Friday, October 28, 2011

Great Floridian Part 3 (The Bike)

I left off with a visit to the strippers. Probably the shortest amount of time I have ever spent with a stripper. And it didn't cost me a dime.

I trotted to the changing tent. I was given my bike gear bag before going in. Once inside, I found a chair and changed clothes. I decided to wear biking shorts to give me the extra padding for the ride. I also put on a cycling jersey which gave me three pockets to put food/gels in. Spandex/cycling clothes are always a struggle to put on when you are wet and in a rush. I also had to put my wetsuit in a separate bag and put everything in another bag.

I finished dressing and headed out to my bike. I surprisingly had to pee but I guess it was a good thing as far as hydration goes. I ran to the port o let first. I was not going to pee all over my bike while on the course. My pee was still clear so that was a good sign.

I also had put on my Garmin during this time. I kept pushing the on button but it wouldn't come on. It had happened before but I forgot what buttons I pushed to get it back working. Oh well.

I grabbed my bike and started running it towards the bike start. I then saw that my girls had moved to this area. Again they were holding signs encouraging their "daddy". As I was mounting my bike, I told them, "I can't get my Garmin to work." I found out later that for some reason my oldest thought I said, "I am having cardiovascular farts." Now I can not figure out how that sounds like the other but okay. My oldest was not sure what that was but thought it sounded serious. So much so that she called her aunt and had her do a Google search to see what it was and how it would affect my race. Turns out there is no such condition. Whew for me and anyone behind me.

The bike course was no surprise to me. I was able to ride the course several times during the summer. I learned numerous lessons during those rides. Lessons about nutrition. Pace. Heat. Bike skills. Hills. Hydration. Myself. Relationships. Which bike to use. Gearing preference. Who's your daddy?

The start of the bike has several short climbs through a neighborhood. Just enough to get your legs a little tired. I had to concentrate on pace. That was my main goal. Of course with the adrenaline and fresh legs my pace was quicker than I wanted. I was averaging over 21 thru the first 10-15 miles. I then backed it off once I got on a long 8 mile stretch in to the wind.

The bike course is three laps. The first lap includes Sugarloaf which is a long steep climb as hills in Florida go. I was glad I decided to go with an 11-28 rear cassette and a compact crank. The climb up Sugarloaf was not bad at all. Again familiar faces holding signs and giving cheers. Although it appeared the 2 hours sleep was catching up to the oldest.

I made a point to drink and eat something about every 20 minutes. The weather was not as hot as it had been in the past so this at times caused me to forget to drink. I also learned that the cooler weather will cause the energy waffles to harden like candy. Just put it in your mouth and let it melt. Either that or put it inside my shorts to soften it up. I tried the first method and that seemed to work.

I made it in to complete the first loop in just over 2 hours. I stopped at the bike essential bag area just to re-up on some gels. I was also mauled by some very friendly BRA women. They tried to assist me with some of my stuff but I warned them to step back so it didn't appear I was getting assistance. I did not know how strict the rules were going to be enforced.

Off on my second loop to the cheers of Go Gators. This is because I was wearing a University of Georgia cycling jersey and here I was in Gator territory.

I slowed down to about 18-19 mph for my second loop. I was still full of energy but kept mentally reminding myself to slow my pace. As I was told, "if you feel you are going to fast, slow down. If you feel you are going too slow, slow down."

One thing I forgot to do at the changing area was to put on sunscreen. Every water stop I came to I was asking for sunscreen. I was always told they did not have any. There were some pretty pale volunteers out there. I am not sure if they had it and just weren't allowed to give it to me. At some point I was going to rub a banana all over me just to block the sun. At the end of lap 2 I was able to get some sunscreen. I lathered up and headed out for lap 3.

You never realize how long 112 miles is until you do it alone. Sure you have other cyclists that you ride up to and chat with or ride up to you and chat. The sucky part is when they ride on by you like your not even pedalling. I so wanted to try and hop on their wheel but no drafting in triathlons.

So all these miles and so much on my mind. I had to remain focused. Not think about the time other than every 20 minutes for fueling. I will admit that at the top of every hill and the completion of every turn, I was looking for a familiar face. Hoping there was that extra encouraging word. A witness to the madness.

I did see three familiar faces at the top of one of the last climbs. Turns out I saw them before they saw me. Jan, C-Steve and Navy Steve. I knew they were coming over to watch. Jan had told me they would try to see me during the bike. She had picked out a spot to wait but because of my fast swim time, Navy Steve had to change all his algorithms for my bike leg and they weren't sure if I had passed already. Again seeing a familiar face(s) does give you some extra mental energy. I stopped and gave them my Garmin to see if they could get it working. I really wanted it for my run.

I made it in off the bike in under 7 hours and still felt pretty good. I gave my bike to one of the volunteers. Took my shoes off and ran to the changing tent.

Part 4. A marathon now?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

GF Part 2. The Swim...No One Said There Were Strippers

I want to dedicate this Chapter to Jan. She has helped me train during the swim portion of this journey. A little advice here and there, usually not about swimming, but mainly her willingness to drive a two hour round trip once a week to meet me at St Pete Beach for an open water two mile swim. I would be remiss if I also didn't thank Karin for riding/driving as well.

Before the swim, I was asked what my swim time would be. I was not sure because I had never swam 2.4 miles for time. Surely I swam in the pool for what seemed like back and forth for ever but that was never an accurate timed workout. And our weekly open water swims always had a "quality" chat session at the halfway point. So I was guessing on the safe side it should be under an hour and a half.

As previously posted, I was distracted just before the start of the race by the Morning BRA Shift. I kind of think this helped keep my nerves steady. I then heard the 30 second countdown and made my way to the start. The water was reported as 71 degrees. And it was pretty calm as well. All the male and female competitors were to start together.

The gun went off and I walked out to start this journey. I was in no hurry because it was going to be a long swim. Easy steady strokes. Two laps of 1.2 miles. To me this would make the swim seem not as long. Two laps would give me a mental break.

Although this was a small wave compared to some of the larger ones at St Anthony's, I felt crowded in the beginning. I could not get a good stroke going. The water was pretty clear but I still could not see swimmers in front or beside me. I kept having to wade and reposition myself. When I do these swims, I always reach out as far as I can for two reasons. The first is to lengthen my stroke and secondly I am reaching out for the person in front of me. I was hoping the swimmer in front of me did not think they were being violated. I had to grab her leg several times just to move her to the side. I say her because the women were wearing pink caps.

As it always seems to happen in the long swims, at about 400 yards in to it, I started getting that "this is a long swim" feeling. That onset of a panic attack. I quickly brushed that aside with the knowledge that I was wearing a wetsuit and I ain't here to drown.

Before I knew it I was coming to shore for the end of the first lap. I do not look at my watch while swimming so I had no idea what my time would be. Much to my surprise as I stood out of the water to cross the timing mat for the first time, it was just under 34:00 minutes. What the hell. I did not feel like I was swimming that fast and since there were times I got clogged up I figured it would have been around 40. I then saw my girls standing on the dock holding homemade posters saying "go daddy go." I think they were just as surprised by my time. The ink was probably still wet.

I took a gel from my wetsuit. Ate it and chased it with some water. I then looked out over the lake again just to make sure I didn't skip any buoys. It did not look like I did. I figured the second leg should be a little easier since the field had spread out. Never assume they say. I found the need to work on my zigzag swimming this lap. I kept swimming too far outside the buoys. A handy tip from me to you. Don't always follow the swimmer off to your side. They may also be working on their zigzag skills.

Stood up at shore for the end of lap two. 2.4 miles down. I again looked at my watch and was surprised. Under 1:10 total. I did not feel like I was swimming fast. Steady strokes is all I was doing. Not winded at all. I felt very good at this point. AT THIS POINT.

I started running up the beach and then realized there was no need for me to run at this point. I came up to this area where there were several girls standing around wearing matching shirts. One of them asked me if I needed any help. I said, help with what? Your wetsuit. Oh yeah these are the strippers. That was helpful. I then headed to the changing tent.

Part 3. Bike Leg (Who Froze My Waffles?)

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Great Floridian Report. Part 1 (Before the Race)

I know right off the bat your thinking, "Part 1? We know how your Ragnar reports were. Far and few between when broken up." I promise this will not be the case. I have broken them up because this was one hell of a long race. Not only the distance but the time. The time it took to do it and also the time it took to prepare. Many thoughts were going through my mind while I was on this journey. Both on and off the course.

I fell asleep around 10ish the night before. I set my alarms for 4 a.m. I was supposed to try and eat a 1200-1500 calorie breakfast at least 3 hours before the race. I started with a vanilla Ensure shake. These are great and have 250 calories. I then ate a banana, some yogurt and a bagel with honey. My room did not have a microwave for oatmeal so I figured I would use the coffee maker to heat some water. Turns out the coffee maker did not work. Hot tap water was next. Whoops. No bowl. I rinsed out the yogurt container and used it as a bowl. I love to camp and can improvise. The water didn't even get hot enough to soak in to the oatmeal. It was like eating a mushy peaches and cream flavored cookie. I had one more Ensure while taking a shower. I still could have used an assistant but I managed.

Off to the show. I usually try to get to tri's about an hour and a half before transition closes. I would rather be too early than rushing around. I had some time to spare for this one because my bike was racked the day before. I did not have to set up anything in transition except put some bottles on my bike. I just needed to hang my gear and essential needs bags. I ended up with about an hour to spare. What to do. It was still dark out.

Even though I reluctantly made a list, I still felt like I was missing something. I went back to my bags and double checked them just to make sure all I needed for the race was packed. Seems all was there.

I still had that need for something. Aah, my ipod. I was parked pretty close to transition so I walked back to the car. Put my music on. I felt pretty good and full of energy. For some reason I had no butterflies. I started drinking some water. I put my wetsuit on and had a gel at about 7:10. I made my way to the start.

I then spotted my family. They had just arrived I was told. The girls had Homecoming the night before. I told them they could have waited until later in the day to come over because I knew they would be tired. I heard my oldest say, "I am doing pretty good on 2 hours sleep. I didn't get to bed until 3 a.m." On any other morning I would have been like, "what!?! Seems I need to take your boyfriend on a trip." I was so focused that her comment didn't even register until later in the race. I gave hugs to all and went for a very short dip in the lake.

As I was coming out of the water, I heard some familiar voices yelling my name. It was Tom, V, Tanya and Kathy from BRA. They had come over for the early shift to wish me luck.

I was getting some pictures taken by Tom when I heard the 30 second count down to the start. I turned and walked into the water. Put my goggles on and set my watch. I may have helped that I didn't have time to stand with my toes in the water getting all nervous about the swim.

Part 2. The Swim...But I Wasn't Trying To Go Fast.

Friday, October 21, 2011

And Here She Is

So my journey to the Great Floridian has arrived. In under 12 hours I should be in the water giving it stroke for stroke. It has been a long injury free training session. Suppose we shall see how it has all paid off.

Today was spent getting my things together from my list. I did say list. I was convinced to make a list for this race since I was going to be solo the day/night before the race. I tell you, there sure is a lot of stuff needed for an Ultra Triathlon. I packed all the stuff in my Civic and headed out. I was of course running late. I had to get songs for my ipad. Priorities. I also had to take my bike to the bike shop just for a quick once over. All seems to be fine.

I got to the check in and got my packet. I was given 6 plastic bags to put more stuff in. A bike gear bag. A wetsuit bag. 2 special needs bags for the bike. A run gear bag. A special needs bag for the run. Special needs? What the heck. Turns out this is for any supplements that you like that they aren't using. Or dry clothing if you wish to change during your run. I am debuting some "funky" shorts for the run. I may put some different shorts in my run special needs bag. As a matter of fact I will put some different shorts in there.

I put my packet back in my car and decided to take a swim. I had already gotten a short run and bike in before I left home. It was time for me to be one with the lake. I was told the water was hovering around 72 degrees. Definitely wetsuit legal. After I got my wetsuit on, I stood at the waters edge and stared at the lake. I said, "Lake. I am staring at you." The water felt great. A little choppy because of the wind. The buoys were not put out yet so I was not stressed about the visual distance.

I got my bike together and put it on the rack. They had to be racked the day before. We were allowed to take care of our bags in the morning if we choose. I chose. I then headed out to dinner. Spaghetti for me. Also had two garlic knots but hopefully that won't make a difference on the wrong side of the clock tomorrow.

It is only natural to wonder if I trained enough. Did I swim all I could? Could I have bike a few more miles? Should I have logged more miles with Tiesto? Did I eat all the right things? Did I get enough sleep. Hell I should be sleeping now. The good thing is I had no significant injuries during all the training. All I can do now is put my toes on the line and give it the best I can. Many have asked what my finish time will be. What time do you want to finish in. I say to them, "I just want to finish. They are giving me 17 hours."

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


I have never been a fan of “lists”. I don’t make them. I don’t follow them. And I most definitely pay for it. Sometimes. Okay, more often than not in my old age.

The sport of triathlon requires lists. There’s more than just putting on your running shoes and waiting for the gun to go off. You have to have your stuff for the swim. Your stuff for the bike. Your bike. Your running stuff. All your eats and drinks. Your pre and post race entertainment. And apparently for the out of town events you need to book a hotel room way in advance.

For those of you that know me or have read my Ragnar recaps, you know that I tend to wait til the last minute and may or may not forget things. I may have had to take Van 2 back to my house 3 times to get some things. They were important things though like an ipod, a power converter for Christmas lights, Ax and a costume or two.

I was reminded recently that I needed to make a list for the Great Floridian. Lists are no fun. I know, I know. Lists are less dramatic and just lay there on the table and keep to themselves. That’s why I don’t like lists. Lists can’t talk to you. Can’t listen to you. Can’t encourage you. Can’t sit across from you at dinner. Can’t tuck you in the night before a big race. Can’t make sure you don’t oversleep the morning of one of the most important and longest races of your life. Can’t make you coffee. Can’t keep you focused before the race. And they can’t give you a good luck kiss on the cheek while at the waters edge.

Yesterday before my long swim, I was talking to Jan and I told her that all the hotels in Clermont were sold out. “You haven’t booked a room! I told you a long time ago that you should book a room. You need an assistant. I know how you are and lists just won’t be enough. You need to start packing today when you get home.” I agree on everything she said. Especially the assistant part. I do need an assistant.

I was going to get my girls to assist but when I reminded them of when the race was I heard this. “Daddy it is homecoming that night. Are you kidding? This is my last one and her first one.” Well you see where I ranked with them. They are going to show up later the next morning.

I am asking for the services of someone to be an assistant for less than 24 hours. The tucking in and kiss on the cheek are optional. You will have an all expense paid trip to Clermont. Dinner, breakfast and the race festivities. You could even do your long run that Saturday morning if need be. There are no contracts or waivers to sign. If interested please consult your physician, attorney or cleric before contacting me. Viewing everything live is probably better than reading it in a book.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Can I Borrow Your Soap?

I was finally down to my last long workout session week. My last long swim before the race. Now I say long swim only because it is a 2 miler. I will swim a couple more 2000 yarders before the race but I don’t consider those long swims anymore. Not too sound like I am bragging but after swimming 2 miles in open water, 2000 yards in a pool in nothing. Well I will say it is still kind of boring.

A while back I moved my long swims to the mornings because the open water conditions were better compared to the afternoon/evening. The winds were calmer which made for better swimming. The evening swims were like being in a washing machine. It was not fun which made me want to skip the swims. The other alternative was swimming in a pool. Back and forth I go. The story of my like it seems lately. Comparatively, the pool swims really aren’t that bad I suppose.

Since I moved my long swims to the mornings, I needed someone to swim so I wouldn’t be alone in the event something happened. Can’t trust the tourists. That’s some bad hat Harry. I was able to recruit a couple of ladies to swim with me, Jan and Karin. I like to call them “shark bait”. They make the two hour round trip a week to swim. I like to think it is to assist me in my training and give moral support but I know they get as much of a work out as I do.

I was hoping that this swim was going to be another smooth one. Nope. Recent weather put a damper on that dream. I look out at the water and it always looks calmer when standing on the shore. There were some waves as you can see in the picture but they were very deceiving. We got our wetsuits on and headed in. It always seems that we debate on who is going to start swimming so we talk for another ten minutes. I hope I don’t do this for my race. You know, “train like you’re going to race.”

During our swims we usually check on each other on the way up and the way back. It was especially important that we did it this time. The water was a bit choppy. I would swim ahead and then stop to see how they were doing. Everyone was fine all the way up.

Half way through we again would yap for a few more minutes and then head back south. I was 8 minutes faster on the way back. That is even with checking on them. It is so funny how we end up outside of each other. Inside of each other. Ahead. Behind. Thank goodness the tri swims have those big orange floaty things to sight on.

Once the swim is over it is now my favorite time. Showering with the ladies. Okay, I know it is outside but not many people can say they shower with two women once a week. In all seriousness, I am very appreciative of those two for giving me company during the long swims. They both want to continue this weekly adventure until the water is too cold. I am in. If only I could keep up with Jan on the long runs I wouldn’t be doing those with only Tiesto.

I have realized that I am starting to increase my confidence on this race. I have no set time goals other than under 17 hours. It’s my first and as of now will not be my last. I have a whole new perspective on triathlons, the training and the results I see. I also have a new list of races that I want and will do.

Coming soon: “The Death of a Captain. Or Early Retirement.”

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I ain't racin' ya....

Have you ever had one of those training days when you feel rushed or forgetful or downright delirious? I think I just had one of those this past Saturday.

My plan for the weekend was to get one last long ride in on Saturday. I would then back it up on Sunday with a 20 mile run. That was my plan.

On Friday night, I had my tri bike in the shop until well after closing. Seems she was wanting to be considered for my upcoming race. She needed some overhauling first. A new headset, a compact crank and a new chain. I was told that my bike was quit the project. So much so that cutting tools had to be used to take the old headset and spacers off. Minor surgery was the term used. Seems the combination of my sweat and the humidity can wreak havoc on the lady parts. A water hose and leaf blower just doesn’t clean her good enough. Again I would like to thank both Ron and Dave at Brandon Bikeworks for their assistance and patience. It was a rough first date for them.

There was a low in South Florida that was going to bring some lovely weather in to the area for the weekend. I woke up and checked the weather. It was already raining in Clermont so plan B had me going to San An. Little did I know there would be 20-25 mph winds once I got there. Cheers for me.

I get to San An and realize I forgot my Garmin. Great. I also forgot my gels. Great. I only had two bottles of fluid. Great. I forgot my earphones for my ipod. Great. I get on my bike and realize my computer is not working. Great. Good thing I already know the route and the approximate miles. I need an assistant.

I know my long ride plans are not supposed to include any pulling, drafting or sprints. Well there were these three guys that I passed on a downhill within the first couple of miles. They then hooked on my wheel and started drafting me. They evidently were not aware of my plan. I broke away a little on a short climb and then they started to catch up. I stopped at an intersection and let them get ahead.
I caught back up and passed them again on a downhill. That aero bar downhill position is great. I then dropped a water bottle. Only had two so I had to stop and get it. The three rode by with one of them saying, “bad luck to you.” Oh is this a race now. I catch up again when one of the guys was telling one of the other cyclists that he should get a compact crank and a bigger cassette. Hey I just did that. I get ahead of them again with a pretty good lead until I start to climb a steep hill. As I shift to the small gear up front, the chain does not shift in to the ring. It stays right in the middle and I spin, spin, spin until I almost stop. I get off the bike and start messing with the chain. This is why I test ride bikes now before my races. Of course the three of them get ahead of me. The cat and mouse continues until another climb. On this climb I start to drink when two of the three start to pass. Oh hell no. I just rode Six Gap. I then pass them for the last time and that was it.

I am still on the fence as to which bike to use. I did not get to ride Clermont like I wanted. I shall try again this Saturday or Sunday.

Sunday I had planned on doing a long run. Again due to the weather, I only ran ten. I felt pretty good. Less than two weeks to go. Oh boy. I still feel pretty good and will feel even better if the weather is cool that morning. Too far out for the forecast.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Midweek Update....

The countdown continues for the Great Floridian. Maybe 15ish days to go. I have been tweaking my road bike and tri bike. I have added larger cassettes and now compact cranks. All this for one measly bike ride. I have only two long rides left to decide on which bike to use. I have read blogs and posts and listened to others about this. A road bike is better for climbing but the tri bike may help your legs and upper body for the run. The best comment was, "ride what you feel comfortable on the most."

Last Sunday I took my road bike to Clermont and rode the bike course. All 112 miles and felt damn good when I was done. I will admit that I did not run but could have if I wanted to. I just sat in the shade and drank some orange Powerade and reflected a little. Well actually reflected a lot.

This ride was all about pace again. And I definitely had to ride how I felt because my speedometer was not working. I was wearing my Garmin and tried to do the math to figure out what speed I was averaging. 112 miles in 6:29 hours. Good I suppose. Now I did stop at my car at the end of laps one and two to refuel and eat something. I still felt that on the third lap I was gearing out on some of the climbs. I am currently having a compact crank put on my tri bike. This will give me a 50/32 and an 11/27. This should be perfect for this course.

I have now moved my long run to Saturday morning so I can start adjusting to race day. I ran 10 on Tuesday at an 8:20 pace. Felt good for that run. Still doing most of my running alone. Just works out that way. I have managed to bring Tiesto with me. Not sure if I will be able to sneak him in on the race though. No DJ's allowed. Silly rules.

This morning I did my open water swim. I used my wetsuit, temp was right on the verge, just to make sure it fit properly. For some reason, it fits better now than it did back in April. I swam 2 miles with Jan and Karin. We joke about how we end up talking for a bit before we swim and then again at the mile point when we turn to go back. It seems our conversations at the half way point have gotten longer. I said pretty soon we will have to pack a lunch. I also asked them that since the GF is a two lap swim, could they show up and let's have a chat just before my second lap. You know, race like you train. All in fun though. I thank them for driving the hour to meet me once a week to swim.

I am starting to feel more and more confident about this race. I am not making any predictions because my only goal is under 17 hours. That will be my PR and I will go from there next time around. And there will be a next time.....