Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Three days and a wake-up

Any of you with Navy experience may recognize the reference in the title. If so, a thousand apologies if it made you cringe, and/or scream. For the rest, "X" days and a wake-up is a coping technique used by sailors (and other branches?) to cope with deployments, enlistments, and other mind-numbing events.

And I am currently three days and a wake-up away from my first attempt at an official triathlon. Today is easy, as it is training, work, watch the kids, go to bed. Tomorrow is awesome because it is Christmas. Well, not really Christmas, but I should get my new bike, and that's close enough. Friday is probably going to be the tough day. I hope to take the bike out for a short training ride before working a half-day. After lunch, the entire Pol family will head to Waupaca for the race. For the kids, we are staying at a hotel with a waterpark. Both have been there, before, though Baby Pol was unborn the first time.

I still have to get everything for the race together. I have several different "what to pack" lists, and will probably go through the entire list several times. Week in Jamaica, thirty minutes to pack. Sprint triathlon 45 minutes from home, 4 hours to pack.

And then, Saturday will be here. It's been a long time training for what proves to be a fairly short race. Here now, for the first time, are my predictions for the race.

The swim, my biggest concern, should actually be over very quickly. It's 220 yards, and I usually average about 2m30s per 100 yards at the pool. Eliminating the turns should help offset some of the other issues, like swimming in the lake without lanes. Giving myself plenty of time for freaking out and slowing down, I hope to finish the swim in under 6 minutes.

The bike distance doesn't concern me. That I will be on the new bike will slow me down a bit. Slow, however, is relative. On the mountain bike (with 42/14 as fastest gearing), my normal pace is 15 MPH. Given the much better gearing (53/11), I'll be going much faster for the same cadence. Even so, I'm still giving myself an hour to allow for taking it easy and not crashing the new bike.

And a 5K run should take me about 25 minutes. It will depend a bit on temperatures and humidity, but I can generally run 8 minute pace for three miles in even the crummiest of weather.

The only true flyer in the whole mix is transitions. I have had no opportunity to test a real swim to bike transition. I've made the change, but not in real race conditions. I will also be getting into biking shoes, which will be new. Bike to run transitions are easy, though I will again be switching shoes, which adds a twist to past training. I hope that the total time for both is under 10 minutes (what is normal?).

So, all totaled, this should take well under 2 hours to complete. While I have no real goal other than to finish safely and gain experience, targets are something I like to have. So, for this first triathlon, the goals, in order, are to finish, to have fun and learn a lot, and to finish around 1 hour 45 minutes.

How does that sound? Realistic? Overzealous? Pokey?

Monday, May 29, 2006

Iron Pol ≠ Iron Chef

Hugely popular in Japan, Iron Chef can be seen on Food Network in the United States. This show pits so called "Iron Chefs" against highly qualified chefs from around the world. The two hallmarks of the show are that the chefs have a limited time to complete their meals and that there is always a secret ingredient, which is announced only moments before the contest begins. These masters of the kitchen must utilize that ingredient in every dish. I am constantly amazed at how quickly they adapt to what is thrown their way. Only years of training and hours of planning can prepare them for this challenge.

Training is often like that. And yesterday, I was tripped up by the "secret ingredient." Actually, the entire recipe of my long run was wrong. It started with three nights with insufficient sleep. To that, add meals that weren't really aimed at meeting the demands of a long run. And to totally screw things up, add in the secret ingredient. A hot, sunny day with temps hovering around 90F, with high humidity.

Prior to yesterday, the hottest running day I've had was 73F. That was only a three mile run. And the second hottest day was only 63F. So, my scheduled 13 mile run was being done in temperatures a solid 25 degrees higher than previous runs. With the poor diet and lack of sleep, I should have known things would go poorly.

I realized around mile five that things were going to get ugly. I skipped on possible turn-off that would have cut the run down to about six and a half miles, and kept on my 13 mile route. At mile six, I knew I was going to run out of fluids, and changed course. I had dropped off my pace and started walking some, as my legs were dead and I was overheating. I also knew that the shortest route home was going to still be another two and a half miles.

In the end, I only did nine miles, and that at a brutal 10m 45s pace. Two lessons learned? First, rethink runs when dealing with 20+ degree spikes in temperature. Second, figure out a way to replenish fluids if I don't plan on short loops. I guess there is a third lesson. Learn to be like Iron Chefs and deal with the sometimes horrible ingredients you are given. Make the best of what you have and create something of which you can be proud.

Finally, a bike update. Mrs. Pol and I have discussed things, and she has approved the requisition to buy the S25 the store is getting. That will include the shoes, cages, and other sundry items that will be needed. Hopefully, things will improve vastly in the biking arena with the new bike. I did a 27.5 mile ride, this morning in just under 1 hour and 50 minutes. That works out to about 15 miles an hour.

How will the new bike improve things? Let me count the ways:

1. Incredible reduction in weight (from something like 33 pounds to 19)
2. Racing tires instead of off road tires
3. Aero bars
4. Much better gearing, better gear ratios
5. Clipless pedals and biking shoes instead of flat pedals and sneakers
6. I'll look cooler
7. I'll feel cooler
8. My training miles will go way up, as Mrs. Pol will kill me if I spend this kind of money and DON'T put more miles in
9. Did I mention aero bars
10. There isn't a 10, but it's a nice round number on which to end

Friday, May 26, 2006

Iron Pol's Secret Desire

Well, I finally broke down and went to the bike store. I wanted to look at the 2006 Felt S32 triathlon bike. They didn't have any. What they did have was a 2005 Felt S25 bike, which is fairly similar to the S32, in a different color. On clearance, the price is the same as the new S32.

They had it in both a 54 and 58 frame size. The 54 is plainly too small for me. We gave the 58 a try. The standover was okay, and the arm reach wasn't too bad. But getting the leg positions correct meant dropping the seat post all the way to the bottom. Then, it was just barely acceptable. For a proper fit, it really needed to be a 56.

Except this is a clearance bike, and there weren't any 56s sitting around. The sales guy started showing me other bikes, and I pointed out that those bikes all had prices that started with a 2. Getting Mrs. Pol to accept a bike with 4 digits before the decimal might be doable. If the first digit is a two, the likelihood of my riding a new bike go from fair to "I don't think so, Tim."

So, sales guy hits the computer, and comes back with word that they have the bike we're looking for in Milwaukee. They can have it sent here with no obligation. Here's where it gets interesting. The truck comes on Thursday. So, Thursday night, Friday daytime, I can have the bike. My triathlon is Saturday. That puts us square into dangerous territory.

How does that saying go? Train what you're going to race? I've been training on my Giant Boulder mountain bike. How crazy would it be to switch to a tri-bike for the race? Muy loco, you say? Nobody ever accused me of being totally balanced.

So, here's a picture of what I really hope will be the newest piece of my triathlon puzzle.

Of course, pictures rarely do real justice to anything. This isn't too bad a shot, though. And as an entry level bike, this will serve nicely for quite some time. As with running and swimming, I am far from a cycling master.

Just having a bike that weighs less than my car with sprockets actually made for road racing will help immensely. The ability to maintain 16 miles per hour on the mountain bike should translate to a much better pace on this bike.

One other fortunate piece of the puzzle is the color. While yellow and black might make some cringe, it is actually perfect, for me. It happens to go well with the Fox Cities Triathlon Club uniforms.

That Guy

Growing up, I was never "That Guy." You know who I'm talking about. "That Guy." The captain of any team sport he joined. The person who everyone knew would be the big name sports guy when he got older. The person who everyone went to for information about anything.

I wasn't That Guy.

But lately, something has been changing. Suddenly, I am That Guy, only with a twist.

Many of my co-workers know that I run marathons and that I am training for my first triathlon. And for them, I have become That Guy. When someone starts talking about any endurance event, they seem to get directed towards my office. Need a training schedule, go see That Guy. Looking for nutrition information, go see That Guy. Concerned about achieving a goal, go see That Guy.

Oddly, I still don't consider myself That Guy. A VP in our company is an Ironman. He's That Guy. At least he is, for me. But for others, his accomplishments are far too daunting. They look at me and see the guy who runs 5Ks, 10Ks, 3 mile charity walks, and is likely to drown in the 220 yard swim for his first triathlon. That, they can relate to.

So, they come to my office. I dig up training schedules and race information. I discuss the merits of heart rate training. I pass along copies of Runners' World or applicable training books. I go over pronation, wet foot tests and the buying of correct shoes.

But mostly, I cheerlead. I let people know that a few short years ago it was a significant challenge for me to run 1.5 miles. A few years ago, I was buying the wrong shoes because I was uninformed about pronation. I ran 13.5 miles to see if I could complete a half-marathon. I ran that first race without any formalized training. And I let them know that If I can run a marathon, they can, too.

Of course, all the while people are coming to my office to talk to That Guy, I'm looking up to all of the "That Guy" type people in my life. That Guy who offered to let me borrow a wetsuit for the triathlon if it's brutally cold. That Guy who posted wonderful motivational information on their blog. That Guy who gave me guidance on breathing during the swim.

We are all That Guy to someone who knows less. Remember that. Offer them all the assistance you can, and foster in them the same drive, desire, and (gulp) love of the sport you have.

Go. Be That Guy.

Flatman update: He got his old blog-site back (woohoo to public pressure). He asks that you update your links. Or would that be "unupdate."

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Diet and Nutrition

A couple times during the two-week training course we just completed at work people brought in donuts. The first time, someone pointed them out to me, and I responded that donuts aren't in my diet. Her response was that, given all the training I do, there should be no need for me to diet.

So I told her that donuts weren't part of my "nutrition plan." She liked that better.

The responses received from NOT eating donuts or other junk type foods can be surprising. Now, I'll admit that I like donuts as much as anyone else out there. Maintaining a proper diet, however, is one of those "easy vs. right" decisions that must be made. It's easy to eat the ready made, processed, microwavable meals. As a soon-to-be triathlete with possible half or full Ironman visions, those aren't the right decisions.

So, while everyone else eats donuts, I have bagels (whole wheat, no cream cheese). When they start eating chips and cookies, I have a banana. Ice cream at night is replaced with grapes or oranges. Enriched flour pasta has been replaced by whole wheat pasta (which, by the way, is terribly course).

One of my friends from the Navy had a very succinct way of looking at diet, nutrition, and weight loss. "If you burn more than you eat, you lose weight." He ate a bit less, exercised a bit more, and took the $1000 prize pool in a family weight loss competition. For me, exercise more is a bit of a challenge at the moment. So, it's eat less. In a few months, I'll be able to balance out my intake, again, in order to maintain the proper and desirable weight.

Those of you who have struggled with weight despite consistent exercise may have to do the same soul searching I went through several months back. Swimming 3000+ yards, biking 50+ miles, and running 30+ miles may give us some leeway in eating those few extra calories. But we have to be realistic. The "few" extra cannot turn into 1000's extra. And the food we do eat must help meet the energy and health demands we place on our bodies.

Consider what you eat. If you find yourself being dishonest with yourself, keep a food log. If you're still cheating, post that food log here for all to see, along with weight loss goals and status. Once you start tracking it, you'll find it easier to achieve those goals.

And you'll also have the fun of watching co-workers, family, and friends as you try to explain why you, a triathlete and marathoner, are on a diet. It melts their heads.

Blog Note at Flatman's request: His site experience technical deleting difficulties followed by really fast address hijacking. He can now be found at FL4TM4N.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Steps Challenge

My company has a wellness program in which participants earn points for various activities. Those points are tracked and used to determine what wellness incentives the employee earns at the end of each year. They have just announced an opportunity to get another point, and this triathlete in training has picked up the gauntlet.

They are calling it the Pedometer Challenge. Participants were offered pedometers for $2, which is actually a pretty decent deal. In addition to normal daily steps, participants can count lap swimming, biking, and water aerobics. Therein lies the challenge.

The highest "target" they have is 10,000 steps per day average. Using a relatively low 1500 steps per mile running, a 30 mile running week would be 45,000 steps. That would leave few steps remaining to hit the 70,000 weekly mark. So, I have arbitrarily decided that running doesn't count for triathletes in training.

That means that all my "steps" must be accomplished in the pool, on the bike, or through normal walking activities. This should be achievable given the "conversions" they are using.

Lap swimming is converted to steps using 172 steps for each minute swimming. That means my average weekly pool time of 2 hours will net about 20,600 steps. Two hours of biking at 148 steps per minute will raise that to about 38,400 steps. That will leave about 31,600 steps per week, or 4500 per day. The lowest target they have is 1000-5000 steps per day. So, after discarding my swims, bikes, and runs, I will target the high end of that goal.

All I can say is, there is something seriously wrong with me. Not because I'm taking this challenge. And not because I'm taking this challenge without counting my runs. It's that I went through the math to calculate all that out. Sometimes, my math background just keeps rearing its ugly little head.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Upper Half Man

The little things in life are often enough to keep me happy. The official results of the Green Bay Marathon are one of those little things. I have now officially moved from mid-pack runner to just ahead of mid-pack runner.

In my division (M35-39), I came in 38 of 126, which is right about the tail end of the first third of the runners. I won't mention that one of those runners was my friend pushing a double jogging stroller with two kids in it. So don't even ask. It's still exciting to say that I finished before two-thirds of the people in my division. Even if there isn't much money in it.

Overall, I was 343 of 2289 runners. Again, it's exciting to know that I've actually gotten better. The first races I entered had far different results. Like reversed, in fact. So, training helps, and there is hope for the most waddly of the penguins.

Of course, with a triathlon coming up in less than 2 weeks, the opportunity to be at the back of the pack looms once again.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Green Bay Half-Marathon

For the first time in years, the Green Bay Marathon had clear weather during the entire race. It was a clear, sunny, slightly cool day, with temps around 45F at the 7 a.m. start. This was a nice change, and allowed me to have a long run AND stay dry.

Going in to the race, my goal was to have a nice run, finish under 2 hours, and feel strong at the end. Not too much to ask for a 13.1 mile stroll through Green Bay.

I settled in to a groove early in the race, completing the first mile in an 8 min 40 sec pace. The pace felt good, and another runner (Bob, who builds boats and is looking for work) was keeping pace. We talked about jobs, races we've run, and various other topics.

The miles were flying by, and our pace picked up mile by mile. All the while we were talking, so I wasn't overly concerned. By watch, I was just trying to make sure that the pace was somewhere in the less than 8 min 30 sec area. By miles, here are the split paces as tracked electronically, along with the corresponding pace for that mile:

Mile Mile pace Ave. Pace
1 8m4os 8m40s
2 8m20s 8m30s
3 8m19s 8m26s
4 8m13s 8m23s
5 8m24s 8m23s
6 8m08s 8m20s
7 8m16s 8m21s
8 7m35s 8m15s
9 7m36s 8m11s
10-13.1 7m41s/mile (no mats after mile 9, based on time from mile 9 to finish)

At mile 7, the guy running with me pulled up with cramps and said he would be unable to hold the pace. I picked up the pace, and held it until the end of the race. And I was able to achieve the non-time related goals, as I felt strong and in-control through the end. My pace was near conversational the entire race, and I finished well under the 2 hour goal.

The overall pace for the race was 8m 2s, which nearly made me beat myself in anger. A mere 30 seconds faster, and I would have broken the 8 min mark over 13 miles run. In the end, though, I am happy. I could have took off on Bob and made the sub-8 pace, but wouldn't have had as much fun in the process. And he finished the race 8 or 10 minutes behind me, and I was glad to see he made it.

Despite my failure to beat the 8 minute pace, a promotional flyer for the Chicago Marathon made me feel proud. Based on my time today, I would qualify for preferred starting in that race. With 40,000 entrants, they have several corrals at the start, and a 1hr 45m half-marathon qualifies for the slowest of the preferred start corrals. It's a long way from the elite corral (of 100 men and 100 women), but it is a boost to my ego that I qualify for ANY sort of preferential placement.

It was a good day to run. It almost makes me wish I had run the full marathon. Of course, had I done that, I wouldn't even be home, yet.

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Races are Here, The Races are Here

This weekend begins the four week marathon of major events. Sunday is the Green Bay half-marathon. The weather looks promising, meaning there is no rain in the forecast. The past two years have been brutal with a solid downpour one year and overnight downpours followed by stifling heat the other. This year has to chance to be absolutely perfect.

It is a great race, counted as one of the top ten U.S. races. All runners run the Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers, just before the finish. And it has to be the only marathon with brats and beer as part of the post-race festivities. There's nothing quite like running 13 or 26 miles and finishing up with a beer.

Next weekend isn't a race day, and has its own challenges. The pastor of my church will be at a training session, and I will be leading the Sunday service. If you ever want to better appreciate your pastors, stand in the pulpit and give a sermon sometime. I've led several services, and each one is nerve-wracking. There are two good things. First, the congregation can't fire me. Second, there haven't been any major uprisings in the past, so I can hope they are getting something from my messages.

In just two weeks, I make my debut as a triathlete at the Trinity Triathlon. Thanks to several people out there, the odds of my drowning have been greatly reduced. And once I'm out of the water, things will improve greatly. I'm far more at home in events where breathing isn't such an involved process. Something about roll to the air and breathe just doesn't cover the complexities of breathing while doing the forward crawl.

The week after the triathlon is the Bellin 10K race. I will be racing with my company's team as part of a corporate challenge. Like myself, our team has no misconceptions about our ability. We are a bunch of mid-pack runners and just do this for the fun. The Bellin is a well established and fairly well run local event that attracts some big-name elite runners.

So, the next month promises to be busy. There will be lots of minor accomplishments and a fair amount of fun. Once this stretch is over, there will be two goals on the horizon. The Fox Cities Marathon in September and an as yet unnamed Olympic distance triathlon in the next year. Future races are a great source of motivation. Especially when the money has already been paid.

Good luck to all of you with races this weekend!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Gentle Reminders

There's a guy who runs or spins most mornings at the YMCA at which I work out. Because of back and foot issues, he considers himself more of a short distance runner. And he really works at that. If I'm looking for a challenging speed workout over a 4-6 mile distance, he's a good running partner. While he runs shorter distances, he runs them at a pretty good pace.

This morning, as we discussed our workouts, I pointed out that this weekend's half-marathon concerned me far less than the upcoming triathlon. Though the distances in the triathlon are much shorter, the swim is still a major hurdle. As I talked about the possibility of coming out of the water dead last, he commented that dead last would still put me into a very small group called triathlete. He also pointed out that I'm already in another small group called marathoner.

It was a good reminder. Yesterday, I struggled with how to put into words the challenge of balancing competition, personal achievement, and personal improvement. My friend put it into a good perspective, helping me to remember that the first and most important thing is that just showing up and running the race is a major accomplishment.

The personal battle with improvement and beating personal records will always be there. But the gentle reminder to keep things in proper perspective is important. Sometimes, it's better to just leave the toys at home, and run for the sake of running.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Note to self...

Body Glide is your friend. And it's more effective on your body instead of sitting on the bathroom counter.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

So Fast, I Barely Got Wet

It was another cold, rainy day here in Appleton. Depending on which electronic billboard is most accurate, the temperature was somewhere between 45 and 50F. It was raining off and on, and the one good note was that the wind was minimal.

Given the continuing rain, I dropped the brick and decided to try a new running loop. I also left the running computer at home, and went with just the stopwatch. That may have been a really good idea.

The new loop was simply a variation on the 10 mile loop used for most my long runs. By going a few streets further before a couple of the turns, it became a 12.15 mile loop. That is a bit of an approximation, as MapMyRun was missing one street, and I had to "run" through a field. It should still be pretty close.

One section of the run goes over part of the Fox Cities Marathon route (going backward from mile 10 to mile 8). I was a bit surprised when I hit those marks, because things were going so well. From miles 10 to 9, my pace was 8m 45s. From 9 to 8, that dropped to about 8m 30s. I was surprised I still had that much left in my legs, as that was around the 9 mile mark in my run. And it didn't feel I was running that much faster over those two miles.

When I got home and calculated everything out, I found the cause for that. I ran the 12.15 miles in just over 1 hour 46 minutes. Calculated out, that was an average pace of 8m 45s. Just to keep everyone on track, that is fairly well blazing for this runner over any good distance. And that carrying a bunch of extra water weight.

That bodes very well for the Green Bay half-marathon, next Sunday. If the weather is roughly comparable, race day magic should help me get that pace down even a bit more. It would be awesome to finish down around the 8m 30s mark. It's a stretch, but would set a great foundation for breaking the four hour mark at the Fox Cities Marathon in September.

By the way, just for Iron Wil, I followed the run with an ice bath, which Toddler Pol found immensely funny.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Timing questions

Okay, true newbie questions here. I just think the answers might come in handy on race day.

Timing a road race is easy. Even if the mile splits are included, it's fairly straightforward. Click start at, well, the start. Click laps at each mile (or whatever interval). Click stop at the end.

For a triathlon, I realize that the transitions add a new dimension to timing. So here's the question. When to I click the lap button to make the change from swim to transition and so on? I've run through several scenarios in my head, and looked on line.

So, I turn to all my triathlon mentors for assistance. What are the appropriate locations for changing from race timing to transition timing and back? Or do I just look for the timing mats and go by those?

Swim or Bike, Just as Wet

Mrs. Pol has a lot on her plate, today, so it was an early start for training. Baby Pol woke me at 5:10 a.m. She must have figured the last 20 minutes of sleep before the alarm was extra, and unnecessary. She went back to sleep after getting a pacifier, allowing me to get out the door for the YMCA.

Time was limited, so I did 750 yards trying to focus on breathing. I won't say it went well, but I tried a few ideas everyone provided, and accept it will take time. I did the 750 yards in about 30 minutes, including rest intervals. Good, bad? I didn't drown, so we'll call it a victory.

While Mrs. Pol was at her morning events, the kids and I went to the local running store (it's awesome being able to say that, now) to get her a few technical shirts for working out. Toddler Pol was nice enough to tell her all about them, ruining them as Mother's Day gifts. Oh well, she bought herself some coffee, too. While at the store, I picked up a new toy. My old stopwatch died, so I got a new, super wham-o-dyne Ironman watch. More on that, another day.

When my wife got home, I headed out the door for a bike ride. I did right about 16 miles in an hour. The first half (uphill, into the wind) was brutal. The ride back was pretty nice. Downhill with the wind at my back for a change.

Tomorrow, if the weather cooperates, I plan on a bike/run brick. If the weather is too bad, I'll just do a 10-mile run. With the half-marathon next week, it would be good to have one more decent training run on the books. Last week was a step-back week, so this week really needs to be 10-15 miles. With the wind, rain, and 45F temps, outdoor training is a bit chilly.

Well, Mrs. Pol has to get out the door for her next big event of the day. Remember, sometimes it rains on race day. So if it's raining, show Mother Nature you're tougher than her.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Busy, Busy, Busy

Okay, it's well past 8:30 p.m. For those in the non-old-fogey category, that means it's past my bedtime. But this looks like the only opportunity I'll have to post in the coming days.

We are launching the next phase of our new business system implementation, and your's truly is on the team. We have intensive training, this week. Ten hours a day sitting learning about software components. Next week is much of the same, as we complete testing of the base system to see what adjustments will be needed to match our business needs. It's a good thing I was way behind when this started. At least I won't feel bad about being completely buried with work.

So, with training starting at 5 a.m. and work going until after 5 p.m., it's early to bed for me. Monday was a recovery run of 5K at 9m 30s pace. This morning, I did 700 yards in the pool. No major leaps in skill were made, so breathing with any sort of rhythm is still a bear. I spent some time at Everyman's site reading some additional swimming hints. They SOUND great. Putting them into practice is proving challenging. Even if the swimming tips are of no great use, head over there as he has a humorous take on how non-triathletes view the triathletes of the world.

So, if you stop by and get the feeling I've taken a vacation, it's anything but that. Just work and other things have taken over the controls for a bit. Training isn't suffering, which is one benefit of having adapted to the early morning schedules. Keep up the training. If you're like me, race season is just about here.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Greater Motivation

The registration fee has been paid for some time. The training has been ongoing. And now, the motivation has increased. A hotel reservation has been made and secured by credit card for June 3 in Waupaca, Wisconsin. To be honest, the hotel is costing more than the race itself. In fact, if I include the registration fee, tri shorts, and swim goggles, the hotel still costs more.

That's motivation, Iron Pol style. Few things motivate me more than money spent. So, June 3 is a lock for the first sprint triathlon anyone in my family has ever completed. Scary.

While any race is nerve wracking, I feel ready for this one. As part of this morning's training, I swam 250 yards non-stop. It wasn't fast, but it was continuous. It was part of 800 yards focused on proper body rotation. I also did a 5K charity run, with Toddler Pol along for the ride. He enjoyed it, as I had them give me a shirt in "his size." I treated the run as a speed workout. The first half-mile was slow, as we were stuck on a narrow trail with a lot of people walking. We did the last 2.5 miles averaging under 8 minutes a mile, finishing with an overall average of 9 min 10 sec per mile.

Things are picking up. Two weeks until the Green Bay half. Four weeks until the triathlon. And there's a 10K race the weekend after that. Busy month coming up.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Personal Growth

When people in our church go through baptism or membership classes, we urge them to identify a verse in the Bible they feel applies to their lives. Both the pastor and I have life verses we share with them, along with an explanation of how they were selected.

The life verse of our pastor is Philippians 4:3. "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." Fittingly, that is also the motto of the Trinity Triathlon, which is the first triathlon I will race. Many in our world today benefit from these words. They convey two things. First, there is nothing Christ cannot accomplish. What we consider impossible feats are simple tasks when the power of God is entered into the equation. Second, they remind us that God is the source of all our accomplishments. Easy or difficult, all we do should be for His glory.

My life verse comes from the youth organization to which I belonged as a teenager and with which I volunteer, now. And it is less a verse and more a way of life. That verse is Luke 2:52. "And Jesus increased in wisdom and in strength, and in favor with God and man."

That verse is the foundation of a life model called the Four-fold Way of Life. It guides us to focus on four key aspects of development. They are mental, physical, religious, and social. Christ sought to grow in these areas, and achieving balance and then growth in all four areas results in some pretty neat people. As I grew older (and hopefully wiser), this took on greater and greater meaning in my life. An important part of my young life, it has become the center of my adult life.

Every day, we should strive to better ourselves just a little bit. We tell the kids in our youth organization they should "grow an inch." And we don't mean height wise. We want them to grow as people.

The whole marathon, triathlon, whatever comes after that journey is a part of my four-fold development. In addition to the purely physical improvements, the mental and social aspects of my life have improved. After all, when running with 40,000 of your closest friends, you have to develop some social skills. And learning to swim properly has been a huge mental struggle. And we can't leave out the blog families.

And all of it has helped me to focus on where the true ability (what little there is) comes from. My pastor's life verse, though not mine, is still key to this journey. The idea of completing some of these races is just mind boggling, to me. With strength from Christ, they are all within reach.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Rusty Pol

Sometimes it rains on race day. Those were the last words I said to Mrs. Pol as I headed out for a bike/run brick, yesterday. I have GOT to have my head examined.

Sunday's excitement notwithstanding, it was a good training weekend. Saturday started early with another 1000 yard swim. It went very well, and reasonably quickly. The term reasonably is used fairly loosely, with my own past times as the comparison. I did the 1000 yards in roughly 35 minutes, which includes the breaks (100 yard sets). It won't set any records, but it's solid improvement on the Pol standard.

After the swim, it was off to Green Bay for WalkAmerica. In a classic move, I missed the split off for the 6 mile route and wound up doing the entire 3 mile walk. I realized that about the time we reach the finish. At that point, I started running the 6 mile route backwards, as I needed to get pictures of volunteers at the checkpoint my employer sponsored. I ran to the checkpoint, thinking to myself that it must have been fairly close to the middle. A quick check on MapMyRun proved that to be fairly accurate. The "short" run to get some pictures was a 5 mile round trip. Luckily, the organizers had some goodies at the end of the walk.

Then, there was yesterday. The plan was for a 20 mile bike and 6.5 mile run. As it was rainy and 45F, I thought long and hard about just calling the whole thing a bad idea. Then the training monster got the best of me, and I knew I would feel guilty about missing ANOTHER Sunday. So, I got Toddler Pol down for a nap and threw on the biking shorts. At 45F, I opted for a long sleeve shirt under the biking jersey (good idea). I gathered up all the other toys (gels, stopwatches, fanny pack, hat, etc), and headed out the door. At Mrs. Pol's questioning look, I said, "Sometimes it rains on race day."

The bike went fairly well. Given the conditions, I did opt to shorten it to one 10-mile loop. Luckily, the rain was somewhat light during the bike leg, as the winds were horrendous. And, with bike ride magic, the wind seemed to be in my face the whole way. My time for the trip was about 43 minutes. That's something like 14 MPH, which isn't bad considering the wind, route (through town), and vehicle (mountain bike). I need to get some longer rides in, though. My butt was numb at the end. Of course, I don't know if that was the ride, or the cold water being thrown by my tires.

My transition time was about 4 minutes, including changing socks, as the bike pair were completely soaked. Both bike and transition times are rough guesses, as my stopwatch died when I hit the final button to stop it. Apparently, the conditions were tougher than the Timex. It took a licking, and died.

The run went very well. Changing socks helped, and my legs felt great, even after the ride. I pulled the pace in a bit, as I took off a bit fast. I completed the 6.65 mile loop in almost exactly an hour, an average pace of just over 9 minutes.

The entire Pol family was in the living room when I walked into the house. Mrs. Pol just asked, "So, how was it?" Toddler Pol wanted to know where I'd gone swimming. All he knew was I had on my "swimming shorts" and was dripping wet. In the mind of a 2-year old, that means swimming. He didn't believe me when I told him I'd been running. "Daddy, you can't run outside, it's raining."

From the mouths of babes...