A Jim of All Trades

Off Season Training Report and My Achy Breaky Heart

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It’s winter, cold, and dreary here, which means the off season for triathlon and preparing for my 2nd season of racing. I’ve been meaning to do a post about my training, which I’ll cover here, but I had a surprise related to my health just a couple days ago, so I’ll be writing more about that. Skip ahead for that if you want, its probably more interesting than my training, but I’ll get that out of the way first.

Training:
After my last race in August I didn’t take much time off, maybe just a week of less than normal activity, then I jumped right into a running program. I wanted to focus on my running and try to get a bit faster before the weather got bad, then focus on my cycling on the trainer in the winter months and try to maintain any running gains I made. So for September, October, and November I worked on increasing my running mileage each week, with a long run on the weekends and doing some interval and pace work mixed in the various runs. The first month went well but I think I did a bit too much too soon as I developed achilles tendinitis (self diagnosed) in my right leg. I had to scale it back a bit for a week then for the rest of the time I dialed back on the intervals and just focused on mileage. Things went well, I did longer (time and distance) runs than I’ve ever done before, and did see gains in my speed and endurance. I did a 5k in the middle of that three month stretch and set a PR in it, then did another 5k at in November where I beat the last PR to set a new one, finally getting under the 7:00/mile mark which has been a challenge to me. To be honest, the course was the flattest course imaginable, but I’ll still count it.

In December I started a program to focus on cycling. The program is for all three disciplines, but I’m prioritizing the cycling aspect and doing the running as maintenance and scaling back where it might conflict with getting a good bike session in. That has been going well but I am not yet to my first test to see how much I’ve improved, and just had a little set back, so whether I’ve made progress is yet to be seen.

I’ve also been swimming consistently and feel like I’m making small gains in the water. It is still by far my weakest area and I’m doing the Slowtwitch Guppy Challenge to try to improve over the winter. Time will tell…

The Health Situation:
So on Monday, the day after Christmas, I went to the pool to do my workout. I had just finished an easy 6x50m warm up and was standing in the shallow end when I started feeling light headed. I turned to hold on to the wall but just passed out before I got to it, falling into the water. Next thing I knew there was a person holding on to each of my arms and another on the deck of the pool holding on to me and asking if I was alright and knew where I was. I am AMAZED at how fast people reacted, I was only out and in the water for a second before the life guards got to me. It only took a few moments before I felt alert and normal but they understandably had to call an ambulance. The ambulance came and checked me out, including doing an EKG, which turned out to be very abnormal, so off to the hospital I went.

In the ER I had an echocardiogram and other tests that showed my heart wasn’t working normally. In the doctor’s words, I have “a bizarrely abnormal EKG.” My heart is also much thicker than normal, though the doctors thought this was due to me being an athlete, which was confirmed later. It was very healthy, as in no blockages, build up, or anything like that, but because it was functioning weird, and since I had passed out while swimming for no apparent reason, they didn’t want to let me go.

This has no relevance to anything, but in the ER I was treated by a doctor named Dr. Skull. Not sure on the spelling of his name but that’s how it was pronounced – how cool a name is that for a doctor!?

Anyway, I was admitted and put on an observation floor with a heart monitor hooked up and had a barrage of tests done over the rest of the day and through Tuesday. I don’t remember all of the tests, but I did have a heart catheterization, had my vitals, heart rate, and blood pressure checked a lot, and a ton of blood drawn. My arms look like pin cushions now. The EKG remained weird but everything else was really good. I think I was interesting for the doctors and nurses since I’m in good shape, relatively young (35), but having these problems. And I felt fine and normal the whole time I was in there; I just wanted to get up and move around, and it felt silly even being there, but I was pretty much confined to the bed.

Another funny thing: I have a low resting heart rate due to being in good shape. It usually settles in the low 50’s, but being sedentary like that in the hospital bed it would often drop into the 40’s. This caused some concern at first with the medical folks until they realized it was my normal, and the hospital equipment by default set off alarms when the HR would drop below 50, so that was interesting at first. Apparently when I sleep it drops down into the 30’s.

On Wednesday I had two tests planned: a treadmill stress test and another test whose name escapes me, but it is similar to a cardiac catheterization but tests the electrical activity of the heart, not the “plumbing.” The stress test went well, I pushed it hard on the treadmill and lasted about 21 minutes until they stopped it. I think I could have gone slightly longer but they assured me it was a good test. After the “stress” portion of the test the treadmill goes to a cool down mode where it drops to 0% incline and just 1 mph, which is a very very slow walk. I was walking slowly for about 1 minute when all of a sudden I started feeling light headed and before I could think to say anything, BAM, I passed out again. The two people administering the test were very quick to respond but it happened so fast that they couldn’t catch me and I hit my neck hard on the treadmill in front of me. I came to again very quickly, they helped me to the bed, and I felt normal in just a minute or two. It was basically just like what happened in the pool: I had been exercising, stopped to rest, passed out, then recovered right away. The guy administering the test looked at all the data and saw that in the minute where I was cooling down my heart rate dropped from the 170’s down the whole way into the 30’s! The heart doctor came in right away, reviewed everything, and cancelled the other test that was scheduled since he thought he had everything figured out.

A bit later after some more review and internal discussion, they let me know that I have Vasovagal Syncope (aka Neurocardiogenic Syncope) which basically means that after strenuous activity my blood vessels open too much and heart slows down too much so that my brain doesn’t get enough blood flow, hence the blackouts. There’s definitely a better explanation for it, but that’s me putting it into simple terms. Why it just started happening now is a bit of a guess, but they think it was the perfect mix of poor nutrition, being dehydrated, and it being hot in the pool. The biggest risk is that I might hit my head or hurt myself when fainting. Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to treat; I have to take in a lot more sodium and make sure to stay hydrated. I also have to ease back into exercising and watch myself, but I should be free to workout like I always have and my racing days should be far from over.

One other interesting thing was that my heart activity normalized as I was doing the stress test. This apparently is somewhat common in athletes; the EKG looks abnormal at rest but as it increases under stress it looks normal. So everything looks good from the heart front.

All in all, everything turned out very well, things could have been much worse, I’m very blessed to not have had a more serious accident in the pool, and can’t thank the people that helped me enough. I’m looking forward to getting back to it!

Thanks a lot for reading, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!

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Written by Jim

December 29, 2016 at 6:32 pm

Wine Box Guitar

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After a several month hiatus over the summer, I’ve finally built another guitar: A Wine Box Guitar.

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I got the idea after seeing a video of Justin Johnson (easily my favorite CBG player) playing one sometime last year. I got the box from eBay and my wife found the guitar that I used for the other components while helping clean out a relative’s basement.

Here’s the “before” picture:

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I’m relatively please with how it turned out but there are some flaws and short comings. The wine box has really think sides (3/4″) and the top and bottom are 1/4″ thick, so it doesn’t resonate well at all. As a result, it’s very “thin” sounding and doesn’t have much volume. A larger sound hole would have helped, but I didn’t want to ruin the awesome dragon on the lid, so went with a simple f-hole. Cutting that out was the hardest most time consuming part of the process and it splintered a little around the edge.

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Template I made for tracing the hole.

Otherwise the build was pretty straight forward, I just removed the bridge and neck from the guitar and put them on the wine box. I did replace the nut and tuners as well.

It is playable but due to the poor sound quality is more of a decoration than anything to me. I still think it’s neat and am pleased with it. Here are just a few more pictures and there’s a video, with some quite noticeable mistakes, at the end of me playing it.

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You can get an idea here of the thickness of the sides. This was a 2-bottle wine box, the notches in the sides were for inserts to hold the bottles in place.

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The neck was glued on and reinforced with two screws.

Having nylon strings, I think playing classical music with it is most appropriate, but I’m not the best classical guitarist. Here’s the video, anyway. (It’s pretty faint, so you might have to turn up your volume)

Thanks a lot for looking, and happy playing!

Written by Jim

November 13, 2016 at 12:10 pm

Dry Creek Bed Photos

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Yesterday I went out to shoot pictures for the first time in about a year. I’ve been so dedicated to training this year that I didn’t do many of the other things I enjoy. I really had fun yesterday and will make more of an effort to get out with the camera again while it’s still nice out.

Anyway, while running yesterday I crossed over this creek that was all dried up and cracking from the lack of rain we’ve had this year. Later in the day I drove back with my camera and shot some pictures, it was pretty cool.

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I’ll note, and you’ll probably notice, that the sky is really washed out in all of these. That’s my bad with the camera… mix of being out of practice and lazy.

I went up the creek a little in the other direction and came upon a really neat setting.

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There was a house to the left here and I’m pretty sure this was someone’s property. There was sort of a dam in the creek here and it would have made a nice pond. Still cool looking without the water.

When I first came here I made some noise, and a bird popped up.

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I’m no birder, but am pretty sure that’s a blue heron. There were also a few geese floating in the small pool but they left much more quickly and I only got blurry shots of them.

Surrounded the pool were tons of dead crayfish. I’m not sure whether they died from lack of water or the birds feeding on them, but there were a lot there.

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Thanks for looking, hope you enjoyed.
Happy shooting!

Written by Jim

September 26, 2016 at 7:19 pm

Getting Aero

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This year I made a few changes to try to improve my bike aerodynamics and this past weekend I did some testing to see how much of a difference different gear actually makes. This post is going to show the results of my testing to see how much of a speed difference deeper wheels and an aero helmet make on the bike. I’ll note that this topic has been covered in great depth by countless others, so if you’re into triathlons and bike gear this won’t be news to you, but hopefully you’ll still find it a little interesting. If you’re reading this I’m going to assume you’re at least somewhat familiar with the importance of aerodynamics in triathlon and cycling, so I won’t elaborate on that here.

Last winter I was researching different things to improve my speed outside of training more. Wanting to get more involved in the sport, I wanted to make an upgrade that would hopefully make me a bit faster. I came across this article and, aside from working on my bike position (more on that below), I decided to buy an aero helmet, a used Giro Advantage 2 that I got online for $50 shipped.

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Through the year I kept my eyes open for some aero wheels as well and came across a Shimano RS80 C50 front wheel on craigslist, then shortly later picked up a Giant P-SLR 1 rear wheel on eBay.

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Not being a matching set they do look a little silly together on the bike, but they’re both well regarded 50mm deep wheels, and combined they “only” cost me $250, which is pretty cheap for an aero wheelset (I couldn’t have gotten a matching set for that price), so I’m quite pleased with them and don’t care how they look. There are better, deeper, lighter, etc. wheels out there, but for my budget these are just fine. I’ll also note that they actually might be a tad lighter in weight than my basic Bontrager Select wheels.

Here’s an older pic of the bike with the Bontrager wheels:

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When using this aero stuff I definitely *feel* faster on the bike, but I wanted to quantify how much of a change they actually made. So on Saturday I did some testing…

There is a stretch of road not far from my house that’s just a hair under 2.5 miles long. On the far end the last half mile goes uphill at a 4% to 5% grade, but otherwise it’s relatively flat. I use this stretch of road for interval work from time to time and it takes about 10 minutes to get there, which works for a short warm up.

On Saturday morning I did this course three times. Each time I pedaled easy to the stretch of road, then:

  • First did it with my “non-aero” Bontrager Select wheels and wearing my normal helmet.
  • Second with my aero wheelset, still wearing the normal helmet.
  • Third with the aero helmet and aero wheelset.

Recording this all with my Garmin 305 watch, I did the 2.5 mile stretch as hard as I could on the way out, turned around at the top, then did the stretch as hard as I could back. I counted each time out as a lap on the watch and each time back as a lap, excluding the turnaround. I then pedaled easy back to my house and changed the wheels or helmet for the next run. Everything else stayed the same. I wore exactly the same clothes, kept the same stuff on my bike, and even topped off my water bottle each time so all other factors would be as consistent as possible between the runs. At the end of this post are some other notes about things that could have potentially affected the results, though I think they’re minor.

Here are the results:

Aero testing chart

Having to go uphill at the end of the “Out” segment really hurt the time/speed of that leg, but going down helped on the way back, which is why there is such a difference between the two segments.

Here are some of the key take away points, combining the “out” and “back” times:

  • The aero wheels were 20 seconds – 2.4% – faster than regular wheels.
  • Adding the aero helmet was 21 seconds – 2.6% – faster than the aero wheels with a regular helmet.
  • The aero wheels and aero helmet combined were 41 seconds – 5% – faster than the regular wheels and regular helmet.
  • My heart rate stayed within 3 beats per minute for each run, which would suggest a pretty consistent level of exertion.
  • I think the reason the top speeds weren’t always recorded during the fastest run had to do with me jumping the gun a little with my effort vs. when I started the watch. If I was a little eager with jumping on the pedals, it would give me a bit of a head start and more time to reach top speed before I settled into the normal effort for the ride.

I had mixed feelings about these results. I was hoping for more than a ~0.5 miles per hour difference with each upgrade and have to wonder how much the margin for error is since testing was based on effort. Still, I feel pretty confident that I put the same amount of effort into each test, this still shows an improvement with the aerodynamic equipment, and is pretty consistent with the linked study. I’m especially pleased and surprised with the third test; my legs were feeling pretty fatigued by then and I didn’t feel like it went well. I still gave it all I had, but was sure that the time wouldn’t be any better than my previous test. Had my legs been fresh I wonder if I could have done better yet.

I also multiplied the combined times by 5 to project the overall improvements for a 25 mile (Olympic distance) ride. Sure, I wouldn’t be able to maintain this effort for 25 miles, and a lot of other factors would come into play, but it gives a rough idea about how much time savings these changes would give you in an actual race.

25mi testing chart

Summarizing for a 25 mile ride:

  • Aero wheels would save 1 minute 40 seconds over standard wheels.
  • Aero wheels and an aero helmet would save 1 minute and 45 seconds over just aero wheels and a regular helmet.
  • Using an aero helmet and aero wheels together would save 3 minutes and 25 seconds over regular wheels and helmet.

Again, this is just multiplying the times out so isn’t overly realistic, but still shows that there are time savings to be had. The article I linked to listed a 67 second savings with the aero helmet alone and roughly a minute savings with the aero wheelset, so my calculations aren’t that far off.

Between the two, if there’s one big take away, I’d say that getting a good aerodynamic helmet should be done before spending money on wheels. It yields the same improvement or more, and helmets are a lot cheaper than wheels. Helmets can be found used for $50 or less, and new ones are available for as low as $80 and up to $200 or more. Decent new wheelsets on the other hand typically start close to $1,000 and only go up from there. Even if you put together a used set like I did, the price will still be greater than most new helmets. How much a helmet helps is also dependent on your body positioning and how well you hold your position and head over a race. But when considering price, and assuming you can get a decent fitting helmet that compliments your position, and that you are comfortable holding your position, there is a much greater combined value and benefit in getting the helmet.

Talking about gear is interesting and the subject of a lot of different debates, but actually, the human body accounts for about 80% of drag on the bicycle (I’ve read this multiple times over the past couple years but do not have a source handy, sorry), so getting in the most aerodynamic position as possible will yield the greatest improvements. To that end, last winter I lowered the elbow pads on my bike as low as I could and moved the extensions as close together as possible, while still allowing room for a bottle between my forearms. I did not do before and after testing or take pictures, so don’t have any data to show how much of a change it made, but it did definitely reduced my frontal area in the wind, which is a good thing. I think I could comfortably get a little lower yet and maybe bring my arms a bit closer together, but I would need to buy a new bar to accomplish this, and am done spending money on upgrades for this bike for a little while. I’m comfortable and satisfied with how I fit on the bike for now.

Hopefully you found this interesting and helpful. Thanks for reading!

 

Here are some other quick notes about possible factors in the different times. I don’t think these played a huge part, but they should be mentioned:

  • It would have been more scientific and accurate to use a power meter and ride at a consistent power level each time to see how much the speed/time changed, but I don’t own a power meter and I found it too hard to maintain consistency by cadence or heart rate, so decided to go by what I felt was the highest effort I could sustain for the intervals. There is room for error with this approach, but it’s what I did.
  • The tires on the Bontrager wheels are Michelin Pro 4 Service Course and the tires on the aero wheels are Michelin Pro 4 Service Course Comp, which have slightly less rolling resistance, but both sets of tires have quite a bit of wear and neither are considered especially fast tires, so I don’t think this should have affected the results much. They both have the same types of tubes.
  • The Bontrager wheelset has a 12-27 cassette while the aero set has a 11-28 cassette. The gear spacing in the middle gears is nearly identical though, so to keep everything equal I didn’t use the largest cog in either wheelset, and didn’t use the smallest in the aero set – the second smallest is a 12 tooth gear, so it’s the same as the smallest on the Bontrager set. This is important because I could have used the smallest gear when using the aero wheels, but didn’t for the sake of equality. Meanwhile, I wouldn’t have been able to sustain the 11 tooth gear long with the Bontrager set, so I know I left some speed on the table when I was riding with the aero gear.

Written by Jim

September 6, 2016 at 7:01 am

Keystone State Sprint Triathlon Race Report

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Before I go on talking about triathlons, again, I just wanted to leave a note for those who have followed this blog for other reasons: I sort of got obsessed with triathlons this summer and haven’t done much else. Now that my racing season is over I’m going to work on some other things, so if you stick around a bit longer, there will be some other content sooner or later. There will still be some workout and bike related stuff, too, but I promise more variety is-a-coming. Thanks!

So, I had so much fun doing the last triathlon I posted about I decided to do another. Last Sunday I competed in the Keystone State Triathlon, doing the sprint distance race. There was also a shorter super-sprint, a longer Olympic distance race, and a sprint duathlon going on at the same time. I haven’t trained for anything longer than a sprint so didn’t consider doing the Olympic, and the super-sprint didn’t really seem appealing, so I stuck with the sprint.

The race had a half mile swim in a lake, an 18.2 mile bike ride, and a 3.2 mile run.

The Swim:
This was my first race in open waters and I was a bit nervous about it. It was also the longest swim I’ve done in a race, all of the others were 300m (a bit less than a quarter mile). Swimming is still my weakest area and I do bad enough in the pool, so I wasn’t expecting great things in the lake. I did make it there a couple weekends prior for two practice swims, so that helped a little. I also got a wetsuit; I was going to get one for next year anyway, so just fast tracked the plan a little. I used it in one of the practice swims, but the water was way too warm (over 80 degrees) on the race morning and they weren’t allowed.

My plan was to start the swim at the outside and to the back of the group so I wouldn’t have to fight for position and just get into my own rhythm. It worked fairly well. As the pack spread out I moved in more and there was a little bumping and brushing against other people, but not a ton. I did have trouble going straight and my sighting needs some practice, but I got through it. When I got to the exit and started walking (that’s right, walking) to transition my legs were dead. I was able to pick it up to a slow jog, but I’ve never felt that spent after swimming before.

T1
I’m happy to say that both of my transitions went well this race. In previous races I had some mishaps with gear, clothing, and almost wrecking, but this time it went smoothly. I still could have been quicker and smoother, but it wasn’t that bad.

The Bike:
The bike segment was 18.2 miles long. It consisted of a short road from transition to a 9 mile loop that was done twice, then back down the road to transition. It was the most challenging bike segment in a race I’ve done so far. Not that it was super hard, but it did have two sustained hills that I had to grind up in my easiest gear. I was really surprised to see a lot of people getting off their bikes and having to walk them up the hills. They could have been having bad days or whatever, but I’ve never seen someone walking a bike in a race before.

The first lap was harder for me than the second, I think my legs were just dead from the swim and they loosened up and I got comfortable by the second time through. I ended up being slower than I wanting to be. I had rode the course before and figured my speed would be in the mid to high 19 mph range, but I ended up averaging about 18.6. Coming off the hard swim just made it tougher, and I tried to hold back a little to have some energy left for the run.

T2:
As said above, the transition went fine. I just need to work on speeding them up now.

The Run:
The run was also another first for me – it was a trail run. I came to check out the place and ran around on the trails a bit a few weeks prior, but otherwise I’ve never done any trail running. They weren’t super difficult trails, but the ground was uneven in many places, there was gravel, rocks, tree roots, ruts, and other obstacles. All that aside, nearly the entire run was in the shade, so that was nice.

A guy ran out of transition a bit ahead of me and I sort of paced off him for the run. It just happened that he ran about the same speed as me so trying to keep up with him worked out well. I threw any hopes for a super fast run time out the window when I learned it was on a trail, but I’m relatively pleased with how it went. I ended up with one of my faster runs this year, with an asterisk that my Garmin said the course was more like 3.1 miles than 3.2, but I’ve noticed it’s read most courses to be shorter than advertised, so I’m wondering if maybe it isn’t accurate. Anyway, I can’t say I’m going to take up trail running.

Overall:
I set an overall time goal for this race of 1 hour and 42 minutes. I finished in 1 hour, 43 minutes, and 10 seconds, so I was just a little bit short. Had the bike went as I expected I would have surpassed my goal, but oh well. I’m not disappointed in the race at all. For it being my first open water swim, first trail run, and more challenging than I’m used to, I’m happy with how I did. I think goals should be challenging but obtainable, and I don’t lose any sleep if everything goes well and I just miss out by a little.

My finishing time put me at 14th out of 72 overall, and I got 2nd in my age group out of 10. The guy in 3rd was only 8 seconds behind me, and the next guy was only about 20 seconds behind him… some close racing. My bike time was 11th best overall, my run time was 15th, and my swim, well, let’s not talk about that.

Keystone State Sprint Medal Front-s Keystone State Sprint Medal Back-s

This is definitely my last triathlon of the year. I’ve really enjoyed doing them but four is enough for me this year and I’m going to take a little time to recharge and then will begin focusing on areas that need improvement. I’ll also probably fit a 5k or two in this year yet. At some point I’d like to post a recap of the year and talk about my future plans, as well as some bike stuff, but we’ll see how all of that unfolds.

Thanks a lot for reading and happy racing!

Written by Jim

August 29, 2016 at 11:08 pm

Triathlon Race Report

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Last Sunday I did my third triathlon of the year, another short “sprint”, and here’s my race report…

The weather was beautiful: clear, sunny, no wind, and not too hot. The race was also only 15 minutes from my house so that made it easy to get ready and get there in the morning. I arrived early, got a good transition spot, and had plenty of time to setup.

The Swim:
It was a 300 meter swim in an outdoor pool; same as my last two races, racers started 1 by 1 about 15 seconds apart, went down one side of a lane, came back the other side, moved over to the next lane, and repeated until done. I caught up to the guy in front of me by the end of the first lap and he let me pass at the wall. After that is was smooth sailing for the next few laps, but in the 5th lap someone caught up to me and I let them pass at the wall. I tried to hang with them and draft for a bit but they were gone soon… much faster than me. My official swim time was 7:04, but that included getting out of the pool and a jog to the timing mat at transition. I think the actual swimming time was around 6:30. I’m a bit disappointed in that and should be right around the 6 minute mark at this point. Swimming is my weakest discipline and I need to keep working on it.

T1:
Transition 1 was a wreck, and sort of funny. I was wearing a heart rate monitor strap beneath my tri top and it slid down my chest to over my stomach during the swim. During the run to transition I rolled my top up and pulled the strap up around my chest, but it came undone in the process. I was carrying my goggles too and in the process of reconnecting the heart rate strap, I got my goggles closed in it, so I had them connected and also hanging from my chest. My bike was at the far end of transition and I got the goggles out and the strap reconnected till I got there, so it didn’t cost me much time. That was the funny part… running with my goggles stuck in my heart rate strap. Then, when I was running out with my bike, just about to mount, my garmin fell off the bike. I have a bike mount and had just set my watch on it, not snapped it in. A volunteer grabbed it and handed it to me and I snapped it back in, but got my pedals disoriented in the process, and it took me half a minute at least to get on the bike and going then. Frustrating. Had I just snapped the watch in, it wouldn’t have been a problem.

The Bike:
The bike portion went smoothly. It was a 15.8 rolling hill course with a few climbs that required some work, but nothing overly steep or long. There was also one section of the road that was dug up and the asphalt replaced with gravel due to construction; it was short, but I was less than pleased to have to go over it, though I know it isn’t the race director’s fault that there was construction. Anyway, I passed a lot of people; I stopped counting at 10 and am guessing it was between 20 and 30 total. This probably is more a result of me being a slow swimmer than a fast biker; if I wasn’t so far behind from the start there would be less people in front of me. I only had one or two times where I had trouble getting around people due to traffic or maneuvering during descents, and things went well. My race plan was to hold back a bit on the bike to be sure I had enough energy left for the run, and I did fairly well at it. I kept my effort in check and watched my heart rate to keep it from climbing, but still put forth a decent amount of effort. My overall bike time was 46:24 which ended up being good enough for the 9th fastest bike split, so I’m relatively pleased with that, but still know I have room to improve.

T2:
The 2nd transition went much smoother. I took an extra ~5 seconds to move my bike from one side of the rack to the other so I wouldn’t block another person, but otherwise I got through it just fine.

The Run:
The run was a 3.1 mile out and back course that was mostly flat. The plan was to negative split it (run the 2nd half faster than the 1st) so I really wanted to manage my pace and finish strong. I was so-so at accomplishing this. I did keep my pace in check for the 1st half, but when I went to turn up the speed in the 2nd half I didn’t have a lot extra in the tank to draw from. It was still a faster 2nd half, but my time wasn’t really any better than the previous races this year where I was running out of gas at the end. I’ll note though, that my garmin said the run course was 3.2 miles, while the timer was counting it as 3.1. That tenth of a mile makes a difference and would make my pace look a bit better, but I’ll stick with the “official” time and distance for consistency. I finished the run in 23:55, which I’m honestly disappointed in.

Overall:
I was and still am a bit disappointed in this race. The T1 mistake could have been avoided had I just snapped my watch in, and my running and swimming times were slower than I wanted them to be. I don’t think I’m doing anything wrong with my training, but I’m going to look over my plans and reassess where I’m at. I also think I can push myself a bit harder during races, which is more mental than anything.

With that said, I ended up placing fairly well. I won my age group out of 11 guys, and finished 10th out of about 120 overall, so that made me feel a bit better about the whole thing. Where you place in these races has as much to do with who else shows up to the race as anything else. I looked at last year’s results and, had the same people came Sunday and had the same times, I would have finished 5th in my AG and ~20th overall. So, I did good compared to my competition on that day, but still have quite a gap to close between myself and the top guys. Not that I’m trying to make this my living or anything, and I know where I place doesn’t actually matter for anything, but I’m very competitive and have room to improve, so want to see myself being comparable with the better local guys.

Anyway, I got a medal – just like in the Olympics! ;) – for my AG finish.

LRC AG Medal-s

What’s Next:
I had planned on this being my last triathlon for the year, but it’s just so much fun and I want to see if I can improve more, so I’m considering doing another. There’s a sprint distance one in 3 weeks about 45 minutes from my house that I’m considering, but some potential travel plans could mess with my training, so I’m looking at a few races in September that might be workable. I’m also toying with the thought of doing a half marathon in late September. I’ve never done one before and think it would be a neat challenge and something to help me focus on improving my running, so I’m considering it. But, honestly, triathlons are more fun to me than just running, so that’s my preference at the moment.

Alrighty, thanks a lot for reading and following along – happy training!

Written by Jim

August 10, 2016 at 10:41 pm

Triathlon Training and a Time Trial

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My summer has been going well, though I haven’t been doing a whole lot aside from working and triathlon training. I haven’t been neglecting this site due to lack of interest, I just don’t feel inclined to post a lot about training and haven’t been working on any other projects. Still, I wanted to give an update about my last stretch of training for those interested.

In two weeks from today I’ll participate in my third, and likely final, triathlon of the year. It is another sprint distance race, very similar to the first one I did this year. The swim is in a pool, as have been the other races I’ve done. Next year I’ll be looking to do some open water swimming and at least one race that’s a longer distance.

The training has been going okay for the most part. I got a different training book (The Triathlete’s Training Bible by Joe Friel*) and have been using it instead of the one I used for the first two races (Training Plans for Multisport Athletes… by Gale Bernhardt*). I might do a brief review of the two books later, so won’t go into much detail here, but will say that I’ve taken on a higher workload using the “Training Bible” vs. what was in the plans I tried for the “Training Plans for Multisport Athletes…”. So, I’ve been putting in more time and effort than I was before. (*This isn’t meant to be an endorsement for either book and I’m not affiliated with either, just linking for reference.)

Also, I’ve been playing in a softball league, which has really made for some interesting days. Sometimes twice per week there are days where I’ll get up early to swim or bike, go to work, go to a softball game right after work, then go for a run after the game. It’s a bit much. I was looking forward to the season being over, and the team finished with the worst record in the league, but everyone makes the playoffs, the team started winning, and we’ve advanced to the championship – so, it’s lasted a few weeks longer than I expected. It isn’t too bad and I did miss some games here or there, but I’m looking forward to it finally being over with. I decided weeks ago that I won’t play next year, and I’m extremely thankful to have a supportive wife who doesn’t mind me being this active.

Okay, as for the training… I’ve been following a separate swimming program and have mixed impressions about it. Well, I think the program is pretty good, I’m just not a very good swimmer. There are times where I feel like I’m making improvements and other times where it seems like I’m going in the wrong direction. I feel a lot more comfortable in the water than I did at the start of the year, but that hasn’t translated to a lot of speed. It’s my first year swimming, so I know I just have to keep working at it and give it more time.

I’m a little disappointed in my run results in the last two races so have been focusing on it a bit more over the past month, but again, improvements are slow. Using online videos and the Triathlete’s Bible, I’ve been working on my form and stride; at first the changes felt awkward, but it’s beginning to feel more natural. I’ve also been doing harder workouts (more/bigger intervals, hills, etc.) and longer runs, so hopefully that equates to a faster time come race day.

Biking has grown to be my favorite of the three and, like running, I’ve been putting in more time, effort, and miles on the bike. I might have gained a little more speed, but not a ton. I also picked up some new aero wheels for my bike, but I’ll post about those later because I want more experience and to do some testing with them first. They do help me go faster though.

The plan for the race is to swim as hard as I can, hold a nice hard (but not too hard) pace on the bike so I have enough energy left for the run, and pace myself well through it – something I had trouble with in the previous two races. This is only the second year for the race and looking at the results from last year, it drew a fair amount of people, a number of which who were faster than me. So, I have no expectations as to where I’ll finish. Hopefully I do well overall, but I’m more focused on executing a disciplined race plan and finishing with a strong run this time. We’ll see, and I’ll let you know how it goes.

One last thing… A couple weeks ago I competed in a time trial (“TT”), which was a lot of fun. A time trial is a bike race where everyone is going against the clock. Riders are started 30 seconds a part and timed individually, the one who finishes with the fastest time is the winner.

This was put on by a local bike club and was a lot of fun. I had never done anything with the club before and everyone was extremely friendly and welcoming. There was a wide variety of people there of varying ages and fitness levels. It wasn’t an intense competition, everyone was just doing it for fun and to see how good they could do for themselves. I was the only person there on a tri-bike, but some of the road bikes were plenty capable of fast times.

The course was short, only 6.8 miles, but that made it more fun (in my opinion) because I could go pretty close to all-out without worrying about burning out early. I averaged 22.6 mph for the course, which I’m really pleased with. It was pretty flat, but there were a few rolling hills and short climbs mixed in. There was one guy faster than me, he averaged over 24 mph on a road bike, which is extremely impressive to me. Knowing the course now I think I could do a bit better if I tried again, but I’m not going to touch his time without another year or two of training under my belt.

The club does the TT once a month for 4 months over the summer. I missed the first two and the next one is the week before my upcoming tri, so I will miss out on doing it again. Next year I’ll put them in my calendar and try to do all if my schedule allows, I really did enjoy it.

Thanks for reading and happy training!

Written by Jim

July 24, 2016 at 9:59 pm