Saturday, June 21, 2008

It's officially official. I'm a triathlete!

That's right. Today I took my first steps into the world of triathlon. As with anything new, it presents its own set of challenges, rewards, frustrations and benefits. And that's not a bad thing at all. It's all about learning and growing with the new opportunity.

Today was the 4th running of the Lake Minnetonka Triathlon and it was a blast. The weather was amazingly beautiful. You couldn't ask for better weather. Not a cloud in the sky, nice warm sun, and tons of spectators. Even a few TNT team members came out to cheer.

Some of the TNT tri team was there to test their hand in their first tri of the season as well as one other rookie. Each of us competed in our own race and while some challenges were presented to them and not me, some they didn't face hit me. Let's run through the day.

I got assigned to wave two which seemed to be a bit out of place (i.e. This was for the 20 year olds and I'm not in that generation any more) but whatever. When the gun went off we all ran into the water in one huge swarm. I stuck back a bit because I didn't want feet in my face but my plan failed. Apparently I'm a better swimmer than I give myself credit for because I caught right up to the back of the pack and had feet and bodies in my way virtually the whole way. Also, one of the leaders of the pack got a buoy lost in his sight because of the glare from the sun so a whole bunch of us from that wave got off track and wound up swimming more than our 500 meters. That's fine with me because as it turns out swimming is a sort of strong point for me.

When we reached the shore and ran off to the transition area to get our bikes I had a little trouble getting my wetsuit off and my bike shoes on so my T1 time wasn't as great as I had hoped. But, what can you do?

The bike really presented my first challenge. This is my weakest point and I didn't do nearly as well as I'd have liked to. My bike is not really a good racing bike. No flat tires. No other mechanical problems. Just a bike that I shouldn't be doing races on. I want to get a tri bike and as soon as I get the coin to do it I'll make the purchase. But for now, biking continues to be my most frustrating point.

The second transition (from bike to run) went very well too. Just one small issue with getting my shoes on but otherwise it was great.

The run was only a 5K but I did great. Some of the time I lost on the bike I made up on the run. It's a good thing I don't totally suck at that.

And that's it. I crossed the finish line and can now add another title to my growing list of identities. I'm now a triathlete.

Here are my results from the day. More detailed results will be available soon.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Leisurely Stroll About Lake Minnetonka

Today was a terribly frustrating day at work and it left me agitated to no end. One nice thing I learned about exercising is it has this mystical way of resetting our mind and flushing out the crap. That is, if we have the mental discipline to let that happen. Granted I don't always have that discipline (today was one of those days where it wasn't there) and it works much better for me while running than it does any other sport. But, today was cross train day and in the spirit of cross training I did exactly that.

Swimming sounded nice but I've been swimming too much recently. It was time to take on one of the other sports I have to do. The one I do but literally can't stand doing: cycling. As far as I'm concerned, a bike is a great to get get around without spending coin on gas. I don't like it as a sport because (a) I'm not good at it, (b) I'm as aerodynamic as a parachute, (c) it's expensive, (d) there's just too much that can go wrong, (e) if you wipe out you're out for the count, and (f) did I mention I'm not good at it.

What a great way to start out a sporting activity. Four immediate and negative thoughts that would nag me for the two hours I'd be out on the bike. But I wouldn't let that get to me. After all, this isn't about racing. Like I said, there are positives to biking and I need to focus on those. For instance, biking is excellent cross training. My bike isn't exactly bad either. In fact, it's pretty pimp. It hasn't gotten me a girlfriend yet but all things in due time.

After spending a few moments concentrating on the positives of biking I headed out to circle Lake Minnetonka in the hopes of mapping out the 33 mile course of the Tour de Tonka.

The first half of the ride was virtually against the wind the whole way. And on top of that my bike brakes were squeaking. It was very obnoxious and only intensified my negative thoughts. The only thing that kept me from throwing my bike into the lake was the fact that I'd be forced to walk home in my bike shoes and the beautiful scenery that was calming my soul.

On the last half of the ride I was really starting to get into the groove. The lake was gorgeous, the partial sunset was breath taking, and the atmosphere was everything a resort town can possibly offer. It was going great until I noticed that I missed a few turns so I failed at mapping the tour. Aggravated from that I turned to go home along Minnetonka Blvd and went down a street that must have been paved by a pack of drunk geese. The pot holes were almost unbearable and I was just waiting to hear that fateful sound of a tire popping. There's nothing like taking on a pot hole while going down hill at 27-30 mph. You may as well just throw yourself to the ground. But, to my luck and astonishment, all was well and I was on my way.

I finally made it home after a tally of 33.66 miles. At the end of the day, all that aggression I had must have worked itself out because when I rolled into the driveway I felt great. Like a new man. Biking makes no sense to me. Why must the process of biking completely suck in order to feel better on the other end. Why can't it be like running? With running, the whole event is fun and in the end you're so wasted it feels amazing. A win-win.

Here's the course I took. It's not the entire 33 mile tour but a lot of it is mapped out here. I really want to map it out because they have this lame not-to-scale course map. I'd love to get this done for them so they have a real map to use.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

My First Tri

This weekend's plan to go to Michigan fell through. The weather report looked too gloomy to justify a one way 6 hour drive. Meanwhile, here in the twin cities it was absolutely perfect. The weather couldn't have been nicer. I decided it was worth it to stick around with the TNT folks and compete in our mock tri.

I really had a blast and am glad I stayed to do it. The TNT people are such a blast and I learned so much from them.

The swim was amazingly strong for me. My wetsuit really helped out and once I got into a rhythm it was tough to slow down.

T1 (the first transition) was crazy. If you've never swam and then hopped right out of the water and ran try it once. There's nothing like it. You feel disoriented and can barely tell where you're going.

Biking just sucks so that's no big deal.

T2 (the transition from bike to run) was my biggest fall. When I got there I completely passed where my bike rack was and couldn't find it for about 20 seconds. Once I got there I had a problem getting my running shoes on too. Otherwise it was flawless and I even finished 2nd. :-D

I'm really looking forward to next weekend when I compete in my first official triathlon. I wouldn't be half the guy I am today if it weren't for people like Kris, Jenae, and the rest o the team.

Thanks for all of your help guys!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

It's official...

I'm sad to report that for the first time ever, I've been beaten in running by a girl.

I know... though to believe. I'm trying to block it out of my memory but this time there's proof. Check out the paparazzi shots here. They caught me in a very surprised state as Kris pulled ahead of me in the Heart of the City Half Marathon and handed me a new one. Check it out.

Maybe it had something to do with the fact that my shirt was off and my skin is whiter than snow. Who knows. But I was skooled last weekend! Maybe next time I decide to be a Shirtless Wonder I'll do it in the comfort and solitary confinement of my back yard.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Heart of the City Half Marathon

Today is Kris' birthday so to celebrate she and I ran the Heart of the City Half Marathon in Burnsville. It's a very beautiful course which starts at the top of the hill in Burnsville and runs down to the Minnesota River valley. It really is one of those very beautiful runs. Too bad it was hotter than the fires of hell and damnation itself. But Kris and I still managed to make a good run out of it.

The course is below. Check it out.

Happy birthday Kris!!!

p.s. Now I'm off to do the most insane thing I've done yet: 8 hours of straight running from midnight to 8:00 a.m. Wish me luck. My friend Tim (who's running 24 hours of this thing) will need the most of the luck.

[UPDATE: I couldn't do it. I'm WAY too tired. After one lap, I called it quits. I just can't stay up late any more. Even for something I WANT to do.]

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

More About Swimming

I just learned something interesting about myself the other day.

When I got back from the 20K in Des Moines it was humid and 82 degrees Fahrenheit. I was trying to figure out what I should do with myself. It was hot and I couldn't go running. My actual schedule said I should be cross training and this gorgeous day needed to be utilized. As I was putting my stuff away I noticed a little bag tucked away at the back of my closet. It was my wetsuit. At that moment I decided it was time to bust that thing out and see what it's all about. I grabbed the wetsuit, hopped on my bike and headed over to Shady Oak Lake.

It was exciting. I was putting on my expensive piece of latex for the first time since buying it. Standing on the shore of the lake I was plotting my course. I'd swim literally straight across the lake from one beach to someone's back yard.

Did I care if they didn't like that? Absolutely not. If they wanted to stop me they could come in after me.

As I slowly walked out into the water it felt nice. The sun warmed the shallow part of the lake very nicely and it felt great. All my gear was on and I was ready to do. I hopped into the lake and took about two strokes when it hit me. Not a rock but a sensation. A horrible sensation.

After two strokes the pretty shore turned into a deep and dark chasm.

The bottom? No where to be found.

What's down there? I don't know.

And with that I turned right around and made a mad dash for the shallow part again.

Yes folks... apparently it's true.

I'm afraid of the water.

Seriously. For about an hour I tried to work up the courage. Out and back... out and back... for one hour. That was the pattern. I just couldn't summon the strength to get out into that water. After all, there's no telling what the heck is out there just waiting for me to hop in.

If someone was with me I know the story would have been different. But by myself? No chance. And with that my swimming adventure was cut short. That was not cool.

But, I do have a small sense of relief. After checking out the Department of Natural Resources, I see I was swimming at the deepest part of the lake.

Hopefully tomorrow will help shed this irrational fear.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Dam to Dam 20K & Impressions of IA

This weekend I spent my time in Iowa. It was my first ever trip to our neighbor to the south and I spent it in Des Moines. There were two main reasons to go there:

  1. to visit a friend and

  2. run the Dam to Dam 20K.

Both got accomplished and I had a blast in the process. In general, Iowa is pretty flat and lame. At least along I-35. What makes the drive entertaining is all the windmills along the way. There's tons of them. They're huge and everywhere. It's fun to imagine how far away they really are and then try imaging yourself running to one of them. Climbing one would be a hoot too.

The drive is also really cool when you get to Des Moines. I don't care what people say. Des Moines (especially downtown Des Moines and West Des Moines) is a beautiful city. They have plenty of great places to dine, a network of bike and running paths through and around the city, and also have an Apple Store so I can technically live there if I have to move. And all things considered, it's a fun little drive to and from there. Now if we could only figure out how to get the cost of gas to come down I'd be set.

I got there Friday morning and met up with my awesome friend Jeni. She let me stay at her place which saved me a TON of coin. Thank you Jeni!!! Plus, she showed me around, got me scheduled with a massage therapist after the run, and entertained my uncontrollable urge for ice cream. She was a true sport and a major reason the weekend was so much fun.

On to the 20K. We started at the Saylorville Dam. It's a gorgeous dam with an amazing man made lake on one side and on the other side is an amazing view of the lake and downtown Des Moines on the horizon.

It's really a breathtaking sight.

We run a very scenic and mostly flat course along the river to downtown Des Moines. It was my first warm run of the season and it definitely put me to the test to see if I could handle the heat.

It turns out I did because I finished in the top 9% of the 20K finishers with an average of 7:35/mile. Not a bad little trot. As of this writing I don't have the course map ready to upload because my Forerunner 305 is acting like a spoiled child and won't work with Motionbased right now. I'll try it tomorrow but you can check out the course on the official site.

The race went very well until near mile 10. We were running in a tree shaded part of the course along the river and one poor fellow (who was ahead of me so he was really moving for most of it) was completely disoriented. He was wobbling back and forth and barely able to walk forward. He actually fell into my arms and I caught him and helped him back up. Not sure what was going on. Maybe heat stroke. Who knows. But an EMT was about 100 meters ahead so I ran ahead and told them about this guy so they could go back and help him out.

One other thing that was unfortunate happened on that same stretch of trail. But this was actually pretty funny. A guy tripped himself (normally not a laughing matter) but instead of falling down he did a slight flip in the air, landed in the shrubbery on the river side of the trail, and rolled down a bit until he gently got stopped by a tree. He hopped right back up and kept going. When I caught up to him I asked if he was alright and he said he was fine and kept right no running. It would have been sort of sad but since he was fine I couldn't help but laugh out loud after I had passed him. You had to be there but it look so orchestrated it's tough to believe it was a complete accident.

Other than that, I couldn't have asked for a better weekend. Great fun, great food, great weather, great friends. What more could a guy ask for? Check out the pics from the weekend here.

Next up for Iowa: The Des Moines Marathon.