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Triathlon Race Report

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Last weekend I competed in another local sprint triathlon, my fourth and likely final for the year. I did this race last year as well. It’s only about a 15 minute drive from my house so it’s very convenient, which, along with the reasonable cost, is mostly why I did it. Here’s how it went…

Leading Up
I had a 5 week block between my last race and this one. I took the first week pretty easy and the following week I was off work and worked out a lot, though it wasn’t very structured. The remaining weeks were a mixed bag. I had some good workouts, but also missed some and got my schedule a bit messed up. I’m not exactly sure why that happened, but it’s possible I’ve gotten a bit burnt out on training… I’ve been going at it since January. I did get my key workouts in and don’t think my preparation suffered that much. A week out from the race I did a hard brick that went excellently, so I was really feeling ready to race.

The Swim
This was a 300 meter pool swim, swimming in a serpentine pattern from one side of the pool to the other. Swimmers started 15 seconds a part. Swimming remains my weakest leg but I’ve been working on it and was hoping for an improved time. I swam in my tri top; I had tested it in the pool and it didn’t seem to slow me down that much, so I figured it would be better to wear it than mess with putting it on in T1. Unfortunately I was still really slow and I do think the top had something to do with it. Not that I would have been super fast without it, I could just tell it was causing extra drag. I made it through fine but was super slow. Unfortunately I bumped my watch on a lane line and paused it in the second lap, so I don’t have data to go back to look at.

Time: 6:50
Last year: 7:06
Both include about 15 seconds of getting out of the pool and running to the timing mat. It was a slight improvement over last year, but still not good.

T1
Transition 1 went really well. It was my fastest T1 of any race I’ve done. I did try to do a running mount on the bike though and as soon as my foot hit the pedal the chain seemed to jump a tooth or something and I almost wrecked. I caught it and got going right away, just wasn’t smooth. More practice needed.

Time: 0:39

The Bike

I didn’t get my watch restarted until about a half mile in – total actual distance was 15.8 miles. I was hoping to average 21 mph for the bike segment and came up short at 20.7. My hamstrings and butt felt tight almost immediately when I got on the bike and they never really loosened up… I just didn’t feel as comfortable as I normally do. Not sure if I didn’t prep right, didn’t stretch/warm up correctly, or it just wasn’t my day. In any case, I got through without incident and, being a slow swimmer, passed a lot of people who were already out on the course in the process.

Time: 45:50
Last year: 46:24

T2
This transition went really smoothly as well and was the fastest T2 I’ve ever had. Nothing to complain about.

Time: 0:37

The Run

I started off the run too fast, like I always do, but also calmed down quicker than normal. However, as soon as I started running, I did not feel smooth or like my legs had any “pop” to them. I don’t think I over biked since my legs never felt right from the onset, though it is possible. The whole run just felt a bit more labored than it should have been. My plan was to start a bit conservatively but increase my pace as I went, hoping to finish with close to a 7:00 per mile average. I ended up not having the energy or strength to consistently go faster though and finished with a 7:20/mile average. You can see above how my pace was all over the place. The course was “officially” 3.1 miles, but actually measured longer at 3.17.

Overall
My overall time was 1:17:14 and I finished 12th overall out of about 140 and 4th out of 25 in my age group (10-year age groups, not the typical 5 years).

I’m not going to lie, I’m disappointed in how things went. It was good that I improved in each area and I am truly happy with my transitions, but I’m still really bummed about the swim and know I can do better on the bike and run.

That said, it was still fun. Even when things don’t pan out how I want them, I love racing! I knew a few people there too and had fun hanging out with them, so I had a good day, just am not pleased with my results.

What’s Next
I actually have a 10k on Saturday – 2 days away. I’m doing it with a couple family members who are runners so it should be fun. I have no expectations on how I’ll do for it and haven’t been training for it. I know I can finish, just don’t know how to pace the distance. Should be an interesting experience.

After that, I am 99% sure that I won’t do any more triathlons for the year. There is a duathlon I’m a little interested in but with the timing and where it’s located I doubt I’ll do it. I will likely do a 5k or two, and I know of a time trial a bike club is hosting that I might try. Otherwise I’m going to keep working out, though not quite as structured for a bit, and I’M GOING TO WORK ON MY SWIMMING!

Thanks a lot for following along – happy training and racing!

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Written by Jim

August 10, 2017 at 9:24 pm

Triathlon Race Report

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Last weekend I did my third tri of the year, a short but challenging sprint triathlon.  Here’s the report…

Leading Up
I took the week after my last race pretty easy then did a 4 week training block to prepare for this race. I did do a few things differently in this block:

Swimming: I started reading the book Swim Smooth and have been doing a lot more drill work, as recommended in the book. (book – website) I swim 4 times a week, but 2 days are almost completely devoted to drill and technique work, and the other two days I use drills as warm ups before I do my main workout. I’m noticing small improvements, but this is going to be a long process.

Biking: The main difference here was trying to use the trainer for interval workouts that are harder to do on the road where I have to worry about traffic, varying terrain, intersections, etc. I’m going to try to do this even more because the trainer does provide a better quality workout.

Running: Instead of sitting comfortably in the middle of a zone for any given run, I’d try to stay at the faster end of it, and when going up hills I’d try to maintain my pace, or even increase it. The idea was to gain some speed, and improve my hill strength, since I haven’t had much recent running progress, and I definitely need to improve my hill running abilities.

I was feeling pretty good and confident heading into the race but do think I trained a bit more than I should have the week before. Still, I was feeling pretty good. I got there early, got a good spot in transition, and was ready to race.

The Swim
The swim for this race was a 500 yard triangle in a small lake. Even though it was such a short swim I, along with most other competitors, wore a wet suit. The water temperature was comfortable and it was a nice sunny calm morning. I setup near the back so I wouldn’t be overrun by faster swimmers and worked my way up past some slower guys at the start. About half way through it had thinned out and I went the rest of the way close to another guy or two who were about the same speed. My open water swimming, and swimming in general, still needs a lot of work… I didn’t swim that straight and could feel that I was tiring out a bit towards the end, but I’m pleased with the outcome. My pace was faster than the first race I did this year, which was only 300m and in a pool. The wet suit definitely helped, but I’m getting faster too.

Time: 10:05

T1
I made my first of two mistakes in the race in T1… running out of the water I was wrestling with my wet suit, not paying attention to where I was going, and ran to the wrong rack. This is really ridiculous because my rack was closest to the transition exit – very easy to find! It maybe cost me 10 seconds total, if that, and I had a little trouble getting the wet suit off, so my T1 time wasn’t as quick as I would have liked.

Time: 1:39

The Bike

This was a HILLY 15.25 mile bike course. Official elevation gain was about 1400 feet, which really adds up over a short 15 mile course. And it was  one hill after another, there wasn’t much time to recover in between.

My legs were very tired at first and it didn’t help that you started ascending pretty much right away. I just plugged away it at and tried to find a balance between pushing hard and not over doing it so I’d have something left for the run.

At about 1 mile from transition I had a set back – my bike chain came off! I was descending down the last big hill and shifted too fast at the bottom to get in the right gear for the next hill when the chain dropped off the front cog. I had to come to a stop, on an uphill, and get it back on. It’s hard to say how much time this cost me; though getting the chain on itself was probably only a minute at most, I lost all my momentum and had to start again on the uphill. It’s a pure guess, but I’m going to say it cost me 2 minutes. I was so mad. I had recently passed 2 or 3 guys and was catching up to another when it happened. The guys I passed went flying by while I was on the side of the road… I passed one of them again, maybe two – I don’t remember – but it definitely hurt my positioning.

Time: 54:00

T2
Transition 2 went pretty smoothly. I know I can get the time lower yet, but I didn’t make any mistakes.

Time: 0:38

The Run

The run course was an out-and-back 5k, uphill to the turnaround. Whoever thought having an uphill 1.5 mile run right after a brutally hilly bike course was a good idea should be flogged. Right out of transition my legs felt good, but it wasn’t long until they felt weak and worn out as I worked up hill.

My strategy was to hold back for the first half and just make it up the hill, then give it all I had on the way back down. You can see above how bad my pace crashed till I got to the turn around; my legs really felt awful. I did what I could to keep the pace up on the way back but I couldn’t hold any speed whenever I had to climb again and the pace dropped off till the end. I was passed by two or three people on the course.

Time: 23:07

Overall
My total time ended up being 1:29:26. I had hoped to do it in 1:27, so take out the dropped chain and running to the wrong rack in T1 and I might have had it. My swimming and running definitely need more work, as does my biking to a lesser extent, but based on my fitness level I think I did as good as I could have hoped for. Just need to eliminate stupid mistakes.

My finish was still “good enough” for 16th overall out of 132, and 3rd in my age group out of 7. I got this awesome mug for placing in my age group!

What’s Next
I’m not signed up for any other races at the moment but will likely do one other sprint tri in the beginning of August. It has a pool swim, which I’m not overly excited about, but is only 15 minutes from where I live and reasonably cheap, so I think it’ll be a good one to do to close out my season. I am also definitely doing a 10k the second weekend of August. It’s just a week after the aforementioned sprint, so that will be interesting doing two races so close together.

In any case, I took this last week pretty easy and will train “seriously” for the next month. I’m going to follow a new workout program I got online to see if I like it any more than (and notice improved results) the makeshift program I’ve used so far this year.

Well, thanks a lot for reading, and happy training!

Written by Jim

July 2, 2017 at 9:03 pm

Raystown Olympic Triathlon Race Report

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Last weekend I did my first Olympic Triathlon, all I had done prior were shorter sprints. Following is a brutally honest breakdown of how it went.

Leading Up
I’ve been excited for this race and have been purposefully training for it since January. There were three weeks between my last race and this one, so I took it a little easy in the days right after that race, did hard workouts that weekend and through the next week, then tapered through the last week. My legs were feeling pretty fatigued at the start of last week, but till race day rolled around I was feeling pretty good. I don’t think I absolutely nailed the timing of the preparation, but it’s hard to find fault with it.

The Swim

This is going to be the longest part of the report, you’ve been warned…

Though I felt I had trained well for it, this was my first time swimming 1500 meters in open water and it went horribly. Aside from being nervous, the water was colder than I’m used to and I was having trouble breathing. I started to freak out while I was in the water before the race even started and had to swim to a kayak. I was holding onto it as the swim started.

The official in the kayak asked if I was okay and I told him, pretty panicky I imagine, “I don’t know if I can do this.”

He said, “Yes you can. You’re at least going to try, right? Come on, I’ll paddle along next to you to make sure you’re okay.”

I said “ok,” let go, began swimming, and he paddled right along next to me. Soon I was calm, found my rhythm, and it felt normal, just like all the training I’d done. The guy on the kayak disappeared after a few minutes, letting me go to finish on my own. I got through the rest of the swim fine, though very slowly.

I am extremely grateful for that guy on the kayak, if it wasn’t for him I probably would have just quit. More thoughts about this at the end.

I didn’t wear my watch for the swim, but my official time was 37:15, which is just awful. If you take out the horrible start maybe I actually did it a minute or two faster, but still…

Transition 1
The first transition went pretty well. It was my first time racing/doing a transition in a wetsuit and I know I could have done it quicker, but I made it through pretty quickly and without incident.

Time: 2:32

The Bike

This was the most challenging bike course I’ve done in a race. There was over 1700 feet of climbing (what’s depicted above) including a long hard climb starting about 2 miles in, and lots of steep little climbs that made you work. I went for it though and am pretty pleased with my ride.

Due to the horrible swim I got out of the water in 45th position overall out of 53, and last of 8 in my age group. I worked my way back to 19th (I think) overall and 4th in my age group by the end of the bike. I had the 8th overall fastest bike time, though still wasn’t close to the overall winners. Unfortunately, about a mile or two from T2 I started to feel soreness in my legs and I realized I might have over done it.

Time: 1:21:46

Transition 2
T2 went smooth. I know I can get my transition times down, but I didn’t make any mistakes that I can think of.

Time: 1:16

The Run

The run was an out and back course with a decent hill about a mile from transition, then pretty flat in the middle. My legs felt horrible right away and weren’t loosening up. When I started up that hill they started cramping like crazy and I knew I didn’t have any chance for a good run. I had to stop and walk up the hill and took a gel and drank some water on the way, then stretched quickly at the top. You can see my pace crash in the chart. After that I started running again and just tried to pace myself to finish. I didn’t have to walk again but was much slower than I had hoped. My goal was to run as close to 7:45/miles as possible, but I ended up averaging around 8:40 and was passed twice on the run.

Time: 54:40

Overall
I spent the rest of the day just being extremely happy that I finished and celebrated how I normally do:


yes, I ate the whole pack that day. don’t judge me! 

Again, I am grateful for the gentleman on the kayak and came away from the experience with two main takeaways:

1) It doesn’t matter what you’re dealing with, big or small, when negative thoughts start popping up, it’s very easy to get down on yourself and give up. Remember to stay positive, fall back on your “training,” have faith in yourself and your support system. I need to work on this.

2) A little pep talk and being there beside someone, even just briefly, as a reassuring presence can go an awfully long way. Everyone needs help from time to time and when you see someone in need, it doesn’t take much to offer kind words and reassurance. Be that guy on the kayak.

These principles aren’t triathlon specific!

With that said though, I’m honestly disappointed in how I did. I think I came in unprepared for running a 10k after a hard 25 mile bike, so need to address my preparation. However, even with the crummy run, compared to the other people in my age group, I had the second fastest times in the bike, the run, and both transitions. If it wasn’t for my horrible swim I could have at least placed in the AG and done much better overall.

Oh well. I’m still happy to have finished, had a nice long weekend with my wife away from home, and should learn a lot from this experience. It doesn’t look like I’ll do another Olympic this year just based on what’s available and the timing, but this experience should still help me improve.

I’m taking this week off, or extremely light anyway, then will do a four week training block before my next race, which is a sprint. I’m really going to focus on swimming, though know huge gains aren’t likely at this point during the season.

Thanks a lot for following along, happy racing!

Written by Jim

May 24, 2017 at 10:09 pm

Triathlon Race Report

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Yesterday I had my first triathlon of the year. Some things went well and some didn’t, but overall it was a good race and I had a faster finishing time than I had last year. This is a sprint triathlon my gym puts on each spring and as long as I’m doing triathlons I’ll probably do this race each year; it’s close, cheap, managed well, and it’s nice to support the gym.

Leading up to the race
I didn’t really taper for this at all since it’s so short and I’m targeting an Olympic race in May as my primary race of the year. I still did normal hard swim workouts Monday and Wednesday of last week, but did tone things down for my Friday swim. I also cut out a run and bike during the week and dialed back the intensity some, but it wasn’t overly organized and I still tried to get some miles and some harder efforts in.  I felt pretty good going into it.

I couldn’t sleep at all the night before and probably only got 3 or 4 hours in total, just because I’m obsessive about this. I finally did fall asleep very late and ended up sleeping past my alarm by about 20 minutes. Since the venue is so close I still had plenty of time to eat breakfast, load up the car, and get there right after transition opened. I got a decent spot, setup, socialized and warmed up a bit before the start.

The Swim
The swim is a 300 meter pool swim. I’ve truly been working hard on my swimming and had hopes of being faster than I was last year but things didn’t pan out – I was 16 seconds slower. I really don’t know what the deal was. I might have been too reserved… I have a habit of going out real fast and running out of steam a few laps into a workout, so I tried to hold back to keep that from happening. Otherwise, I’m just a really bad swimmer. It’s okay, I’ll keep working on it.

Time: 6:46
Last year: 6:30
(times include a 20-30 second run from the pool to timing mat)

T1
I didn’t swim in my tri top and put it on it T1. Two reasons for this were 1) I thought the top would cost me more time in the water than it would take to put on in transition (probably not true in hindsight), and 2) it was still a bit chilly and I’m a wimp in the cold, so I thought it would be good to have a somewhat dry top on and to wear sleeves. So in T1 I put on a top with sleeves to the elbows, which didn’t go as smoothly as I hoped because I forgot to unzip it in the morning and it’s very tight and I had trouble pulling it on over my wet skin. I was happy for it though and did feel comfortable through out the ride and run. Also, during my “running mount” on the bike, I had some trouble getting my feet on the shoes, which cost me. Still need to work on that.

Time: 1:15

The Bike
The bike course is a 16 mile out and back ride on rolling hills, with a loop built in as the turnaround. I’m really familiar with this course because I train on it all the time. I started out a bit too hard and dialed back the intensity as I went on, but I was able to keep my speed up and kept my effort pretty consistent after the first few miles. Looking back, I don’t think I would have done anything differently. Starting with such a time deficit from the swim there were already a ton of people out on the course, a lot of which I passed. One guy passed me while I had trouble getting into my shoes out of transition, but I quickly caught him and wasn’t passed again through the course. It stinks being so far behind as a poor swimmer, but passing a bunch of people does boost moral.

This was my first race on the new bike and, though I was faster than with my old bike, I don’t know how much was due to the bike and how much was due to improved fitness. On a short course it’s hard to tell. I’ll just take all the credit, I think, though that makes it harder to justify the bike purchase.

Time: 46:30
Last year: 47:13

T2
The second transition went well. I know I could still shave a few seconds off it, but overall I’m happy and I didn’t really goof at all.

Time:  0:46

The Run
The run is a mostly flat 3.1 mile out and back course; there are a few tiny hills, but nothing major. I had a bit of trouble finding my pace at first, but I think it leveled out by the end of the first mile. I wanted to push it and have a fast time, but also didn’t want to blow up. I managed to hold a decent (for me) pace and improved on last year’s performance.

Time: 22:28
Last year: 22:46

Overall
I’m disappointed in my swim performance and am going to keep working on that, but otherwise am pleased with the bike and run. I mean, I’d like to be faster all around, but I’ve made improvements.

My total time ended up being 1:17:46, almost a minute better than last year’s 1:18:39. I had hoped to be 2 minutes faster, but I won’t ignore positive results.

Anyway, it was good enough to earn me 3rd place in my age group out of 15, and 15th overall out of about 125. Could have been better, could have been worse.

What’s next
I’m not really taking much time to recover and am treating this like a hard workout, more or less. I’ll resume my normal schedule through the week, though will tone the first few bikes and runs down a bit. The Olympic I’m doing is in just three weeks so I want to get some good quality sessions in late this week and next week before scaling back for that race.

Well, that about covers it.
Thanks for reading and happy racing!

Written by Jim

May 1, 2017 at 9:12 pm

Triathlon Training Report

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This blog has been quiet for a little while again so I wanted to do an update about my training and plans for the upcoming racing season. I haven’t been doing a lot of other projects recently but I do have another guitar planned, and now that the weather is getting nicer I hope to get out and shoot some photos again too, so I’ll keep this updated when there’s stuff to share.

Also, I got a “new” [used, but new to me] tri bike! I think I’ll write a separate post about it, so won’t go into more detail now.

On to the training…

I’ve trained consistently over the fall and winter. Last fall I really focused on my running and saw some improvements, then over the winter I really focused on my cycling, mostly on the trainer. You can’t truly “focus” on more than one thing at the same time, and I had read that cycling helps maintain run fitness while running does little to maintain cycling fitness, so my plan was to make gains running first and hopefully maintain the improvements while refocusing on cycling. I’m not so sure it worked that well. Though I did get faster running in the fall, when I tapered back down and shifted my attention to cycling, I lost a good part of what I had gained. I think I’m only marginally faster running now than I was at this point last year. We’ll see if this year’s race results are any different. All the while I consistently hit the pool as well.

Anyway, in January I shifted to regular tri training. I’m following my own program which is a mix of things I’ve gotten from other tri club members, what I’ve found online, and other programs I’ve used. I try to swim, bike, and run each 4 times a week (12 sessions total) but will drop an easy bike or run session when I have scheduling problems. In actuality I’m putting in 10-12 hours of total training time a week on average. Probably about 40% of my time is devoted to cycling, the remaining 60% is split pretty evenly between swimming and running.

The bike training has been very purposeful and I feel good about it. I haven’t gotten that much faster but I do think I’ve improved, and I’m getting longer rides in than I’ve done in the past. For running, I’m working on getting more miles in and do one or two sessions per week where I do track work, hills, and/or sustained efforts at higher paces. I’m not seeing much more speed, but it seems to be going okay. Swimming continues to be my biggest challenge. My endurance has increased, but overall speed has only improved marginally, if at all. My coordination and technique are the biggest issues and I’m just having a hard time improving. I have gotten a lot of tips from people in my tri club, other swimmers at the pool, life guards and coaches, all of which I’m grateful for, but I haven’t been able to turn the advice into improved results. I’ll keep working at it and might try another swim lesson or something. It’s definitely where I have the biggest room for improvement, and I am putting in more time/work at it, so hopefully I do improve some.

Finally, I haven’t had any more health scares and seem to be managing my hydration and sodium intake effectively, so that’s good. I might have to adjust things as we get into the hot summer months, but I have no concerns on that front.

The race season…

I have two races scheduled so far. The first is at the end of April, just two weeks away. It’s the local sprint tri I did last April, and where I did duathlons in years prior. It’s hosted by my gym and I really enjoy doing the race. I’m not treating this as an “A race” but do hope to be about 2 minutes faster than I was last year. That is an aggressive goal, but I still think obtainable. Goals should be challenging, and if I’m a little faster in each discipline and don’t mess up my transitions this year I can do it.

The second race is an Olympic at the end of May. This will be my first Olympic distance race and what I’ve been training for. I’m sure I can finish it, being competitive is the bigger concern. The race is at Raystown Lake, PA, which will make for a cold swim and somewhat challenging/hilly bike course.

After that, I don’t have any races officially scheduled. How the Olympic goes will help me determine what I want to do for the rest of the summer. I’m kicking around the idea of doing a HIM length race, but seriously doubt I’ll do one this year. There is a sprint not far from where I live in June that I’m interested in, so I might do that, and later in the summer there are a few sprints and Olympics not terribly far away that I could choose from. I’ll make up my mind later in May after the race.

Well, that’s all I have to report for now. I’ll try to do another post soon about my bike.

Thanks for reading and Happy Easter!

Written by Jim

April 15, 2017 at 1:14 pm

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!

Written by Jim

December 29, 2016 at 6:32 pm

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