Half Iron

The beginning of 2014, Peter and I talked about doing a half iron triathlon.  Peter searched races for the 2014 season and found one in Kentucky, only about 1.5 hrs from our house in Laurel Lake.  When the early registration date approached, I decided to go for it and sign up.  The race date was July 12, certainly not the coolest month in Kentucky, but the close proximity to Lexington and small race since it was the first year for the race won me over. Peter still had thoughts of signing up, but was working through a knee injury and held off.

So swimming at the Y became a weekly workout, I ran with Run This Town (a mentoring running program that gets kids running and working toward a 10K race) a couple times a week in the spring and biked now and again.  I did not follow a prescribed workout plan.  I mentally had an idea of how I wanted to workout and I pretty much stuck to it. Each week adding a mile to a long run or hike from the 10K race in May, biking to the Y to swim or run or yoga each week and participating in local supported bike rides (Red Bud Ride and Preservation Pedal).

Many journeys have a crisis of faith moment and mine occurred on June 29. Peter and I drove to Laurel Lake to participate in a group ride of the bike course.  The group was small and at a fitness level much higher than mine, so needless to say I worked really hard to keep up with the group for the first 7 miles or so after which the routine then became to ride at ones own pace and regroup at turning points.  The bike route was challenging with three decent-sized hills and by the end I was hurting – both mentally and physically. The plan was to run a couple miles after the bike.  Peter and I switched our bike shoes for running shoes and off we went, well kinda. My calves seized up immediately and then I had to pee real bad and I was mentally beat down from the bike ride and it was all I could do to hold myself together. We muddled through 2.5 miles and I was having some serious doubts about this tri in two weeks.  I spent the afternoon at the pool, swam 1.25 miles and relaxed with some friends. The next day I did a night run of about 11 miles.  Covering the distance in two days that I would on race day helped give me some confidence back.  Also some great advice from a friend and reminding myself that my goal was always to finish grounded me and subdued my mental doubts.

Race weekend came and I was surrounded by the best cheering section I could have ever imagined. Friday evening dinner and s’mores were enjoyed before a night’s sleep listening to whip-poor-wills sing all night. I am sad I do not have a group photo of my cheering crew, but  Peter, Pablo, Steph, Garrett, Pogo, Royden, Dorothy, Summer, Ryan, Anna and a quick stop by Mr. and Mrs. Church made me feel like a rock star during this race.  Thank you to these awesome folks for braving the sun and heat to support me.  It meant so much and was so encouraging throughout!

Steph, the champion cheerer.
Steph, the champion cheerer.
Four of five of the Kerns.
Four of five of the Kerns.

The morning of the race, I headed to the transition area to ready my items, take some before photos and get a bit nervious. As 7:30 approached, fog rolled in over the lake, to the point the buoys disappeared. But off we went at 7:32. I simply followed the swimmers in front of me praying they were going the right direction.  Once I rounded the fourth buoy and headed back in the direction of the shore, visibility was much better. Turns out the first few swimmers missed the last buoy and well, there was no changing the masses, so the swim was a skosh shorter. The temperature of the lake was perfect. Probably 80. It felt great.

Laying out transition area.
Laying out transition area.
Ready as I am going to get.
Ready as I am going to get and decked out in my Donan apparel.
The fog rolls in.
The fog rolls in.
Off we go anyway.
Off we go anyway.

The water felt so great, I was sad for the swim to end. Out of the water in 52 minutes and to the transition area. Steph and Garrett definitely recorded the transition for me! The day was sunny with no clouds. The high ended up being 95 maybe. Although those temps would wait for my run leg.   At the top of the hill out of the transition I spotted the Kern family who sent me off on the killer bike course I rode two weeks earlier. I had a slower mph pace the first 10 miles compared to a couple weeks ago. It showed me how hard I worked the first time I rode this course.  Going down the first big hill, a biker in front of me sprung a leak in his back tire. I immediately started praying protection over my bike. I really do not know what I would have done if I had mechanical issues with my bike. That same biker passed me numerous miles later with a new tire. I was glad to see him back on the road.

Getting ready to bike
Getting ready to bike.
Stock up with snacks.
Stock up with snacks.

Peter worked the bike aid station and I stopped on the way out to top off my water bottle and remove an insert from my right shoe. I wore two inserts in my bike shoes hoping to avoid pain on the outside ball of my left foot that I have experienced on bike rides that are more than 40 miles.  I found my right foot was getting tingly and since the pain was mostly on my left foot, the right insert had to go.

Tossing a shoe insert as Pablo watches.
Tossing a shoe insert as Pablo watches.

Then off for a nice out and back bike ride and it was nice. I felt good and had conversation with some other athletes and cheered on bikers that were headed back. The leader passed me when I was only at mile 17 – those pros are impressive! On the way back I came up to the aid station and saw a huge cheering crew – Peter, Pablo, Steph, Garrett, Mr. and Mrs. Chruch – it was awesome! Thanks guys. I stopped for a water bottle refill and to eat a snack.

Having a snack and getting a hug.
Having a snack and getting a hug.

I tackled the last big hill and it was not nearly as painful as the first time. With about 6 miles to go, my left foot started hurting and I started praying over and over and over again for God to cushion my foot and dull the pain. The pain never increased to the level I felt two weeks ago when I rode the course.  I made sure to stretch my calves out at the end of the bike before entering the transition area after the 4 hour ride. I didn’t want my calves seizing up again. I took my time at transition. I knew this next leg would be the toughest for me. I drank and ate, changed shoes, reloaded with snacks and stretched.  Then off for what Dorothy said was “just a little run.”

Steph accompanied me on the bike until the woods. It was hard to get in a groove and I walked some to continue to stretch out my legs. I was happy to get to the woods and into the shade.  The run was two loops and the first loop is a bit disappointing when you see the mile markers and you know the 3 mile sign is for you rather than the 7 mile sign, but I keep plugging away, jogging the downhills and level stretches and walking the uphills. An aid station was a great surprise in the woods as I was getting pretty thirsty and on exiting the woods I was greeted by Steph!

Then up a long hill where I saw Peter and Pablo at the top. Next back onto a trail and the next aid station had a port-a-john, which I took advantage of, as well as the cold rags in a bin. I am telling you those aid stations were fantastic! As I ran on the road toward the woods for the second lap, I realized how grateful I was for the trail run and the shade it brought. The second time through the woods the higher mile signs were for me! About mile 9 my body was starting to tell me I was crazy. My hips and knees started hurting, but I was almost done. I pushed through the woods telling myself I would walk up the long hill of the marina road.  I caught up to a Corbin woman at the exist of the woods and we walked up the hill together chatting about our race thus far. At the top of the hill I saw Peter, Pablo and Garrett. It was a nice pick-me-up and back into the woods. I saw Peter, Pablo, Garrett and Pogo two more times before the home stretch.

Got to run a few steps with Pablo the first time up the marina hill.
Got to run a few steps with Pablo the first time up the marina hill.
Ahhh, water at the top of the marina hill the second time.
Ahhh, water at the top of the marina hill the second time.
Getting a pep talk for the last leg.
Getting a pep talk for the last leg.

Steph accompanied me the last mile, distracted me and helped the time pass. She also got to hear my complaining about the last 0.1 miles being long and tough! Jogging down the hill to the finish line I was so grateful – grateful to finish, grateful to have so many friends with me, grateful for the encouragement both in physical presence and notes and words of encouragement in the weeks and months previous, grateful to conquer this feat both physically and mentally and very grateful to have a lake to sink into to cool off after working hard for the last 8 hours and 15 minutes.

Finished!
Finished!
Half iron completed.
Half iron completed.

I have been asked “what about an ironman?” My answer is not a “no”, not a “yes”, but rather a “not yet.” I am not ruling it out, but I want to enjoy finishing a half iron for quite some time before considering my next tri challenge. I am certain numerous other goals will be set and conquered before I seriously consider an ironman distance. Until then, I will enjoy the fact I finished a half iron on a hot, sunny day on what other seasoned triathletes say was a very tough course!

My First Tri

During that first swim practice back in June, when Coach Garrett said “Do 200 yards to warmup”, and I responded with “I’m not that far along yet…maybe I can do 50.” I am not sure Garrett knew what he was in for. After swimming 50 yards, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to swim 400 yards at once in just 3 months.

Well I did it, and not only swam it, but felt comfortable doing it, in a crowded pool with people splashing and passing me. I ended up doing two Triathlons in September, both were short, the first one really short.

That first one was the Great Buckeye Challenge in Ohio over Jen and I’s anniversary weekend. There were 4 different distances offered, I choose the shortest because I didn’t think I could handle a long swim. It measured 250 yd swim, 7 mile bike, and a 2 mile run. I started out in the water too fast and too excited, but was able to find a groove about halfway through. As I ran out of the water toward my bike I tried to keep my heart rate low. The bike was a pretty flat course. Went hard and was getting a little worried I was going too hard, but after that mile came in slower than I wanted I pushed it hard for the rest of the route. After the high cadence bike ride my legs kept wanting to go fast, so I let them. Had a really nice time on the downhill first mile, and mentally kept focused on passing people on the uphill. Had a sprint finish but wasn’t able to make the last minute pass. However, the race had a staggered start, so I ended up beating him according to the watch. I got first in the small field in my age group. But the race I had really been training for was 2 weeks later.

Peter & Jen after our Races
Peter & Jen after our Triathlons

I am also super proud of my wife. She had done her first triathlon a few years ago but for the Great Buckeye Challenge, she choose the “Olympic” distance which is almost a mile swim, 26 miles on the bike and 6.2 miles running. That doubled the distance of her previous tri and she did great!

Jen as she finished her first Olympic Distance Tri

Two weeks later, on a cold dark morning back in Lexington the nerves really started to hit. As I walked my bike to the setup area, I could see the steam rising off the pool. This was the morning I had been training for, for four months. A 400 yard swim, 13 mile bike and 3 mile run.

The morning started out cool but because it was a staggered start I got to wait an hour so I was able to keep long sleeves on until just a few minutes before my swim and at least the sun was emerging behind the trees by the time I was left with nothing but shorts on. The swim went really well, I felt confident. Did get stuck behind a log jam once or twice and I was able to get out of the pool with plenty of energy left.  For the bike portion I managed to keep the same pace as my mini Tri even though the bike portion was twice as far and hillier. As I dropped off my bike and headed out for the run, I still had my helmet on. Luckily, a volunteer stopped me, before I got too far along. For the run I barely squeaked under my goal time. I didn’t know how realistic that was, because it was the same pace I try to keep for a standalone 5k. I didn’t win any awards among the bigger field but felt well prepared and very satisfied with my times.

Checking my time at the end of the Tri for Sight (Thanks to Steph for taking the photo)

All in all, my first two triathlon were a ton of fun. Really enjoyed them and they definitely won’t be my last.

A little jog in Columbus

I feel old now.

It seems that every time I have a birthday recently, people ask “do you feel older?” A couple of weeks ago I got, “so do you feel like you are 30?” Well, after Sunday, “yes, yes I do”.

On Sunday, October 16th, I completed my first marathon, and dang was I sore for a couple of days.

It was a beautiful morning for a run, 49° and cloudy but surprisingly warm even with the wind. While the spectators were bundled up, I was perfectly comfortable in shorts and my new florescent yellow short sleeve technical shirt.

Even though it was very crowded near the start, I saw my faithful supporters before mile 2. Jen cheered loudly, the yellow shirt worked! The crowds did help keep me from starting out to fast.

After training for a marathon, it is surprisingly easy to run 8, 10, 13 miles. I saw my fans twice in this time frame. Jen letting Pablo run along side of me, my father-in-law getting some great pictures and my mother and mother-in-law cheering wildly really helped push me along and stay positive. By the time the half-marathoners were turning off to their finish, I was at 1:46, dead on my target pace! However, I knew the second half wouldn’t be as easy as the first.

I figured at this point it was safe to push it. In fact my fastest mile, was number 17 with a 7:43. But, at mile 19, I knew I was starting to slip. By mile 21, I had never run this far before.

My legs were really starting to hurt now. Very strong pain in my calves and the top of my gluteus distracted me. As my pace significantly slowed for miles 23 and 24, I almost lost some tears. Luckily, I was still making progress and around that time I was able to start smelling the finish line. My legs were so tired, they were tired of hurting and I knew I would be able finish strong.

Peter Running from Steph's iPhoneAt about that time Steph comes riding up on her bike. She cheers me on and then starts riding along side me. Not only did I have the pressure of someone I knew watching me, but also video taping my stride (darn you iPhones). I couldn’t let up now.

As I got about a mile away I saw Jen and my mother-in-law. That was only half of my crowd, I knew the other two must be closer to the finish line. I wasn’t going to leave anything on the course. I passed people left and right on the way to the finish. I didn’t hear my mom cheer as I crossed the finish line, just a medical person ask if I was alright.

The next twenty minutes consisted of the worse leg pain I have ever felt, but I wasn’t surprised because it was similar to my 20 mile training run 3 weekends earlier. You should have seen me try to walk to the massage area. The soreness lasted in earnest through Tuesday. By Wednesday I felt a lot better.

It was a great race and well organized. While I didn’t hit my goal time, I am happy with my finishing time 3:42:11, a 8:29 pace. Pretty respectable for my first marathon. Will I do it again? I’m not sure, it was a great sense of accomplishment.

You can read an even more detailed explanation of the race on dailymile and view my full interactive results at mtec results.

One thing I can’t omit was the great surprise my wife helped pull off. We were leaving Keeneland on Friday afternoon and Jen said that we needed to stop by the airport because a friend who had flown back from an international trip that week had miss placed a bag, it had now arrived. Sounded fine by me, I needed to use the restroom anyway. We pulled up to the curb. Jen ran in and quickly came out hauling a blue suit case, she was now going to stay with the car as I ran inside. I walk in the doors by the baggage claim and I see a familiar profile leading against the wall. “Mom?” I ask, “what are you doing here?” She asks the same question back at me. I go on to explain that we are picking a bag up for a friend. After I finish my detailed explanation I realize no one’s bag got misplaced. Even more time passes before I realize she has flown in to watch me run my marathon. What an awesome surprise. The fact that my mom flew in to watch my first marathon was right along side the feeling of completing the marathon itself.

Summer Fun

This is just a few of the things Peteifer and Pablo have been up to this summer:

In May, we ran the Deckers Creek Half Marathon and brought friends with us this time.

Peter, Jen, Kristin, Jessica, Elissa
All smiles for the camera, even after 13 miles.
The railroad spike for running fast. Go Elissa!

In June, we went skydiving with Mom and Dad Morris and we have pictures to prove it!

Mom practicing and praying
No turning back now
Mom and Dad parachuting
Back on solid ground
I think Dad had a good time, the smile says it all
Peter and I and a tag along
Success!

We were all smiles after this adventure. Great job Mom, Dad and Peter on your first jumps! Oh, also, Mom, Peter and I ran in the RJ Corman 5K too. Thanks for capturing the event for us Dad.

Go Peter
Mom and I
The prize winners

Nothing like an action packed weekend!

Our kayaks got some use in July and I found out that you should not take a water loving dog on a kayak trip because he will want to swim the whole time!

Cheddar doing what he does best - swim!
Pablo doing what he does best - avoid the water!

Rob, Annie and Sylva came to visit in August. I had tons of fun cooking with Rob. And we learned that Sylva can run with the big dogs.

Tuna melts - one of the many delicious meals we ate
Sylva warming up with the little dogs
Now running with the big dogs

What a variety of events this summer. Traveling, new adventures, outdoor activities, time with friends and family – life is good!

Nationwide Series Race

So Peter and I attended a Nationwide Series race at the Kentucky Speedway this summer. If you are not super familiar with NASCAR, it was like watching a minor league baseball game. We had a blast!

Waiting for the start of the race.
Waiting for the start of the race.

The first time the cars came around the turn heading to a green flag just took our breath away.

Heading around turn four to the start.
Heading around turn four to the start.

The wind, the dirt and grit, and the noise. You just have to experience it for yourself.

The race went well into the evening.
The race went well into the evening.

The winner of the night – Joey Logano.