Friday, June 30, 2006
Given the lack of exciting post material, I started searching the songs at VideoCure. While there are a lot of songs I might like to put up here, I'm limited by what is available. I narrowed it down to four songs by three artists.
Taking third place is Trans-Siberian Orchestra. They only came in third because my favorite song isn't available. As we get closer to Christmas, you can expect to see their music posted. Unless Toddler Pol keeps giving me "gifts" because it's "Christmas." If he keeps that up, I might just put out all the Christmas decorations to make him happy.
In second place is Silent Lucidity by Queensrhyche. While not a huge fan, this song is awesome, and it is also quite likely to be posted in the future. I love the dream sequence concept of the video, and having kids that get scared at night adds meaning.
But first place had to be reserved for something truly remarkable. So, the honor goes to November Rain by Guns and Roses. Not because it's a particularly awesome song. I like it, but don't consider it somehow amazing. No, Axel Rose gets the nod because of the lengths to which he will go to get his name in the paper. Lucky for Axel, he won't have to wait until the "November Rain" starts to get back to his life. So, to help Axel take a bite out of security guards, er, crime, we'll listen to his song for a bit.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
We all know that running is an extremely demanding activity. It burns significant energy. It gives the body a good pounding. Varying weather conditions have a huge impact on our heating and cooling system. It's tough, but I consider it a great deal easier than swimming.
Biking is also a demanding sport. While less abusive (discounting any crashes) than running, it still requires amazing leg strength. Maintaining proper form for such a long time is challenging, even with a proper fit. And we won't even talk about what a pain in the butt (literally) biking can be. Even so, it is also a great deal easier than swimming.
Swimming takes place in a relatively cool medium. It is generally less demanding in an aerobic sense. And it uses muscles that aren't beat up from other disciplines. Even after vast improvements in form and getting a better grasp on breathing, swimming is still the most "demanding" aspect of the sport of triathlon (from my perspective).
Today, I figured out why. It's all in the mental "freedom" that exists in each discipline. I accomplish a great deal of contemplation while running and biking. The activities are so second nature that my mind is free to wander over a broad range of topics. I do complex math calculating pace and distance. I plan sermons for when my pastor is out of town. I just spend a lot of time thinking about anything except what I'm actually doing. It makes long runs and rides pass more quickly.
When I'm swimming, all of my thoughts and focus are on swimming. Arm form, breathing technique, when to actually breathe, laps completed, body alignment, etc. All of my mental energy is focused on managing to actually NOT drown. If my mind begins to wander to other things, my form goes to pot, I start to breath water, and I slow down. Then, my mind snaps back to swimming, and it gets better.
That is what makes swimming the most burdensome portion of triathlon. The question is one of muscle memory. As I spend more time swimming, will the proper form become as second nature as running or biking? I sure hope so. But somehow, I imagine the need to breathe air will continue to dominate my thinking.
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
The families of triathletes have to be equally flexible. How could we possibly hope to pursue this sport without the support of family and friends? Wives must care for kids who must accept parents being gone. Parents might help fund a child's wild dream of becoming an Ironman. Friends adapt to the odd training schedules in order to spend time together. Sometimes, that time is spent at races. Roman Mica refers to these people as Ironsherpas in his book, My Training Starts Tomorrow (which I recommend. You can purchase a signed copy by clicking the link).
There is also a certain amount of sacrifice involved in the triathlon world. Financial constraints might force a decision between triathlon equipment and other purchases (and we always seem to want the equipment). Training demands often force a sacrifice of time spent with family and friends. And, once again, our Ironsherpas make sacrifices to support our sport. Mrs. Pol assumed responsibility for many of Baby Pol's late night feedings so I can sleep (despite the fact that both Pol children tend to get up early, ruining any chance she has of sleeping late). She has also sacrificed much of her time to support me, both during races and training. She has gotten out of bed to load kids in the car to provide SAG wagon support for a certain biker in need.
At every opportunity, I try to show my appreciation, though those "shows" are often only minor things. One opportunity is in the very early morning hours before heading out for training. Clean dishes in the dishwasher begging to be put away. Dirty dishes in the sink in search of a dishwasher. Toys that always seem to find their way back into the middle of the living room. It is a very small sacrifice to leave a few minutes late in order to accomplish some of these small tasks.
And sometimes, a small delay can grow. The clanking of dishes at 4:30 a.m. causes a little one to squawk. While the baby is fine, the toddler has been alerted to the fact that morning is approaching, and that's all the notice he needs. Nothing is cuter than having a 2 1/2 year old walk into the kitchen and ask where you're going, only to respond, "I want to go train with you," when you tell him. And suddenly, the need to be at the pool promptly at five seems less important. After all, there is milk to be served, breakfast to be made, ABC shows to be started, and a growing boy (who is somehow still my baby) to be entertained.
All so the sleeping Ironsherpa can perhaps get another half-hour of sleep before she is forced to face the day.
Yes, being a triathlete takes flexibility. Sometimes, it's just in areas other than those we normally consider. After all, regardless of how important training is, some things are still more important. The pool was still there at 5:20.
Monday, June 26, 2006
Saturday morning, it was an early start to training. Mrs. Pol needed to had plans to leave at 8:30, and I had a 30 mile bike, 7 mile run brick scheduled. So, I was out the door around 6 a.m. The ride was beautiful, except for the brutal hill about the mid-way point. I am on good speaking terms with the course planner, so I told myself off about the route. Of course, the good thing about an out-and-back course is that a tough uphill on the way out means a great downhill on the way home. I maintained a good pace, doing the 30 miles in just over 90 minutes. I had to break my committment to do all small ring when I went down the big hill, but kept a good spin going the rest of the trip.
The run following the bike went very well. I actually completed the 7 mile route two minutes faster than Wednesday, when I ran it without the 30 mile bike ride as a precursor. All I have to do now is complete the same thing with a 3/4 mile swim in front of it, and I'm ready for the Olympic triathlon. Oh yeah, the swim has to be in open water.
Sunday was a valuable lesson. The old addage is "train how you race." Well, apparently I won't be doing any racing shortly after dining on pizza and cantelope. Let's just say that I'm thankful new apartments are being constructed along my route (can you say Port-o-Let salvation). The near GI disaster was averted, but my second half pace was affected. Even so, I completed 12.1 miles in 1hr 45m, a pace with which I'm satisfied. And I learned that pizza and cantelope, though good for carbs, is an explosive mixture that should be saved for rest days.
Friday, June 23, 2006
And then I climbed out of bed, put on my cycling clothes, filled a water bottle, and headed out while my wife and daughter slept in the recliner. Baby Pol likes to go right back to sleep after these early morning feedings. As the garage door opened, it was apparent that long sleeves had been a good choice.
A quick check of The Pol-R Express's mechanical systems (in light of what happened to Nancytoby on Buttercup) and we headed out from the station. It only took a few minutes for the "stay in bed" mentality to clear, and the cool morning air helped to wake me up. The clear skies, empty roads, and minimal breezes held promise of a good ride.
And it was a good ride. It took right at an hour to complete the 19 mile ride, making average speed easy to calculate. Toddler Pol was just waking up, and was there to help me get out of my cycling clothes, including putting the shoes away. He loves that my cycling shoes have velcro straps, though the ratcheted strap slows him down. After a bit of play, I got some breakfast ready for him and hit the shower.
These early morning training sessions can be challenging. It is tough to wake up after a late night caring for the children. But the time spent with the kids, both after training and later in the day, makes it all worth the effort. And like they say, if you do something for just a short period of time, it becomes habit. If you've been considering early morning training but feel you are "not a morning person," give it a try for a few weeks. You might just find that you ARE a morning person. Especially when you find your afternoons and evenings suddenly wide open.
Enjoy the weekend and good luck on all your races.
Thursday, June 22, 2006
The lifeguard dutifully manned the closest chair, and I completed a couple hundred yards of warmup. Following a few suggestions I received, this morning's drills were all focused on open water swims. As it is difficult to simulate the motion of the lake, I attempted to simulate the limited vision of open water.
In other words, I swam with my eyes shut.
I'm fairly certain the lifeguard is convinced I'm retarded.
The lack of bilateral breathing and an apparent power differential between arms results in a fairly severe curve to the right. A great many laps included me either smacking into the wall or getting tangled in the lane rope. Usually right in front of the lifeguard chair. And since my goggles have smoke colored lenses, it's doubtful he knew my eyes were shut. So, what he saw was this guy swimming laps, constantly running into things. He did a good job and at least didn't laugh out loud.
On some of the laps, I would open my eyes during breaths in an attempt to simulate my head clearing murky lake water allowing me to see. I've determined that swimming is complex enough without adding the "rub head, pat tummy, circular motion" tricks we used to do as kids. I've yet to meet anyone who suggests drowning as a hobby.
The submerged version of Bling Man's Bluff was helpful, though. While far from comfortable swimming without being able to see, swimming blind in the controlled environment of the pool is easier. I'll be adding that to every swim, and work on bilateral breathing. That will probably take me back to some of the early TI drills to improve my balance while on the right side.
And now, it's time to head out. The Pol-R Express needs some air, and work and training clothes need to be laid out. It's yet another early morning wakeup call for a bike ride. If I don't get back here, have a great weekend and enjoy any races you have.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
The Tri-Foxes scheduled another swim at the High Cliff course, last night. After a mile swim Saturday and the fun and excitement of the first 1/4 mile open water swim on Sunday, Mrs. Pol was bemused when I mentioned possibly going back for another session. "Isn't Monday a rest day." She's getting too good at this, changing my schedule around didn't even faze her. "Well, yeah, but I really need the practice. And this has lots of people. I'm less likely to drown." She didn't see the humor, but adjusted dinner plans, allowing me to go.
So, it was off to the lake. Given the state of the water on Sunday, I was hoping for conditions to be a bit calmer. God, as I've mentioned many times in the past, has a wicked sense of humor. He also has a habit of throwing at us exactly what we need (whether we realize it, or not). Sunday, the "rough" water consisted primarily of swells and a bit of chop. Last night, the swells were considerably larger, and waves were regularly breaking, even out where we were swimming.
Using some of the comments from everyone here, and a few from members of the tri-club, I set out on the short course. It was immediately apparent that the water conditions were going to make things more challenging. I tried a bit of breathing every stroke, and found that uncomfortable. Tri-Mama indicated that takes some getting used to, so I will continue to drill with it when in open water. I also worked on some siting drills, trying different suggestions. One was to take an extended stroke every 4th stroke, and throw a quick look toward the bouy. This was quite effective at nearly drowning me. Okay, try the breast stroke every so many cycles. This was better, though it was difficult to get back to the forward crawl (comfort thing, not skill). So, I will drill with that, in the pool. I have to get comfortable breaking form, and going right back into it.
Apparently, I also need a lot of work on swimming in a straight line (read "learn to breath bilaterally"). Despite the warning that the conditions would push us towards the shoreline, I quickly found myself heading out to sea. Everything I've ever seen indicates that bilateral breathing can really help resolve this challenge.
Most important about yesterday's swim was overcoming the anxiety that Sunday's swim generated. The "claustrophobia" of being unable to see, the waves breaking over my head while trying to breath, and the inability to get into a rhythm all had me worked up. Last night, while admitting this is a huge weakness, I got back into the water and showed that while I might be slowed down and frustrated, I would not be cowed. In fact, after swimming the first horrible 1/4 mile, a group of use went back and swam a second lap. The second 440 yards took just over 9 minutes. And that's about average, for me.
The lake has just got to learn that I don't have to be fast. I just have to stay afloat, and I win.
Monday, June 19, 2006
We are the host club for the High Cliff Triathlon being held on June 25th. There is a sprint distance (1/4 mi, 22 mi, 5K) and a half-Ironman distance. For our swim, yesterday, we had the bouys out for both distances, allowing us to get a feel for race day on the actual course. I won't be racing (I'll be preaching in church, another hobby of mine), but wanted to see how things felt in the open water after the confidence building mile swim.
Apparently, the answer is, "Not much."
As we only had one canoe in the water for rescues, I opted for the short course. Score one good idea for me. The fact that swimming in the lake differs vastly from swimming in the pool was strongly reinforced. Three big issues come to mind. Visibility, waves, and sighting mess me up pretty badly.
The change in visibility from the pool to the lake makes everything, well, cloudy. It is difficult to judge if I'm even moving. And while not truly claustrophobic, the sense that I am totally "enclosed" is disturbing. There certainly has to be a way over this hurdle, as so many have cleared it. Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated.
Waves and swells are another story. I know exactly what they do, as I'm sure everyone else does. I find it very challenging to get into a rhythm while getting buffeted by the swells. Luckily, they weren't serious waves, just normal surface motion. It was still enough to screw up my stroke, occassionally wash over my face during breaths, and generally make me uncomfortable.
Finally is the sighting. Just how am I supposed to do that? I look to the right when I breathe. I look down when I swim. Looking up is "against the rules." So, what is the method for sighting? Do I break freestyle and breast stroke? Do I risk completely messing my freestyle up by raising my head? While a relatively minor issue (compared to actually swimming), it is something I have to figure out.
While uncomfortable during the swim, there are two really good notes. First, there is another opportunity, tonight. Though today is a rest day, I'm going to try this, again. The Olympic tri in August is going to be rough if I don't find some sort of peace in the open water. Like everything else, I'm hard headed and will somehow get a grip on it. Second, the more experienced swimmers spent some time with the newer triathletes. They set up a "gauntlet" through which we swam. They splashed water, grabbed legs, hooked arms, and otherwise tried to simulate those things experienced in races. It was a short gauntlet, but it helped a bit. Knowing there were people there to help raised the comfort level.
So, I have a long way to go. I've proven the distance can be completed. I've shown myself I can get on a bike after a long swim. Now, it's time to get out of the class (pool) and into the real world (lake). I can't stay in school forever.
Saturday, June 17, 2006
Today's training plans called for a 5:30 a.m. wakeup for a 6 a.m. swim at the YMCA. Baby Pol adjusted that a bit by waking up at 4:30 a.m. She wasn't hungry, she wasn't otherwise freaked out. She seems to have been bored. So we played. A bit before six, I handed her off to Mrs. Pol (along with a bottle) and headed out for a planned 1000 yard endurance swim.
The thinking goes something like this. To date, my longest training session was 1600 yards. My longest endurance swim was 500 yards. The upcoming triathlon is 1320 yards. "Danger Will Robinson! Does not compute!" is basically the way my brain handles those numbers. So, I figured completing a 1000 yards endurance swim would be a great confidence booster.
Miracle of miracles, I found an empty pool when I arrived. It was me, the lifeguard (who we always hope stays bored), and 40 lengths of the pool. So, I got at it. The first several hundred yards were nothing special. Sort of like a normal day at the pool, minus the rest intervals. When I saw I was on my "sixth" lap (I lap out at 100 yard intervals) I knew I was in uncharted territory. Every stroke pushed me further into the "never swam this far" category. Oddly, I felt fine, and even found myself going several lengths before having to go to sweet spot to catch up on breathing (I still stink at that part).
Finally, I completed another 100 yards and realized that was the 9th set. After the next 100 yards, the 1000 would be complete. And I still felt alright. That's when I started thinking... (something I should do with caution).
I felt fine. Why not go for the full 3/4 mile that would be required of me in the triathlon. That's only another 14 "laps." So, after completing the 1000 yards, I kept going. And going. And no, there wasn't a pink bunny pulling me along.
Soon, I was approaching the 54 laps required to complete 3/4 of a mile. I could tell that I was starting to use muscles in a way they hadn't been previously used. My shoulder was starting to ache, and my lap times were starting to slow down a bit. That was mostly because I was having to rest in sweet spot a bit more. Well before completing that 54th length, I knew I wasn't stopping. A mile was only 18 more lengths, and after getting that far, it seemed pointless to stop.
So, I kept going. Somewhere between 54 and 72 laps, my brain started to catch up with me. It sort of wondered what I was doing. I told it to mind its own business and do something useful. LIke think on a way to improve the stroke, stroke, breath issue.
The last 1/4 mile was, obviously, somewhat more challenging than the first three quarters. My shoulders were getting tired, and my oxygen deficit was becoming more noticeable. Still, I was able to maintain a reasonable (in Iron Pol terms) pace, never going over 2m 45s for a given 100 yards.
At some point, the senior water aerobics class showed up, and another swimmer was in a lane next to me for a few laps. Other than that, I had the pool to myself, and the lifeguard remained bored. The first mile long swim has been completed. I survived with no serious damage, and managed a 20 mile bike ride right after the swim.
My body did, however, make sure I didn't get any wise ideas about going beyond a mile. When I started the 73rd length, thinking I'd do 100 yards over the mile, my foot cramped up so badly I decided to take the hint. I turned back and got out of the pool. And for the first time in a long time, I was pretty well drained. It felt good that it took 72 lengths to wipe me out, instead of two.
Friday, June 16, 2006
Of course, what good event isn't preceded by lots of serious training, at least a little bit of soul searching, and a good dose of questioning what one is doing. That's where I'm at, now. Personally, I thank Veeg and her race dilemma. It's either that, or the co-worker whom I am trying to motivate to run a half-marathon. As I try to motivate people to pursue longer races (which I am confident they can complete), it forces me to examine my race choices.
The Oshkosh Tri has a sprint course (1/4 mile swim, 16 mile bike, 5K run) and an Olympic course (3/4 mile swim, 28 mile bike, 10K run). (Are those distances right for an actual Olympic distance race?). The original plan was to race the sprint course. But, of course, the thought of racing the Olympic distance has now edged it's way into my brain. (See Neoprene Wedgie for further discussion of this newly identifed disorder.)
The challenge is determining a reasonable jump in race distances. My first (and only) triathlon was an 1/8 mile swim. Assuming the Oshkosh race is actually 3/4 mile (instead of 1500M), I will have to swim 1320 yards, roughly 800 yards further than the longest swim (without resting) I've completed to date. In 8 weeks, can I reasonably go from 600 yards to 1300 yards? More importantly, without knowing the answer to that question, do I throw caution to the wind and sign up for the long course? Or do I accept that discretion is the better part of valor (and sanity) and sign up for the short course?
I must say that Mrs. Pol's confidence in my swimming ability is greatly appreciated. When I discussed the distances involved in the long course, she asked if the bike distance seemed doable. That she didn't laugh when I said 3/4 mile swim shows how much she must love me. I'm still trying to decide if I shouldn't be laughing at myself for considering the long course. Of course, it's a mental disorder. Mr. P at Neoprene Wedgie has it, too. As do, I believe, a great many others.
So, what are the comments from the peanut gallery? Short course and near certain survival? Or the long course and the possibility of seeing a triathlete doggy paddle a large part of the swim?
Thursday, June 15, 2006
As someone approaches triathlons, either approach will lead to challenges that could be avoided. For the person who gets too caught up in the academics of a triathlon, the risk is never actually getting started. There are lots of things to learn, and nobody will learn them all reading a book. On the other hand, failing to read up on some issues can create major problems. Or, what some of us like to call "lessons learned." But these lessons have all been learned by others (probably lots of others).
So, what's a budding young (or old) triathlete to do? A good approach is to first get a grasp on those things that can help prevent injury or learning poor technique. An awful lot of damage can be done if a few key lessons aren't learned immediately.
Swimming is probably the most technically demanding aspect of a triathlon. There just isn't any room for "faking it" in the water. I spent several months pretending to be a swimmer. In addition to wasting several months, I was reinforcing poor techniques learned as a younger swimmer. Luckily, someone who is now a regular swim training partner saw my struggles and made some helpful suggestions. The first was the book Total Immersion Swimming. If you are a novice swimmer, this book can save you a lot of pain. And if you aren't keen on learning from a book, find a swim coach familiar with swimming for triathlons. After a few months of learning and drilling the TI way, it is becoming clear that a coach will still be beneficial.
Unlike swimming, biking has long been a part of my life. Whether doing centuries on a road bike or schlepping around town on a mountain bike, I'm comfortable in the saddle. I've always owned bikes and have experience stripping them down to parade rest when needed. After purchasing my tri bike, it quickly became apparent that some knowledge does not equal enough knowledge. In addition to getting the feel of clipless pedals, aerobars, bar end shifters, and "oddly" mounted water bottles (seat post), there are the mechanical issues to be considered. Mountain bikes and most lower end road bikes use considerably different tires and tubes. Most use schrader valves (the more commonly seen "fatter" valve stem, like that on a car tire) on lower pressure tubes. They also tend to be made of heavier tubing. Higher end bikes use high pressure tires (120psi vs 40-60psi) and, as I learned, generally have lighter weight tubing.
The end result of high pressure tires with lighter tubing is a more rapid loss of tire pressure. While a mountain bike with a standard 35psi tire might go an entire season without significant loss of pressure, a road or tri bike with 120psi tires might lose 25-30% of tire pressure in a week. And the lower pressure puts the tire at great risk of a pinch flat.
That leads to another important lesson on bikes. Before leaving the shop, two items should be addressed. First, learn how a tire is changed. If you are comfortable with changing tires, make sure you have a saddle pack, spare tire, and inflation source. Anyone interested in what happens if you fail to take care of those two points can check out this earlier entry. (What was it I said about these lessons having already been learned?)
Like swimming and biking, there is one very important task to accomplish before hitting the road for some intense run training. Unless you enjoy running barefoot, the proper pair of running shoes must be purchased. This means more than going to any handy store and buying the coolest looking shoes that match your outfits. That will definitely make you look cool. It will also probably cause any of a variety of injuries to your body.
Runners' World has an excellent article on selecting proper shoes. The method is low tech and inexpensive. While it might not lead you to the exact perfect shoe, it will help prevent purchasing a neutral shoe when you should have a motion control shoe. By the way, Runners' World also answers the question about what those mean. Runners plagued with shin splints, foot or knee injuries, or other running related injuries will benefit from verifying their running mechanics.
Even better than the simple tests shown by Runners' World is a gait analysis. Many local running stores now offer this service at no charge. Using a treadmill with a high speed camera, they can videotape your stride and make suggestions based on the results. Once a pair of shoes is selected, they can tape your stride in those shoes to ensure they help you run efficiently.
Swimming, biking, and running are activities in which most can participate with little formal education. But we all benefit from a bit of knowledge. As you approach the sport of triathlon, try to learn from the mistakes of others. And if you're not sure where to look, just ask me. I'm sure I've made just about every one of them.
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
All of this discussion did loosen one idea from my brain. It is a bit of a play on words, leaves the bike as an object rather than a person, and has some potential for further plays on words. That is "Pol-R Express." Or, for Nytro, "Pol-R Exprezz." Hopefully. the initial play on words is clear (if not, it's from the movie, with my screen name). Some of the subtle points are that trains are made of one massive amount of iron, and, though slow, are extraordinary workhorses. Plus, I could refer to boarding the Pol-R Express when I go on rides. The possibilities are endless.
So, let me know what you think. Is this a suitable name for a bike? It seems to have potential.
Incidentally, Mister P at Neoprene Wedgie posted a hilarious race report for his first Olympic distance triathlon. It is definitely worth a read. As I am considering my first Olympic tri, I consider it educational.
As a child, my mother was a huge factor in participating in a wide variety of activities, and pursuing each long enough to either succeed or determine I truly disliked the activity. Organized baseball, soccer, and football were sports in which I participated. Musical endeavors included the guitar and french horn (and later the trumpet, bass guitar, and saxophone). Four years on the debate team, a year of forensics, and dozens of plays in both high school and college developed my speaking ability. The entire time, winning was secondary. Participation and effort were the primary goal. When I stopped playing soccer, decided to skip my senior year of football, and dropped out of college after three semesters, my mom understood. I had given each an honest attempt.
In a similar manner, my dad was always right there to push his kids to give 100% to anything they attempted. Schoolwork was something to be completed properly, not something to be done half-assed. And we had to do it. He would help, but never gave out answers. If we participated in a sport, we would be at practice, we would attend games, and we would play hard. And if we didn't, he had no sympathy if we spent the entire season sitting on the bench. And in his own way, he was always ready to support our activities, even when it was something about which he personally wasn't that excited. When he bought his fishing boat, he made sure it would tow a skier and bought the necessary equipment. You will never, ever see my dad skiing. In fact, if you see him swimming, it means his boat sank. If you even see him in shorts, it is only because it is 120F in the shade (if you can find any shade). But he knew that at least one of his kids absolutely loved skiing. So he became an expert at towing that child, and learned a thing or two about crack the whip, too.
Together, my parents instilled in me the desire to try new things, and the drive to succeed. And success is defined internally, not by wins and losses. Every race I run thrills them. They may not understand why I run, and they know I am unlikely to ever climb a podium as the victor. But I try, and do the best I can. That's all they ever asked.
Now, I have kids of my own. With two of my own children and groups of eighth graders with whom I work each year, there are lots of young people looking up to me. A huge part of the drive to do these things comes from the desire to let them see that we can accomplish anything if we are willing to try. Every time I speak with someone about marathons or triathlons, I always begin by letting them know where I started. A non-runner. A non-swimmer. Getting fatter by the month. Newly diagnosed with sarcoidosis (a potentially serious illness). The one thing I had going for me was those values instilled in me by my parents. Try. And try hard.
For those out there questioning your ability to complete a marathon, triathlon, or possibly even an Ironman, there is only one real question. Are you driven?
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
After the Trinity race, her biggest concern was that she missed getting pictures of me on the bike and a finish line picture showing the clock. The truth is that she got some amazing pictures, capturing the feeling of transitions and the focus being put into the race. Especially in this first race, those pictures say more than the finish time.
The really nice thing about well organized races is that there are others on the race course taking pictures. And, in this case, they captured some of those shots Mrs. Pol was unable to get. Though I believe hers were still superior, despite the gap in equipment, here are a couple shots taken by race photographers.
Iron Pol at the START of the bike
Iron Pol crossing the finish (yikes, what a time)
Iron Pol receiving his award (for determination, not the awesome time)
In case it isn't said enough, thank you, Mrs. Pol, for all the support in these races. From event planner to child caregiver to photographer to occassional SAG wagon (when the bike or the legs give out), none of these events would be possible without your help. And even with all the challenges, your pictures are still the best of the bunch.
Monday, June 12, 2006
Many of the other triathletes whose blogs are listed on this site have bikes with names. It seems the name helps embody the bike's soul. Perhaps, just perhaps, it keeps the bike happy. It at least helps with personality, as they can refer to their bike as a person, sometimes leaving visitors unsure about just whom they are talking. "Just who is this Carmen Tequilo that TriGreyhound seems so fond of mounting? Does his wife of 13 years know?"
Therein lies my dilemma. There is a new bike in my life. It is even an entire bike. It isn't merely a frame with the potential to become a bike. Born more than a week ago, the gender has yet to be determined, much less giving it a name. (I should point out here that my son was nearly 36 hours old before he had a name). Until I get some pictures posted, go here to see pictures.
It might be mere coincidence that since picking the bike up I have had two separate instances requiring extensive walking. The first was the semi-famous chain break incident. The second was a flat tire we aren't discussing, mostly because it was really my own fault. Perhaps it is really the bike trying to tell me something. "I need a name (snap)." Followed shortly by, "Hey, didn't you catch the hint? I still need a name (hissssss)!"
Mrs. Pol has provided what she refers to as "helpful suggestions." I, however, don't see the same humor she sees in "The Short Bus" (I think it's a frame of reference issue). "Yellow Submarine" is just a little to indicative of my swimming, and it really is best to stay on TOP of the water, preferably without the bike. And her suggestions go downhill from there.
The real question is this. Am I tempting fate if I don't name the bike? Will the triathlon bike gods rain terror down upon my head, plaguing me with still more catastrophic failures in the future? Would investment in kevlar bike shorts and jerseys be a solid choice? Or is there sufficient anecdotal data to support the unnamed bike?
So, a little RBF help is needed. Are there any suggestions for a suitable, perhaps fear-invoking, name? All suggestions (at least those more serious than Mrs. Pol's) will be considered. And while I don't have a big prize package for anyone providing the perfect name, you could live with the never-ending knowledge that you helped name the bike.
Everyman Triathlete Roman Mica has added a few other dimensions to the mix. Like many of us, he manages his successful weblog. He can be counted on for entries from humorous to inciteful to highly technical. His contacts in the sport allow him to present interviews we would otherwise never hear. And he adds an element of fun when sponsors provide him with swag to give as prizes.
In addition to his blog, Roman has been busy writing a book. Having never written a book, I am unable to say if this is a daunting, "climbing Everest" type task, a difficult "endurance event" type task, or a relatively mundane "fell into place" type thing. But having never written a book, I am impressed whenever meeting someone who has. Besides actually writing the book, there are the tasks associated with actually getting it published and then sold.
Very shortly, Roman will have accomplished the first two of those tasks when his first book, My Training Starts Tomorrow is released. The link goes to an entry he posted when the cover of the book was completed. Once the book is released, you will be able to get a copy through his website and other locations. Check back for news regarding that actual release date.
And because Roman apparently has plenty of time left over after the training, writing, and blogging, he has been working on another effort. The Race Athelete Performance Network (RAPN) is a new website dedicated to providing information and articles from various sources around the internet and blogland. Like any good publication, the RAPN presents a variety of topics. Visitors will be able to find humor, technical information, motivation, and training/racing tips. And Roman and the other contributors are there to provide answers to questions posed by those visitors. The strength of the site will be the cooperation of a great variety of sources.
Pay a visit to Everyman Triathlon. There is a lot to see, and the time will be well spent. Keep an eye out for the release of his book and consider helping send him to the New York Times best seller list. And stop by the RAPN and see what it has to offer.
Saturday, June 10, 2006
The day started early, with Baby Pol waking up at 3:00 a.m. for food. Between feeding, diapering, and getting her back to sleep, it was after 4:00 by the time I crawled back into bed. I knew then that the hour remaining before my alarm went off wasn't really going to be enough. My watch alarmed first, and I promptly ignored it (which is why my alarm clock is nowhere close enough for a snooze button to be hit). No big deal, as the alarm clock sounded less than 5 minutes later.
After getting dressed, it was time for the traditional Iron Pol pre-race breakfast. A bagel and a bottle of sports drink. There was enough time to watch pointless television, then start waking kids up to get them ready. Toddler Pol was unusually cooperative, as he knew we were going to a race. He wanted to have his bib number on, and accepted it when I told him we would put it on, later. We managed to get out the door only a few minutes late.
Once at the start area, I got both the kids checked in to child care (at the College of Nursing, run by students and professors, no charge, how cool is that?). I ran into the wife of a co-worker with whom I was considering running (co-worker, I'd never keep up with his wife). After warming up, I headed to the corrals. Race organizers decided to add a second preferred start corral, which allowed me to get fairly close to the front of the pack.
The start was much better with the extra corral. The first mile was a bit fast, probably a result of the draft from the jack-rabbits. I ran it in 7m 7s and knew that was unsustainable. As the pack spread out, I eased of the pace, running the second mile in 7m 13s. The third mile, flatter than the first two, proved much easier, though far to fast, at just over 6m 54s. Whether that mile essentially "did me in" or I managed to get back to an appropriate pace, the remaining miles were more in line with expectations. Mile 4 was 7m 23s. Mile 5 was 7m 26 s. And mile 6 was 7m 25 sec. That's a fairly stable pace, and I felt good doing it. I did experience significant tightness in my calf, and don't really know how much it affected the run.
Overall, the results were better than I really hoped. I finished with a final time of 44:54 for an average pace of 7m 14s. The 3.1 mile split was 22:07, so the halfs were fairly close, as well. That was good for 566 out of 6528 finishers (over 10,000 registered) overall. In my division, I was 61 out of 369. I can live with those results.
Toddler Pol also has a race report and asked that it be included. He wanted to be sure everyone knew he snuck in under the age requirement and ran the 0.3 mile race for children aged 4-7. He considered the 0.5 mile race for the 7-12 year olds, but figured nobody would buy that he was that old. At 2 1/2, he did quite well, running nearly the entire distance, receiving some forward progress help (75 yards) half way through the race. He finished strong, running past the finish line. We were barely able to get his medal, as he was more interested in balloons and getting to the food tent.
In fact, the food tent nearly ruined the entire race where he is concerned. There was such a delay between getting to the start and when the race began that Toddler Pol wanted to "stop racing" and go eat. Only by convincing him we were going to play a game of "chase" was I able to redirect that concern. I forgot to stop the watch when we hit the finish, but he ran the 1/3 mile in under 6 minutes. Not bad for someone with another 4 years in this category.
So, it was a good day for a race. One 10K PR later (by more than 10 minutes), it's time for bed.
Friday, June 09, 2006
Being half-moron, I didn't have a CO2 inflator or mini-pump with me. And the smart half that had decided to bring the cell phone didn't want to call and wake Mrs. Pol up so early (5:30). So, for the second time in a week, I took of my shoes and socks and started toward the finish line barefoot.
I did eventually call home, and my wife packed up the kids, grabbed the bike rack, and headed out to pick me up. For the record, Toddler Pol loved that he was out without shoes. When I got in the car, he started telling me that I had to get a ride because my chain broke. "No," I told him, "This time it's a flat tire." So he started telling me a long, rather complex story about his bike being broke and him needing to fix it.
At this point, I don't know whether I will be more angry with myself (for not having an inflator) or with the manufacturer. Once I determine whether the tire is blown or simply flat, I'll direct my displeasure towards the correct party. Either way, I will be correcting those issues that are indicative of my short-sightedness immediately. I need to get a saddlepack, spare, and some type of inflation device, today. Apparently, the fact that the bike is pretty much brand new hasn't been a big factor in performance.
The one silver lining is that all of the issues have been with secondary components rather than anything related to the frame or other structural items. That's minor consulation, and I'll be talking with both Felt and the bike store regarding these failures.
For all of you in races, this weekend, have fun and finish strong. For both myself and Toddler Pol, it's running races. I have a 10K race, and Toddler Pol is running a 0.3 mile children's run.
Thursday, June 08, 2006
This morning was another scheduled 1000 yard swim. Runner's World had an article on triathlons, and the swim section discussed a drill that I used during my 100 yard sets. The drill is to do a normal forward crawl stroke, but to pause for one second with the leading hand forward on each stroke. The goal is to force attention to body rotation. I completed 800 yards worth of that drill, and find it to be very helpful. First, it does indeed focus attention on rotation. Second, just slowing things down in the stroke and making it more effective helped improve my pace. Most 100 yard sets were near the 2:30 mark, which is pretty speedy for this guppy.
After completing 800 yards, I did one 200 yard set to complete the 1000 yards. After a 60 second rest interval, I decided to add a little bit extra, as 1000 yards is the most I'd ever done. That "little bit extra" turned into 500 yards without a rest interval (not counting pauses in sweet spot). That's huge for two reasons. It got me to the 1500 yard mark. It also marks the first time I've completed more than 1/4 mile without stopping. It's one small step, er stroke, for triathlete kind, but one huge jump, er bigger stroke, for Iron Pol.
Just for the record, according to the YMCA, what I swam was actually 1466.667 yards, as they claim 72 laps equal 1 mile. That makes the pool 24.72 yards, which I personally deemed idiotic. But to be fair, I theoretically had to swim another length and a third to reach 1500 yards.
Another training note. I need to reevaluate how tough I am being on myself. I thought I had been actively drilling and swimming for six months. A quick review of some training logs just revealed that it was February when Total Immersion was recommended to me. That is when I began drills and honest swim training. How is it that we can be so positive and "cheerleaderish" for others, than be so tough on ourselves?
Apparently my "kudos" regarding blogger being back up and running need to be tempered with the fact that it's running sort of oddly. It's interesting that I can access just about everything, except profiles from the comments left on entries. "Curiouser and curiouser," said Alice.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
Training hasn't slowed down. After getting the chain on my bike replaced, I went out for a 22 mile group ride on Sunday. We kept up a pretty good 18 MPH pace, and there were no further disasters with the bike. And we had lots of good food.
Yesterday's attempt at running quickly turned into a core body strength session. While the feet recovered from Saturday's run nicely, my calves are fairly well hammered. Two laps around the track were enough to verify that. That's okay because a good workout focused on the core always does good.
This morning, it was 1000 yards in the pool. 100 yard repeats with 30 second rest intervals. I spent lots of time focusing on the breathing portion, as that was lacking (more than usual) in the race. I had a lane partner the whole time, which helped generate turbulence in the water, minimally simulating waves. Mrs. Pol is also considering a summer pass to a local state park, where I can get some serious open water swimming done. If we work it right, she can take the kids and play (and watch the bike) while I swim. That will enable me to get the open water training done, and combine it with a good ride to complete the brick.
And in true Pol fashion, the next races are already being considered. Next week's Bellin Run 10K is the last race for which I am currently signed up and paid. Unless I decide to run another sprint race in July, it is likely that the two final races of the season will be the Oshkosh Area Sprint Triathlon and the Fox Cities Marathon. Like many others, my best motivation comes from being registered (and paid) in several upcoming events.
So, with no lasting and little short term damage, I leave the ranks of "never completed a triathlon" and hit the ground hobbling. In short order, I'll be right back in the mix ready to tear things up in Oshkosh.
Sunday, June 04, 2006
Iron Pol early in T1
Iron Pol later in T1
Iron Pol's feet after running 7 miles of the bike leg
Remember, the full story is below.
Saturday, June 03, 2006
So, let's start with the good. First of all, the weather was absolutely beautiful. The temperatures were much cooler than the past few days, the skies were clear, and winds were basically non-existent. We couldn't have asked for a better day. And the warm temperatures of the past week provided us with warmer water temperatures than many expected.
The swim was started in waves of 20, set by bib number. So, the guppies were thrown in with the dolphins. I just started at the back of the pack, and realized there were a few people I should have passed early. The first 50 yards of the swim proved that a great deal more open water swimming is needed. The water was completely murky, and the waves made my already poor breathing skills that much worse. Still, I managed to do a forward crawl through most of the swim, and only broke form one time (when I ran over another swimmer). After that first time, I always went to "sweet spot" when I got uncomfortable, and spent most of the swim just going over TI concepts in my head. A very unofficial time for the swim was 3 m 46 sec.
Transitions also went fairly well. T1 benefitted from a great many sources. I had a bottle of water for washing my feet, and remembered to bring a towel to dry those feet. The socks were a bit tough to get on, and Mrs. Pol picked up a few ideas watching others. T1 time, 3m 47s. T2, for reasons that will become clear, went VERY quickly. Timing was a bit hazy, but it was something like 15 seconds.
Finally, the 5K run went wonderfully. My unofficial time was 23m 5s for a pace of about 7m 27s per mile. I'm fairly proud of that.
There was some bad in the race. First, though the swim went well, I feel it could have been vastly better. I will have to find the opportunity to do more training in the lake. It was very uncomfortable, and there was a lot of room for improvement. Second, I missed quite a bit in the transitions. I forgot to put gels in the pockets of my jersey, and didn't grab them in transition. Luckily, this was a short race. Experience will probably help with that. I learned a lot from reading about setting up transitions, and that helped. Actually having done a race helped more.
You will note that discussion of the bike has been notably lacking to this point. That is because the bike fell firmly and painfully into the ugly section of the race.
The new bike was outstanding, to a point (for reference, the 6.2 mile point). I reached speeds of 27 miles per hour on a relatively flat course, and was easily maintaining an average speed over 17 MPH. Despite warnings, cautions, and horror stories, the aerobars went well. I came out of them for turns, and some uphill portions. And then...
Around mile 6 there was a slight incline. As I climbed this grade, my chain slipped and jumped the sprocket. I was able to come out of the pedals cleanly, and got the chain right back on. At mile 6.2 (by my bike computer), I felt the chain slip again. This time, the grade was much higher, and when the chain went, I lost all forward momentum. The bike went over, with me still in the pedals. As I went, I noticed the chain trailing out behind the bike.
I would like to pause here to say it was truly one of those slow motion moments. It is quite odd that as I was going over, there were two thoughts in my head. First, protect the bike. Second, why is my chain back there.
The chain had snapped, busting a pin clean off. Sadly, it wasn't the master link that fell off, it was just one of many regular links. As bikers went by me, they saw the chain in my hands and looked truly sad for me. I was just glad I was only about 50 yards from a pair of volunteers with a radio. They called for a vehicle to pick up the bike.
As they called, I took off my shoes, and started walking. I hadn't gotten more than 100 feet when they indicated the assistance vehicle was there. And I made a decision that few could believe, and I would often question the rest of the race.
I gave the volunteer my bike, shoes, socks, and helmet. I grabbed one of my water bottles, and asked if he could drop my bike off at the transition area. He couldn't quite believe it when I took off running down the road. No way was I going to let that damn chain ruin my race. After all, it was only 9 more miles to the start of the run.
Now, if it hasn't hit you yet, it should. Remember, I was 6 miles in to the bike portion, and had just given George my shoes. There remained nine miles to go. Barefoot. As in no $135 shoes designed to correct for pronation. As in no hard rubber between my poor feet and the rocks, sticks, and dead squirrels on the road. As in, "You're poor feet are going to strangle you in your sleep for what you are doing to them."
It should be noted that I did not run the 9 miles back to the transition area. Around mile 13, another volunteer showed up with his mountain bike. They had tried unsuccessfully to repair my chain, and then headed out with the first bike they could scrounge up. So, I did the last few miles biking, still barefoot. And arrived at T2 dead last. It did, however, help my transition time, as all I did was drop the helmet with a volunteer and grab my shoes. Not much else to do when everything else is missing.
Just a word to the wise. I'm an idiot. I don't recommend doing this. Something in me just refused to let this first race be a DNF.
There were a few funny outcomes from the decision to run. First, word of what was going on apparently spread quickly that someone was running the bike portion. Apparently the barefoot part is what caught everyone's attention. Forget that I'm running a half-marathon instead of 5K. Just that I'm barefoot. Second, pretty much the entire spectator, volunteer, and triathlete contingent was there to cheer me on to the finish. I don't know if it was the run or the emotions, but I darn near had a respiratory event. Finally, I won an award. They deemed me as the Most Determined (or Most Retarded) and I won a $25 gift certificate to a local New Balance store. I also won a doorprize of ice cream (probably for Mrs. and Toddler Pol). So, I basically got back my $30 entry fee. I think I also left one hell of an impression on quite a few people.
Total time for the bike portion of the race, 1 h 33m 48s to cover 15 miles. That is roughly 33 minutes to cover 8 miles biking and 1 hour to cover 7 miles running. My total race time was about 2 hours 5 minutes.
As a post-script to the race, the bike went straight back to where it was purchased. While I hold no ill will against the store, I quite expected them to repair the chain. I really would have hoped to get more than seven miles out of a chain. They were completely perplexed by how it broke. They also said I was fairly lucky. That it just laid itself out on the ground without taking out the derailleurs surprised them. They replaced the chain, gave the bike an good checkup, and took it out for a test ride. It's back at home, ready for tomorrow.
So, I'm now a triathlete. I have the battle scars to prove it. And the sincere hope that, while fun, I never have to go through another race quite like this one. Barefoot marathons aren't really my thing.
Friday, June 02, 2006
First, the bike store screwed up. More specifically, the Milwaukee branch of the store where I'm buying my bike screwed up, big time. It seems they forgot to put a certain Felt S25 on the truck, yesterday. That's fairly important, as that is the bike I'm supposed to be buying. So, after the Christmas-like excitement that shadowed me all day was deflated when I called to make sure they did in fact have the bike. They promised they would have it by around 1 p.m. today.
That had two significant areas of impact. The excitement that dogged me remains, as I have yet to get the bike. And the opportunities for a few "get acquainted" rides are gone. I'll only have one good opportunity to ride the bike, and that's at the store while it's being put together and fitted.
Second, it's now less than two hours from the end of my work day. It's time to head home, get the car, the kids, the wife, and everything else ready to go to Waupaca. A quick swing by the bike store where they BETTER have my bike, and we're out of here. It's difficult to accomplish much at work when you have big events on the weekend, and a short day, at that.
The good news? I hope to get something out of the bike shop for leaving me hanging. A nice biking jersey, toys, whatever. I figure they should be willing to give some kind of compensation for taking what was already a tight schedule and blowing it up.
Have a great weekend. The next time I post will be after becoming an official triathlete (even if it's only a fledgling triathlete).
Thursday, June 01, 2006
So this morning's swim came as a bit of a shock. First, because it went fairly well. I did 1000 yards in 100 yard drills (well, mostly 100 yards, more on that in a bit) with 30 second rest intervals.
Okay, stop, breathe. That sounds almost too much like a real swimmer. Recover from wave of disorientation. Alright, I'm better now.
Anyway, as usual, a key focus was breathing properly. I just went through my splits, and was pleasantly surprised. First, my average was just over 2m 40s per 100. My best 100 was 2m 27s, and my worst was only 2m 51s. Somehow, I also managed to slide a 2m 37 split in at half-way point.
Then the really scary part happened. I somehow slipped a 200 yard stretch in, and didn't notice it until I was nearly done with it. Just for fun, I also did my next set as 200 yards, and did it more than 8 seconds faster. It's scary enough that I go running and find out that I did a couple miles more than I thought. It's really scary to find myself going, "Oops, I forgot to stop swimming and take a rest."
It's a long way from the 2.4 miles of an Ironman swim. But it's a start. Perhaps there's as much hope for my swimming as there was for my running a few years back.
*One addendum - Using a stopwatch for rest intervals dramatically changes the swim. I found that 30 seconds goes a whole lot faster than I would have guessed without the watch. After today, I'd bet that my past swims were closer to a full minute rest between sets. New rule: Iron Pol always swims with his watch and uses it to time rest intervals.