{cogitate :: ruminate :: think :: dream :: ponder :: contemplate :: deliberate}

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Ironman Texas

   Now that some time has passed since Ironman Texas I've been able to fully digest and comprehend what took place.
     June of 2011 I was sitting at my kitchen table on a Saturday morning contemplating on whether or not I should sign up for Ironman Texas for May of 2012.  I came to the realization that I couldn't make this decision alone. I went and asked Carrie what she thought. Her immediate reaction was "I think you should do it!". It didn't come as any surprise since she has fully supported me in all my endeavors no matter what they are. My response to her was "you know I'm going to miss soccer games, baseball games, I'll be gone on 6 hour rides on Saturdays, long runs on Sundays and probably won't feel like doing yard work or house repair chores for at least six month while I'm training. If that's ok, then I'll sign up". We both agreed we'd have to make concessions about some things. I signed up!
     From June through November I continued to train for some shorter races while always thinking about Ironman. Right after Thanksgiving I approached my swim coach Hollie Kenney who is a very accomplished Ironman and a well known local triathlete. All you have to do is look at her career highlights page to see she is a total rock star. I asked her if she'd be my coach. We went over some logistics and she said she'd do my training plan each week. Little did I know at the time Hollie would become much more then just my Ironman coach, she become my therapist, a sounding board, a person who understood what I was going through mentally and phyically, my nutritionist and a friend. December 1st I undertook the monumental task of training for Ironman Texas.
     I won't bore you with all my training but here are the statistics. From December 1st to May 18th is 170 days. In 170 days I did 213 workouts! Here is the break down of the workouts. All numbers are in miles.


Swim
Bike
Run
DEC
24

138

23
JAN
34
298
59
FEB
25
347
78
MAR
18
489
89
APR
14
635
114
MAY
13
136
27
TOTALS
128
2043
390

     About two thirds of my way through training I did Ironman Galveston 70.3 which is a half Ironman. 70.3 is the total number of miles for the race. I had a great race. A race in which Lance Armstrong was also competing. It was cool to be in the race with him. My goal was to finish in 6 hours, I finished in 5:56:00. My training was clearly paying off. Fast Forward to Ironman Texas...
     Two days before Ironman Texas I drove over to The Woodlands a suburb of Houston. The Woodlands is what Houston could have been, it's a really cool part of Houston. The Woodlands is the central point for Ironman Texas it's where I checked in, got my race packet, met some Pros, bought some swag and checked out the course. The check in is what they call "Ironman village" all kinds of sporting vendors are there, from bikes, shoes, clothes, massage tools, drinks etc...you name it they will tell you it will make you a better Triathlete. I spent the day milling around, had lunch and hydrated. I watched hundreds of people running and riding their bikes. Hollie told me not to partake in any of those activities so I didn't. That night was the Ironman dinner. I didn't know what to expect but it became very clear as 2500 athletes showed up for dinner and were standing outside the dinner hall at the Marriott. It was a huge party minus any presence of alcohol. Lots of bread, meat, pasta and water. Mike Reilly "the voice" of Ironman was our MC for the night. He told stories, jokes and made fun of himself as well as the all of us. Mike is the guy at the end of an Ironman who says as you cross the finish line "...YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!". Words I had been having dreams about nightly for months.  I wish I could remember all of the statistics he gave out that night. A few do stick out. All 50 states were represented, something like 40 countries, 800 first timers (me included) out of 2500, 1200 Texans, 1 guys from Maine and 1 guy whose first triathlon ever was going to be Ironman Texas. That guy is nuts!!!
     The next day my support crew arrived at the hotel, Carrie, my mom (Sally), Lou (Carrie's mom) and Reid and Lilly. I was totally stoked to see them. These were the poor souls who decided they would get up early, drive to the site of the Ironman. Get a good spot to see me exit the swim. Wait 6 hours to see me get off my bike and ride out the last 4-7 hours while I struggled to get through a marathon. Medals need to be handed out to this group. It's a long long long day for them, especially the kids. It was hot, humid and crowded. Triathlons are best watched at home in the AC on TV with a drink. I showed them where to go on race morning, gave them a tour of the transition. We talked about where they should be located. How to get from point A to point B. Where I could be seen and where the air conditioned restaurants are located. With all my gear checked into transition there was nothing left to do but be nervous, get dinner and have a crappy night's sleep.
     Race day! I didn't need an alarm to wake me up, I didn't sleep. I really didn't have to do anything special this morning all my gear was in transition. All I had to do was make myself some breakfast which consisted of peanut butter and a bagel. As I drove the few miles to transition I went over my game plan. Something I had rehearsed countless times during training. Swim: slow is smooth, smooth is fast. Start mid to 2/3 back in the group. Bike: 40 miles easy, eat, drink, pee once before 56 miles. Half way on the bike get my peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Pedal smooth but consist don't fight the wind and hills. Continue to eat and drink, pee before the end of the 112 miles. Run: slow and steady, walk if needed but try to run as much as possible until I could not longer run and then walk.
     Checking in at transition, 5AM. By the sounds of the music blaring from the speakers, the guy on the PA system shouting instructions and information and the general overall voices, if you closed your eyes one could have easily imagined being at some kind of concert, a demonstration or a Fraternity pleading night. I got my body markings and walked to my bike rack to double check my bike. I pumped up the tires, adjusted the gears to a low gear for easier starting. Filled my water bottles, checked my food, reviewed my tubes and CO2 cartridges and cleaned my glasses. The rest of my biking gear was in a bag on the ramp leading from the swim exit to the changing tent. I talked nervously with some other first timers and we decided to walk together the .8 miles to the swim start. As we walked the anticipation about the day ahead hung in the air like a fog. I was only half way through my bagel. By the time we got to the water we only had a short amount of time to discard your personal items that could be picked up after the race, pee, puke or poop. By the 50 porta potties they had at the swim start I'd say a lot of people had nervous tummys, the lines were long.
     The Swim: The swim was not wet suit legal. Meaning you could wear a wet suit but you would not be able to collect prizes if you did good in your age group or qualify to go to Kona for the world championship. Also, you got a ten minute penalty for wearing a wet suit, you had to start 10 minutes after the non-wet suit swimmers. Since it was deemed illegal to wear a wet suit I decided to play by the rules and swim sans wet suit. I put in my ear plugs. Pulled on my green swim cap and strapped on my goggles. Mike Reilly was shouting "all non-wet suit swimmers into the water", it wasn't quite 6:30, the race didn't start until 7.  I did not enter the water. The swim start for an Ironman is all competitors start at the same time, 2500 people starting a swim at the same time is chaos at best. Again and again "all non-wet suit swimmers into the water, now!" I got in the water at 6:40. At 6:50 the pro cannon went off and away the pros went, swimming like dolphins. At this point most if not all the Age Groupers were in the water. This is a deep water start, you have to tread water, hold onto a kayak, a buoy, a paddle board or someone else. I had to tread water. I treaded water for 20 minutes. Within 5 minutes of the start the people in the back of the group slowly started moving forward by the time the cannon went off I was closer to the front then I wanted. I started swimming, my Ironman was officially underway. I made it to the starting line and I crossed over the starting line, I felt a huge sense of pride and relief. I knew I did the training, I was ready. 
     Nothing can prepare you for this type of swim. It was a total combat swim. Within the first 500 yards I got punch in both of my temples. I got my goggle ripped off my face, luckily they when down around my neck and not ripped off my head. I got kicked in the head. I got punched in the balls and slapped on the top and back of my head countless times. I was not enjoying myself at all! At this point I started to talk myself off the ledge "you're ok, you'll be fine, just keep swimming, you know how to swim". I sighted on every stroke looking for open water, never found it. What I did find was a couple of people swimming at my pace. I swam next to them for about a mile. All the while avoiding the people who were swimming diagonal to the course. People trying to swim over me and just slapping me. As I made my way around the turn around buoy to head back I realized we were going to be swimming directly in the sun making sighting even more challenging. The combat swim continued. We made a 90 degree right hand turn and head down the final part of the swim which was a concrete lined canal. We all got compressed into a small space and the tempo of the swim increased as people become like horses going to the barn. They knew the end was near. I knew the end was near, I was ready to get out of the water and away from these people. I was tired, beat up and mentally taxed from talking to myself about how to handle this situation. I finally made it to the carpeted steps, I was helped out of the water, got my land legs and started to walk up the ramp. I heard Carrie yelling my name. I walked over to the barrier and gave everyone a high five. I just completed a 2.4 mile swim of an Ironman. The dream of becoming an Ironman was starting to take shape. 
     The Bike: After calling out my number to the volunteers who find your bike gear bag and hand it to you I headed in the very hot and humid changing tent. The volunteers are so helpful they will literally get you dressed. While I was trying pull on my bike jersey a volunteer was standing there with my socks and shoes at the ready. I sat down and he lifted my foot and started putting on a sock, I started on the other. In no time I was dressed and ready to go but before I could start I stopped at the volunteer sun screen station which multiple volunteers are more then happy to bath you in sun screen, God bless them. I had 112 miles to go on the bike in the blazing May Texas sun. I rolled out of transition ready to go. The fans and volunteers along the first few miles are amazing. Lots of cheering and clapping and yells of "looking good!". My game plan was simple, ride smart, don't get caught up in the fast pace of people passing you. Pedal steady and smooth. Drink plenty of water and my sports drink. Eat what I packed and how I practiced. 
     Once during training I rode the Ironman Texas bike course, so I knew what to expect. The difference from the training ride and race would be the wind. In May the wind comes from the south pushing riders on the first half of the course and becomes a head wind on the return trip. The course is what I'd call rolling, not hilly but it isn't flat either, it's rolling hills. The first 40 miles or so were great. The tail wind, lots of people are jacked up that the swim is over and now we are riding our bikes, the atmosphere on this part of the course was great. My plan we still intact at this point, I was eating and drinking as planned.
     For anyone who hasn't done a long course triathlon may not be familiar with aid stations. About every 12-14 miles there are stations on the side of the road stocked with volunteers handing out bananas, water bottle, powerbars, gels, gu packets and sport drinks. They may or may not stock sun screen or have a porta potty. The stations are also the only place on the bike course where you can throw away trash, empty water bottle, wrappers, banana peels etc. The idea is to dump your trash at the start of the aid station like an empty water bottle roll through the line of people handing out fresh water bottles, grab it and put it on your bike and continue. Or grab something to eat. This sounds like a great idea in theory in practice it is very dangerous, here's why. The volunteers get a 5 minute briefing on what they are suppose to do and every aid station is run differently. In some aid stations you yell out "water" and a volunteer will take off running next to you handing you the bottle, this is preferred. In other stations the volunteer stands flat footed, palm up balancing a water bottle. I don't know if you have ever tried to grab a water bottle from a stationary position at 15-20 mile per hour but it's hard. Now imagine trying to grab a wet water bottle with wet hands, it's very hard. Grabbing food in the manner is a little better but still takes practice. Throw in full water bottles rolling around on the ground, wrappers, people running, bikers stopping or not grabbing anything and just cruising through, people running and yelling, it's a mess. I saw more accidents at aid stations then anyway else on the road.
     At 56 miles I stopped at my special needs bike bag, grabbed my peanut butter and jelly sandwich and my can of Pringles and some more sun screen from another dedicated volunteer. At this point it was getting pretty hot and I hadn't seen a piece of shade in a couple of hours. By the way those were the best Pringles I'd ever eaten. Also at about this point we turned back towards The Woodlands, the really rolling part of the course and the worst chipseal part of the course. There was a noticeable change in the wind it was now right in my face. Physiologically there was a shift, I started thinking I was half way done with the bike, "half way, those first 56 miles weren't so bad". Fast forward to mile 80, I had been fighting off the urgh to puke for about 10 miles at mile 80 I decided not to hold it down any longer and let it rip. I felt much better, not sure how the folks behind me took it nor did I care. From mile 80 to mile 90 it was a slight uphill into the wind and a straight shot down a concrete highway. Unbeknownst to me at this exact moment my brother texted Carrie and said I was off the course, he was watching via the Internet and a GPS tracking device I had. The night before the race they changed the course to include this 10 miles of pure hell. I could see heat waves coming off the concrete and started to hear people complaining. Not a single spot of shade and I swear it was getting hotter and windier. At mile 90 I realized I still had 22 miles to go, holy crap, 22 miles. I was starting to get tired of the bike. At least we got back into some shade. The last 12 miles were a lot hillier then I remember from the practice ride. I was also getting angry because this hills were kicking my ass. Speaking of my ass it was starting to hurt from being in the static position for 6 hours. Boy I was happy when I got to the dismount line for the bike I heard Carrie and my family yelling and cheering for me! Back to the transition tent to change for my marathon. The bike was done the dream of Ironman was only 26.2 miles away.
     The Run: I knew immediately I was in no shape to run much less run a marathon. My stomach was upset again and the feeling of puking was once again at the fore front of my mind. I put on my shoes, grabbed my fuel belt and headed out of the tent. First stop, aid station. Now the aid stations for the run are about every mile. They serve good stuff, potato chips, m&ms, warm flat coke, cold coke, water, sports drinks and yes, warm chicken broth. I know what you're thinking "oh gross, warm chicken broth", believe me when I tell you it's the greatest thing ever during the run of an Ironman. I stopped, grabbed a cookie and started my walk towards becoming an Ironman. I walked the entire 1st mile and then the 2nd. Then I started to run. I ran for only short distances before giving into my stomach issues and the realization "I may not be able to do this". At the third aid station I was still carrying the cookie from the first aid station, I had only taken two small bites out of it. I threw the cookie in the trash and grabbed a cold coke, it tasted so good. Right after the aid people were gathered under a big tent drinking beer and cheering people on, I think they had a grill too. I so wanted to stop and join them. Then, right after the tent was a sign "Pain is temporary, quitting lasts forever" That snapped me out of my "I'm going to quit pitty party attitude". I started to run again, just in short burst. I did a lot of walking and running that first lap. As I neared the center of the Ironman party, where the finish line was I saw Carrie and my support crew across the canal waterway. We couldn't hear each other but I rubbed my stomach as a motion of "I don't feel good", they frowned, I kept walking. As I passed under the finish line on the street above Mike Reilly was saying "YOU ARE AN IRONMAN" I told myself "I want to be an Ironman!" I kept moving forward
     The second loop of the three loop marathon proved to be the worst for me. Low energy, I haven't eaten in hours and my stomach was upset. My legs were starting to cramp, my feet hurt, I was tired of being wet and my mental outlook was bad. I kept thinking about that sign "...quitting lasts forever". As I near the underpass of the finish line more and more people were finishing. I still had 10 miles to go. I was almost brought to tears of thinking how far I had come. 10 miles separated me from my dream.
     At the start of the third loop it was starting to get dark so they were handing out flexible glow sticks you had to wear so they could see us in the dark. I made a necklace out of my. Others wore them on their heads, ankles or wrist. I got yellow to match my racing kit, yes I wanted to look as good as I could. I struggled to keep my emotions intact as I headed out for the last 8 miles. My legs were on the vurge of totally cramping, I was struggling physically too. One lone spectator who saw me struggling said "...you trained to run not walk, start running your legs will feel better..." I thought "BS, my legs hurt", I thanked him and moved on. Out of eye sight from him I started to run slowly, I ran for half a mile and started to walk and the cramps came back. I decided I wouldn't walk again for the rest of this Ironman. I did either the slowest jog ever or the fastest thing you would consider not to be a walk, either way I felt good again. My stomach was still bothering me but I had decided not to think about it. As I made my way down a totally dark concrete path through the woods alone I started to think for the first time in a long time that day I might actually finish and become an Ironman. As I entered back into the main part of the race where spectators were still cheering and Mike Reilly was still saying "YOU ARE AN IRONMAN" I know I was going to make it. Only 2 more miles, 2 miles. At the last aid station I stopped and drank a cold coke and started to walk with the young gal. She was limping along, I asked her how she was doing. With tears in her eyes she said "not good, I'm not going to make the cut off for the third loop". I felt bad for her, I told her "keep going, walk faster, run if you can, the cut off point is right around the corner, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE". I started to run again towards the finishing chute.
     My fried Dan Monahan gave me some advice about the finishing chute at your first Ironman. He said "don't sprint it, don't check your watch, don't run and don't forget what the feeling is like for your first Ironman. Walk the finishing chute and take it all in". That's what I did! The finishing chute is about a quarter of a mile long. Lined with barriers and thousands of people I'd never met. Just as the day had begun with loud music and some guy on the PA system that's how the day would end. I walked up the blue Ironman carpet to people screaming, cheering, whistling, singing and clapping. I was really holding back the tears, tears of joy and accomplishment. I was high fiving everyone and thanking them. I was moments away from finishing an Ironman, my first Ironman. The whole day flashed before my eyes, the ups and the downs, the moments of joy, the moments of darkness and that sign on the side of the road "Pain is temporary, quitting lasts forever". That sign may have saved me from a life time of regret. 
     The Finish: Moments before I got the the actual finish line I took stock in what a privilege it is to be healthy enough to train and complete such a huge event. The personal struggles I've had over come the last two years were not lost on me. I fought long and hard to get to this point. I sacrificed a lot to get to this point. Carrie and my kids sacrificed a lot to allow me to get to this point. Others have helped, mentored, coached and advised me to get to this point. For that I will always be thankful and grateful but at the moment I crossed the finish line it was all about me. I worked my ass off in the pool in the dead of winter, I rode my bike in the cold dark of morning and night and I ran in the wee hours of the morning while others slept in their beds. This moment was all about me. The words I had so longed to hear I was finally hearing from Mike Reilly "BRAD ASKINS, YOU...ARE...AN...IRONMAN!!!"







Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Calaveras Long Course Duathlon, VICTORY!



First place medal for my Age Group
 The day started out doomy and gloomy but ended up bright and cheery. Of course winning your age group and placing 5th over all in a race will do that!
     With the weather all week being rainy and chilly I was more then discouraged when the weekend forecast was still calling for rain and wind. But not being deterred I went through all my mid-week training and preparation as normal. I took Friday off from work to get an extra long weekend including having Monday off for Presidents day. Friday I packed up my gear, loaded the truck with the family, including MeMee and headed South to San Antonio for a relaxing night in a hotel with 5 people (note sarcasm). Actually it wasn't bad if you throw out my brief freak out when Lilly wouldn't stop running back and forth in the room. So after having dinner at Cracker Barrel which included, chicken tenders, a blue berry pancake, a regular pancake, french fries, biscuits with gravy, biscuits with honey, a hard boiled egg and lots with water. We headed back to the hotel to catch the end of Gold Rush and call it a night.
     We agreed that we needed to be at the race site between 6 and 6:30 for a 7:30 race start. It's pretty common for the kids to get up bright eyed and bushy tailed on race day as I think they are just as excited as I am, this race day was no different. We were promptly out the door headed to Starbucks for a morning jolt for the ladies.
     While driving to the race site it didn't look promising. There was lightning off in the distances and it was still raining. At this point I wasn't sure the race would happen. They aren't going to let 100+ people off on to the bike course with standing puddles and slippery roads. At the race site I went about my business of checking in, getting my bike inspected, body markings and setting up my transition. As dark gave way to light the rain stopped falling and the wind stopped, my first signs of hope. In preparation of a timely race start I take my pre-race drink mixture of Genesis PURE E2 Performance drink and two Moomiyo Edge capsules. Both of these supplements help with providing energy and oxygen to the body while exercising. At 7:15 we had our racers meeting and were told the storm had passed and there was no need to delay the race. However, we were also told to use caution of the bike course, point taken. This Duathlon was a 5K run, a 21 mile bike and finishes with another 5K run.
Cheering crew
     And we're off. Now I suck at running and Carrie makes fun of my running posture. My mother says "you have a unique style, we can pick you right out in a crowd". Within 50 yards there is my family cheering for me and holding signs. As the faster runners take off I know better then try to keep up. As my GPS watch beeps and vibrates to alert me I've just run a mile I resist temptation to look at it and just go by how I feel. I felt pretty good, it was a pace I could continue for another 2.1 miles. As I head for the finishing chute the timers clocks showed 24:26, that's a pretty decent run for me. I make a fast transition to the bike and head out on to the course. I had one goal in mind 'over the next 21 miles I'm going to go as fast as I can and pass all those fast runner'. The bike course is two loops of 10.5 miles a piece. I was hammering on the bike, head down and legs are pumping. I was passing people like they were standing still. I was having a great ride....then it started to rain, heavy rain. The kind of rain that stings when it hits. I just decided to keep my head down and keeping going. At one point on my second loop I realized I was passing people doing the short course and they were on their 10.5 mile loop. I was lapping them. Carrie said when I came through after my first lap "you were hauling ass!" The roads were so rough with the chip seal pavement it actually rattled loose one of my CO2 cartridges and it fell off. After 59 minutes of all out sprint, I entered transition for the second 5K.  I'll help you with some math, 21 miles in 59 minutes is an average of 21 MPH. After a shoe change and a quick Honey Stinger Gel I was out for the last 5K. The first mile off the bike is always interesting, my legs felt tired but strong. I just went with it, again not looking at my watch. I could see down the road a few other runners, but not a lot of them. The run course is two loops of 1.5 miles, so you see your competition as you run the loops. After my first loop I passed Carrie, mom and the kids and saw a runner coming towards me. I shouted to Carrie and pointed to the runner "that's the winner, isn't it?" She confirmed, I just kept running. As I rounded the corner and headed towards the finishing chute the clock showed 1:51:xx, for the first time I looked at my watch to see my running time. It was almost identical to the first 5K, I was only slower by a few seconds. Another good run for me!
Award ceremony
     As I watched the electronic results board my name was at the top of my age group. Obviously something was wrong. I went over to tell Carrie that something must be wrong with the results as I was in first place. She told me "you had a great bike and there weren't a lot of people in front of you" I went back over to the board. Again there was my name. I did this several times. Then I heard the race directory telling his staff the winners of my age group, he said my name first. I couldn't believe it! I won my age group and was 5th overall. 5th overall! I beat a lot of younger people I was stoked! At the awards ceremony they called my name and I got a pretty cool medal. As my friend said "that smiles tells it all" Yes it does Cornelia.
     On the way home I told mom and Carrie it was the first time I've come in first place since my first flag football team I played on when I was 7. The drought is over!
     Of course I do all the training and the races but my victories are never a solo effort. I say this at the end of all my blog posts but without the support and encouragement from my family and friends I could never achieve my goals. I have to give a HUGE thank you to my mom who came from Florida to take care of me and the kids for 10 days while Carrie took care of some family matters. Without her help and love I could not have continued to train for my IRONMAN dream in May. THANK YOU MOM, I LOVE YOU! I also need to thank, The Smiths, The Souzas, The Shaddix and The Kramers who watched Lilly and Reid over the weekend before mom arrived. You guys rock!!! Thank you!!
     Other folks who make it happen for me are Genesis PURE and their awesome superfruits and sports line. Fluid for whom I would never think of getting on my bike without their Performance drink and then using their Recovery drink afterwards. Honey Stinger is my favorite gel and energy bars during a race. Thank you all for making such great products!! I look forward to representing you more over this season.
     If you like to see all the pictures from the race click here

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Off to a great start

 Ironman Texas training is in full swing! May 19th in The Woodlands of Houston Texas I make my Ironman debut. Since December 1st I've been gradually increasing my training time and distance for swim, bike and run. At this point I've been pre-loading my training with 4 days in the pool a week. Doing mostly indoor training rides in my garage watching NetFlix on my computer and doing some pretty easy outdoor running. I've been doing double workouts at least 3 days a week. Usually swimming and running on the same day. After building a good base for swimming I'll back off on the number of days in the pool and increase my time on the bike and running. Last week I logged 710 minutes (that's almost 12 hours) over the course of 90 miles for the week. From here the training only getting longer and more intense. So far keeping a balance of home, work and training has been going pretty smooth. Of course it helps I get up most mornings between 4:30-4:45 to begin my workouts.
     My next race is a Duathlon in San Antonio. It's called Calaveras Duathlon. I did the race last year. It is a 5K run, 20 mile bike and finishes with another 5K run. It's going to be fun to see how this year compares to last year. Last year my times were: 24:11, 1:04, 26:57. I'm hoping to do at least the same on the runs and take at least 4 minutes off the bike time.
     April Fool's! It's down to Galveston Texas for the Ironman Lonestar 70.3 race. I'll be using this race as a training marker. It'll be a good practice day to work on swimming in a pack, transition from swim to bike and bike to run. It'll be good to work on my bike pacing to understand how hard I can go out on the bike and still have a good run afterwards. After racing in Austin last October in another 70.3 race even though I was sick for the race I learned some important lessons for future races. I have a better understanding of hydration and nutrition for such a long race. Here is the race description: "The day starts off with a 1.2-mile saltwater swim in the protected Offats Bayou followed by a 56-mile scenic one and a half loop bike course along the Gulf Coast of Texas. The 13.1-mile run takes athletes through Moody Gardens, along Offats Bayou and Palm Beach, before finishing near the Discovery Pyramid." Sounds like a great course. I'm really looking forward to the ride along the course. 
     Last weekend I participated in the annual Speedo One Hour Postal Swim. The challenge is to swim in a pool for one hour to see how far you can go. During the last month in my Master's swim practices we have been increasing our constant swim times to prepare for swimming non-stop for an hour. We gradually increased from 15 minutes to 35 minutes. I mostly think was more for mental preparation as to how to stare at the bottom of the pool for so long. We used the buddy system, one person swims for an hour while the other records the split time for each 50 yards and the cumulative time. My partner went first, I wish I had gone first. Sitting there watching him swim non-stop makes you start to wonder "holy crap, swimming for one hour is going to be hard, I hope I can do that". My partner did 3650 yards. Then it was my turn...about half way through me swim I thought I caught a glimpse of Reid on the pool deck, I dismissed it.  Then a few minutes later I thought I saw Carrie. Now mind you I couldn't just stop and look around. So every couple of breathes I would take another look. Yup! There they were. It inspired me to swim faster and my time sheet proves it, my time per 50 dropped by 4 seconds. I was so happy they were there. I was the only person who's family came down on an early morning to watch me swim. I felt pretty special!!! My goal was to swim between 3600-4000 yards. I'm happy to report I swam 3600 yards, that is an average of 1:39 per 100 yards. That's about as fast as I could go for a solid hour. I'll look to improve on that for next year.

     Lastly, right before the end of the year I got confirmation from Honey Stinger and Fluid my sponsorship's would be renewed. I was totally thrilled! I religiously use both products daily. Before any given workout I use Honey Stinger as fuel source to get me through the workout. On long bikes I also use Honey Stinger, namely their Waffles . If you haven't had a Waffle get up right now and go get one! The Waffles are Lance Armstrong's favorite too.
     Fluid is a high quality recovery drink I use after every workout! Without question it restores my body so I can go out the next day and have another great workout. Fluid has changed my training and recovery cycles. Not sure what I would be using if it wasn't for Fluid. During some long runs and rides I crave the taste for their Berry and Tropical favors and can't wait to get home and have some. Recently they introduced a "during exercise" product called Fluid Performance. I was lucky enough to get a first shipment of the product to test it out. It is full of the "right stuff" to keep me going during the hardest of workouts. Now I never leave the house without at least one bottle of Fluid Performance.
     Well from here it's upward and onward to Ironman Texas. At this point my goal is to remain healthy enough to continue with my training.
     As always Carrie and the kids continue to love and support me! Reid keeps asking when he gets to swim-bike-run. I'm looking for a kid friend triathlon for him. I'm so happy my life style is a positive influence on my kids and they want to do what I'm doing....it's better then Reid asking me where the keg is...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Austin Ironman 70.3

  The official tag line of Ironman is "ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE". After finishing my half Ironman feeling the way I did, I was sick.  I can tell you, it's true if you believe in yourself and never give up.
     A little background, Ironman is a brand name. Like Rollerblades, not all inline skates are Rollerblades just as not all triathlons are Ironmans. The Ironman has branded three different distances of triathlons each with a distance value: 5150, 70.3 and 140.6. A full Ironman distance is 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run equals 140.6 miles, a 70.3 is half of a full 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and 13.1 mile run equals 70.3 miles, 5150 is a quarter of a full .9 mile swim, 24.85 mile bike and 6.2 mile run. For some reason for 5150 they switched over to the metric system to make the nice sexy name 5150 probably because Ironman 31.95 sounds kind of weird.
     In July I started training in earnest for the race. I put in 17 hard weeks, mostly 7 days a week. I swam every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday with Masters Swimming. Running or biking on the other days. My daily routine got me up no later then 4:45 AM depending on the length of time for the day's training. It wasn't uncommon for me to be on my bike at 4:30 AM on a Saturday or Sunday trying to get in a 4+ hour ride and be back home to start my day with the family. I'd say 95% of my training happened in the dark or as the sun came up. Thank God I grew up in a military household as I think this helps with getting up early.
     My training log totals finished like this for the 17 training weeks
  • Swimming 50 miles
  • Biking 1020 miles
  • Running 196 miles
     Having torn my tendon off my humorous arm bone, that's one of the muscles and tendons that keeps your arm in the shoulder joint. It forced me to take two weeks off from swimming completely. Then I endured 8 grueling physical therapy sessions but I still managed to get in a fair amount of swimming. Granted not pain free.  Despite the shoulder injury I did feel really prepared for the swim portion of the race.
     Unfortunately race week a stomach bug starting going around our neighborhood. I threatened Carrie I was going to check into a hotel to avoid getting sick, in hindsight I should have. The stomach bug caused people to spend time sitting on or throwing up into the toilet. Even caused one neighbor a trip to the ER for some IVs. Yeah, it was bad. I started taking Airborne hoping it would help but when Lilly got it I knew I was doomed, I may have even talked myself into it, that's what Carrie. So just days before the race it was my turn. Having a stomach bug is not a good way to stay hydrated, it's easy to lose a lot of water, you get the picture.
The finishing chute
     Saturday afternoon after coaching a flag football game I made my way over to the race venue to check in, get my race packet and attended the racers meeting. Pretty standard fair for a triathlon. I bought a couple of race souvenirs and checked out the local sponsor tents. I started to leave and my truck decided to experience it's own version of the stomach bug with back firing, sputtering and general forward motion problems. So I limped the truck over to the mechanics and dropped it off. Just what I needed, car problems. Since I had to be at the race at 5 AM for a complicated transition setup involving three bags of gears, 2 transition zones and a shuttle to the start Carrie and I were planning on taking two cars. Now I needed to borrow a car from someone. Not the kind of thing I planned for. With a neighbor's car secured for the next day it was time to get my game face on.
     Sunday morning I'm out the door at 4:30 AM. I felt like crap! I make it to race site and locate the row of porta potties. Set up Transition 2, the bike in-run out transition. I board a shuttle over to T1, swim in-bike out transition and locate that row porta potties. I visited quite a few of the porta potties before the swim. I ate less then a 1/4 of my bagel with peanut butter before the race. Not a good plan considering I had a long hard day ahead of me.
Out of the water
     At 8:10 my swim wave, males 40-44 entered the water for a 8:15 start, bam the gun goes off. I'm at the front of my group. I like to start at the front so I have some clear water ahead of me and make the faster swimmers go around me. I had a flawless swim, little contact with others, I spotted the buoys well, I rounded the buoys without getting kicked by people doing the breast stroke, which is a bonus. My stroke was good, I didn't push the pace and my shoulder wasn't hurting. As I head out of the water Reid was standing right there yelling "go, daddy, go! Daddy do you see me? Go daddy, go!" I wanted to run over and kiss and hug him, such a cool moment. As I made my way up the chute Carrie yelled my name, I turned smiling and wave. I laid down and the awesome wet suit strippers took my wet suit off in .5 seconds. Swim done!
     In the bike transition, I did my thing, bagging up my wet suit and putting on my biking gear. Out for a nice Texas country ride on miles of chip seal (it's so rough it will rattle teeth loose in your head), hills and wind. I got a good tip the night before the race to get some nutrition in me early in the bike as it will help later in the race namely on the run. So I started to eat and drink. About half way through the bike I started to get the familiar stomach cramps and knew my day was going to get ugly. I managed to maintain a good pace but it was taking to much effort. With 20 miles to go the road turned straight into a very strong head wind. My day just got a lot harder. Those last 20 miles were brutal with my legs starting to cramp, my stomach in knots, I thought I was going to vomit and the wind played tricks with my head. Twice in the last 20 miles I went off the road but managed to keep the bike up right. One of those times I remember closing my eyes as if I was going to take a nap. I remember thinking "I'll just close my eyes for a second". I felt so sleepy.  In the final 200 yards I spotted Carrie and the kids cheering for me. That lifted my spirits a bit.
Encouragement
     I traded my biking shoes for running sneakers and headed out for a half marathon. I looked at my watch for the first time and noted I was on schedule to hit my goal time, that was a surprise considering how I felt. All I had to do was jog 10 minute miles and I was in there. At mile two my stomach said "it's time to walk and walk now!" At the next aid station they had flat warm coke, that sounded good and tasted great. I also took two cold sponges and stuffed those down my shirt. I started to jog again. I did the jog, walk thing for 4 miles completing loop 1 of 3. That's when I saw Carrie, Nancy and the kids. For the first time Carrie noted I wasn't smiling, I'm a happy triathlete and smile a lot during races. It's fun, I smile. I stopped and talked, gave her a quick health update and jogged on. At the beginning of loop two I was by stopped another a friend, Michael Ames another Triathlete, we talked for a second he gave me some words of encouragement and I was off again. This time a much slower jog, pretty much a fast walk.  On lap 2 I did the fast walk until around mile 7 then it turned in a a normal pace walk. I saw the family again. This time Carrie knew my days wasn't going as planned, she held my hand and walked with me. She give me some words of encouragement  and probed me for information about my health. I knew she was concerned because she just watched a woman yak her brains out which I was pretty close to doing myself. I lied about not being dizzy and for that matter didn't tell her I had tunnel vision and was on the verge of passing out, back out for loop 3. This time I got a hug and a hand shake from Michael and the words I need to hear "you got this, anything is possible". Lap 3 didn't contain any running, jogging or fast walking. It was a death march. Making it from one aid station to the next. It was pitiful. With 300 meters from the finish line which is inside the Expo Center I started to jog, my calf cramped. I walked again, "no, you will run across that finish line!" I told myself. Entering the build I started to run again. Over the loud speaker they called out "bib number 1374 from Austin Texas, Brad Askins". I crossed the finish line. Austin 70.3 was done!
Cold concrete and cramped calves
     I needed to lay down. So I did on the cold concret floor of the expo center. Then I  took off my shoes which housed big blisters on the balls of my feet. Then I need to puke. I walked over to a barrel trash can and before I puked I started to black out so I lowered myself to the ground. My back started to ache in the kidney area, I knew I was in trouble. Carrie went to get the medical staff, before they got to me I had made my way over to the medical tent. There I received two bags of IV, my blood pressure was 100/60 and my blood sugar was 108. The guy to my right was puking in a bag and the guy to the left had such low blood pressure they had trouble getting it. It was like a scene from a war movie, cots, nurses, puke and blood.
     After the IVs I was a different person, I managed to eat a banana and drink some water. I even drove myself home. When I got home I ate most of a pizza, took a shower, watched some baseball and then I think I passed out for the last time that day. What an epic day!
     Thanks to all my supporters Carrie, Reid, Lilly, Mom, Scott and Nancy. To all my close friends who support me on a daily basis or at least put up with all my Triathlon talk. My sponsor who supports me 100% of the time all the time, Gear and Training. To all my entire Triathlon family including Scott Jones, John LaFreniere and my swim coach Hollie Kenney. Vicky Bledsoe at Atlas PT who worked a minor miracle on my shoulder. All my entire Facebook family and of course my constant swim lane mate Louise.
     My favorite pictures from the Triathlon. Reid supporting me for 7 hours is a tough job!



     My time goal was 6 hours, I didn't make but here are my times

  • 1.2 mile swim 36:53 (144/100 yd)
  • Transition 1 swim to bike 5:38
  • 56 mile bike 2:56:45 (19.1 MPH average)
  • Transition 2 bike to run 5:02
  • 13.1 mile run 3:19:39 (15 min/mile)
  • Total for the day 7:03:57

   
     Ironman, anything is possible!
   


   
   

   
 http://ironman.com/events/ironman70.3/#axzz1bk94yyvk

Friday, August 26, 2011

Summer Update

     It's been awhile since I last had an entry. Here is a quick run down of what I've been doing since Escape from Alcatraz.
     We had a great family reunion in Toledo Ohio in early July. It was the first time I have seen some of my cousins since 1984, the year Scott graduated High School. We stayed at a resort on the shores of Lake Erie, Maumee Bay State Park. We spent a glorious day at Cedar Point Amusement Park! If you are ever in Sandusky Ohio don't pass up the opportunity to spend a day here. The high point, literally, was Top Thrill Dragster! We got to knock about Uncle Ed's printing shop with his very high tech 4 color printing machine, a Heidelberg. Another highlight of the trip was going to the center of culinary universe, Tony Packo's. If you've never had a Tony Packo pickle your life isn't complete and their chili hot dogs aren't to shabby either. Scott and I did a little brother to brother bonding with a Sprint Triathlon in Lorain Ohio in Lake Erie. I'll only say Scott didn't win but that's not important, it was a joy to race with my brother. Even if he only got a view of my back. Love you brother!
Craig, Uncle Mike, Me, Chad --- Me, Scott
     We had a great time in Ohio. Man it was sure great to see my family even if I was a little afraid of Craig and Chad my "little" cousins who I apparently picked on when they were a lot smaller! Aunt Lou and Uncle Ed graciously opened their house for all of us and hosted us for a very memorable week.
     After a week together I was ready to have a little alone time. I drove Carrie and the kids to Detroit where they boarded a plane bound for New Hampshire. Carrie will have to write her own blog but she and the kids had a great two weeks. Zip lining, going to the ocean, camping for a week, Biederman's Deli in Plymouth, visiting family and old friends. Of course the highlight of the trip was going to Fenway Park for a Red Sox game. I'm so glad Reid and Lilly go to finally see Big Papi and Carrie got to see her boyfriend Jason Varitek.
     Me...you ask, right, a little alone time. After dropping them off at the airport I headed north in Michigan. I only had a skeleton plan of where I wanted to go.  Here is how it played out.
     I drove the entire height of Michigan across the Mackinac Bridge, the longest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere. The bridge connects the lower peninsula and the upper peninsula (The U.P.) of Michigan. Then I headed West across the UP. Landed for the night in Marquette MI. You can read about Marquette it is was a very cool little town on the shores of Lake Superior. I enjoyed a sun set in Presque Isle Park. The UP reminded me of Maine, it was a beautiful drive. I continued West with stops in Duluth MN and Fargo ND. The highlight of North Dakota was the night

 I spent in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. I got to see Buffalo and Prairie dogs. Next stop after an amazingly beautiful drive across Montana was Glacier National Park. I talked to Carrie on the phone several times across MT and I told her "...with every passing mile it just keeps getting more and more beautiful". I now know why they call it "Big Sky Country". I've had more enjoyable camping experiences. I'm not fond of putting up a tent in the pouring rain when it's 50 degrees. Upon awaking to a beautiful sun rise I set out on "The Going to Sun Road". It is truly the most beautiful stretch of pavement in our country. Don't believe
me? Go there! You'll see...water falls, glaciers, high mountain lakes, big horn sheep, steep canyon walls, rivers, engineering marvels (tunnels and the road) and huge mountains.After doing a short hike I started south. Next stop Idaho, the stretch of road from Glacier through Idaho was well, amazing. There I was, I was having alone time. I sang out loud, I rode in total silence, I waved to people in other cars, I stopped and peed when I wanted too, I ate when I wanted too, I was doing what I wanted to. I drove and drove, I love to drive long distances by myself. As the miles went by I began to let go of some pointless, useless, pity, trivial crap that was taking up space in my head. The hours upon hours of wide open roads does wonders for the soul. Ok enough of my Zen moments. Where was I going? Ah, right, South. The next highlight was Moab UT another magical gem of The West. I'm still trying to forget the stretch of road from the Idaho border to Moab namely the traffic and concrete surroundings of Salt Lake City and Provo. Off to the Four Corners! At the 4 Corners you can be in UT, CO, AZ and NM all at the same time. Shortly after leaving the Four Corners I drove through the Northwestern corner of NM, the lowlight of the trip for sure. I went through same Navajo Reservations and it was depressing. Dirty and poor, it made me sad to think "we" as a country put these people here. Not a high point in our Nation's history. I seriously could not get out of there fast enough. Driving just west of Los Alamos I could see the huge fires that were burning, crazy huge! After leaving Albuquerque, NM behind I went into survival mode. I wanted to be at home! Making it to the Texas border brings little joy, I still had a long way to go. I became a wizard at calculating distances and speed in my head with a little extra time thrown in for traffic and pee breaks. Alas, I made it home. I spent the next week at work reading two weeks of email and at night laying on the couch watching baseball. Now don't get me wrong I missed Carrie and kids but you have to admit being apart every now and then is healthy for any relationship. Love you honey! Some quick road stats: 15 states, 7200 miles, 9 days, I didn't add up the amount I spent in gas.
Here is a short video of my solo trip across the country in 2:24 set to music..enjoy.

     Since then it's been all about avoiding the sun and hot temperatures. We set a record for the most days at or over 100, 71 days as I write this. Next on the race calendar is AVIA Austin Triathlon and then my "A" race of the year a Half Ironman (70.3)
     Stay tuned....thanks for reading.
   
   

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Escape from Alcatraz

They say no one has ever escaped from Alcatraz, I beg the differ, I did! After months of training and mental preparation at 7:30 AM on Sunday June 5th I jumped off the San Francisco Belle with 2000 other athletes into the San Francisco bay for the 1.5 mile swim to shore. There is nothing like hitting the salty 52 degree water of the San Francisco bay for a wake up call. After hitting the water one thought came to my mind "how did I get here?"
     Six months ago I put my name in a lottery for the Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon. At the time I thought I didn't have a chance in hell of getting into the race. This is a premiere event and spots come at a premium. People from around the world do qualifying races to get in to this race. At this years race there were athletes from all 50 states and 40 countries. The rest of us have to hope we "win"the lottery.  You have to be careful what you wish for. After I got selected I started my training in earnest.
     Saturday morning I planned on doing a practice swim in Aquatic Park Harbor near Ghirardelli Square. The idea for the practice swim was to get a feel for how cold the water was going to be. Adding to my anxiety about the water temperature was the fact is was pouring down rain and about 50 degrees outside. Never the less I needed to test the water. Carrie being the trooper she is donned a rain coat and escorted me down to the park. I put on my wet suit, neoprene cap, ear plugs and swim cap and entered the water. The cold water felt like tiny little knives being driven into my bare feet. When I got about waist deep I decided to just dive in and get the shock of the cold over with. It took my breath away. As I swam out to the first buoy my face stung from the cold. I stopped by another swimmer and asked "...does the pain of the cold ever go away?" he said "give it about 10 minutes", I thought "ok, I can do 10 minutes". He was right, as I made my way around the swimmers' course I became accustom to the cold and started to relax and enjoy the swim. During the swim I also got a good taste of the salt water. After I completed the out and back course I decided I accomplished my mission and thought about Carrie who was standing in the cold rain.
     On race morning after setting up my transition area I boarded a bus for Pier 3 and a quick boat ride out to Alcatraz Island. Upon crossing the gangway I entered the belly of the beast. The boat wish filled with angst, excitement and nervous chatter. After some last minute instructions over the PA and The National Anthem I put on my goggles and surveyed the bay with a scattering safety boats, kayakers, a Coast Cutter and a helicopter.  At the sound of the starting horn the Pro athletes jumped off first followed by the age group athletes. 2000 athletes disembarked from The Belle in 6 minutes. To get an idea watch the video (video from 2010). For the swim you locate land marks to swim towards. The first sighting are two twin apartment buildings. As I started swimming for the buildings I noticed right away I'm not going to make it as the current is pulling me down stream towards the Golden Gate Bridge. At least the current is pulling me in the right direction. The next sighting is Fort Mason, again, I'm not going to make it there either. This goes on for all my land marks. The real trick is aim at land marks knowing you won't make it but swim hard so you don't miss the landing beach. If you miss the beach you'll be pick up by a boat because the next stop is the Pacific Ocean under the Golden Gate Bridge. Not an outcome I wanted. As I neared shore the current lessens and I can tell I'm going to hit the high side of the beach. This is a perfect spot, I nailed the swim. The most common question before and after swim is about sharks. The water is so cloudy you can only see about an arms length. The only thing I saw I was a big floating seaweed mat that I swam through. If there were sharks, seals or sea lions I didn't see any and I'm glad for that. I did the 1.5 mile swim in 34:12 my goal was 45 minutes. After the swim there is a mini transition area where I had a pair of shoes waiting. I took off my wet suit and ran a half mile to the real transition to get my bike.
     Off for the bike ride. The first 1 mile of the bike was dead flat. The course took us through some closed off roads through an old Army base guarded with 4 feet tall concrete pillars. Some guy passed me head down in the aero position he never looked up and never saw it coming and rode straight into one of those pillars. He did a superman flying move and rolled across the asphalt. Concrete pillar = 1, bike rider = 0. Not only was he missing some skin but he ended his day early by breaking his carbon fiber bike in two pieces. I stopped to see if he was ok, he was, I went back to racing. The hills around San Francisco proved to be very challenging. They were some of the steepest hills I've ever ridden. If you've been to San Francisco you know what I'm talking about. The ride was along the shore and in and out of Gold Gate Park it was beautiful.  I was enjoying the scenery and concerned less with racing. I chatted with several riders and had a rolling picnic.
     Out for the run, I knew it was going to be hard because the run  course covered some of the same ground as the ride. After a mile of flat it was up a long section of wooden stairs followed by a long steep asphalt path up to the Golden Gate bridge via one low bricked tunnel. The course then followed a trail along a ridge high above a beautiful sandy beach. The trail was only wide enough for two runners one going in each direction. It was tight. Then we started to descend down to the beach. At this point I didn't think it was all that beautiful. I found myself running in deep heavy sand for a mile in a single file line. Running on the beach is hard work and I was getting tired, I was only 3 miles into an 8 mile run. At the end of mile three I approached the dreaded and infamous "sand ladder" of Baker Beach. The sand ladder is a mixture of wooden and sand steps up to the top of a large sand dune. At the top of the sand dune is the beginning of another trail up a hill. At the top of the hill I had a fantastic view of Baker Beach and the Golden Gate Bridge. The course took us back into the woods and through several old military cannon installations. Then we followed the same trail back to the transition area and finishing line. Thankfully this part of the run was flat. I was happy to be running on flat ground again. As I came down the finishing shoot I heard my name announced over the PA and the entire race flashed before my eyes. After months of training and worrying about the swim the race was over. I finished the race Escape from Alcatraz in 3:19:45. I had a rough time goal of three hours. I could careless about the time it's the whole experience of this race that drew me in! I Escaped from Alcatraz!
     After the race Carrie and I spent a week in Sonoma and Napa valley a day at Point Reyes National Sea Shore and a day in Yosemite National Park.
Robert Mondavi Vineyard
Point Reyes National Sea Shore
Yosemite National Park
     Thanks to my mom who came from Florida to watch our kids for a week Carrie and I enjoyed a very relaxing week together. Some of the highlights I've already mentioned above but here are a few more. I gave Carrie a personal tour of Google's Mountain View Googleplex. We had the most outstanding lunch, well we mostly tasted the dessert tray. We rode around the campus on Google bikes. We drove up the coast of Northern CA. We had the best Italian food in North Beach. Toured the Golden Gate Bridge. Saw the Six Sisters of San Francisco. Crossed the Bay Bridge. Strolled along Fisherman's Wharf and drove into Haight Ashbury to see the Grateful Dead's house and the place were the "Summer of Love" took place. Drove on Lombard Street. Tour Sonoma and Napa Valley, we crossed from valley to valley over a very cool mountain road. And probably the highlight of the trip after the swim from Alcatraz was the beauty of Yosemite National Park!
     Thank you to all that made is trip possible especially my mom and Carrie. I love you two!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Memorial Hermann Kemah Triathlon Festival (formerly Gateway to the Bay)

I first read about The Gateway to the Bay triathlon in Kemah Texas in May of 2010. When I saw the race started from a replica 1800 century style paddle wheel boat "The Colonel Paddle Wheel" I knew I was going to do this race in 2011. As soon as the registration opened I signed up and started training for my first Olympic distance triathlon (aka International distance). The distances for the race are; a 1.5 km swim (.93 miles), a 40 km bike (24.8 miles) and a 10 km run (6.2 miles). The training plan was modest, calling for the normal activities you would think; swimming, cycling, running and some strength training. At the end of my training I reviewed my logs to verify I had actually prepared myself for the race. I was happy with my training and most importantly I made it through the entire 8 week training plan injury free, physically. I'll come back to the mental anguish I endured. Towards the end of my training I could feel I had made lots of progress. My swimming times were getting faster, I was able to hammer for longer on the bike and my running speed was faster and I was able to maintain my race pace for longer.  I could tell I was starting to peak for my race. My training logs revealed I had swam 33 miles, 160 miles of cycling and run 110 of miles for a total of 303 miles in training for the Kemah Olympic Triathlon.
     The mental side of training continues to be harder then the physical side.  There is a lot of mental preparation for a workout, I usually do mental prep the day and moments before the workout. The day before involves self doubt with thoughts of "can I run that fast for that long?", "can I do that many intervals of 400, 800, 1200, 1600 meters at the track?", "can I swim that hard?" and "can I maintain that MPH while biking with the hills and the wind?". Other mental huddles are "I don't feel like getting up at 4:45 AM everyday to either run, bike or swim", "I'm to tired", "it's too hot/cold/dark/windy..." the excuse could go on. Moments before a workout I always think about what Scott Jones says "Train with joy or not at all" that's enough for me to get started. If it's not fun or I'm not enjoying myself than I need to be doing something other training for Triathlons. During the workout I have another favorite saying this one from Lance Armstrong “Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever.
     The hardest mental workout I had was my first day back in open water i.e. not a pool. The gym I belong too  owns a  quarry which is perfect for practicing open water swimming.  I swam in the quarry last summer so I figured getting back in the water would not be a big deal, boy was I wrong. The day I went the water was 60 degrees, it was windy and I was the only person in this huge quarry. Being alone in the quarry is a little weird. There's no life guard, that are snakes (I've never seen one), snapping turtles, fish and fresh water jelly fish.  So I put on my sleeveless wet suit and headed into the water, it was cold but manageable with the wet suit until I stuck my face in the water and tried to swim.  My face was cold, my chest tighten up, I was having a hard time breathing, my goggles fogged up, white capped were breaking on my back and over my head. I thought "if I can't swim here how am I going to swim in the Gulf of Mexico in Kemah or the San Fransisco Bay for the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon?" I paused, tried to relax and slowly made my way over the dock for a rest. This was not going well. I did some self talk to try and get a grip and went back in...same thing, except this time I could tell I was holding my breathe. I took a mental note to exhale in the water and concentrate on that. I swam about a 100 yards before I started feeling anxious again, back to the dock. This scenario played out for a hour before I packed it in for the day. I was mental beaten...I realized on the drive home my head was cold the entire time I was in the water, I needed to fix that. The next day I went to the local swim shop and bought a neoprene swim cap.
     Granted it's not sexy but I choose warmth over fashion any day. After thinking about  my previous swim, my fears and my feeble attempt at an open water swim I went back to the quarry the next day and started over. This time more slowly, I entered the water inch by inch adjusting to the cold and letting my wet suit fill up with water and the water stretches the wet suit out a bit which helps with breathing. With my new neoprene cap I slowly put my head in the water and started to swim. After about 200 yards I could feel how relaxed I was and started to enjoy the solitude of the quarry until I felt a turtle bite my toe. I think I let out a little yelp and rolled over on to my back and looked at my foot. Huh, no blood? I looked at my other foot, no blood.  What I discovered was my feet were numb from the cold and when I kicked my toes slapped the top water and felt like something was biting me. I went back to my self talk and started to swim again.  I wound up swimming over a mile that day and becoming acutely award of how important it is to be mentally strong. There is more work to be done here.
     Fast forward to race weekend...The plan was to leave first thing Friday morning after checking Reid into school and getting him counted for the day.  Attendance taken, Reid's out of school and we are off. The truck was loaded for bare. We started making our way to Bolivar Peninsula which is just northeast of Galveston Island. Our neighbors, The Kramers (Kevin and Shannon), were coming down to Kemah to support me in my Triathlon. These are great friends! The plan was to spend Friday afternoon at Kevin's father's house and do some fishing with the kids. But before we made it to Bolivar we stopped at a Tex Mex restaurant in Katy Texas for the best Mexican food I've ever had, Lupe Tortilla. Upon reaching the peninsula The Kramers told and showed us all the damage that Hurricane Ike had done 3 years earlier. The Hurricane pretty much wipe out the entire area leaving just a few remaining houses and traces of a previously bustling community. Friday night we headed over the Galveston Island via a ferry ride and had a fun dinner at the Rain Forrest Cafe, that's all I have to say about Galveston. Saturday morning we took a short trip out into the Bay and did a little fishing. We were dropping the line in the water for some fish called "croakers".  After some uneventful fishing we packed up and headed off for Kemah via the ferry again.
     As we entered the little port town of Kemah my excitement went from 5 to 10. Months of training were about to be put to the test. We couldn't check into the hotel so we headed down into Kemah which houses a little amusement park and restaurants. On the way I picked up my race packet and checked in. I have to give the race organizer some credit the check in and packet pickup were flawless. Then we headed over to Saltgrass restaurant for some lunch. The restaurant sat right on the water so I got to survey the bay for the water conditions.  To be honest this did not decrease me stress as I watched 1 1/2 foot rollers and white caps being blown around the bay. Race day conditions called for the same. After lunch we took the kids on some rides. I drew the short straw and went on a ride with Lilly. No I'm not a monster it was a very small ride. After fulfilling my daddy duties I headed back to the hotel with Lilly to prepare myself for the race.
     Lilly was a big help with moving my racing gear around the room as I tried to get ready. I looked over my check list, packed, unpacked and packed again. I rested on the bed and watched iCarly. By the time Carrie and Reid got back to the hotel I was ready for some sleep so I put on the NCAA basketball game, that would surly put me to sleep.
     4 AM, I'm up, one last gear check and a bagel with peanut butter and I'm out the door with a good luck kiss from Carrie. Down to the transition area where I unpacked my gear and set up my personal space and chatted with my fellow racers. We had a 1/4 mile walk down to the boat which left port sharply at 5:30. "Be on the boat or miss your chance to race", those were words blaring over the PA system. I met a nice guy in transition who was doing his first Triathlon as he asked me questions about what to do, it gave me confidence in my prep work and my game plan for the day. 1500 racers packed the paddle wheel boat and prepared for a 45 minute ride out to the starting point for the race.  There was a lot of nervous energy on that boat ride, people were stretching, talking, drinking water, eating energy bars and trying to mentally get ready for jumping off the boat, me included. With anchor away I made my last minute checks and finished putting on my wet suit. My age group would be the 5th wave off the boat. I quickly made me way down to the first floor of the boat and positioned myself at the back end of the wave in front of me. With last minute instructions from the racing crew about how to jump off the boat I found myself at the head of the line. I'd be the first person in my group off the boat and into the water.
video

     As I came up for my first breathe after jumping off the boat I got my first taste of Trinity Bay. Yep, that's salt water, that wouldn't be my last drink from the bay. Prior to jumping off we all noticed we had anchored some 200 yards from the starting buoy. Great just what I needed...a longer swim. Head down I started my swim to shore. It was a straight shot from the boat to shore along a well marked course dotted with bright 8' tall yellow and orange buoys. To add to the already confusing state I was in from the rolling seas, the poor visibility in the water and fear from being eaten by Jaws people were literally swimming over me. Several time people swam across my back going perpendicular to the heading of the course. I wasn't sure where they were going but it was the wrong way. As the crowd thinned about I found some space to swim in. As I eyed the buoys I noticed I was getting closer to them, as in the current was pushing me side ways. Mental note taken, pull harder with my left to keep a straighter course to fight the current.  This little bit of thought occupied my mind for some time. Looking up I passed the 500 meter buoy then the 1000 meter buoy.  500 more meters to go and I'd be home free...just then I latched on to something this women and I never thought would happen during the race. My hand landed squarely in this woman's crotch from behind. I mean I got a handful of woman parts! As I released my hand I stopped swimming expecting some kind of retaliation but she just kept her head down and kept swimming. Oh well and that's part of the swimming portion of a triathlon I guess. As I neared the beach I finally started to relax and enjoy my swim. I could really feel how hard I'd been swimming and my arms were pretty tired. With one last stroke I felt the bottom of the bay and stood up and ran out of the water.  Running down the carpet toward the transition zone there were "wet suit strippers". All I had to do was let them unzip my wet suit, take my arms out and lay down. They grabbed the suit from the waist and ripped it off me in about 1 second.  I ran into transition and donned my riding gear and I was off. I did the swim in 30:29 beating my goal time of 45 minutes.
     Out of the transition with my bike and I'm ready to ride.  For the first few miles of my ride I could feel my arms shaking trying to support my bike in the "aero position". The ride is totally flat but had some sharp bends. For the first 10 miles or so I managed to maintain a speed of about 20 MPH and I was passing a lot of people.  Then the course took a sharp 90 degree corner and I'm straight into a head wind. I dropped to a lower gear and I'm pedaling for all I'm worth going about 16 MPH. This nasty little section goes on for about 6 miles or so. It's a long straight road. I can see off in the distance I'm about to get to the turn around and enjoy the tail wind home. When I rounded the corner and started heading back the tail wind is amazing. I'm in my highest gear hammering on the pedals. I'm blowing by people. I looked down at my bike computer and see I'm doing 28 MPH. As my brother says "I'm hauling the mail!" Then I hear someone yell behind me "you'll killing me" I say, "what?" "you're going so fast, you're killing me". My response was "get the off my wheel" and starting pedaling faster (drafting behind rides during a triathlon is illegal, so the guy behind me was cheating).  I make it back to the transition zone in 1:14 beating my time goal of 1:30.  So far I'm nailing my race and I feel great.  Out of my riding shoes and on with my running shoes.
     As I ran out of transition Carrie, the kids and The Kramers were cheering me on. That was a boost! Unfortunately that didn't last long. About a mile into the run I started to get a cramp right up under my rib cage, it felt like someone punched me in the stomach. I was having a hard time catching my breathe. The run went on like this for the next couple of miles. As I rounded a corner and started down a long stretch I could see Carrie and Shannon on the side of the road holding some signs. I couldn't make out the words but I did recognized that some boobs were drawn into the word WOW! I was starting to perk up a bit. As I got closer Carrie and Shannon moved the signs to their sides revealing their boobs! Oh wait! Those aren't real?! Why do their boobs have suspenders? They were shaking their fake plastic suspender supported boobs yelling "go Brad go!". That was really funny. I had forgotten about my cramp and focused on their boobs. Men don't care if they aren't real. I laughed and thanked them as I continued my run from hell.  The last part of the run went up and over a big arching bridge in Kemah, twice! After crossing the bridge I looped back around under neath it and started back up again.  At the top of the bridge some old dude with his age of 65 written on his calf passed me. I knew my time wasn't going to be good for the run. I dug a little deeper and managed to ek out a descent last mile.
     As I crossed the finish line a volunteer took off my timing chip another put a medal around my neck and I got a hug from Carrie.  That's a great way to finish a race! The hug was followed by more hugs and kisses from the kids, Shannon and a hand shake from Kevin.  I looked at my watch, did a little math for my time and my finishing time 2:51:39. I couldn't believe it after such a crappy run of 1:04:51 I beat my time goal for the race by almost 9 minutes.
     Now having completed the training and the race for my first Olympic distance Triathlon. I have a better understanding of what it's going to take to train for a 1/2 Ironman scheduled for later this year and a full Ironman tentatively scheduled for August of 2012 in Canada!
     I'd really like to give a big THANK YOU to my family, Carrie, Reid, Lilly and my friends Kevin, Shannon and Beckett for coming to Kemah and supporting me for my race. I'd also like to thank my brother, Scott, who is a constant sounding board and source of encouragement. It was a great weekend of family, friends, food, ferries, fishing and racing!