for the next trip (Sep 29th - Oct 7th, 2011). So, I decided it was about time to post some updates and items related to Haiti. I'll start with a recap and a few pictures from my visit in September. Then at the bottom I'll copy in an article I wrote for our church newsletter regarding why I go on the mission trips to Haiti and Mexico. May not be of interest to many, but then how much of what I write is? : )

Haiti Mission Trip Sep 2010

A little background first... My church participates in a program called the Sister Church Program, run by Reciprocal Ministries, International (RMI). That program establishes a relationship between a US church and a church/village in Haiti. Once a year (as possible), the US church sends a few members to Haiti to go and spend a few days in the village; helping and encouraging and getting to know their new Haitian friends. My church is partnered with a village called Les Abricot on the western tip of the southern section of Haiti. We first visited there in 2005, and our latest trip was in September of this year. It was originally planned for back in January, but then the earthquake hit and all domestic flights were canceled. So, we rescheduled and re-planned; and anxiously set out for Haiti on September 2nd.

We arrived at the Port Au Prince airport on Friday morning, and after collecting all our luggage headed to a smaller nearby airport to get checked in for our "puddle jumper" flight to Jeremie, from which we would drive to Les Abricot. The previous trip we had problems getting all of our luggage on our flight, and had to wait a couple days to get the rest, so we came prepared this time. Everyone had their most important items in their carry-ons, and we had identified and marked the most important baggage. We went over all that with the local airline, and then waited a few hours for our flight at the local gas station/deli.

We got back to the small airport and waited to be called for our flight. Then we headed out onto the runway and lined up to get onto our plane, when things got interesting... The airline informed our RMI guide that NONE of the luggage was going to go on the plane, not even the carry-ons! To fully appreciate this, you have to realize we were going to a remote village on the coast with no running water, no electricity, no stores of any kind, etc. Needless to say we were all a bit stunned : )

The short version of what happened next is that our luggage was on the tarmac, so we scrambled to grab some essentials out of the bags (one lady on our team grabbed a sheet, made a sling and threw a few items into that!). A couple of the lucky ones had small backpacks as their carry-on, so they were able to keep those. The airline still could not commit to having our bags sent for the next couple of days; so the RMI staff ended up having to make a very long and arduous drive back to their center to get another truck, back to Port Au Prince to get the luggage; and then back to our village (close to 24 hours nonstop). That was really terrific of them, and shows how well they take care of the teams!  During that time where we each had only a couple of items that we had grabbed; the whole team did an extraordinary job of helping each other out and sharing... One guy was the only one with mosquito spray, so he was really popular!

So, back to the actual time we spent in the village and the things we did there... The first thing that always happens when we get to the village is that they throw a parade in our honor; with the church youth "brigade" carrying flags and singing. That is always so humbling and moving!. Then we start looking for our friends from previous trips and there are lots of hugs and smiles.

Once there, we start to settle in both physically and mentally. It takes some adjustment once it hits that you are in this remote and primitive Haitian village, sleeping outside under a thatch roof with bamboo leaves for partial walls... no modern conveniences of any kind. It can be especially daunting for the first-timers. They've seen pictures and heard the descriptions, but it's a different thing altogether once you are really there. Nothing like that first trip to the "outhouse" with it's square concrete seat to make you realize you aren't in KS anymore : )  Here's a picture that shows the sleeping/dining room on left; pastor's house in the middle; and a tent that a couple folks slept in:

People often ask what do we do there, and in some ways it is hard to describe. It's not a project-oriented mission trip, like many people expect. This is our sister church, and it mostly about relationships. More like going to visit far-away family every year or so, versus a one-time trip to build or do something. We do try to make ourselves useful and help as we can... We've previously bought and shipped a generator for use in the church, fixed up the church building (including making an actual floor); we bring clothes and other items to help them out, etc. This trip we brought and installed ceiling fans, and also a sound system they can use with the generator. The sound system was a big deal to them... look at this deacon's face when he found out about it!

Other things we do while we're there include participating in church services, a kids carnival, an afternoon "tea" for the ladies, playing with the kids, etc. The first day or two can seem a little long as the reality of the situation sets in and you start missing your family back home; but then you get into the groove and before you know it, you're at the Tuesday farewell service and starting to say all your goodbyes.

Wednesday morning, it's time to head out from the village and go to the RMI mission center in Les Cayes, Haiti. Just a day and a half or so to unwind and debrief, and get things packed and organized for the trip home. That is much needed after an intense 5 days in Les Abricot, with the heat and humidity, lack of sleep, and general mental and physical exhaustion. Heading home you have that typical feeling of being glad to go back home, but being sad to leave all your friends behind.

Here are a few pictures with captions to give a little more of an idea of what it is like out there:

The church pastor (in yellow shirt) welcomes us

 River where they bathe, wash clothes, etc.

 Nearby church that we visited

 This girl was at the church above... Love the hat!

Home construction... note the "support beams"

Market day draws a big crowd from the surrounding area

Meeting with church leaders in our dining room/bedroom

Kids carnival games

Ladies tea - the group singing cooked and cleaned nonstop all week

Ceiling fans installed in the church

Spontaneous singing session outside the cooking hut

 Citi Soleil (Port Au Prince) from the air

One of the large "tent cities" in Port Au Prince (blue section in middle of pic)

There is so much more I could write about, and a ton of pictures to show; but I still can't really describe these trips or how special the people in Haiti are. I wrote the article below for our church newsletter; and tried my best to explain why I keep going back to the Haiti (and Mexico) mission trips.


Haiti and Mexico Article

I never wanted to be a missionary, although I had many members of my extended family who did missionary work in places like Venezuela and Paraguay. I really never felt compelled to even do much in the way of short-term mission trips. Then, back in 2005, I became involved with a couple of mission trips that started an amazing journey.
The first trip was a late-summer weekend missions trip to an orphanage in Piedras Negras, Mexico. The cost of the trip was minimal, there wasn’t much travel involved (4-5 hour drive), and I was even a little familiar with the language; so it seemed like a good way to delve into the world of missions. We drove down Friday evening, worked on projects around the orphanage on Saturday, and then came back Sunday after church service. I found that I enjoyed meeting the people and the kids, felt good about doing something for someone else, and got a little break from my normal routine. Overall, I certainly felt like I got more out of it then the couple of days that I put into it. Hey, maybe this missions stuff wasn’t so bad after all.

The other mission trip in 2005 was to Haiti, a mission trip that I originally had no intention of going on. Lee (Newchurch pastor) had been talking to the church about a trip that he was going to lead to Haiti. He had gone there the previous year to check out the RMI Sister Church program, and had since established our “sister church” in a remote village in Haiti called Les Abricot. I honestly had no knowledge of Haiti, so I signed up to go to the first informational meeting; just to see what it was all about. Lee asked if I was going, and I quickly answered “no, I just want to learn about what we’re doing”. I had a pretty good list of reasons (i.e. excuses) why that wasn’t going to work for me.
First of all, I just knew that my wife (Susie) would not want me trekking off to some 3rd world country for 9 days. I very rarely traveled for work, and when I did, I could tell she didn’t like it much. So, I just mentioned the trip to her and chuckled, with a comment about how I knew she wouldn’t want to be alone with the kids for that long – especially with me being completely out of touch for most of the trip (no cell phone coverage in Haiti back then). Her response caught me off guard… “Oh, you should really do that!”… Huh?!?  Well, there went excuse number one.

Next on my list of excuses (I called them “reasons”) was my job. The Haiti trip coincided with a major project deployment that I was in charge of. Surely my boss wouldn’t like that timing. “Absolutely, that would be wonderful”… What?!? Strike two -  it was starting to look like I was going to end up on this trip after all. But there was one more card to be played...

Money. I didn’t have any money for the trip, and I didn’t know anybody that could provide the needed support. So, at the next meeting with the group I just told them that I couldn’t afford to go, so thanks but no thanks. Needless to say, every single one of them said do what you can, and we’ll raise enough support as a team to cover you. Ummm… so…. Guess I’m going to Haiti!

Finally,  in November of 2005 it was time for the big trip to Haiti. To this day, I’m not a big fan of flying, but back then it really made me very anxious; and I was going to have no less than 8 different flights – including two on puddle jumpers in Haiti! Add to that the fear of illness, disease, the poverty and primitiveness of Haiti… this was going to be interesting! In the spirit of being full authentic, I have to admit that I really felt more like I was “doing my duty” than anything else. I certainly did not feel a great “calling” that people sometimes seem to be looking for. The only calling I felt was to stay home with family and friends where it is safe and comfortable.

What came next is literally impossible to describe to someone that hasn’t experienced it, but I’ll do my best… We flew into Port Au Prince, Haiti; and as we land we see what looks like a huge graveyard of rusted out tin storage sheds. Turns out that is Cite Soleil, where hundreds of thousands of people live in complete poverty and filth. Next, we took our in-country flight to Jeremie, landed on a grass and dirt runway; and then drove 2 hours to cover the 16 miles to our village (yes, you are reading that correctly). When we arrived, the youth brigade paraded up and down the street singing songs in our honor. The pastor and his wife, and other adults from the church all lined up in front of the pastor’s house; and then the ladies sang us a welcome song. We met people that live in concrete shacks that have no glass windows or doors, no running water, no electricity, hardly any furnishings – and yet they have a peace and contentment in life. We saw children gather in huge groups and run around playing games with big smiles and lots of laughter. We saw a people that have nothing materially, so they build their lives around relationships. Relationships with each other, relationships with God. They gave us their beds, their food, their love… and then apologize because they have so little to give us. We go there to give to them, but we ourselves are given an appreciation for God, for life, for each other – a new perspective on life that shows up in little ways for the rest of our lives. I remember returning home and just the sight of my daughter sleeping in her nice bed in her own room just about made me break down. Wow, what a gift it was to be privileged enough to have that experience!

So, now I keep going back. I keep going back to Mexico where I get to meet people like Irma. Irma is probably in her 60’s, and feeds 100-200 kids a day the only hot meal they’re going to get. Irma did that for many years completely on her own, and had started wondering why God had placed her there. Then one day a group of Americans show up at her door in her shantytown neighborhood on the railroad tracks and say “God sent us to help you!”. Can you imagine what that meant to her? Every time she tells the story her eyes fill with tears as she tells of suddenly feeling like God was there telling her that He loved her, and was there for her.

I keep going back to Haiti where I meet people like my “Haitian daughter” Valodia, who is just an amazing young girl with all the personality that can fit inside one person. And the pastor and his wife, and the ladies that work from before the sun comes up until after midnight cooking and cleaning; and the little kids that follow us around, smiling and holding our hand. All of them have an amazing inner peace and joy that transcends the primitive life and poverty that they live in. We learn so much from them every time we go.

The bottom line is that whatever you think you are sacrificing by going on these mission trips (or supporting them); I *guarantee* that you will get back much, much more than anything that you give. The experience and the blessings are truly and literally priceless. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be a foreign mission trip; there are certainly many in our own community that could use your love and support. Open up your mind and open up your heart, and see where God can use you. Because that is really what this is all about. God does not just want you to show love to your neighbor, he wants to show HIS love THROUGH you.

Help the kids!

Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation: to find a cure for childhood cancer for kids like Ishani ... Please help them by donating HERE

Hope For Kidz: program to help educate children in Haiti

Monday, October 25, 2010

I am an HBP (and proud of it)

Hi, let me do a quick (re)introduction. My name is JD. I'm closer to 50 than I'd like to be; and getting closer... I have a wonderful wife of 22 years, 3 children, and a granddaughter. I work as a Project Manager at a large corporation. I have a great church that I enjoy going to, and I am the coordinator there for short term mission trips we do to Mexico and Haiti. Oh, and I like to ride my bike; which makes me an HBP (Horrible Bike Person). Luckily, I feel like I'm in pretty good company. Let me tell you about a few other HBP's that I know (names changed to protect the innocent).

Janice is a married mom with three young children; two boys and a little girl she adopted because she felt like she could make a difference for at least that one child. She does all the normal, wonderful stuff moms do like taking care of her family and spending fun time with her friends. She also spends a fair amount of her time volunteering in various capacities. Janice likes to ride her bike as part of her overall effort to get back into a healthier lifestyle after years of devoting much of her time and energy into raising her children.

Kristen is a very nice lady who's gone through some real tough times. She lost her husband to cancer a number of years ago, and then had a tough battle with cancer herself. She spends a lot of her time helping others; volunteering as board member for the local running and tri clubs, and organizing a 5K run each year with all proceeds going to benefit victims of Parkinson's Disease. Her focus on health and wellness led her to the world of triathlon, so Kristen spends a lot of time out on the roads riding her bike.

Dave is a married father with three young boys. He's a great family man, devoted to his wife and kids. He works hard at his job, and volunteers at his church helping with the toddlers. He also spends a lot of his free time fixing up bikes that he gives to underprivileged kids. Dave is an avid bicyclist who enjoys getting outside in the fresh air and maintaining his health so he has more energy to chase around those boys : )

Susan is another person trying to get back to a healthy lifestyle. She recently completed one of the Livestrong Challenge rides to raise support for cancer victims, on behalf of her roommate who has been fighting a battle with lymphoma. This ride was a significant challenge for Susan, and she spent a lot of her evenings and weekends riding her bike in order to prepare for it. She's really enjoyed the bike rides, and will continue getting out there staying fit and raising awareness for Livestrong.

Yes, all these people and so many more that I am aware of are Horrible Bike People. I'm not sure I understand why that label should apply, but it is pretty clear that it does. You can tell by the way drivers on the road honk, yell, flip us off, throw things, swerve into the shoulder of the road to brush by close to us, etc. It seems like at least once a week I'm reading about a member of the biking community that ends up killed or seriously injured in some type of run-in with a vehicle. Saddest of all is that there are inevitably comments made by people along the lines of "they got what they deserved." Really?!? The death penalty for riding a bike? This is supposedly because bikers cause massive interference with traffic. I just don't believe that's accurate or true in most cases. The vast majority of bike riders, like myself and the folks mentioned above, make a tremendous effort to keep out of the way of traffic (we're very well aware that WE LOSE in any type of mishap with a vehicle). Whenever possible we ride on less-traveled roads, especially ones with large shoulders... We make sure to stay to the right of the roadway or shoulder... etc. Sure, there are exceptions to the rule that ride stupidly and/or recklessly - But the same can be said for the car, truck, and motorcycle drivers, right? As a matter of fact, here's a challenge for you:

Think back over your last week or so of driving. How many times has a car or other vehicle created traffic problems for you by driving too slow in the left lane, or cutting out in front of you, or slowing down in the traffic lane instead of using the turn lane, or something similar/worse? I bet it's more than a few! Now, how many times in the last week have you had traffic issues of any kind that involved a bicyclist? Hmmmm... probably not too many. So why the hatred? Perhaps because we just seem out of place, that's the most frequent comment after all - "Get off the road!". Really? Where do we go? And read this paragraph again and think about it... are we *really* causing you a problem? Or are you just frustrated and angry, and we are convenient and easy targets?

HBP's... I can't let you off the hook completely. All too often I've seen you riding two or three wide and ignoring the cars backed up behind you, running thru traffic signals like they don't apply, making poor choices on where/when to ride (like a curvy road with no shoulder during heavy traffic times)... That type of riding is not only dangerous, but it adds to the aggravation of the drivers in their vehicles, which just reinforces their anti-cyclist sentiment. Let's make sure we are doing our part to share the road.

Back to the vehicle drivers, though - next time try to think about who it might be riding that bicycle down the road. It is convenient to think of them as all yahoo freaks out there messing with your roads; but the reality is that they are mothers, brothers, grandpas and grandmas, children, friends, neighbors... just normal people who enjoy riding their bikes as a way to keep healthy and enjoy some time outdoors. Maybe it's one of your neighbors, maybe somebody that goes to your church, your kids' teacher, a friend of the family... Or maybe it is a true HBP doing ignorant things, but that still doesn't mean they deserve serious injury or death. And make no mistake, some of these aggressive actions by drivers result in just that... and somehow I doubt that there are many of you who truly want to maim or kill an innocent person (if you are such a person, I'm pretty sure you would have quit reading by now; and would already be grumbling to anyone near you about Horrible Bike People and how you're gonna take one out if they get in your way).

Stay safe,

PS: If you are an HBP, or know someone that is; please come clean and add a comment below to describe yourself and why you ride.

Update/Edit July 2011: The lady who submitted the text for the second comment was recently hit by a car that "did not see her". Luckily she came through with no major injuries; but she did have a painful recovery with injuries to her wrist and ankles/feet; as well as a large amount of road rash and bruising.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Toyota US Open Triathlon recap

He's baa-aaack... : )  That Haiti trip took more out of my time and energy than I expected, so it's been quite a while since I've had any updates. I'll post a recap of the Haiti trip soon, but for now just a quick post about my last race of the year - the Toyota US Open Triathlon in Rockwall, TX (near Dallas). I participated in the Olympic/International distance race; and there was also a Sprint race.

This was the final event in the Lifetime Fitness Series, so it attracted a number of professionals (Hunter Kemper, Matt Reed, Greg and Laura Bennett...); as well as elite AG qualifiers from the previous events. Nice venue for the race, and for the most part it was well run and organized. There were a couple of problems with traffic control (riders/runners being forced to stop), so hopefully they'll work that out for next year's race and beyond.

For myself, I ended up with a fairly good swim and bike, and a good run; finishing 10th in my AG (out of 57) with a time of 2:26:48. I think I may have held back a little more than necessary on the bike in order to focus on a good run; but such is the nature of triathlon. Finding that perfect balance between the bike and the run is somewhat of the holy grail of the sport. Push the bike too hard, and the minutes you gain are lost (plus some) on the run. Hold back too much, and the time gap to the people in the front is too large to make up on the run. Part of the mental aspect of triathlon that makes it fun! : )

Here's a recap of the race with a few pics and finishing video:

The bike racks were numbered, so no need to get there too early... I arrived around 6 and had plenty of time to get things ready, check out the transition area, etc. At 7:15 I made my way down to the dock area and started getting warmed up and ready to start the race. My wave was the next to last Olympic wave; so I got a chance to watch the leading pro men and women swim and exit the water to T1. Most of them were out of the water in under 20 minutes! After that, I headed over and got in line with my fellow age-groupers.

The swim was a time-trial start. We were all lined up single file by age-group and number; and they would send us in one after another about 2 seconds apart. I actually like and prefer that type of start, as it allows everyone plenty of room to swim right off the bat. Others seem to love the chaos and pummeling of the mass start, but this suited me just fine. It was also a wetsuit legal swim, so that helps me as well.

The swim felt good, and I tried to concentrate on body position and a good long pull. Nothing too eventful during the swim, although I am glad that I have learned to breathe bi-laterally. When we turned at the first buoy, the sun was directly in our eyes if we breathed to the left. If anyone only knew how to breathe to that side, it made for a tough swim. It did seem like it was taking me a long time, but when I exited the water I was under 29 minutes - which for me is a very good swim (I figured the swim was also a little bit short, which was later confirmed by my Garmin).

I got my wetsuit off without much of a problem (no wetsuit peelers for this event). Quickly changed into my bike gear and headed out of transition. One thing different for me was that I put my bike shoes on, instead of having them clipped to the bike. The bike mount line was at the bottom of a hill heading out of the parking lot, so I figured it would be a bad idea to try to be clipping in while going uphill. Short run to the bike mount line, though, so that worked out well.

The bike course was a little hilly (lots of little ones, nothing major); and had a lot of turning involved; as well as a few spots where the road was not in great shape. None of that was terrible, it just added up to a difficult bike course for me (I like flat, smooth, and long roads to use cadence and hold onto my speed). I had driven the bike course the day before, so I knew what to expect, and tried to be careful not to burn myself out on the bike. In retrospect, I might have held back just a tad too much; as I think I could have gone slightly faster and still had a very good run. Ended up with 21.1 mph avg, though; which was around the 15th fastest bike split out of the 57 in my age group.

T2 went quick, other than one of my shoes coming off the bike, but that only cost a few seconds. Slipped on my run shoes and grabbed hat and race belt, and took off on the run.

Right off the bat was that hill out of the parking lot; then another good-sized hill on the first road. Tough start to the run. Once I got past that part, things leveled out and I was able to pick up the pace. I had one friend there that I wanted to see if I could catch, but at the turnaround I saw that the gap was a little too much for that to happen. I still used that as motivation to run hard and close as much of the gap as I could, though : )  The run finished going down those hills that I started with, which is hard on the quads! I just let myself fall through it, and made good time on that last mile. I ended up with a 6:57 pace for the 10K, and was really happy with that. It ended up being the 2nd fastest run in my age group.

After cooling down and grabbing something to drink and eat, I met my wife Susie over at the Clif Bar booth where my friend Chris was working. We talked for a few minutes, and then Susie and I headed to our hotel to clean up and check out. Then we went back to the race venue to get my bike and gear out of transition, and headed back home. One more race in the books, and the end of a fun racing season!

Now I'll take a short break, and then it's time to ramp things up and start getting ready for the Boston Marathon and Ironman Texas next year!!!


Help the kids!
Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation: to find a cure for childhood cancer for kids like Ishani ... Please help them by donating HERE

Hope For Kidz: program to help educate children in Haiti

Monday, August 16, 2010

Another IM - IM Texas!

I just couldn't help myself... I really did not plan on doing an Ironman triathlon next year; but then they went ahead and created a brand new IM event, right here in Texas! So... here we go again... May 21st, 2011 I will be participating in the inaugural Ironman Texas :)  If the weather patterns hold from the previous couple of years, this is going to have the same super-high humidity (90+ percent) and even higher temperatures than IM Cozumel. That means I'll have to have a smarter race to avoid another 5 hour marathon/walkathon.

I'm starting to put together my training plan, which will kick in around October for the base phase. I'm not a huge fan of cold weather riding, but I'd definitely prefer to deal with cold than be doing 5 and 6 hour bike rides with high temps of 100+ degrees! Then come race day, I'll just pray for some clouds and maybe even a bit of light rain : )

Right now, I'm getting myself ready for a mission trip to Haiti in September. A lot to do between now and then. Hopefully I'll get at least one more blog post out before the trip...


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Marble Falls Triathlon - training matters

I raced last weekend in the Marble Falls Triathlon, which is one of my favorite triathlons. Just one of those smaller, simpler races in a very nice setting. Weird part about me liking that race so much is that it really isn't built for my strengths, as it favors the better bikers over the runners. That's because the bike leg is proportionally longer and harder - It's a mix between sprint and olympic distances (1000m swim; 23 mi bike; 4.4 mi run) - and the bike course is not only relatively longer than the other two segments; it is also very hilly.

I did have a good day, though; ended up finishing under the 2 hour mark; and placed 5th in my age group (out of 28). I missed 4th by 5 seconds, but I don't mind - although I admit I might have been more upset if it was 3rd that I missed! : )  But really, this was just a day to have fun and race with no particular goals.

The reason for the reference to "training matters" in the title of this post is that I proved to myself (once again...) that there is no getting around the level and intensity of training that you are doing. Compared to this same point last year when I was doing IM training (Redman and Cozumel) - I have done half as much swimming and biking; and 3/4 the amount of running - and it has not been quite as intense. Even though I felt very good and had a good race, I can't expect to match what I did the previous year with that kind of change in training.

Nothing special... I got everything ready in transition and then hung out with my wife and some friends at the Georgetown Triathletes tent near the transition area. Here's a couple of pics from the morning::

Packed up and ready to head towards the transition area

Nice to have my wife with me : )

My friend Barry and I look like we're staring each other down, I think we were arguing over who looked best in the yellow swim cap : )

On to the details of the race...

The race got underway, and I felt good during the entire swim. I had a rude surprise when I got out, though, and my swim time was over 2 minutes slower than last year..  yikes! The swim course was laid out different this year, though; so I knew better than to panic until I saw everyone else's swim times (and sure enough, everyone was slower - I ended up 7th out of 28 in my AG for the swim).

I made it through transition quickly and got out on the bike. I knew going into this race that there were two primary factors that would effect my bike time, each pulling in opposite directions. On the positive side, my speed and power on the bike have improved over the last year. On the other hand, like I referenced above, I've only done about half as much biking volume this year compared to last year. Those two factors ended up being a wash, and I finished within 20 seconds of my time from last year! Training matters : )

Happy with my bike split, I set off on the run. Once again, based on training volume, I wasn't expecting to match the 6:40 pace from last year - my goal here was just to keep it under 7:00/mile. Final pace: 6:56; so mission accomplished in that respect.

I crossed the finish line in 1:57+ (3 minute offset from clock time you can see in the picture below). The last half mile of the run there was someone in front of me that I kept getting closer and closer to, but couldn't quite catch. On the final little hill I closed that gap to about 5 seconds, but that was all I had in me. As mentioned above, it turns out that he was in my age group, and we ended up coming in 4th and 5th respectively. Who says seconds don't matter? : )

After the race, I enjoyed some good Texas bbq; and spent some time hanging out under the tent with my wife and friends and fellow members of the Georgetown Triathletes club. It's certainly a lot more fun to have family and friends to share these events with : )

Next up... nothing planned once again... Although I did sign up for Ironman Texas; so more to come about that topic soon.


Help the kids!

Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation: to find a cure for childhood cancer for kids like Ishani ... Please help them by donating HERE

Hope For Kidz: program to help educate children in Haiti


Thursday, July 8, 2010

The makings of a triathlon

A couple weeks back we held the Lake Pflugerville Triathlon, for which I am on the race committee (swim director). I took some pictures as we worked on the course setup the day before and day of the race; and thought it might be interesting to talk a little bit about what goes into these events.

Long before it gets to the point shown in the pictures below, there are hundreds of things to be done and details to be taken care of (not that I was the one doing all this...). Working with govt officials to secure the site and the date, arranging for registration, setting up the web site, planning the courses, making course maps, working with law enforcement and transportation on the bike course, arranging for lifeguards, lining up food/drink/ice, getting sponsors, acquiring materials for things like flagging and carpeting and buoys, obtaining goodies for the race packets and getting them stuffed, packet-pick up, awards, etc. etc. etc. Whew! Got tired just writing that. And I bet the race director could list a lot more that I'm leaving off :)
All of that comes to a head the day before the race, when set up begins at the race site. Here are some of the highlights of how the weekend unfolded, starting with the day before the race:

Starting construction of the finisher's chute (thanks to High Five Events)

Building the bike racks. Volunteers that help on setup day are so very much appreciated! :)

Sea of bike racks. Just hauling all that piping back and forth is quite a chore!

Transition path carpeted. Details matter...

Swim area and run finish flagged. Lots of stakes to set and pennant flagging to set up.

Swim start buoys set up.
We set up the main course buoys in early May prior to the open water swim clinics, and leave them up all summer (or as long as the vandals leave them alone...).

Finish line finished

Course ready for race day

With everything set up that can be set up prior to race day, most of us go get some rest. The race director sticks around to keep an eye on things until the police come around 10pm. Yes, the glamorous life of a race director :)  After a short night of sleep, the race committee, vendors, and many of the volunteers start showing up at 0 dark thirty the next morning...

Race morning setup begins

Ice cream truck was big hit

Then the race starts... don't really have too many pictures of the race itself; but that's the part most of you are familiar with anyway : )  After the race we had the awards ceremony, which included some nice door prize giveaways (thanks to the sponsors!).

Of course, everything that gets set up, must get taken down... so everyone gets to work with that as soon as they can (e.g. bike racks taken apart and piping loaded back onto trailer after bikes are taken away, pulling the stakes and flagging...). This particular race went very well - everyone stayed safe and seemed to really enjoy themselves; which is what it's all about in the first place!

Thanks once again to everyone that volunteers at this or any other race : )


Help the kids!

Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation: to find a cure for childhood cancer for kids like Ishani ... Please help them by donating HERE

Hope For Kidz: program to help educate children in Haiti


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Just a few notes

- Ishani (young girl that has been battling cancer - see links below) had another round of clean tests... hooray!

- Getting things all set for the Lake Pflugerville Triathlon. Our newly formed triathlon club was able to come up with 28 volunteers to help out. Nice :)

- Speaking of the triathlon club, we had our first social event, and had a very good turnout. It was fun to meet everyone and talk about our different paths and experiences.

Other than that, just getting back into the training a little. Picking out a couple of upcoming events that I may sign up for, that always helps me with focus and motivation.


Help the kids!
Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation: to find a cure for childhood cancer for kids like Ishani ... Please help them by donating HERE

Hope For Kidz: program to help educate children in Haiti

Monday, May 31, 2010

Where did that 2 1/2 weeks go???

Wow, realized it has been nearly 3 weeks since I last posted! Either I was really busy, or just didn't have much to say (probably a little bit of both). Here's a few of the things that have been taking up my time recently:

- Working with a couple of other local triathletes to get a new triathlon club off the ground. I'm really excited about this one. The area I live in has seen phenomenal growth over the last few years, so we're overdue for having an organization for the local triathletes. It's been interesting and challenging and fun. Hardest part seems to be getting the initial momentum started, but I think we're starting to turn that corner.

- Preparation for the Lake Pflugerville Triathlon on June 20th. I'm the swim director, and work with the race director on all things swim related; as well as anything else that I can help out with.

- Assisting with a couple of open water swim clinics. These are held out at Lake Pflugerville, and give new triathletes a chance to learn a few tips about open water swimming; and then try it out on the actual swim course that we set up for the race. I love doing these, as I know how daunting the open water swimming is for many new triathletes (as it was for me). It's great to see the look on their face by the end, when they realize they can do it...

- Traveled to Tennessee for my sister's wedding. Her and her husband are both deaf interpreters by occupation, and a few of their co-workers were there as well. There is something about sign language that is so demonstrative and beautiful, it really made the wedding very special.

- Took a training class related to work. Not too exciting, but it took up 3 days of last week :)

Next month I'll be doing more preparation for the triathlon, including setting up the course the day before. Then the event itself... and then heading off to Florida for another wedding (this time it is my wife's brother getting married). Oh, and I'll throw in some training in between that stuff... : )

Life is a great gift, enjoy it!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

2010 Rookie Triathlon - a very good day!

Last weekend I participated in the Rookie Triathlon. The Rookie is a mini-sprint triathlon (300m swim; 11.1 mi bike; 2 mi run) that is well-supported and perfectly suited for new triathletes. The part that I was most excited about was that it was the very FIRST triathlon for two ladies that I have been training (Rachel and Chrissy). I was really anxious to see the results of all the training and hard work they had been doing; and a little nervous as well. I was also competing, partly because I just like to, and partly because that would make it easier for me to help them get situated before the race got started. Another friend of ours (Brittany) was in the race as well, so we had a nice little group.

After finishing up in transition, we all headed down to the water to watch the first couple of waves go out. I could tell everyone was pretty nervous about the swim, so we talked a lot about how to find a little opening, start calm, options for help, etc. Then it was time for my wave, so I wished them good luck and headed off.

I had decided that I was really going to go all out on each leg, red-lining it the whole time. The distances were short enough that I didn't need to worry about endurance, just top-end speed. So, right off the bat I got up front for the swim and when the horn sounded I took off. I just kept pulling as hard as I could for the 300 meters. When I got out, I was disappointed to see a time of 6:40ish; which was slower than what I hoped for. But as mentioned in my 70.3 race report, you really don't know how well you did until you can see how it compares to everyone else (due to all the variables like distance errors). Turns out that my swim time was 2nd fastest in my AG! This race may not be ultra-competitive like some other races, but I'm still pretty psyched about that.

Next, I got thru transition quickly and headed out on the bike. This was one leg where I was really determined to give it everything I had, I didn't want to hold back at all. I just kept pushing the pace, even up the small hills, and finished with a pace that my Garmin showed as 22 mph (21.6 officially; but I also showed the bike distance to be just over 11.3 miles). Later I learned that was the fastest split in my age group - another sign that the bike performance is improving :)

Back in transition, I put on my running shoes and took off on the run. I was able to hold just under a 6:30 pace, and again was not sure how that would compare (ended up 2nd fastest run in AG). I actually thought on a short run like that, I might be closer to 6:15; but I did push hard on the bike. As I started the 2nd mile, I passed one person in my AG. It's funny when you do that, because you don't know if you just moved from 14th place to 13th, or 5th to 4th, or...whatever. In this case, it turns out that I had moved from 2nd to 1st with that pass; and ended up winning my Age Group! I have to admit, that was a lot of fun :)

With my race done, it was time to go catch up with the ladies and see how they were doing. I had started the swim a couple waves ahead of them, so I was able to get back to the run start before they came through. First was Rachel, who was looking great and obviously doing very well. Next came Brittany, who it turns out had rode the last 3 miles of the bike course on a flat tire... wow, that is some tough riding!  After that I was looking for Chrissy, and I grew increasingly more anxious and worried as time went on. I knew she had been having some hip pain, and was going to be riding a little slower (plus being on a mountain bike); but it was getting down to the last few bikers. Finally, the last biker was in, still no sign of Chrissy! Fairly dejected, I went back to the race finish area to find out what happened. As I got closer, I could here the announcer; and all of a sudden I heard him call Chrissy's name at the finish line! I ran over there and found her and Rachel; who were both floating on clouds. It is so amazing to see the joy of someone that conquers a huge challenge like that :)  But I still can't figure out how I missed Chrissy on the bike to run transition...

I caught up with Brittany shortly after that. She was a little bummed about the flat tire incident, but had finished with a strong run and a good time overall. Little bit of a lesson learned, there; as I had myself considered not carrying a flat repair kit since the course was so short. I figured the race would be shot at that point; but the reality is that you always want to finish, and there may not be tech support around - so having a flat repair kit is not an option : )

Everything considered, it was really a wonderful day and a lot of fun. I think the best part was seeing Rachel and Chrissy complete their first triathlon, and the obvious joy and pride they had at that accomplishment. I could tell by the discussion afterwards that they have definitely caught the triathlon bug... good luck to their friends and families!

One other thing... I must thank my wife for allowing me to participate in my hobby (aka obsession) on Mother's Day. It's nice to have support and encouragement like that :)

Now it's time to get back to preparation for the Lake Pflugerville triathlon (as swim director, not participant), and some swim clinics that we're doing over the next few weeks. Found out a couple days ago that the race is sold out, so I better get to work!


Help the kids!

Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation: to find a cure for childhood cancer for kids like Ishani ... Please help them by donating HERE

Hope For Kidz: program to help educate children in Haiti

Monday, May 3, 2010

Beginnings of a triathlon

This is the new site for the Lake Pflugerville Triathlon, which will be held June 20th. I'm on the race committee responsible for the swim portion, and this past weekend a few folks and myself went out to set up the swim course. The race director does a really nice thing for the community, in that he gets the swim buoys in place by early May; and leaves them out all summer (vandals notwithstanding) for the use of local swimmers. He also runs a few open water swim clinics leading up to the race.

Here's a closer view of the beach area where the swim starts, and if you squint you might be able to see a couple of the yellow buoys out there. I really like this new beach start for the swim, and am looking forward to the swim clinics and the race.

I'll have a couple more posts related to the preparation and setup for the triathlon, as I think it's interesting to see how it all comes together. It's amazing how much work actually goes into putting on a triathlon... these race directors really have to love the sport!