Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Race I Should NOT Have Done...

Ever get into something only to wonder part way through it if you'd made a big mistake? I did when I did the Blair NE Bike Club's 100 mile bike race on Sept. 8th. My training this whole year was short, fast stuff as I prepared for USAT Sprint National Championship. In the last year I'd done one 60 mile ride and all other rides have been 15-40 miles. Thats not what you did to prepare for a 100 mile race.

I had a simple strategy I would use to see if I could win - ride as slowly as possible without losing contact with the lead group. That was not easy. Several times I had to push way harder that what would allow me to finish. The course covered two 43 mile loops and one out and back section of 20 miles, so the 100 miler was actually 106.

On the first loop the lead pack had 6 in it. I stayed back about 200yds. and hung on. At 38 miles I had thoughts of dropping out at the end of the loop. I was hurting already. We were rolling along between 21-23mph which was too fast for me for a race that long in the condition I was in. But, I headed out on the second loop.

The lead group went down to three early in this loop. I kept my distance behind them. I thought seriously about dropping at about 52 miles - hurting and realizing I had more than 50 more to race. Race specific training is super important and I'd not done that or anything close. But, I kept pressing on. I wanted to win this thing and I knew I'd have to make a move at some point to get the lead and break away.

My opportunity came at about 70 miles. There were a number of aid stations along the way and all three pulled over to fill up their water bottles so I rode by them and upped the speed knowing they'd be coming after me. My friend Dave was driving the route giving me my fluids which was totally legal so I didn't have to stop. I rode as fast as I dared knowing I had a lot of miles yet to go. I actually thought about dropping out at the end of the second loop even though I was leading because I was hurting so badly.

At the end of the second loop I had about 2 minutes on those chasing me. I headed from Blair towards Ft. Calhoun for the final section, riding with the wind which was blowing strong from the NW. I flew to the check point, turned around and hoped I didn't see the other guys coming at me...saw them and figured I had 3-4 minutes on them.

The last 10 miles were brutal. I'd hit the wall...bonked badly and was going straight into the wind. I could only hope the others felt as bad as I did. I limped back to Blair, looking back but not seeing them. I won. I went deep into the "pain cave" though. My knees were killing me and I had absolutely nothing left in the tank.

I gladly accepted the winners plaque and an envelope with a $100 bill in it. Nice! Ate a huge sandwich and headed for home. I was tired for the next 3 days, feeling drained. I won't do another long race like that unless I'm prepared. Famous last words...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Race Of My Life - 2012 USAT Sprint National Championships

Weeks/Days Leading Up To The Race – I’d had a great season leading up to Nationals. Couple of overall wins, age group wins in every race, two sub-20 minute 5K’s off the bike…only thing I had to deal with was a nagging sciatic problem that effected my hamstring and glute with pain. It caused me to miss some run training that I knew would not allow me to be at the top of my game for Nationals.

Then, a week before Nationals, on an 8 mile run (my longest distance of my whole season) I strained a muscle in my upper calf. I couldn’t believe it. I was pretty down that I’d probably blown my chance for a good finish at Nationals. I knew right then I’d not run again until eight days later when I got off my bike in the race. Would it be better in one week? I tried to treat it aggressively and I had Dr. Faye Jones at Blair Chiropractic Center give me Active Release Technique treatments on it. Biking and swimming didn’t bother it at all.

So, though I’d had a good season, I knew that I probably needed more running miles under my belt to do well at the big dance. I hadn’t done the long distance bike rides like I’d done last year. 40 milers were “long” this season with one 60 miler recorded. On the drive up to Burlington from Manchester, NH where we’d flown into, I felt my chest tightening up with a chest cold coming on. Really? This was very bad news and I had pretty much given up hope of a high finishing place.

We arrived in Burlington, VT on Thursday after our flights were messed up and spending the night unexpectantly in Chicago…but United Airlines paid for a room at the Hilton and two meals. Nice. The weather in Burlington was beautiful and the forecast was good. Race was on Sunday. When we got to town I registered, picked up my packet and we drove the course. We tried to lay low on Friday and Saturday. I went for a swim in the lake on Friday with some friends from Omaha and I rode my bike for 30 minutes before checking it in.

Race Morning – It was a beautiful morning. 50 degrees and an off shore breeze made the water nice and calm. I warmed up, stretched, got everything set up in transition and with Jen, headed to the swim start. I felt relaxed and at peace. I’d prayed a lot about my race and asked the Lord for a “clean” race, meaning no mechanical problems or flats on the bike and no leg issues on the run that would cause me to have to slow down or drop out. I didn’t ask for anything I’d not worked for. I’d thought about this day, every workout I’d done for the last year. I was here last year, injured and hobbled to 13th in my age group. This year, I wanted to do much better.

Goals…well, top ten at Nationals would be nice. Top five, much better. A top three podium spot would be, absolutely amazing, and winning? THAT was a dream that was way, way out there. It was a goal I really didn’t think was in the realm of reality. I was going up against guys currently USAT ranked # 1, 3, 12 and 13 in the nation in my age group. I was ranked 19th. On paper, I was a long shot to even get on the podium. But, I still had peace and knew this was in God’s hands. I’d done all I could to prepare and I knew I had friends back home praying for a clean race for me. My chest cold had not really developed and though it still felt tight, I was happy to breathe fairly normally.

750 Meter Swim – 12:40 – Just before the start of the race, treading water waiting for the starting horn to sound, I smiled and thanked God for letting me be in this race. Again, peace… I spied the course which had two right hand turns around the first two buoys, the second one taking us right into the rising sun and basically blinding us all. We needed to make about a 120 degree turn around that buoy to head for the third one, then the fourth, then the finish.

Horn sounded! “Stay calm and don’t go crazy, Lincoln,” I told myself. First buoy, not too crowded. I was off to a good start though I could see the faster swimmers already opening up a gap. Around the second buoy and, I couldn’t see anything because of the sun and splashing. Here, I made a bad mistake by turning closer to 180 degrees instead of 120 and, without knowing it, I was heading straight back the way I’d come. My brain thought I was on course but I wasn’t. I swam straight into another swimmer coming straight at me. “What is he doing???” I swerved to the left, looked left to see the “train” of swimmers going away from me to my left. I realized then what I’d done, so I swam back towards the line of swimmers going the correct direction, realizing I’d just lost precious time and maybe shot a hole in my race just a few minutes into it.

Once back on track I swam strong to the finish. Jen, watching from the shore, became very worried when she counted about 14 swimmers in my heat coming out of the water ahead of me. Before the race, I’d decided I wasn’t going to wear a watch and I took the computer/speedometer off my bike because I wanted to just go all out and race by my heart and not numbers. So, I had no idea how much time I’d lost because I didn’t know my swim time. I wanted to swim under 12 minutes which I’d done in other races this year for that distance. Little did I know that I was almost two minutes behind the leader(s).

Transition 1 – 1:32 – Out of the water and sprinting for the transition area, I didn’t see or hear Jen so I didn’t know where I stood place wise. I had a good transition, with my great Xterra wetsuit coming off quickly. Helmet and Zeal sunglasses on, I went running as fast as I could towards the bike mount area. I did see one of my biggest rivals getting his helmet on when I ran by so I thought I was doing better off than I actually was. Good transition though.

12.4 Mile Bike – 30:43 The route headed south through town about 1.5 miles, then a u-turn and back through town, then out of town to the north about four-five miles, turn around and come back. There was a huge long hill at about the 2.5 mile point. I put my head down and quoted Rocky Balboa when he shoved Clubber Lang at the end of a round saying, “You ain’t so bad. You ain’t so bad!” And, it really wasn’t.

One other funny thing was that I saw my shadow early in the bike and noticed something was sticking up out of my helmet. What? I then realized the straw from my aero bottle on my aerobars had pulled out when I lifted my helmet off my bike handlebars where I put it before the race. The straw sticks straight up and I used it as an anchor for my helmet by having it stick up through a center air hole in the top of my helmet. I put my helmet there upside down. When I pulled my helmet off the aerobars to put it on, I’d pulled the straw out of the bottle and it was sticking up out of my helmet. Wow. Never had done that before. I pulled it out of the helmet and stuck it back in the bottle.

My Valdora bike felt light and fast and I really started picking up the speed. I’d hoped for a ride between 31 and 32 minutes. I flew back into the transition area for the bike to run switch, not knowing I’d just nailed the fastest bike split of everyone in my age group. I’d averaged 24.3mph, which, on that course, I never would have guessed I could have done.

Transition 2 – 1:09 - I jumped off my bike and ran hard with it to my transition spot. Racked my bike, helmet off, Hoka One One shoes on, grab my hat and race belt/number and took off. I had to run all the way around the transition area to head out on the run course. As I was running I heard them call the name of the next guy coming in and it was a fabulous triathlete / duathlete (run, bike, run). This guy is a five time triathlon National Champion and two time duathlon National Champion, a silver medalist at the World Duathlon Championships and a 9 hour 55 minute Ironman. Great!

3.1 mile / 5K Run – 19:20 – As I exited the transition area I saw and heard my wife, Jen, yell that she thought I was in second place. Seriously??? You mean I passed 13 or so guys during the bike? Unbelievable! I started to get excited, then really nervous. The run starts with a very nasty, steep hill that last a few hundred yards. I prayed hard that my calves wouldn’t cramp up as I jogged up that beast. I’d practiced this dozens of times in training – every time I ran up a hill, I pretended it was this one. Shortened my stride, leaned forward at the waist, pumped with my arms and slowly crested the top of the hill.

I tried to open up ASAP as I didn’t have much time to ease into this run. I saw a guy probably 300 yds. ahead of me running really fast. I knew he had to be in my age group and if Jen was correct, that I was in second place, then he was in first. Ahead of me was this guy running fast and behind me was the multiple national champion chasing me. Wow! I later found out that the runner ahead of me was the # 1 ranked triathlete in the nation in my age group. I felt like a sandwich and I was the baloney in the middle.

I ran as hard as I could and went through the first mile mark guessing I’d run about 7:15 for that mile. The hill and just getting to the run made for a fairly slow mile. Now it was time to open it up. I ran hard and noticed that I was slowly reeling in the first place guy but not quickly at all. By the two mile mark, the athlete behind me hadn’t caught me (though I didn’t know how far back he was) and I had closed the gap on the leader to about 100 yds.

At about the 2 ¼ mile mark I was really hurting badly. This was the moment of decision…do I settle for a probable podium spot whether second or third, or, do I try to find one more gear and catch the leader for the national title? My body was screaming to settle for current position. My head was telling me that if I didn’t give 110% and give my everything to catch him, I’d regret it forever. It was at that point that the possibility of becoming the National Champion spurred me forward to go for it. I thought of all my family and friends that were praying for me, not that I’d get something I didn’t earn, but that I’d give my all. I thought of Jen waiting for me at the finish line, looking for me and believing in me.

So, somehow, I found one more gear and began to close the final gap to the leader. With about 300 yards to go I caught him. Now…do I try to run by him, stay right behind him and try to out-sprint him at the finish line or run beside him to see what he’d do? Jen told me the day before if this scenario came up to keep right on going by whoever I had come up on. So, I tried to run by him looking strong and powerful even though I wanted to stop and puke. I had one singular focus these last 300 yard – the finish line. If he comes back on me or if the guy behind me catches me in the last 300, so be it. I was giving my all and started sprinting with all I had.

Now, understand, watching an old man sprint is not a pretty sight. I felt on the very edge of losing control, tripping or passing out, but on I ran. 150 yds, 100 yds, 50 yards, now on the red carpet that led to the finish line and I sprinted with all I had crossing the line without either guy behind me catching me. I fell in the grass and couldn’t move. I’d run the fastest 5K in years, averaging 6:15 miles. But, if you take out that slow first mile, my last two were right at six minute miles, the last one maybe sub-six minutes.

After lying there for a minute and then sitting up for another minute, I got up knowing that I had nothing left. I’d given everything I had and then some. I shuffled out of the finish area and saw Jen, who hugged me and told me I’d won. I was not readily convinced. Twice this season, initial results had not been what I thought and I ended up disappointed. We walked over to the computer tent where they print off your results and hand them to you on a little piece of paper. Jen took the paper, looked at it and told me it said I was # 1 in my group – National Champion! She wept for joy for me but, I still did not emotionally embrace it. What if a mistake had been made? What if I got a penalty while on the bike?

It would take an hour for the penalties to be posted. So, the wait began. I chatted with other athletes and friends for a while and then we got my bike and gear and walked to the car putting that stuff in it and then walked back to the race area. The penalties were all listed and there was a page and a half of race numbers listed. Each triathlete that got tagged for drafting or some other penalty had two minutes added to their time. Jen and I went through the list three times and, my number did NOT appear! Final results – I was the National Champion. This was beyond belief. Seriously, this was the best athletic day of my life.

Post Race - We went back to the room and I got cleaned up. We then drove to the Burlington Sheraton for the awards ceremony held in their big ballroom. It seemed full with several hundred people attending. On the stage there was a huge podium with third, second and the highest level in the middle, first. I still couldn’t wrap my brain around the fact that I’d be standing on that block. I still wondered if some mistake had been made. No mistake. They got to my age group and they called up Curt Eggers, multiple-time national champ, then Thomas McGee, the # 1 ranked triathlete in the nation in my age group, then me. Gold medal around my neck…up on top of the podium and I looked out at the crowd. It was surreal.

Curt and Thomas were very gracious and both offered sincere and gracious congratulations to me.

Off the podium we went and for me, a stop at a table reserved for the National Champions in each age group. There I got to pick up a National Champion racing top. So cool! Then, out to the hallway to sign up for the slot on Team USA for 2013 World Championships in London.

Final Thoughts – Coming back from 1:40 down after the swim for the win against such a competitive field tells me that God answered my prayers and those praying for me. I had a clean race, my bike worked great and so did my running legs. That’s all I wanted. I dug deeper than any other race in my life and went deep into the pain well. It was so worth it. I’ve been blessed to receive congratulatory calls, texts, emails and Facebook messages from friends all over the place – as far away as South Africa and Italy. Jen was awesome for me the whole week leading up to the race and on race day. My folks were super interested in the race, prayed for me and were thrilled when I called them to tell them the results. I also want to thank several fantastic companies who have helped me so much: Hammer Nutrition, Zeal Optics, Little Red Barn Beef, Valdora, Skin Strong, Barracuda, Zensah, Xterra Wetsuits, Dr. Faye Jones, Lion Gear and Hoka One One running shoes.

Several years ago, I told Jen that I’d set some tri goals for my life. Here they were: When I’m 65 (and new to the 65-59 age group), be on the podium at Nationals (top 3). When I age up to the 70-74 age group, win the National Championship. When I spring into the 75-79 age group, be on the podium at the ITU World Championship, and, when I turn 80, win Worlds. I figured if I could just stay alive, I’d out-live my competition and eventually become the World Champion. I’m blessed to say, I’m a bit ahead of schedule and I thank God for that.
Joshua 1:9, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not fear or be dismayed for the Lord your God is with you."
1 Samuel 2:30, "Those who honor Me, I will honor."

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Omaha Triathlon Report

My primary goals for this race were to have it be a little "tune up" for Nationals two weeks later and, not to get injured. Goals accomplished. I went a bit slower part of the time with those goals in mind. 5th out of the water in the sprint distance race (swim was long I think), I quickly hopped on my Valdora and started up the long, double stair step hill that makes up most of the first two miles. This is not a fast bike course. After that initial climb the rest is up and down the whole time. I started the bike in 4th and came in in 2nd with two guys close behind me.

The first place "kid," who is a high school swimmer / cross country runner, was about 1:15 ahead of me. Thought I might be able to catch him depending on what kind of runner he was. Well, he was a good one! He opened up the gap on me more during the run and, at about the 1 mile point, a second high school kid ran by me. Looking around it was clear I wasn't going to catch either of them and the guy behind me wasn't going to catch me, so I cruised the rest of the run and finished 3rd overall and 1st in my age group. Happy with the race but it didn't feel quite as good as the weekend before in Lincoln, NE or two weeks before that in MN. Oh well, no problem.

I'm always thankful to finish a race strong, feeling good and uninjured. It's fun racing against "kids" that could...almost, be my grandkids! They're quick though. Too quick for me on this day. Maybe next time!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Cornhusker State Games Triathlon Race Report

"Man, Pros Are Fast!"

Used to be that everyone would race and they'd give the best awards to the top 3 males and females overall, then the top 3 in each age group would get awards as well. Now, many race directors have a new category - Elite Division, or, Championship Division. Most race web sites don't really give a description of what that category is or how fast one should be to race in it.

Last race, up in Minnesota, I didn't sign up for the Elite Division because I thought it would be like, junior pros or the pro-want-to-be types or actual pros. So I raced with the age groupers and beat all those who were in the Elite wave and got 2nd overall by 1/10th of a second (see post below this one.) Next race up for me was the Cornhusker State Games Tri in Lincoln, NE. Based on the MN race, I signed up for the "Championship Division," which I guessed was the Elite group. May as well give it a go...

It's been super hot in NE and it was nice to have the temps the night before the race get down to the 60s. Race morning dawned and it was beautiful. Drove to Lincoln with my buddy and next door neighbor Matt who had done this race twice before - good source of information! Set up transition, warmed up and then they called us all to line up with those in our heat. I walk up to 7 other guys who all could have been my kids I think. There was a legit pro who was 24 yrs. old and, looked the part - lean, strong with a great swim background as a collegiate Division 1 swimmer.

Everyone else looked fast too. I thought I might be in for a very embarrassing morning. My wife, Jen was there as were my parents and two other couples that are good friends all ready to cheer me on.

The eight of us got in the water for the 750m swim, which turned out to be 650m. I immediately noticed that they were all ahead of me pretty quickly. Great. The embarrassment started already. Felt good actually on the swim and tried to stay within myself knowing the other two events are my faster events. Around the last buoy I saw several running up the beach as I still had further to go. I hit the beach and started to pull down my Xterra Skinsuit as I sprinted for the bikes. Fast T1 and off on the bike. Still thought I was last in the Elite wave. Saw a friend, Brandon, up ahead of me. He's a better swimmer and biker than I am and I felt good that I'd kept the gap to maybe...30 seconds or so.

The bike course was a three lapper so it made for good viewing for my family and friends. My wife, Jen, was able to call out how far behind I was. As I started my 3rd and final lap she yelled that I was one minute behind first place. What??? How could that be? No time to figure it out now, so I rode the hilly bike course for the 3rd time and last and went by the one Pro...who was riding along on a flat tire! Wow! I buzzed back into the park towards T2. Fast dismount and I saw my friend Brandon running out of transition as I was running in. Super quick T2 and I was out running. As I was leaving, I heard Jen yell that I was in 2nd place! No way! Seriously?

I was actually 5th out of the water, had passed one guy in T1 and passed another two on the bike. Amazing! I settled into the run trying to run through a tight left calf, which, by God's grace slowly loosened up. Slowly, very slowly I started to reel in Brandon who was leading the race. Right around the 1st mile, I heard footsteps on the path...someone coming up behind me...and flying by me - the Pro, Sam Holmes. Ran by me fast! OK, so we know who's going to win this thing and now Brandon and I are fighting for 2nd place. It took me a full two miles to catch Brandon as he was running faster than he ever had in a triathlon.

I had one mile to go and just prayed that my legs wouldn't tighten up. Felt strong and with a few hundred yards to go, I was filled with gratitude to God and to my family. I knew they'd be cheering for me as I brought it home, 2nd only to the Pro. I ran it in and felt so very blessed. Yes, I'd been super intimidated by the lean, young guys in the Championship wave, but, somehow I'd beat them all...except that stink'in Pro. Sam is actually a super nice guy. Just wished they'd had a "Pros Only" category :)

The results were posted and an age grouper had actually beaten me by nine seconds so I appeared on the list as 3rd overall, 2nd in the Championship heat. I'll take it. Very thankful. A pro, who'd had a flat tire, beat me and it was only a sprint distance race. Man, Pros are fast!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Race Report - Granite Man Triathlon - Clearwater, MN

"If You Thought Every Second Counts...You're Wrong"

I wanted to connect with my friend Chris Anderson around a race this summer so I drove up to Clearwater, MN, about 40 miles NW of Minneapolis to do the Granite Man Tri with him. Drove up Friday July 15th. 6 hours, 40 minutes. Checked into my motel and then drove the race course. I think it's important to "recon" a course before you race it...I've been known to take wrong turns and didn't want to do that here.

Then I met up with Chris and he set up his Fellowship of Christian Athletes tent by the registration area. We set up a mock transition area and put out my bike and gear to show first-timers how to do it and to answer any tri questions. Left there at 8:15pm and hit the sack early. Up early and over to the lake. Set up my stuff and went for a warm-up jog down the trail through the woods that was the run course. Saw a deer! Love it! "Lord, I want to run like a deer today" was my prayer.

We all walked a 1/2 mile to the end of the lake and then swam straight back up the lake, drag race style to T1. I've never done a straight swim before. I was in the 7th of 11 heats. I loved the straight swim up the lake and exited with a PR for 750 meters. Had on my new Xterra Vector Pro sleeveless wetsuit and LOVED it. I didn't have the smoothest T1 and took a few seconds longer than I should have. Boy was I going to pay for that later!!!

Hopped on my Valdora PHX 2 and took off. I immediately started passing other riders. In fact, I passed 60+ of them during the 15.5 mile bike course. Wanted to bike 37:something and nailed it averaging 24.3mph for the bike leg. I was having a blessed race for sure! Took off slowly on the run as I've been having a bit of a problem with my right, upper hamstring/glute. Eased into the run and slowly built speed. Every mile was faster and I felt like I was flying the 3rd mile. Out and back, first and last mile through the woods on a trail, middle mile on a highway. Was supposed to be 3.1 mile but I think it was 3. Ran 19:33. Very happy as each run this year in races has gotten faster...may it continue! :)

Pushed it hard the last quarter mile and finished strong. Since I was in the 7th heat, I didn't know how I did til they posted the results. There was an elite wave and I figured they'd take up the top slots. Saw the results and couldn't believe I was listed # 2 overall with the exact same time as the # 1 place guy - 1:09:18. Crazy! We tied and beat all the elites. Crazy again! I was thrilled with the results.

Came home thankful for my 14th tri win and 3rd of this season. Couple of days later, someone sent me the text version of the results and I learned I'd missed first place overall by 1/10th of a second. Are you kidding me? Imagine racing someone over a 19 mile course, swimming, running and biking and getting beat by 1/10th of one second. Wow. I thought every second counted. Guess not. Every 1/10th of a second counts.

This was a GREAT reminder to push every second of every race - especially sprints and olympic distance races. I can think of 10 different places I could have pick up a second or two, let alone a few tenths... So, no more messing around :) All out, every millisecond! Seriously, I was so blessed to get 2nd out of 316 finishers and win my age group and beat those who signed up as elites. God blessed my day for sure. Thank you Lord!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Race Report - Manitou/White Bear Lake Triathlon, St. Paul, MN

Race Report - Manitou / White Bear Lake Triathlon, St. Paul, MN

On my way up to spend a few days in the Boundary Waters of NE Minnesota, I stopped in the Twin Cities to do the USAT sanctioned Manitou Triathlon. This race has been going for over 20 years and has pros show up...all the way down the food chain to beginners. Very windy day and the wind was blowing straight on to the beach race morning. Very choppy!

My heat was everyone 50 and over. To my surprise, on the way out I found myself in first place in my heat. The chop made it very hard to see not to mention the aquatic weeds that came up to the surface of the water the first couple hundred yards. Every stroke I grabbed a glob of that stuff and pulled it back. Had some hanging on to my goggles as I swam. Due to the wind and weeds I started heading towards the wrong buoy. A kayak guy tapped me on the head and got me back on course. My swim time was slow but it's easy to understand why. Actually felt strong in the swim and paced myself perfectly. My wrong route added some time.

The bike was around 13 miles and the road surface was perhaps the worst I've ever raced on. Holes, patches, bumps, cracks, etc., made it impossible to get into a groove. Pretty course though. The Elite wave was the only one to go off ahead of my heat so at the turn around I was able to tell I was still in first from my heat. Had an OK bike. Have had better.

Was excited for the run because my run has been faster every race this year. I'm finally getting some good run training in despite plantar fasciitis and nerve damage in the same foot. Route was out and back. It was fun to watch the Elites flying by me on their way back. Hit the 2nd mile mark in 12:30 and knew I was on a sub-20 pace for the 5K. Ran hard to the end and hit the tape in 19:51 for the run, almost 30 seconds faster than my last race.

I was very thankful to the Lord that I ended up 6th overall after they removed the Elites and first in the 50-54 age group (and the two 40 yr. old groups too :) Very happy with my progression. Just gotta quit going the wrong way this season. Bike mistake in Havasu and swim mistake in this race. Oh well. I'll blame it on age! Overall, very glad to have done this race as it sharpened me a bit more and was a great workout!

Triathlon in Your Later Years - How I Do It

(Written for the blog site)

No hiding my age.(BTW, this is NOT me pictured here. It's me in 25 years) I'm 55 years young and having more fun athletically than at any other time in my life. Granted, I wasn't a great athlete growing up. I was cut from the the 8th grade basketball team. I got in a total of five plays in only two games the whole season of 9th grade football. Never played a varsity sport in high school. Once, in a JV basketball game, when the ref handed me the ball as I stood out of bounds so I could throw it in and start play, I actually just took off dribbling inbounds from out of bounds. (I still have no idea why I did that.) I once was lapped in a track meet running the two mile race. That's only eight laps...and the leaders came around and finished their last lap while I still had more than one to go. Pretty embarrassing!

Fast forward 30+ years and I'm very blessed to say that I've completely three Ironman Triathlons including Hawaii, qualified for USAT Team USA three times, finished 20th at the ITU World Championship in '07 at the Olympic distance in Germany and finished 8th at Worlds in the Sprint distance in Australia in '09. I've been racing triathlons for 20 years and have gotten faster and faster almost every year. I've even been blessed to have won 12 in first place overall.

Now, at 55 I may not set any new records but I've not really slowed down any. How is this possible? Ever notice how the number of age group athletes drops off as the age groups go up? That's because our bodies tend to quit cooperating as we age. We need to be really wise as age. There's a big difference training and racing in your 30s from your 40s. More so from your 40s to your 50s and I can only imagine that grows exponentially each decade into one's 60s, 70s and 80s.

Here are six ways I've been able to keep going and not slow down. I'll quickly add that I've had every injury one can have doing triathlons and running and have often had to learn the hard way.

1 - Change Your Mindset - As You Age Here's the crazy thing...our bodies "age" much faster than our brains. I'm 55 but think like I'm 25 most of the time. So, I can try to train like I did when I was younger and it'll get me injured every time. My mind tells me I can, but my body just can't. My brain is writing checks that my body just can't cash! If I don't change my mindset and approach my training and racing to a "real time" 55 yr. old perspective, I'll break down physically over and over and pretty soon just give up. Train your real age, not your brain age.

2 - Allow More Recovery Time - After training and racing, even at a high level, as we age, we must allow our bodies more time to bounce back. Part of aging is the often frustrating fact that it just takes longer to recover from a hard workout or race. I run every third day. Period. No exceptions. That means I get in 10 runs per month. That's a whole lot less than when I was 30, but it works for me. After 72 hours, my legs are fully recovered and ready to go. Less recovery time and I risk injury. Been there done that. Zensah compression gear helps with my recovery and so, while I'm taking a bit longer to recover than before, Zensah helps me bounce back wonderfully!

3 - Aggressive Injury Prevention and Injury Treatment - If something hurts during or after a workout...I immediately treat it. It might mean ice and almost always does, but also the foam roller, The Stick, massage or a visit to my PT or Chiropractor. EMS devices also work well in this regard. I do all of the above along with gentle stretching and wearing Zensah compression wear. For me, if it hurts even a little I aggressive ice it as a first step and this often takes care of it. When it stops hurting, I still wait an extra couple of days to jump back into normal training and continue the treatment(s).

4 - Longer Warm-up - I need longer and longer warm up time before a race as I age. Before workouts I warm up a little but mostly just start my workout VERY slowly. Circulation is not what it used to be in my mid-50s, but a gentle, slow warm up with gentle stretching helps to lower the risk of injury during the race or workout. I often stop running to stretch in the middle of my runs - most often as a preventative. Get this...I always walk 30 seconds out of every 5 minutes during my training runs. Two weekends ago I went 19:51 for a 5K off the bike in a sprint triathlon, so I'm racing pretty fast for an old guy, but, I still walk 30 seconds every 5 min. every single training run just to be safe.

5 - Creatively Adapt - It's taken me a while to dial in my shoe insert / foot support issue but I have a combination of three different shoes that I run in - all in one shoe. Long story I won't go into, but I've had to be innovative to figure out what works for my feet and legs so they don't get injured. I've cut a slit in the side of my running shoe with a razor blade to relieve pain I have on the side of my foot. Who takes a blade to a new pair of $150 running shoes? I do! It's part of creative adaptability that we must implement as we age.

6 - Weight - Touchy subject maybe, but as I've aged, I've worked harder and harder at keeping my weight where it should be. I once read that 5 extra pounds adds 30 seconds to your 5K finish time. In many races that's the difference between winning and not making the podium at all. Being at the right weight takes a great deal of pressure off our joints and as we age, our bodies really appreciate that! Dialing in my food intake and eating "clean" is something I really have to pay attention to the older I get.

These are a few things that I have to keep in mind and practice to "stay in the game" and stay competitive as I age. They really do work! And, don't forget your Zensah compression clothing/gear because they help a ton...young, or not-quite-so young.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

26th Annual Norfolk (NE) Triathlon - "The Spaz Jumper"

This is not a USAT race but Norfolk does a good job of putting on a triathlon. They've had 26 years to work on getting it right! This is kind of super-sprint distance - 300 yd. swim, 10 mile bike, then a 2.5 mile run. Pedal to the metal the whole (short) time. Shotgun type of start. Every 30 seconds, someone dives into the pool to start the 300 yd. serpentine swim. Since I never swam competitively, I never dove into a pool with goggles on. I'm quite convinced that if I tried they would roll right up my face and come off or be stuck on my hairline. Everyone ahead of me had nice looking dives that probably would have scored a 9.2 in the Olympics. Still too scared of losing my goggles, I did the "Spaz Jump" into the pool. I felt foolish and probably looked even more foolish. I used this unique entry last year and I ended up winning the race so what the heck, let's do it again and insure my Barracuda goggles stay on. Out of the pool I came thinking I had a pretty good swim but forgetting to look at my watch to see. On to my super fast Valdora PHX 2 bike to hammer out the fastest 10 mile that I could. Passed several athletes who started ahead of me and by the turn around on the bike, thought I might be in first. There were several pretty fast looking guys there with sweet bikes so you never know... Averaged over 24mph on the relatively flat bike course which I was very happy with. Off the bike in T2 and put on my super-duper, extremely comfortable Hoka running shoes. They feel amazing starting the run every time. Tried to ease into it. Wasn't sure how far behind me the second place guy was so I tried to get up to speed quickly but not so quickly that something starts to tighten up. Out 1.5 miles and back the same route. Hit the turn around and...oh no, here's the second place guy not far behind me. Better keep this pace which felt pretty fast to me. I knew that he started the swim 50 second ahead of me so to win, he's have to catch me, pass me and get 51 seconds on me. Wasn't about to let that happen. Two left hand turns on the way back allowed me to peek and see what my lead was. I was OK. Cruise on in to defend my title, so very thankful to the Lord that I didn't pull something on the run. I'd averaged 6:20 per mile for the 2.5 miles. Very happy for that. Each race this season my run has gotten faster. Again, very grateful. I need to continue to get my pace per mile faster each race and got to 6 min. miles by Aug. for USAT Nationals. So, the day that started with the "Spaz Jump" into the pool, but ended up going well. If you can't dive...don't worry about it. Just give a tri a try and you'll be fine!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

"Don't Judge A Book By It's Cover" - Kearney (NE) Triathlon, May 19

Kearney hosted it's first triathlon and a USAT Sanctioned one at that! I make the 3 hour drive the night before the race and stayed in a Motel 6 that had bed bugs...I found out later with red welts on me. Nasty!!! Anyway, the next morning I was setting up in transition and checking out the competition. You know what it's like. Everyone is sizing everyone else up, checking out their bikes, their wheels, their physiques / fitness appearance, etc. You try to not psych yourself out by doing this but, it happens. I notice 5-6 guys who looked fast, were younger than me and who all had top of the line bikes/wheels. They looked fit, lean and ready to fly.
I was texting my wife Jen telling her there were fast guys racing and that I hoped I was able to beat some of them. This race had a 500m swim, a 10.5 mile bike and a 5K run. Came out of the water right where I thought I'd be and was happy with my time. I ran, hard, to and through T-1 and had a quick transition time. We biked an "L" shaped bike course with the first part and last part dealing with very strong crosswinds and on the longer portion, went straight into the wind then back with it. I was very happy to average 23.3mph with those winds blowing the way they were. Again a quick transition and headed out on the run. One big hill on this course just before the 1 mile mark. I put my head down, leaned a bit forward, shortened my stride and looked 3 feet in front of me as I chugged up the hill. Got to the top and started to loosen up and let it go a bit. Ran as hard as I dared, not wanting anything to tighten up. I took another 30 seconds off my last race's 5K time, averaging 6:30 miles running 20:15. Very thankful for that.
There were several heats so I really didn't know where I stood til the results were posted. Walked over and took a look, knowing I'd done my best that day and would just take the results however they came out. There, at the top of the list was my name. I won. First place overall. Wow. What about all those other fast bikes and intimidating athletes I spied before the race? Well, they were fast, good athletes but, I was a little faster that day. I could have easily "given up" even before the race started and just hoped to maybe go top 5 or 10. I was reminded that you can't throw in the white towel before the race even starts. Instead, before I hit the water, I said to myself, "Let's do this and see what you guys got!" One of them was wearing a K-Swiss / Trek racing outfit and looked, honestly like a pro. I thought he was a young pro. I really thought he'd win. Think again. I'm blessed to have won my 11th triathlon since I stared doing these almost 20 years ago. Thank you Lord!

"Change Things Up" - SiouxperMan Triathlon Race Report, May 5

Sioux Center, IA is a beautiful place for a triathlon in NW Iowa. This race has an indoor pool swim of 400yds. then a bike of 15 windy miles and a 5K run. I did this race three years earlier when I was a young spring chicken at only 52 yrs. old. I'd gotten 7th overall in that race and was surprised by the fast guys who came to this race. This year was cool, foggy and we were all waiting for it to start raining, which, it never did.
Had an OK swim, hammered the bike hard through bad cross winds and took off on the run. I was interested to see how much faster I could run this 5K than at Lake Havasu. Well, I cut a minute and a half off going 20:45 I think. Very happy with that and a 4th place overall and first in my age group finish. Lesson learned in this race - at the 2 mile point in the run my left hamstring started to tighen up...badly. I thought I might need to stop and try to rub it out. Instead, I slowed my pace and tried to change my stride. I started praying hard for the Lord to help me, and, as I kept after it, more slowly, it actually loosened up vs. getting tighter and tighter. SO thankful for that. So I learned to change things up - if you start to cramp up or a muscle tightens up, before stopping, change your pace, chance your stride, change something...maybe it'll allow you to keep going and maybe, it'll loosen up! I was able to finish the run, running hard which, a few minutes earlier, I would have not guessed was possible.

"Am I Going The Right Way???" Lake Havasu Triathlon Report

In March I did a very early season triathlon in Lake Havasu City, AZ. I've only missed one year out of the last six so I know the race course really well. About halfway through that run of races, I once took a right hand turn up a just wasn't the right hill. I turned too early, up the wrong street. I was in 2nd or 3rd place when I made the wrong turn. I was in 18th when I came back down the hill and got back on course. Figured that I'd gotten that rookie mistake out of the way never to do such a foolish thing again. Well, my buddy Randy and I rolled into town late afternoon the Friday before race day. We registered and heard the water in the lake was super cold, so before dinner we grabbed our wetsuits and went for a short swim. That water was really COLD! Glad we did it because it helped us to start the swim slow and build into it. Had a good swim and took off on my bike and felt really good. Since this was an early season race I was doing it mostly off of base training with little speed work at all. It felt good to get out there and (try to) go fast.
The bike course took us into a residential neighborhood and wouldn't you know it, I took a right hand turn too soon down the wrong rode. RATS! I went a couple of blocks before I realized it, turned around and headed back on course. How dumb! I'd done this course six times! No worries. Back on course ready to make that right I did, again, too soon. Wrong turn # 2. I couldn't believe it. Chewed myself out really good and got back on course. Passed a guy that I'd already passed earlier. He did a double take wondering how I'd gotten behind him after being ahead of him. Rode really hard to make up for my mistakes. The run went well. I didn't push it at all and cruised in for a 5th place overall finish. The wrong turns cost me 4th and probably 3rd overall. Won my age group - the one for old men who's brains no longer work. It's a bad feeling to be going the wrong way. I went the wrong way in my life for 22 years. Then the Lord helped me to get my life on track and on the right course. I've made a couple of wrong turns since then, but God has always been faithful to help me make a course correction. Is you life on course? Hope so!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

My Latest Equipment Discovery - Might Buy Me 30 More Years Of Running!

So, I've always had this "thing" for running shoes. From the day I started running back in the 70s, running shoe technology and performance has intrigued me. I started out wearing Brooks and loved them - smooth, comfortable ride for sure. That was back when I was young and had no real bio-mechanical / physiological issues. At about 42 my body seemed start falling apart and I had to switch up my approach to training and equipment to stay in the game. At that point, the running shoes I chose to wear became even more important to me due to the fact that some of them, can really help solve issues that long-distance running produced.

Last Summer, at USAT Triathlon National Championships in Vermont, I ran into an old friend from Phoenix who was there and I noticed his shoes and asked about them. He took them off, told me to put them on and run to to the fence and back - about 30 yds. I was immediately and I mean immediately, convinced that these were the shoes for me. The ride was like...a cloud...a pillow. They were the most comfortable running shoe I'd ever put on.

I'll let their web site do the explaining about what makes these so unique. Go to to learn more. They were developed in France and ultra-marathoners love them because they are so comfortable over dozens and dozens of miles. I have custom orthotics in mine which gives me the support that I need for my feet and the Hokas do the rest Check 'em out. They just might allow me to run another 30 years!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What Can Athletes Learn From Border Collies???

Two days ago we had to put down our 13 year old Border Collie that we raised from when she was eight weeks old. Man, that was tough. Of course, times like this call for reflection and remembering...all the good times... I got "Newby" initially to be a running partner for me. I'd heard that Borders could run up to 50 miles in one day herding sheep. I thought, "Now THAT'S the dog for me!"

As I've reflected, I've so appreciated how God made (and man bred) this type of dog. I think athletes (not to mention the entire human race) could learn a few things from Border Collies. Here's just a few:

1. Be Active - Borders were created to always be working or playing. Their energy level is off the charts. Potential buyers are told, "Do not get a BC unless you live a very active lifestyle in which you can include your dog." BCs are always waiting for whatever job you want them to do or to go for a run or catch a Frisbee. Those that work on farms are worth three men I'm told. Some athletes think that if they only have a small amount of time that they may as well skip the planned workout or training session for the day. Don't do it. A little is WAY better than nothing. We think that a little is just a little better than nothing. Wrong. A 15 min. swim or run is way better than doing nothing. A 30 minute bike ride is not three hours, but it's WAY better than doing nothing. So, stay active!

2. Be Focused - Borders have the ability to concentrate like a scientist. If I had a Frisbee in my hand, Newby would NOT take her eyes off it til I let it fly. She was focused on exactly what she was going to do if/when it left my hand and she studied every move and twitch I made to try and figure out when it would be her's to run down. Athletes could learn from this. Study the sport in which you're trying to excel. Read about it. Talk to others who do it. Concentrate when you workout on your when I swim, I have to concentrate like Newby on the mechanics of my stroke if I'm going to improve.

3. Be Ready - Newby was always ready. You've heard the phrase, "I was born ready!" Well, I think a BC probably barked that first. Anytime the drawer where her leash was kept was opened...she was ready to GO! About 12 hours before we put her down, I took her for her last walk (the evening before the morning we took her in.) Even then, with a failing body, she perked up and was ready to go. Our last walk was very slow and only about 200 yds. total, but, she was ready.
Athletes need to be ready for whatever comes their way in competition. I tell the triathletes that I coach to be ready for three things to go wrong in every race. Just prepare yourself and be ready, then when (if) they happen, it's no surprise. Being ready includes mental preparation for "worst case scenarios" that can happen. Learn from Newby - be ready...for anything!

4. Be Loyal and Faithful - Newby's first love was my wife, Jennifer. She would
follow her all over the house...up the stairs, down the stairs, everywhere! If I tried to hug Jen, Newby would bark and get between us. That dog was loyal! All of us could learn from that. Newby exhibited unconditional love all the time. She was a faithful, loyal friend. Are we? Nuf said.

5. Do What You Were Born To Do - Newby's instincts were totally "Border Collie." She portrayed every behavior and skill that these dogs carry in them. Mainly bred to herd sheep and some cattle, BCs will charge at and cut off anything that's moving. Why? They might not even know - they just do it instinctively. What were you put on the earth to do? I can't answer that, other than to say that first and foremost, you were put here to know and love God and to serve Him and others. Beyond that, we each have a unique calling from God and destiny He's given us. Discover what that is and just do it. It may flow out instinctively right from the start or, it may take a bit of discovery and development, but when you find it, you're then in your "sweet spot," and work, no longer is work.

So, there are a few things we can learn from Border Collies. YouTube them and watch what they can do. You'll be astounded. They rank at the top of most dog intelligence lists. Newby was a special gift from God to us and we cherish the 13 years we had her. I've learned a lot from her for which I'll be forever grateful.