Wednesday, June 15, 2011


My second scheduled triathlon was to be a half Ironman totaling 70.3 miles consisting of 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride, and 13.1 mile run. This would be the longest endurance event of my life to this point. This is definitely far from the norm, because most triathletes work their way up by doing several sprint triathlons and then some Olympic distances. This helps build endurance and gets the body ready for the very hard and long events.

My own impatience wouldn't give me the luxury of building up. I felt earlier this year that I had done enough endurance activity over the past few years that ramping up to half Ironman was definitely doable. The biggest question was whether or not my hip could handle the running.

I worked up slowly with running distance and even had a few stumbling blocks along the way, including stopping for a few weeks at a time over last winter, because my hip was not agreeing with what I was doing. I was terribly upset at the time it was taking to build up running but in the end it all was worth the wait.

I continued to train through the winter, learning how to swim and continuing to build up the run. I knew I wanted to do triathlons this year. In the March/April time frame I start considering the 70.3 distance more seriously. At that point I was putting in around 8 hours per week of swim/bike/run training. Kicking it up a bit more wasn't too much of a stretch. I did a lot of research and talking to veteran triathletes. Settled on a training plan and started eyeing Ironman Kansas 70.3.

I am very stubborn and too impatient but knew what I was capable of and I felt like I could legitimately finish a half Ironman, so in late April I confirmed my decision by signing up and paying the entry fee.

Goal 1: Finish

Goal 2: Finish under 6 hours

Given the history with my hip replacement in 2009 and the fairly aggressive scheduling of this race it seemed likely I wouldn't meet either goal. Even though I got clearance from my surgeon to run he has warned me that I would likely shorten the life of my implant by doing lots of running.

In my pre-hip replacement days I had planned to do many full marathons, so in my mind triathlons should be easier on my hip since I won't be running as much, even though I would be running half marathons at times. I fully understand the risks but these endurance events are such an important part of my life I feel it is worth the risk. If things get too bad I will shut it down. I have and will continue to live by the credo of "use pain for guidance." I know my body extremely well and know when to stop if needed.

Pre-race routine:

At the recommendation of several people who've done this race before, I decided to camp in the Clinton Lake State Park, which is where the race started and finished. It was a great decision. It was very nice to not worry about getting to the event and getting parked and walking quite a distance from parking to transition.

I had a good dinner the night before of pasta with grilled chicken and some fairly bland sauce alongside some mixed veggies. Nerves wreak enough havoc with the GI system on race morning, so I wanted to make sure I had a meal with some carbs and a bit of protein, but more importantly, a meal that would set well with my stomach.

Slept like crap. Won't sugar coat it. I rarely sleep well the night before a race of any sort, let alone the biggest of my life so far. It didn’t help that the weather was predicted to be thunderstorms starting through the night and lasting completely through the race. I was worried sick. Maybe I should start taking a sleeping pill.

Got up at 4am and got some water heating for some coffee. Lathered on sunscreen and liberally applied body glide to any area with the potential for friction burn. Got dressed, which was easy since there isn't much to wear. Ate a bagel with light cream cheese with a cup of coffee. Double-checked my transition bags. Had a PowerBar with another cup of coffee. Made first bathroom pit stop. All good :) Grabbed my gear, met a couple of buddies and headed to T2 to drop our stuff and then headed down to T1 and the swim start.

Event warmup:

None, except for the walk to T2 and then to T1, which was .5 mile.


This was my second triathlon. Anyone who read my first race report (KC Tri - Olympic distance) knows I totally panicked on the swim. Wanted to quit. Thought I was going to die. Needless to say, that experience had me extremely worried about doing a Half Ironman with another .3 miles tacked onto the swim.

The first tri was three weeks prior, so I didn't have a lot of time to improve. I did, however, go on vacation to Aruba and swam a few times in the sea. As it turns out, that was more helpful than I could have predicted.

For this race, I just wanted to get through it without panicking. I was extremely nervous. To add to my nervousness the swim was a deep water start, which I had not done. My group was pretty much in the middle of the waves, so I got to watch several groups get started. One of my buddies was in my wave and he being a seasoned triathlete helped calm my nerves.

The wind had kicked up pretty good and the chop was going left to right, so my buddy thought it would be a good idea to get on the inside line of the buoys. Very few people were there, so it seemed like a good idea to me and certainly started that way.

I was bound and determined to not panic, so I started out easy and just made sure to get into a good breathing rhythm. I'm normally a bilateral breather in the pool, but with the chop I breathed to the right. Things were going good for a few hundred yards. Then the heavy chop kicked in and it was ROUGH. It was almost as if a boat was going back and forth past us stirring up the wake. It was easily as rough as any time I swam in the Caribbean.

Rough water aside, I kept going and going. I purposely went easy, because I knew if I got too tired I would panic. This race was much rougher with contact than my first one. I got hit, tugged, pulled under, tackled, kicked, you name it. It was pretty brutal, but I feel like I handled it well. Never got upset about it.

About half way through my legs started cramping. Hamstrings, calves and feet were all cramping at different times. I think some of that may be due to the wetsuit, but regardless of how it happened, it was something I had to deal with. I'm already about as aerodynamic in the water as an ocean freighter and having to flex my feet forward and move my legs around to get rid of the cramps made it even worse.

Heavy chop + my slowness = more slowness. I knew it was taking me a while but in no way did I think it took me 59:40. I had hoped for 45-50 minutes. A bit disappointed, but not too much considering how nervous I was and how bad the conditions were. I did feel comforted by the fact that I heard several strong swimmers comment on how rough it was, so it wasn't just my own opinion. On to T1.

What would you do differently?:

Just more OWS practice.


My transition area was reasonably close to T1 entrance, but that meant a long hike with the bike to exit. Took me a little longer to get out of my wetsuit than it should've, but not too awful. I had a horrible time getting my socks on. I just didn't get my feet dry enough. Sprayed on some more suncreen. Ate a gel. Shoes. Helmet. Glasses. All that stuff was quick. Had to stuff the official transition bag, so my things would be transported back to T2, since there were two different transition areas. This added a little extra time but not too bad and well worth the trouble not to have to walk back down to T1 after the race.

What would you do differently?:

Probably go sock-less. I've done sock-less at shorter bike rides but not a long one. Just need to work on that. Would’ve saved valuable time.


Bike course started with a few climbs out of the state park. Not super long or steep but not what I want to do just starting out. My goal was 18 mph to hit the 3 hour mark. I can do that on most any course without killing myself for the run.

The wind conditions were pretty rough, so it wasn't going to be as easy as I thought. What little tailwind we had was on the first part of the course and it paid off. I averaged about 20.5 on the way out to the turn. I hadn't used too much energy at that point, so I felt good about "banking" some time, because the return was going to be hard. The climbs combined with the head and cross-winds made the last 28 miles much more difficult than I had hoped. I knew if I got into too much difficulty with my quads and hamstrings, my run would be a suffer-fest.

Being my first WTC event, I was very worried about their strict rules on drafting. I tried to be very cognizant about getting into the passing zone and getting out of it quickly. I'm not a super cyclist but am strong enough that I passed a lot of people, so I was constantly making sure I was within the rules. With all the hills, the referees did seem to use discretion, which was nice.

Around mile 50 is probably the largest climb which is up to the damn. A lot of people were suffering here. I put the bike in the granny gear and went as easy as I could. My plan was to shut it down the last few miles to get my legs ready (as possible) for the run, so after I got on the dam I took it easy on the way in.

Ended up with time of 2:52 averaging 19.4 mph. Getting that speed on the way out was really helpful for my overall time. I got about 8 minutes I could apply toward recovering from my crappy swim. I moved from 168 (out of 212) on the swim to 118 on the bike. Pretty happy overall with the bike.

What would you do differently?:

Not much. I focused more on running and swimming during training, so I want to get back to more long and intense bike rides. Given my situation with my hip (for the run) and being a beginner swimmer, it was the right thing to do, but for Branson half ironman I'm going to hit the bike hard.


Not good. Not horrible. Took longer than I had hoped but not longer than I had planned for. I knew it would take me a bit to get my socks changed. The quick laces I just put on my shoes were nice. Very glad I added those. Put on some more sunscreen, hat and clean sunglasses. Long-ish run to the exit.

What would you do differently?:

Work on socks.


Run course was great. Started on the main park entrance road, down the hill to the swim start area, back up the only hill and then through the campground. Do this loop twice. Great run course. Outstanding crowd support. I literally said "wow" out loud. One of the best spectator run courses I've encountered.

Races of any kind are tricky if you want to do your best, but triathlons are very difficult. If you are really racing (i.e., competing to do the best you possibly can) then you want to hit the finish line and be exhausted and know you did everything you could. I've done both bike and run races in the past when I knew I had more in the tank. If I am walking fine the next day I didn't go hard enough! That being said, I felt okay after the bike but not great. I knew I had used up too much energy on the bike due to the wind, but felt like I would at least be able to get through the run.

Even though my legs were starting to hurt I had fueled well. Got out of transition and within half a mile my quads locked up like a steel door. Oh man, did it hurt! I stopped and tried stretching any way I could get my legs to move. I bent down as far as I could go and something just seemed to release. I stood back up and could move my legs again. I massaged them just a bit and decided to try to go again. Whatever I did must have worked. I was able to run.

I made it to the first aid station and took some sport drink and kept going. I was feeling fine but making sure to keep my strides short and not push the pace. Made it to mile 2 and was feeling really good, not pain free, but good. I don't know how big my grin was but I was in a sudden state of euphoria, because I knew I was going to be able to finish. A huge personal accomplishment that I had worked extremely hard to train for.

Realistically, I planned for a 2:10 run, roughly 10 min/mile pace. I had hoped for sub-2, but really just didn't know given I had never done that much bike and swim prior to a half marathon. I was doing around 8:30 pace for the first half of the race and felt comfortable. I was taking in sport drink and water often.

During the run I kept trying to do all the math in my head of what time I could finish in. My stretch goal for the entire race was 6 hours. I knew it would be difficult, but also knew if things went right it was certainly doable.

After the swim, I felt like sub-6 was all but gone. My bike and T2 helped make up some of the swim time, so it was all up to the run. At the halfway point of the run, I knew if I kept up a similar pace, I could possibly get under 6 hours. I was looking at my watch often to see how I was doing.

Still felt good until mile 11. My body started shutting down. My stomach was cramping a bit. I had taken in too much fluid. My legs were starting to hurt bad and I knew if I pushed the pace they would lock up. I was on the verge of hitting the wall. 1.5 miles to go and I gave up on the idea of getting under 6. I was easily on pace for sub-2 half marathon, so I took solace in that thought and tried to enjoy the last bit. There were so many fans in the park it was really uplifting. The volunteers at the aid station leading into the last quarter mile were just outstanding. They helped me get going for the final push.

There is something amazing about coming into the finishing chute in an endurance event like this. I don't quite know how to explain it. You have given all you have to give and suddenly have a small burst of energy helps propel you to the finish. I had the same feeling when I did my one and only full marathon. I got this incredible sensation of chills and dizziness followed by an incredible high.

As I approached the finish line I could see the clock. Given that the clock time is based on when the Pros started and where I thought I started, I knew I was still very close to 6 hours. I thought I was at 6:01 or 6:02, and although a bit disappointed, I was so incredibly happy I didn't care.

Two of my friends were waiting at the finish line cheering on those of us from my area (there were quite a few of us who made the trek to Kansas). It was such a relief to see friendly faces. I was in such shock I didn't even realize that Chrissie Wellington was the person who put the medal around my neck. How freakin' cool is that? I wish I could've gotten a picture.

Only a few hours later did I find out that I did meet my goal. Total time 5:58:17. 95/212 - purely MOP (middle of pack) but not horrible considering where I was after the swim. I was ecstatic. As if I didn't already feel great about being able to finish, when I found out my actual time I was stoked beyond belief. What a day!

What would you do differently?:

Be more careful with fluids.

Post race

Warm down:

Went to the food tent and had a BBQ sandwich and some chips and started taking massive amounts of fluid. I could barely move my legs, so I couldn't even stretch for a while. I got a post-race massage, which was a first for me at any event. I should do that more often. It was very helpful.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

My swim was so hard it made me use a lot of energy. My legs even cramped during the swim, so my legs suffered all day. I really think getting much better at the swim will help each event. I was a bit lax on bike training, because I was already fit enough to suffice and I needed to focus and run and swim training. For the next HIM (Branson) I'm going to work harder on the bike in hopes of staving off pain on the run.

Event comments:

My first WTC event. The organization and support is unreal. The venue at IMKS is great for all disciplines. The wind caused the conditions to be tough, but that could happen anywhere. I will very likely return many times to this event.

Final Statistics:



















1.2 mi. (59:40)





56 mi. (2:52:59)

19.42 mph



RUN SPLIT 1: 2.5 mi

2.5 mi (22:12)


RUN SPLIT 2: 7.75 mi

5.25 mi (43:28)


RUN SPLIT 3: 9 mi

1.25 mi (14:03)


RUN SPLIT 4: 13.1 mi

4.1 mi (37:44)



13.1 mi (1:57:27)










Monday, June 6, 2011

Officially a triathlete

The road to recovery from my hip replacement in April, 2009, has seemed like a long one, but in reality I'm barely past two years post-op and have just completed my first triathlon - an Olympic distance, even. Most people who delve into triathlons start with a "sprint" tri, which varies in distance from 300-700 yard swim, 10-15 mile bike and 2-3 mile run. Not me, I wanted to go bigger. The Olympic distance is .9 mile swim, 25 mile bike and 6.2 mile run (1.5K/40K/10K in metric). No sense in messing around with the small stuff :)

The event was the Kansas City Triathlon which was centered around Longview Lake just southeast of KC. I drove up the day before to get signed in and picked up my race packet. Did a short run to keep the legs loose. Spent the night in Overland Park, Kansas, just 10 minutes from the race site.

This tri was a warm-up for my big event coming up on June 12 - the Ironman Kansas 70.3 (half Ironman) in Lawrence, Kansas. The good thing is that I now know what to expect, especially on the swim. The bad thing is the the half ironman is more than double the distance of the Olympic distance. I feel like I'm prepared, because I've done the training but am nervous.

That being said, below is a recap of my day at the KC Tri. Sorry for the length, I'm a bit wordy sometimes :)

Swim Time
Swim Pace2:46
Tran 11:59
Bike Rate21.2
Tran 21:55
Run Pace8:12

Pre-race routine:

This was my first tri, so I did my best to read existing information about how to best prepare. I bought a fairly large transition bag(Zoot) which I was able to get everything in except for some extra water bottles. I ended up not needing the extra bottles but better safe than sorry.

I attempted to get a good night's sleep going to bed at 9 the prior night, but woke up at 2am and couldn't go back to sleep. I rarely sleep well in hotels, so no surprise there. So much for a good plan.

Got up, had some coffee and a bagel, put on sunscreen, got dressed and left for the park. Arrived plenty early. Easy process to get marked and find my transition area. I had everything fairly well prepped already, so it really took very little time to get my area setup, including plastic bags to cover things in case of rain.

Then it was just a waiting game. I was done with my area a good 1.5 hours ahead of time. I walked around and just took it all in and got to use the bathroom a couple of times, so I wasn't concerned about any issues on the course.

Event warmup:

Felt no need to ride or run prior to the event. I knew swimming would get everything going. Good thing on the bike, since once your bike was in transition, you weren't allowed to take it out. No big deal to me but I heard others complaining.

30 minutes before the start, I got my wetsuit on and was able to acclimate to the water and practice a bit, since this was my FIRST open water swim! I was glad to be able to do this as the water was between 60-64 degrees, depending on who you listened to.



This was an awful, horrifying experience. I knew it was a possibility, because it was my first OWS. I had planned on getting some OWS in prior to this event, but with all the flooding we've had in the area I live, it just hasn't been possible.

I did get to warm up some before the start, so I thought I could handle it, even thought it is disturbing looking down into the water and not being able to see anything.

I was not worried about the distance per se, because I've done this distance many times in the pool. I was worried a bit about the current and of course the craziness of the chaos. There were 165 in my wave (M30-44). I got started off somewhere in the middle toward the outside. Got going and within 100 yards I was panicking, and I mean panicking in a way that I thought I needed to quit or risk dying. I was really scared.

I was just completely out of breath. I had to turn over and do backstroke for a bit and then turn back over and dog paddle until I got my senses about me. Still I was unable to just put my head in the water and go. I was just totally freaked out and couldn't do it, so I swam forward with my head above the water then entire way to the first turn. I even stopped at a couple of intermediate buoys along the way to hang on for a few moments. I did see other struggling as bad or worse than me, so I knew I wasn't alone. Was even pretty close to a guy who called for (and received) help.

I finally made it to the first turn. It had to have taken 20-25 minutes. The first leg was against a pretty strong crosswind, so that probably didn't help matters. When I made the turn I was officially downwind and I told myself that I HAD to get over this stupid fear and go. So I did. I just put my head in and started going.

I almost always breathe bilaterally in the pool, but I found that breathing to one side helped me get going. I actually got into a groove and started feeling good about myself. I kept going off-course but was sighting frequently to get back on track. The distance to the last buoy wasn't very far, maybe a couple hundred yards, so I got there in a reasonable time and then headed back toward the beach.

The trip in was rough because I was going back into the wind. The waves were choppy at times, so I had to switch breathing to the other side. That threw me for a bit and it was quite a fight to stay straight, but I finally made it.

I was very proud to have fought through it and felt like I had conquered a big demon when I touched the beach.

I had targeted 30 minutes for the swim, which I'm capable of doing, but had no idea the struggle I would encounter. I'm not disappointed, though.

What would you do differently?:

Practice OWS. Practice OWS. Practice OWS. In fairness, I had planned to do so, but the flooding where I live made it impossible.

Trade my Garmin 305 for a 310XT so I can track my swims and have a good laugh or cry, or actually figure out how to get better.



I felt well prepared for the transition. Had just a slight trouble getting my right foot out but that was minor. I was not very dizzy from the swim, which was a concern going in.

What would you do differently?:




The bike is my strongest discipline. My main concern was going out too hard and killing my run because of it. I knew I could make up some of the time I lost on my swim and I did. I was 22/45 on the bike compared to 41/45 on the swim. I passed a lot of people and didn't "burn all my matches."

The course had no major climbs but a couple of decent ones and several up and downs. It had rained the night before, so I was cautious about cornering too fast. The roads were rough, as they typically are around a lake. Chip 'n seal for the most part with thousands of tar-covered seams in certain sections. Not a bad course at all but certainly not a smooth ride.

Pretty decent wind throughout. Probably 15 MPH with some gusts. The one positive is that heading into the wind was mostly through the technical areas, so the wind wasn't as negatively impacting as it would've been on straights. The tailwind was on the longest straight stretch, so I made up a lot of my speed there. That was fun!

Had targeted 1:10 and hit it. Very happy with this.

What would you do differently?:

Not much. I fueled well on the ride. Didn't get into LT very much.



I was going sock-less on bike and run and was using quick laces, so getting out of bike shoes and into running shoes was quick. I could've been faster here, but I took off running the wrong direction out of transition. Idiot move.

What would you do differently?:

Pay closer attention to which end the run started.



The run always concerns me, because I had an artificial hip that I got implanted two years ago. I was unable to run for 15 months and even though I feel reasonably comfortable now, I'm afraid to really test the limits. I have recently done a 10K (44 min) and a half marathon (1:42) and felt good after both races, but the fear of doing damage is always in the back of my mind.

I've done quite a number of bricks in training and feel okay doing the transition. Actually, I usually start out faster than I intend even though I have the dead-leg feeling for a while after the bike. I did exactly that and my HR jumped pretty good the first mile. I finally got settled in to a nice pace after that, at least going by RPE since I haven't looked at the data yet.

Felt pretty solid going into the second loop. I took a gel at :15 and :40 and got water or Gatorade at every stop, even walking through the station to make sure I got enough.

Around 4.5 miles I started getting a twinge in my quad, a precursor to bad cramps. I backed off just a bit and it got no worse. At .3 miles to go the hamstrings both started the twinge. I knew I was borderline going into bad cramps, so I shortened my stride to keep the speed. I had a goal of 50 minutes and knew I was close.

As I got closer and closer to the finish that time was terrorizing me, because it was in reach but I risked some serious pain by pushing too hard. I said screw it and went hard for the final bit and made it just under my goal by 4 seconds! It wouldn't have been the end of the world had I not made it but it's nice to meet your goals.

What would you do differently?:

Nothing really. I probably could've run just a bit faster but the risk of getting cramps was very possible, so I'm glad I paced the way I did.

Post race

Warm down:

I was pretty spent when I finished, although not totally, so I probably could've pushed a little harder somewhere, but it's nice not to feel borderline sick and dizzy like after an all-out effort. I just got some Gatorade and water and tried to cool down.

By the time I got to the run it was getting pretty muggy, so it was a bit miserable trying to cool off. I can never eat directly after a race, so I went back to transition, packed up and left. Had a 3.5 hour trip home, so I stopped a few times to stretch and once to get a well-deserved cheeseburger :)

What limited your ability to perform faster:

Crappy swim. Fake hip.

Event comments:

I've attended many races (bike, run and motocross) over the past ten 10 years. This was by far the most organized, well-run race I've attended. They used this Ultramax timing system thing and I was able to get a printout immediately after my race with all my times and finishing position (although they are preliminary and my final results did change slightly). That was extremely cool. Maybe a lot of triathlons do this same thing, but it is a great touch.

Everything - registration, parking, body marking, aid stations, on-time start - all very smooth.