Friday, June 20, 2008

Topeka Tinman

This month, I decided to try a new experience, something that would challenge me mentally and physically. I've done marathons and while that will still remain my primary focus, the lure of the triathlon was calling. I admit, I didn't put in a lot of training on the bike or in the pool, I was counting on my running experience to carry most of the load.

The race is held in Lake Shawnee Park in Topeka. There is a 400 acre lake, campground, marina, golf course, beach and miles of beautiful trails; a little slice of country, right in the city.

Being a rookie, I arrived early on race day, not knowing what to expect.

Step 1 - get my body markings done. Apparently, they need to write your race number in permanent marker on different body parts; probably so they can easily identify the body should I drown.

Step 2 - park my bike in the transition area. They have some special racks for mountain bikes with wider grooves for the larger tires. These racks are all the way in the back of the transition area. I guess it's not enough of a disadvantage that I'm riding a slow 'comfort bike', they need to make me go all the way to the back to make the transition to run!

Step 3 - well, there is nothing else to do, I'll just go get a look at the swim area.

We make our way down to the beach and watch some of the other athletes warming up in the lake. Me, I prefer to save my energy; I'll just watch. Guys are coming out of the water and commenting that the temperature isn't too bad. Being a bit of a wimp when it comes to cold, I'm vary of what's "not too bad." Then I look and see other guys in wetsuits and become even more alarmed. I don't even dare go feel the water, I might be inclined to panic. Actually, the water temp is somewhere in the mid 70's, but in my mind, that sounds cold.

After a stroll around the area, it's time to head to the start. I make my way to the very back of the pack. There are 3 different heats and I'm in the second, but I figure who cares, I just want to be in the back and not in any ones way. A couple of ladies tell me that I should be in one of the heats in front of them. How would they know, I must look like an experienced tri-athlete! I'm politely told, "Uh sir, all the women are in the last heat."

In the words of Homer Simpson, "Doh"
So, to the back of the second heat I go, not to worry though, there's a minute or so of time between each heat. I can still lag to the back of my group and keep my flailing arms from injuring anyone.
The moment of truth has come and into the water we go. Wow, first thought, the water's not bad! What the heck was I worried about? In no time, I get into a groove and the swim starts off very well. Within the first 100 yards, I've already changed my normal breathing pattern. I've worked on this over and over in the pool, always taking a breathe every three strokes. I don't know if it's because I'm racing, but I feel the need to breathe every two strokes now. Doesn't seem to make much difference, I'm still breathing comfortably. With the exception of going a bit off course now and then, the swimming goes off without a hitch. The shore is near, the water is now only waist deep, so I stand up proud with my arms extended to the sky as if I won the lottery. My biggest fear is now behind me.

After throwing on a fresh shirt, socks and shoes, I'm ready to take the bike ride. I know my bike is not designed for road racing, but it's all I have and I'm not going to spend hundreds of dollars, OK, probably thousands, on a new race bike unless I find the desire to continue doing these races. I'll have to work harder than most just to keep an average speed. A few miles into the bike course, I come across a sign that reads Turn Ahead. It's the race organization's familiar logo, but when I come to the next crossroad, no volunteers, no police guards, nothing. "Wow, do I turn or not", I wondered to myself. Off in the distance straight ahead I see another biker, so I must keep going. It seems too soon to turn anyway, based on what I remember seeing on the course map.

After another mile or so, I see more signs, this time though, there are volunteers and police all making sure you make the turn. Ah, I did the right thing, now feeling much more at ease. However, apparently not everyone made the same decision at the first sign. I later find out that 20 people were disqualified. I assume they had all cut the course and made that turn, which actually was the turn for the shorter race that was running simultaneously. Very unfortunate. Somehow I feel the race committee messed up on this one.
Somewhere about halfway through the bike course, a van pulls up beside me with the windows down and the man inside tells me he is with the medical staff and that I was one of the last riders, so he would be following behind me; don't be alarmed. Gee, that sure was a boost to my ego! How demoralizing.

My legs hold together and I finish the bike portion in what felt like good time, relatively speaking. As was the case last year when I tried my first Duathlon, I did not pass one single soul on the bike. I really didn't expect to anyway. Now comes what I'm best at; running. I'll make up some ground here. Well, so I thought.

It's around 9:30 am now and the sun is beginning to heat up. The humidity this time of year is also pretty high, so the final leg will not be easy. My legs at this point feel like rubber and my shoes feel like lead. Sweat is pouring from body like a leaky faucet. I'll have to go slow and easy if I want to finish this race. Fortunately, there are aid stations every mile on the run course and each one them has GU. I think I stopped at every single station and by the third, was drinking one cup and pouring another over my head.

The run portion of the course is one loop around the entire lake. It is a very pretty setting and the natural beauty keeps me from focusing too much on how tired I am. After .6 mile swimming, 20 miles biking and 7 miles running, I'm beat. I see the finish line ahead, pick up my pace as much as my body allows and cross the finish line with a hidden joy packed somewhere behind my grimacing face. The running today has been tougher than I imagined; where I thought I'd do my best, I struggled the most. OK, some of that is just because the running is the last event, but I still expected to do better.

So, on this day I became a Tri-athlete. Will I ever do another? I'm not sure yet, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, but I don't exactly feel the need to do it again. I think my next focus may become an Ultra marathon, as I am eyeing a 50K this fall.

Next up; the Okoboji Marathon in July.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

5 Questions answered

I've been tagged by Jenny, so I guess I'll give a shot at answering the 5 running questions given.

1- How would you describe your running 10 years ago?

Just about 10 years ago was when I quit smoking (after 25+ years) and began to live a healthier lifestyle. I joined a gym and was just beginning to try out the treadmill. I did my first long run that year; 1 mile!!

2-What is your best and worst run/race experience?

For the best, I've got to go back to that very first race I ever ran, Hospital Hill in 2003. I ran the 12K and will never forget the ecstatic feeling I had just crossing the finish line. I didn't train much, having run no longer than 4 miles in any one day. I became hooked on that day.

The worst experience was probably the same race 4 years later, but I ran the half marathon this time, just about 5 weeks after running my first marathon. I hadn't recovered well enough from the marathon and I struggled the entire run. I remember that my daughter ran with me and would run backwards facing me, all while yelling at me to keep pushing. I didn't listen well, I think I stopped numerous times to walk.

3- Why do you run?

It used to be that running was just a way to help stay in good enough shape so I could continue to play hockey. Once I hung up the skates, things began to change. Running had now become the dominate athletic activity in my life. I run mostly because it is the anchor of a healthy lifestyle for me. Secondarily, I absolutely love the races, not because I try to be competitive with others, but I love to challenge myself. I'm hooked on the long runs, preferring endurance over speed.

4- What is the best or worst piece of advice you've been given about running?

Can't say I've been given any bad advice, but the best 'good advice' I was given was from a total stranger on the website. Basically, when I was starting to feel sluggish and burned out, they told me to take 5 days off, then start training again. This was in the weeks leading up to my first marathon. I took the days off, came back that Saturday for my weekly long run and felt great. The remainder of the training went perfectly smooth. Rest is good my friends!

5- Tell us something surprising about yourself that not many people would know.

Because of my typical ordinary, boring lifestyle, most people probably wouldn't figure I was hooked on Karaoke. Yes, I would go out every weekend and sing if I could. I don't have the best voice, but some songs I do well, some I butcher pretty bad! It doesn't matter to me, I just have so much fun trying. We don't go out too much anymore, but I will go anytime anybody else wants to. In the old days, my favorite song to sing was Led Zeppelin's Black Dog. I haven't sung that one in many years. Today I enjoy doing songs by artists like Weezer, Green Day or Snow Patrol.

Well, most everyone I know on these blogs has already been tagged, so I'm not going to try and tag any others.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Saturday June 14th

On this day, I became a --- Tri-athlete

There were no goals, no expectations, just a fantastic day in beautiful Lake Shawnee Park in Topeka, culminating in finishing my first triathlon. I don't know my time, not sure I ever want to look, the satisfaction alone of completing this event was extremely rewarding.

I spent the rest of the afternoon with beer in one hand, fine cigar in the other, relaxing on my deck, celebrating the fact that I am a Tri-athlete. Boy, I just love saying that!

Thanks so much to everyone who wished me well. I'll have a race report once I have more time.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

If you think that was dumb.......

In my last post, I made the comment about my wife's and my 'dumb genes'. What could be dumber than implying that my wife had dumb genes? I solidified my own stupidity by just making the remark. But wait, I'm quite sure I've done dumber things than that, right? Absolutely!

I'll bet you have too -- haven't we all?

So, I got to thinking, what's the dumbest thing I've ever done? This post shall be dedicated to everyone who has done something really stupid!

Let's first start with my daughter, Alison. This is how this all got started anyway; with her and her 4.0 grade point average. Luckily, her degree did not require the class Common Sense 101. I will be more than happy to point out one her proudest dumb moments!

It's year 5 of college and Alison has moved into her own 1-bedroom apartment in South Bend, Indiana. As a typical college kid with limited financial resources, (yes, that means dad don't make a ton of money) she does what she can to be frugal. That, of course, includes trying to keep utility payments as low as possible. The apartment is all electric, the heat and central air.

Along comes winter and it's time to set the thermostat low. No sense heating an apartment too much when she spends very little of the day there. And with just a couple extra blankets on the bed, the nights are tolerable. Good kid, we taught her to conserve well. So, Alison goes to set the thermostat down in the low 60's. Just a slight problem though, there's 2 different thermostats; one controls the heat, the other controls the central air. Which one is which??? No problem for my educated daughter, she just turned 'em both down. Problem solved!

Next month, I get a call from Alison, she got her first winter electric bill, a whopping $250 or so. Oh my God, is electric heat that expensive? "Dad, I've got it set to like 60, I'm freezing in here, and I can't afford to turn up the heat", she complains. Well, something doesn't seem right, but I'm 500 miles away, what can I do?

Later in the season, Sue and I finally make a trip to Indiana for a visit. Damn, she's right, this apartment is COLD. Then, one day, I feel a cold breeze blowing out of the air vents in the kitchen. Yes, she turned the central air and the heat down together, so the heat is working double time trying warm the constant blast of cool air. That's my girl!!!

OK, now that Alison is probably mad at me for calling her out, it's time to belittle myself.

This story happened when I was a young, impressional teenager. Actually, I've never told anyone the truth about this. Yes, you heard it here first!

I was maybe 16 or 17 and working at the .20 burger joint that had this large sign out front claiming a million sold, framed in yellow arches. Yes, McDonalds was THE place to work when you were in high school. All the cool girls would come in on Friday night and we had our own little system to alert the other guys when a foxy chick came in. Depending on what register the girl would line up, 1 through 4, we would yell out "Ice on Four", a direct reference to which line to check out.

It's a Sunday morning and I'm part of the opening crew that day. I'm down in the basement (yes, this old McDonalds had a basement) collecting cups, lids and all the stock we'll need for the morning rush. All of a sudden, water begins to pour from the ceiling right near where I'm working. "Hah, which idiot dumped over the mop bucket," I wondered to myself. In a quick thought of providing some comic relief for the poor sucker, I decide to stand under the waterfall; this will surely provide a good laugh when I walk upstairs! Holy Trans Fat Batman, it's not water, it's burning hot oil.

Yes, Sunday morning is when they change the shortening in the fryers. The gob of fat comes as solid shortening and once it's heated, it then melts. The person working on the vats that morning forgot to close the spigot after drainng the old oil and once the new batch melted, down it poured on me.

I took a trip to the clinic with a nice dose of 2nd degree burns on my scalp, neck and shoulders. The joke was on me that day.

There, I feel relieved, what's the dumbest thing you've ever done?