Traditions

Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. Three holidays, just inside of a month and a half that have more traditions tied into them than any other part of the year. If you catch me on a normal day I have always had the tendency to be a bit of a Scrooge and Bah Humbug! to all of the holiday festivities. No to Christmas music, no to lights, no to the commercial spirit that prevails from Black Friday until the day before Christmas. While I still don’t, and probably never will, agree with the amount of commercialization that has come to eat it’s way into every holiday possible, I have come around to enjoy more of the family-centered traditions that my wife has brought to our family.

I don’t remember much of the traditions that my family had for the holidays growing up, other than driving around on the night before Christmas to look at all the lights on houses throughout town and black-eyed peas for dinner on New Years day. I don’t think it’s that my family didn’t have traditions, but more likely that I didn’t pay attention to them and thought of them just as something that was or wasn’t done and I didn’t make a big deal out of it. When I moved away from home after joining the Army I never stayed up with any traditions, never really got into celebrating for the Holidays.

This year is different. I was always told by my friend and coach, Jason, that I would change my attitude about it when my daughter was born. I would typically blow the thought off and just keep running, but he really had something to it.

While cleaning my mancave out a little over a week ago I decided that I would pull up the Christmas decorations. I had discussed it with Marnie and told her that I wouldn’t be bringing anything up until after Thanksgiving. Then I did it anyway. I kept thinking of how I wanted it to become a tradition and in my head I could see Genevieve’s eyes light up every year in the future when we brought out and put up lights and ornaments.

We had also discussed not getting a tree because Marnie was worried about Genevieve getting into it and causing a huge mess or even hurting herself. I grabbed the second half of the gate that we had ordered to cordon Genevieve off from the house and explained where we could move furniture to make it work. I could tell that Marnie was excited, and I was, too. Our first real tree in the three Christmas seasons as a married couple.

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My family is just beginning to put together traditions as we are still a young family. I see the importance of traditions for the family. There are lots of things wrong with how consumerism has affected the holidays, but I know we can help focus our little part of the world where things are most important.

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Off season?

I’ve noticed, at my wife’s pointing out, that I tend to go in a cycle with racing. I will find a race, I’ll obsess about it and think of all the training I can do for it, I’ll beg Marnie to let me race it, she’ll grudgingly say yes, then I’ll half train for it until the last few weeks before the race and I’ll bust my butt to put in some miles so the race doesn’t suck as bad as not doing anything at all. Just about the time I start putting miles in I find another race and I start the cycle over again.

This late-summer/fall I am working on a couple new things. Being tired of beating myself up on races that I am not prepared for I spoke to my friend, Jason Restuccia, who has qualified and run the Boston Marathon twice. I approached Jason for help because I have not been great at following training plans once they start taking longer than an hour or two for runs. Jason agreed to coach me for a race that he told me about when we initially met two years ago, the Icebreaker Indoor Marathon. Jason knows my typical family/work schedule and has been great at scheduling training around those. He also knows how to goad me into meeting him at the local YMCA for a workout at night, which has been good because sometimes getting out in the morning after I’ve been up for a couple hours with Genevieve.

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Unexpectedly, an opportunity to be an ambassador for Enduropacks arose, thanks to my friend Nicole. She brought to my attention that they would be starting an ambassador program and suggested that I put in an application. I heard back from them less than a week later and setup a phone interview. About two weeks letter I got the official invitation to join their ambassador team. This was part two of awesome news! Another arrow in my quiver to keep me on my path to a fast marathon time without quitting halfway through the training.

So, in a time that has people usually putting on a few pounds and taking the training off in lieu of a much easier work load I’ve been working on balancing family, training and work. It started off well and the first month and a half saw me earn two PRs on back to back Saturday’s at the half marathon distance, one of them including an age group win. Since then it’s gotten a bit rocky. Genevieve has been having a habit of waking up around 630 when I would normally be getting out for a run and my nights have been getting more packed with longer work hours and homework that has been piling up for my two classes.

Enough with the excuses, though. Tomorrow morning will start with an FTP test session with The Sufferfest and TrainerRoad followed by a long run at the YMCA. Time to start getting used to long miles on the dreadmill for the many weekends leading up to the Icebreaker Indoor marathon weekend.

excuse

Thanks again to Marnie for letting me get out at night for runs and workouts at night, to Jason for coaching me and goading me into getting good workouts at night, and a huge thanks to EnduroPacks for the great opportunity to be a part of their ambassador team. Here’s to a great “off season” from here on out!!

Two Saturdays, two half marathons, two PRs and Enduropacks

A little over a month ago I happily announced that I was chosen to be an ambassador for EnduroPacks. I’m writing this as a 30-day review and will be incorporating two race reports into it.

Firstly, what is EnduroPacks?

EnduroPacks, as I’ve discovered through use, is not a supplement to fuel you through longer workouts. They are more of a recovery based line of supplements. The products they provide are EnduroMulti, Concentrated Electrolyte Spray, Essential Amino Acid Recovery Patch and Glutamine Recovery Complex.

EnduroMulti:
This is the multivitamin of the nutritional set. A huge mix of vitamins, minerals and other wonderful things that you may or may not be getting in your diet. Even if you are getting a lot of them, there are probably some of these that you’re missing. This fills in the gaps to help your body keep well maintained and working. Not only that, but it tastes freaking awesome, too. Remember those Flinstones vitamins you would eat like candy as a kid? Well, this is exactly like it, only in a liquid form so you still maintain that adult look.
Concentrated Electrolyte Spray:
See all those Gatorade, Powerade etc sports drinks that you can buy at a gas station, grocery store and

everywhere else under the sun? Basically they’re all just Kool-Aid marketed with a different label. And personally, I think you shouldn’t be able to purchase sports nutrition at a gas station. I’ve always preferred to bring just a bottle of water or two while I ride without all the sugar, my stomach and taste buds don’t like all the sweet anyway. This is the fix. Squirt 5 pumps into your normal water bottle and go ride. All the electrolytes you’re losing while working out will quickly and easily be replaced without you even noticing. Only while I’ve used it after a run workout have I been able to notice the slight change in flavoring that is not unpleasant. It adds a slightly salty taste that reminds me of a hint of lemon.

Essential Amino Acid Recovery Patch:
Amino acids are the basic building blocks of life. They help break down proteins in order to help

grow and repair body tissue. So why would you not want to have more to facilitate faster and more efficient recovery!? Especially when the little patch, once on the skin, is hardly noticable. I’ll admit, at first I was fairly skeptical of this. So I tried it for a week which included a hard speed workout and a fast long run. Being used to feeling pretty drained the next day and ending up taking the day off after each workout that’s exactly how I expected to feel. When I woke up the next day I was ready to do the speed work again, only harder this time. Now, after a few weeks of doing any workout and using this patch afterwards I continue to feel great day after day. The only catch with this is that you look like you’re wearing a nicotine patch. This is something that a couple of the ambassadors from EnduroPacks have addressed, but all in all it isn’t really a detractor. I find that where I place it isn’t inconspicuous and therefore haven’t been asked if I was quitting smoking.

Glutamine Recovery Complex:

Along with the Amino Acid patch, these glutamine pills are another great recovery tool. Glutamine is
a naturally occuring amino acid in the human body and under normal conditions the body is able to generate enough to recover the body from the day’s activities. When you are working out and training for anything the body is put under more stress and takes longer to recover (obviously). The Glutamine Recovery Complex is another tool to pick up the slack that your body cannot produce. I can wholeheartedly tell you that with the Glutamine Recovery Complex my joints have felt better than they have ever felt while training for an event.

EnduroPacks simply works. They have all the medical research jargon on their website and you could read it and get all sorts of feel goods, but what it all boils down to is that I can train hard then get up the next day and do another hard workout without feeling like your muscles and joints hate you. I’ve always been a bit wary, so for those of you who are wary of claims put up by companies I understand where you’re coming from. This stuff isn’t a false claim. Enduropacks will help you push to higher levels of performance by easing the recovery. I’ve proven this to myself over the two hard races that I did last month.
Pricing: $75/mo for 1 mo – $69/mo for 3 mo – $63/mo for 6 mo – $59/mo for 12 months
The pricing is the only thing that I was a bit shocked about. It does run a bit steep. BUT, it’s worth it. Trust me, even if you are just training for your first half marathon or going for the overall podium, the value provided by the help in recovery is worth the price.
Half marathon #1
Prairie State Half Marathon – 12Oct2013 1:40:20 6/41 AG 66/892 OA PR!
So, I’ve been training for a full marathon in January and my coach told me that of these two half marathons I could pick one to race. I chose this one since others from my recruiting battalion were going to be running it and I wanted to make sure I beat them! 
I started off comfortably around 7:00-7:15 pace and held it there. Talked to a few people along the way until they got too tired to keep talking and then I moved on. The course was great. I was expecting it to be a road half since I didn’t pay attention to the race details online. It was a nice surprise when we made the turn onto the crushed limestone trail. And this is one of the few things that I’ll give Illinois props for, their trail system is pretty incredible. The race was an out and back with 95% of it being crushed limestone, only times it wasn’t was when we crossed under a bridge or on a wooden walkway. Once I hit the turn around I started pouring on the suffering to better my position, which may have ended up hurting my time in the end. about 2 miles to the finish the wheels started to fall off. I started walking a bit and some of the people I had been with at the beginning started to pass me up. Once I was within .5 mile I had to start running again, you can’t walk across the finish line! I knew that I would PR with this race because in the past I hadn’t been training at all and just ran the half. I was shooting for a 1:38, but wasn’t too sad about the results.
After getting my first PR

Coming off of the race my coach had me do a really light week. I was just expecting an easy half, but after I told him how I was feeling leading into the race thanks to EnduroPacks he told me to race it, but faster this time. I was a little nervous about it because I hadn’t done hard weekends like this in the past. 
Half marathon #2
Des Plaines River Trails half marathon – 19Oct2013 1:35:38 1/14 AG 5/250 OA
I started with a very slow, easy 2 mile warmup before we started the race and timed it to be completed within 15 minutes of the start. I’d been at the race since 0545 since my friend, Jeff Clinton, was running the 50 mile and I told him that I would drive.
The first mile was a lot faster than I planned on, 6:50. The three of us that were leading the race mentioned to each other that we were running too fast, but added “Where are all the fast people?” haha. Starting with a 2.3 mile loop south and then heading north through the trails to the half way. Two of the three passed me around the 3 mile mark and the overall winner came bounding by and crushed everyone. This race I tried a new fueling plan and I think that it helped out when I started to feel the drain about 5k from the finish. I had a gel 4.5 miles in and then again at 9 miles. Considering that I had done an extra 2 miles before the race I was very happy when I surpassed the 10 overall mile mark and then again when I was 5k from the finish. I could tell that I was walking the line between doing my best and blowing up, so I pulled it back a slight bit. My goal was to not run above 8:00 on any mile and I did just that. I kept it down below that mark. Like any race, when I came within the .5 mile mark I picked it up to push it across the finish. I didn’t want anyone sneaking up on me to pass me at the last sprint. I had originally thought that I was sitting somewhere around 7th overall and had no idea where I was sitting in my age group, but when I crossed the line they told me I was fifth overall!! And when I checked the race results at home I had a good feeling about my age group, with the overall out of AG standings that meant that I had taken my first age group win!! That’s what I call a GREAT race!!
AG winner!!
After I finished I had a quick bite to eat, got changed into my cycling kit and rode my bike on course to find my buddies, Jeff Clinton, Jon Kettley and Marcella Martinez. After finding Jon and Marcella (Marcella ran her first half marathon!!) I took off to find Jeff. I found him at his 31 mile mark, he was looking good. Overall it was around 40 miles on the bike. When I got back to the finish line I got back into warm clothes, put on my EnduroPacks Amino Acid Recovery Patch and took a nap. By the time I woke up I was already feeling good again. Good thing, too, because I had a little over an hour drive back home.
Overall thoughts on EnduroPacks and the races:
I’ve been running competitively for a few years now and I’ve always gone in a cycle of feeling great, training hard, body starts hurting and taking time off to recover. This “off-season” has been some of the hardest training that I’ve done since I started racing. Training for multiple half marathons, and the end season goal of the IceBreaker half AND full marathon on Jan25/26 and the Tour of Sufferlandria, also starting on the 25th has put my schedule full to the brim of hard work. Without a doubt in my mind I have been able to push hard continuously thanks to EnduroPacks. I wake up feeling refreshed even if I got my speed work done the night before and haven’t had a full day of recovery quite yet. These races proved to me that the recovery assets provided are helping me to push harder and reach further in my athletic career. And this is only the beginning…
Good:
-Two PRs!
-EnduroPacks really works and keeps me feeling great after hard workouts!
-AG win and 5th overall! Plus, I didn’t get chicked!
-Figured out a better fueling strategy
Bad:
-Price is a bit high, but well worth it.
-That’s really all that’s bad!!
A huge congrats to my friends, Jeff Clinton, Jon Kettley and Marcella Martinez. Jeff finished his first 50-miler 6 days after running the Chicago Marathon, Jon did both half marathons with me and Marcella completed her first half marathon!
A huge thanks to my coach, Jason Restuccia, for helping me believe that I can push hard even when I feel like giving up. To my wife, Marnie for watching my little girl while I train and race. And to EnduroPacks for supporting my recovery and racing. Without them this would be a whole lot more painful!!
Check out the following link for 10% off any order from EnduroPacks and to see how they can help you achieve your next goal!

ZOMBIES!!!!! A Run For Your Lives 5k Race Report!

RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!!!!
STATESVILLE!!!!

Let me start off by saying this race is flippin sweet. I also didn’t pay for this one, which made it that much sweeter. Thanks, Nicole for hooking me up with The RFYL team and the free entry.

So, I was forwarded an email by an affiliate of mine from www.listoftriathlonblogs.com looking for a couple bloggers who would like to run their race in return for a race report and to share a coupon code with friends and family to get them out for the fun event, too. I was more than happy to spread the word and get more people running. I started with the usual medium to spread the word about things; Facebook. Then I branched out to coworkers and friends face to face. Had a lot of interest, but due to the short notice was only able to get one coworker to join with me. William was pumped. 
So, Run For Your Lives zombie 5k. For those who are not completely aware of what it is, I’ll put their main video below. Essentially you can choose to be a runner or a zombie. Runners obviously try and make through unscathed, zombies obviously try and prevent that. And if you dress cool while doing either, you rock.

The “Inedibles” haha
Sweet huh? The goal is simple, you have three flags (Think flag football) and it is your goal to make it through 3.1 miles of obstacles, zombie fields and general mayhem with at least one of those flags to be called a Survivor and to earn a Survivor medal.

Easy? Maybe. Depends on your strategy and how much you work with or use those around you. Are you the type to proverbially step on your friends to ensure your survival? Are you the friend who is getting sacrificed for the greater good?

William and I discussed strategy while driving up since it was a good 1.5 hour drive. We decided to take it head-on and just gun for it. We figured there would be very few of the zombies that would chase after a sprinter. We turned out to be right.

We started in the 12:30 wave and took right off. The course was located on a motocross track, so it was pretty “hilly” with all the jumps they had on course. Within 1/4 mile I had already ninja rolled while evading the first set of zombies and gave myself a pretty good scraping of skin off my arm.

Doesn’t seem like much, but it’s been over a week and a half and it’s still bleeding.

From there was a mud pit with barbed wire overtop, which meant we were going to be muddy right off the bat. Nice! Ran around through a second zombie field, which was easy enough. They were spread a bit, but not so far that you didn’t have to juke left and right occasionally. After a brief jaunt through a wooded area we came to the second obstacle, a large, smoke-filled tent with elecrical wires hanging from the ceiling. How do you know they were electrified, you ask? Well, you could hear them crackling as the fog machine filled the area. And it wasn’t a faint crackle!

The first mud pit with barbed wire.

Dodging through those and ducking back out of the tent brought us to the longest zombie field we’d seen yet. This is where I lost my first flag. Our technique of just blowing past them was working until we found the first one who would actually chase after us. We each lost a flag, but I guess their rules are that they can only take one flag per runner per zombie area. Smart, as I can see people being upset that they didn’t want to run and lost all three in a matter of seconds. Anyways, after I got my flag taken the zombies started cheering for us and we both gave a bunch of high-fives as we ran off into the next wooded area.

This wooded area brought us back out to where we could see the beginning of the course, where we saw the rest of our 12:30 wave. We were pretty far ahead of them and it wasn’t much longer before we started passing people in the 12:00 wave. More zombie fields and more mud brought us to the next major obstacle. A particularly steep hill that had a pipe pouring water down it to make it extra muddy. Not too bad, I had my trail shoes on and there were ropes strung along it to help you pull yourself up. Not to make things too easy for us, there was a zombie group at the very top! Already with an elevated heart rate and breathing a little heavy we took off again, dodging, ducking and out-sprinting the zombies. We also passed a group of 12:00 runners and left them to their fate of getting flags pulled. We didn’t feel bad, this is the zombie apocalypse!

RUN!!!!!

After this group it was a sludge through trails running around the course and dirtbike jumps until we reached the final obstacle and the longest zombie field of the course. The final obstacle had a line waiting for it, so we were able to catch our breath for a short moment. From where we were standing it was a group of tires that had been chained together to form a ladder for us to climb up. Once atop the platform there was a 5 foot deep pool of COLD water. Some of the girls around me looked a little nervous about jumping in, so I helped them out by jumping high up and making a very large cannonball to splash everyone around. On a scale of 1 to completely shrunk I was a completely shrunk. Good thing I didn’t ease into it!

We found Leia.

After I waded through that and climbed out I rejoined the group ahead of me. William followed behind me shortly thereafter. The group in front was waiting for more people in hopes to escape unscathed from the zombies by leaving their slower comrades to get their flags taken. Oh, the backstabbing!! At least William and I were upfront about it, they acted as a team up until that point. William and I took off, he went wide left while I went wide right. I found a longer area that was less infested with zombies and as I entered the home stretch to crawl below the barbed wire finish line a zombie lunged towards me and I caught a hand to the groin, which saved my flag because he, his fellow zombies and the spectators all let out an audible “oooooh…” in unison. I slowly made my way to the finish and crawled under to collect my SURVIVOR medal. William crawled under to be shamed by his INFECTED status.

We were the first two from the 12:30 wave to cross the finish line and considering I was a survivor, I would call that a major success. Take that World War Z!

William and I. He’s ashamed having become infected.

Race thoughts:

Wow, what an awesome race. Having done the Warrior Dash this summer I was a little wary to what obstacles the race would hold and what caliber to expect of those who were zombies. I was thoroughly impressed with the land in which the event was held. A motocross park makes for a very good obstacle course, take note, Warrior Dash. On to the pros and cons

Best dressed zombie couple ever.

Cost – 2/10
course –  9/10
facilities – 5/10
goodies/swag bag – 7/10

Pros:
– Free for me, and $20 off for my friends. Definitely made it worth my while
– Course, obstacles, zombies were incredible, well planned and well executed
– Great involvement with the racers before the wave started by the MC

Cons:
– Very expensive for a 5k. It would’ve cost about $100 for just the race fee
– Parking $10, bag check $5. If your race is expensive, don’t tack on extra fees, you seem greedy
-shower/change tent situation was not up to par for a muddy and cold event

Bottom line:
If you’re looking for a race to do with your friends or if you’re looking for a race for yourself DO THIS RACE. A very fun, very well run event and definitely worth it.

Thanks, RFYL, Nicole and a huge thanks to Marnie for dealing with a tyrant infant that was having a bad day.

Michigan Titanium 70.3

This year, my ‘A’ race was the Michigan Titanium 70.3 I’ve decided to stay at the 70.3k as my furthest distance because I can do training here and there if life gets hectic or if the Army gets in the way and I can still feel good about the race. Considering I’m not in AG podium shape just yet and am ‘finisher’ and not a competitor, I’ll just compete with myself. I have the experience of doing a 70.3 already, so I know a little of what to expect in order to better my time. I’ll also do a post in the future to review the season and the improvements that I’ve made.

Michigan Titanium:

I was initially drawn to this race because it was another option aside from the expensive WTC. Plus, it was perfectly timed for when I wanted a race. This was the race that I talked about finding for Jon and I in this post. The plan was to spend the summer getting those longer bikes and runs in on weekends, sprinkled with hard intervals on the trainer and medium runs with speedwork during the week. This didn’t go according to plan because I was sent to Fort Sill, OK for 7 weeks during the height of the summer, where it was 103 degrees pretty much every day. I did do some racing, and those reports are also found in my previous posts. That racing definitely helped me on the bike leg for MITI 70.3. I had spent the majority of my training time on my bike and it showed when it came to the race. Without further ado, the report:

Swim:
Typical swim. It started in the water and followed a NASCAR-like ‘Left, left, left’ fashion and then returned to the beach where we had entered. Again, I didn’t panic when I swim in open water, it’s one of my strengths. I may not be fast, but I don’t freak. I did catch a heel to my right eye at about half-way through the swim and that caused a small headache to spark. Came out of the water and got up and onto the bike. As I was getting into transition I took one packet of Frog Performance Frogfuel.

Time: 44:09 – 2:17/100m 11/15 AG
Strava link: http://www.strava.com/activities/78340704
T1: 2:45

Bike:

Here’s where I knew I would be the strongest in the three events. Right from the get-go I started picking people off. I was a little surprised at the amound of rolling hills the course had, but they weren’t too terrible. With exception to 2 or 3 of the hills, which ended up having a grade above 10%. Good thing I was climbing hills on EVERY ride this summer. For the first 10-15 miles I did get to play leapfrog with a guy on a steel-frame who would burn matches working to beat me up any hills. He was pretty un-aero as he had a Camelback and stock wheels with lots of spokes. I would inevitably pass him on the downhills since I had aerobars and a deep front wheel with a Zipp disc rear wheel. I will admit, it gave for a fun target and we passed smirks every time we passed each other. I enjoyed the tailwind for the front half of the course, but as we circled around on the back half I could definitely feel it start to affect my progress. It was especially bad when the wind would pick up slightly while going up a hill. Then there was an 800 meter section where the road had been torn up, so they laid a roll of tar-paper so we wouldn’t flat on any sharp rocks. Unfortunately the 800 meter section started at the bottom of a hill, so we lost momentum by having to slow down to 10 mph AND we had to work harder to get up hill with the soft ground stealing energy. Once past that it was fairly uneventful and I was just ready to be on my feet and finishing this thing. Keeping me fueled was Hammer Nutrition’s orange cream Perpetuem.

Heading out onto the bike course.

Time: 2:49:31 – 19.8 mph 3/15 AG
Strava link: http://www.strava.com/activities/78333272
T2: 3:43

Genevieve waiting for me to finish.

Run: Coming from this summer I knew that I wasn’t going to be as fast as I was hoping. Most of my runs were around 3-4 miles and were fast. I started off at a decent pace, I think if this had been a 5k run it would’ve been a pretty fast run. I started running on E at about mile 3 and started walk-running. Started out as run 5 minutes and walk 1-2 minutes. Then it moved to walk 1 minute, run until the next mile mark, walk 1 minute, run to the next mile mark etc. until that stopped happening. Eventually I got synced up with a guy who was cramping up a bit, so he and I walked and ran together. I say ran, but it was more of a slow jog. Generally when I’m not trained enough for a running race I’ll make a habit of walking through aid stations and I found more things that worked well to replace salt and calories. Pickles are awesome. Cookies are incredible. Basically all food was awesome. I pushed through my sore and tired legs for the last mile or so to get a PR. Not the result I wanted, but a PR nonetheless.

Time: 2:33:04 – 11:42 min/mi 12/15 AG
Overall: 6:13:15 – 9/15 AG 116/300 OA

About 50m from the finish line.
Almost there!!

Good:
-Definitely happy with the bike avg
-Swim was only a few seconds off per 100m compared to Bigfoot Oly
-Nutrition was good and didn’t cause cramping

Needs improvement:
-SWIM. I’ve said it all this summer, didn’t get enough swimming in.
-RUN. Needed more long runs with better intervals.
-Keep building the power on the bike.

Overall I am fairly pleased with the race. The course was great, although I’m glad I only did one loop of each rather than doing the 140.6. I am grateful to all the volunteers and law enforcement that helped to make it a safe course. I would suggest to them, treat spectators with more respect, though. My wife reported to me that one marshal was being very rude and yelling at spectators.

Thanks, MI Titanium!! I wish I could come play again next year, but I’ll be in California!!

Two race reports and just a generally awesome weekend

So, this is way overdue… But, I’m finally sitting down to do it since I owe a big thanks to Brad Williams (His blog here) and had a generally awesome weekend.

A little backstory: This summer I had to spend 7 weeks down in Fort Sill, OK for a leadership school required of all Staff Sergeants. Earlier in the year I had begun a conversation with Brad Williams to pick his brain a bit about cycling and triathlon. I had been reading his blog and was very impressed. So, as I talked to him I noticed that he was in Fort Worth, TX. I mentioned that I was going to be just a few hours north of him for the summer and he said if I ever got the chance to come down and I could do a little training with him. Well, that first weekend I was in OK I happened to have a 4-day weekend for the Fourth of July. While driving down Brad shot me the info on two races that would be happening that weekend. The Firecracker 100k cycling race and the Mayor’s Triathlon.

So, I drove down to Fort Worth on Friday and got there just in time to go on a bike ride with Brad. The workout today was a 3×10 minute big chainring/smallest cog combo with 5 minute breaks. One thing that I learned while down in Oklahoma and Texas is that the “plains” are actually just lots and lots of hills. Over the 36 miles there was about 1500 ft of elevation gained. Now, this doesn’t seem like a lot of elevation gained over 36 miles, but keep in mind that I’m coming from Chicagoland, IL and big hills here are around 30 feet and stretched over a half mile or more. After we finished the bike ride we cooled for a few minutes, changed into running attire and did a short 3.5 mile run, 15 minutes out 15 minutes back. It was extremely hot and I felt like my face was going to melt off. Then we had Chipotle and all was good in the world.

Race: Firecracker 100k

This is my fist bike “race” that I’ve ever done. Brad sent me the link to the race because they were offering free entry to active duty military and it fit well with his training plan. Since I was going to be there for the weekend anyway, I decided I would join in. Most of the riders doing the 100k were Cat 1/2 riders and were absolute monsters. Brad is a Cat 2 rider and pretty much from the get-go was attacking to take control of the race. My whole game plan was to hang in with the peleton for as long as I could until either I couldn’t handle it anymore or we finished. I was not in it to win it.

Riding with these guys was a real eye-opening experience. I knew that there were guys who could kill it on the bike, but these guys were powerhouses. Also, drafting is an excellent thing if you’re not at the top level or if you’re far below the level of those who you’re riding with. I spent a large majority of my time riding in the peleton. I had no idea if they were riding paceline or if there were a few guys that were trying to push it and taking all the wind. Our riding was well above 22 mph average, even going up the hills in the ride. I remember looking down at my Garmin Edge 500 and thinking “holy cow, I can’t believe how quickly we’re climbing this hill!”

Nutritionally my plan was to take a Hammer Nutrition gel about every 45 minutes to an hour. I didn’t really have breakfast beforehand and I think that had something with my bonk around mile 45. Luckily right at the top of the last major hill was an aid station that had pickle juice, water and bananas. I stopped and had some of each and let my hr get a little adjusted before continuing on. I rode the last 10 or so miles slowly with an older couple and just chatted it up. I figured that I had busted myself and I wasn’t going to catch any of the riders, so I’m just going to relax a bit. Overall it was a very nice ride and I was glad that I took the challenge and stuck with it!

Strava link:
http://www.strava.com/activities/65164653

Sunday was the Fort Worth Mayer’s Triathlon:

I was looking forward to this race. I had been getting faster on my bike and my running had recently started to get back down to the speeds that I wanted them to be at. Coming off the 100k, I wasn’t sure how my legs were going to handle the workload, but they ended up handling everything perfectly. I only planned on pushing as hard as I could and to get off the bike and really push the run hard. While we were at packet pickup I had the idea to ask if they had anyone singing the National Anthem, they didn’t, so I also had the opportunity to sing it for this race. I’m really enjoying doing this for races!

Swim:
The swim for the Mayor’s Triathlon was held in the YMCA pool. It was a 300yd swim that snaked up and down the lanes until you reached the end, which had a ramp to help you run up and out of the water. It was pretty cool the way they started the race. Betsy Price, the Mayor of Fort Worth, started off the race and was followed by the local school triathlon club. How cool to see a bunch of middle schooler’s getting out there early on a Sunday to do something that a lot of their peers would think is crazy! It was really fun seeing the looks on their face as it was almost their turn to enter the pool to start their swim. Some of them really had a knack for swimming and others were just dealing with it so they could go ride their bike. That’s normally what I do! Anyways, I finished and got onto the bike where I wanted to be.

Time: 5:16 – 1:45/100Y
T1: 1:53

Bike:
This is where I wanted to be. I was interested in seeing how my legs would be after the Firecracker 100k. Surprisingly my legs felt great! I shook off the sluggishness from the pool and started pounding on the pedals as hard as I could without killing my run. Coming off the ride on Saturday I was expecting some hills on the course, and it didn’t fail to deliver them. For the most part they were pretty small except for the final hill heading up to the loop turn and into transition. I was able to hang out aero for most of it apart from those two hills. I can say that I am looking forward to the day when I get a bike fit and a true triathlon/time trial bike. Everything is great on my bike, but when I really put power into my legs I can feel the strain add into my lower back and it really gets sore, especially for long rides. This one wasn’t too bad, but I had soreness left over from the Firecracker. The course ended up being 13.6 miles instead of the 15 miles described on the race website.

Time: 38:25 – 21.0 mph avg
Strava link: http://www.strava.com/activities/65380701

Run:
Here’s where my major mental game was for the day. I have had a habit in the past of overdoing the bike and then when it starts to hurt I start to walk. It was my main goal to push through the soreness of burned up legs and still get a good run. The course was an out and back course that had only one hill. It was a fairly decent hill that you ran down on the way out and then about 1/2 mile from the finish line you got to go up the hill. I knew running down it that it was going to be an absolute monster to run up it. That was a very true assessment. On the way out I did come across Brad, he was already on his way back and headed towards winning the race overall. I made my way and only briefly walked while going back up the hill. Then I pushed for everything I had and got across the line to a 3rd place AG finish and 15 OA.

Time: 22:57 – 7:02 min/mi pace
Strava link: http://www.strava.com/activities/65382318/overview

Overall time: 1:09:58

Overall thoughts:

This weekend was a new challenge. I’ve ridden long rides before, but they’re always the type where we stop at a few points to decide what to do next or to just chill for a minute. Putting the amount of strain into my legs was a really good experience. I learned that my legs can handle that amount of work even if my unmotivation doesn’t want to go out for a hard workout. I also learned what it was like to hang with the big boys of cycling on an elite amateur level. They’ve given me a definite goal to shoot for and a vision of the type of work I’ll be needing to get there.

Good:
-New experiences on racing distances cycling
-3rd AG placing! First podium!
-My legs can handle a beating!

Needs improvement:
-Still need to figure out some race nutrition for longer distances
-Keep on building power on the bike

A huge thanks to Brad Williams for providing the opportunity for me to come down to Fort Worth for a training/race weekend. Thanks for giving me a couch and letting me pick you brain about training and racing! If you’re ever in the area and need a place to crash don’t hesitate to call, we’ve got a place for you.

Also, a huge thanks to the Firecracker 100k for providing free entry and for Mayor’s Triathlon for putting on a great local race.