Transistion from Coach to Triathlete

Lots of the things going on right now and I wanted to put them to paper, or keyboard, or internet, whatever, you are reading this so you know what’s going on. Anyways, I seem to be in a transitory period where many things are ending and beginning at the same time.

The End of Coaching Volleyball

The 2016 school season has ended and I have decided that I am not going to coach the Sr. Girls in 2017. In addition to this I will not be taking a coaching role in the upcoming club season, so I am effectively retiring from coaching. The largest reason is that I want to re-appropriate that time to training for triathlon. It’s selfish, I know. But I am not getting any younger and I want to be able to compete and push my body to new limits while I still can. Build a base of health for the many years to come. Actually I just like it and want to spend time swimming, cycling and running cause I like it. So judge not, lest ye be beating me in Ironman.

The End of Television

Ok. I still own a television, and there is one in my ‘room of self-development where I do my blogging, stretching, cycling training, yoga and meditating, but it is firmly on “the spa’ music station. I tried getting rid of the cable all together, but my wife and kids sat me down and gave me a stern talking to. So I still get television, but I haven’t watched it in some time. The Big Bang Theory, Lucifer and the Walking Dead will be missed. But as that is 3 hours per week I will not get back and doesn’t aid one iota of self-development I can’t have any of that. You know, cause I’m an all or nothing kind of guy.

The End of the Computer.

In the off-chance that my PC would spawn judgement day, and the rise to the machines, I decided it best to take a hammer to my laptop to save mankind and any further Terminator movies. Only a little true. I did take a hammer to the computer, but only to the hard drive after it had failed so that personal information could never be retrieved from it. And while it was in no danger of launching Skynet, it did take another large part of my week from me for mindless web-surfing.

The Beginning of Yoga, Meditation and Journaling

While I did meditate and journal, and very rarely did any yoga, now I find myself with absolutely nothing to do and no easy mind-numbing way to waste time. I have started journaling nearly twice a day. Meditating at least once a day, and doing a form of Yoga or at least some simple stretching at least twice a day. I see those people move and bend that are good at yoga and I really want to be able to move like that. Progress is sooooo slow, but everything in life worth having takes time and effort to achieve right.

Blogging…. not the beginning but hopefully more often.

I like sharing my thoughts on here. Though right now I know that only Justin and my Parents read this. I journal so much that I struggle with what to write. Everything? The Highlights? Drop a comment and let me know what you like, otherwise you get whatever I feel like at that moment, which is a scary thought…. especially in the off-season… want to know about my funky toenail? And you are probably wondering how I am writing this if I don’t have a computer. I blew off the dust of an old handy-dandy bluetooth keyboard, and using the screen of my iPhone. It’s painful, but it works just the same.

Beginning (again) on the Ketogenic Diet

Now I have gone on and off of this for the past 3 years, but with all this extra time that I have I don’t see any excuse that I cannot follow it. I would seriously like to get to an optimal running weight before the snow melts in the spring so when I ramp up my training I am not fighting an extra 30 pounds.

Starting (again) Training for Triathlon

I have done absolutely zero training over the last 3 months that I have been coaching. Now I can get back to it guilt free. Expect to see me on the roads, and at the Rec Center again doing laps, or sweating on the bike. Back to the pool to try to improve my swim stroke. I would appreciate it if you told all your friend to try to avoid running me over on the highway.

Well that’s it. Hopefully in a month or two I will be able to tell you how things are going and what has stuck and what hasn’t. Maybe Netflix and Cheetos will grab me with its sticky little fingers and entice me to waste much of the Christmas season finding out if Breaking Bad or Lost is as good as everyone seems to think it is. Maybe I’ll have a six-pack and travel to warmer climates to race during our winter? Likely, and hopefully it will be something in the middle.


Race Recap: 2016 Calgary Half Ironman

This year’s race was vastly different from last year. The biggest difference was that this year I knew what to expect. Or, at least I thought I did. Every time I made an adjustment to my race strategy to overcome a problem, a new challenge would pop up that seemed more difficult than the one I adjusted to overcome. So I got to face a completely new set of obstacles. Between last year and this year I focused on my lack of ability to run, and that took up the bulk of my training

If you want the full experience, go back and read the post about the 2015 Calgary Half Ironman to give you some context for what I’m going to talk about this year.

The Swim: Last year – 47:29, Goal – 47:29

Notice that my goal time was the same as last years time did you? Doesn’t seem like a good goal??? The reason that this is a more than reasonable goal is because all year I didn’t train for the swim. I put my wetsuit on for only ONE swim between last years race and this year. I got to show this lack of training race morning while everyone is putting on their wetsuits. I start by sitting on the ground contorting my body to try to remember how to get this thing on. After taking twice as long as anyone else to get it up to my hips, I stand up, proud that I have got the hardest part done, only to realize that the zipper is in front of me instead of in the back. I put this glorified recycled tire wannabe on backwards. So very quietly and so no one would notice, (except my wife who got a front row seat to this whole show) I sat down peeled it off and started again.

Because of the time I lost practicing how not to dress up for the swim I didn’t get a chance to do any sort of warmup. No loss really, if I didn’t train for the swim, why on earth would I warm up for it. We are asked to the start line and as an improvement from last year I swallowed my pride (which is lacking anyway after squeezing into a less than flattering balloon) and took up a starting place at the back of the pack. As a result, I didn’t have nearly as much contact with the other swimmers and in turn didn’t have a panic attack. However this caused me a couple of brand new problems.

The first problem was that instead of getting passed by other racers and having them tickle my toes and freak me out, I was actually doing some of the toe-tickling passing. Which doesn’t seem at all like a problem except now instead of my feet getting hit it was my hands and about 300 meters into the swim another competitor knocked my $600 Garmin triathlon watch off. It was gone, and so was my ability to gauge my pacing, speed, heart rate, and every other metric that I had trained with to pace myself for the race. The second problem was that I had learned to swim and ‘sight’ (see where you are going without stopping swimming) based upon some literature I had read and I was actually quite good at it. Which also wouldn’t seem like a problem except now I didn’t have to stop during the swim and it seems that turning your head side to side while breathing hard horizontally makes you a little dizzy. A lot dizzy and a little sick. A lot sick. I threw up in my mouth a little. But after a little break to clear that up I felt good again and continued on. With no training, I actually ended up doing the unthinkable and beating my time from last year.

Swim Finish: 37:03 and I beat my time by 10:26! WHO NEEDS TO TRAIN??? Not this guy!

Transition number 1: Last year – 7:46, Goal – Not to fall over

Last year I fell over because of standing up after swimming. This year I wanted to be able to stand up like a big boy. There were two methods I read about to be able to do this, kicking hard before exit and keeping water out of the ears. It appears all my training was reading about swimming and not actually doing it. But it worked! I was still a little dizzy but was able to walk to my bike no problem. Once I had my bike ready, I saw a guy in pain stretching after the swim, and asked if he needed anything. He asked if I would press on his foot to help stretch out his calf so I did. After about 30 seconds he thanked me, I wished him well, and now was coherent enough to be able to run out of transition.

Transition number 1: 3:54! Great transition and good deed of the day completed. Booyah!

Bike: Last year – 2:59:00, Goal – 2:45:00

My plan was to go easy on the bike because I spent all summer training for the run. I did not want to cook my legs cycling and blow up on the run like the year before. Going easy should be just that, easy. It was not. Not when my GPS was now at the bottom of the lake and now all of my training use speed, cadence and heart rate was gone. This means I had no external information to tell me I was going too hard and I had to rely on my own perceived exertion. What you perceive your exertion to be is challenging during a race can cause quite the internal argument between taking it easy and getting passed by other racers. Here’s what the internal struggle sounded like at about the 20km mark.

(Going along at the perceived pace that I should be going)
“A lot of people are passing me maybe I’m going too easy…”
“Those guys are better than you and they are on expensive bikes… you’re not THAT good”

(Get passed by a guy on a cheaper bike, not looking as fit, in my age group)
“You can’t let him pass you, quit being a baby and go a little faster..”
“My plan was to take it easy…”
“But a little faster wouldn’t hurt you…”
(Pass the guy that just passed me)
“There ya go, good job Clarke, that wasn’t so bad now was it”
“It’s still ok, but I need to eat something now and I’m going to fast to eat and ride”
“If you eat I will have to slow down and that guy will pass you”
“But I need to eat”
“But then you have to slow down, and that not happening…”
(A few minutes go by at that pace then I get passed by a younger lady looking extremely fit)
“Awe hell no, you ain’t going to let that happen”
“But I need to slow down and eat, not speed up to catch someone”
“Fine fatty, I guess food is more important than racing isn’t it?”
“No, but…”
“Get your butt in gear and catch up!”

That’s how the entire bike went. I was constantly fighting with myself and I am really good at it. I had to deal with my brain instead of a computer telling about my own body. Dealing with me was harder than pushing down on the pedal. I sincerely apologize to all of you that ever have to deal with me. It sucks.

Bike: 2:43:12, still beat my goal!

Transition number 2. Last year – 3:17, This year 2:22. Nailed every part of this. But it is really about getting off a bike, taking a helmet off, putting shoes on, and you’re done.

The Run… dunt dunt daaaaaaaa!!!! Last year – 2:43:44, Goal 2 hours even.

I had spent the entire year working to improve my running ability. This was my focus, and this is the part of the race I had been training for. I begin to run out of transition and I feel like a million dollars. I know the race has gone well so far, I feel good and I trained for this part of the race. This feeling of euphoria quickly ended 100 meters into the run when, BANG! Both my quads are hit with cramps. Then it hit me, I just trained by running and more running. I completely did not train for running after getting off the bike. A serious oversight which I learned that day is much like learning to expertly take off fly a plane without learning to land one. Amusingly, the results end up being pretty much the same. This race wasn’t about being able to do the cardio, it became about getting through the pain. I was able to ‘muscle’ (hahaha) through it and the cramps left after about a kilometer. This cycle repeated again around the 5 and 10 and 15 kilometer marks. I was lucky that at around the 1k mark, a fellow racer named Brian and I started to run together.

Brian was about 50 feet ahead of me though transition and I slowly caught up to him. I noticed three things: He looks like a triathlete, He’s 35, (age is written on the back of your leg) and he has THE triathlon watch just like the one set at the bottom of the lake for safekeeping. As I caught up to him, we began to chat I learned three more things: He has done many triathlons, he flew here from Los Angeles, and running is his best event. I was clearly out of my league as it become clear that he was much better triathlete than I.

I wondered now how fast together he and I were running as again I was unable to use my watch for pacing and heart rate. He did ask if I wanted to know the pace and I declined because I was doing what I thought to be fantastic. It felt good and it felt easy. When I got the cramps at 5 and 10k his pace and ability as a conversationalist is what kept me running at a good speed. Unfortunately, even he couldn’t get me through the cramps at 15. My calf started to seize, and the lack of eating food on the bike had accumulated to my need to walk. It wasn’t the fight with my cardiovascular system that I had prepared for, but instead, one with my muscles. Brian clearly could keep going and I told him he should continue on. He told me, “We ran this far together, why would I leave now?” and we ran (mostly walked) to keep me going until the finish line.

Run: 2:24:03 Still 20 minutes better than the previous year.

I beat last year by 54 minutes and finished the race in 5:50:25. I’m going to train to do it again even better next year. To overcome the challenges that I faced this year and try to prepare for the new ones that will inevitably arise. Why am I going to do this again? Where else could you, in just under 6 hours, lose $600, get sick and threw up in your mouth, have a schizophrenic episode with yourself, seize every muscle in your lower body, and make a friend? Sign me up for one of those.

2015 Calgary Half Ironman

If you want to hear the story of how my first triathlon went horribly bad, read on.

Last year I decided that I was going to sign up for a triathlon. Not a sprint or olympic distance triathlon, a half ironman distance. 1.9km swim, 90km bike, 21.1km run. I think they should have cameras on the people like me that have no business being in the race to watch the train wreck that is going to be there race. Because there were no cameras on me, let me tell you the story.

The swim. 47:25 (goal 45 minutes)

During the warm up I saw a decently large fish eating something in water that was about six feet deep. Insert every fear pertaining to the movie ‘Jaws’ and then go have a swim. It was a great way to get ready for the swim. I am a decent swimmer so I thought I would take a position near the front of the pack. The swim starts and now I want you to picture 200 people in wetsuits, swimming to the same place, at the same time. It only took about 100 meters from the shore and I found myself behind someone and trying to stay far enough back that I don’t touch his feet. The person behind me wasn’t as courteous. Every time he touched my feet, my heart rate would race and I froze on the spot, check and make sure that it wasn’t a great white shark, and then continue swimming. Before my heart rate would relax i would get touched again, stop, check, continue. And again. And again. Each time my heart rate would skyrocket until finally after about 50 more meters, it was going to beat out of my chest and I could swim no more. I stopped and tread water and forced everyone to swim around me while I gained my composure. Can I quit? I turned around to see another 100 people swimming at me. Swimming against the flow made me more nauseated. Can I get to one of the volunteers in a boat? Sideways didn’t seem like a good option either. So I stayed there treading water and let nearly the entire field pass me as I tried to regain my composure. Finally after 2 or 3 minutes I continued on in the race. For the next 500 meters every time I turned my head to breath I thought I saw someone beside me. Which now made my swimming stroke pull, pull, breathe, AHHHHHH!, stop, check. Pull, pull, breathe, OMG!, stop, check. Also because I hadn’t practiced seeing where I am going WHILE swimming, for the rest of the swim after 5 or so breaths, I would completely stop swimming and make sure I was on course and continue on.

Transition number one. 7:46 (Goal 4 minutes)

As I am swimming to the swim finish and my hand grazes the mud at the bottom of the lake I take a few more stokes and decide that the water is shallow enough that I can run. I stand up and promptly start to run…. and then fall completely over. My head is spinning. In an effort not to drown in a foot of water I frantically try to stand up. This seems impossible so I end up taking a knee until I feel that I could stand. It was the feeling just like when you stand up really quickly and are a little light-headed. As it turns out, if you try to stand up really quickly after 47 minutes of horizontal cardio you really really light-headed. When I am finally able to stand I start making my way to the bike. Running while taking off a wetsuit is the most awkward thing to try to do. It’s even more awkward when your head is still swimming and you’re not exactly sure which way is down. This continued as I tried to get ready for the bike. Finally, I just sat down and took some time to gather myself. After 7 whole minutes, I decided that I could probably balance on a bike and I would let the rest wear off while I was pedaling.

Bike 2:59:00 (Goal 3:00:00)

This is my strength in triathlon, and the only time during the race that I hit my goal. Actually everything went pretty well during this leg of the race. Except for going up the one hill climb and then going down it. Now I am not very good at climbing hills because I have a little more fighting against gravity than most other triathletes. So as I start to climb the hill, everyone starts passing me. EVERYONE. But usually I am able to make some of this up going down the hills. So as I crest the hill I hunker down and get ready for the decent. I passed 3 or 4 people then I came upon a woman, white knuckled and riding her brakes down the hill. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem except she was hugging the white line and there was a guard rail on the right which made passing on that side pretty sketchy. “On your left!” I yelled, but she didn’t budge. I yelled again and she didn’t move from the white line to make room to pass. With no oncoming traffic, I thought that I would pass in the traffic lane and surely anyone in a vehicle would move over into the oncoming lane to give me room. I passed the lady, and just as I do so a jacked up black pickup passes me so close that I could probably have licked his mirror. The startle of seeing a vehicle so close made me give the bike a little shake which nearly made me run into the truck. Thankfully, I was able to move over and survive to bike another day.

Transition number two. 3:17 (Goal 2:30)

Your brain doesn’t work so good after 4 hours of cardio. I took my shoes off while on the bike, pedaling on top of the shoes that are still attached. I get to where my stuff is, take off my helmet and put my running shoes on and start to run out of the transition area and into the run. I get just to the end and start to slow down to a stop. I had that sinking feeling that I forgot something. I forgot all the food in my bag that I wanted to take with me on the run. So I turned around and went back to my bag, and loaded up the food that I had ready, and left again. It’s just never a good feeling when your running against the flow during a race.

Run 2:43:44 (Goal 2:15:00)

Did you know that you should train to run? I didn’t and it showed. After 7km I hit the wall and died. Unable to continue running because of the complete lack of fitness I had to run/walk the remaining 14km and it took two whole hours. Do you know what it’s like to not have anything left in the tank, and still have two hours ahead of you? I do, and it’s the worst experience of my life. The people at Ironman know this, and that’s where they get you. To have a laugh, they put a turnaround at 10km, so your as far from the start as the finish. If you want to quit, you have to walk your butt back anyways, so you may as well try to ‘race.’ At around kilometer 12 I got passed by a guy that according to his leg was in the 60-64 age group. I yelled at him “your over 60 and kicking my ass!” Around kilometer 15 while I was attempting to jog, I got passed by a guy walking. Walking! It was then clear to me that I was doing a lot of bouncing up and down without a lot of forward motion.

In total, I completed the race in 6:41:16 and finished 736 out of 898 finishers. As I crossed the finish line I was hooked. I became a finisher. I became a triathlete. I became Superman… almost.