Monday, June 27, 2011

Steelhead, Come And Get Some!

Monday, June 27, 2011  at 10:51 AM
What an incredible weekend!  From the weather, to the campsite, to the event staff, to the course marking...I couldn't have asked for anything more.  And now I'm hooked on Olympic triathlons!  For the short version (if ya'll are in a hurry or just really don't want to hear all the juicy details), I feel like I had the best race of my life.  Here's a quick summary:

My Goals:
               Swim: 35 min.
               T1: 2 min.
               Bike: 1 hour 14 min. (20 mph average)
               T2: 2 min.
               Run: 56 min (9. min/mile average)
               Total: 2 hours 50 minutes

What REALLY Happened:
               Swim: 25:08
               T1: 2:19
               Bike: 1:14:09 (20.1mph)
               T2: 53 secs
               Run: 51:02 (8:14 min/miles)
               Total: 2 hours 33 minutes

Now, for the rest of you...

On Saturday afternoon, Jennifer and I loaded up the 4runner and teardrop with all our gear and headed out on the 2 hours drive north to Muskegon, MI.  We were pretty excited about the weekend, and I had started the OVER-hydration process.  I had to pee ALL day!
We went straight to North Muskegon High School where the registration process and packet pickup was happening.  On our way there, we noticed a whole bunch of road construction, which really changed the race.  Packet pickup was a breeze.  We could tell that this race was going to be very organized.
There was one big change to the course because of the road construction, and it only affected the bike course.  In fact, they completely changed the bike course from what it was to a route that was BEAUTIFUL!  It went down to Lake Michigan and then north through Muskegon State Park.  There was only one major difference in topography which is known as Blockhouse Hill.  Jennifer and I decided to drive the bike and run course to check it out, and I wish I had snapped a picture of the Blockhouse hill, but I don't think it would accurately describe the grade.  It looked like a monster!  I instantly got worried about my bike goal of averaging 20mph just because of this hill.  Other than that, the bike course looked beautiful as it was an out and back that was mostly shaded and very smooth roads.  The run course was perfect too as it was a 3.1 mile loop that we would do twice.  The swim course looked like a great lay out.  Bear Lake was a beautiful setting with a sandy beach.  We would have to swim one lap around the buoys set up in a triangle, get out of the water, run 50 yards, get back in and swim the triangle again.  Then, we'd have to run up through the sand "path" to the top of the hill where this picture was taken.  The transition zone was about 100 yards behind where I was standing...
After checking out the course, we headed toward our campground.  We made it to our campsite without any problems and checked into site 91.  Then, it was time to eat!!!  We were starving, and it was about 6:00.  I didn't really want to eat much later to give everything a chance to "work through the system" before race day.
Jennifer made some incredible Penne pasta with some yummy pesto sauce.  The ole Coleman cook stove did a great job, and we were carb-loaded!  The KOA campground just happened to be doing an ice cream cone feed, so Jennifer and I had to grab a quick cookies-n-cream cone before bed.
But, for those of you that really like our little teardrop camper, here is a picture of us on the inside.  It's actually pretty comfy in there with a queen size memory foam mattress.  It even has air conditioning!
I was pretty tired, so I tried to sleep, but that didn't happen.  I couldn't stop thinking about the triathlon the next day.  When we registered, Jenn asked how many people were doing it, and the lady said that there were less than 200.  I love small events, so that was exciting.  Then, she asked us if we were doing the sprint or the olympic distance.  When we said olympic, she said, "Oh wow!  You guys are hardcore!"  That meant to me that there weren't too many people doing the olympic, and that gave me pressure to kick some booty the next day.  Well, I think that pressure also wouldn't let me sleep pretty much all night.  It sucked!  Oh well.  Jennifer slept well, so at least she was ready.  As I lay there in bed, I kept playing the next day's events over in my head.  I suddenly opened my eyes and wondered, "Where are my goggles?"  I made a mental note to check in the morning to make sure I had them or we'd have to make a quick stop at Walmart on the way in to the race site the next morning.

We woke up at 5am to get ready and make a little breakfast.  We weren't too hungry, but I had a bagel with peanut butter and a cookie!  :)  We left for the race site by 5:45 and made it there to get a great spot on the front rack in the transition zone.  It was perfect!  We had about 10 yards from where our bikes were racked to the mount line, so that was a plus.  After we had everything laid out, we still had quite some time before the pre-race meeting at 7:40.  The first two waves started at 8am and 8:05am, and they were for the Sprint Triathlon.  My wave started at 8:20am, and Jenn's started at 8:25am.  Right before the meeting started, Jenn and I decided to get our wetsuits on.  As we went to the 4runner to get them, I panicked, because I didn't know where my goggles were!  We looked through everything, and we couldn't find them!!  I ran over to some local person and asked where the closest Walmart was, and they said it was 15 minutes away.  That wouldn't give me enough time to go get some, so I had to resort to the next option, borrowing from someone else.  I knew that if someone in the sprint was a fast enough swimmer that they could pass off their goggles to me.  I decided to look for someone that had similar goggles to mine, and I found them!  They were hanging around a big dude's neck with his arms crossed.  I didn't have much of a choice, so I walked up to this guy and asked if he was doing the sprint.  He said he was, and he was very willing to let me borrow his goggles.  Whew!  That was close!  After the pre-race meeting, we went down to the water and watched the sprinters begin.  I watched and waited till Alex, the guy that was giving me his goggles, came out of the water.  He had a good swim and passed his goggles to me with about 3 minutes till I started.  I quickly adjusted those babies and went over to the start.

(I like how Kevin Neumann gives himself grades for each part, so I'll do that too -- thanks, Kevin)
The swim start was a beach start where we had to run quite a way out into the lake before we could actually start swimming.  I didn't panic AT ALL.  I just swam my own pace and didn't worry about hanging with anyone.  My sighting was perfect!  I didn't do any zig-zagging.  The water was 68*, but my wetsuit rocked.  I absolutely loved the swim.  The run on the beach and back in the water was fine.  I liked it because it broke up the swim just a little bit.  I gave myself a B+ because I feel like if I could do it again, I would push a little harder.  At one point, I thought, "Well, this is pretty easy.  I might as well go faster."  So, I picked it up a little bit.  I ended up blowing my goal of 35 minutes out of the water with a 23.5 minute swim.  The time didn't really start till I crossed the transition mat at the top of the hill.  Overall, I thought the swim went really well!

T1: C+
T1 was ok.  I had my wetsuit down around my waist as I ran in, and it wasn't too terrible getting off, although it did slow me down quite a bit.  Then, as I put on my helmet, glasses and jersey, I reached down and realized that I hadn't unbuckled my bike shoes.  What an idiot!  2:19 later, I was out on the bike course.  

Bike: A
Because we had driven the course the day before, I knew I needed to crank anywhere I could to get my average up.  I hammered it the whole way, but always in an easy gear to save my legs.  Blockhouse Hill wasn't too bad at all.  I didn't try to smoke the hill and made it to the top just fine.  Then, it was down hill to the turn around and then back.  I passed two people, and two people passed me, so I guess I was even for the day?  I am super pleased with my ride yesterday and was a little surprised to see that I got my average and more with a 20.1 avg.  The nutrition was perfect.  I ate some Gu chomps after the hill and drank Powerade and water

T2: A
Everything went off and on without a hitch.  It was pretty quick at 53 seconds.  I grabbed a water bottle and headed out for two laps.

The run was a lot of fun.  I felt great the entire time and never once wanted to quit.  I had seen Jenn once on the bike, and on my second lap of the run, I saw her coming in on the bike.  I amped the pace up the last mile and ended up running 8:23s.  The official results said 8:14s, but the course was only 6.11 according to my Garmin.  I feel like I could have pushed just a bit harder and had a better time.  Does someone want to teach me how to run faster, or do I just need to suck it up and RUN FASTER...

Preparation: F-
Forgetting to bring your goggles to the race?  Are you kidding me?  That's ridiculous.  Forgetting to unbuckle your shoes?  Seriously?  C'mon, Matt!  Next time I'll do better.

Overall: A-
Even though everything might not add up to an A-, I feel like I deserve that for the entire race as a whole.  What an experience for my first Olympic triathlon.  The Bear Lake Triathlon gets my highest recommendation.  It was so well-run.  Everything was super detailed and done perfectly.  Everything was marked well.  The police did a nice job protecting us.  The race director was great.  If I was going to live in Michigan next year, I would TOTALLY do it again.  

Placement: 3rd in age group
There were 8 guys in my age group, but because the top two did so well that they placed overall, I ended up placing third in my age group!  That may sound pretty good, but in reality, I only beat three guys in my group.  Who cares?  I got a medal, and that's all that matters!!!

It happened similar to Jenn who walked out with a 1st place medal.  Way to go, Jenn!
And of course, you have to see the cool tech shirts we got.

To my blog readers: you guys rock!  I thought about you all the whole race.  You gave me motivation, because I didn't want to report a crappy race.  I thought about ya'll training and racing like Fave in the IM CDA.  Thanks for the "push" to do well.  I feel like Steelhead is going to be really fun, and I'm starting to feel prepared.  Bring it!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Wetsuits are Cheating

Thursday, June 23, 2011  at 10:42 PM
Tonight, in preparation for our first Olympic distance triathlon, Jennifer and I decided to do a practice open water swim.  I still had only tried my wetsuit on once, and it had been dry since I got it.  Jennifer rented one from Xterra that got here the other day, so we had to test them out.  Neither one of us had swam in a "triathlon" wetsuit, and we wondered what it would be like.  So, we put them on...  An hour later (I'm just playin', but it did take forever), we had them up to our waists.

There is a laker/river within five minutes of our house with a boat dock.  It is actually a private dock, but the only people that live there are wealthy people from Chicago that have a "summer home," so we just went ahead and used their dock.  
We weren't necessarily going for a certain distance swim; we just wanted to try out the wetsuits.  So, we decided to aim a good ways down the lake to a boat that was tied up and go for it.  Jennifer hopped in first and bobbed to the surface.  She said "I'm Floating!"  I jumped in too, and not only was I very comfortable, but I felt like I had a body-life-jacket on.  I couldn't believe it.  We started swimming, and it tripped me out a little bit.  I've done open water swims before, so I know how much different it is than in a pool, but I still got a little jacked up in the head this time.  I had to stop for a minute and catch my breath before continuing.  I did o.k. on the way to the boat, and I couldn't believe how much easier swimming in a wetsuit is!  It was incredible, and I almost felt like I was cheating.   On the way back, I felt a whole lot better.  I got a really good rhythm going of breathing and sighting.  I had to make a few adjustments to what I've been practicing in the pool, but I think I've got it down and am ready for Sunday.  We are so STOKED about this race.

So here are my goals for this race.

               Swim:  35 min.
               T1: 2 min.
               Bike: 1 hour 14 min. (20 mph average)
               T2: 2 min.
               Run: 56 min. (9 min/mile average)
               Total: 2 hours 50 minutes

I realize that some of these numbers are a little "sandbaggerish," but I'm not trying to prove anything.  I'm pretty sure the swim will go much better than 35 minutes, but I'm a slow swimmer.  I think I can handle the bike if I crank it.  The course looks pretty flat.  I think I can do better on the run than 9 min. miles, but it just depends on how I'm feeling.  I guess we'll just have to see what happens.

I'll get a race report to ya as soon as I get back.  Have a great weekend, and good luck to all of you that are training or racing.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

What a week it has been!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011  at 8:59 AM
It seems that a lot of bloggers are suffering through their training right now.  Jon at, wrote a great post at how his legs just couldn't take it anymore and crapped out on him.  Colleen, a.k.a. Irondiva, wrote another terrific post describing the cycle of tough training, hitting a wall, then breaking through, then hitting another wall, etc.  It seems that I'm not the only one that is hitting a flat spot in training.  Is my body just getting tired?  Have I not been training hard enough, so when the tough workouts hit, I can't handle it and pansy out?  It seems that I'm struggling a little bit, and it couldn't come at a worse time!  I've got my first Oly triathlon THIS WEEKEND!  Maybe the taper that I'm starting now will give me a bit more energy for Sunday.  But, before I tell you of the last couple struggling runs, let me tell you about my weekend.

Friday was my four year anniversary to my beautiful wife, Jennifer.  Man, I'm so blessed to have such an amazing wife.  She's wonderful!  I feel like I'm the luckiest guy in the world!  So we decided to celebrate, just a little bit, on a budget...  Neither of us had been up the coast to Holland, Mi, so that was the destination.  We love the little towns on the shore of Lake Michigan!  Holland is pretty cool with its little shops and stores, its lighthouse - Big Red, but it also has an amazing restaurant called Crane's Pie Pantry.  Crane's is a fruit farm in Fennville, Mi that has a restaurant there on the farm.  They recently opened this second shop in downtown Holland.

And, boy, do they make good food!  We had some amazing sandwiches, my veggie sub, and Jenn's Apple Butter/Turkey/Honey Mustard sandwich.  But then it was time for desert, which was the real reason we went there.  Jennifer got an Apple Dumpling with vanilla ice cream, and I got this AMAZING Cherry Cheese Strudel.
We had such a fun time eating and enjoying the great food.  Crane's is a must if you're ever in Holland.
After Cranes, we had to go see Big Red, so after a little drive and a 1/2 mile walk, we ended up out by Lake Michigan where a bunch of boats were headed in and out of the channel right next to Big Red.

On Saturday, we decided to ride the Kal-Haven trail, which used to be a railroad track that ran from Kalamazoo to South Haven, but is now converted to a smooth gravel trail for walkers and bikers.  It's only like 45 minutes from our house, so we had to do it.  Normally, during the week, there is a shuttle that will take you from South Haven to Kalamazoo for you to ride downhill back to your car.  But, on Saturday, they don't run the shuttle, so we decided to do an out and back from South Haven.  Are super good friends, Nick and Taryn went with us.  Here's the "before" picture.
We turned around at mile 16 in Bloomingdale, and headed back.  It was a perfect day for riding...not too hot and not too humid.  But, with four miles to go, the heavens opened up and drenched us!  It was a pretty nasty last few miles, but we made it back to the 4runner just as the rain stopped.  We put the bikes back on the rack, and took an after picture.  It was a fun 32 miles on the old mountain bike even though we got a little wet.

I've been slacking a little bit on my running scene, so Sunday, I decided to do my long run instead of a long ride.  I was scheduled to run 10 miles, but the longest I've run in awhile was 7, and that was several weeks ago.  I mapped out a 10 miles route and just decided to see how I felt.  Well, it sucked.  I don't know if I can really say that I ever "enjoy" running, but it was pretty rough on Sunday.  I got to mile 5.5 and wanted to be done, so I made a deal with myself.  Is it ever good to make a deal while you're running?  I decided that 8 miles would be longer than before, and it sounded like a good number to stop. So, I pansied up and quit running at 8 and walked like a chump the last two miles back to my house.  To redeem myself a little bit, I did ride 25 with Jenn later that day.

Then this morning, I decided to crank out a few miles before class at 7:30 this morning.  So, out the door at 5:30 to run 5-6 miles.  Again, it sucked, so 2.5 miles out, and 2.5 miles back in was all I wanted to do. I don't know what the deal is with me lately.  Maybe I just need to suck it up and bust it on my workouts.  Or maybe this triathlon this weekend will give me a little jump start.  I'm so stoked!  Today I pull our teardrop camper out of storage to get it ready.  Saturday afternoon we'll head up there to get settled, check out the course, and pick up our packets.  Then at 8am, the race begins.  I'm sure there'll be a lot of people racing this weekend, so good luck to you all, and thanks for reading.

Monday, June 13, 2011

What a day for a ride...

Monday, June 13, 2011  at 12:15 PM
Yesterday was an incredibly beautiful day for Michigan.  It wasn't freezing cold.  It wasn't blazing hot.  It wasn't extremely windy.  It was just perfect, and that was good because Josh and I were planning on riding the Steelhead Half Ironman bike course.  We had ridden a solid section of it on our century ride  a couple weeks ago, but we wanted to get a strong feel for the hills and road in general.  We had heard that it was a "Cattle Trail" and really rough roads, but that didn't seem to be the case except for one section.  Here's what the course looks like, and I'm sure it looks familiar to many of you...(Kevin & MattyO) and will look familiar to you, Mary, in 61 days.

We loaded up the bikes on the 4Runner and drove to Jean Klock Park.  Since I'm cheap, we surely didn't pay to park there inside the gate, but just found a nice spot on the road out of the park.
It was only about 60*, so we were a bit cool, but after a quick prayer, a pre-ride picture, we were off.
I had written out a cue sheet from the Steelhead website about every turn that we would need to take.  It was fairly accurate except for the SECOND turn!  We had ridden about a minute and were lost already.  4 miles later, we finally got on the right road and went for it.  I told Josh that I wanted to push it a little more today than on our usual long rides.  He was up for it, so we pushed the tempo a bit.  Since this was a training ride, there was no drafting allowed, but I always like riding next to someone anyway.  The course was pretty awesome, and I was pleased with the road except for one spot that is pretty rough.  There were a couple hills that I've tried to make a mental note of in order to be ready for those babies on August 14.  I plan on riding this course a couple more times since it's so close to my house.

At the end of the ride, we ended up riding 59 miles at 18.7mph.  I took the first four miles out because it was super slow while we were searching for the right road, which left us with 55 miles at 19.1mph average.  I think that's respectable for a solid training ride.  After a post-ride pic, we drove the 15 minutes home and enjoyed some good food and rest.

This ride was a big confidence booster and a whole lot of fun.  Last Wednesday, I did a solo ride of 50 miles in 97* weather.  It was a blast except that I got lost and ended up going a long way out of my way.  I drank plenty and didn't feel too bad at the end.  I'm so excited about Steelhead in a couple months that I almost forget that I'm doing an Oly tri two weeks from yesterday.

I've enjoyed reading all your race reports and what you've got going on in your lives.  Thanks for reading, and have a blessed week!

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

T-minus 2 1/2 weeks...

Wednesday, June 08, 2011  at 8:57 AM
It is officially two and a half weeks till the Bear Lake Olympic Triathlon.  Jennifer and I are pretty stoked about it.  We have been "testing" ourselves this week to see if we're ready.  For instance, on Sunday, we decided to brick the full bike distance with the run distance.  Jenn went out in the morning and did super well, so I had to do the same later that evening.  I went out with little reserve to see how hard I could push on the bike and still be able to put together a decent run.  25 miles later, after riding at an average of 20.6mph, I was ready for the run.  I felt good and had really felt great on the bike.  I stayed in the aerobars for 95% of the time.  I was a little worried about the run because my legs felt pretty spent, but that wasn't the case.  I didn't need much time to get them going, and felt great the whole run.  6.2 miles later, I was finished.  I averaged 8:22's on my run, and I'll live with that!  This lets me know that I can really crank on the bike, and my legs should be ok for a decent time on the run.  I'm so excited about this tri!

Last night, Jennifer and I swam the farthest we've ever swam.  We started with a five lap warmup and then went for it.  My training plan had me swimming 2000 yards, but I ended up swimming 2250.  It was pretty great.  I forgot my stop watch, so I just swam right next to Jenn the whole way so she could keep track of how many laps we swam.  I have the hardest time counting my laps.  Anything over five is a struggle.  I felt pretty strong the whole time, but I noticed some pain in my shoulder part way through.  I tried to analyze my stroke to see what was going on.  I think I found that I tweak my shoulder in a weird way on every stroke.  That'll have to get fixed, because I'm pretty sore today.  When we were done, the lifeguard asked us how many laps we swam.  She seemed impressed that we dominated 45 laps.  It wasn't amazingly fast, but it gave us confidence about swimming the distance.  The Bear Lake swim course is perfect for me because I'm a "right-side-breather."  It looks like I'll be able to see the buoys on my right side when I breath.

Today, although it's supposed to be a high in the mid 90's today, my plan is to go for a 50 mile ride this afternoon once I'm out of class.  I'm afraid I'm going to melt out there, but with tons of hydration, I think I'll be good.  Hopefully I won't have any flats or anything else.

Blessings to you all as you train.  Thanks for reading!

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Christmas in June?

Thursday, June 02, 2011  at 7:25 PM
Today was the day I had been waiting for, because there was a package waiting for me on the front porch.
What could it be?  There really was only one option.  I knew exactly what it was...
It was black, squishy and a Medium Long
It's my new WETSUIT!!!!!!!  

I think I scored a pretty good deal from a generous member who is leaving the country for awhile and getting rid of his gear.  He was actually selling two, and the one that I really wanted, the sleeveless Xterra Vector Pro2, had just been sold to a guy minutes before me.  He told me about this one, the Xterra Vortex 3, and said that he would sell it for $120 including shipping.  Normally it goes for $200 (with the BT coupon code) plus shipping, so I thought this was a good deal.  I'm pretty stoked.  I tried it on, and it fits perfectly, at least for the first time I've put a wetsuit on.  That's going to be awesome for this olympic triathlon this month and of course for Steelhead in August.  Hoorah!

On another note, I just discovered that I'm not a fan of Accelerade.  
I have talked to people, and they really like it, but I don't think it's for me.  I bought a big bottle (60 servings), and tried it, but I can't get over the protein in it.  I also feel thirsty after drinking it which makes me drink more water, causing my stomach to slosh around.  What a bummer!  What a waste of money!  I put it up on in the classifieds for $20, but no one is taking it.  I've tried 4 servings, and I don't know what to do with it.  Any suggestions?

Tomorrow I fly to Florida to drive a car back for a really nice doctor.  He is a snowbird and moves from Michigan to Florida for the winter.  I drove his car down there at Christmas and now will be driving it back.  It's a sweet deal, because he pays pretty well, plus, I get to see my family in Georgia/Tennessee for the weekend.  

Good luck to all of you that are racing.  I'll be looking for your race reports next week.  Go ROCK your races!!!  Thanks for reading.