Thursday, December 31, 2009

2010 Goals

Three goals.

1. Run a sub-21-minute 5K. This has been my goal for the past few years, and I haven't made it yet. But this year, I won't be doing any half or full ironmans, so I'll have some time to train towards this.

2. Set a PR at Buffman & Squeaky

3. Set a PR at Elephant Man

Goals #2 and #3 sort of go together. I really like these two races, they're both Olympic distance, they both have open water swims, and they both have bike courses that aren't perfectly flat (especially Elephant Man). I had a good but not great race this year at Buff & Squeak. I ran a half-marathon "for fun" the day before this year's Elephant Man and I ran out of gas by the time I finished the Elephant Man bike leg. For 2010, I'm going to make a real effort to be ready for these two races and then see what I can do.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Silverman 2009

This weekend, I've graded about 300 chemistry homework assignments, 8 AP Physics lab reports, 24 final exams from my community college classes, raked and bagged the leaves, and sorted the mail. I'm as "caught up" as I've been in two months.

So, it's time to get off my Silverman report.

Straight away, Silverman is the coolest race ever. OK, I've never been to Kona, Escape From Alcatraz, Wildflower, etc., but these races would have to be beyond cool to be better than Silverman. There are plenty of places where you can read about how tough Silverman is. It's definitely not easy, but I'm sure any "iron distance" triathlon isn't easy. I like Silverman for a lot of reasons. The race director really does a great job. It's the best organized race I've ever done. The swag is great. The volunteers are outstanding. The local police go beyond the call of duty. The course is spectacular, starting with a swim in Lake Mead, a bike course across hills and valleys, and a run along pleasant streets and a shopping center in Henderson. And it's Vegas!

I left Clovis after school on Thursday (Nov 5th) and drove 5 hours to Grants, NM. It takes about 13 hours to drive from Clovis to Vegas. You can do packet pick-up on Saturday, but I like to get to Henderson for the Friday packet pick-up and the Friday pre-race dinner. It's an easy drive from Grants to Henderson, other than the bottleneck that Hoover Dam has become. I lived in Vegas from 1978-1980 while I was in the USAF, and we'd occasionally go out to Hoover Dam for something to do. There was no traffic, and almost no other people there. Now, I think it must rival Disneyland as a tourist attraction. They are building a bridge that will cross the canyon so that you don't have to drive across the top of the dam. However, when Myles and I drove there three years ago they were working on the bridge, and it doesn't look like they have made much progress on it. Maybe they didn't get their stimulus money?

Packet pick-up was uneventful. I stayed at the Holiday Inn express that is in the back parking lot of the Sunset Station casino. (The Sunset Station is the host hotel, and I've stayed there the past two years. Their rooms are really nice, but I saved about $100 by staying in the Holiday Inn.) They put on a nice pre-race dinner at the Henderson Convention Center, and Dave Scott was there again to give a short pep-talk and to tell a few funny stories about racing with Mark Allen. (What ever happened to the USA when it comes to getting results in Ironman racing?)

On Saturday I hit the pancake breakfast put on by the LDS church. They had the pre-race meeting on Saturday morning this year. This worked out much better than waiting around for the Saturday afternoon meeting that we've had the past two years. I went back to my room to grade lab reports, and a friend from Clovis called to tell me he'd made it into town. (Tom Duggan, the "Irish guy" that some of you may have met at the Bottomless races.) He was doing the Half-Silverman. I had taken his bike from Clovis to Henderson with me in my car. We made it to packet pick-up with an hour to spare, then took our bikes out to Lake Mead for bike and bag check-in. We did an early dinner at Pizza Hut, then I went to bed while Tom hit the Strip. (Oh, to be young again.)

Sunday was race day. They run shuttles from the Sunset Station to Lake Mead starting at 4:30. Tom's race didn't start until 8:30 (the Full Silverman starts at 7:00) so he slept in while I walked over to the bus. The bus ride takes 20-30 minutes, but when we got to the "Park Entrance", we ran into a problem. (That's another change from when I lived there. It's now "Lake Mead National Recreation Area." When I lived there, you just drove out to the lake and you didn't have to pay anything unless you were using a camp ground.) "Ranger Rick" told the bus driver that it would cost $250 to bring the bus through the gate. I thought he was joking, but "Ranger Rick" was dead serious. Someone said something about paying with a credit card and then getting the race director to reimburse him, but in the end we (the athletes) just got off the bus and walked the 1.5 miles from the gate to the transition area. (Edit to add. The race director and/or one of the volunteers raced up to the "Park Entrance" and got everything sorted out before the second bus arrived, and everyone else got to the start of the race with no problems. And "Ranger Rick" was just doing his job. There's always that 10% of the people involved in anything that somehow fail to get the word ahead of time.)

I check my bike and then went to the changing tent to lie down and relax. I was pretty scared about this race. I had had such a bad time during the 2008 Silverman when it was wet, cold, and windy. Beyond that, "iron-distance" racing is just so tough for me. I really enjoy sprints and olympic distance racing, but once I go beyond the three-hour point, I'm always hurting. I don't just mean uncomfortable, I am hurting. I hoped that I was ready for this year's race, but you never know. It was a real relief when it was time to put on my wetsuit and get into the water.

For the first time this year, I saw Andy Cope when I got into the water. Andy has done the Silverman the past three years. He is a hammer on the bike, but not very fast in the water. We wished each other luck, and then the gun went off right on time at 7:00. Counting the "pro's" (who start with everyone else) and the relay teams, there were only about 220 people in the swim for the Full Silverman. (The Half-Silverman had about 450 swimmers in their wave, but it didn't go off until 8:30.) I know that you get a special vibe at an M-dot race with 2000+ swimmers going off at once, but I much prefer having some space to myself in the water. The water in Lake Mead is clear enough that you can see other swimmers 15-20 feet away. I just pick out one or two people who look like they know where they are going and I follow them. This way I only have to "sight" once in a while, so the swim is pretty easy for me. I finished in 1:15, which was 22 minutes faster than last year when we had the 40 mph winds and four foot waves.

The bike leg at Silverman gets a lot of attention for its 11,000 feet of climbing, but overall I don't think it's too bad. The net gain in elevation is only 1000-2000 feet, so you get a lot of downhill "payback" on the bike. The worst part for me is the long climb at about the 60-mile point. You make a steady climb for 4-5 miles. The grade is probably only 5% or so, but it's a long time to be climbing without a break. The "signature moment" on the bike is at the 92-mile point. You come off the main road onto a bike path, and there you have the "3-Sisters". They are steep (15-18%) and it's no fun doing them after 92 miles of riding. But they're pretty short (maybe two hundred meters each) so you can get out of your saddle and grunt your way over them. They're not easy, but heck, it's supposed to be tough! The last 10 miles or so of the bike are through the streets of Henderson, and you get some great stretches of downhill riding. I finished the bike in 7:21, which was almost 30-minutes faster than last year when I was freezing for the first half of the bike course.

The run is two laps of a 13.1-mile loop. It starts off on a gentle downhill, which can give you a false sense of how fast you can do the run. Then, its a 2-3 mile climb, followed by more descents and more climbs. There isn't much "flat" there. I was taking it real easy on the first lap. Last year, I really struggled on the second lap, and I wanted to save something this year. However, I think my big problem was that I was just about frozen stiff on the second lap last year. This year, the weather was perfect. Still, I was scared about the second lap. I was "running" 10-11 minute laps and walking through the aid stations. Then, I hit the 20 or 21-mile point and I knew that I was "home free". I started "running", and by the last three miles I was doing 8:45 or so miles. For the first time ever in an "iron-distance" race, I broke 5-hours on the run (4:42:46) and my overall time was 13:30. This was my fastest "iron-distance" race ever.

They put on a breakfast and awards ceremony on Monday morning. I picked up the third place trophy for my age group, and then Tom and I hit the road to return to Clovis. (BTW, Tom really enjoyed the Half-Ironman. He's always kind of slow on the swim, but he can normally hammer the bike. However, he did run out of gas towards the end of the bike, and the run is tough for everyone. But he had a lot of fun.) We joined the other tourists for a while at Hoover Dam, then it was off to catch I-40 and back to New Mexico.

I would do this race again in a heartbeat if it was during a "school holiday". It's tough doing it during the school year. The "administration" hates to give time off for a boondoggle like this. Beyond that, I get behind on my classes and it's tough to get caught up again. I haven't signed up for 2010 yet, but it's such a great race, I won't rule anything out.


Friday, August 7, 2009

Chile Harvest

Who would have thought that they would have an excellent sprint triathlon in Socorro, NM. Socorro is one of those small towns (population 9000) that you pass while driving on an Interstate Highway (I-25 in this case) and you wonder why the town is there. Like most of these small towns, you'd find a nice community in Socorro if you took the time to stop and visit. Among other things, Socorro is the home of New Mexico Tech, and they have a very pleasant campus on the west side of town. Quite a few of my high school physics and chemistry students end up attending New Mexico Tech.

Socorro is about one hour south of Albuquerque and about two hours north of El Paso/Las Cruces, so they can draw on a fairly large number of potential triathletes. It's a four-hour drive from Clovis to Socorro. I was going to take a pass on the race this year because I didn't want to make that drive, but in the end I couldn't pass up the opportunity to do the race. A factor in my decision was that this race determines the Club Championship for the triathlon clubs in New Mexico. The New Mexico Outlaws had won this the past three years, and no other club had ever won it four years in a row.

They limit the race to about 320 participants and they sell out early every year. This year I got to Socorro early enough on the day prior to the race to do packet pick-up. Along with packet pick-up, they had a free spaghetti dinner and some of the locals playing live bluegrass/country music. I met a couple of guys from Taos, had a nice dinner, and then checked into the Econo Lodge for the night.

They moved the start of the race up to 7:00 AM this year. It was still pretty dark at 6:00 when they opened transition. There were also people doing their packet pick-up on race morning. I was thinking there was no way they would be able to start the race as scheduled. However, they got through the "pre-race briefing" quickly, everyone seemed to get their stuff set-up on time, and we headed over to the pool for the swim start.

Socorro has a nice 50-meter pool with eight lanes. They use chip timing, and the swim is a time trial start with about 5 seconds between swimmers. Some people thought that the swim was too crowded, but I've never had any problems there and I didn't have any problems this year. It's one-way traffic in each lane, and there's plenty of room to pass or to be passed. It is so much less crowded than a big race like Jay Benson where they do a run-bike-swim format. I think it's less crowded than even a small race like the Cotton Country Sprint that also uses the run-bike-swim format. And the amount of "body contact" at this swim doesn't begin to compare to the punching and kicking that takes place at a mass start open water swim.

The swim start order is based on the predicted times of the participants. I had predicted a 400-meter time of 7:52 which put me as the 127th starter. I could see some people in the water ahead of me who must have predicted a six-minute time but who looked like they were going to take more than ten minutes to breast stroke/back stroke/side stroke their way through the water. For myself, I exited the water in 7:48, but by the time I ran over the chip timer I ended up with a swim time of 7:53.

For some reason, I decided to wear my bib number on the bike. No big deal, but it took a few seconds standing in T-1 to get my race belt buckled. (It sure makes more sense to do this during T-2 while I'm running out of transition instead of simply standing at my bike.) Anyway, I headed out on the bike and was quickly passed by fellow Outlaw, Cody, who had started about 30 second behind me on the swim. Last year at this race, I had a really strong bike. I thought I was feeling pretty good this year. I was thinking, "Dang, Cody, when did you get so fast on the bike!" We leap frogged past each other for the first couple of miles before he dropped slightly off my pace. The 20K bike route goes out to two different turn-around points, and there are two north bound legs that are both about two miles long. We had a fairly strong head wind on these two legs, and I knew it was going to hurt my overall bike time. The part of the ride that I always remember is the downhill section that you ride after passing a guard shack about two miles after the second turn around point. It's not very steep, and there are just a couple of easy turns on it, but I'm always going as fast as I dare to ride on a bike unless a road is perfectly straight. I made it back to T-2 about 45 seconds slower than last year's race but at a still reasonably fast (for me) 21.6 mph average speed.

The 5K run starts out on a city street heading north. The first time I did this race, you eventually turned off the street and ran along the top of a dike that borders an irrigation ditch. The last two times they kept the run on city streets. This year, we were back to the run on top of the dike. Not a big deal to me one way or the other, but people seemed to like this run better. With about one mile to go, Patrick Hall caught up to me. He is one year younger than me and I "aged up" this year, so we are not in the same age group, but we're pretty close in ability to each other and pretty competitive in most races. I worked as hard as I could to stay in front of him, although I didn't know if he had started the swim before me or after me. I managed to finish just in front of him (or he kindly allowed me to cross the finish line first). My run time, 23:04, wasn't spectacular, but it was good for me in a swim-bike-run tri.

I registered with for this race, and they sent me an e-mail to "review" the race. It was interesting to see what the other reviewers thought. Almost all of the comments were positive. No one seemed too upset about anything, but a couple of people had suggestions about changing some aspect of the race so that we wouldn't have to run "in the heat of the day." Gosh, most people were finished with the race and their 5K run before 10:00, and I don't think the temperature was above 80 degrees F by then. I can appreciate the wish to avoid running a marathon at noontime in 90 degree temperatures, but this wasn't bad at all. A couple of people commented on how long it took before the awards ceremony started. I thought they got started fairly quickly this year, they had accurate results, the awards were nice (jugs and glasses from a local brewery/restaurant) and everything was wrapped up before 11:30. I wish all races were as quick and organized about their awards ceremonies.

Overall, my time was about 45 seconds slower than last year (pretty much all from the bike leg) at 1:07:58, but it was fast enough to win my age group. We had a big gang of Outlaws there. Cody, John, and Miguel also won their groups, Michi, Mark, Debi, and Brian all ended up on their podiums, and we had plenty of other finishers. In the end, we had plenty of firepower at this race to successfully defend the State Club Championship again. Now we'll have to get ready for next year!


Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Is summer great or what! The annual Brett Favre soap opera, NCAA football "media days" for each and every conference in the country, and plenty of free time for me. Yesterday the summer issue of "USA Triathlon Life" arrived. Receiving this magazine must be one of the "bennies" of being a USAT member. It's not the greatest magazine that I've ever read, but it's not bad by any means. Two interesting items in this issue.

There was an article, "The New Carbon", talking about water shortages around the world and especially how this relates to the Southwest US. They reference a study that projects a 50% chance that Lake Mead will be dry by 2021. I'm not sure what their definition of "dry" would be. Do they mean absolutely no water (I don't think so), just a few mudholes (maybe), or so little water that Hoover Dam won't be able to generate electricity (also maybe). Even more dire is the 10% chance that Lake Mead will go dry by 2014 (five years from now). Looking at this as an optimist, there is a 90% chance that it won't go dry in the next five years. However, it is pretty depressing to look at the "bathtub ring" around Lake Mead when I go out there for the Silverman Tri. There are also abandoned marinas that used to be on the shore line when I was living there in the late 70's. Now, they are a half-mile or more from the water. Maybe it will start to rain and snow in the Southwest again, or people will give up their grass lawns, or we'll stop irrigating lettuce fields in the middle of the desert. But I'm kind of pessimistic.

Less depressing, and a lot more nerdy, was the column giving a short summary about the demographics of triathletes. They provided a link that you can go to if you want to read the entire report.

Here are some of the things in the report.

"Triathlon participation in the United States is at an all-time high, following unprecedented growth over the past 10 years. USA Triathlon can easily track the surge through its membership numbers, which surpassed 115,000 annual members in early 2009. To put that into perspective, annual membership hovered between 15,000 and 21,000 from 1993 to 2000."

Wow, that's pretty good growth! BTW, based on data for the 107,000 USAT members from last year (2008), 62% are male and 38% are female. In 2000, only 27% were female.

There are 525 members from New Mexico (ahead of Mississippi (478), Rhode Island (472), Alaska (437), Maine (372), Delaware (239), Montana (197), Nebraska (164), Vermont (146), Wyoming (123), West Virgina (117), South Dakota (75), and North Dakota (27)). Wow, how far do you need to travel to get to a race if you live in North Dakota?

Not counting the "17 and under" youth group, the largest age group is 35-39 (17,112) followed by 40-44 (15,469). There are only 24 people over 80 years old, and none over 90 years old. (I'm setting my sights on qualifying for Kona in 2044 when I hit 90.)

In 2004, USAT sanctioned 897/277 triathlons/duathlons. In 2008, USAT sanctioned 1769/425 triathlons/duathlons. They estimate that another 500 non-sanctioned races were held last year.

The median income for triathletes was $126,000 last year. (It's even higher for the athletes surveyed who were doing "M-dot Ironmans".) I hope to hit the mean sometime.

63% of triathletes are married, and 44% have kids living at home.

The average triathlete spent about $4000 on the sport last year.
$2,274 spent on bikes in past 12 months
$564 spent on race fees in past 12 months
$524 spent on bike equipment
$370 spent on training, running and athletic footwear
$277 spent on nutritional supplements
Of course these are "average expenses". I didn't buy a bike last year. (My current bike is almost five years old, but it still works fine.) I did spend money on tires, cables, chains, etc., last year. But what doesn't show here is the amount of money spent on "travel". Between gas and lodging, I must have spent almost $1000 going to races, and I didn't go anywhere "exotic". And anyone who does an "M-dot Ironman" spends over $500 for entry fees/ fees for that one race.

Sadly, triathlon seems to be like golf, NASCAR, and thoroughbred horse racing when it comes to minorities. According to their numbers, triathlon is an overwhelmingly "white" sport.
88.2% are Caucasian/White
3.2% are Hispanic
2.1% are Asian
1.5% are Multi-racial
0.5% are African-American
1.1% are other
Here in the SWCS, we have a fair number of Hispanic participants, but African-Americans are pretty rare. There are any number of social-economic reasons for this, but it leaves me feeling a little uncomfortable.

OK, I've finally got another race coming up! The Socorro Chile Harvest Tri is this weekend. I think I'll get off the computer and head out for some speed work.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Velo News

A lot of you read Velo News on your own, but for those of you who don't (or who don't have your summers off giving you plenty of time to read.......)

The most recent issue came off the press about half-way through this years Tour. There are a couple of neat columns discussing the Contador/Armstrong situation. The editor, Ben Delaney, writes how the race could have been sort of boring. You know, Astana crushes the field in the TTT then controls the race the rest of the way putting three of their riders on the podium. But here you had Armstrong getting into a break after the split on Stage 3 and then putting two of the Astana domestiques (Popovych and Zubeldia) on the front to drive the break and to keep the peloton (with his teammate and designated team leader) from catching the break. Armstrong picked up 41 seconds on Contador. So then Contador throws in his own attack on Stage 7 to move himself back in front of Armstrong. "Instead of high fives, there was tight-lipped grumbling in the Astana camp." Of course now the Tour is over, and we know how the race turned out. I'd like to read the book by the fly on the wall telling what it was like on the team bus and at meals during the race.

I know there are a lot of "Lance Fans" out there. I don't hate the guy, but I'm not a huge fan. Some of the fans have seemed to develop a certain amount of dislike for Contador. (Mostly because he is beating up on Lance?) Andrew Hood wrote a nice column about how "Contador Rides Alone". He had two people with him at this year's Tour, his brother and a Spanish journalist. He has the same girlfriend that he had in high school, the same friends, he lives near his parents house, and he calls his mom on the phone every night. The contrast with Armstrong and his posse of bodyguards, advisors, and celebrities (Bono, Robin Williams, and Ben Stiller) was pretty stark. (No need to get into the details of Armstrong's personal life. You can read "US Weekly" for that story.) I know that Contador isn't raising money for cancer research, but he seems like a nice guy.

There is a long article about mountain bike stage racing. I used to ride a mountain bike in Germany a lot. I would ride on trails that you couldn't ride on a road bike, but nothing too "technical". It seems like mountain biking here in the US is all about "wicked single-track" with off camber switchbacks, rocks, roots, and hike-a-bike sections. (Not to mention the requirement to start and/or end every sentence with the word "Dude".) You can guess I don't do much mountain biking here. I don't plan on signing up for one of these races either. Among other things in the article, they said the following. "Like triathlon's Ironman events, the epics target the doctor and lawyer crowd, as entry fees regularly surpass $1000 a pop." If you read the article, you'll see where the entry fees might be as much as $2000-$3000 depending on how much support you want when you do the race. Gee, and we complain about $550 for an Ironman.

Last of all, there is a full page add for "dznuts" chamois cream on page 61. (BTW, you need to pronounce "dznuts" as a two-syllable vs. a three-syllable word.) OK, we can all appreciate the benefits of a bit of friction relief down there. But this add is really out there. In case you didn't know, they splash the line "protect your junk" across the add. There is a picture of Mark Cavendish winning Stage 5 at the Tour of California, pointing at his crotch. This was "the dznuts salute." They attribute the following quote to Cavendish, "dznuts is such a necessity for me that I dedicated a win to it!" Once again according to the add, dznuts is "the official junk protector of Garmin Slipstream and Columbia Highroad". Well, if you see some at your LBS, make sure to pick up a tube for me. After all, if it works for these guys...........


Monday, July 20, 2009

Runner's World

I like "Runner's World" magazine. I've probably gotten more useful tips from it than from any of the other magazines that I read. A few observations from the August 2009 issue.

How cool is it that they had Sarah Palin as their "I'm a Runner" person on the last page. They get some pretty interesting people there. FWIW, I didn't vote for Senator McCain and former governor Palin last year. I think she would have been a terrible vice-president (especially if she didn't quit after a couple of years). But I'm glad she does some running and that the magazine gave her some space to talk about her running.

On page 2, there is an add for a women's razor. How many guys use the "Venus Spa Breeze" razor to shave their legs?

There is a short article about Scout Bassett who runs with a prosthetic leg. They also referenced Sarah Reinertsen. I'm sure I saw Sarah at this year's BSLT 70.3, but I didn't see her name in the results. I have seen her there a couple of other times, and I know she has finished BSLT (along with Kona) before.

At the back of every issue, they have their "advertising section", where you can look at running related "stuff" and they also have a lot of adds for races. I looked at the rest of the magazine where they had full and half page adds for 12 other races. Two of these 12 were "trail runs" and three of them simply advertised that they were putting on a run. Of the remaining seven, one of them was a cancer research fund raiser, two had a tie in to Disney, and four were somehow associated with rock and roll music. Nothing wrong with any of this. It was simply interesting to me how many races (and race directors) threw in some "hook" to get people to their race, other than simply, "Hey, we're going to get together for a run. Hope to see you there!"

There was an article about going to the "big box" stores to try and find running gear. I know that today, I get more wrapped up in having the "right" shoes, shorts, etc, than I did twenty years ago. I used to go by the BX, buy some "running" shoes on the basis that they looked good, three pairs of cotton tube socks, and two pairs of nylon shorts. Seemed to work, and I was sure faster then!

Speaking of gear, they reviewed four pairs of sunglasses. They ranged from $69 to $149. I still buy glasses from "Boston Bill" for $40. Yeah, I'm pretty cheap.

They also reviewed some MP3 Players/Digital Radios/Cell Phones that you can take on a bike/run to listen to some tunes (or even more, in the case of the radios/phones). OK, I get why people want to do this on a long bike/run. I also understand why USAT doesn't allow them, and why some running races have banned them. I've never used them in training or racing, and I don't see myself starting. Too much "sensory deprivation" for me. I just think about physics problems, chemistry labs, what's happening in "the news", and when I'm going to get around to cutting the grass. (And sometimes I'll sing to myself, but you wouldn't want to hear any of that.)

There were (of course), a lot of articles/columns about running and run training. If you are interested in running half-marathons, running in hot weather, or dealing with nagging injuries, you'll want to read the magazine. (I will say I rolled my eyes a little about the guy with the hurt leg eventually going to a "doctor" who told him to have his "adult intellectual self" talk to his "child" about how "I know you had to put up with a lot of garbage. But I'm here for you now. Now I'm going to help you." If it works, who am I to say.......... I'll leave it to the professionals to debate.)

BTW, I'm not being paid for plugging the magazine. But it was a good read!


Monday, July 13, 2009

Bottomless Is The TOPS!

Saturday was the 26th annual Bottomless Lake Triathlon. This race is so cool for so many reasons. It's a great venue, anyone under 18 years old races for free, you get a discount if you sign up for this race and the "sister" F-1 Tri, they combine both races into the "Bottomless Series" and give awards to the podium finishers in the series, and the engraved trophies are some of the best trophies you'll ever get if you finish on the podium. The race director, Jan Olesinski, really does a great job putting this and the "sister" F-1 Triathlon together. This year, Jan was out of town, but Perry Toles took over and everything came off without a hitch. Perry is one of the fastest athletes in the area, but he's nursing a knee surgery this year, so I didn't have to worry about finishing behind him (again) in the race.

The race takes place at Bottomless Lakes State Park, which includes a fairly large water filled sinkhole where they hold the swim. The race is advertised as a 400m swim, 14K bike, and 4K run. I guess they like the number "4", because none of the distances are exactly as advertised. The buoy on the swim course is placed in the lake without (as far as I can tell) the benefit of a GPS receiver or a laser range finder. It has been as long as 600m and as short as 300m during some of the races that I have done there. However, I think it was pretty close to 400m the past two years. I know the bike is 7.86 miles (not quite 13k) long, which is pretty much dictated by the road that loops around the park. Finally, the run is probably about 4.4k long (based on my race times vs. my 5k times). Part of this is because there is a long run from T-2 to the road which could be where they start measuring the run. Anyway, the distances are the same for everyone, so it's not a big deal to me. And it's the shortest race I do, so I can finish in less than one hour!

Some of the big names in the SWCS showed up for the race. Bobby Gonzales (48 years old) and Colleen Burns (60 years old) represent the "ageless wonders" who shoot for the overall win in the races they do. Jason Atkinson, one of the fastest runners in any race, represented the "young guns". Larry Marshall, the race director for the Milkman Tri, showed up to race and he brought over the bike racks and carpet to cover the gravel in the transition area. Kori Mannon, the race director for my favorite race (the Elephant Man Tri) was there. Mike and Marti Greer, who put on several races including the BSLT IM 70.3 were both there. (Race directors are my heroes.) "Iron Mike" Baker showed up in a 1986 vintage red and white speedo race brief. And a bunch of fellow "Outlaws" were there. (Brian and Misty, MG and Michi, Stuart and Helen, "Bones" Mackenzie, "Stitch" Zetocha, Naomi, Karen, and me.) All told, they had about 120 people racing.

The race is scheduled to start at 8:30. Some folks wish it would start earlier to avoid the high temperatures. Personally, I like the start time. I can leave home at 5:00 in the morning and get to the race in plenty of time. It's not that hot at 8:30 (certainly I train a lot in hotter temperatures) and almost everyone finishes by 10:00. The air temperature was still only in the 80's at 11:00 when I left after the awards ceremony, so I didn't think anyone had to deal with anything too extreme. They had three waves (women, old guys, and young guys) separated by 5 minutes. I am a huge fan of wave starts to keep the kicking and punching down to a minimum on the swim. The water was 78 degrees F, but this isn't a USAT race and for a short swim I'll never overheat in my sleeveless wetsuit. Since I'm such a feeble swimmer, I'm almost a minute faster even in a short race like this if I wear my wetsuit. So, I pulled on the neoprene and headed over to the race start. They got the ladies lined up and by my watch they started the race about 30 seconds before 8:30. Alright, that's the way to get everyone organized!

I went off in the old guy wave exactly 5 minutes later. I wanted to make up for the slow swim I had done at Buffalo Springs two weeks ago. I made a real effort to go out fast and then stay up with the front half of my wave. I felt like I was working hard, and I never felt that during the swim at Buffalo Springs, but I was far from blowing up. I finished the swim in 7:24, which is about right for a "fast" 400m for me, and I think I was in the top twenty or so of the old guy wave. After a fairly slow 2-minute T-1, it was off on the bike.

You have a few hundred meters of flat coming out of T-1 and then you hit a fairly good hill. It's not particularly steep, and it's not long, but it sure gets your heart rate up. Once on top of the plateau, I started picking up the pace. The road is pretty rough, but no worse than some of the roads that I train on. I was soon cruising along at 22-24 mph, figuring that "I must be really strong today!" (Not realizing that there was a 10 mph tail wind.) I was passing quite a few people, but one "old guy" went by me. They didn't write our ages on our calves, so I didn't know if this guy was in my age group or not. (It turned out he wasn't.) So I picked up my pace to keep him in my sights. The course drops pretty quickly off the plateau, but just when you reach the bottom you have a short but steep climb. Once past that, it's a flat (and bumpy) three miles back to T-2. I finally caught and passed the unknown fellow old guy, finished with a 21.7 mph average, and entered T-2 just behind "Bones".

I had a fast (for me) T-2, and started the run about 20 meters behind "Bones". I worked as hard as I could, and eventually caught "Bones" before the turn-around. We both watched as, first Colleen cruised past us on the run and then Jason went by (after making up the 5-minute head start that we had on him) like we were standing still. Dang, I used to be able to run. Anyway, "Bones" eventually got tired of my pace and he took off. I was staying at my red line trying to hold off any potential challenge from the unknown old guy. Last year, Mark Balsiger was coming up behind me fast on the run, and I just held him off by one second. In the end, there was nobody close behind me this year, and I finished the race in just under 52 minutes.

Among the other nice features at this race, you can jump in the lake after you're done, and then they have outdoor showers. The race is timed with stopwatches, but they get the awards ceremony organized pretty quickly. It's interesting that the order of finish between the people in a given age group doesn't seem to change even though it's a short race. It's just that there are only 10-30 seconds separating people who are normally separated by 1-2 minutes. This was another race for the veteran racers. Bobby and Colleen were the first place overall winners. (Once again, 48 and 60 years old!) They don't have the results posted yet, but if I remember correctly (and forgive me for any mistakes), Brian, Misty, Michi, Naomi, and I all won our groups, and Helen finished on the podium in her group. Everything was wrapped up and we were in our car headed out of there before 11:30. It's so cool to be finished up in time to stop at Farley's for lunch and then still get home in time to mow the grass.


Tuesday, June 30, 2009

June Is Bustin' Out

I've been a school teacher for the past 13 years. Don't go into "teaching" just so that you can have your summers "off". In the first place, there is always something that you need to do during the summer to get ready for the next year. Even more, if you're miserable for 10 months of the year, the two-month summer break won't make up for that. However, it is pretty neat to be able to spend as much time as I do on training and racing during June and July. Just for fun, I did some kind of "training" or racing every day this month. I had never done that before. Admittedly, some of my "training" was just an easy swim or an easy spin on the bike while I was tapering for/recovering from a race. However, I got in more than 500 miles on the bike, more than 100 miles of running, and about 15 miles of swimming. Not enough to turn pro, but a lot of miles for me. And I still did three races this month.

The first race was the Milkman in Dexter, NM, which I've already blogged about. Two weeks later I headed up to Amarillo for the first ever "Chick-Fil-A Triathlon". The folks putting this race together did a pretty nice job for their first try at putting on a race, especially since they pulled everything together in less than six weeks. And then the rains came! It's been pretty dry in West Texas/Eastern New Mexico for the past eight months. But it started to rain the night before the race. I drove through pouring rain between Clovis and Amarillo on the way to the race. It wasn't raining when I arrived in Amarillo, but as soon as I got to packet pick-up, it started raining again. By the time the race was supposed to start, the streets were flooded. I was getting ready to drive home, figuring that the race would be cancelled.

When I was flying airplanes in the USAF, it was fairly easy to accomplish the "mission" when everything (the airplanes, the weather, your wingmen) were working or going according to "the plan". You earned your money by being able to deal with busted airplanes, crappy weather, and/or a wingman who was screwing up. On this day in Amarillo, the Chick-Fil-A race director managed to pull a rabbit out of his hat and put together a "swim/run duathlon". Everyone dropped their running shoes off in the transition area and then lined up at the pool for a time-trial swim start. There were a lot of "first-timers" in the race, but the race director got 120 racers organized quickly in spite of the continuing rain.

It was a 400 meter "snake swim" in an outdoor pool. Everyone was seeded based on their predicted time, and as always there were some folks who must have put down "5 minutes" who ended up breast stroking after the first 25 meters. Still, the swim seemed to go well. I managed to hit my predicted time of 7:57 right on the dot. I splashed over to the transition area, pulled my shoes from the the puddle of water that they were floating in, struggled to pull on the wet shoes over my wet feet, and headed out on the run.

The run started on a grassy field that went around some tennis courts. I was one of the first runners there, and it was already soaked and starting to get muddy. I made it through there, feeling sorry for the folks who would be coming behind me. After that, I really started flying. The course might have been a tad short, but I finished the "5K" run in 21:04, easily my fastest 5K run in the past year. Chick-Fil-A provided everyone with a free lunch, and the marble trophies handed out at the awards ceremony were some of the best in the SWCS. I ended up first in my age group, loaded all of my wet gear in my car, and headed home just as the rain started to let up.

Then it was time for the BSLT 70.3 (formerly known as the Buffalo Springs Half-Ironman). This was the 20th year that Mike and Marti Greer have been putting on this race. It's a world class event with slots for Kona and Clearwater, and I'm lucky to have it here in my backyard. Along with the 70.3, they put on a sprint tri. Clovis is still far from being a hotbed of triathlon activity, but we had six folks and two relays entered in the 70.3 along with 10 more people in the sprint. A lot of them came by our house (along with fellow Outlaws Brian and Misty) on Saturday for a pre-race cookout. We headed off to Lubbock later on Saturday for packet pick-up, dinner at Orlando's, and then five hours of sleep at Motel 6.

Race morning arrived with completely overcast skies and lightning on the horizon. I've done this race seven times as part of a relay or by myself. It's known for being hot (one year it went over 100 degrees F), and normally it is. However, last year it rained for almost the entire time and it was cold. That was actually my most miserable time at this race. I was hoping we weren't going to be in for a repeat of that weather. Thankfully, it never got cold, the lightning stayed away, and it didn't start raining until most of us were coming back on the bike and then it was in the "passing showers" mode of rain.

There was a fairly long wait for the porta potties this year. Part of the problem was the number of porta potties. A bigger problem seemed to be the amount of time that some people were spending "on the pot". I don't know if they're reading the Sunday NY Times or what, but for goodness sake, if you don't have to "go", get off of the pot. Otherwise, take care of business, wipe with both hands, and get the heck out of there!

The swim goes off in waves. There are pluses and minuses associated with this. On the minus side, if you are going for the "overall" win, you don't know where you stand in relation to someone who was in a different wave. Some of the "fast swimmers" in the later waves complain about having to "swim through" slower swimmers in previous waves. The biggest complaint is the people in the last few waves feel they're stuck out on the course in warmer weather than the people who were in the first waves. I much prefer the wave start, though.

Straight away, the swim at Buffalo Springs starts in a small cove. It would be impossible to put 1000 swimmers into the water at the same time. Each wave has about 150-200 swimmers. This keeps the punching and kicking to a minimum, and I think it does a better job of allowing/requiring swimmers to swim at their own pace as opposed to everyone ending up in the same huge blob of humanity. There is a lot of complaining about drafting on the bike at M-dot races. My experience at IMAZ (with 2000 people doing a swim mass start) is that about 1000 people exit the water withing 20 minutes of each other. Combine this with a flat bike course, and what would you expect? IMFL and some of the other M-dot races must be as bad or worse. As far as getting stuck in hot weather because you were in one of the last waves, I don't see this. I've been in the next to last wave every year until this year. There is only a 30 minute difference between the first and last "age group" wave. The last wave goes off at 7:05 AM. For a "6-hour 70.3", you finish at about 12:30 PM if you are in the 1st wave, and 1:00 PM if you are in the last wave. It's not as if the temperature suddenly goes from 70 degrees F at 12:00 up to 90 degrees F at 12:30. Sure, it's no fun to run in hot weather, but the 30 minute (or less) difference is not a huge factor.

I was pretty happy while I was doing my swim. The first leg of the swim at this race (and at the Buffman and Squeaky race which is in the same location) is straight towards the east. Normally, I can never see the buoys, so I just follow the other swimmers in my wave. This year, with the overcast sky, I could see every buoy, especially the huge yellow buoys that marked the turn points on the swim course. There was very little kicking and punching going on, and I felt very relaxed. When I exited the water, I figured out why the swim felt so easy. Forty-four minutes! OK, in previous years when I was doing the swim in about 35 minutes, I figured the course was a little short of 1.2 miles. But I was way slow this year. It's like running a mile in 6 minutes vs. walking it in 30 minutes. One hurts, the other is easy. I sure didn't hurt myself on this year's swim! (BTW, there is a "BSLT thread" on where they were discussing the length of this year's swim. One guy has some algorithm based on the pro's swim times, whether they were wearing wetsuits, etc. He figures this year's course was about 100 meters long. Not a big deal for a 1.2-mile open water swim, and everyone swims the same course anyway.)

After the slow swim, I had a lot left in the tank for the bike and run. I felt good coming out of T-1 and climbing the two hills that you have on the first mile of the bike. I dipped my head to get a drink from my aero bottle and I discovered I'd forgotten to get my plastic straw out of the bottle (where I'd placed it when I left home so that I wouldn't lose it). I had to stop to fish it out so that I could push it into its hole. While I was doing this, Scott, one of my good competitors from my age group in the SWCS, passed me and asked if I needed any help. Well, maybe a new checklist for my transition area check. Anyway, this took less than a minute, and I was back on the road. The wind was out of the north at 10-15 mph. A lot of people were talking about the wind after the race, but after riding in Clovis for the past 16 years, this was no big deal. Heading south towards Yellow House Canyon, I came up behind a 21-year old guy on a bike drinking from a water bottle. Instead of putting the bottle back onto his bike, he did his best "Lance Armstrong in the Tour de France" imitation and tossed it into the field beside the road. We had just passed the 1st aid station a mile or two earlier. I rode up to him and told him (in my school teacher voice), "Throw your bottles away at the aid stations, not into some farmers field!" He came back with (in a whipped puppy voice), "But it wasn't empty then." Good grief.

I never could catch Scott on the bike. I've been riding really well this year, so I was surprised to see at each of the three turn-arounds that Scott was maintaining a two minute lead. Dang! Other than that, I was riding well for this course. In addition to the hills coming out of the transition area, there are four other pretty good climbs and one more long, slow climb. I'm always trying to save something for the run, too, so I never go very fast there. It started to rain during the last 15 miles of the bike, which was nice as far as keeping me cool, but the road was fairly slick, especially on a couple of the corners. In the end, I had a PR for the bike there at 2:54.

I stopped in the most foul porta potty I've ever been in coming out of T-2, but having taken care of business, I was off on the run. The first three miles are flat, but then you hit a hill. Almost immediately, you go down a hill, then back up another one. The run on the "Energy Lab #2" road out to the turn-around is a relief because it's flat. I really felt good on the run. I knew Scott was a couple of minutes ahead of me coming out of T-2, but by the turn around I'd cut the lead to less than a minute. With about four miles to go, I finally caught up to him. I told him how well he did on the bike, he told me how well I was going on the run, and then I kept on going. At about two miles to go I passed another guy in my age group. He told me, "There are three other guys in front of us." Well, I thought it would be great to finish in fourth place, but I knew what the finish times for my age group had been in previous years. I was secretly hoping for a "top 10" finish. I ended up with a run PR (1:48) and a race PR (5:31:56) in spite of my swim PW. Sure enough, I finished 9th in my age group. For that, I was really happy.

This is a great race, and it's so cool that it's less than a two-hour drive from my house. Mike and Marti really know what they are doing, the course is a true test of individual ability (if you want to draft on the bike and/or you can't run on hills, this isn't the race for you), and they get great volunteers every year (especially the ones who stuck it out in the rain the past two years). I'll never earn a Kona slot here, but it's still fun to race against some really fast folks.

Next up, the Bottomless Tri in Rosewell, NM.

And four months until Silverman!


Friday, June 12, 2009

First to Worst

During the past month, I've done three triathlons. None of them show up in magazines advertising a rock band every mile, or visions of the NYC skyline, or Hollywood "stars" doing the same race, or a chance to have Mickey Mouse cheer me on as I run through the Magic Kingdom, much less the coveted "Ironman" label. However, they're the kind of races I've come to prefer. I don't need/want 2000 plus people climbing over each other during a swim mass start and packs of cyclists drafting each other on the bike course. Encouragement from any spectators who happen to be there is nice but not necessary, and garage rock bands are just silly. If I go to a "destination", I'd better be taking my wife and daughter with me, and I'd better not be spending my "family time" doing a triathlon. And all of these races were within a two-hour drive from my house.

First up was the Ransom Canyon Tri just outside Lubbock, TX. This was my first ever triathlon back in 2002. That year, they only had 62 people show up. They didn't get 100 people there until 2007, and this year they still only had 110 individual participants. But it's a real quality race. An open water swim, a really steep hill straight out of T-1, another canyon to traverse out and back on the bike, and a nice 5K run along the shore of the lake. I had a pretty slow swim, a PR on the bike, and an average run, but still managed to win my age group.

Next, the Buffman and Squeaky Tri, next door to the Ransom Canyon Tri. I have done this race every year of its existence (including the first year, 2004, when it was called the M&M Tri). I really like this race. In 2004, they only had 83 participants, but now they get around 120 each year. (They also put on a sprint tri on the same day at the same place, so it there are about 200 people there.) It's an Olympic distance race at the same location as the Buffalo Springs Half Ironman (now known as the BSLT 70.3). The swim is pretty much the same at both races. The Buff and Squeak bike also has a hill straight out of transition. You pretty much ride the first third of the BSLT 70.3 bike course, which includes the same canyon as the Ransom Canyon Tri. The run is an out and back around the lake to the three mile point of the BSLT 70.3 run. This time, I had a fast swim, another PR on the bike, and an "almost PR" on the run. Overall, it was a PR for this race and I won my group again.

Last week, it was the Milkman Sprint Tri in Dexter, NM. I'm pretty sure no one ever says, "Let's spend our next vacation in Dexter, NM." (Although Roswell, which is only about 15 miles north, gets a fair amount of tourist trade for their alien museum.) However, the race director and everyone in Dexter who supports this race are some of the nicest people you will ever meet. I have done this race every year since 2002. At one time, they used to get 300 or so people there. Since 2002, they have been closer to 180 participants, with only 147 individuals showing up in 2007. However, this year, they were up to 236 individuals (along with 25 relay teams). Best of all, most of the increase was in the "younger" age groups. It's another open water swim (in a large duck pond (named Lake Van by some optimist)) but they do wave starts with 20-30 people per wave. This is a good thing, because the bike course is pretty flat. The wave starts keep everyone spread out so that drafting does not seem to be a huge problem (although "Iron Mike" Baker, the USAT official, did assess some penalties). The run is pretty neat. You start out on the blacktop road that goes around the pond, run through a fish hatchery, divert off onto a tractor path through some scrub land, return to the road, then you finish by running across a grass field through a finishing chute. I had a mediocre swim, another PR on the bike (must be the Raisin Bran?), then an average run. Not my fastest time there, and 60-year-old Ted Freedman caught and passed me at the half-way point on the run, but I was still fast enough to win my group.

And that brings me to "First to Worst". In addition to being the fastest person in my group, I was also the slowest. For the first time ever, I was the only person in my age group in a race. This wasn't necessarily a bad thing for the local Tri scene. Like I said, they had a lot of people at this year's Milkman Tri, especially in the age groups between the ages of 20-49. I was reading yesterday how Harley Davidson is having a hard time. Something like only 15% of the people who buy a Harley are younger than 35, and they're running out of new buyers. It's a good thing to get some "young blood" into the local Tri scene. These guys and gals are really fast and they sure make the races more fun and exciting.

Next up, the Chick-fil-a Tri in Amarillo, TX. The overall winners (male and female) both receive a year's worth of free Chick-fil-a food. I can always hope!


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Run on the Yellow Brick Road

The Jan 2009 issue of "Runners World" magazine carried its usual column by Jeff Galloway. In it, he posed as "Fact of Fiction" something that I hear a lot of runners discussing. To quote, "Asphalt is softer than concrete and treadmills are softer than both. FICTION. While some people say they feel the differences among the surfaces, after coaching more than 250,000 runners, I haven't seen any difference in rate of injury or fatigue when running on asphalt, concrete, of treadmills. You can reduce the impact on your body on any surface by taking enough walk breaks from the beginning and wearing a running shoe that fits your foo well."

If I had a dime for every time I've read or heard someone say, "Running on trails is so much easier on your body", I could retire and become a full-time triathlete. This might be true in some parts of the world. I'm thinking about some of the "trails" in Germany that I used to bike and walk the dogs on. They were nice and wide, well maintained, with thousands of years worth of decayed leaves ground into the surface, and enough rain to keep things soft without being muddy. My experience in the Southwest portion of the United States says otherwise. Trails here are hard as rocks. (Because a lot of them are simply rock, and those that aren't rock are compacted sand or caliche clay, which might as well be rock.) I hear people saying things like, "That trail is so cool! Lots of technical single track." Well yeah, lots of places where you can't pass without somebody moving off the trail, and don't even think about looking anywhere other than the trail six feet in front of you because you'll miss the rock/root/gully that will trip you and/or sprain your ankle (or worse).

If running on trails is easier, it's because you can't run very fast. Ten-minute miles seem to be regarded as a reasonably fast pace. (Although the fastest trail runners do go faster.) It's hard to get into a rhythm. Start, stop, turn left, turn right, jump up, jump down. It's a great way to get in a "weight room" training session for your legs, but less so when it comes to exercising your aerobic engine.

If I'm going to "run", give me a street/road/highway any day. I don't think you get any additional cushioning by running on a trail, and I don't have to worry about stepping on a rock or falling into a gopher hole. Would I ever run on a trail? I have, and I will again, but I maintain that "running" is a relative term when you compare roads to trails. I'm not fast on either, but I sure feel better on a road.

Even a yellow brick road.


Monday, March 23, 2009

We're Not Worthy!

Enough of the off-season. I went to the Raptor Du (formerly know as the Stealth Du) at Holloman AFB last weekend. The perfect way to kick off the year and to get me motivated to get back into training.

The folks at Holloman have been putting on a spring du and a fall tri since before I ever did a race. There are some real horror stories about the lack of organization there during some of the past races. The first race I did there was the Oct 2003 tri. I am retired military, so I didn't have any problem getting on base. I spent 4 months at Holloman back in 1977 doing the old "fighter lead in" program, so I more or less knew my way around. However, when I got to the pool, it didn't look like anyone was there, there was nothing in the way of a transition area, and the door to the pool was locked. I wasn't that early, so I started to think I must be at the wrong place. However, a couple of other people were also standing around, and shortly a few "USAF types" showed up and started setting things up. After a fairly long time, someone who seemed to be the race director showed up and got the building unlocked. It turned out that the gate guards didn't have a list of the "civilians" who they were supposed to allow on base, so a lot of people were showing up late. This turned out not to be a problem, since nothing else was ready to go. The race finally started about two hours late. The race itself wasn't too bad, other than the lack of marking/guides on the bike route. The two leading women ("Gabi" and "Mary", both elite-level athletes) took a wrong turn and ended up out in the boondocks northwest of the base. Mary bagged the race after that, but Gabi kept going. I was actually pretty pleased to have her pass me during the swim leg (it was a run/bike/swim tri). For a while, I thought I'd biked faster than she had biked. Things were so bad that year that I received an "apology letter" from the Services Squadron commander a week later.

Since then, their races have generally been pretty well organized. They have been slow getting the results/awards compiled, but they seemed to be trying. This year, everything was very nicely done. Everything was set up early, they started exactly "on time" at 8:00, they had road guards out (although this didn't prevent everyone from running a few extra meters when we followed the first few runners past one of the turns, and a couple of people on the bike turned early down a dead-end street), and they had a lot of people working the timing and recording issues. We had time for a quick shower, then they provided a pasta "brunch" (it was still only 10:30 in the morning), followed by a quick but accurate and well organized awards ceremony. They had hard copies of the final results for everyone, and the whole show was wrapped up by 11:30. They really had their stuff together, and I'm looking forward to the tri in October.

The "we're not worthy" portion of this entry has to do with one of the guys in my age group. Actually, "Mark" is four years older than me, so I only have to deal with him the year when I age up, the same year that he is a senior citizen in the group. When I was little, I was a reasonable baseball player. I figured with a little extra practice, I could play in the big leagues. However, baseball skill evaluation can be pretty subjective. I'm not sure that everyone playing MLB today was tearing up their little league circuit. Somehow, they managed to make it, though. However, "endurance sports" are fairly easy to evaluate. If you can run/bike/swim/ski/etc. faster than the other guy, you win. Eventually, you'll get older, and the younger guys will catch you, but you can hang on to some "age group" glory. Mark is simply ageless. OK, he can crush me like a grape in a duathlon where his faster running and biking give me no chance. He doesn't swim really fast, so I can get some cushion in a tri with a "long" swim (1500m or longer). Even then, I'll need a good day on the bike/run to stay with him. The amazing thing to me, he was 6th overall at the Raptor Du. He was the fastest person there over the age of 39. Mark is 59 years old. (Do the math, he'll be 60 next year.) He's not the only "old guy" doing incredible things in the world of multisport, but he's the one on the local circuit that I know and who I get to compete against. I'm going to train hard and do my best in my races with him, but gosh all fish hooks, some people are simply better than the rest of us.

We're not worthy!


Friday, January 2, 2009


I looked up my 2008 goals that I'd set a year ago.

"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.)"

How did I do? The short answer is that I was one for two. I finished BSLT in 5:44:27 (13/36 in my age group). I finished Silverman in 15:30:09 (6/12 in my age group).

Now for the excuses. Although I "met my goal" at BSLT, I could have gone even faster. It was raining during almost the entire bike ride. My bike handling skills are pretty limited as it is, and given the wet road conditions I was really careful anytime there was a turn in the road. Heck, sometimes it was scary just passing people on a straight section of road. I'm thinking I could have gone a little faster on the bike if the roads had been dry. However, I might have gone slower on the run if I'd burned more matches on the bike. Who knows?

The weather at Silverman was brutal. With about one-half mile to go on the swim, a cold front arrived. The waves and the spray on the last half mile of the swim slowed me down quite a bit. The killer was getting on the bike in a sleeveless jersey and shorts. The air temperature went down into the 40 or 50 degree F range, it started to rain/sleet on everything, and the winds picked up to 20 mph with gusts to 40 mph. I have never been so cold as I was during the first hour of the bike. It was very scary going downhill at any speed above 20 mph because of the wind and the slick roads, and I was shivering so badly my arms were shaking the entire bike. After an hour or so the weather didn't necessarily become nice, but at least it was less nasty, so I was able to finish the bike. But it sure took a lot of energy out of me, and I more or less gave up on trying for any particular finish time. I was simply looking to finish. Having said that, after T-2 I saw that I only needed to run a 5:20 marathon to finish the race under 15 hours. Even on the Silverman course, I should have been able to do that. But I still couldn't get warm on the run. By the time I hit the 16 mile point, I needed to grab a "space blanket" from one of the aid stations to drape around my shoulders to keep me warm. I'm not sure that I would have finished in 15 hours even if the weather had been ideal, but I know that I would have been faster.

So, what about 2009? OK, I've got three goals. I will "age up" to the M55-59 age group this year. I'm not going to blow away the competition there even if I can go as fast this year as I have in the past. However, while the "best" guys are quite a bit faster than me, the older age group is just a little slower overall. My first goal is to place in the top ten of my age group at the BSLT 70.3. In order to do this, I will almost certainly need to be faster than last year, but given "normal" weather conditions I ought to be able to do this. My second goal is to finish the Silverman in less time than it took this year. This might seem like a "soft" goal, but just finishing the Silverman is pretty challenging. If the weather there is better, and assuming that I do finish, I should be able to go under 15:30. My last goal is to run a sub 21:00 5K. This is not going to help me much when it comes to running 13.1/26.2 miles at BSLT/Silverman, but it's something I want to do. I used to run 3 miles in 21 minutes when I was a cadet at the USAF Academy, and that seemed pretty easy at the time. As recently as 1996 I could run 1.5 miles in less than 9 minutes. OK, I'm older now, but there are plenty of guys in my age group who can run 5K's even faster than 21 minutes. I'll work on this during the next few months. If I can do it I'll do it before the end of May. One way or the other, I won't worry about trying to do this after the end of May. After that, I'll be racing BSLT and ramping up for Silverman.

Three goals for me. Good luck to everyone in 2009!