Florida Sheriff’s Youth Ranch Half Marathon

First place!  Wow!  I finished this tiny half marathon in 3 hours and 17 seconds and still managed to get first in my division.  Of course, I was the *only* one in my division, but it still counts.

The Florida Sheriff’s Youth Ranch Half Marathon in Live Oak, Florida is one of the best I’ve ever done.  There were only 100 participants total and that included the marathon, 10K, and 5K!  Needless to say, it was totally unlike a Disney race where there is wall-to-wall people.

The venue is a beautiful wooded area with lots of ranch space near the Suwanee River.  It is located at the Florida Sheriff’s Boy Ranch just north of Live Oak, Florida.  There are plenty of discount rate hotels, but not much in the way of restaurants.

I plan on doing the race again next year, if only to get another chance at winning my division for the second time ever.

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Posted in Marathon, Training

Five Points of Life – my next half marathon

I was looking for a half marathon to run in February – one that was close by and one that I hadn’t done before, so I  started a search.  On halfmarathons.net, I found the Five Points of Life Marathon and Half Marathon.  This one is in Gainesville, which is just a couple of hours North of Orlando.  It also takes place on a long holiday weekend, so I decided to make a weekend out of it.

My last half marathon was the Disney World Half.  I was so behind on my training that I decided to do 1:1 mile:walk intervals.  That worked okay, but I had a slow time (3:12) and was really sore afterwards.

For this half marathon, I have started doing one hour tempo runs one day a week and ever longer LSD runs one day a week.  I should be up to 10 miles on my last LSD run, the week before the half.  Actually, the runs are interval runs, where I do 4:1 work:rest interval.  The pace will be much faster than the Disney half, and I think that because I am actually training this time, I should be okay afterwards.  Don’t let me forget to drink a real recovery drink with protein and BCAAs in it!

I think my goal this year will be to do only half marathons and no triathlon longer than half Iron distance.

See you in Gainesville in 3 weeks!

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Posted in Marathon, Training

How Goofy am I? Not very…

I completed the Disney World Half Marathon this weekend in 3 hours and 12 minutes. Unfortunately, I was also supposed to do the marathon, as part of the Goofy Challenge. My legs were so sore on Saturday, that I made up my mind then, that I would not attempt to run OR walk the marathon. As of today, the legs are still sore, so I don’t regret the decision.

The hardest part of deciding to rack up a DNS (do not start) is all the dang money spent on the entry fee. At least I know that some of that is going to charity.

Sometimes you have to know when you are not ready to race, and be prepared to call things off. There is always next year I guess, or not.

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Posted in Marathon, Reviews, Training

Ironman Florida 2013 Race Recap

“Remember when you thought this was a good idea?” – Spectator sign at the race.

I finished Ironman Florida 2013 in 16 hours 29 minutes and 22 seconds!  That was way more time that I had hoped, but really I am just pleased to have finished under the 17 hour mark.

Going into this race, I was under trained and overweight – about 20 lbs overweight.  I knew the swim would be okay, I was worried about the bike, and the run all but scared the crap out of me.

The day before the race saw double-red flags on the beach.  This meant that the water was closed to swimmers due to high rip current risk and waves.  The waves were big and the water extremely choppy.  The forecast for Saturday was sunny and much less chop.  This turned out to be true and it was a beautiful day.  Still, the waves were bigger and the water choppier than anything I had seen in the previous 4.5 weeks staying in Panama City Beach.

On race morning, I got out of bed at 4 am.  Staying at the race venue has its advantages.  One of those is that you don’t have far to go.  As it turns out, I could have stayed in bed an extra hour.

It had rained the night before, so there were a lot of huge puddles and wet bicycles in transition, but nothing too worrisome, at least that’s what I thought then.

The 2.4 mile swim used the new wave system, where athletes self-seed themselves based on expected finish time.  My thinking was that we would go out in waves, but it was really still a mass start, just that slower people were more to the right of the buoys.  I didn’t like that because now I was in a mass of really slow swimmers and I had to swim even farther, just to get close to the buoys.  Even funnier is the woman that at the first turn buoy on the first lap announced “Good job everyone!” to resounding cheers.  I only had my goggles nearly slapped off my face once during the swim.  Other than that and a few waves to deal with, it wasn’t a bad swim.  I did talk to one guy that says he got stung on the neck by a jellyfish, but I never saw any wildlife.

My rented wetsuit managed to chafe the crap out of the back of my neck.  I have had chafing before, but never in salt water.  OUCH!  Of course, applying sunscreen later didn’t feel good either.

On swim exit, I was in a rush to get into transition and managed to fall flat on my face while navigating the slower athletes.  It was really deep, soft sand on the beach, so it was a nice landing 🙂

Finally, into T1 (transition 1 – swim to bike).  This was a breeze (after getting up off the beach) as the volunteers help you with everything.  It took me about 10 minutes to get through and start the bike ride.

The  112 mile bike ride started out windy.  At least I was very familiar with the first 7 miles of the course, having ridden it for the last month.  This allowed me to dodge the potholes.  Of course, the bike course was open to traffic, which meant dodging cars too.  Some of the cars were having to slow due to bikes in the road and this caused me to not go as fast as I would have liked because I now was stuck waiting for cars to move out of the way.

About 20 minutes into the bike, my timing chip’s ankle strap started rubbing on me every pedal stroke.  That was really annoying and I didn’t want to have yet more chafing on another body part.  I managed to slide it up where it didn’t move and that problem was fixed.

Not much later, my drive train really started making noises.  Despite having lubed it heavily Thursday night in anticipation of the rains on Friday, the lube was all worn off and the chain and sprockets were covered in oxidation.  For the most part, I think this was really not going to affect speed, but the sound was grinding away at my patience.  Luckily, they did have roving bike techs, and I managed to flag one down at mile 50.  She applied lube and everything was quiet and smooth again!  I had stopped at an aid station earlier to see if they had lube, but all I was offered was a tampon.  Really?  That lady must have thought she was funny.

Because my longest bike ride in training was only 3 hours and 45 minutes, I was worried I wouldn’t finish or that I would be in a lot of pain at the end.  My plan was to stop at nearly every aid station (10-12 miles apart) and take a minute or two to rest.  That seemed to work, though around mile 70 I was getting tired.  Finally at mile 80, I remembered my caffeine laden sport beans.  Normally, I do not partake in caffeine and it is widely know that restricting its intake up to four weeks before a race, and then taking it during a race, is what’s known as an ergogenic aid (aka legal performance enhancer).  I ate the sport beans (the pomegranate flavor was horrible) and then was off.  There was a nice tail wind now, but I felt like I could pedal for 30 more miles without stopping and nearly did!  I passed people like they were standing still.  My plan was working.

Finally into T2 (bike to run) and the race clock was at something like 9 hours plus.  Again, transition was made easier by the wonderful volunteers.  I applied more sunscreen and lotion to my now horribly chafed neck, and was off running.

Well, sort of.  I was running at a 10 min/mile pace, but only for about 20 seconds.  I was getting shin splints in my left leg and also just could not seem to run longer than a minute.  I had planned on walking the entire 26.2 miles if needed, so I guess this was all part of the plan.  Other than not feeling like running, I felt really good.  In the end, I decided to run at least a quarter mile for every mile in the 26.2 I had to go.  That worked until about mile 15, when my arch nemesis, the giant foot blisters, appeared.  This was my third Ironman race, and the third time these have popped up.  And right at about mile 20, the blisters popped.  Excruciating pain at its best.  If you can make it through that and keep walking, then you know you will finish.  I had to keep moving no matter what.

Along the run, I talked with many people who were doing their first Ironman.  They were all suffering in some form or another, but I’m sure they all finished.  Also, the wonderful volunteers, and spectators, made the 26.2 mile run/walk possible.  One really does get a blast of energy at the end with everyone high-fiving, and giving lots of encouragement.  I think I miss my adoring spectators most about the race.  Oh, and that sign – “Remember when you thought this was a good idea?” – that I had to see four times.  I kept thinking, “Yeah, I remember.  What the heck was I thinking?”

The winner of the race, Victor Del Corral, finished in just under 8 hours.  It took me nearly 16 and a half hours to finish.  Of the 2700 plus athletes that started the race, only 120 or so didn’t finish for one reason or another.  I was lucky that I only had some lube lacking and no flats or major mechanical issues on the bike.  I didn’t get stung by jellyfish or bitten by sharks.  And I didn’t have major bathroom issues on the run/walk.  Once again, I am an IRONMAN!

Thank you to all the wonderful volunteers, spectators, and my personal race support for making this a great race!

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Posted in Ironman, Reviews, Training, Triathlon

Almost time for 2013 Ironman Florida!

While I did not get to race the 2013 Ironman Coeur d’Alene, I am signed up for 2013 Ironman Florida.  The race is less than two weeks away.  I have been training here in Panama City beach for nearly a month.  Swimming in the Gulf, riding and running along Front Beach Road, I am ready to race.  Well, I am ready to go mentally.  I don’t know if my body is ready.  After crashing my bike in June and missing IM CDA, it was 5 weeks before I got back on the bike, and 8 weeks before I started running again.  Ideally, I could use another month of training, just to get some more long rides and runs in.

The water here is great, but I found out that there are jellyfish.  Thankfully, I will be wearing a full wetsuit, so that shouldn’t be much of a problem.  The bike route is one big loop.  I have heard it’s boring, so I haven’t tried to ride the course because I only want to be bored once!  The bulk of my training has been along Front Beach Road, which comprises the first and last 5 miles of the ride.  The run course is two loops and from what I can tell should be nice.  I will be walking most of it anyway, which means it will be dark, so I am not going to miss much.

This is my last full Ironman this year and maybe for a while to come.  Half Ironman races just seem much more manageable.

Posted in Triathlon

2013 Ironman Coeur d’Alene (and how I didn’t do it)

Been a long time since I last posted.  In the end, I never did do the 2013 Ironman Coeur d’Alene race.  Three weeks before the race, I crashed on my bicycle.  Nothing broken, but the injuries to my ribs and back were bad enough to keep me from cycling and running.  I did go and watch the race and cheered the athletes, so it wasn’t a total loss.

Maybe sometime in the future.

Posted in Triathlon

Preparing for 2013 Ironman Coeur d’Alene (The Bike)

The bike portion of Ironman CDA is the longest part of the race – both in length and pain.  The course starts out easy enough, running East from downtown towards Lake Shore drive.  At this point, you will head South-ish along the lake.  The road begins to rise here, until you come to the first hill.  For those that live in hilly areas, this hill is not that bad.  For Florida guys like me, it’s big!  At the top of this hill there will be a nice down hill a bit and then on to another hill.  Eventually, you will turn around and head back in the direction from whence you came.  Back downtown, the road now heads up to hwy 95 south towards Moscow, ID.  There are some no passing zones here.  This means that only one cyclist at a time will be allowed.  If you’re fast, then be prepared to be slowed down by slower cyclists.  If you are slow, then be prepared to have someone trying to pass you or getting ticked off until the no passing zone ends.  It’s less than a mile.

Now the fun really begins.  The highway takes a turn heading up, into the sky.  The first hill is about 3 miles long.  Once you reach the top, there will be another hill that is about 2 miles long.  From there it’s fairly flat, but I believe it’s really a false flat.

Near the 20 mile mark (from downtown), you will find some ports-potties and an aid station.  Soon after this, you will turn around and head back downtown.  Of course, those hills you came up (and then down) on the way here, you will have to head back up again and then ride fast (or coast) down the last hill until you arrive near the lake again.  Get ready for the no passing zones again, and then head back downtown.

You have now completed 56 of the 112 mile course!  If you loved it, that’s great, because it’s now time for lap number 2!  You will ride the exact same course, one more time.

Once you have finished the course, you will take a right turn into the dismount area where a wonderful volunteer will take your bike and rack it for you.  Now, it’s off to transition, and on to the run.

Check out my post from last year for more information on the entire race, along with pics of the bike elevation profile, and map.

Ironman 2012 Race Recap

2012 (and later) Ironman Coeur d’Alene Bike Course GPX Data

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Posted in Ironman, Triathlon

I changed my chain

Lately I’ve seen some information on the web regarding how and when to change the chain on my bicycle.  One suggested checking the length from one link to another using a ruler.  If I remember correctly, I line up the zero on the ruler to a pin on the chain.  The 12 on the ruler should line up with another pin.  In my case it was off by about 1/8 inch.  The other thing I noticed was daylight between my chain and the big chain ring!  This is definitely bad.

Eventually, I ordered a new chain from performancebike.com.  I bought the KMC X10SL CP 10 Speed chain.  As I have a 10 speed cassette, that made sense.  I paid a lot more for this chain that if I had bought a Shimano CN105, but this chain comes with a master link.  Basically, if I need to remove the chain all I have to do is un-snap the link and voila, the chain can be removed.

I also ordered the Park Tool CT-3.2 chain tool.  This tool is handy for removing pins from a chain so that you can remove it (I don’t need the tool now), and also for putting on new chains.  I like it because it has a nice large handle that gives lots of leverage.  It also has a very smooth action.

My next lesson was figuring out how to measure the new chain – in other words, make sure that it was long enough, but not too long.  In the end I opted for the “hold it up next to the old chain and that’s how long it needs to be” method.  Of course, the old chain was way stretched, and laying them out on the floor wasn’t that helpful.  The best thing I did was to put both chains onto the chain tool so they were hanging side by side.  Then I compensated for the stretch in the old chain and made my mark.  At this point, it was just a matter of removing a pin from the new chain with the chain tool.  I now had a new chain the exact size I needed.

Before you remove your old chain, make sure you know how to thread the new chain around the jockey wheel and pulley.

I attached the master link, with the help of needle nose pliers (the instructions say to just pull in opposite directions on the new chain, but it wasn’t moving and I didn’t want to ram my hand into the chain ring), I got it installed.  Took it out for a ride around the block and shifted flawlessly into all gears.

Did I mention the sound?  My old chain always made a lot of noise, and I thought it was just the lack of lube.  It turns out that noise was another tell tale sign of chain stretch.

Update: After changing my chain, my first real ride resulted in a thrown chain when I attempted to shift into the big chain ring. The lesson learned here is that you may need to adjust the derailleur after installing the new chain. I should not have been surprised, as I adjusted the derailleur a couple of months ago. Most likely, that adjustment was necessary due to the “stretch” in the existing chain. Everything shifts just fine now.

Below is a pic of the master link on the new chain.  You can see there is space to move the pin to the right.  On the opposite side, the other end of the link has something similar.
Master Link

Posted in Triathlon

Preparing for 2013 Ironman Coeur d’Alene (Transition)

You’re out of the water and into T1 (transition 1 – swim to bike) at Ironman Coeur d’Alene.  First you have to run up the beach, across the sidewalk and hundreds of spectators, and onto the grass of City Park.

The first thing you will do is get your wetsuit peeled off by two or three of the many helpful volunteers.  Then it’s off to find your T1 bag with all your bike gear.  From there you will run into one of two huge tents (one for men, one for women).  Here you can change out of your swim gear and into your bike gear.  If you’re like me, then you will simply be putting on bike shoes, helmet, sunglasses, Pearl Izumi Sun Sleeves, etc.  I swim in the same outfit that I bike and run in, that is, a triathlon suit.

After you leave the changing tent (other end of the tent), there will be more helpful volunteers to apply sunscreen all over your body.  Don’t pass this up as you will be out in the sun for hours.

Jumping ahead.  After the bike ride, you will hit the same transition area.  Bike valets will take you bike and rack it in your space.  How cool is that?  Then it’s back into the same tent as before, now with your run gear bag.  Once again, leaving the tent you will be met with volunteers ready to apply one final coat of sunscreen.

Did I mention all the wonderful volunteers?  They really do make the race.

Enjoy the long bike ride and later the cool run.

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Posted in Introductory, Ironman, Training, Triathlon

Preparing for 2013 Ironman Coeur d’Alene (The Swim)

The best part of Ironman Coeur d’Alene is the swim! 2.4 miles of bitter cold in Lake Coeur d’Alene. It is two laps (1.2 miles each) with a quick run onto the beach and across the timing mat in the middle.
Here a link to a previous post with a link to the current water temp: Lake Coeur d’Alene water temperature.
The swim starts with the pro athletes 20 minutes ahead of everyone else. This means they will be on their second lap when the rest of the field starts. All other athletes start at the same time in what is called a mass start. I think it should be called a mess start. With approximately 2400 athletes hitting the water at once, it really is a mess. Unless you are at the front, don’t plan on actually swimming for a while, but instead try to maintain and not get whacked by all the limbs thrashing about.
Update: WTC (Ironman) announced today (9 May) that the swim start will be a wave start this year. Athletes will self-seed based on estimated finish time, cross timing mats, and go out every five minutes. The swim will start earlier this year than previously to accommodate the new format. Several other Ironman events will also have new swim starts. They’re calling it “SwimSmart”. Here’s a link to the news story: IRONMAN introduces SwimSmart initiative in North America

The water temp is always wetsuit legal and if you are not wearing a wetsuit, then you are just plain stupid. Most often you will also be wearing a neoprene cap and swim socks too. Swimming in 55F water for over an hour (1 hour 40 mins for me) you are at risk of hypothermia, so wetsuits are really mandatory.
Even though the swim is in a lake, there might be swells. Last year it was windy enough that the water was quite choppy and hard to swim without taking in big gulps of water. It may seem like it is the boats causing the problem, but it’s not.
Another issue that can be problematic is the rising sun. As you are making the first left turn, you will be looking right into the sun. It may be a good idea to have tinted goggles for this one. I have done it twice without tinted goggles and did just fine, but be ready to see the light if you are trying to sight!
All around the swim here is not that bad. As long as you are prepared, you will be just fine. If trouble does pop up, be assured that there are many lifeguards in the water and rescue boats too.
Out of the water, you make a mad dash across the sidewalk and into transition, where plenty of helpful volunteers are ready to peel off your wetsuit. You are done with the swim! Have a great bike and run and soon you will be an Ironman!

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Posted in Ironman, Training, Triathlon