Monday, October 26, 2009

Karsten Triathlon weekend!

This weekend was the Monster Triathlon in Keller, TX. Brady's race on Saturday, and Melanie and I on Sunday. It's a long one!!! Doubt you'll read it to the end all in one setting. Sorry, but I'm just so darn proud of Brady and Melanie that I want to talk mostly about them.

Brady's big day

Saturday, Oct 24, was Brady's first ever official triathlon! It was a 25 meter swim, 1 mile bike, and 0.33 mile run. In the days leading up to it, you could tell Brady was really nervous about it. We just told him that being nervous is normal, but it's nothing to be scared of or worried about. He did pretty well with that.

We go to start the swim; they used 6 lanes with 2 kids per lane. They didn't allow the next 12 kids to start until all of the previous 12 were out of the pool. The 4-6 year old age group was up first. First wave goes off, Brady's quiet. The only time he talks is to say, "I wish I could just start." Second wave goes off. I'm trying to distract him by talking to him and asking him random stuff. Again, the only words he says is, "I wish I could just go ahead and start already." Third wave. Now comes Brady's turn. Oh my gosh...I can't tell you how nervous I was for him. I was more nervous for him than I have ever been at one of my own races, and probaby 10-fold more nervous at that. He goes to get into the water and hang on the wall to wait for the start, but he won't go in all the way. I tell him he needs to get down in further, but he only wants to sit with his feet hanging over and not in all the way. I'm thinking, "Oh no, he's getting too nervous and is wanting to back out." I tell him I'm proud of him and he'll do great. The whistle blows. I hold my breath to see how he responds. Boom! He jumps off without hesitation ready to have at it! Whew, one obstacle down. I am watching him while walking around to the other side of the pool to meet him. My heart just sinks as I see all the other kids swimming fast and Brady is really struggling to keep moving forward. My heart sank because I didn't want him to get discouraged or upset by this. I get to the other end of his lane. The other 11 kids are all done and he's about 3/4 the way finished. Everyone is cheering him on. He's barely moving forward (he has a life vest on, so not sinking) and I'm just hoping he doesn't panic and want to quit. I have to admit that I started to get choked up; I just wanted to make sure he was going to have fun and enjoy this. At one point, it looked like he was going to stop and he grabbed onto the lane line. In only a fraction of a second, he let go as if to say, "no way am I giving up now!" He continued on and finished the swim in about 5 and a half minutes...I have never been so proud of him for his perseverence and determination. Hell, I'm even getting choked up now just writing about it.

It was very cold out, so when he got out of the pool, I dried him off best I could before going outside. We went to T1 and did a quick change to dry clothes due to temps in 50s, then got him off on the bike. A quick background note: Brady's outgrown his bike so fast. Rather than buy a new one for him that fits him better in the late fall--and then having him outgrow it by spring--we decided to make due with his current bike and get him a new one that fits him in the spring. Poor guy was out on the bike and was getting passed by everyone. But he toughed it out and worked really hard. I ran next to him the whole way. His major motivation for finishing the bike was so he could run and then get donuts at the finish line. Hey man, whatever works! He was glad to be done with the bike and his pace/mile on the bike is actually slower than his running pace/mile!! We really need to get him a new bike.

Now that his least favorite part (the bike) was over, it was time to do what he loves best. Running! That kid tore up the run!!! Most other kids by that late in the race were walking for most of the run. Not Brady. He passed a bunch of kids, ran the whole way, and ran at a pretty good pace for a 4-year-old (around 14 minutes per mile, if I remember correctly). He finished strong, with a finishing time around 27 minutes, and he got his medal for completing his first ever triathlon! He loved it, and more importantly to him, he loved getting the donuts at the finish! Not 5 minutes after he was done, he asked if he could do the race again. I said no, but then he asked if he could at least go do the run again. Gotta love that kid's enthusiasm and passion.

Brady the triathlete

The real reason he likes to race

The glazed sugar face

And here comes my proudest moment of the day. I asked him what part was the most fun for him. His answer totally shocked me: "The swim." I told him he did great on the swim and I was so proud of him for trying so hard. His response: "Yeah, I just took my time nice and easy and didn't worry about it." Awesome.

Sunday's Sprint Triathlon for the big kids

As most people reading this know, Melanie has already completed her first triathlon. But, she finished that race with a bit of a feeling of unfinished business since the bike was cut so very short due to weather. So I think in her mind, and in mine, this was her first real big test of doing a complete sprint triathlon. Since then, she's started to be a little more analytical with the sport; she's started to see the value of going over training and racing data to improve weaknesses and accentuate her strengths. She's added some things in her training to help her improve for this race, but I think one of the best things she did was realize that she did not push herself like she could have to reach her potential in her first race. That's normal for a first event, but sports like this are new territory for her. She was very athletic growing up, but she's never done a sport where she has to push herself to the brink of failure, and then hold that level of pain for as long as possible without crossing into the failure/exhaustion/bonking zone. It's not easy to do. She came to the realization that if she wanted to race faster (a goal of hers), racing faster hurts. There's no way around it. Now comes the test to see if she can do it.

There were 556 athletes who finished and 2 DNFs. I was busy with my own race, so I didn't get to see her swim and only saw her as she came off the bike. But I can relay stats and numbers. I think she had a good swim...she met her swim time goal. She was ranked 119th out of 225 women in the swim overall, and 25th out of 43 in her age group. Not shabby for someone who has swam for only about a month. She had a great first transition (T1)! She had the 15th fastest out of 225 and the 3rd fastest out of 43 in her AG. She had a very good bike split: 50th out of 225 OA and 8th out of 43 in AG. And this is without any aero bars on a very windy day, which makes a huge difference!! We're going to get her set up with some aero bars this winter; she's going to be pretty darn high on the bike splits next year, I think. Her T2 was also pretty good: 74 out of 225 OA and 16 out of 43 in AG. I saw her in T2 and she said she'd been cramping all day, so I know she was feeling uncomfortable. But now came the run, the event that is most challenging for her both physically and mentally. Like T2, she also was 74th out of 225 OA and 16th out of 43 in AG for the run, which I think was really great. Not only that, but she pushed herself to that mental and physical pain barrier and stayed there the whole time. She exceeded what I thought she could do for her run split and she met her own personal expectations for time (on a very difficult run course no less!). She did really well. She finished with a time of 1:23:17 and placed 49th out of 225 overall and 9th out of 43 in AG. Awesome considering this was really her first full sprint triathlon. I think she did great. And she felt like crap the rest of the day, so she now knows what racing to her limits feels like. :) I'm very proud.

Another great time for me this weekend was that the newly formed TCU tri club, the Tri Frogs, had their first club race together. Unfortunately, I didn't get to wear my TCU jersey for the race, but I did get mine's sweet! Anyway, I really like this group because it's mostly young, college kids who are just now getting exposed to the sport. They are almost exclusively inexperienced, and this was the first race for nearly all of them except a handful of people. A lot of these students don't even own bikes...they had to borrow hybrids and other types of bikes from family and friends just to have something to race on Sunday. I love, and really admire, that type of enthusiasm. I'm sure that many of them would be perfectly willing to ride a kids bike with a basket and bell if it meant they could do a triathlon. That's a real love for the sport. Anyway, it was great to see them all get to enjoy this experience, and they had quite a few of them place in age group. Congrats to all of them!

As for me, it was a bit of a frustrating day. I didn't train from May-August, but when the TCU tri club named this as their event, I was motivated to sign up and get off my butt. Obviously, with only training for 6 weeks prior to the race, I wasn't going to race at my potential, but it's still hard to swallow when you come to the realization that you just aren't in very good shape yet. Probably more disappointing was all the little mistakes I made pre-race and during race...simple stuff that is usually just habit. I felt all discombobulated and the rust of not racing since April clearly showed. I'll expand more when I get to the bike.

I haven't swam much in 6 weeks, but I feel like I made the most of when I did. I was actually pretty pleased with my swim. I felt strong and I paced evenly. My time was slower than training times, but this always happens in a pool swim. I was okay with it. My pace for the swim was about as good as I get when I train regularly for it, so the fact I met that level of fitness in such a short time is promising to me. The sad part is that even if I train for 6 months or 6 weeks, I'm still slow. :( I had the 86th ranked swim out of 330 men overall, and 13th out of 42 in AG. I made a rookie mistake in T1 which cost me a little bit, but still didn't do too bad (you don't have to be fit to have fast transitions!): 9th out of 330 OA, 3rd out of 42 in AG. Now to the bike fiasco...I made a huge error in studying the course map for the bike; I thought I was supposed to turn left at one point but I was instead supposed to turn right. No one was at the intersection to direct me, but there was a sign pointing to the right. I thought this was a mistake since I studied the course and saw this as a left turn. So I turned left. I rode okay, but not great. I couldn't hold my target wattage for the ride, but tried to ride pretty smart. My legs just weren't up to the task to be peaking that day, but they were good enough to not suck. It's a 2 loop course, and when I start my 2nd loop I see all the people using the section I was supposed to be on by turning right instead of left. Oh $&!#. I just realized that I cheated and cut the course short. I'll touch more on that later. I was mentally sort of packing it in at this point, but continued to ride as strong as I could to T2. T2 was NOT good (by my personal expectations): 57th OA and 8th in AG. I start the run and the lack of training is starting to set in. I'm mentally really focusing on going faster, but my legs just will not respond. Post race data shows my HR much lower than it should be for a sprint 5K, which tells me that my body (heart/lungs/etc) wasn't experience the stress it should because my legs simply couldn't go faster. I'm okay with how I handled it mentally though, as my second mile did not slow from my first and my third mile was just slightly faster than miles 1 and 2. A very evenly run 5K for me at a pace that was as fast as my legs could go...that's all I can do. Had the 32nd run out of 330 OA and 8th out of 42 in AG. Finish time was 1:03:56 and I was hoping I could somehow magically pull a sub-hour out of my butt, but no luck. Took 10th OA and 4th in AG based on the timing company's results.

However, post-race, I searched for an official to report my cutting of the course. Unfortunately, I couldn't find one, but I have sent an e-mail to the Race Director requesting that I be assessed a 2:00 penalty for cutting it short. I measured the portion I cut and it was 0.3 miles, which takes me about 45 seconds at race pace to cover. But 45 seconds is a lot in a short triathlon, so it's not fair to the other athletes. Hopefully that penalty gets assessed. So, keeping that in mind, I'm currently listed as the 7th fastest bike split out of 330 and 2nd out of 42 in AG. However, adding in the 45 seconds I should have gone knocks me down to 11th OA and 3rd in AG. Similarly, I'm currently listed as placing 10th OA and 4th in AG, but the 2 minute penalty will knock me down to 17th OA, but my place in AG doesn't change...remain 4th.

It's always disappointing when you underperform from your potential, but I took some positives away from my race this weekend. I went from couch (more like office chair!) to triathlon in only 6 weeks, and made a lot of fitness gains in a very short about of time. I found out a lot of things in training these past 6 weeks about my strengths and weaknesses; I think focusing on these over the winter is going to pay big dividends next spring. I also found some training strategies that made huge strides in short time, so focusing on those over longer term will be interesting to see how much I can improve as a triathlete. I'm going to analyze all those things in a separate, and much more boring, post later this week.

If you made it this far, it probably took you about as long as it took Brady to finish his triathlon. Sorry for making so long!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Clash of the Titans and other weekend fun

Busy, but fun weekend. Just a quick recap...

Saturday morning was the Clash of the Titans. Brady's soccer team is very good, with at least half a dozen very good players on it. Most other teams have 1 or 0 really good players. But Saturday morning they played a team that had 2 really good kids on it, and the rest of the team was fairly good, too. It was a close battle, with the score tied 0-0 after the first quarter (most of the time, Brady's team wins 20+ to 0 or 1). Eventually, Brady's team started scoring and took the lead. But they won only by a margin of 7-1. I mention this not because I care if they win or lose, but having a team play them that close actually made the first half really exciting!! It was great to watch. As for Brady, it wasn't his best game. For the first time in his young soccer life, he didn't score a goal. That's fine, but the reason it wasn't his best game was because he wasn't paying very good attention and was very timid about going after the ball. He seemed to be more content running around 10 feet away from the ball than trying to actually get it. I don't care if he scores or not, but I do like to see him try his best. Oh well, there are always days like this. :)

Later that afternoon, we went to Mainstay farms to look at the pumpkin patch. It was okay, but the boys were whiney and a little difficult to manage (it was near lunch and nap time). We cut it short, but got some good pics and got to see lots of pumpkins. The most fun thing for them was playing on the hay bails and jumping around, although Alex scared the crap out of me with his horrible balance! Even just a 3 foot fall is a lot for a 2 year old.

Sunday we went to do a fun race. The boys were set to race a 1K and then right afterward, I was running in the 5K. There weren't many kids in the 1K, but holy crap were they fast! I knew Brady started out way too fast (they all do) when I looked down and saw he was running 7 min/mile pace out of the start! He eventually realized that was not going to work and slowed back down to his normal pace. Brady came in 2nd to last, but ran a great time of 7:14! My running computer had it measured a little long (0.70 miles instead of 0.62 miles), so depending on which is more accurate, he ran somewhere in between 10:20 and 11:40 minutes per mile pace. Very good for a 4 year old! I was really proud. I knew he gave it his best effort because at the end, he usually kicks it in for a fast sprint. At this race, he barely sped up at the end, so I know he left it all out there. Really great run for him and like I already said, very proud of him.

Now, Alex's race, a little different story. He brought up the rear, but that was expected since he's 2! Unlike his first 1K race, he decided he didn't want to run the whole way through. So Melanie ended up having to carry him when he got tired and he cut it short. But hey, some days you just don't feel like running, and this was one of those days for Alex. He did eventually come through the finish line when we were about to start the 5K, and everyone gave him loud cheers. That's was fun, but he looked pretty tired.

I can't complain about my race. My time was nothing to write home about (20:37; 6:38 min/mi pace), but it was where I expected to be given my current fitness level. I can't expect too much on only 5 weeks of training. On one hand, I felt like my lungs were my limiter; like my legs could go faster if my lungs could just breathe better. But on the other hand, my legs were tired for the entire 2nd half of the race. I really think I went about as fast as I possibly could, so I'm happy with that. I went too fast for the 1st mile, but settled in and maintained even pace for miles 2 and 3 despite that I was really hurting at the halfway point. I tried to stay mentally tough and focus on my running form, to keep it from degrading as I got tired. I haven't gone over the data from my running computer, but I think there's a lot I can take away from it that was positive and a few things to improve going into the triathlon next weekend.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The number triathletes in our house has now doubled!

Unfortunately, I'm just now getting around writing about this, but the weekend of October 4th was Melanie's first triathlon! She competed in the Women's Benbrook Sprint Tri. The weather was just plain awful: pouring rain, low 60s, and windy. Because of flooding on the bike course, the bike was shortened from 13.8 miles down to only 4.4 miles. The race director (RD) claimed it to be 6, but the times and Melanie's bike computer indicate 4.4. One option was to eliminate the bike and have a swim/run, but hats off to the RD for keeping the bike route even though it was crazy short...for many of these women, Melanie included, it was their first triathlon and he wanted to keep the bike route as much in tact as possible so they can say they have done an official triathlon. I know Melanie walked away a little disappointed with the distance reduction, but it was still a tremendous accomplishment.

Always smiling.

First off, 280 women registered, and only 196 showed (1 was a DNF). My hats off to everyone who showed up to race despite such awful conditions. Melanie was nervous about the swim, but she has really taken to the water quickly in just a few weeks. She has a natural swimming ability for someone who's never done it before. She had the 121st fastest swim overall and 26th out of 41 in age group. She had a pretty good transition: the 17th fastest in age group. Cycling is her strength, and she had 45th fastest bike split overall and the 7th fastest out of 41 in age group. Her 2nd transition was pretty good, but she fell to middle of the pack relative to her age group. She went out on the run and stayed smart on a difficult course in bad conditions. Although she's not a natural runner, she is getting better by leaps and bounds. I think she exceeded her expectations on the 5K run and finished with the 91st best run out of 195 and the 19th out of 41 in her age group. And she had a great big smile when she finished. She placed 80th out of 195 overall, and 18th out of 41 in age group with a time of 57:42.

For someone who picked up swimming on a whim 3 weeks before her first race, and someone who didn't grow up as a runner, she did really, really well. Having a shortened bike course really penalizes someone like her that bikes well, but despite this inherent "penalty," she still placed rather high all things considered. The boys and I are really proud of her.

Below, the boys were playing with their new found friend during the run. I asked Brady what his name was, and he replied, "Wiggly Worm." It was funny to see them build up the courage to actually touch it, then scream, "Eeewwww" when it moved at the touch.

Coming up next for us will be a fun weekend Oct 24-25, after which 75% of our household will be triathletes. Brady has his first, real, official triathlon on Sat and Melanie and I are racing on Sunday. Should be a great weekend. As much as Alex is anxious to do a triathlon, too, he'll have to wait 2 more years...they don't let too many 2-year-olds do triathlons. He'll just have to settle for his 1K races in the meantime. :)

One last story before I'm done. The day prior to this race, Brady had a soccer game. He hadn't been able to play goalie yet and he thought that looked cool and fun since they get to use their hands, so he wanted to try. The problem is that the goalie on the opposite teams gets all the action because we have so many good kids on our team; our goalie just stands there playing with the net. So he is talking to me while he's in goal. "Dad, I'm bored. I don't want to play goalie anymore." I tell him to just wait for his turn to get the ball and he can get it with his hands like the other goalie. So finally, the other team gets a breakaway and comes down trying to score. Does Brady finally save the ball with his hands? No. Instead, he sees this as his chance to get into the action. He charges out of the net full steam and steals the ball in full stride, dribbles around everybody and cuts in toward the net and put a great shot by the goalie and into the goal. After the goal, he matter-of-factly sprinted back to his own goal and stood in net as if that is exactly how you are supposed to play goalie. The giggles among the crowd was so funny; no one quite knew how to respond to that one!