Saturday, April 23, 2011

I Survived Lucky’s Lake Swim

My biggest weakness as a triathlete is the ability to swim in open water.  I can swim laps in the pool all day long, but I struggle when it comes to open water.  I have a tendency to freak out if I can not see in the water and I just forget all my swimming technique.

lake 1

I heard from fellow triathletes about a great lake swim in Orlando called Luckys Lake Swim, and decided to give it an try about a month ago.  At the time, I was swimming three plus days a week in the pool averaging over 2000 meters per workout, so I thought I was ready for a 1000 meter lake swim.  I was wrong.  I freaked out as soon as I got into the water.  I just got a new wetsuit a few days before the swim, so I blamed the wetsuit for being to small.  I got out of the water, took my wetsuit off, and tried to swim again.  I freaked out again, but I continued to swim on with my head out of the water the whole time.  I swam for only a couple of minutes and decided to turn around before I become food for the gators.


I felt horrible after the failed attempt and it got my really questioning my ability to do the Half-Ironman in May.  If, How am I going to complete 1900 meter swim on race day, when  I could not complete 1000 meters in a lake?  It put a dent into my swim training for the following two weeks, only doing two works for a little bit more than an mile total.

Five Essential Swim Drills    

I decided then that I had to change my swim training so I could complete my Half-Ironman without drowning.  I watched a couple of youtube videos on swim training and found a great video on swim drills that change my prospective on the way I swim.  I also started to swim with a coach to help improve my technique and get planned swim workouts.

swim workout

All this improved swim training showed during my Frogman Triathlon last weekend.  The triathlon gave my a huge boost of confidence for swimming, but I still freaked out, swimming with my head out of the water the whole time.  I decided to try and tackle the Luckys Lake Swim again to work on keeping my head in the water while I swim. 


Enough side tracking and on with my main story.  The weather this morning was great and there was a large number of people doing this swim today.  I do not know the lady in the blue tri-top in the picture above or why she is making such a weird face and body gesture at me.  I assume she was talking about something to the lady next to her, but it just looks funny.  Lucky made a couple of announcements and gave his warning to us about the danger of this lake swim.  His dog barked, and the swimmers started to enter the water. 

lake 2   

I decided to wait some to let most of the people start and then got into the water.  My main focus from the start was to stay calm and not freak out.  I keep telling my self this is only an 2 x 500m swim and should be a piece of cake.  I started swimming with my head out of the water due to all the people around me but when the crowds thinned out, I started to swim with me head in the water.  The water visibility was very clear and I was able to see people swimming about 10-15 feet in front of me.  I started out breathing every two strokes and calmed down enough to start breathing the usual every three strokes.  I was surprised by the number of people I was passing, I always thought I was a weak swimmer.  My arms started to get tired but I arrived on the otherside of the lake with no problems.  My biggest issue was every once and awhile, I would get a mouth full of water when I lift my head out of the water to sight. 

lake swimming   
I rested on the other side of the lake for only a minute or two before I started swimming back.  I was very calm on my swim back, concentrating on my swim technique.  It felt like the swim back flew by, but due to my great navigation skills while swimming, it ended up taking longer than swimming out.  My total time for the lap 1000 meter lap was 23.14, not counting the rest on the other side of the lake.  The time was a little bit slower than I wanted it to be for 1000 meters, but because of my inability to swim the shortest distance across the lake, I was happy with the swim.

lucky wall

All the swim training is really paying off.  I did not feel dead after I got out of the water and I probably could have done another lap, but I wanted to sign my name on Lucky’s Wall of Fame. 

luck wall 2          
There was no more space on the main wall to sign due to the popularity of this swim, so I had to sign the ceiling of the wall. 

name sign 
I also got the famous “I Survived Luckys Lake Swim” bumper sticker and “Enter The Food Chain 1K Swim” patch.     

lucky patch and sticker

This swim gave me a huge boost of confidence in open water swimming.  I can now keep my head in the water and swim with proper technique, unlike before where I swam with my head out of the water and was just thrashing my arms around.  I am also able to use less energy during the swim which will help me out while I am hammering it out during the bike and run. 

Mix 1 
There were a couple of sponsored athletes from Mix 1 giving away free Mix 1 after the swim.  I started to drink these after I received a bunch of free one from my Cross Florida Ride.  I found it as a good recover drink after I swim in the mornings and before I get to work to eat my breakfast.  I am pissed that I now want to buy it because I had a bunch of coupons for Mix 1 from the Miami Marathon Expo that just expired.   

What is your best recover drink after a workout?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Florida Hill Workout

With less than four weeks left until my Half Ironman triathlon, I started to increase the intensity of my workouts.  Today’s workout consisted of running hills, but since I live on the east coast of Florida, I have to use manmade hills for my workouts.  I have been excited lately since a new bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway just opened in my town a few months ago.  The next closest bridge was over an hour away from my house. 


Before my run, I stopped by my local watering hole to do a short swim workout.  I did a couple of drills to concentrate on my swimming technique and just used the workout to loosen up from my triathlon this past Sunday

During my swim workout, I saw a nasty looking weather cloud starting to roll over head and I was concerned that my hill workout was going to be rained out.  Luckily, by the time I got home the cloud seemed to disappear.

tandom bike 
I decided to bike to the bridge since the bridge is only 3 miles away from my house.  Instead of riding my road bike, I decided to have some fun and  ride Rachel’s brother’s tandem bike by myself.  Heading to the bridge, there was a strong tailwind, so I was flying at an 11 mph pace.  It was a tough ride to the bridge, putting a hurting on my legs.  I did not adjust the seat to the proper height before I left, so I was mainly using the muscles in my thighs.

bridge 1
My hill workout consisted of running over the bridge and back 3 times with a total distance just short of 5 miles.  Each time I pushed it going up the bridge as hard as I could and coasted down to recover.  I was happy to see a large number of people were walking the bridge.    


The view of the sunset from the top of the bridge was awesome.  The sun was lighting up the sky orange.  The ride home was tough since there was a strong headwind, but I just put the bike in a low gear and cruised along.  I think next time I ride the tandem bike, I will clip on a set of aero bars to help me push through the wind.         

What is your best spot to do a hill workout?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Frogman Olympic Distance Triathlon

In order to get ready for my Half-Ironman in May, I signed up for the Frogman Olympic Distance Triathlon as a test to ensure my training was on the right track. The race started at 7am in Daytona Beach Shores so I had to wake up at 4am to get ready for the race. 

Every race you learn something.  This race I learned I need to bring a headlamp so I can set-up my transition area in the dark.  A tip I learned in the past to help put my wetsuit on is to put my foot in a plastic bag.  I was surprised the first time I used the plastic bag how easy it was to put my foot through the wet suit.  



I was most concerned with the swim; this swim is only 400 meters shorter than the half-ironman distance.  I have been training with a swim coach to help my stroke technique, but I have a tendency to freak out during my triathlon races.  Swimming in a large pack and not being able to see in the water makes me forget my swim technique. 
When I first looked at the water to check it out, the water was calm, but once the race started the wind picked up making the surf rough.

The race started with everyone standing on the beach and having everyone run into the water.  I took my time getting into the water and shifted to the far right so the current would not push me past the first buoy.  I jogged into the water and walked out until the water was up to my chest.  


I freaked out again and swam with my head out of the water the whole time.  The waves getting out were not too bad but the choppy water was making the swim difficult.  I calmed down and just got into a rhythm which helped me to continue. 

swim start

You can see me on the far left in front of the lady in the yellow shirt.  Peter Edwards Photography took some cool shots of the swim portion of the race.    


The swim course consisted an out and back triangle shape with three buoys.  The buoys looked like they were so far away and the middle buoy looked like it was miles off shore.  The picture below shows how far offshore the third buoy was, with the middle buoy almost twice as far offshore as that. 


When I got to the middle buoy, I felt great knowing I was half way done.  I looked at my watch and was surprised with my great 12 minute halfway time.  I started to kick it up a notch seeing the coastline getting closer and closer.  It felt great to be able to touch ground when I got to shore and was even able to body surf a way in when I was getting out of the water.


My official time for the 1500m swim was a kick ass 26:33 thanks to the strong currents.                


There was a 300 foot run from the edge of the water to the transition area

The first transition area went smoothly expect that I forgot to put my watch back on.


Now that the swim part was done, I knew I could drop the hammer on the bike and the run.  I was able to pass a ton of people during the bike part and was only passed by one guy.  The bike course was nice and flat expect for a bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway which we had to go over twice.  There was a strong wind from the north so going south I was able to go 25mph easily but going into the wind put a hurting on my legs.  The last eight miles going into the tough head wind made my average drop from 22.5 mph down to 21.9 mph. 

My official time for the 24 mile bike was 1:05:56.


My transition from bike to run took some time getting my socks and shoes on.


It took some time for me to get me shoes tied.  I wanted to make sure they were tied properly so I would not get blisters.  The 10k run course was supposed to be an out and back course but due to some permitting issue, the course was now two 1.5 out and back along A1A and on the beach.



The first few miles I was flying running around a 7:30 per mile pace.  I passed a couple of people who passed me in the transition area.

Mile1: 7:32

I was looking down at my Garmin watch at 1.5 mile mark expecting to turn onto the beach but the course did not turn onto the beach until around mile 1.75.  I was worried about running on the soft sand but I was surprised how hard packed the sand was.  We were running on the part of the beach that cars drive on so running on the sand was not that bad.  The strong wind from the north helped push the pace up some running south along the beach.

Mile 2: 7:30

The runners were well spaced out so I did not have anyone running stride for stride with me, but there were a lot of people walking on the beach and cheering us along.  Around mile three, I was expecting to be able to see the turnaround but mile 3 came and went and when my watch hit 3.1 miles, I knew this run course would be longer than a 10k.

Mile 3: 7:43

I finally got to the midpoint turn around at mile 3.5 which meant the run course was going to be 7 miles long.  Once I made the turn around, I felt the strong head wind which started to kill my pace.   The next mile and a half put an hurting on my legs and slowed my running pace down to 8:30 min per mile pace.

Mile 4: 8:00

Mile 5: 8:27


Running north into the head head felt like it took for ever to get back onto A1A to start heading back south.  I was happy when I started to see the people turning to get back onto A1A.  I got to the turn and saw this very steep ramp we had to go up which made my legs muscles scream in pain.  Once I got back onto A1A, I was able to see the crosswalk with the finish line under it in the distance.  Being able to see the finish line and with help from the strong tail wind, I started to pickup my pace.

Mile 6:  8:04

When my Garmin beeped at mile 6, I started to give it all that I had left increasing the pace to a 7:30 min per mile pace.  The crosswalk kept getting bigger and I started to see the inflated finishing line arc.  With a half mile to go I picked up the pace even more to a 6:40 min per mile pace.  


I started to sprint towards the finish line when I saw Rachel take photos and decided to give her a great pose as I ran by.


My Garmin beeped at mile 7 and I noticed I was running a 6 min per mile pace for the last hundred feet.

Mile 7: 7:03


I crossed the finish time with my official time of 2:30:36.  I was able to complete the 7 mile run in 54:28 with an average pace of 7:46 min per mile. 

1500m Swim: 26:36
T1:                  2:10
Bike:               1:05:56 (21.8 mph)
T2:                  1:29
Run:               54:28 (7:46 min per mile)
Total:              2:30:36


After I crossed the finish line, I was surprised when I was handed a medal.  This was the first triathlon I completed that everyone was given a medal when they finished, which was nice.  I was bummed looking at the results that I placed fourth in my age group, losing to the 2, 7, and 10th place male overall.     


After the race, we went over to UCF to drop off Rachel’s brother who was visiting us and stopped by Lazy Moon to get a slice of pizza the size of my face and a cold beer.

After Lazy Moon, we went and got some desert at Jeremiah’s.  I heard some much about their great Italian water ice so I decided to try the sour apple flavor.  I loved the Italian water ice and started to wolf it down, until I gave myself a brain freeze.   

italian ice

In the end, I think I had an awesome race seeing as this was my first triathlon beyond the sprint distance. It gave me a huge boost of confidence for my Half-Ironman coming up this May.  My biggest fear for the Half-Ironman is the swim portion of the race and now I feel confident that I can complete the swim.

What is your biggest fear before a race?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Cross Florida Ride Recap

A local cycling group I ride with hosted the 30th Cross Florida Ride this Sunday and I decided to attempt the ride this year.  The Cross Florida Ride is a 170 mile bike ride from Cocoa Beach on the east coast of Florida to Spring Hill on the west coast of Florida.  My previous longest bike ride before this event was 80 miles during the Tour de Cure three years ago, but with all my endurance training lately,  I knew I could complete this ride.  I heard some horror stories from people who completed the ride in years past about the nasty head winds and large hills on the other side of the state.  I was also worried about riding by myself for most of the way if I was dropped from the pack.
2011-04-02_22-57-00_663 (1)
The last couple of weeks I have been added more cycling miles each week to help my legs and butt get ready for this ride.  I have also been training with a heart rate monitor to help determine my heart rate limits so I do not burn out early.  The training rides also helped determine how many calories per hour I would need to ingest during my ride and the logistics of carrying all my stuff on my bike.  I love using my Garmin 305 edge to track my speed and location during my ride but a big concern was the battery life.  The GPS is supposed to have a 12 hour battery life but during some of my training rides, the GPS will only have 1 bar left after 6 hours.  If the battery dies during a ride I lose all the ride data, so I bought a battery pack to charge the GPS during the ride.  The day before the ride, I picked up my ride packet and bought some last minute supplies I needed to complete my ride at Daddy Ultra Runs in Cocoa Village.  Another concern was fitting all my stuff in the pockets of my jersey and the extra weight taking a toll on my back.  The picture above is of all the stuff (over 1000 calories of food) I was carrying in my jersey pockets minus my cell phone and two tubes.  The picture below shows my jersey stretching under the strain of carrying all my stuff.
The ride started at 7am in Alan Shepard Park in Cocoa Beach, which was around first day light.  We were running a little late so I was rushing to get everything ready and check over my bike to make sure everything was working. 

Of course I had enough time to tweet and update my Facebook status to tell everybody about the crazy ride I was about to undertake.   

Everyone at the start was excited for the ride because of the dream weather forecast for the day.  The forecast called for a tailwind for most of the ride which usually never happens.  The turn out for the ride this year was great with over a hundred riders, which is an increase from last year’s 80 riders.

.  I found out our Spacecoast Freewheelers group was going to be a nice size and there were going to be some strong riders in the group to help pull everyone.  The ride started and everyone in our group was together until my worst fear for the ride came true.  A group member got a flat 1.25 miles into the ride and I was the only one out of our group to stop.  Not a good way to start off a 170 mile bike ride.  We did not even make if over the Banana River.  Lucky another rider stopped because her husband was driving by and he had a pump in the car so we could save our CO2 cartridges.  We changed out the tube quickly and were on our bikes moving again, but we were dead last.  We were hoping that we would catch up to them at the first SAG stop but I was worried that it would only be the three of us for the whole 170 mile ride.  We were relieved when we ended up catching up to them around mile 20 because someone else in the group had a flat tire.  Now that the group was all back together, we continued on with the ride. 

It was an uneventful next couple of miles until we hit the first SAG stop at mile 34.  We were able to catch up to another group and rode with them until we hit Kissimmee.  My legs were starting to feel it mainly due to the slow speed we were riding at.  The group was trying not to exceed 19 mph so they did not burn out during the ride.  With the slight tailwind, my legs were feeling strained trying to stay at that speed.  I was trying different gears to see if I could find a combination that my legs liked.  Fortunately, we picked up the speed going through Kissimmee with a strong tailwind from the lake pushing us.  We did not stop again until around mile 70 when they met up with their own personal SAG vehicles on the side of the rode.  The next couple of hours were uneventful and seemed to fly by.  I kept my heart rates in check and continued to keep up my calorie and fluid intake.

An unfortunate accident did occur around mile 115 when an elderly man fell during the ride.  Luckily, the 79 year old man seemed to have only broken his collarbone and had a swollen eye.  The accident reminded me how risky riding a bike is, especially in a group.

   We started to hit the dreaded hills around 120 miles into the ride.  When I lived in Delaware, I used to love to ride in the hills of Pennsylvania, and rode up some crazy mountains during a few races.  On the east coast of Florida, the only thing close to hill are the bridges over the intercoastal waterway.  I was concerned that the hills were going to break my legs, but I was able to push through pain.  Mile 140 was the last SAG stop and a couple of people in our group were not doing so well.  The hills and being in the sun all day was taking a toll on their bodies.   At the SAG stop, I picked up some caterpillars which started to cover my bike.  When we decided to start back up again, I knew I had to try to go fast and make it to the finish on my own.  I was killing my legs riding slow though the hill because I would have coast going down the hill to let the rest of the group get caught up and it would kill all my momentum for the next hill.  The rest of the ride I knew I would not be able to help them out going up the hill or pull through the wind because it was a tailwind leading up to the finish.  I went up the first hill together and on the downhill instead of waiting for them to catch up, I took off flying.
For the next 20 miles, I rode by myself, but I was able to keep up a fast pace averaging above 20 mph.  Most of the down hills did not have any corners so I was able to fly down with my max speed of 36.9 mph, but some of the hills were so steep, I was barely able to go 6mph.  I crossed over the train tracks around mile 145 which signaled the hills section of the ride was over.  With 10 miles to go, I caught up to the rider who had the flat tire at mile 1 from my group earlier who had the same idea of riding by himself.  The last ten miles flew because of the strong tailwind pushing to the finish.  We were cruising along at 25 mph with ease.  I kept looking at my GPS counting down the miles to the finish, 5, 4, 3, 2,1, Finish.  
It took just over 9 hours of riding time, 11 hours of total time if I include the timed stop, and I burned over 8500 calories.  You can check out my ride details here.  I do not have the exact time because I forgot to turn on my GPS after one stop, so my distance was off by 4 miles.  I was relived to finally be done and joyful that I just rode my bike 170 miles in one day.   

The most painful part of the day just started when I got off my bike.  The park where the ride ended was swarmed with no-see-ums and they were biting all over me.  I drank my recovery drink and had a beer to celebrate my victory.  I would have loved to stay to socialize with everyone but the no-see-ums were eating us alive.  My legs and arms started to look like I had chicken pox with all the red bug bites.   I ate some of the bbq they had there and decided to leave because of the bugs.  I would like to give a special thanks to my fiancĂ©e who dropped me off at the start and picked me up at the finish.  
At the end of the ride, they gave us a commemoration patch to celebrate the 30th Cross Florida Bike Ride.  I am trying to think of ideas to showcase this patch like a medal.
Does anyone have any suggestions for a creative way to showcase a patch?