My goals for 2015.

It’s a new year.  A chance to reset, to start anew, with the goals we set for ourselves.

As the title says, this is a post about my goals for this next year.  They’re not resolutions.  They’re things I want to achieve with my life before 1Jan2016.

I’ve rededicated myself to racing.  I’ve started working strength training into my workout regimen.  I’m not trying to “lose weight” or “get smaller.”  There was a time when I was under 220lbs, and I felt horrible and run down.  Besides feeling good with myself, and having energy, weighing over 220lbs gives me the option to race as a Clydesdale.  Why would I throw that away?  That said…

Racing (in general):  There’s a few goals I have set with racing, in general, in mind.
This is the year I plan to get my revenge on the Mid-Atlantic Super Spartan Race.  It handed me a sound ass kicking in 2013, taking nearly 6 hours to complete.  Still, I finished.  This year, though, I plan to do it in under 5 hours.
I ran my first marathon in 2014.  It took me 5:38:14 to finish 26.2 miles (which is actually faster than the EIGHT MILE Spartan Race mentioned above… damned ski slopes), but I finished.  There were some things that hampered me during that race.  In 2015, I’m going to train for those, then get my revenge on the race.  I plan to cut at least 40 minutes off my time, in the same race.  This year’s event should be awesome, as it is the race’s 10th anniversary.
I DNF’d a Sprint triathlon (and my only triathlon since 2012) in 2014.  Where I’ll never tackle that particular race again, I do plan to keep charging.  In 2015, I’m going to compete in my first half iron distance triathlon, and I plan to finish in the top 3 of my division.

Swimming:  I’ve set a goal to swim a total of 75 miles in 2015.  This will be tough, as pool time is hard to come by, and beach time is even harder to come by.  Still, I need to focus my efforts here, as this is my weak leg during triathlons.  If I improve here, I improve in the other two disciplines as well.

Biking:  My strength during a triathlon.  I have room for improvement here, as well as in the other two disciplines, so I have a goal here of 3225 miles for 2015.

Running:  The big change here is adding treadmill work to the mix.  It’ll allow me to run on inclines that I just can’t find on the roads around my house.  To train to run hills, you need to run hills.  Mine will be man made, and will always be going up.  This will help me get revenge on the Spartan Race and the Outer Banks Marathon.  It will also make the flat run for the Outer Banks Half Iron Triathlon seem easier.  I also plan to find some sandy areas to run in for miles at a time.  If I can conquer sand and hills, I can surely shave 40 minutes off of my marathon time.  Also, to help me along, I have a distance goal of 750 miles of running for 2015.

Those are my goals for 2015.  It will take a concerted effort to meet them, but doing so will certainly help my racing improve and jump to a higher level.

 

UPDATE: I’m not going to keep old updates in this post.  I’ll change them each time I make one.

Swimming:  I’ve not swam a single inch, let alone mile, so far this year.  Being on second shift and working 7 days a week is not the issue, either, though it is happening.
The issue is that the only pool that I have convenient and affordable access to is closed for renovations until March.  I’ll figure something out.
Biking: 44.67 miles behind.  Mother Nature still hasn’t let up, really.  I’ve been trying to do a “ride” (and run) before work 5 days a week.  Due to my shift schedule right now, I’m walking a fine line between working toward my goals and burning myself out.  The mileage will come, in due time.
Running:  7.79 miles behind for much the same reason I’m behind on the riding.

Again, I want to meet my goals.  When I’m training, I’m focused on nothing else, at all.  The catch right now is to not burn myself out, and to not hurt myself.

Gettin’ To It

It’s been a while since my last blog entry.  Such a fact is counter-productive, really.  Considering I started this blog to share my experiences as a Clydesdale racer and to give pointers to anyone who wants to follow in my foot steps, if you will.  Truth told, I also did it in an effort to gain a reputation as a serious racer in order to land some type of sponsorship.  I’m sabotaging that.
Still, here I am, making another blog entry.  As with every entry, I hope that it reaches as many folks as possible, and, more importantly, is found as helpful or even motivational.

In my last blog entry, Time For a Change, I committed to revamping my training regimen by adding in strength training, increasing my yoga, and doing more plyometrics.  I pointed out that I have vowed to podium finish a half iron distance triathlon in 2015.  I just re-read said posting, and I’m finding myself needing to bring to light some modifications I’ve made to the plan of attack I laid out in that posting.
As of right now, I’m running 4 times per week.  I’m focusing, mostly, on speed, right now.  I feel that my ability to push through pretty much any distance is solid.  What I need to do is bring down my times.  Looking back on past results of a couple area half iron distance triathlons, I need to get my run down to just under 2 hours, even off the bike, to claim that podium position.  I know my own abilities well enough to know that if I get my run up to a certain level, my bike will follow suit.  (I’ll still be bringing bike specific training into play come January, to improve that event even more.)
I have brought in strength training.  I’ve been doing 3 days a week of lifting, alternating between lower body and core and upper body and core.  With the exception of the venerable bench press, I try to do a given exercise on consecutive days.  Squats can technically be an exception as well, but I alternate between front squats and standard squats.  I may actually bring leg presses to the party, just in an effort to keep my muscles in a constant state of development.

I still need to figure a way to make time for yoga and some plyo.
My wife had won, in a raffle, a 3 month membership to the YMCA.  I’ve been using it quite regularly.  Sadly, finances dictate it won’t be renewed right away.  SO, I’ll probably start visiting a local Air Force base, where they have a fitness facility with an indoor track, treadmills galore, and plenty of stationary bikes for my indoor cycling pleasure.  My body has been responding rather harshly to the cold weather we’ve been having, so I’m trying to do as much indoors as I can.  I force myself, though, to get outside and pound some pavement on Sundays.
I plan to look into any yoga classes at the Air Force facility as well.  Being retired military has its privileges.  I plan to take advantage of them.
I had originally intended to make a couple plyo exercises, especially box jumps, part of my routine on “leg days.”  It turns out that the YMCA doesn’t have any boxes to jump up onto.  The have aerobic steps, but I don’t feel safe jumping onto one that’s elevated 18″ or more!

All in all, I feel more focused than ever, right now.  I am confident enough to go out on a limb and say this:  If I maintain this focus, I WILL find my way to that podium.

“Luck is when opportunity and preparation intersect.”

I’ve made the commitment to prepare, and I shall keep at it.  My focus will stay sharp.  That preparation will intersect with opportunity on 12September2015.  At that point, luck will be in my favor!!

Time For a Change

I did something today that I haven’t done in quite a while. I lifted weights.  Before I did, I warmed up by running 1/4 mile.  When I finished lifting, I ran another 1/4 mile.

I look back to races like the Super Spartan I did in 2013 and the marathon I just finished on Sunday and there’s something that shines through like a beam from a lighthouse.
I run my ass off (quite literally, actually…I’ve dropped 2 pant sizes since January) around my house. Sadly, the roads around here are very flat. I also failed to prepare for soft ground for the marathon. Climbing the mountain during the Super Spartan (and sabotaging myself by not consuming enough water) and the hills coupled with the sandy terrain during the marathon cost me. My performances fell below my own standards.

Now, I’ve gone and set a goal for myself to podium my division in a half iron distance triathlon in 2015.  I’ve got my sights on the 2015 OBX Half Triathlon.
I managed to be dead last in my division during my first triathlon in 2008 (a sprint), came in #10 of 11 in my division in the 2012 OBX Olympic Triathlon, and DNF’d my most recent triathlon.  So setting a goal to PODIUM my division in an even longer race seems kinda crazy.  Which is fine.  I’m ready to accept the challenge, and no one challenges Jim Warren more than Jim Warren himself.  No one.

So, I found myself reflecting on past performances, and I looked to find out what the common denominator was.  In every case, I put in the miles on the road.  I did the time in the pool.  I did some burpees and crunches and push-ups.  I never did any strength training.  I half-assed my way through the plyo exercises that I didn’t do often enough, and I didn’t commit to keeping yoga in my regimen.
This resulted in my aerobic capacity being fine, but my flexibility, anaerobic capacity, and endurance suffered because of it.  Muscles tightened up due to hitting lactic threshold.  Joints started aching.  Excessive energy was burned through low ranges of motion.  All of these affected each and every one of my races in some negative fashion.

THAT period is over.  Anyone can look at what I have accomplished, and they can see that I can finish 26.2 miles, that I can finish a Spartan Race, and that I can finish a triathlon (unless Mother Nature stands against me).  Now comes the time when I prove to everyone, including myself, that I can not only do it all… I can dominate it all.

The new workout program will see me training 6 days a week.  Right now, 4 days are for running and 2 for strength training.  Some of my running will be on the treadmill, with the deck raised to progressively higher levels, to finally train for uphill running (or mountain climbing).  Soon, yoga, swimming, and biking will take the stage.
It’s high time for a change.  I’m there mentally; NO ONE can deny that.  It’s time I get there physically.  I’ll keep my weight just above 220lbs, so I’ll stay a Clydesdale (and comfortable…last time I went below 220, I felt run down all the time).  Through all of this, I will maintain my focus, and keep my sights set on that podium finish!

The beast is about to be unleashed!!!!!!!!!

I DID IT!!

Sunday, November 9, 2014.  That was the date of the 9th annual Outer Banks Marathon.

The morning started at 0430, when The Bride Unit and I woke up.  I grabbed a shower, made a fried egg sandwich with some cheese, and gathered my race kit.  Then came the 45 minute drive to Kill Devil Hills, NC, where the start was.  It was about 51*F when The Bride Unit dropped me off.  I intended to race in my fleece lined running tights, a pair of boot socks, my compression calf sleeves,a short sleeved compression shirt, a long sleeved cotton shirt, and a beanie.  Pre-race, I also had on a pair of sweat pants and a sweat shirt to stay warm.  I ditched those and checked my gear bag about 10 minutes prior to the start of the race.

Once the race started, I set out at what felt like a nice slow pace.  I was doing a bit more than I expected, though, as I was laying down a 10:39 mile time by the half mile mark.  It felt good, and I didn’t feel like I was burning too much energy.  I managed to hold down a sub-11:00/mile pace until around mile 8.  At the point, the course ventured off road.  I knew this was going to happen, but all course descriptions warned me of hard packed dirt and some pebble bed gravel.  What we found though was very little hard packed dirt, lots of loose sand, no pebble bed gravel, and lots of sparse gravel in loosely packed dirt.
I hadn’t trained for this sort of terrain, plus the trails were fairly hilly, something else that my local roads didn’t prepare me for.  The next 5 or 6 miles took a massive toll on my feet and ankles.

The major milestone of this particular race is “The Bridge” that connects Roanoke Island (and the town of Manteo, NC) to the main peninsula of the Outer Banks.  I had vowed to myself that I would not stop moving forward until I reached this bridge.  This came at roughly the 22 mile mark.  I kept moving forward the entire time, despite the immense pain in my ankles and the blister that had developed on the ball of my right foot.  At the start of the bridge, I burned away 2 minutes by sitting and doing some stretches to restore some flex to my ankles.  I also did this after the mile long bridge was behind me.
At that point, it was a push to the end.  I was trudging along, using a counted pace method. I would walk for a counted 50 – 75 paces then run for 150.  I trudged on like this until I rounded a corner and saw the finish.  I kicked up my pace, then, with about a football field left to go, kicked into a full on, balls-to-the-wall sprint.

Finally, I finished the race.  I had put the nail in the coffin of my first marathon.

Leading up to this marathon, I never stated, except once, an expected time.  The one time I did, I said 5 hours.  I didn’t beat that, but the truth is that my goal was to finish above all else.  I managed that, and I’m proud of that, regardless of how slow my time was.  I did what I said I would do:  I completed a marathon!

Official results:
Time = 5:38:14.00
Over-all placement =  1019 of 1148
Age Group placement = 78 of 80

So very, very ready!

I have less than 4 days, 10 hours, and 20 minutes until I set out on the first full marathon I have ever run.  I’ll be doing this weighing in somewhere around 230 pounds.

Two days ago, with my marathon just a week away, I set off on a 6+ mile run.  Just before the run, I saw a friend of mine had just PR’d a 5K race.  I set out to best her time, not out of disrespect.  The total opposite in fact.  I used my friend as motivation.
At the 5K mark, I was well under the time my friend had set.  With that, I decided that it was time for me to finally accomplish a goal that I had set way back in December of 2012:  Finish a 10K run in less than 60 minutes.

I dug down, deep into my soul. I gritted my teeth against the cold that was making my ankles and knees and hips ache. I looked forward and set my pace. Then, my “coach” called out: “Time: One hour. Distance: Six point two three miles.” I KNEW I had just met my goal. Actual time for 6.2 miles: 59min 49.8sec!!

That said, I must admit that the past few weeks have found me somewhat anxious about my pending marathon.  I have known that I would start, and I have kept saying that I will finish, even if I have to crawl.  In the back of my mind, though, I’ve been questioning myself.
After I DNF’d a sprint triathlon, my faith in myself was somewhat dashed.  That caused me to question whether I really could finish 26.2 miles.  You see, my work schedule changed radically and prevented me from doing FOUR of my long runs.  Over the course of the last 16 weeks of training, I’ve done, in training, 13.26mi, 13.87mi, 14.5mi, 14.69mi, and 15.61mi for my long runs.  I missed a 10 miler (easy week), a 14+ miler, and 2 16+ milers.  To date, I have done NOTHING over 15.61 miles.

Today, I set out on my training run with no goal but to finish strong.  During the last mile, I had “Wrong Side of Heaven” by Five Finger Death Punch in my ears.  If you’ve seen the video, you know it is about veterans dealing with PTSD.  It occurred to me that, somewhere, is a fellow veteran who would LOVE to conquer 26.2 miles, perhaps for the first time or as a repeat attempt but cannot because of some disability that resulted from our ongoing war with people who hold nothing but hate for Americans.
I then thought about the things I have done in my short racing career.  I’ve conquered 2 triathlons.  I’ve conquered several 5Ks, setting PRs on a couple of those.  I ran over 750 miles in 2013.  With just short of 2 months left in 2014, I have run over 400 miles.  I ran over 100 miles in August.  In 2013, I finished a Spartan Race.  This year, it took the full onslaught of Mother Nature and the Atlantic Ocean to keep me from conquering a triathlon.

On November 9th, I WILL conquer 26.2 miles of Outer Banks, NC, real estate.  The #OBXMarathon will not defeat me.  I have PROVEN that only Mother Nature can do that, and I feel that she’s on my side this time!!

I Did Not Fail. I Only Learned What Doesn’t Work.

I just watched an episode of Castle in which Castle is discussing with Alexis why he keeps the first rejection letter from a publisher framed and on his wall.  He tells her there were 20 others after that one, and that it serves to motivate him.  He then told her, “rejection is not failure; quitting is failure.”

Then, I thought about my performance in the triathlon on Sunday.  Up to this point, I felt like I failed because I DNF’d.  Now, though, and especially after hearing what Castle said about his rejection letters, I don’t feel as though I failed at all.
If I had failed, I would have looked at those waves then turned tail and went home.  Instead, I looked at those waves and said to myself, “let’s see what happens.”
I entered the ocean and faced those waves.  I tried my damnedest to tackle those waves, and, for over 10 minutes, I fought and fought.  The harder I fought the ocean, the bigger a toll the ocean took on me.  I finally had to give in, but I did not just quit.  Had I just quit, I would have walked away.  Instead, I finished the ride and run.

After Sunday’s race, I walked away having learned that I do have limits.  I found those limits on Sunday, and decided that trying to see what was beyond those limits could be detrimental to my health and safety.  Discretion truly is the better part of valor.

In the end, I can admit that I failed to train for such conditions.  That’s something I will fix. I will not take part in the Sandman Triathlon again for several reasons, but I will not say that I will never do another triathlon versus heavy surf.  I saw others do it, so I know I can do it, too.  One day I will, perhaps.

The last thing this will do is discourage me from tri-ing again.

My first DNF.

I now have only three official triathlons under my belt.  I make no claim to be amazing or any more bad ass than any person who calls himself a triathlete.  Because I put forth effort to train for triathlons, I still consider myself a triathlete.  I do not have so few races under my belt because I haven’t had the nerve to “tri.”  I have so few because of finances.  Turns out that racing isn’t cheap, thanks in large part to insurance companies and our litigation happy society.
When I can afford to race, I race with the heart of a clydesdale… I put myself full force at the race.  I NEVER want to bow out.  On the flip side of that, I never hold it against someone when he bows out, for whatever reason.  As my favorite saying goes, Dead Last Finish is greater than Did Not Finish which trumps Did Not Start.  It’s my strong belief that, whether you finish or not, simply BEGINNING take guts.

Today, I competed in the 31st Annual Sandman Triathlon in Virginia Beach, VA.  I knew from the get go that this would be a race that had an ocean swim.  All my races had ocean swims.  What I failed to contemplate was that this race would be an ocean swim with nothing but ocean to one side of me.  The other races had some sort of shielding from the ocean’s full brunt.  I also failed to contemplate the condition of the Atlantic Ocean this time of year.  It’s rough.
Because of time and convenience, I did all my training in a pool.  I KNOW open water swimming is different, so I took measures to make my pool swims harder.  I didn’t wear sleek swim shorts at the pool.  I always wore shorts that would weigh me down, that would cause me to work harder.  I focused on keeping my breathing and my pacing in check so that I wouldn’t sabotage myself on Race Day.
Nothing I did could have possibly prepared me for today.  I heard that the swells today were upwards of 12 feet.  Being out there was akin to trying to do laps in a washing machine.  The first buoy was about 50 meters off shore, behind the shore break but still in a wave zone.  I knew if I could get out to that buoy, I would be able to finish the swim.  It was getting to that buoy that I couldn’t do.  I tried everything I could think of.  I tried to walk as far as I could and dive under the waves.  I tried dolphining and diving under the waves.  Like a loony, I even tried jumping the waves.  For my efforts, I was twice planted face first on the ocean floor.  I drank about a gallon of the Atlantic, and I never made it past about 25 meters.  After fighting the surf for about 10 minutes, I conceded defeat to Mother Nature and the Atlantic Ocean.
As I walked back to shore, a lifeguard asked if I need him to help me back to shore.  “I’m going out, but I refuse to go out under tow,” I responded.  Another asked if I was alright.  “Nothing harmed but my pride,” I said.  And it was true.  I was safe.  I didn’t panic at any point.  In my heart, I wanted to get past those waves, but in my mind I knew I was running out of gas just trying.  They say that discretion is the better part of valor, so I did what I knew had to be done.
I later found out that more than 20% of the field bowed out to those damned waves.  In fact, two USA Triathlon officials felt the swim should have been cancelled.

Upon turning in my chip, the race official told me I could finish the race anyway, but wouldn’t get an official time.  So I did just that.

I started my stopwatch as soon as I crossed the transition line.  From that point, I treated the race as though I was still in it to win it.
I finished T1 at a quick pace, for me.  As I headed out on the bike, I focused on the next 14 miles and decided to spin for the first half, into the wind, and to mash the second half, with wind at my back.  Even while spinning, I was passing a lot of folks.  I admit that having not swam the whole swim, I was fresher than most people, but most of the people on the ride when I left were your stereotypical triathletes and had really expensive, triathlon specific bikes.  I’m 233 pounds and ride a road bike with a tri bike shape and an aero bar, but it is NOT a true tri specific bike, so my freshness didn’t give me THAT big of an advantage.
About 4 or 5 miles in, I came up on a guy who was easily 75 pounds lighter than me riding a full carbon fiber tri bike with a set of wheels that I know cost well over $2000.  His bike was one that sells well over $5000.  He had the stereotypical build one associates with triathletes.  And I passed him with ease.  The next guy was on a similar bike and had a similar build.  He may not have given up so much weight, though, as he was pretty tall, but I’m sure he was still under 200 pounds.  I left him behind readily.  In fact, I managed to pass several guys with sub-200 pound frames riding bikes that cost double and triple, or more, what mine cost (imagine owning a bike with a $3600 bicycle!).  I passed guys with solid disc rear wheels and four spoked fully carbon fiber front wheels on their bikes and aero helmets on their heads.  After my pitiful performance in the water, that made me happy.

The run was uneventful.  I wasn’t feeling gassed from the ride, but I didn’t have my  music with me and the swim was still messing with my head.  I just couldn’t find my pace.  I finished it in about 31 minutes, which is not my best time but is not atypical for me.  This did also include a quick bathroom break at the turnaround… I just couldn’t hold it.

The overall atmosphere of this race was mediocre at best.  The entry fee was very high for a sprint triathlon (this race was the same price as the race I originally intended to do… which is twice the distance).  No one received a finisher’s medal.  The swag was less than impressive.  The handling of the swim was botched in my opinion.  Because this was help in a tourist trap sort of area, there were still tourists milling about.  In several cases, they wandered onto the race course unchecked, and with no regard to the fact that a race was happening.  The race seemed a tad disorganized for a race that has been going on for over 30 years.
Where my competitive spirit, at this point, would normally be shouting, “I’LL GET YOU NEXT YEAR,” it is silent right now.  My spirit and I are upset that I failed to finish the race, but the overall atmosphere with the race left an ill taste in my mouth (or was that the Bud Light they served at the post-race party).  Because I just didn’t enjoy the race as a whole, I won’t be repeating it.  I do want revenge on the Atlantic Ocean for making me submit, but I want to have fun in the process.  This one just wasn’t fun.  Which is sad, really:  the marquee sponsor is the only triathlon shop in the area, and is a great shop.  This race, though, is not a great one.