Triathlon Training, the Ultimate Race to Give, and the Next Strides Group

There has been so much going on as of late, that I haven’t been keeping up on my blog!  There never seems to be enough time to do everything that you want to do.  When you add work and other commitments into the mix, the day fills up rather quickly.  I will start this entry in no particular order, with exception to the first part…

A huge shout out and congratulations to my dear friend and training partner Kara, who just completed her first open-water sprint triathlon at the Iowa Games this past Sunday.  Kara did amazing, and it sounds like she is already planning on the next one.  So very proud of her!  Here is a picture of Kara running strong to the finish line: 

 
She is an amazing woman, and I am honored to call her my dear friend.  Love you to the moon and back Kara!

The other day, Fleet Feet Sports (my favorite running store) had a social run where you get to try on a certain brand of shoes for a demo run.  This is not the normal “run on a treadmill” type of run, but rather a run outdoors with hills and such!  What a cool idea, to “try before you buy”.  This week, the shoe sponsor was Altra, which I am the stores “ambassador” for.  So I was pretty sure I had better show up for this run.  

I decided that I would wear my Altra shirt that was given to me (with a pair of ProVision 2 shoes) when I became ambassador.  I got there and there were several styles of shoes to choose from, in various sizes, and also watermelon for after the run.  Andy, the owner of Fleet Feet, introduced me to the Altra rep and started to say that I was the store ambassador for Altra, when the Altra rep quickly said “I knew that right away. That’s the only way to get that shirt.”  Good thing I decided to wear it!

I decided on a pair of Torin zero drop shoes for my run.  The difference in the ProVision 2 and the Torin is in the amount of arch support.  Some days I want it, and I wear the ProVision 2’s.  But it’s when I don’t want that much arch support that I have an issue.  Well not any longer; the Torin will be the next shoe style I purchase.  They were very comfortable for the 3.5 mile run, which inculded a lap around Capital hill.  They felt great the whole time, and is the style that I want to add to my running shoe group. 

 
The Ultimate Race to Give is underway, and I am at $450 of my $1000 goal!  Not too bad, almost halfway there!  The coaches at Zoom Performance have been sending daily training schedules, and thankfully I am allowed to switch them around to suit my daily life (today is a rest day, but I have today off.  So I went on a 24 mile bike ride to work on endurance… I finished the ride with an average MPH of 17.7).  If you have donated to my cause, thank you.  If you haven’t donated, there is still time, and here is the link: http://www.gofundme.com/x3qhtg

Please share this with everyone you know.  I am raising money for the Animal Lifeline of Iowa, a no-kill special needs shelter in Des Moines.  They are such a wonderful group, and do an amazing job caring for all the animals that come to the shelter.    Murphy, our Great Dane, came from the Animal Lifeline.

  
Training has been going well, but there never seems to be enough time to get in all the workouts that you want to.  Swimming in a wetsuit has went amazingly well.  I actually swam 1.2 miles non-stop in a wetsuit!  But there was an issue we were overlooking: what if a race is not wetsuit legal? If the water temperature is above a certain degree, then wetsuits are not allowed.  So we are beginning to work on swimming in open water without the aid of a wetsuit.  It’s hard, but in the end we will be ready, no matter what.

The Next Strides group I mentor on Tuesdays and Saturdays are improving in leaps in bounds.  It is incredible to watch these people transform into seasoned runners.  This Saturday was the halfway point in the training program, so most of them were signed up to run the Midnight Madness 5k in Ames, Iowa that night.  I could not go, as I had a wedding to attend, so I came to the morning group run to see who would show up.  Did I mention it had been raining for hours, with no sign of letting up?

Sure enough, two brave souls showed up to run 6 miles.  I gave them the option: run in the rain, or run in the parking ramp.  They chose the rain, and I am glad they did.  These are the types of runs where memories are made, and this one was no exception.  We selected our route and took off, only to find that The Color Run 5k was setting up.  As we ran past we laughed that surely they wouldn’t run the race in the rain.  Who else is crazy enough to run in the rain?  So we laughed and chatted and went on.

As we ran, we were getting soaked by the rain.  We didn’t care though, and we actually seemed to enjoy the coolness of the rain as we were getting warm from running.  As we headed back, we got a surprise: they actually DID start the Color Run 5k, and now they had the sidewalks blocked with stuff.  The only way to really get through was to join the run, so I said “Wanna crash their party?”, and the three of us ran through the yellow color station. We were the only three not dressed in white, but they threw powder at us anyway.  We had to run through one more station (pink) before turning for home.  Here is what I looked like from just two color stations: 

 
When I posted this on FaceBook, one of my friends commented that I had to be “one of the happiest people that I have ever met.”  That really touched my heart.  I hope that’s what people see in me; a positive, happy, caring individual.  Life is too short to be miserable, so enjoy it (even if it means getting pink powder thrown on you!)

Live healthy, be happy!

Travis

Wetsuit Swimming, No Boundaries, and the Run With the Police 5k

As you have probably read here before, I am in the midst of triathlon training to ready myself for not only an open water sprint in June, but an Olympic distance triathlon later this year.  Swimming is my weakest sport, as I sink like a rock and cannot seem to tread water.  The idea of swimming almost a mile started to seem like a far fetched idea.

But, one should not give up hope.  So to push myself a little harder, my wife and I purchased wetsuits.  I purchased what is considered an entry level Orca S5 suit.  Since the outdoor water temperature is still a little cool, we decided to try them out in the pool at the YMCA.  It wasn’t too bad getting it on for the first time, although I did have trouble getting the pull string to stay out of the way!  I made my way to an open lane, said a little prayer that everything would be ok, and jumped in.

I actually felt a little lighter in the water with it on, but then again I was just standing there.  It’s when I started to swim that I noticed a big difference.  First: I didn’t have to try so hard to beathe, as I was almost on top of the water.  Second: It seemed almost effortless, as if I was gliding along. Third: even with the full sleeves, it never felt cumbersome and I seemed to have a full range of motion.  That’s when I realized that I had swam 400 yards as my warm up!  I had never done that so easily before.  After drills, I decided to just swim laps again, and completed 750 yards non-stop!  That felt amazing, and since my first open water sprint is approximately 820 yards, I feel much better about it.

Then my wife suggested that we swim out to the deep end and and practice treading water.  Now I don’t tread water, I sink.  I don’t know why, but that’s what happens.  So I try to be brave, and swim out to the deep end and stop … and I float!  I barely moved my arms or my legs, and I was floating.  I even went one minute treading water and floating.  It was amazing, and it has me amped up to try open water swimming now!

My No Boundaries group is moving along so well that they will soon be teaching me.  Because of a graduation, only one of my team, Shirley, was there on Saturday.  We partnered with Maria, another mentor, and I asked Shirley what she wanted to do.  She said she wanted to try to run the entire 5k, but slowly and no walk breaks.  So I told her that she would set the pace and off we went.  And she did it!!  Shirley was amazing, and she finished in 34:39 which is a great time!  It has been amazing to run with this group, and between Shirley, Jennifer, Sarah, and Bob, I have learned so much.  They have taught me how to encourage people, to make things fun, to boost spirits, and to love running even more.  I can only hope that they got as much from this program that I have.

After No Boundaries was completed Cathy, another mentor in the group, asked if I was doing the “Run With the Police 5k”.  It was the first year for the race, raising interactions with the police and the community, and raising money for Special Olympics.  I told Cathy that I had not signed up, but would love to run it.  So I ran a half mile to the police station, and they were still accepting applications for the race.  I got my bib, my t-shirt, then ran a half mile back to Fleet Feet Sports.  The race was at 10 am, so we had enough time for a coffee and a pastry before walking to the starting line.  I had already logged in 4 miles, and now going to run a 5k.  I wondered how this would pan out.

The race was wonderful, with 1000 runners at the start.  We took off, and the police were everywhere, cheering us on, high-fiving runners, it was a great time.  I crossed the finish, got a great looking medal, and went through a wall of uniformed police officers all fist bumping us and congratulating us!  It was a great race, one that I will add to my “have to run” list.  I looked at my watch to see the time I finished: 26:30.  Not too bad for running 4 miles beforehand.  I stayed to cheer on Cathy, Brenda, and Cindy on as they headed to the finish.

Here is the medal we received: 

 

Here we are after the finish:

  
After the run, I cleaned up, got out the bicycle, and went with on a 25 mile bike ride.  My wife, my training partner Kara, and her sweetheart Eli were there, and we stopped at Mullets for an early dinner.  It was great to see Kara and Eli again, and I hope we can ride together more often.

Live healthy, be happy!

Travis

Meeting an Inspiring Person, The Drake Relays, No Boundaries, and Trying for a Personal Best

This weekend has been one wonderfully filled moment after another.  I got to meet someone that inspires me to keep moving forward and to continue to push myself, I ran my first half-marathon of the year, I tried to meet a goal and have a personal best at the same time, AND I got to watch my group in the No Boundaries reach new heights.  So without further delay, lets get started.

Meeting an Inspiration:  I had the privilege to meet Celeste E. the author of the web blog Confessions of a [former} Fat Girl and her husband Al this weekend.  Celeste and I “met” in a FaceBook fitness group called “From Fat to Finish Line”, and I have shared her blog several times.  She is an amazing person, and her story is incredible!  She inspires me to keep trying my best, to constantly improve, and to enjoy the journey.  If you haven’t checked out her blog, go to http://confessionsofaformerfatgirlblog.com   Celeste and Al were in Des Moines so Celeste could attend the RRCA certification program to become a certified running instructor.  How cool is that!  Celeste and Al also signed up to run the 10k event at the Drake Relays.  I was signed up for the half-marathon, so we decided to meet up after the training class (I work across the street from the hotel where the class was being held), and walk to the packet pickup.

Celeste is an amazing person, and makes you feel at ease right away.  We chatted as we walked, and it felt like, even though we just met in person, that we knew each other.  I guess having similiar fitness goals and each having a history with a lifestyle change unites people.  We waited for Al to find the arena (downtown Des Moines isn’t the easiest to navigate), and the three of us went to the packet pickup and expo.

Al is an incredible person as well.  He is easygoing, soft spoken, and really cares about what you are saying.  He never takes himself too seriously, and that puts you at ease quickly.  Here is Celeste and Al at the expo: 

 

I have to admit I was disappointed with the expo.  We were in and out in less than ten minutes.  There have been bigger and better expos before, but this one was small.  I’m glad Celeste and Al didn’t drive from Minnesota just for this expo.  

We decided that since we had time before my wife was to meet us for dinner, that we would go to Fleet Feet Sports in the East Village.  Celeste mentioned that since I talk about that store so much, that she wanted to see it. Andy Roat and the gang did not disappoint.  Both Celeste and Al wished they had a running store like Fleet Feet near them.  Celeste tried on a pair of Hoka’s while Al and I picked out Huma gels to try.  It was a fun time, and so much better than the expo.

After our visit to Fleet Feet, we headed to Fong’s Pizza.  Al had researched it, and wanted to give it a try.  When we got there however, there was an almost two-hour wait!  That wasn’t going to do, so we went across the street to the Royal Mile, and found a table right away.

My wife joined us at the Royal Mile, and we ordered drinks and dinner.  The dinner was good but the conversation and the company was even better!  Celeste and Al told stories about some of the races they have run, including one in full parkas at -15 degrees!  They said they had run 50 races last year alone if I remember correctly, and that in itself is amazing!  I thought I was doing great at 16 events a year.  This is how the experts do it.

The time flew by quickly, and before you knew it, we had to say goodnight.  Celeste had class and a run in the morning, and I had my No Boundaries group to run and mentor with.  So we headed our separate ways, and decided to meet up after the Relays on Sunday.

No Boundaries:  The No Boundaries group met Saturday morning, and they amaze me each and every week.  My group continues to improve in leaps and bounds.  Saturday was no exception.  They didn’t let a little rain stop them from running outside, and with only a couple walking sections, ran the entire time!  They will easily make the Dam to Dam 5k!  They say they are learning a lot from me, but I think I am learning even more from them.  Andy Roat has given to ok to ramp up the training if they want to, and the group has responded wonderfully.  It’s going to be hard to see them go after the program is over, and I hope we can continue to run socially afterward.  They are such a great group.

Drake Relays half-marathon:  So Sunday morning came and it was time for the half-marathon.  I was a little nervous, because the longest training run I had was one 10-miler, along with a 7-miler and others.  I wanted to not only finish, but finish strong, because this was a gauge for me on how to train for the Dam to Dam.  The No Boundaries group decided that the 5k portion of the Dam to Dam would be their “graduation” run, but I had already committed to the half-marathon.  So I figured, if I could somehow run the half fast enough, I could finish, find the No Boundaries group, and run the 5k with them.  One of the other mentors told me there was a two and a half hour difference between the start of the half, and the start of the 5k.  So if I could finish in 2:15, I would have some time to find them.  Then I thought that I did a half in 2:10, but it was some time ago.  What if I could do the half in under 2 hours?  That would give me plenty of time!  The goal was set: 1:59:59.

So the race started and it felt really good.  It was a beautiful day to run!  It is always a great route and very well organized.  I had lined up in the chute near the two hour pacer.  My hope was to keep him in my sights until near the end.  Then if I had enough energy to push past him I would.  That strategy worked until mile ten, when the hills came into play.

We started with a steady incline up Grand Avenue, several city blocks of nothing but incline.  I could feel the soreness starting to creep into my legs, and even my toes were tingling.  I tried to focus on my breathing, on looking only a few feet in front of me, of just making it to the crest of the hill, because I knew the worst was yet to come.  I finally glanced up, and although I saw the next water stand, the 2 hour pacer was gone!  I quickly refilled my water bottle and took back off, hoping to use the short downhill and flat to make up some lost time.

At the end of the flat I saw the Fleet Feet team.  They were waving and cheering me on, and I knew then that, even though I was tired, I could not stop. I would not let them see me fail.  But I still could not see the pacer.  Once I passed the gang from Fleet Feet, my biggest challenge yet was staring me in the face: Bulldog Hill.

The hill affectionately gained the name Bulldog Hill because it leads you back to Drake University, and to the finish.  The Bulldog is the Drake University mascot.  Runners have other names for this hill, which I cannot repeat here.  It is a half mile of torture, a three tiered monster neatly placed toward the end of the run, and you feel every painful step of that hill.  The race organizers even time you going up the hill, and give out medals for the fastest finishers.  My goal: run up the hill without walking, without letting my friends at Fleet Feet down.

It was slow going, my legs were starting to complain, and my body wondered why I pushed it so much.  But my brain said “move”, and like a good soldier, the body and legs responded by moving forward.  Up the first tier, head down, not trying to look at the crest.  Second tier done, still trying to focus on short points to pass, like a driveway or a bush, or even a crack in the road.  Anything within my field of vision worked.

Then, all at once, the road flattened.  I had made it up the hill!  Now, if I had anything left in me, I needed to push to the finish.  I made it around a couple of turns and looked at my watch.  I was less that a mile to the finish, but time was running out.  I was three tenths (.3) of a mile from the finish when I saw my watch hit the two-hour mark.  My goal was not to be.  However, I could still set a PR (personal record) if I could finish before 2:10.  

When I finally entered the stadium and hit the track, I started to run all out.  Now was the time to empty the tank and push hard.  Another runner, a young woman, started pushing as well, and we ran side by side as fast as we could.  I looked over to her and started encouraging her, saying “Come on, all or nothing! You can do it!  Just keep it up!  Almost there!”  Then suddenly we were across the finish line.  I said to her “Great job!” She looked at me and said “I thought I was going to throw up!”  I patted her on the back and suddenly heard my name.

It was Al and Celeste!  They had stayed to watch me cross the finish line.  Words cannot express how much that meant to me, as they needed to check out of their hotel, and then drive 6+ hours to get home.  Yet they stayed to congratulate me on finishing.  That really made me feel as if I had actually won the race!

Celeste asked how I did, and I looked at my watch: 2:04:38.  I was able to set a PR by shaving off 6 minutes of time from my previous half-marathon.  It wasn’t 1:59:59, but I’ll take it and be happy.  Only four minutes behind the pacer.  Not a bad day at all!  

Celeste, Al, and I took pictures and chatted while we hit the rehydration and food line.  Celeste mentioned that she wanted to finish the 10k in 1:05, but didn’t do it.  When I asked what her time was, she said 1:05:05.  Five seconds.  She did great!  Al did great as well, finishing the 10k in 54:51. 

   

It was a great time, but before you knew it, it was time for them to head home.  We agreed that we need to run together again at a race on their home turf.  I hope for my sake that they pick one during the summer.  I don’t know how well I would do running in a parka!

Here is my split times for the race: 

 

So, I finally met someone face to face that I’ve come to admire from her blog, had an awesome time mentoring, ran a nice half-marathon and set a PR.  As I was running up the first hill, I thought how wonderful it is that I was blessed to be able do this, that I made a liefstyle change for the better, and of all the wonderful things that have come from it.  Who knows what comes next.  I can’t wait to see!

Live healthy, be happy!

Travis

Rotunda Runs, Swimming Woes, No Boundaries, and Ramping Up the Miles

Its been a while since I posted, and where should I begin?  Let’s start with the triathlon training and go from there.  I’ve been having issues with swim training, and it felt as if I was regressing instead of progressing.  At my last tri-training class, I only swam 75 yards before I had to get out of the pool because I couldn’t breathe.  Now, I have asthma from years of smoking, but I have completed the training before without issues.  However, the last couple of sessions had me to the point of throwing in the towel and giving up on the idea of triathlon.  I told the coaches that I would go to another YMCA where the pool room was larger and more open, and see if that changed anything.  If not, I was going to go to the doctor.  The coaches agreed, and thought the problem might be the high level of chlorine smell in the pool area.  The pool area where we train is quite small with a low ceiling and little air movement.

Well I have been to another pool twice, one with higher ceilings and a larger, well ventilated area, and I am happy to say that on the initial warmup swims, I was able to easily swim 250 yards both times!  I then did drills until I had 1200 yards in each time.  I am hoping that it is the issue, but that means that while I can run and bike with the team, I will have to swim train alone.  That’s ok, as long I can keep moving forward, then I’m happy.  I also learned that chlorine does affect my breathing.  I guess it’s something that I will always have to be prepared for.

The No Boundaries group that I am mentoring in is doing very well!  My group is picking up speed quickly, and their distance that they cover from one week to the next is amazing!  I am so honored to be a part of such a wonderful group of people that want to run and improve their lives.  One member has a hurt foot, possibly a broken toe, but she is not letting it stop her!  She is taping it up and still going, even though we have agreed that she should rest it.  She is amazing, but I don’t want her to hurt it worse.

Claire is one of the No Boundaries coaches, and she has been wanting to increase her distance so she can run a half marathon.  We have went on a few runs, and it’s a lot of fun to run with her.  She’s upbeat and funny, and we chat a lot during our runs.  It makes the time fly by.  We even met up for a 5 mile run before our mentors meeting on Friday, and I had a great time.  We even stopped long enough to take a picture of Gray’s Lake.

 

Isn’t that beautiful?  It was a great run and a great evening!  I can’t wait for our next run.

Speaking of runs, after today’s No Boundaries group run, we went on a Run to the Rotunda, where after a two-mile run, we received a tour of the State Capitol.  It was a great morning for a run, and we even ran up the steps to the door of the Capitol.  I want to say thank you to Andy Roat from Fleet Feet Sports Des Moines for setting up the run, the tour, and everything that he does to support the running community.  Here are some photos of the tour:

 

 

  

  

  

 

So now I need to start ramping up my miles, as I have two upcoming half marathons, a full marathon, and I want to run a 50k whether it be in a race or not.  Add to that, cycling and swim training for triathlon, and I have a full schedule … actually a little more than full.  I can’t seem to find the time to do all the training I want to do.  What I need to do is find a company that would like to support an old, slow trainee wanting to swim, bike, and run. 🙂 

Until then, I guess I will keep cramming in all that I can.  It’s hard to believe that a few years ago, I didn’t want to exercise.  Now people are asking me for advice, tips, and techniques.  I still feel like such a newbie, and yet people are telling me how I am helping and inspiring them.  It just warms my heart to hear that, becuase it means that I touched someone, and that’s what life is all about: helping others.

Live healthy, be happy!

Travis