Category Archives: triathlon

Review: Jeff Galloway’s Ultimate 10K app

You see that? That is the look of a man who has managed to just barely outrun death at the end of an Olympic triathlon. After that dismal run I decided I really should put some effort into run training. To that end Libby and I have decided to train for a half marathon. I know, I know, ridiculous. But I figure if I can finish the 40+ miles of an Olympic tri I can get my body in shape to run 13.

If you’ve not heard of Jeff Galloway he is the guru of a run/walk method for endurance running. His claim is that by taking regular walk breaks during a long run you save on your body and recover faster without really sacrificing much time overall. ANYthing that adds walk time in the run, as part of the plan rather than as an alternative to dying is alright with me.

The app I am using for training purposes is Jeff Galloway’s Ultimate 10k by lolo. (I really couldn’t find anything that purported to be a “couch to half marathon” app so I had to star somewhere.) At $2.99 from the app store the cost isn’t prohibitive.

The app allows you to use your own music or the dozen or so tracks that come with it.

Aside from allowing you to set run walk interval, I’m using 3 minute run with a 1 minute walk at the moment, what I REALLY  like about this app is that is matches the tempo of the music to the pace it wants you to run. (Because of that you probably don’t want to load anything too slow or it will wind up sounding like the Chipmunks version when it speeds up.)

The other option I added, at no additional cost, was the extra coaching tips from Galloway. While a lot of them are common sense it works out nice to have him reminding you to keep your posture upright, or not lift your knees too high every once in awhile. Just providing something to think about during longer runs helps.

The interface is easy to read but there isn’t really much reason to read it while you run because you’re given time updates at each interval. Since the workouts are time based turning on the GPS function helps to let you know exactly how far you ran. I’m finding it tends to track a little short (at least by comparing to the odometer on my car) if you have significant sections where you run up one side of the street and back down the other.

The whole program is 13 weeks. I’m currently in week four running two short (2.5-3.5 miles) runs and one longer run (4.5-5.2) miles in a week. The first week the app had me running just under an 11 minute/mile pace. This week it has me down to right around a 9 minute pace even with a three minute warm up walk on the front and another one to warm down on the back. Because the workouts are time based rather than distance based I wind up running longer distances than the estimate for each work out but that probably has more to do with stride length than anything else.

Overall I give this app two thumbs up. The only thing I think I’d change would be to allow someone to set a specific mile pace and have the app adjust to that but the way that it has reduced my per mile time in the first four weeks we’ll see what it gets me to by the end.

With great tools like this one to help you get from the couch to the finish line in a variety of distances what, besides you, is still holding you back?


You’re going to try WHAT?

For the past four years I have contemplated attempting an Olympic distance triathlon: 1 mile swim, 25 mile bike, 6 mile run. On August 20th, of THIS year, I going to give it a go. There is no way that I am really ready for it!

My training has been such that I can get through a sprint, have done so twice this summer, but stringing together three Olympic distance events seems truly daunting. Why? I swim a mile fairly regularly. In a pool. Completely different than open water. I have only ridden my bike 25 miles or more three times in the last three years. I have only run 6 or more miles in one go 4 or 5 times in my LIFE.

But I’m doing it. I’m doing it because I’m getting a little weary of my own excuses. I’m doing it because I like the challenge or the thought of it anyway. I’m doing it because I think I have come up with a plan for attacking something that I am not fully prepared to attack…and it has three simple parts:

Part One: Assess the Challenge

Jumping into something about which you have NO clue is foolish. I’ve done two sprint tri’s this summer and several in the past. I’ve put in a couple of 10K runs, did 32 miles on my bike the other day, and did an open water half mile swim a couple weeks back. This doesn’t mean I can do all three together but it does mean that none of the three should kill me. Having given each event a go on its own I believe I now have enough understanding as to how each one feels. Breaking the whole thing down into its components allows me to assess each piece individually. That assessment leads me believe I can finish the race.

Part Two: Mitigate the Risk

A triathlon is simply a swim, a bike ride, and a run which, if need be, can be turned into a swim, a cruise, and a stroll. The swim is the shortest bit, and the most overwhelming.

My first open water race experience was a nightmare when my heart rate elevated to the point where I was exhausted in the first 100M. I floated on my back, side-stroked, contemplated clinging on to the marker buoy, and floundered my way to a 13 minute 500M. A distance that should have taken my about 8 or 9 minutes.

My second race experience was a comedy: swimming into the tether between a blind athlete and their sighted guide (everyone was ok), treading water to encourage a guy who was having a race like my fist one had been, then my goggles broke and I had to swim the last 200M with my eyes closed. But it was a half mile swim and I finished it and I felt great.

The upcoming race is a mile swim BUT it is comprised of two half-mile loops. In between those loops is a quick jaunt, BACK ON SHORE!! Woo-hoo!! I’m pretty sure I can do the full mile in the water but by picking an event that affords this rare opportunity, something that is almost never done, I lessen the risk of bonking in the water, the only part of the race that holds risk.

Part Three: Establish the Goal

In thinking through my average swim times, bike speed, and slow run times, and counting time for transitions, I think it is entirely possible I COULD finish the race just under 3 hours. My goal is to do it under 3:15. I want to set a goal that feels attainable based on my assessment of the challenge, but one that is something better than “just finish” and still holds some room for “never done this before”.

One could easily argue that finishing would be good enough for a first go. But by setting something more aggressive I can’t get by with a cruise and a stroll. By making sure the goal isn’t TOO aggressive I have a decent chance at feeling a significant sense of accomplishment at the finish line which will serve to motivate me towards the next effort.

What challenges are looming out there for you? Are there some you’ve been putting off?  Can you assess the challenge, mitigate the risk, and establish the goal? Let me know how your “race” goes and I’ll get back to you with the results of mine.

Running almost barefoot

Last night I took my first experimental run in Vibram Five Fingers.

To set the stage a bit my run training has been terrible this summer, (in part due to an injury in the spring). Despite running in several sprint triathlons my run is about where you’d expect it to be after 3 to 6 months off. That being said a 5K is readily doable, if not in an impressive time at least in an almost reasonable time.

If you’ve not seen nor heard of Vibram Five Fingers you probably live in a cave, but here’s the idea:

They are basically like wearing gloves on your feet. The soles are of a relatively tough yet flexible kind of rubber that makes it feel like you’re barefoot but with feet toughened by years of BEING barefoot.

Our run starts though some neighborhood streets before getting to a dirt/gravel trail. I was expecting that running on cement might be the tough part but it really didn’t feel all that different. (my buddy did say I was a lot louder…meaning my feet were flapping on the pavement!) That first half mile or so really just felt like an experiment…what is it like to run in these?

Once we got onto the trail things were even easier. These shoes are REALLY light so you hardly feel them and the soles protect your feet while at the same time letting you feel the difference in the terrain beneath you. It might be too graphic a description but it is almost like running in bare feet with really built up callouses across the entire bottom of your foot.

I made it though about the first mile to mile and a half running then started to alternate between running a block and walking a block. Somewhere about halfway through mile two I started to feel it in my calves and a little on the balls of my feet. They’ll tell you that you need to re-strengthen you feet before taking on long distances in these and that your calves will need some work too and they aren’t kidding.

The final block or so I was still able to really lengthen out my stride…which I normally can’t do…and it even felt more “normal” to be running that way. I normally “feel” a run in my hamstrings and core first…this was definitely different.

In the final analysis I think I’ll be working more and more with these. My calves are achy today but not any worse than I would expect to feel after a couple weeks of no running.

On the upside these shoes are way comfortable. My experience in this first go was that my running stride wants to move towards a more natural gate than when I am in traditional running shoes. I tended to want to stride out and even sprint, probably just because it felt like being in bare feet. I didn’t feel any pain from stepping on anything but I could feel the differences in ground surface…which was kind of cool.

On the downside I did stub my toe once or twice which resulted in pretty easily wearing a hole in the lightweight nylon upper on the shoe. Now, had I caught my foot like that in regular shoes I might have stumbled rather than just folding over one toe…so, good on the injury side…but poking a hole in the top of my shoe that easily is a bit of a bummer.

If you’re thinking you want to try these let me strongly recommend trying on at least two or three different sizes. You’ll most naturally be focused on how they feel on your toes when you first out them on due, in large part, to the fact that it takes some work to get your toes lined up right. Even though I did try on two sizes I wound up with probably one size too big because of this. The import thing to check is how far back your heel is seated in the shoe. Seating your heel back correctly after you get them on will adjust how well your toes match against the other end. Don’t trust that the guy in the shoe store will know this!

In all? I like ’em. I’ll run more in them and probably get a second, better fit pair. (Unfortunately you really can’t return these after about the first wearing.)

If you like being bare foot then I really recommend giving these a try!

>Fall Frenzy Triathlon: Last of the season?


>Fall Frenzy Triathlon: Are you kidding me?!?

>Parker Colorado: Fall Frenzy Sprint Triathlon: September 13, 2009

My goal for this race was to try to beat 90 minutes for the 500M swim, 11 Mile bike, and 5K run.
I had run the same race back in 2006 so I was somewhat familiar with the course.

The morning started out windy and cold. Cold is bad, wind is worse. I got myself situated in the transition area by about 7:15 and with a 10:30 pool start I had time to walk the run course and check it out.

We wound up getting into the pool a little ahead of schedule. This was by far my best swim experience of the season. I opted to go in the third position in our lane, two ahead of me, two behind. The two guys ahead of me were pretty quick and pulled away slowly while the two behind me were rather slower than I was and fell back. That left me with a pretty open stretch in which to swim. I had estimated my swim time at 9:30 and came in at almost exactly that. I exited the pool feeling great and had a pretty good spring in my step as a jogged the 100+ yards to the transition area.

I got to my bike at the same time as a woman who was sharing the bike rack with me was getting back from the ride. We had discussed earlier whether it was cold enough to switch to a long sleeve shirt for the bike leg so I asked her opinion as we were both changing shoes. She said the wind had been bad and that yes, it was probably a good way to go. Fortunately I had guessed that would be the case and my long sleeve shirt was the one I had handy. I pulled it on, started reaching for my helmet and suddenly realized I had put it on backwards! Growling in frustration I quick pulled it back over my head, got it sorted right way round, donned my glasses and helmet and headed out. The whole mini-fiasco probably cost me all of 7 or 8 seconds…10 max…no biggie.

The bike ride start out blazing. I was feeling good and the up hills were fewer than the down hills on the start of the course. There are two nasty hills in the middle to last section of the course and these turned straight into a nasty headwind. On the first I gritted it out, getting way further into my granny gears than I had wanted to but managing it ok. The second, and steeper, hill comes right after a sharp right hand turn that forces you to lose almost all your momentum from the previous downhill. I blew my shift here and by halfway up it I was struggling. For a brief moment I thought I would actually lose enough momentum to have to stop and walk. It’s funny the sort of internal dialogue you have with yourself at that point:
“This is nasty. I need to walk it for a second.”
“Hey man, I’m losing pace and may fall over any second.”
The louder voice won.
I kept pedaling and finished in a decent time.

I got into T2 and prepared for the dreaded run.

Due to an ankle injury back in May I haven’t been able to do many training runs this summer…in truth probably only five or six all told since June. I glanced at my watch as I was leaving transition and saw that I had probably somewhere around 30-35 minutes to get the run finished if I wanted to break the 90 minute mark.

The run course passes right by the finish line on the way out, people headed in both directions and a LOT of spectators watching for their friends to finish. As I came through the first corner there a toddler, young enough to be still wobbly on his feet, staggered out right in front of me. I had seen him coming, thanks to the preparedness training of all those drivers ed films back in high school, and decelerated into an exaggerated slow motion spin around the kid all the while slowly saying “Ooooohhhhhh Nnnoooooooo!!!” This got a chuckle from the crowd. A few seconds down but good fun to be had and it helped the kid’s mom not feel so bad that her child had gotten in the way.

The run itself was a nightmare. I knew that I had managed to run without walking at all in 2006 but my training had been much better then. I also knew I could run/walk at something around an 11 minute/mile pace which was going to make it pretty close if I was to break 90 minutes. The course is 1.5 miles or so out and them about the same coming back. I was definitely stronger on the way back in, my watch spurring me on, but at my best I was still barely shuffling along like some ancient Chinese aristocrat at the end of a bad meal.

With about 50 yards to go you come to a steep uphill dirt back that climbs about 10-15 yards…steep enough the only a few people manage to run up it…most walk, leaning far forward.
I got to the top and had another conversation with myself:
“Dude, stop and catch your breath.”
“Ok, walk slow then”

I managed to lurch into a shambling jog, gasping around the corner and through the finish line. I glanced at my watch and knew it would be close.

An hour or so later…

My glasses are still in my car so my wife is running her finger down the results list. I’m feeling pretty good that my name appears in top half of all finishers. She finds my names, traces across and then turns to look at me with a bit of a look…almost as though she has just smelled something nasty.
“Do you really want to know?”, she asks.
“Crud….yes”, I grunted.
“1 hour, 30 minutes, and 5 seconds.”
I said something that rhymes with trap, is brown, and means the same thing as a word for the sound made by a large bell…followed by:
“Are you kidding me?”

Put your shirt on right the first time, juke past the kid instead of clowning, don’t converse with yourself just run to the finish, to one less deep breath at the edge of the pool…ANYTHING gets you back five or six seconds.


>Rattlesnake Triathlon – part 2

>If you’ve read the previous post you know that I floundered my way through my first open water swim and wobbled into the transition area at something less than a sauntering stroll of a pace.

My head and vision were starting to clear as I plunked myself down to get on my shoes. The bike is usually my strongest leg…I’m typically in the top third of all participants pace wise on the bike…so this is where I usually can make up some time. But I forgot one of the key training lessons of triathlon: “Live in the moment”. I was definitely NOT in the moment as I rode out onto the course. I was still flabbergasted over the swim.

The Rattlesnake bike course is VERY hilly with a net rise in elevation of over 750 ft. That means you do get some downhills but they all seem to slope in to the middle of the course so that you up to the turn around and up to the finish. I spent most of the bike leg trying to keep the contents of my stomach inside of me. I wound up with a decent time but my pace was about what I would normally do just riding around town.

I came in to transition glad to know I had only a 5k left to go. Of course, the run is usually what I am worst at…

With one seriously bad knee and a long recovery time after my race back in June I hadn’t been able to do any run training for nearly two months. My plan going in to this run was to keep a brisk walking pace…which for me is between an 11 and 12 minute mile…and jog a bit on the downhills. The plan seemed to work ok on the outbound part of the run. Sure I was being regularly passed by people but I was passing occasionally too. At the 1.5 mile turn around point I was feeling like maybe I hadn’t pushed myself hard enough…then I started thing about the swim AGAIN and had to work on stomach content maintenance for a few hundred yards.

With about a half mile to go I came up on the two ladies from CWW triathlon club with whom I had shared bike rack in the transition area. This normally would have felt pretty good since they started in the water at least 15 – 20 minutes ahead of me…but they had both run the olympic distance tri the day before. I thanked them for waiting for me and told them they could go ahead and finish if they liked. We wound up jockeying back and forth…them passing me when I walked me getting them back when I jogged…until I heard them coming up behind me one last time with an intent to run through the finish.

Up until that moment I was pretty sure I was wiped out enough the my male ego had sunk to the bottom of the lake somewhere. Apparently it found me out at the end of the run course and I managed to run through the last quarter mile…”run” being a very relative term at that point.

At the end of the day my time was a 1:37:53…not impressive by any stretch but not one to complain about really. My pace for the swim and run were close to what I had hoped for even if the bike was a little slow. But I DID learn a crucial lesson or two:

1. Don’t try something entirely new for the first time in competition.
Open water swimming + wet suit combined for a harrowing mental experience
2. “Live in the moment” means forgetting what you just did and focusing on what you’re doing.
That would have helped in both the bike AND run.
3. “Live in the moment” also means focusing your mind on truth.
I knew what to do but let my mind wander to “oh my gosh’s” and “what if’s”

Yes, I will try an open water swim tri again someday.
Somehow though I think those three lessons apply beyond just doing triathlons.

Rattlesnake Triathlon – A first tri at open water

>I had read, several times, that doing an open water swim in a triathlon was much different than doing a pool swim. Going into today I had never done an open water tri…though I had done a couple with pool swims. Now, I’ve swam in rivers, lakes, even in the ocean quite a bit…but I was NOT ready for THIS.

We entered the water in a time trial start, 5 seconds between each person, which is designed to avoid the chaos of a mass shotgun start. Instantly I recognized that all of the usual proprioceptive ques that help me keep a steady pace in the pool were gone. Within the first fifty meters I was thrashing. My heart rate was way up, I couldn’t go more than a handful of strokes without peeking up to see if I was on a good line. I was worried about running into people…it was horrible.

Truth be known I can do 500 meters in a pool with relative ease at a decent pace but by the time we got out to the 250 meter mark and made the turn for shore I was worried I might not make it. There are kayaks along the the way that you can grab on to if you are in a bad enough way and as long as you don’t propel yourself forward there is no penalty…but I did NOT want to be that guy.

With 50 meters to go I had a couple guys pass me and ask if I was ok. I was kicking along on my back trying to catch my breath. I pushed myself to roll back over and dug in hard for about 30 meters and finally found lake bottom. I managed to get my feet under me and dragged myself onto the beach only to find that I was staggering like late night drunk. I couldn’t keep anything like a straight line, my eyes were doing weird focus things, I felt overwhelming panic and relief all at the same time and knew I still had to bike 12 miles and run a 5K.

Normaly I can get a good jog on after the swim but this was a lurching survival walk. I stumbled past the people who were there to help us out of our wetsuits knowing that if I lay down to let them pull it off my legs I wouldn’t be able to get back up. I CLEARLY remember the small, rational, analytical part of my brain chipping in with, “Ok, that was ridiculous. You could have died. We’re never doing THAT again.”

My transition time, which doesn’t start until AFTER you stagger in to the transition area, was close to two minutes longer than my normal…only 1/3 of the race down and I was spent.

to be continued…

>First triathlon of the summer!

>Back in 2006 I had my first experience running a triathlon…I find it humorous as I write that because a LOT of people call it “running” a triathlon when really that is only one of the stages, albeit the most painful…and this past Sunday I stepped back into that world.

The Broomfield MiniHaha is a great “first timers” race. The swim is 300M (12 laps), the bike is 11 miles and the run is 2 miles. In 2006 my time 1:15:09, good enough for 18th in may age division. I was hoping to break the hour mark this year.

The swim in this event is in a pool which means folks are grouped in heats by estimated swim times. I had submitted a 6 minute time but my fastest training swim was more like 5:20. You typically will have as many as five people in your heat, in your lane, so as you get ready to enter the pool everyone compares times to determine how to best order the group. My group decided I should go first…which is good. You run the least chance of having to have to pass people that way.

I got started in the swim and glanced at the clock when I finished my first 50M. I came in at 40 seconds which was faster than I wanted to go. (You run the risk of wiping out all of your energy in the swim just to pick up 40 or 50 seconds when the next leg, the bike, offers the best chance to cut down your time by multiple minutes.) I managed to slow my pace a bit over the remaining laps, even allowing another racer to pass me at the wall once, and exited the pool at 5 minutes 30 seconds…about what I had hoped for although I probably could have finished in about 4:50.

I felt good as I made the jog out to T1. (For those new to the sport T1 is “transition one” where you go from swimming to putting on shoes, shirt, helmet etc for the bike leg.) I got out fairly well, not sure how well as this event doesn’t use timing devices that give you split times, but I felt good getting on the bike. I started passing people almost immediately.

The bike leg makes a couple turns going slightly down hill then starts into about a mile and a half climb of varying steepness. I was cranking! I had exited the pool near the front of my own heat and I was passing people from the previous heat most of whom had had at least a five minute head start on me. I got to the top of the hill feeling good and flew down the back side of the 5.5 mile loop.
Coming around the loop the second time I was feeling good and VERY glad to be done with the hill climb as I crested and started down. On the first downhill section I set my sites on a guy ahead of me in a bright green bike jersey on a pretty expensive looking bike.
I got past him faster than I thought I would but I had to slow down as I came up on a sharp right turn with a slower biker in front of me.
That gave him the chance to get me back on the second downhill section.
“I knew you’d be back.” I said, as I looked at him coming up on my outside.
I fell in behind him for a short stretch but then my competetive nature took over and I decided to kick up the speed and go by him.
To make a long story short I passed multiple people on both laps and probably maintained close to a 19-20mph average over the 11 miles. I was feeling REALLY good.

Of course then came the run…
I got in and out of T2 pretty quickly, change of shoes, ditch the helmet, throw on a visor and go.
I was even moving decently without the usual hobble that you get when you first get off the bike.
But I knew right away this was going to be painful.
My doctor had already advised me a year earlier that my knee was bad enough that I ought not to run at all. I had talked him into agreeing that I WAS going to run but that I would train for it the least. My knee felt fair to midlin as I made my way…slowly…through the first mile. I remember clearly thinking that I did not feel nearly as winded as I thought I would but that my legs seemed to be lead weights.
At the mid point of the run is the one water station so I grabbed a cup and walked briefly while I drank it….another place I might have saved 15-30 seconds had I kept up my slow jog…I managed to keep my self moving without walking for the remainder of the run.
With less than 100 yards to go I heard someone coming up behind me.
“Let’s go specialized (my bike is a Specialized) you had me!”
I tried to keep pace with “green jersey” but there was no way.
I knew I had caught up to him from way behind on the bike so I figured my overall time would be better than his anyway…SO NYA NYA NYA!!!

I did find enough gas in the tank to “sprint” up the last 30 yards or so into the finish…
I missed my goal by less than three minutes!!!

I was both elated and bummed at the same time. Elated to have finished…it is quite a rush if you’ve never done a tri…and bummed to have come so close. (I did help a wee bit to have my time be good enough to finish in the top ten of my age group.)

Because of the way the pool heats had worked out I was able to get back to the pool in time to cheer on my buddy Scott who was doing his first triathlon ever. It’s fun to be done and then get to cheer on a friend through transitions and finishing.

So now, after a couple days of recovery, we’re ready to start training for the next one in August which, in turn, will lead to another in September. If you’re ready to give it a go let me know and we’ll help you get started. There is nothing quite like competing in a finishing a triathlon.
Yes, I know, you’re worried about the swim. Everyone is. But it can be done.

You just have to be willing to tri.