Monday, February 20, 2012

Iron Horse 2012

I'm not sure who talked me into this thing called "Ultra Running"... Baboo?  Vato?  Jenny?  I'll blame you all.  Di and took off from Tampa to head to Palatka, FL to run the 4th or 5th running of the Iron Horse Ultra.  I'd signed up for the 100k - my first Ultra ever - after Jen said, rather convincingly, "you've done an Ironman, you can do an Ultra".  Hmph.

So we rolled into Palatka - and if you are from Palatka, I apologize - but OMG this is redneck USA.  Our dinner choices were:  all of the fast food chains you can think of, a packed, line out the door Chili's, or Golden Corral.  WE CHOSE POORLY.  Not having been to all the Golden Corral's in the country, it's hard to say that this is the worst one...but it's got to be close!  Fortunately, I guess, the food tasted so bad that we didn't eat enough to be sick the next day.

5am comes early - we drove out for a 7am race start, and was startled with an actual "starter's gun" sendoff.  My plan was simple; walk a half mile, run a half mile for as long a I could.  I'd done so in practice runs, and was able to keep a 13-min pace... Also... drink lots.  Remember to eat.  Change socks and shoes at 28 miles.  Be tough.  Easy, right?

After everyone took off from the start, I spent the rest of the day pretty much running by myself.  Hit the 10 mile mark at 2:10, exactly on "plan".  20 miles came at 4:23 - only 3 min back from plan.  30 miles rolled in at 7:05 - now about 30 min back from plan.  But I had done a change of clothes, stopped to pee a dozen times (I was hydrating really well apparantly), and hit 4-5 aid stations as well.  At 30 miles I thought the plan was working well - I thought I'd saved enough for the next 30.

40 miles told a different story.  At exactly 10hrs of running, it took an extra 40min to run that leg then my 13-min plan.  I could tell - my walking pace and my running pace were much slower.  After changing shoes and socks, my right foot was developing blisters - It was almost as if these second shoes had a narrower toe-box than the first pair.  I'll figure that out... but the damage was done, and the foot was now hamburger.  I'd also somehow tweeked my left knee - the one with that I'd had my ACL repaired - I couldn't straighten it completetly, and soon running, even at a shuffle, was no longer possible.  My pace dropped steadly, and just like that, my miles were averaging in the 22-23 min per mile range.  The drop came fast and hard.  It was ugly.

My Garmin battery died 6 min into mile took an hour for me to walk it in to 50 miles.  I finished the 50 miles at 13:56, an hour under the 15 hr cutoff.  I was going for the 100k (62miles), but a 2 miles per hour, I was looking at another 6 hrs out there, and 20 hrs total - 2 hrs over the cutoff.  Good enough for government work.

Diana was a trooper - she drove out and met me at the 13.5 mile turnaround, twice, and also at the 28 mile point so I could change clothes.  She dragged my hobbled body back to the hotel and got me some food before I fell asleep.  It had to be pretty boring for her, not knowing anyone at her first Ultra, in a town without much to do in it!  

What did I learn?  Well, I don't think I trained for 100k.  Obviously I did enough to get through 50 miles, but I was so far removed from the next 12 miles, and the cutoff, that I think I need more miles in me next time.  Feet swell!  Especially with as much Heed as I was drinking, combating the humidity and heat buildup - I could really feel my hands swelling up, and that should have been my key for my feet.  I really didn't even think about it, even as the blisters grew.  Lose weight.  At some point, reality sets in for a 270lb ultra runner- there aren't many 270 lb ultra runners for a reason!  I really should be more like 230 for these things.  For all things.  C'mon Bigun!!!!!  Arrrg.  I really liked my waist pack.  I really, really liked my Knuckle Light!  I put it on my waist pack belt, and shined it downward - it was perfect.  I'm glad I carried it from the start, and didn't wait for 50 miles like I had planned.  Those last 4 - 5 miles would have been impossible in the pitch black.

Run more.  Duh.  Lose Weight.  Duh.  Balance the sodium intake.  Thinner socks, less padding, more room in the shoe.

It was amaising to see the levels of finess out there.  The speed and effortless of men and women running after 50 and 75 miles was hard to believe.  Everyone was friendly and genuine - even the frontrunners had encourgement for me, even as they lapped me on a 25 mile loop.  The volunteers were awesome, the race was well run, and except for the rocks not yet grown over from years of duty holding up train tracks, it would be an easy decision to sign up again for next year.  I'll have to wait for the pain to wear off first...

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Bigun FatAss 50K Ultra

I"m still not sure this was a good idea.  265lbs, and 31 miles do not, in general, make for a nice day.  But, I was looking for the next challenge, after 2 Ironman finishes, and quite a few of my bloggy, Facebooky triathlon friends have gone over to the dark side of Ultra, and lets face it, I'm easily influenced.

So how do you complete an Ultra?  I really had no idea, 12 or so weeks ago when I first started getting the itch.  I did the online research.  I got a couple books.  I self-coached.  I signed up for an event - perhaps a bit overreaching, but you all know the way these things work - you have to put an event on the calendar.  It's the rules.

So I signed up for Iron Horse 100k Ultra (Feb 18) back in November, and most of the sample training programs say that, at a minimum for a 62-mile run, you should really do half of that at some point before the race.  Now I've also read that there's not much reason to have a long run much longer than 20 miles, a plan I like a whole lot better - but I really wanted to some point of reference under my belt before February.

I had a couple of choices - Gator Ultra and Everglades Ultra both had 50k runs, but Gator was a 2.5hr drive away, and the Everglades Ultra wanted $155 to go run.  Seemed a bit excessive - so in my infinite wisdom, I decided to do a self supported, lonely 50k right here in Flatwoods, 20 min from my front door.  A last minute suggestion was a good one - go and pace someone at the Long Haul 100 mile Ultra being held about 30 min from my house.  This whole thing was such an unknown to me, however, I don't know, it just didn't seem fair to go out there and run-walk when my agenda was something other than helping out another runner.

So I packed up my gear - just my Camelbak Delany DC

and some gels, I loaded one bottle with Gatorade, the other with water, and off I went.  Lesson #1:  It's dark in the woods at 5:15 with no moon.  I'm used to running out on Bayshore; the lights of Tampa and the streetlights are such I could read a book at midnight.  I'd forgotten how scary the woods are at night.  Alone.  I figured out at mile 5 something I used to know - I run slower in the dark.  In this instance, perhaps that's a good thing, but those first rays of dawn were a welcome sight!  Bottom line, the Bigun needs a running light.  It was still 9 miles before I saw another (real) human being - my first inkling of a eureka discovery.

One full lap at Flatwoods, Gate-Gate is almost exactly 13 miles.  I ran back to my truck, and lubed up with some Body Glide - lesson #2:  Lube up BEFORE starting up the run.  I've got some nice NIKE lycra under-garments, but I still had some chafing issues not even half way into this thing.  Out I went on lap 2, and into the unknown.  Once past 26.2 miles, I had no idea what to expect (yes, the Body Glide cured the issue, and I was good to go to the finish)...

My Dad rode by on his bike, in the opposite direction, a bit later at the 18 mile mark.  I was in the midst of some really bad pain at that point, so a short break was ok - but stopping even for a minute just made it hurt more.. had to keep moving!  Dad rolled back around at 21 miles, so I turned back on the loop and welcomed his company for the two miles back to his car.  The eureka moment is coming into focus now...

At that point, I just couldn't keep my shirt on any longer.  My nips were rubbed raw, the simple act of removing my shirt meant one less painful piece of this strange new puzzle.  Hard lesson #3:  Bandaids become a part of the pack!  A nice reminder of taking my shirt off - today I've got a bit of sunburn.  I was still running a bit, even at +22 miles when my Dad was with me, but once I left his car, I really had a hard time doing anything but walk.  I did the "just run to that fence" and "run to that trail up there" for darn near 7 miles! Here's how the pace looked by mile:

My goal was to stay at 5 miles per hour for as long as I could.  I walked .15 and ran .85 almost to the 20th mile.  Each time I do a long run, I can maintain that cadence longer and longer.  I think it's a valid way to eat this elephant - at least until at some point where I just can't run any longer.  Like those last 9 over 15-min miles.   So maybe I'm going out too hard still, for me.
I got back to my truck at mile 30... how cruel is that?!?  I turned around, walked back down the trail a half mile and then walked back in for the full 31 miles.  How was that mile faster than the one before it?  I saw a runner that I saw on one of the laps walking it in.  I walked in faster.  Eureka knowledge comes completely into focus!

Eureka: Doing these things alone, on your own, is NOT the way to do it!  The camaraderie of fellow runners.  Their support and the support of volunteers and of pacers, even on bikes.  Seeing that person you've been chasing, or that passed you, who is now hurting and passable - that's what these events should be about, and that's how I'll do better than 7:23:10 next time.  I learned a lot about my self and ultra running with this exercise, but I missed all of the fun things about running and ultras - all those things centered around other people.

The next day, I'm sore, but not crippled.  By tomorrow, Monday, I'll be walking fine, and on Tuesday I'll be back on my training schedule, with any luck.  My feet, in the way of blisters or hot spots, are clear with the exception of a small area on one toe that almost always blisters (duh, I really need to get preventive with that as well).  I truly have NO IDEA how I'm gonna go double that distance in 4 weeks. This workout was NOT a confidence booster - more like a reality check. Gulp.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

A year gone by!

Holy crap!  A whole year since I've posted... Facebook sure has killed my blog, at least.

Major happenings in 2011... lets see...
  • I got promoted at work - kind of a big deal.  
  • got back on the training wagon - did some runs, did some tri's, lost some weight...
  • I'm now a multiple Ironman finisher... IMAZ is in the books.
  • Did a "clean" cycle - almost like a cleanse, but without the supplements.  I liked it.
So here we are in 2012.  I've already signed up for a new, different endurance event - Iron Horse Ultra.  I'm pretty sure at some point I said I'd NEVER do another stand-alone marathon, let alone attempt a 62 mile run - but as they say, "never say never".  I'm pretty fed up with one horrible Ironman run after another, so I'm taking 2012 and concentrating on my running abilities.  Sure, I'm signed up for a couple of half IM's already - Gator and Florida Challenge - but I'm also mixing in some running events to spice it up.
  • Iron Horse 62m Ultra - Feb
  • Gasparilla Michelob Ultra Challenge (15k/5k on Sat, 13.1/8k on Sunday) - March
  • Gator Half IM - March
  • Sunrise to Sunset cross-Florida 180 mile Relay - March (hard time fielding a team of 4... but getting close)
  • Florida Challenge Half IM- April
  • Gulf Coast Half IM - May (might have a work conflict...)
  • Wickam Park Ultra - May 
  • Mad Beach Sprint Tri - Jun
  • Morton Plant Meese Sprint Tri - July
  • IM Louisville - August (not signed up yet... still saving, still debating)
  • Hinson Lake 24h Ultra - Sep
So it's a diverse year; I may get bit by the Ultra bug, I might hate it.  I've got a 50K (32mile) training run in 2 weeks, that will be my first official unofficial Ultra - I'm just running it on my own around the house.  As they say in Ultra world, a Fat Ass 50K.  Hopefully I'll learn a bit that day - I'm pretty clueless as to what to expect, and I'm sure at the Iron Horse (don't you just love that name?) I'll be trying to simply follow the masses.  Start out slow and taper off.

They say that Ultra people are the friendliest athletes out there - other than my Tri friends that also do Ultras, I've only met one other guy - the RD for Hinson Lake 24HR Ultra - Tom Gabell and his wife Donna who went to school with Tri-Sherpa Di.  What a great couple, and everything I read in blogs about his race makes me want to go there and do it all the more.

So, a different sort of year this year - we'll see how it goes.  Perhaps I'll have a different flavor to my blog - an ultra flavor - lamenting on my many mistakes as I figure out how to run further than I've ever gone before.  Do you hear the theme to Star Trek now, or is it just me?

Sunday, January 30, 2011


January was a pretty damn good month.  Start of the year.  Hit it hard.  Oh, yea!

Finally, work was good.  Had a great month.  One of my best since selling RV's.  Is the economy back on track?  Well, some folks think that the RV industry leads the country OUT of a recession, and I can tell you that it sure as heck lead us INTO the recession as well!  People are buying RV's again, that's all I know, and that's a good thing.

January was Run Month for the Bigun.  One day left, but overall I'm getting in 4 - 6 runs a week, and I peaked at 30 miles for the week.  I'll wind up with 87 miles for the month - for me, that's a pretty good month.  Especially since prior to that, I was getting in single-digit run weeks.  My run pace has dropped pretty dramatically in this time - on Dec 15th I did a 9 mile run at an 11:07 pace.  Last week I did an 8 mile run (not as my "long run", either) at a 10:00 pace.  So 5 weeks to drop 1:07 off my longer run pace is "a good month".

I've been participating in the Dev's 100 / 100 on Slowtwitch.  It's a goal of 100 runs in 100 days - I knew darn well I wouldn't run every day, and most of the folks in the competition don't either.  I'm shooting for 70 - that would be about 5 runs a week.  I think the added emphasis on running is doing me pretty good.  I've got 31 runs in 47 I'm just about on track.

The cold weather has my biking in the toilet.  I will, for the first time since I started biking, run further in a month than I biked.  I'm ok with that, actually.  Next week starts a 3-week training block that has some days off scheduled to help me bike at least 2x per week.  I'm still concentrating on running - Gasparilla Half Marathon is 4 weeks away - but I need to bike since 3 weeks later I've got a Half IM on the schedule.

I'll also start swimming again next week.  That will be fun... not.  It's a necessary evil, isn't it?

On top of all of that, we are moving next week.  So lots of lugging boxes and furniture to pile on top of SBR.  If it were easy, they'd call it "bowling" and not triathlon, right?

Oh yea, my weight.  That's just like a red-hot poker sticking in my eye, every time I step on the scale.  On a good note, this past week, my "off" recover week, my weight stayed pretty consistent, where normally I balloon up and gain back any weight lost the weeks prior.  I'm at 267 - down about 5 lbs from Jan 1.  I guess a pound a week isn't a bad thing.  My 250lb goal for the Gasparilla Half is fading... looks like 260 will be a bit more realistic for 28 days from now.  I'll run like the wind - albeit a wind loaded with leaves, trees and small cars - heads up!

Sunday, January 09, 2011

2011 is here!

Wow - it's been since October since I wrote last.  Sorry, my one remaining reader.  All I can say, is that the Bigun is back!  I'm actually signed up for an Ironman race this year, and an early season "A race".  I'm running, and getting ready for a half marathon in 2 months.  Life is a lot better this year.

Yea, we sorta got kicked in the nuts last year.  Di and I both are glad to have all "that" behind us, and looking undistracted to the future.  Work, for both of us, looks surprisingly optimistic - we just might be starting to get control of our lives again!

So for 2011, if I can get this straight:

Gasparilla Half Marathon, Febuary 27
Gator Half Iron Tri, March 10 20th
Strawberry Century, March 27
St. Anthony's Olympic Tri, May 1
Mad Beach Sprint Tri, May 20
Florida Challenge Half Iron Tri, June 12
Morton Plant Meese Sprint Tri, June 26
Sand Key Sprint Tri, Sept.
Great Floridian Aquabike (Iron Distance), October 22
Ironman Arizona!  Nov 20

There's a great little monthly Time Trial Series at Ft. Desoto that I'll be trying to do as well, on Thursday nights - a 15k bike after work.  I'm trying to recruit some guys from work to go out, chiefly, my CEO - this way, leaving work a little early one day a month won't be quite so frowned upon!  Plus, we might have something else to read about in the flyer that comes with our paycheck besides the company bowling league.

Of course the season's A-race is IMAZ - but my early focus is on St. Anthony's Olympic. One of these years I'll kick ass that day - and this year just could be that day.

Hope to see some of ya'll out there -

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Flatwoods Bike-Run #1

I enjoy getting people riled up.  It's what I do.  So before the big day, I threw out an e-mail to all the participants of our little schin-dig giving my prediction of thier performance.  Yes, very dickish.  It wasn't totally my idea - one of the guys in the adjacent cubicle (we call them offices, but really, they are glorified cubicles...) put odds on everyone racing, and I thought he was off a bit.

Anyway - the e-mail worked like a charm, and a couple of the guys, now, were much more emotionally involved than they were in the days and weeks prior.  We done had ourselves a race!

So the deal was, we all start off on our bikes, roll 24.65 miles, transition back at our cars, and head out to run 6 miles.  Not everyone was going to run.  Our CEO, John, is a great biker, but has back and knee issues and decided last minute that he'd give the bike part a go.  The rabbit had arrived.  Greg "Bacon" isn't a runner either, and was all in for a fast ride.  The rest of us would slug it out.  Sort-of.

Lee brought a buddy from his church with him, Sean, whom we had ridden with before.  He's a stud, and he came ready to throw it down.  We put John and Sean up front, the strongest bikers of the group, along with Christian - the young guy - who's also got wheels, and the rest of us took up stance behind them and waited for 7:30am to start'er up.  When we all looked ready, I said "go", rather ingloriously, and off we went.

We must have all eaten our Wheaties this morning, because at 4 miles we were averaging 21.5mph, which I knew was much faster than I had the heartbeats for!  I started to back it down, John, Sean and Christian drove away, and the rest of us settled into a decent game of "losing your concentration".  That's where you're cruising along at a certain speed, everyone's got the right 3 bike lengths to stay draft legal, and then the guy up front slows down.  No reason really, but now the second guy is forced to pass or slow, but you didn't lose your concentration, so you pass - waking the previous now second leader up, and the leap-frogging continues.  We were all guilty of this.

Greg and Tom hung in there with us, granted, with a little bit of drafting, but it was nice to see them with us for the whole ride.  Both of them are getting better and better, and to their well deserved credit, they both tried to find clean air and even got out front for parts of the day.  It took about 13 miles to drop the average to 21mph, and at the end, we all came in between 20.6 and 20.7mph. 

At one point, Markle was feeling his oats, and made an unanswered acceleration.  I tried to keep him in my sights, but just pulled away, and I lost him in the turning circle that is Flatwoods.  Until the last mile.  Smelling the barn, and seeing Markle free-wheeling it in was all Lee needed to rally up some finishing horsepower.  Plus I egged him on, "go get him, Lee!" I chided.  And he did - with a quarter mile to go, everyone (Lee, Greg, Tom) flew past me chasing Markle, while I continued at my pace, spinning in to transition.  Oh yea, guys, we still have this little run to go...

Alas, poor Lee - his final effort left him pulling up with a blown hammie.  But he did beat Markle in.  Sean and Chris were both out on the run already; we crossed paths with about 200yds to go into "transition".  I roared into the parking lot, threw down my tailgate, chucked my bike into the bed, and sat on the tailgate.  Now THAT's what transitions should all be like!  Bike shoes off, running shoes on, switch the Garmin over to "run" while walking back over the trail, and for a brief, tiny flash of a second, I was kicking it on the run, ahead of Lee, Markle and Tom!  I crushed that transition, and then sped off at my blistering 11:00min/mile pace.

I held Markle off for about half a mile as he screamed by me trying to chase down the leaders.  Markle's one of those natural athletic types (read young and skinny).  I had given him some guff before the race since he hasn't been training much, so he had to prove me wrong.  He did.

I kept looking for Lee.  Where's Lee?  I heard footsteps closing on me fast, and said over my shoulder, "there's Big Lee" - but it wasn't him.  When I hit the 3 mile turnaround and still no Lee, I knew something was wrong and Lee didn't start the run.  But there was Tom.  Tom had gained on me the whole way, and was, as I predicted, right on my ass.  I was sure he'd pass me, but I wasn't going to give it up without a fight.  After all, I'd just watched Kona, and was ready for some shoulder to shoulder - mono a mono run down action.  It never happened.

Tom had him a little cramping issue shortly thereafter, and stopped at the one water spot at mile 4.  I had no idea, and was still running scared, so I didn't stop, nor did I look back.  Never look back, right?  Even when you are running 11's, you still don't look back.  Since Tom and I were the last two back in, everyone was waiting for us and cheering us in.  It was pretty cool, and a great benchmark test of fitness for everyone who participated.

My average run came in at 10:59 - right where I was hoping it would be.  I've got 7 weeks until the Key West Olympic Tri, so I'll have a good chance to see how much better I can get my running before then.  I think we'll try and do another of these brick races in 4 weeks, just to gauge the progress.  It was a ton of fun, and I think everyone that participated had a blast and learned a bit about themselves.  Tom and Chris still have never done an Olympic, and now have the confidence, minus the swim of course, to enter one someday soon.  Markle's got the Tri-bug again.  And for me, I can see an average of 21mph again in my sights, and know with some weight loss (I'm still about 273lbs) and a bit of run focus in these next 5 training weeks, I can get my run down to the mid 10's at least.

Good times!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010


Here's what 4 sets of stairs looks like on a Garmin:

I promise you I didn't run in the water!  That was my first time since High School Wrestling running stairs - I kinda like it!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Progress Report

So we know I'm having fun again.  I'm not sure if today's workout was fun, well, parts of it is.  I keep hearing young Ricky Bobby saying over and over, "I wanna go fast, I wanna go fast".

Today we went fast for 1 mile intervals.  It's fun to hit 24mph, even if only for 3/4 a mile.  2 hours worth of intervals.  Nice.
 But I gotta tell ya, this workout smoked me.  Something about all-out efforts times 10 - I used to do these, and I used to be pretty fast on the bike.  So hopefully this will bring about the old Bigun.

Heart Rate over 10 intervals
Of course, the old Bigun is still hiding inside the current Bigun.  I was 276lbs yesterday - 5 lbs over my target weight for this week.  I'm pretty sure that 5 lbs on me is well within acceptable survey error... +/- 2% on any pundit poll certainly never made or broke a candidate - so I shouldn't be too worried yet.  If I can keep the progress within 2%, I'm technically only 2 weeks or so away from my goal weight.  Look on the bright-side, right?  So I'm down 12.5 lbs since I started keeping the record 72 days ago.  All this fat was 2 years putting on, and it's got a firm hold on me now. Imagine how hard it will be to drop once I hit my old IMCdA weight of 2 years ago!

Probably not going to race at Longleaf this year.  I have the day off work, but I'll probably just do a private Olympic with some buddies over at Flatwoods that day (with or without the swim).  No matter how you slice it, $105 clams for a triathlon after a bad sales month fails to make much sense.  Especially when I'm saving my pennies for IMAZ11.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Having Fun Again

I'm really not doing anything special or different, but I am starting to feel better about training again.  Sure, I know I've got a long way to go just to get back to 2008 fitness levels, but there has been clear progress in these past couple of months, and that's encouraging.

Next on the board is another Olympic - the Longleaf Triathlon.  This looks to be an awesome race - perfectly flat bike and run, along with typically cooler weather, and a fairly uncrowded field should all prove to be awesome.  Plus, the swim doesn't really look to be, based on last year's times, a full 1500 meters.  Since I'm a horrible swimmer, that's a good thing.

I've broken out of a fairly strict "base" phase and have started putting in some intervals into my training.  It is pleasantly surprising to see the bike speed where it is now, and I'm sure the swim and run will start to come around too.  I've got this weekend and 2 more hard weeks of training to make some gains before Longleaf - even the weight has been coming off a little bit at a time (the good way).

We've got our reservations for a B&B down in the Keys for early December - and I've registered for the first ever Key West Triathlon.  Not only do we really need a vacation... this is my defacto A-race for 2010 (because it's the last one) and I think it's really gonna be cool.  It already has about 200 people signed up for it - it's shaping up nicely!