Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Yo Mike, It’s Gotta Be The Shoes

Most of us have seen the Michael Jordan and Spike Lee commercial where Mars Blackmon emphatically tells MJ that his greatness is because of his shoes.  No it’s the shoes (the shoes?), it’s gotta be the shoes!
Well Mars, it’s not the shoes that make one better, but the shoes can have a positive impact.
Since I have started running I have gone through several pairs of running shoes.  Shoes that have got me through long training sessions,  shoes that have left me standing at the podium collecting medals, shoes that have recorded fast run times, shoes that have had bad runs, and shoes that have had bad races.  We all know that simply putting on a specific pair of shoes will not make you run faster or jump higher, but having the right shoes can make a difference in your overall comfort which could lead to more enjoyable experience. 
 Now, what if your shoes have a little flair and a little cosmetic pop to them?  Can that make you faster or better?  From a physical point of view the answer is no.  From a mental point of view I think it could provide that little extra confidence in a person.  I have been known to say that I prefer performance over fashion.  As I stared at my pile of shoes I noticed that with each pair I get there is a little more snap to them in terms of which color of LOCK LACES I choose or the color of the shoes themselves. 
 I don’t know why my running shoes' cosmetic appearance has changed from the run of the mill look to a more snazzy appearance.  Maybe, it’s to be different, maybe it’s to standout from the crowd, or maybe it does make me go faster.  When I switched from Brooks running shoes to Saucony running shoes in April I it was purely for comfort and performance.  Although I loved Brooks shoes my running style changed and I needed a different shoe with a 8mm heal-toe offset so that is how I landed with the Saucony Guide 5. 
What, they have blue shoes?  Sweet now I’ll just get some green LOCK LACES to compliment the blue.  It is out of my box to stand out and be different.  I generally like to blend in, do my thing, and go home.  This new look of running shoes was a change for me.  Not only were these blue shoes (with green laces) different from the crowd they for some reason gave me a little extra confidence.  That confidence drove me to being more mentally engaged in my training runs and races. 

So when the blue shoes were worn out it was time to get a new pair.  I knew I wanted the exact same shoe but the choice came down to color.  I had a few different options, including the same blue pair, but I went with Saucony’s new color ViZiPRO Orange/Citron/Blue.  Whoa these puppies are bright and there is no doubt these shoes present a little pop.  As always, I changed out the supplied shoes laces with a pair of green LOCK LACES.  As the running/triathlon season comes to a close and I head into a lighter winter training schedule it is hard to keep the motivation up.  Once I got my new shoes I was re-energized and motivated to not get into that late season slump. 

Yo Mars, maybe it is the shoes!

I mentioned LOCK LACES a few times in this post and they are on all of my shoes in the picture at the top.  This is a great product for any triathlete or runner.  You never have to worry about whether or not you tie your laces too loose or too tight and you never have to worry about them coming untied.  It’s a perfect fit run after run.  Another bonus is that they will save you precious seconds in Transition 2. Visit their website to learn more.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Race Report: 2012 Tri The Illini

1st Place Age Group Award
On September 23, 2012 I participated in the 5th Annual Tri The Illini triathlon.  An event hosted by the Fighting Illini Triathlon Club which is also the official triathlon club of the University of Illinois.  It was fun to come back to this race having done it last year.  It is one of my favorite races because it is close to home, it is well organized, and the course is nice. 

Since I accomplished my goal of qualifying for the 2013 USA Triathlon Age Group National Championship race at last weekend’s race I had a slightly different mindset going into this race.  My main objectives were to place in my age group and try to run a sub 20 minute 5k off the bike.  I was also hoping for a strong bike with an average 23mph.  My week leading up to this race primarily consisted of run workouts, one swim workout, and no bike workouts.

Since this is basically a hometown race my family was able to come watch the race.  Triathlon is not the best spectator sport and can be boring to watch in person as you can't see your triathlete all the time.  My family doesn’t get to see a lot of my events due to early start times and travel.  I really appreciate my wife being there and dragging my kids out of bed so they could be there too.  Even my in-laws made it.

Here is a summary of my times:

Swim 300M - 0:05:42*
T1                    - 0:01:45
Bike 14.5 mi - 0:40:11 (21.6 mpg avg)
T2                    - 0:01:00
Run 5k           - 0:19:50 (6:24/mi)
Total                 1:08:28

Age Group 2/27 (awarded 1st)
Overall 6/363
*The official swim time was 6:28 but that includes the very long trek to the timing mat.  I stopped my watch just after exiting the pool.
It was a great race as I beat last year’s time by 4 minutes, ran a sub 20 minute 5k off the bike, and had an ok bike
Temperature at race start 39 degrees.


The 300 meter swim took place in the 50M ARC outdoor pool at the U of I.  The pool was heated.
Everyone was lined up by your race number which was based on your estimated swim time when you registered.  Participants were sent off every 5 seconds.  The race director and volunteers were pretty adamant about going off based on your race number.  This was good.  I never got passed and I did a lot of passing of others.  Apparently I need to fib more on my swim time at these time trial starts.  I passed one guy in the first 50 meters and he drafted me the rest of the way.  I know he was drafting because he was constantly touching my feet.  I tried to move over in the lane but he kept following.  I really wanted to slow down a bit in hopes that my kick would hit him where it hurts.  However, having unsportsmanlike conduct and letting someone else dictate my race are two things I try to avoid.
Once out of the pool you run up a flight of stairs and do some more running to the adjacent parking lot where transition was located and where the timing mat was located.


Besides the shock of being wet with temps in the 30's, T1 was uneventful.  Everything went smoothly.  Mounted bike good and got up to speed quickly heading south with a slight tailwind.


The bike route takes you south of campus and back.  The first half of the 14.5 miles was with a tailwind.  The tailwind and the sun helped me dry out quickly.  By mile 2 I was completely dry and averaging over 25mph with the tailwind. 

After the turnaround at mile 7.25 the trip back to campus would be with a head wind.  I think I averaged around 18-20mph or so on the way back.  Lost some time on the last 7.25 miles which resulted in my overall mph average being below my anticipated 23mph average.

The course was generally flat. There were a couple of decent hills just before the turnaround.  All large pot holes and bumps in the road were clearly marked and the volunteers did a great job in letting us know of the hazards.  All intersections were manned by police and volunteers.

I got passed only once and I did a lot passing.  The guy that passed me was the one drafting me in the pool.

Again, pretty uneventful. 


The 5k run took you through the U of I campus.  It was a really enjoyable, relaxing, and scenic run.  There were a lot of turns but they were clearly marked and every turn had a volunteer pointing where to go.

As I started the run I couldn’t feel my feet due to the cool temperatures and being wet on the bike.  After a half mile into the run I was able to a least feel my feet again. 
I really had no game plan for this run except that I wanted to run it as hard as I could.  I started fast and was able to keep a consistent pace throughout the run.  My triathlon bike has made a huge difference in my run.  My legs feel 10 times better coming off the tri bike than I experienced coming off my road bike.

I was able to pick off runners one by one which really kept me focused. I even blew by the dude drafting me in the pool.   Around mile 2.5 my mind was trying to shut my legs down, but I won that mental battle and increased my speed to the finish.

I was able to finally get under a 20 minute 5k run off the bike.  It felt really good to do that.  After a slightly disappointing bike I was thrilled to end the race with a strong run.   

This was a great event, I highly recommend it, and will likely do it again next year. 

The race was well organized and had tons of volunteers.  The volunteers were very helpful and encouraging.  Great job volunteers!! 

Race results were posted in a timely manner and the awards ceremony was done shortly after the last participant had finished. 

Post race food was good.

Race swag consisted of the usual coupons & advertisements from sponsors, nutritional samples, and a very nice event tech t-shirt.  The overall and age group
awards were a drinking glass with the event logo on it.  It’s a little different than other races where they handout medals.  I personally like the medals that are unique and actually have your place and age group on them. 

Good swim venue, good bike route, and a great run route through campus.  Great event!

I’ve got one more triathlon and one more 5k planned for 2012. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Race Report: 2012 Fishers Area Sprint Triathlon

On Sunday September 16th, 2012 I participated in the Fishers Area  Sprint Triathlon (F.A.S.T) in Fishers, Indiana.   It is a 500 meter swim, 10 mile bike, and a 3 mile run.  This is an event I did last year so I was looking forward to seeing how I have improved.  My goals were to finish in under one hour, place in the top 3 in my age group, and qualify for the 2013 USA Triathlon Age Group National Championship race.  I am happy to report that all three of these goals were achieved.

Race Summary
Swim:                 10:00
Transition 1:       0:53
Bike:                   27:47 (22.5 mph avg)
Transition 2:       0:52
Run:                    20:08 (6:44/mi avg)
Total Time:   0:59:41
Overall Place:   11 /314
Age Group:      2/21 
The company that did the timing this year was different than in years past.  Planet Adventure was in charge of the post race entertainment and official timing.  There was a lot of confusion with the final results as they changed several times.  There was an issue with the race chips transmitting in the pool area.  They completed a thorough review of the times with their backup system and got everything corrected.  It was a bit frustrating to have to wait for this but I appreciate Planet Adventure taking the time to make sure everything was correct.  The official times now match what my watch said. 

The day before the race I stayed at my older brother's house again which is great because his house was only 15 minutes from the race site.
I was one of the first few to arrive at the race site.  Once I got my packet picked up I began to setup my transition area and did my usual warm up routine.  I headed inside the high school where they were staging the participants to be taken to the pool in groups of 50.  Your race number was the order you started.  The race numbers were based on your estimated 100M swim time when you registered.

Finally my number was called and I headed off to the pool.  As you walk into the pool area you walk in front of the stands where spectators where sitting.  It was fun to look up and see my family there. 

The Swim (500M - 0:10:00)

It's a time trial start and athletes are sent off every five seconds.  Last year I swam this in 11:20.

The swim was 500M in the 50M indoor pool at the high school.  Congestion was  somewhat of an issue on some of the laps although it was better than last year as I believe I seeded myself better.
I felt great in the pool.  Maybe because I didn't push as hard as I should have.  My practice time trials at this distance have in the low 9 minute range.  Anytime you can take over a minute off your previous in one leg of the race it's not too bad.

At the end of the swim I climbed out of the pool and exited the pool area through the door leading to the outside.  The transition area was about 20 yards from the pool building.

Transition #1 (0:00:53)

Transition # 1 was pretty uneventful.  I felt like it went fast and it was.  It was my fastest swim to bike transition.  I didn't bother drying off and just threw my shoes, helmet, and sunglasses on and headed out to the bike course.  I tried to do something different this race and that was to wear my watch the entire time rather than taking it off my wrist and putting in on my bike.  I believe this saved me a few seconds.

Bike-10 miles (0:27:47 - 22.5 mph avg)

Once across the timing mat I mounted the bike with no issues and got up to speed good. 

The conditions were good.  The wind was generally light and the course was flat with a few inclines.  The only issue I saw on the course was some broken glass.  I was able to maneuver around it on the first lap and totally avoided it on the second lap.

Once I got up to speed I settled into my aero bars and hammered on.  My goal was to average 23mph and I came close (22.5mph).

The course was setup in a way that a mile from the school there was a 4 mile loop you did twice then headed back to the school to get the 10 mile distance.  

I never got passed and I did a lot of passing.

Once back at the school I had a good dismount heading into transition for the run. 

Transition #2 (0:00:52)

Pretty fast. 

Run - 3 miles (0:20:08 -6:44/mi avg)

I improved this run by 9 seconds from last year when my run time was 20:14. 
The run route was relatively flat.  The first mile was on the sidewalk (run/walk path) and it had a steady incline most of the way.  The second mile winded through a subdivision that was pretty flat.  Then the third mile was in the subdivision then around and behind the high school. 

There were two water stations on the course.  One right out of transition and the other about halfway through the course.  It would have been nice if the volunteers were actually holding the water for us.  It is much easier to grab that way.  Trying to grab a cup off a table while running fast is hard.  I took out an entire row of water on that table and a drop never made it to my mouth.

I was pleased with my run but I was hoping to average closer to 6:30 miles.


This race was well ran and organized.  Planet Adventure did a nice job with the finish line entertainment and commentary.  Live results were available on screens for participants to view after they finished.  The accuracy of those times and rankings initially were debatable, but they ended up getting them right in the end.  The awards ceremony was held near the finish line which was a lot better than in the gym like it was last year. 

The post race food had a wide variety of hot and cold foods and various types of drinks including my favorite, chocolate milk.

For the most part the volunteers did a wonderful job in directing the athletes on all corners of the bike and run routes and were energetic and supportive.  My only recommendation is that they all wear similar shirts.  It was hard to tell who was who was suppose to be directing traffic.

Great event, great race!  Yes, I would do this event again.

I am very happy that I have qualified for the 2013 USA Triathlon Age Group National Championship race.  It takes a lot of pressure off my final two races for this year.  Now I just have to wait and see where Nationals will be held in 2013.

Other Pics:

Monday, September 3, 2012

My Goals

The best way to achieve your goals and aspirations is to put them in writing and then share them with others.  I am a firm believer that if you share your goals with others it not only holds you accountable, but also invites support from those around you.  I have many goals for different parts of my life.  There are the family life goals, the financial goals, the spiritual goals, and the career goals.  Although those are very important to your life balance I will not dive into those goals here.  Instead, I would like to share with you my goals and aspirations and it relates to my fitness and racing. 
Some of these goals are broad and some are specific, but in the end they are attainable and in touch with reality.  I am getting older but I feel I am getting better.  Age should not be an excuse to marginalize your goals.  I want to be that 75 year old guy that I see at races that is still out there pounding the pavement and loving life.
These goals are as of September 2012 looking forward (updated May 2013). 
1.       Run a half marathon in 90 minutes (best time is 1:32:23)
2.       Run a 5k in under 19 minutes (best time is 19:25)
3.       Qualify for USA Triathlon Age Group National Championship race every year
4.       Actually race in the USAT National Championship race at least once
5.       Complete a marathon (COMPLETED APRIL 2013)
6.       Complete a half ironman race
7.       Complete a full ironman race
8.       Give back

Number eight is something I think about every now and then and wonder how I could give back to the sport of triathlon or how to give back to one of the three disciplines (swimming, cycling, and running).  There are a number of ways to give back to the sport through volunteering at events, introducing a younger generation to the sport, being a mentor, or being a coach.  I continue to think of ways to achieve this goal and hope that I can find a way to do that.
Triathlon is a sport that is results oriented.  However, there is much more beyond the results.  Completing a triathlon or an endurance event (at any distance or discipline) is very rewarding.  Between your first training session and the moment you cross the finish line there are a lot of setbacks, bad training days, physical & mental exhaustion, thoughts of doubt, and a lot of sacrifice to other parts of your life.  We keep chugging along because we know the rewarding feeling experienced when crossing that finish line.  That feeling that gives us a lot more than we could have ever imagined.  That feeling is really hard to explain and that is why I would like to help others experience that too.
No matter what you do always keep striving for more.  You don’t have to be the fastest or take home all the awards.  The main point is to get out there and do something.  Be your own hero.  It’s hard and it is a lifestyle change.  However, it’s a change that could change your life.  You will be amazed of what you can accomplish if you just stick with it.

Train.  Race.  Repeat.