Sunday, December 30, 2007


I am thinking about my goals for the 2008 triathlon season, and I was reviewing my 2007 goals. Straight away, I don't think I had especially good goals for 2007. I didn't think about the 2007 goals much during the year. I sure didn't make a special effort to meet them other than simply showing up at races and doing the best that I could. The 2007 "goals" were more of a wish list.

In 2007, I wanted to finish IMAZ and the Half-Silverman. Well, I showed up and I finished the races, and I enjoyed myself. I had "icing on the cake" goals to finish in less than 13:30/6:00 respectively. Flat tires in Arizona and too many hills and too much wind in Nevada (combined with minimal training) kept me from coming close to either of those times.

I wanted to finish in the Top Three in my age group in the SWCS. Although there are at least three people in my age group who are way faster than me, they didn't do eight races. I ended up winning my age group. Things would have been different if these other guys had been at more races, but I felt good about my season which included six wins, four seconds, and a third place in my eleven races.

I also wanted to set a PR in at least one race. This was not a good goal, given the variables in every race from year to year (wind, heat, where the turn-around buoy is placed at Bottomless, etc.) However, I did have two PR's. One was at Levelland, where the wind wasn't blowing for the first time in six years, and the other was at the Milkman, which actually is a pretty consistent course year to year.

Finally, I wanted to complete a 5K run in less than 21 minutes. I did the 5K run at Levelland in 21:37 and at Odessa it took me 21:45, but that is as close as I could get. I never did any training for this, and I'm sure not getting any younger, so I don't know why I should have ever expected to meet this goal.

So, what about 2008? I've never really worried about having an "A-race" to plan around, but I really want to concentrate on two races this year. I've done the BSLT 70.3 before, but mostly I just wanted to finish the race. Given the level of competition there, I won't ever finish on the podium (top half of my age group is possible), but I'm going to shoot to finish in under 5:45. (The winner of my age group will be about one hour in ahead of this.) I did the Half-Silverman in 2007, and I'm moving up to the Full Silverman this year. OK, just finishing is my goal, but if I train the way I plan to train, I should be able to finish in under 15:00. (The winner of my age group will be about three hours ahead of this.)

There you are. Two races. Two goals. Everything else will be icing on the cake.

Have a great 2008!


Monday, December 24, 2007


How do I dislike swimming, let me count the ways..........

The Outlaws are entered as a team in the USAT National Challenge Competition. It's a pretty informal competition between teams to see who can log the most training miles per month. December is supposed to be the "Swim Session" month.

Straight away, it's always difficult for me to motivate myself to go for a swim. First off, I have to go to "the pool". (I can start a bike or run from my own driveway.) And I can only go to "the pool" during their scheduled "open swim sessions" when I'm not at work. For me, this means early in the morning (lose an hour of sleep) or in the evening (loss of family time and time to grade papers). "The pool" is used by a lot of people, but not many of them are "swimming". Senior citizens do a lot of water walking, and other folks like to float on their backs in a lane with a lifebelt to hold them up. (I'm sure they are telling their heart surgeons that they are getting in their "X"-hours of cardio per week.) Most times I can get at least half a lane to swim some laps, but there are days when I have to wait in order to start a workout. And then there is the smell of chlorine. I always shower with soap after a swim, but I can smell the chlorine afterwards, my wife always mentions how she smells it, and even my students in class said I smelled like chlorine.

Regardless, I figured I would do my bit for the team and try to log 20 miles of swimming this month. I know this is not a lot of miles for some triathletes, and if you look at the standings there are already people on some other teams with more than 50 swim miles this month. However, I normally only get in about 8-12 miles of swimming per month, and I've never in my life done more than 16 miles in one month. Throw in the limited days that the local pool is even open because of their "holiday schedule" along with the end of semester workload at school, and 20 miles of swimming was always going to be a challenge.

As of today, (Christmas Eve), I've been to the pool seventeen times and logged 18.65 miles. I'd like to say that it has been worth the time and effort and that I am now a much faster swimmer. However, although I might be a leetle faster (and I'm certainly no slower), it has not made a huge difference. Mostly, I just smelled like chlorine a lot of the time.

Where I did see a difference was in my bike and run fitness. In order to get in this amount of swimming (while keeping up with work, paying the bills, Christmas shopping, etc.) I spent almost no time on my bike or running. I've often thought that if I never raced a triathlon I would still ride my bike and run, but I probably wouldn't bother swimming. I don't swim hard enough to get in much of a cardio workout, and I could feel the difference after two weeks. I did some biking and running this weekend, and it sure felt good to be back on the road.

January is supposed to be the "Bike Session". I'm personally looking forward to getting out and logging some bike miles. Can't imagine what the teams in Michigan are going to do?


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Five Easy Pieces (Interesting Facts?)

If I was an interesting person, I'd write a biography that would sell a million copies and then I could really retire. However, since skoshi asked, here you are......

1. My mom's side of my family was a lot more interesting than my dad's. She had two sisters, Lulu (actual name) and Wilma. Everyone called Wilma "Bumpy", but I don't know why. They left the farm when they were young, moved to the big city (Rochester, NY), and married Italian men, Lou DiFazio and Guy Borelli. City dwelling, Italian, Roman Catholics. Wow, they and their families were pretty exotic to me. THEY could write a biography that would sell a million copies.

2. I have a twin brother. We wore matching clothes every day of the week through sixth grade. We were both pretty good students, but starting in the sixth grade I went off the boil while he continued to excel. He scored 1600 on his SAT's, went to med school, and is now a well-to-do physician in California. I wish I had kept up with him.

3. I was the first chair trombone in the 1972 Stueben County (NY) "Wind Ensemble". This was as high as you could get for a public school band student from my school in NY State. However, I really wasn't that good. That was my senior year in high school. Because I had scored an "A-Rating" on my audition (Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue", I shudder now just thinking how it sounded as a trombone solo), I ended up ahead of the juniors and sophomores in the county who were actually better than me.

4. I voted for George McGovern for president in 1972. Nixon won easily, and there weren't very many people in the USAF who voted for McGovern. However, I felt I'd made the best choice in 1972, and I felt even better about my choice two years later.

5. I was a fighter pilot in the USAF for twenty years, ending up with about 4000 flying hours in the F-4, A-10, and F-111. Most of the flying was pretty tame stuff, training for WW III versus the Ruskies. I flew some "combat sorties" over Iraq in 1991, but these weren't very dangerous either. It was just after the First War With Iraq, and the Kurds were running from Iraq into Turkey. The Turks didn't want them either, so the Kurds were freezing and starving in the mountains along the border between the two countries. We flew escort and recon missions for the transport aircraft carrying tents, food, and water to the Kurds. We generally stooged around northern Iraq keeping an eye on the Iraqis. The Iraqis had just gotten their butts whipped in Kuwait, so they would just wave at us and we would wave back. I did fly some missions over Iraq with Chad Hennings Shortly after this, he got out of the Air Force and went on to play with the Super Bowl Dallas Cowboys of the 1990's.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Viva, Las Vegas!

I managed to get two days off from school so that I could do the Half Silverman in Henderson, NV, on 11/11/07. (Veteran's Day, or Remembrance Day in the UK.) I wasn't up for the Full Silverman, but Myles and Cody were going to race the full so I knew I'd have company from some fellow Outlaws.

The first leg of the race was the drive from Clovis to Nevada. Myles had offered to let me car pool with him, so it worked out that I could leave Clovis Thursday PM and spend the night at chez Pilgrim. The 3.5 hour drive to ABQ was a nice warm up. We got up fairly early on Friday morning, stopped for coffee, hit Myle's favorite drive-in for breakfast, and then pointed west on I-40. I was going to grade lab reports and Myles was going to listen to books on tape. However, the i-pod cable gave up the ghost, so we ended up stopping in Gallup for a new one. Now we were really cruising in style, but then the i-pod ran out of charge. No problem, says Myles, there's a brand new never been opened charger in the passenger door panel. Well, I don't know if you've ever tried to open something in one of those bullet proof hard plastic covers without at least having a pair of scissors, but it ain't easy. About twenty minutes later, I had wrestled the silly thing open, and I had gotten in a good upper body work out too. From there on, it was "Death in the White City" (or a title close to that) coming from the i-pod while I graded more than half of the 61 chemistry and physics lab reports that I had with me.

About 9-10 hours after leaving ABQ, we were pulling up to the race expo in Sin City, Jr. (I don't think Henderson is really in the same league as Las Vegas, but you know you're not in Kansas anymore.) We bumped into Cody while we were doing packet pick up and bought a few things at the expo that we'd forgotten to bring with us. Then it was off to the Sunset Station casino/hotel, which was the host hotel for the race. This was a nice place to stay by any measure, and you got a significant discount for being in the race. Soon it was time for the pre-race pasta diner at the Convention Center. It was a good meal for the athletes, and you had the usual "thanks for coming/glad you're here" speeches from the race director. Don't get me wrong, they were really happy to have us there, and they made you feel that way. The highlight of the diner was the two short talks given by Dave Scott and Chris McCormack. The race director is really sharp and he seems to have a lot of connections. (Remember the 2006 Silverman where Tyler Hamilton and a couple of buddies showed up to try to win some large prize ($100,000) for finishing under 8 hours. They missed it by a few minutes when their runner melted down on the run.) Not only were Dave and Macca there for autographs and speeches, they were going to race the Half Silverman.

I adjusted my race goal to try to get clear of T-2 before Macca (who I figured would be the race winner) crossed the finish line.

Saturday started with a free pancake breakfast, and then the administrative details such as bike and bag check-ins. Myles and I drove the road portion of the bike course, which was obviously not flat, but it seemed to be doable. We attended the "mandatory" pre-race meeting, ate some pizza, and went to bed early.

Sunday, race day. They had shuttle buses to take you from the hotel to the race start/T-1 out at Lake Mead. After the horror stories of how cold and windy it was in 2006, this year was positively balmy. The air temp at the start must have been in the 50's and it warmed up pretty quickly to the 60's where it stayed until after sunset. They said the water was 70 degrees, and it didn't feel cold although I couldn't stop shivering while waiting for the gun to go off. (Really bad nerves, I guess.) The water in Lake Mead is really clear, especially when you are used to the swims in NM and West Texas. For the first few hundred meters, we were sheltered by a breakwater, and I thought I was going pretty well. However, once you cleared the breakwater, the 20 mph winds had stirred up some 2-foot waves. It wasn't exactly the north shore of Oahu, but is made the swim pretty tough. I was trying to time my stroke so that I could breath and sight while I was on top of a wave. But it wasn't easy. I knew my swim time was going to suck, and sure enough it was the slowest "wetsuit" 1.2-miles swim I've ever done. Still, I felt like it was a good swim.

The first 36 miles or so of the 56-mile bike were challenging but pretty fun. Lots of hills but nice wide roads with perfect pavement. Then, you turn off the road onto "the bike path". Everyone talks about the first three hills in the first mile of the bike path (known as "the three sisters".) They are really steep (18 percent) but thankfully none of them are very long. I figured once I had made it to the top of the last hill I could just cruise to T-2. However, you had a 6-mile slog into a 20-30 mph headwind on the rest of the bike path. At first I thought my rear tire had gone flat because I was moving so slowly. Eventually, I got back into town, and there were some volunteers and spectators to provide some support for the final miles into T-2.

I need to point out how well the race is supported by volunteers. There were only about 400 racers, counting both the full and half along with the relay teams. But there were plenty of volunteers. Of course you got all the things you would expect like aid stations and people to take your bike when you got to T-2. But I really liked the guys in the changing tents at T-1 and T-2. "Just leave all of your stuff on the ground. We'll bag it up for you." So I did just drop everything I was finished with or didn't need, and sure enough it was all in my bag when I picked it up after the race. My transition timex were easily my fastest ever at half or full IM distance.

Coming out of T-2, I could hear the announcers, and it didn't sound like Macca had finished. Sure enough, I got out of T-2 about six minutes before he crossed the finish line. The first mile of the run was downhill, and I thought I might be able to finish the run in two hours. The next two miles were uphill, and I changed my goal to running 10-minute miles. By the time I made it to the turn-around (which because of the twisted layout of the course was at the 7.6-mile point) I knew I wasn't even going to manage a 10-minute mile pace. It was a really tough course for me. There were very few flat sections. I wasn't going that fast on the downhills, and I was really slow when the road went uphill. I did manage to save enough so that I could "run" the last quarter-mile, and the announcers gave my NM Outlaws jersey a shout out.

I ended up with my slowest Half-IM time ever, but I think it was my best Half-IM race ever other than two years ago at Harvest Moon. It is such a tough course that anyone who says their PR was at the Silverman must not have done any other races. I ended up 4th in my age group (out of 11 finishers) and 72 out of about 170 overall. Next year, if I just do some serious training............

I had plenty of time to catch a shuttle bus back to the hotel, shower, swing by In and Out Burger, and then head back to the finish to catch the folks on the Full Silverman. Cody didn't quite make the bike cutoff that they had established for getting onto the bike path. It wouldn't be safe to let anyone onto that bike path after dark, and it gets dark early in Nevada in November. (But he did get in a nice 2.4-mile swim and 89-mile bike ride.) Myles came cruising into the finish in just over 15 hours. Just finishing the Full Silverman is an accomplishment, and a 15-hour race at the Silverman is really a good time.

We went to the awards ceremony on Monday morning. More free food and more funny speeches from Dave Scott and Macca. They brought out a Vegas showgirl, tastefully attired to present the trophies. Myles picked up his 3rd-place Clyde trophy and then we hit the road again. We had the long 9.5-hour trip to ABQ, but it was uneventful. I loaded up my vehicle with my stuff, bid Myles farewell, and then hit the road for Clovis. I was thinking I'd get home by 12:30 AM, but a vehicle wreck on I-40 had traffic stopped for almost an hour. By the time I got home and unpacked most of my stuff, it was after 2 AM. Just enough time to get 4 hours of sleep before heading into work.

I highly recommend the Half Silverman if you're looking for an end-of-season long course race and you aren't stuck up about only wanting to do an M-dot race. It is such a well run and well organized event, and although challenging, the Half Silverman course is beautiful and a lot of fun.

You probably enjoy suffering if you sign up for the Full Silverman, but everyone who did that race seemed to really have a good time too.