Triathlon Training, Mentoring, and More Running News

It’s been a while since I last posted, and there has been a lot going on as of late. This past Saturday, I raced in the annual Red Flannel Run, which benefits the YMCA. It was cold and the wind was brutal, but I managed to finish third in my age group. I was pretty happy with that! The winds were gusting up to 35 mph, so it was not an easy run by any stretch of the imagination.

I have also joined a group that helps you train for a sprint triathlon in 12 weeks. We meet every Wednesday, and usually do a bike/swim brick. Tonight we did all three! I find that having coaches there, watching your performance and giving you suggestions and tips is worth every penny, especially in the swimming portion. That was the reason I signed up in the first place, and it has been invaluable! Not only that, but we get to work out with a great group of people, and have made some nice friends along the way. I am hoping Vicky will be nice and help me with my swim technique, or at least distract the coach while I swim!

I decided yesterday to run indoors on the track at lunch. My knees were sore, and I didn’t bring the right gear to run outside, so to the YMCA I went. I don’t know what got into me, but I ran the first mile in 6:47:99!! I broke the 7 minute mile for the first time! I couldn’t believe it! The second mile was back to reality at 8:48:00, and the third was 8:30:00, but I was still in shock over that first mile.

I was asked by Andy Roat, the owner of Fleet Feet Sports in Des Moines, if I would be a mentor in a upcoming program called No Boundaries, which helps people prepare for their first 5k run. I was honored to be asked, and I am looking forward to helping others learn the joy of running! It seems as if the circle is now complete; once others helped me along my way (and still do, I have a lot to learn), and now I get to help others. I am hoping to mentor the marathon group again this year, but I am waiting to hear more about this years program on the marathon training. If you are in the Des Moines area, stop by Fleet Feet in the East Village. They are the nicest and most helpful people on the planet. They love running, the community, and helping people in general.

I also heard that I will have the chance to meet someone that I have admired, from our connection in the “From Fat to Finish Line” FaceBook page, and also her blog “Confessions of a [Former] Fat Girl”. Celeste E. and her husband will be in Des Moines for a few days as she becomes a certified running instructor. How cool is that? I believe she is also becoming certified to do group instruction, such as spin, Zumba, etc. I really admire her determination and how she just loves to run! They are planning to run the Drake Relays 10k run that Sunday, and wouldn’t you know it, I will be there running a half marathon! I can’t wait to meet them both, and to hear Celeste’s lifestyle change firsthand. It is stories such as hers that makes me continue to push harder, to try and do more. I know that I have a long way to go, but I see progress at every turn.

So, it has been a great few weeks! I also have a Live Healthy America Challenge going on at work, where to try to work out 2 hours a week for ten weeks. The goal is to have 20+ hours of exercise total at the end of ten weeks. Right now, into week four, I am averaging 16-17 hours a week! That’s quite a change for me, as I used to do nothing. But, when you decide to make a lifestyle change and commit to it, things change for the better.

Live healthy, be happy!

Travis

A Nervous Training Night

Yesterday evening, I attended my first group training session for people who want to do a sprint triathlon. Now, I have done three sprints in the past, but it was my hope that the swim training by a professional coach would help me as I move toward open water triathlons and hopefully Olympic distance tris.

We met up at the YMCA, and after introductions, it appeared that most of the group had been there before. They all new one another, was asking about events and what each other was up to. That set my nerves tingling … nothing like being the outsiders in the group. We changed and headed to the spin room for the first portion of our first brick workout: an hour long spin class.

We got on the bikes and started to warm up. Suddenly the coaches left the room, only to come back with yoga mats. We needed to stretch first! So after about 8 different core stretches, it was time to pedal. It was a sweat fest, and also an enjoyable workout.

While spinning, we got to meet a few members. That made us feel like we were a welcome part of the team. We chatted during recovery portions of the class, and we grew quiet as the workouts intensified. The coaches also let us know that they were here to help us, and that they would do everything they could to help us succeed.

That comment came true on the next portion of the brick workout: the swim. We had to swim after the cycling due to a swim class going on, so now after a hard workout on the bike, we were going to try and swim. Even though I’ve read several books on swimming, I don’t know what I am actually doing. It was calming to hear my coach tell me that I looked comfortable in the water. He then explained what I should change, and why it should be changed. He is a believer in minimizing energy output while maximizing distance. So we worked on stroke angle, hand insertion, along with drills such as the fingertip drag to help with form. I also noticed him walking back and forth along the pool watching us and evaluating our form. While this would usually make me nervous, this time it did not. It was reassuring that someone was taking my best interests to heart and wanted to see me reach my goals.

We were given a sheet with the first four weeks of workouts, for both the beginner and intermediate level. I am at one level on running and biking, but a complete newbie when it comes to swimming. I figure we can discuss it next week, but for this week I will mix the two.

This morning I had the chance for my first workout with the training plan. After a 400 total yard warmup, I did 600 yards of drills, followed by a 200 yard total cool down. I thought 1200 yards wasn’t too bad. I then changed and hit the track for a 6.5 mile run.

I have this feeling that as these weekly classes progress, I am going to enjoy it more and more. Just having something to work on today was worth it. I’ll post more as the training continues. As I type this, my body is a little stiff and sore, but it feels good!

Live healthy, be happy!

Travis

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!

Travis

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

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.

Travis

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.

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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.

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Live healthy, be happy!

Travis

Winter Warriors, Ugly Sweaters, and Closing in on 1000

It’s been a busy few weeks, with holiday events, and end of year at work. The time flies, and sometimes with all the holiday goodies popping up everywhere, good nutritional choices fly out the window as well. But so far I’ve managed to maintain my weight and still enjoy sampling some of the goodies that are around me. I used to love sweets, and I still do, but now when I overindulge I feel bloated and sluggish. So I try to be careful.

I have joined a “Winter Warriors” program hosted by Fleet Feet Sports. It’s a 9 week program where we meet to run outside every Saturday no matter the temperature. You get points for coming each week and, bonus points depending on the temperature. At the end of nine weeks, the points convert into entries for prizes, including a complete Mizuno winter outfit!

I also entered my first “Ugly Sweater Run”. It was a 5k event, and I never realized the horrible sweaters that are out there. There is even a “Ugly Sweater” kit at Target for $5.00! I tried the kit, but by the time I crossed the finish line, most of the items had fallen off! I guess it wasn’t designed for runners.

I am oh so close to my 1000 miles for the year goal. As of today, I have 20 miles to go. I’m going to try and run outside today, and with the wind and 30 degree temps, it should be a challenge. That’s ok, I like challenges.

In case I don’t get to post before the holidays, Merry Christmas, happiest of holidays, and a joyful new year to one and all.

Live healthy, be happy!

Travis

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Unexpected Goals

Every year, I set a list of goals that I want to accomplish. As my fitness journey has increased, so have the goals increased. For example, one year I set a goal of running a half marathon. Not only did I achieve that goal, but ended up completing my first full marathon as well. Sometimes it’s the unexpected goals that are the most rewarding.

I am closing in on one of those unexpected goals. At the first of the year, I set a goal of running 750 miles this year. The prior year I had run a little over 500 miles, so I figured that increasing it by 250 miles would be a nice accomplishment. I have been keeping track with my Garmin and another app, but they both only showed individual runs and not the total for the year.

A friend challenged me to run 100 miles in the month of November. I accepted that challenge, and was using my old method to keep track, mainly paper and pen. My friend suggested that I use the Garmin Connect website and set a goal. Then the website, along with my app on my phone and my Garmin watch, would keep track for me. It was about time for me to learn how to utilize more of what my watch had to offer, and how to use the website better, so I sat down at the computer to learn how to set a goal.

To my surprise, it was quite easy to set the 100 mile goal. I named it, answered a couple of questions, and set the start and stop dates. Then I figured out approximately how many miles a day I would have to run in order to make the goal.

Then I got the idea to set my 750 miles in a year goal. When I did, what I saw was shocking. I was already over 100% of my goal! I started to wonder if it was possible to reach 1000 miles in a year. I have heard of people who have achieved that goal, and always admired their dedication. So I set a new goal: 1000 miles in one year!

As I type this, I am 71 miles away from my goal. I have 32 days to complete the 71 miles, and achieve a goal that not only was unexpected, but was only dreamed about. If I can run 2.3 miles a day on average, I will make the goal. I am just amazed by what my body is able to endure, how my determination has increased, and how I enjoy working out and exercising. It was only a few short years ago that I could barely run a 5k. Now I have completed two marathons, several half marathons, numerous 5k and 10k races, two sprint triathlons, and many long bicycle rides.

Tomorrow I meet up with my dear friend and training partner Kara, and we will swim and spin as we prepare for a new goal: an olympic distance triathlon. As we train and prepare for our main goal, I have to wonder if there will be any “unexpected goals” that will surprise me yet again.

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Live healthy, be happy!

Travis

“Winter Is Coming”

“Winter is coming” is a common phrase used among fans of the “Game of Thrones” series. In Iowa, the appropriate statement should be “Winter is here”. The polar vortex has brought with it the cold temperatures and snow that is all too common in the midwest. For runners, it is the time to put away the running shorts and t-shirts and either prepare for a season of treadmill running, or to switch into winter mode.

If you are like me, you like to get outside. As long as the temperature isn’t dangerously cold or there is ice all over, I like to run outside. But in order to do that, you have to dress appropriately to avoid frostbite or at worst hypothermia. So in this blog, I’m detailing what I wear on cold weather runs. Every person is different, and you should adjust accordingly. The rule of thumb is to dress 10 degrees warmer than it actually is, as you will be creating heat with your running.

I dress in layers, especially in the chest area. On the last run I did outside, the temperature was 21 degrees F, with a wind chill of 9 degrees. I felt cool but fine during the 5 mile run. I wore a long sleeved dri-fit shirt and a hooded sweatshirt for the top, a pair of CWX compression tights for the legs, a pair of toe socks that are generally thicker than my normal socks, a pair of mittens that have a liner glove in them, a hood or balaclava, and sunglasses. I was quite warm once I started out, and stayed that way throughout.

As it gets colder, or if the wind gusts increase, I will pull sweat pants over the tights to block the wind from my legs. I will also put on an undershirt, as another layer against the cold. I think my glove/mitten set is fine for now, as well as my hood. If it’s icy, I will put on running cleats that you can find in most running stores. They pull on and off pretty easily, and give you some level of traction.

When the temperature is a mixed bag, where it may be cold to start but warm up later, you will want to dress in some layers that are easily removed. During the last marathon, the temperature was 41 degrees F at the start, but was in the low 60’s when I finished. I had on gloves and a running zip up sweat shirt that could be easily removed. Since the marathon collects, cleans, and donates the clothes that runners “throw away”, I didn’t feel bad about tossing them to the side of the road when I warmed up.

One day on a training run, I didn’t pay attention that the temperatures were going to quickly increase, so off I went all bundled up. After 5 miles the temps rose, and I really started to sweat. With no way to discard of my clothes, I had to gut it out in the personal sauna I made. Lesson learned: pay attention to the weather reports.

Be cautious when running in snow as objects, such as broken concrete, can be well hidden. Also ice can be hidden under the snow and lead to a slip. Know the areas you are running in, and let someone know how long you’ll be gone and your route, just in case you have a problem.

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This chart was posted by “Sparkpeople, and it gives a nice example on how to dress for the colder weather. You can run almost outdoors almost all season long, as long as you have the proper gear, are careful, and pay attention to the temperature and weather reports.

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Live healthy, be happy.

Travis

What To Do, What To Do…

This Sunday marks a week since the Des Moines marathon. My body is still in recovery mode, but my mind is trying to figure out where to go from here. I have had people ask me “Are you done now?” thinking that one stops after running 26.2 miles. But I know that my fitness and lifestyle change is one that is for life, and that means never falling back and returning to old ways. So while the body recovers from one event, the brain starts thinking up all kinds of ways to torture the body some more.

I already had one goal in mind even before the marathon started, and that was to train and run a 50k (31.something) race in 2015. That is still very much part of the plan. My dear friend and training partner Kara came up with the other goal, to train and compete in a olympic triathlon. Kara has never done a triathlon of any distance, and I have done only a few sprint triathlons, but never anything close to the olympic distance (1 mile swim – 25 mile bike – 10k run).

We had done a little pool training earlier in the year, but it tailed off as the marathon distances got longer. We have set a couple of mini goals of competing in sprint triathlons (one in January, and one in spring), and then training with our friends Connie and Eric on open water swimming. So now we work on getting pool time in and increasing distance in preparation for spring.

Kara and I met this morning at the YMCA, and I got 400 yds swimming in to Kara’s 500. We then toweled off and met on the track where we ran 3.1 miles. It’s going to take a little getting used to again, this dual and tri sport training. You can feel the difference in your muscles as you start the next exercise, and trying to get them to switch gears takes some work. But I am confident that we will get it done, just like we handled marathon training, together.

I am also doing a 30 day cardio and ab challenge hosted by my friend Lindsey. We have completed week one, and I never knew how weak my stomach and ab muscles were. I hope that working the core and abs daily helps with my other exercises as well.

Live healthy, be happy!

Travis

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Crossing the finish at the IMT Des Moines Marathon … together!

The IMT Des Moines Marathon

Sunday was the big day! After hours and hours of training, after 750+ miles logged in, the IMT Des Moines Marathon was upon us. For myself and the iCan Running Team, it was a restless night, but the night before race day usually is … especially when it’s your first marathon as it was for so many of our team.

I have the greatest running partner in the world! Kara has helped me prepare for my second marathon as she readied herself for her first. Today was the day that we put all our miles of training to the test and cross that line together. Kara had some IT band issues during training, so she had the area taped with KT Tape. I’ve been having bursitis issues in the left hip, even after an injection. We were both hoping that we wouldn’t have issues during the run.

We met up at my place at 6:30 a.m. and headed for downtown. My wife, the saint that she is, got up and went with us when she could have slept in. Not only did she go with us, but she went to numerous areas, fighting road closures and traffic, just to cheer us on. Not something I would want to do when its 41 degrees out.

We met up with Coach Loran and the rest of the iCan team, chatted and took pictures. We tried to calm each others nerves, but before you knew it, we were heading to the starting line. Suddenly, we were off and Kara and I started a steady pace and stayed together.

The first 7-8 miles is pretty hilly, but we were prepared for that. We stayed steady, running about 10:20 to 10:30 miles. We even finished one mile of hills at 9:53! We were moving along, chatting and laughing like we always do. The last hill started to bother my hip, but I figured that once we got out of the hills, we would be home free.

We crossed the 13.1 mile mark at 2:10:35. That was great! I was hoping for 4:30 finish, and if we stayed the course, we would be right on time. It was a perfect day, perfect weather, beautiful scenery … you really couldn’t ask for more.

At mile 14 everything changed. Kara felt pain in her right leg; her IT band was screaming at her. We stopped and she stretched it out, and we walked a little bit until she felt ready to go again. I don’t know why, but it was then that my bursitis started to really go off and I had sharp stabbing pain in my hip socket (or at least it felt that way). We both stretched and decided to try again.

A couple of miles later, we had to walk for a bit again. The pain was too much for both of us, but with little breaks we were going to manage it. Kara is a trooper. There is absolutely no quit in that woman. She said we were going to cross that finish line together, no matter what it took.

Well, slow and steady wins the race. Using our run/walk method, we finished the marathon in 4:52:55, which is a PR for me. While it wasn’t the time I wanted, I got more than I imagined. I got to watch someone I love dearly become a marathoner. Not only watch, but hold her hand as she crossed that line and joined a very exclusive club. When we crossed the line, we were presented our medals, and then Kara turned to hug me, and the tears started flowing. She did it! We did it! Together, just like when we started this journey.

We gathered our composure and turned to see our other running partner Stephanie, standing by the side of the finish line. We went to embrace her, and the tears flowed again. Stephanie helped us along so much on this journey, that words cannot express the love and gratitude I have for her.

We then met up with friends and family, took some photos, and headed home to clean up and meet again for dinner. Sore, tired, and very hungry, our significant others listened patiently as we told our stories of the day.

Special thanks to Coach Loran of Ironworks Athletics, for working with us on this journey, to all the iCan Running Team members, to Stephanie for all her help and guidance, to my wife for not only putting up with this again, but running around and freezing just to cheer us on, and to everyone else for their help.

And to my running partner, my friend, my little sister in spirit, and one of the nicest and kindest souls you could ever meet, Kara. Thank you for helping me along all those otherwise lonely miles. Thanks for the advice, laughter, smiles, and companionship that we had and I hope we continue to have. It has been a blessing to train with you, and to get to know you, as we seem to discuss everything when we run! I love you to the moon and back! You are, and always shall be, my friend! Relax and rest now, you have earned a break …

Until we start triathlon training! Get ready!!

Live healthy, be happy!

Travis

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