Sunday, September 30, 2012

I Didn't Finish Last!

It was the hardest and most amazing thing I've ever done.  I didn't do as well as I thought I could but I did my best and have plenty to improve on.  Race report to follow.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Pre-Race Retrospective

I've finally hit my taper week and my race is this Saturday morning.  My last full week ended like this:

Saturday: 1400m swim including 1000m straight in roughly 21:30.  Rest an hour.  51 minutes of run/walk (8/1).
Sunday: 20 mile bike

My wife went on my run with me on Saturday and the look in her eye as I finished gave me an idea of what I've accomplished over the last few months.

Looking back in my (poorly maintained) log I see that my first real workout on this journey was on June 19.  I did 20 minutes of run/walk: 30 seconds running, 90 seconds walking and I remember it being very painful.  My first bike ride was the next day: 20 minute 'recovery' ride of 3.6 miles.  My first swim was June 21: 8x25 with what I remember as a two minute rest after every 25.

If my math is right, that's only 3 months ago.  In 3 months I went from a struggling 8x25 in the pool to 1000m straight.  3.6 miles on the bike to 20 miles.  It's just damned near impossible to believe.

Don't ever tell yourself you're too fat or old to start exercising.  I was literally almost in tears with pain  and shame on my first run.  I've thought I would never be a swimmer many, many times.  But Saturday I compete in my first triathlon and I know that I'm completely ready for it.

I've been freaked out about this race for months and now I can't wait for it to get here.  If you race this weekend, good luck.  If you race with me, please say 'Hi'.  If you're watching a race, cheer for all comers and let yourself be inspired to dream about doing one, too.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

On Drowning and Other Fun Things

The last few weeks have gone by in a blur of work, volleyball,  and training and I only have 10 days left until my first tri.  With volleyball 3 or 4 afternoons a week it's been tough getting all my workouts in but I've done pretty well.  Tuesdays and Thursdays usually go something like:

  • Crawl off the couch after a crappy night's sleep
  • Go to work to say goodbye to the most recently laid off
  • Go to Freshmen volleyball match
  • Run to University of Kentucky for a swim
  • Go to Arboretum for run
  • Head back to gym for end of Varsity match and bring my daughter home
The days are pretty full but for the most part pretty good.

Andrea over at Bluegrass Tri Chick has been warning me about my open water swim for months.  Sunday I finally took her up on her offer to take me to Cave Run Lake and get it over with.  Her husband Steve came with us for kayak support and thank goodness he did.

I know I'm biased but I rock this look. (All pics from Andrea and Steve)

Having done most of my swims in a 25m pool and in shortish intervals I have developed some unreal expectations.  Apparently I've been swimming much faster than is reasonable for a straight 500m swim in open water.  Sunday at the lake I dove in, felt really good, and took off.  I don't know how far I went but it wasn't far before I was out of breath and treading water.

You can make a rough estimate at my speed by the massive wake I'm leaving.
Gasping for air.

Now, I've been known to have the odd panic attack and bobbing out in the lake, out of breath with a long way to go my heart rate sky-rocketed and I dove for the kayak.  I hung on to the kayak until I caught my breath and headed out again.

Steve kept saying, "You're going a little fast, man."  Having been able to stop every 25m if I needed to I had no idea what "not too fast" felt like.  Finally, after two unimpressive trips out to the buoy and back Andrea told me to just stick with her and she'd pace me.  That time I made it all the way to the buoy and could have turned around and come back but we stopped, tread water for a while, and I finally started to relax.

I'm horrified thinking what might have happened at the race if I hadn't had that wake up call.  Andrea and Steve pretty much saved my race and maybe my life.

Andrea is the normal-sized one.

Last night I had a full 500m swim scheduled for the first time.  I slowed my pace way down and made it easily.  Just to put my mind at ease, I took a little break and did another 400m swim.  The whole workout totaled 1000m.  For the first time since I started this journey I absolutely know I can do the swim and that's going to make all the difference.

10 more days.  I am now more excited than nervous.  I've worn my tri-suit in front of people, which may have been more horrifying than the prospect of drowning, and I survived.  I've done the bike distance, swim distance and run distance and my bricks have felt really good.  I've discovered Chocolate Outrage Gu and had my life changed again by it's heavenly flavor.  I'm looking forward to knocking out my last 10 days of training and killing this race.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Ponyboy, Meet Isaac

Yesterday, I was scheduled for a 15 mile ride.  I haven't found a safe, flat place for a ride in Lexington (yes I know I could join Bluegrass Tri Club, Andrea :-) ) so I always head out to the hilly, rather short Legacy Trail.  I left early to beat the impending arrival of what was left of hurricane Isaac.  I missed.

My first mistake was heading out for my long run way too late and finishing around 8 the night before. I got on my bike at 12:45 the next day and my legs felt dead before I even hit the saddle.  Then, within the first mile and a half, I turned South-West and straight into the teeth of the arriving storms.

I checked when I got back to the car and the wind was only gusting 17 MPH but let's face it, I'm basically a bike sail.  When I was going with the wind I could get into my large front ring but even going into the wind obliquely I felt like I was cycling through peanut butter.

I'm sure some of my trouble was poor recovery from my long run but either way, it was just a miserable ride.  I had to stop at the car after 12 miles with the full intention of stopping.  Lucky for me I found a Kashi Dark Mocha Almond chewy granola bar in my car and sucked it down.  4 more fights with the wind and I cranked out the whole 15.  At one point I actually caught myself growling at the wind as I fought my way through it.

But I made it.  I'll admit with a great deal of shame I have a history as a quitter.  I always bailed out of tough workouts early during soccer practice thinking I was done.  Now I know I wasn't.  Yesterday I thought I was done and I managed 3 more miles on pure determination.

Please, please, please don't give up on yourself.  I've done it my whole life.  Every time I mention triathlon or this blog to certain people their first response is "Oh, you're still doing that?"  That pisses me off no end.  But it motivates me, too.  I'm done being a quitter.  I never want to give someone a reason again to ask me if I'm sticking with something.  I've almost made it to my race and I know I'll finish it.  Just the first but definitely not the last time I'll finish something tough.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Beer and Water Don't Mix

I have just finished two of the longest weeks of my life.

Two weeks ago we first started hearing rumors of layoffs at my company.  Originally, it was 200 people... essentially a whole division.  Every time I heard the rumor the number had grown.  This past Monday, the day before D-Day, I heard 400-700 people.  Then there was a big managers' meeting in my building and I heard one of them (through the door... they were loud) mention 1700 people worldwide.  Needless to say, I didn't get a lot of restful sleep the last couple weeks.

Well, D-Day arrived and I woke at 5:30 and checked the news sources and there it was: 1700 people including 350 regular employees and 200 contractors at my facility.  The drive to work that morning was the longest of my life.

I was at my desk for a total of maybe 20 minutes before my boss called me on my cell, which he never does.  I nearly relieved myself involuntarily.  Fortunately, he was calling to tell me I was safe; I still had a job.  I had friends who weren't so lucky.

I don't know if I've mentioned this before but I survive on anti-depressants.  My doctor picked the last two weeks to transition me to a new medication.  That meant stopping one of my current meds cold turkey... the one that lists suicidal thoughts as one of its adverse side effects when stopping it.  This has made me hate the people making millions and laying off thousands probably more than I should, although I'm sure they deserve at least a little loathing.  It's also made me drink more alcohol than I have been, just trying to cope with the prospect of being jobless in a town where software engineers have few choices for employment.

Probably the only thing that's kept me sane has been my training (and my ridiculously awesome wife and daughter; seriously, no man has been luckier).  I still haven't missed a workout and as I'm able to go longer in each discipline, I appreciate it more.  The time I get to spend by myself working out anger and frustration has been priceless.

Yesterday I had my longest scheduled swim of my plan, so far.  We were given half days Friday because it had been such a sucky, depressing week at work so a small group of us went out for drinks with a very good friend whom had unjustly lost his job.  I think I had 5 beers but I'm really not sure.  We were worried about our former colleague and blowing off steam and we ended up having a pretty good if bittersweet time.  Don't forget I still had a workout scheduled.

16x25 yds with 5 seconds rest.

On 5 beers, a burger, fries and mini corn dogs.

And a 20 minute nap.

I'd like to say I nailed but all I did was complete it.  It wasn't pretty and I thought I was going to collapse at the end but I finished it.  I even added on a couple 200 yards at the end.  I'm not sure but I think the suicidal thoughts took over and I was trying to drown myself.  Anyway, I got it done and made it home and even took my daughter to her high school's football game that night.

I never would have survived the last two weeks without the time I spend alone on my bike or on the trails or in the pool.  If that's not enough of a reason to get up and get out the door I don't know what possibly could be.