Nerves, Asthma, and the IceBreaker Triathlon

Sunday was the IceBreaker Triathlon at the Walnut Creek YMCA, and I thought I was ready. This was a sprint triathlon where you swim 400 yards in a indoor pool, take a non-transition (not counted) break to go to the spin room, ride 10 miles at a preset gear, take a non-transitioned break to the treadmills, and then run 2 miles. I trained, I was ready … or so I thought.

Having borderline asthma, my doctor advised me some time ago to pre-treat with an inhaler before starting any exercise. He knows how hard I train, and feels that it is better to prepare by pre-treating. So as I was changing in order to meet my 7:50 a.m. pool start, I took two puffs off my inhaler. I was good to go. I swam 400 yards easily just two days before, so I knew I could do it.

What I didn’t plan on was nerves. As we entered the pool to warm up, I saw that I was in the lane closest to the bleachers. Not my favorite spot to be. I felt like everyone was watching me. I started chatting with my lane partner … he had completed an IRONMAN! Yikes! I told myself to just swim my pace and take it easy, as there are other events (bike and run) to conserve energy for. No sense trying to race someone who can swim miles.

The horn sounded and we took off. The first 100 yards went well, and I was trying to keep an even pace. But every time I would breathe, I could see the crowd, and the water was churning more than when I trained. I started to feel tense and a little nervous, and suddenly my chest was tightening. All I could think of was that I had used my inhaler, that this shouldn’t be happening! But it was, and I had just passed the 125 yard mark.

I got to the edge marking 150 yards and stood up. My counter asked if I was ok, and I told her I was having a little trouble breathing and needed to catch my breath. She said “you can walk in the shallow end, just keep moving, you’re ok”. So I walked a few feet and started swimming again. I was devasted and embarrassed. I trained for this, why was this happening?

After a couple of laps I had to walk a little again. My counter, bless her heart, was so encouraging and congratulated me when I finished, saying “You did great! 8:36!” I was shocked. Even though I had to catch my breath, I beat my time on Friday (when the swim was easy) by almost 30 seconds!

I got out of the pool and changed quickly in my tri-suit and bike shoes, and carried a bag with my running shoes in them so I wouldn’t have to go back to the locker room again. I know that there was no transition time, but it doesn’t hurt to train. Then I headed upstairs to the spin room.

As I got set up on a spin bike, one of the volunteers explained to me that once I got the spin bike to gear 12, they would start the count. I was to notify them when I got close to 10 miles. But I had a slight problem; I remembered my dear friend and mentor Stephanie doing this very same triathlon the year before, and I know she was in 10th gear … so that’s what I had trained on for long distances when on a spin bike. What I didn’t know was that there were different settings for men and women. Now, two gears may not sound like a lot, but it felt like going up a 10-mile slope. I got it done, but not nearly as fast as I would have liked, coming in at 25:54.

I left the spin room and headed for the treadmills. I quickly changed shoes and checked in. I got on and started running. I usually avoid treadmills, even though I own one. I prefer to run outside, as my previous posts have hinted at. but after shredding my legs on a 10-mile upward slope bike ride, I finished the run at 18:05. The total for the triathlon was 52:35.

My dear friend, running partner, and now training partner Kara finished her first triathlon in under 48 minutes. She was amazing. My wife Julie finished her first triathlon as well, bad back and all, in 54 minutes. These two ladies are amazing, and truly an inspiration to me.

I learned a few things to work on before our next triathlon in May: (1) Work on becoming a stronger swimmer. (2) Learn to control my nerves and not worry about what others think. (3) Train harder on the bike on harder gears, so the next time this gear will be easy. (4) Learn to relax and enjoy the moment. We did have a great time, and it took an amazing amount of work just to be able to get here and attempt an event such as this. While this was my third sprint, it was wonderful to see my wife and one of my dearest friends become triathletes. Now, on to training for the next one.

Kara and I posing after completing the IceBreaker Triathlon.

It’s going to be a great year!

Live healthy, be happy!


Adding Life to Your Years

Each year my employer proposes that we try to take care of our health by conducting a 10-week “Live Healthy America” challenge. The goal is to exercise two hours a week for ten weeks. If you succeed, the company grants you benefit dollars to your health savings account. It’s an easy way to add money to your health savings, and I find the challenge easy to complete.

One day at work we were discussing the challenge and working out in general, when one co-worker replied “Why do you work out so much? You’re going to die anyway!” Before I could answer, someone started in on them about the health benefits and how weight loss and exercise has proven to extend one’s life.

I left the conversation, but the question stuck with me … why? I could fall victim of a tragedy, or get hit by a bus (in Des Moines, the latter is quite possible). So why do I do all of this, when it may not add years to my life at all? After all, no one is assured anything.

This Saturday, I went on an early morning run. It was 43 degrees in Des Moines, a rare treat in a usually harsh winter. We crossed a bridge and saw the ducks happily swimming where the ice once was, we saw the beautiful downtown sculpture garden as the sun was starting to peek over the buildings, we ran by Principal Ballpark where echoes of the crack of a baseball bat still loomed, and finally around the State Capitol, with its golden dome shining in the sun and changing the snow it reflected upon from white to gold.

After the run and breakfast, we decided to go on a bicycle ride. We smiled thinking about how rare a treat this would be. We got going and suddenly the wind picked up. It was blowing us around, and we had to fight to stay straight. We stopped on a bridge for a break, and watched a giant sheet of ice slowly float down the river as if it was off in search of colder climates. At that moment we saw a bald eagle soaring over the river, probably using the opportunity to catch some fresh fish. We took off again, but the wind was brutal and we had to return home after only a ten mile ride. But we were smiling because we rode ten miles outdoors in January.

I also got my answer to “why?’, and I hope in the above description that you did too. While this journey and lifestyle change started out with the idea to lose weight, become healthy and live longer, it has morphed into something much bigger. I have lost weight, I am healthier, I feel better, and who knows if I’ll live longer. But what this journey has transformed into is different than when it began. No longer am I concerned about adding years to my life, I am focused on adding life to my years. Yesterday was a perfect example of that, as all the things I saw, the fun we had, the memories that were made, all came because we were exercising and taking care of ourselves.

Here’s to a lifetime of memories just like yesterday.

Live healthy, be happy!



Ready for a January bike ride. Just need gloves, a jacket, and a helmet.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Pool

A funny thing happened on the way … We’ve all heard that line before, stating something unusual just after the beginning of that sentence. Well for me, that is what happened to me today as I headed to the pool to swim laps and do some spinning.

I have been really worried about triathlon training, because … well my swimming sucks. Blame it on asthma, or some unknown fear, but I have been struggling as of late in the water, and I can feel the tension mounting. My running and biking skills are fine (everything can be improved upon), but it’s the swimming that gets me. It’s my weakest link, my achilles heel if you will and I have been pushing so hard to get better without success. My friends keep saying it will come with time, but I feel caught in a rut, and I’m frustrated.

Until today. On the way to the gym, I said a little prayer asking for a peaceful swim. Not an amazing swim or one where records are shattered, but just a nice peaceful swim. Boy did I get that prayer answered! I started off by swimming 150 yards freestyle, and it felt pretty easy. I then then swam an easy 150 yards with a float between my legs. I was already at 300 yards! I usually max out at 400 yards! I then did 100 yards with fins on, and then freestyle for another 100. I then rotated from freestyle, float, and fins for another 500 yards, and totaled out at 1000 yards! I then got a kick board and kicked another 4×50 yards for an additional 200 yards.

The amazing thing in this whole process is that I was never nervous, never panicked, and just kept going. It felt great to enjoy the swim and to get some decent (for me) yardage in without the worry or fear. I can’t say it will always be like today, but I sure hope so!

I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

Live healthy, be happy!


Celebrating 10 years!

If you’ve ever considered quitting smoking, please read this blog. Maybe it’ll help you decide to quit for good. Thanks Celeste

Confessions of a [former] Fat Girl

smoking 1

(Photo courtesy of one of my best friends, Trena. This photo was taken in 1990, our senior year of high school.)

Yes, I was a smoker. Key word? Was.

Before I even get started, I will say right off the bat that I know there is nothing I can say or do to change you, your mind, how you feel and what you do. YOU have to want that change. YOU have to make that change. But maybe, just maybe, I can help get the ball rolling. And for that, here’s what I have to say:

I am kind of celebrating a big milestone today.

Today, thanks to my son, Brandon, I celebrate 10 years of being smoke-free. YES! 10 YEARS! I’ve said it to him before, but I will say it to him again, in fact, I will shout it…THANK YOU, BRANDON! Thank you for saying those eight simple…

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Double Runs and Adding a Swim

On Saturday morning, I went to Fleet Feet Sports to participate in the Winter Warriors Run. It is a nine week program that takes you through the nine coldest weeks of winter, and encourages you to run outside. We are currently in week five, and it seems that the group is getting bigger every week. We took off for a chilly three mile run around 8 am, happy that because of colder temperature, we would get more points for this run. The points transfer into entries for a drawing after the nine weeks, and the grand prize is $250 worth of Mizuno outer wear!

When we got back from the run, I was talking to Andy Roat, the owner of Fleet Feet Sports, and we were discussing a new run that was going to start at 10 am that very Saturday; a Resolution Run. Andy set up this run for people who wanted to either get into running, or those who were once runners and wanting to get back into it. I asked how many people signed up, and Andy said that he didn’t have a signup so he didn’t know if anyone would run.

I talked it over with my wife, and said I wanted to do the 10 am run as well. Julie is just getting into running, and had just completed her third Winter Warrior 3-mile run. I asked if she minded waiting almost an hour for me to run another two miles. I was happy and surprised to hear her say “I want to run it too.” This would be pushing her pretty far, as her longest run is four miles, and she had never ran twice in a day.

So we walked to a coffee shop, got a couple cups of liquid caffeine, and discussed the next run. We decided that since the route was pretty straight forward, I would use it as a training run, and Julie would run her pace. We finished our coffees and walked back to the running store.

There were about 10 runners total for the Resolution Run. We rechecked the two mile route and took off. It felt pretty good, and for running three miles an hour earlier, I finished the two miles averaging 8:48 a mile.

Julie came in not too long after I did, and after stretching and buying her new running shoes, we went for breakfast. We talked about the runs, and if we wanted to go to the gym later and do some swimming. We decided to take a little break, run some errands, and swim that afternoon. We made it to the gym later that day and did get our laps in, and I got to try out the new Garmin 920XT in the pool. It works great, but there are a few things that I have to get used to:

1. If you stop mid-lap, like I did when I stopped to see why Julie stopped (swim goggles were leaking), the 920 thinks you are done with the lap and it shorted me 25 yards.

2. The 920 does not include any distance for kick-boarding (there goes 100 yards).

But other than that, it was great. Now I need to learn all the information that it give me. I may soon know more about swimming than I ever cared to. 🙂

I have the next three days off work, so the plan is to swim, bike, and run … hopefully in that order.

Live healthy, be happy.


New Year, New Runs.

Happy New Years to one and all. We started off the new year by running in a new event for me. The Capital Striders Running Club hosted a Mitten Run supporting the Boys and Girls Club in Des Moines, Iowa. We brought several pairs of new gloves, mittens, and hats for the Boys and Girls Club to distribute to needy children in the area. After running your choice of a 3-4-5 or 6 mile routes, the Striders had a potluck planned and even had chili and vegetarian chili for the runners. The Capital Striders, which is a great running group on its own, is also known for their charity events and fun runs. This would be no exception.

We arrived at Lions Park, dropped off our donations, and picked up a map of the 4 mile route. It was a chilly morning, around 20 degrees at the start with a breeze, so it was good that we bundled up in layers. Our group leader assured us that he would get us lost, and actually kept his word as I think he misread the map! But with the help of another runner, we got it figured out and had a nice run.

We got back to the park shelter, chatted and stretched, and decided to go for breakfast instead of having chili. I think it was a great event, and I look forward to more events held by the Capital Striders.



Saturday will mark the 5th week for the Winter Warriors Run at Fleet Feet Sports in the East Village. It’s amazing that we are half-way through the nine coldest weeks of winter, and we are still running outside. Special thanks to Andy Roat and his team for hosting such great events and bringing runners together.

One last note: I ran on New Years Eve on my lunch break, and the temperature was 12 degrees with a wind chill of -2 degrees. But with layering my clothes, I felt really good. It’s amazing what you can do when you prepare and try.


Live healthy, be happy!