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:

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!


Copper Creek Triathlon and the Dam to Dam Half Marathon

So much has gone onn recently, that I see I haven’t been keeping up to date on my blog.  First off, let’s talk about the Dam to Dam half marathon that I ran on May 30.  It was a cold and wet start to the race, and since the porta-pottiy lines were so long, I had to run 1.5 miles until I had to stop.  I lost some time, but I had 2.5 hours to finish the race so I could meet up with the group I mentor in No Boundaries and run their “graduation 5k” with them.  I really wanted to be there with them, and that was the driving force behind my run.  Even with a potty break, I finished in 2:14 and found the group.  I even had a moment to catch my breath before we started out again.  It was a wonderful day! 


Sunday, June 14 was the day of the Copper Creek Triathlon.  It’s a sprint triathlon with a 750 meter swim (820 yards), 20k bike ride (12.4 miles), then a 5k (3.1 mile) run.  I’ve been worried about this event, as it was going to be my first open water swim.  I have only done triathlons in a pool, but this was in a lake with waves of swimmers taking off.  It was hard to keep my nerves in check in the days up to the race.

We prepped the bikes and had our bags packed and loaded the night before (my wife competed as well).  All that was left was to relax, watch the Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup final (they won and lead 3-2) and go to bed.  But sleep would not come.  I was going over scenarios of what could happen in the lake.  I wasn’t worried about the bike or the run, it was the lake that had my full attention.

Finally the alarm went off: 4:00 a.m.  Time to clean up, eat, and drive to the parking area for the opening of the transition area so we could set up.  You could feel the nervous tension in the truck, as it was my wife’s first open water event as well.  We got parked, and the first problem reared it’s ugly head: I had a broken wheel spoke.

I didn’t have time to remove the spoke, as that would have required taking the tire off.  But I couldn’t leave the broken part dangling, as it could possibly poke a hole in my inner tube and cause a flat tire, ruining my day.  So we improvised: we bent the short part of the spoke untill it rested on the rim, and we used electrical tape to hold it in place.  It was far enough back so it wouldn’t touch the brake area, so I said a prayer and headed to transition to rack my bike.

Once we were set up, we milled around until it was time to get into our wetsuits and line up for the swim.  I was also getting hungry, as I had eaten breakfast at 4:30, and the race started at 8:00.  My heart and mind were racing, thinking about running into that water.  I was in wave 4, and I heard the announcer say “Wave one, in the water”, and I thought we were starting.  But they made wave one wait between two buoys… they were treading water before beginning!  I have trouble treading water even in a wetsuit!  That didn’t help the nerves.

Waves two and three did the same routine; tread water until the cannon blast told them to start.  Suddenly it was wave four’s turn.  I got out to chest deep water when I heard the marshall say “You have three minutes.”  I spoke to a couple of others in my wave, and we decided to stay back until one minute was called.  When the marshall gave that call, we swam out and treaded for 20 seconds until the cannon blast.  We were off!

I tried to stay to the outside of the pack, knowing I would be slower and I didn’t want to get overrun by faster swimmers.  My nerves had my heart rate going, and I was finding it hard to breathe.  I used my inhaler earlier that morning, but this felt like an asthma attack.  I wondered why I thought I could do this, and how could I get out of here.  Then I thought of everyone who has encouraged me, supported me, and helped me on this journey. I could not give up until I reached the first buoy, that much I knew.

It took forever for that buoy to get close, and when I made the turn I could see buoy #2 a short distance away.  I thought that if I quit there, I at least made it half way.  Suddenly, I was halfway!  I started to calm down, I gained control of my breathing, and decided to take my time and finish this thing.

Then in the midst of feeling good about swimming, another problem came up… I was swimming in seagrass.  I used someone else as a spotter, and they were off course.  So I needed to angle over to deeper water and sight buoy #3 for myself.  It took a little effort, but I finally made the turn and was heading for home.

I could see the exit, but it never seemed to get closer.  I thought surely I would touch ground and run out, but this lake was deep where the exit was, and I almost swam up to shore before I stood up.  I had made it!  820 yards with others all around me, and I made it! 

 The time for the swim: 16:11 – pace: 2:10 per 100 yards.

I ran slowly to transition.  I felt as if I was out of gas, but I has to keep moving.  I ripped off my wetsuit, donned my helmet, put on socks and bike shoes, and ate a Huma Gel.  I shoved some Honey Stinger chews in my back pocket (I wore my tri suit under my wetsuit) and ran out of transition.

Time for T1: 4:08

The ride was 12 miles, but I was not expecting as many hills as they had.  We followed USAT rules regarding no drafting and no blocking.  That meant you had to pass within 15 seconds or stay 3 bike lengths behind another rider.  There were marshalls on motorcycles travelling the course and writing out penalties.  We rode out and back, and one steep hill I had conquered would give a fast ride down on the way back.  When I reached that part of the race I remembered: I had a broken spoke to worry about.  If I blew out a tire now, the results would be catastrophic.  So when I hit 31 miles an hour, I started lightly pumping the brakes to keep me from going any faster.  I was happy to see transition for two reasons: one, that worry was behind me, and secondly because my mentor Stephanie and my training partner Kara was there to greet me.  It was an awesome surprise, but hellos would have to wait as I had a 5k to run.

Time for the 20k ride: 44:09

Transition 2 went fast: off went the helmet, gloves, and bike shoes; on went the running shoes and I grabbed my water bottle.

Time for T2: 1:54

The run was an almost steady incline up, followed by a decline and a lap around the lake.  My legs were about done after the ride, but as I rounded the first corner, I saw my friend Jodie and her husband cheering me on.  They had stopped by the transition area before the race to wish me luck, but I didn’t think I would see them on the course, or that they would still be there.  That helped the legs feel a little better.

Before I knew it, the halfway point was in view.  I turned and headed back for the finish.  One long path around the lake, and I saw the finish line.  I heard the announcer say my name.  I made it.  I did it!

Time for the run: 31:11 Pace: 10:04 per mile

Total for the triathlon: 1:37:33 with no penalties.

I went and hugged my friends Kara and Stephanie, and we watched together as Connie McGarrah, a friend whom I admire for all the success she has when training and competing, crossed the finish.  Then my wife Julie crossed the finish line.  Julie was pretty emotional after she crossed the line, and she has a right to be.  Having back issues like she does, and still trains and competes in an event like this is simply amazing!

Now we train until the next one.  The way it sounds, it may be sooner rather than later!


Live healthy, be happy!


Pieathlon, Triathlon Training, Open Water Swimming, and Prepping for the Dam to Dam Half

It’s been a fun and hectic week around here.  First up: the YMCA Pieathlon, which is a sprint triathlon (400 yard swim, 10 mile bike, 5k run) where you get pie at the end.  My wife Julie and I both signed up, trained, and was raring to go on race day.  Not to say we weren’t nervous, but that seems totally normal as we feel we never train enough.

We arrived at the YMCA at 5:45 a.m. to set up our transition stations.  Even though this is considered a “fun beginner” event, it never hurts to practice so you’re ready for the bigger, more serious races.  We chatted with friends until 7am, when we were given our instructions and we started to line up at the pool.  The swim is the weakest for me, so I milled toward the back of the line, figuring on a finish of between 9:30-10min.  Since we were in our Des Moines Tri-Club gear, people were teasing us that we should be in the front of the line.  We chatted and watched the faster swimmers, until suddenly I was told to get in the pool.  It was go time!

I started off steady, trying to control my breathing and not going too fast and wearing myself out.  I was fine until 300 yards, when I started to feel tired.  I told myself, “you’ve only got 100 yards left! You can do it”.  I had to let one faster swimmer pass me, but I also passed one swimmer, so that was a draw.  Once I pulled myself out of the pool, I hit my watch to start transition.  8:50 was the swim time!  I was pretty happy about that!

I ran from the pool area to the outside transition area, threw on my bike shoes, helmet, sunglasses, and headed out of transition.  I took off when I was allowed, and was hitting 20-23 mph pretty easily.  The issue was passing people on the trail while others were heading back.  Then at the turnaround, there was a headwind that slowed me way down, that and being tired.  Time on the bike: 32:36 with an 18 mph average.

I ran back to transition, threw off the helmet and bike shoes, and put on my running shoes.  I opted to not put on socks, and that was a big mistake.  By mile two I could feel the blisters forming on my arches, and by the end it was hurting to run.  It also took about a half mile for my legs to feel normal after the bike.  Final for the run: 28:59 with a 9:19 mph pace.

I finished in 1:14:03, which is over a minute faster from my previous attempt.  Julie finished at 1:26:23.  She did great for her first transitional triathlon.

I am continuing my triathlon training, between mentoring running groups, and getting long runs in for marathons.  I’m finding it hard to do all the training I need to do in a day.  I wish I could have a job where that’s all I did…train.  But until then, I do the best I can.  We are getting ready for Copper Creek sprint triathlon, which leads to my next topic: my first open water swim.

We started off the Memorial day holiday by going out for a run.  My wife stopped at 4.5 miles, while I opted to get one more long run in before my half marathon on Saturday.  I ran 10 miles, and while it wasn’t the prettiest or fastest, it felt good to be able to just go that distance.  I will need it and then some come Saturday, but I will explain that in a little bit.

After running, we decided to clean up and head to Raccoon River Park and try our hand at open water swimming for the first time.  We walked over to the swim area at the lake, and there was tons of people there (it was Memorial Day after all).  So we donned our wetsuits, and waded in.

Man, was that water cold!!  When I finally dove in, I thought my hands and face would freeze and fall off!  But by the time I reached the first part of the rope where you turn, I was warmed up and ready to go.  The darkness of the water and not being able to see didn’t bother me, I used it as a tool to sight the buoy rope ahead of me.  My wife however, was having issues with the cold and being unable to see.  She did make it around to the other end (375 yards) and we talked about it.  We started to walk back in the water when she decided to try again.  She swam against the current (it was choppy) for a bit and stood up.  I asked her how that felt and she replied “better”.  We decided to swim the last 75 yards to the buoy rope and the decide what to do.  She did that with no problem.  The only issue we had was that we were both starving!  I think next time I will skip the ten-mile run before swimming.  That wore me out.

Saturday is the Dam to Dam, one of the most enjoyable races I have ever run.  Even the packet pickup is a blast; with food, beer, a band … it’s just a big party.  It is also my No Boundaries group’s graduation run.  They will be running the 5k event, while I am signed up for the half marathon.  There is a 2:30 window between the start of the half, and the start of the 5k.  If I can finish quickly enough, I can meet and run with them on their first 5k race!  I have done a half in 2:04, so I think that it’s possible.  I want to run with them so badly.  It will also ramp up my mileage on running an ultra sometime this year.  Yet one more thing to train for.  lol

Live healthy, be happy!



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. ­čÖé 

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!


Triathlon Training, The Sandwich Run, Bike Rides, and Ambassadorship 

Hi everyone!  It’s been a couple of weeks since my last post, and a lot of things have been going on.  First on the agenda: triathlon training.  The training takes up a lot of my time, as I am either in the pool or on my bike trainer. The swimming is by far the hardest part for me, and it still feels like I am not progressing as I should.  My swim coach says it’ll be ok, but I get impatient with myself.  My swim coach has completely changed my swim stroke in order to maximize efficiency while minimizing effort.  It does feel better, but I haven’t gotten completely used to it and have to think about what I’m doing.  I hope one day it will become second nature, and I can concentrate on what else I’m doing wrong.  

Our group meets on Wednesday nights, and after we get caught up on things, we hit the spin room.  After an hour of spinning (for me, about 23 miles), we hit the track and run fartleks for a mile or so.  Then we stretch, and head to the pool.  We do a warm up for a total of 400 yards, then do drills as the coach watches us.  We did a couple of new things in the last class; we treaded water while tossing a ball, and did a push war.  The push war is where two people hold a long pole with floats and face each other.  At the whistle, they hover and kick as hard as they can, attempting to push the other across the pool.  I enjoyed the push war, but found out I stink at treading water.

I also bought a bike trainer, along with some Sufferfest videos to use while riding.  Sufferfest videos are advanced training videos that will really push you to your limits.  I have yet to try the two hour video, as I am usually exhausted after one hour.  It is my hope that as the weather gets warmer, my riding times will greatly improve.

Saturday consisted of two runs: the Winter Warriors running group and the Sandwich Run.  We met up for the group run at 8 am, and had a great 3 mile run through the East Village and around Principal Ballpark.  Then, after a short wait, we participated in the Sandwich Run.  It was a race where we ran 1.5 miles to the B&B Deli, picked up a “Killer” hoagie, and ran back to the Fleet Feet store, who sponsored the run.  Then you had to eat the sandwich in order to finish the race.  Prizes were awarded for the first man and women to finish the race and eat the sandwich, and for the person who predicts the closest to the time that it would take them to run and finish the sandwich.

We took off, and I started off with a fast group.  Before I knew it, there was three of us and no one else around.  The guy in front was about a block ahead, and then it was a lady, Megan, who was keeping pace with him.  I decided to try to pace with Megan and hope that I could hold that pace.   We reached the store, grabbed a sandwich, posed for a photo, and hit the streets again.  I was hoping the pace would slow, but that was not the case.  It was the same all the way back.  Megan and I crossed the line close to one another, and the gentleman leading was about 1 1/2 blocks ahead.  We grabbed a plate, something to drink, and sat outside to eat our sandwiches.  We cheered others as they finished and then joined us.

Before long, the guy who led the race looked at me and said “I don’t think I can finish the other half of this sandwich”.  Then he looked at my hands, and said “Where’s yours?”  As I ate the last bite I smiled and said “I’m done”, and then went inside and checked in, winning the event.  When everyone was finished, the times were checked, and I missed my total time by 1.5 minutes which was the closest time.  So I ended up winning two gift certificates for more sandwiches.  It was a great time, everyone had fun, and new friends were made.

We are experiencing warm spring weather, so we decided to take the bikes out for a ride.  The bike trails still have sections of ice on them, and that caused some issues as we both crashed on the ice.  I think I got the worst of it, as I have a badly bruised hip.  I am hoping that it is better tomorrow so I can go outside on a run.  But the total ride was nice, it was great to be outside, and the first ride of the season was 42 miles.

Now on to the surprise news.  While waiting to start the sandwich run, the owner of Fleet Feet, Andy Roat, asked me if I had heard of Altra running shoes.  I told him that I had, that I had heard good things about them, and that they seemed to be moving up quickly among the running community.  Andy then mentioned that he knows I run in zero drop shoes, and would I consider trying on the Altra zero drops.  If I liked them, Andy said that I could be the ambassador for Altra Shoes for Fleet Feet Des Moines.  I told him that it would be an honor if the shoes felt good, as I would want to support something that I actually use.  So, I tried on the two styles of zero drops that Andy had, and they both are great!  One shoe feels like a true zero drop, as if you are running barefoot, and the other has better arch and side support, while still being a zero drop shoe.  Andy said that I would be given a pair of shoes for free, so I could pick either one.  It was a hard choice, but I picked the Provision (although I am considering buying the other pair as well).  I never thought I would be offered something like this.  I am not an elite runner, just a guy that loves to run, and loves to help others find the enjoyment in running and in fitness.  Now I am actually representing a shoe company!  It is an amazing feeling!  Many people would say “it’s just a free pair of shoes”, but to me it is something else entirely . . . it is the culmination of the hard work that I put forth from the very start of this journey.  I have went from only being able to run a quarter mile, to running a marathon. I have went from asking questions to mentors to becoming a mentor myself.  It is a wonderful feeling, and now the running store I love going to is asking me to represent their product!  It doesn’t get much better than that!


These are the shoes I will be sporting soon.

Live healthy, be happy!


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!


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!


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!



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