Monday, November 20, 2006

SilverMan 2006 Race Report

SilverMan Full-Distance Triathlon-November 12, 2006

I do not know what my official statistics are for the SilverMan Full-Distance Triathlon. For those of us who did not finish (DNF), our stats were not recorded. I can tell you that the dreaded DNF that I received for this race carries with it no regret, but rather a greater appreciation for the SilverMan course.

This was the second year for the Nevada SilverMan Full-Distance Triathlon. “Full-Distance” denotes the same distance as an IronMan, without the trademark infringement. The slogan is, “You have experienced Iron, now experience Silver.” It has also been called, “North Americas most grueling race.” And rightfully so as I was soon to find out.

The race starts with a 2.4-mile swim in Lake Mead. The swim is followed by a 112-mile bike ride from Lake Mead to Henderson, NV with a combined climbing elevation of 9700 feet. The last leg of the race is a 26.2-mile run around Henderson that climbs 3700 feet. To put this race into perspective, IMUSA Lake Placid has only 4000 feet of climbing on the bike and 1000 feet of climbing on the run.

The water temperature was 64°F and the air temperature was 72°F. Those temperatures were not anything out of the ordinary for an endurance race. Some would even argue that those temperatures were ideal for a race like this. A slight breeze would even be acceptable. The breeze that day was anything but “Slight.”

It was a very blustery day. The lake conditions were choppy with white caps. When in the lake, I estimate that the waves were as high as 2 feet. My swim speed up until today had been very consistent at 2 minutes per 100 yards. That gave me a swim time of 1h: 24m at Lake Placid and 0:40m at Big Kahuna (1.2 miles). I expected a similar swim time for this race.

I felt like I was in the spin cycle of a washing machine. The water made a sickening rocking motion. I understand from later reports that the motion caused many people to get motion sick and throw up during the swim. I did not experience nausea, but two kayaks hit me. The 2-foot waves made sighting of the buoys difficult as well (that and the fact that the buoy colors were the same as the swim cap colors). The waves were so strong that they would flip me over on to my back. Lastly, the anti-fog solution that I put in my goggles did not prevent fog, thus I was partially blind for most of the swim.

Every time I reached a buoy, it seemed like there were 10 more buoys to swim to. I was starting to feel like it was never going to end. The cutoff time for the swim is 2h: 20m. I had already passed 1h: 20m, and I estimate that I was little over half the distance to the finish. Could it be that I was going to be eliminated on the swim? It was hard for me to grasp, but it was starting to look like it.

“I am not going to be eliminated on the swim,” I thought. So I refocused, and headed for the shore. I kayak tried to escort me in. I was determined to finish the swim before the cutoff.

I crossed the timing mat at 2h: 11m.

I felt pretty good, despite being in the water for almost an hour longer than I had expected. Others weren’t so lucky. I know of at least one person that had hypothermia, and at least 20 people had to be pulled from the swim from nausea, being washed up on the island, or just general fatigue.

My transition was fast (about 5 minutes). I was not going for any clothing changes. Instead I opted to wear my TNT IronTeam trisuit for the entire race. My transition was just a matter of toweling off, applying sunscreen, putting on my shoes, and I was off. Now for the bike ride.

Prior to Lake Placid, I had removed my triple crank for a lighter double crank. The advantage of the triple crank is that it has a smaller climbing gear (a.k.a. “Granny Gear.”). The disadvantage is that it has more rotational weight. The double crank provides slower climbs than the triple, but it has less rotational weight.

I was told to expect to be passed when climbing uphill, but that I would likely pass people when going downhill. The strategy worked well at Lake Placid. What goes up, must come down, right? Wrong!

The SilverMan bike course is a point-to-point race, which means that there are no loops. Thus, what goes up does not have to go down. From the very beginning I would climb 500 ft, then it would level off, then I would climb another 500 ft, then level off, etc. There were hardly any downhill portions. For the first 56 miles or so, it was uphill with a mighty head wind.

I estimated that I needed to average 14 mph over 8 hours to make the 5pm bike cutoff. I was at 11.5 mph at 3:45pm. Having only covered 83 miles, I would have to average about 30 mph for 1 hour. In short, I would not make the cutoff.

At the end of the day, 44% of the people that started did not finish. Most IronMan races will have 10-15% of the people not finish. I know that my DNF is a result of equipment and not a lack of physical ability. I will see this race again, but next time I will be better prepared.


.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Various Pictures

My Pictures
Jun 13, 2003 - 37 Photos

Race Report: Big Kahuna Half-Ironman: Sept. 10, 2006

Race Report: Big Kahuna Half-Ironman: Sept. 10, 2006

The only consistency in my training since IronMan USA is the lack of training consistency. In the 5-6 weeks since IronMan, I have trained a total of 5 times. The first 3 weeks was recovery. The 5 training runs consisted of 2 runs of 10 miles each, 2 bike rides of 40 miles each, and a 1 mile swim. I was a bit nervous about my preparation for this race. Nervous? Yes. Excited? OH YES!

The Big Kahuna is a shorter distance triathlon than the IronMan; only consisting of a 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile bike, and a 13.1 mile run. This was my first ocean water triathlon.

Nutrition on the course was Hammer H.E.E.D. (High Energy Electrolyte Drink) and Hammer Gel. I have used these before, so there was no need for me to bring a whole lot on my bike to weigh me down.

The strategy, as always, was:
1. to start with a good high calorie breakfast (4 waffles with Nutella for ~700 calories)
2. Hydrate well.
3. Drink HEED or water every 15 minutes on the bike or as needed (~25-50 calories per swig).
4. Eat a gel with water every 45 minutes on the bike or as needed (90 calories per serving)
5. Eat endurolytes at the first sign of cramps.

When the weather is cold, more calories are needed. During a cold-weather event I aim to take in 200-400 calories per hour. During a warm weather event I aim to take in 100-200 calories per hour. The Big Kahuna was a cold-weather event.

The start of the event took place down by the pier on the beach. Some words were said, a Hawaiian blessing was given (complete with a conch shell blowing), and we started to swim. The swim occurred in waves with the elite athletes starting at 7:00 am and my wave starting 6 minutes after them.

The water was a balmy 59°F. I crossed the timing mat and I was in the water. All that time training in open water for the IronMan had come back to me in a flash. Pretty soon I had a rhythm. The water was choppy, and I found that if I brought my head too far out of the water to sight, a wave would slap me in the head. It taught me to keep my head down (which ultimately helped me).

Once I rounded the pier, I started to head back for land. The water was salty (duh), and it reminded me about an e-mail joke regarding the GALLONS of semen a whale can release. The punch line was “And that’s why the ocean is so salty.” Damn, I just swallowed some ocean water.

All kidding aside, my tongue was starting to swell up.

The current was working against me (it seemed to be pushing me away from the pier). So I would zig-zag my all the way back to the swim exit. After about 44 minutes, I finally made it back to the beach. There were throngs of TNT people out there cheering on their teams. I was a team of one today. I ripped off my wetsuit and rash guard and I heard somebody say as they saw the flames, “Go Team... I mean Go IRONTEAM!”

From the beach, it was a little over a quarter-mile run (barefoot on asphalt) back to the first transition (T1). I had planned on wearing my tri-suit under my wetsuit, so my transition was fast. All I had to do was put on my shoes, grab my endurolytes and helmet, and I was off. It took me a total of 12 minutes for T1; which included the run from the beach.

I felt really good on the bike. Instead of holding back like I did in IronMan, I started to charge early. I was averaging 20 mph for the first part. If my nutrition plan had worked out, charging early would not have been a problem… but it didn’t work out, and this became a problem.

Around mile 7 or 8, I heard something while I was biking. It sounded as if something dropped on the ground. A quick check of my bike showed nothing had fallen off (water bottles, brakes, wheels were all intact). I didn’t think much about it more after that. It turned out to be my canister or Endurolytes.

Endurolytes are salt tablets that I take when I start to cramp. As if on cue, Murphy’s Laws went into full effect, as was evident by leg cramps around mile 10. No worries… I just had to back down on my effort and wait until I could get some HEED at the next aid station.

The first aid station was about mile 15. It was staffed by the South Bay IronTeam! Cool! They had some nicer water bottles than what was on my bike, so I ditched my old worn out water bottles and replenished with HEED and water bottles. Bummer…they had no gels.

When I finally took my first drink from my HEED bottle, I was filled with a sense of dread. It was too dilute. I have had HEED before, and I know what it’s supposed to taste like. This was more than half diluted. This meant that the entire bottle couldn’t be more than 100 calories. With only this bottle and no gels, I was carrying only 100 calories. On top of that, the weaker dilution meant that I was also going to be electrolyte deficient (the osmolality of the HEED would not be optimal for absorption). The next water stop was about 1 hour away.

It shouldn’t be that bad. I’ve raced on fumes before. So I continued to crank hard. I noticed that my speed was dropping.

The second aid station had some gels, but I was only able to grab one as I rolled through. I traded my bottle of HEED for another bottle of HEED. This next bottle was even more dilute than the first! With about 1.5 hours of the bike portion done, I had taken in about 150 calories… about 300 less than where I should be.

By mile 40, I was starting to feel sleepy. I mean REALLY sleepy…groggy. Have you ever been tired while driving, but you had to keep going? So you do everything you can think of to stay awake? That’s the kind of sleepy I’m talking about.

I hit the last aid station fairly out of it mentally. I traded in my HEED bottle for another dilute bottle of HEED. My speed had dropped to 10-15 mph. I stopped pedaling on the downhill portions to conserve my energy. T2 couldn’t have come any sooner.

By the end of the bike, I had consumed about ~200 calories… about 800 calories less than what I needed.

At T2, I consumed some gels that I had stashed at my transition area. I also took in some endurolytes. I tried to make my transition fast. One quick stop at the porta potty, a quick wave to my wife, Vickee and my son, Jesse, and I was out of T2 in 6 minutes.

On the run, my legs felt surprisingly fresh, but my mind was as dull as a baseball bat. I took my first walk break after 10 minutes. When I started to walk, my eyes would close, and I would start to stagger around like I was drunk. I wanted to go to sleep. I was afraid that a race official would see this and pull me off the course. It was really scary.

The good thing was that the aid stations were more frequent on the run course than on the bike course, and were well stocked. I took in an espresso gel (actually has real coffee in it) and water at the first aid station. I haven’t had coffee since November, and to be honest, this tasted nasty… it was all about the caffeine. I grabbed a chocolate gel for later.

After 6 miles, I still wasn’t feeling great, but I was doing better. What I needed was to wake up! So I did something in a fit of desperation… I ate a gel without water! Now for those of you that are familiar with gels, they should always be taken with water (not electrolyte drink). The water aids in the absorption. Lack of water will divert water from your blood stream and cause cramping. This is the effect I wanted. I figured if I was in enough discomfort that I would wake up.

The result, my stomach started to cramp.

I was uncomfortable, but I was awake now. The discomfort didn’t last too long because water was just another aid station away.

By mile 7, the sun came out and started to warm everything up. I felt like Superman (check your superhero references: Red Sun= bad for Superman, Yellow Sun = good for Superman). The warmth of the sun gave me a renewed sense of energy.

The last 6.1 miles were relatively fast. I walked the aid stations, but I ran the rest of the way. I estimate that my pace on the last half of the run was ~ 9 minutes per mile (a fairly conservative estimate).

The final stretch was run on the beach. I was feeling strong as I dodged the waves rolling onto the beach. I saw Jesse and Vickee waiting there at the finish. Vickee tried to give Jesse to me, but I was still wary of my mental state and had an image of me passing out at the finish with Jess in my arms. I told her to hold him.

Here are the final stats of the race.

Swim (1.2 miles) 00:44:51.8
Swim to Bike Transition (T1) 00:07:38.3
Bike (112 miles) 03:17:19.5
Bike to Run Transition (T2) 00:06:15.5
Run (26.2 miles) 02:44:33.9
Total Time 07:00:39.0

At the end of the race, I felt pretty good, but I needed calories badly. Jesse started to cry from the time that I passed him until the time I came back around to pick him up. He probably thought, “Dang, Dad, why’d you dis me?” Son, I just didn’t want you to fall. We did manage to get this really cool post-race picture on the beach together.




The biggest lesson that I learned is to always underestimate the race support. Be prepared for anything. If I had just brought 2-4 gel packets with me, I would have had a better day. It was a pretty good day despite the nutrition problems. I think I’m going to have to do this race again.

Next stop… SilverMan! Posted by Picasa

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Rommel of IronMan Past and Present

This picture was taken during the 2004 IronMan training season. I think I was carrying about 205 pounds.












This is me at the Lake Placid IronMan 2006. I'm weighing in at 152 pounds.

 Posted by Picasa

Monday, August 28, 2006

Race Report: IronMan USA-Lake Placid July 23, 2006

**This is a very long entry. If you don't have time to stare at the screen and read this, you may want to consider printing it out (makes good bathroom reading). You can find the PDF version (the PDF version has more pictures than the blog version) at www.IronMel.com. You can also download it at this link http://www.geocities.com/meriendatime@sbcglobal.net/IMUSA06race.pdf. You'll need Adobe Acrobat to view it. **

Here are the official race numbers for me from the IronMan Triathlon.

Swim (2.4 miles) 01:24:49
Swim to Bike Transition (T1) 00:12:22
Bike (112 miles) 07:03:53
Bike to Run Transition (T2) 00:15:47
Run (26.2 miles) 05:54:57
Total Time 14:51:46

These are just the numbers. They tell you how fast (or slow depending on your point of view) I went for each segment of the race. The numbers do not tell the whole story. To get a full understanding of my journey to IronMan Lake Placid, we would have to start several days before the event.

If you read my race plan, then you know that I spell out exactly what I want to eat, what I want to drink, when I should rest, etc. on the days before the race. Plans are great, aren’t they? Unless you really did become a rock star or a princess, you probably already know that things hardly ever go according to plan.

The plan:
· The team leaves San Francisco at 8:00 am on Thursday 7/20/06
· The team arrives in Chicaco at 1:30 pm
· Catch a connecting flight to Albany, NY. Arrive at 7:00 pm
· Drive to Lake Placid and arrive around 10:30pm.

What actually happened looked very little like that. Oh sure, we got to Lake Placid, but our journey took a wee bit longer than expected.

Around 7:30am we started to board the plane. We had just settled into our seats (my wife Vickee, our 22-month old son, Jesse, and I) when the captain announced that there were thunderstorms in Chicago, and that we were going to be delayed at least 2 hours. We were instructed to get off the plane, but that we should come back to board at 9:30am.
We all got off the plane, but now we were faced with the question of whether or not we would be able to catch a connecting flight out of Chicago. Kristy (our fearless team manager) went to work right away. She started to call the travel agent to make sure that we would indeed be able to catch our flight out of Chicago. There should be nothing to worry about. I’m sure the airlines deal with this type of situation all the time. We were traveling with one of the best in the business. We were flying American.

The truth was that we were going to miss the connection out of Chicago. Furthermore, the storm coupled with backlog of flights meant that we could not get a guaranteed flight from Chicago to Albany for 48 hours. That would mean we would arrive on Saturday… maybe! IronMan registration must occur by Friday… NO EXCEPTIONS!

Kristy got back to work making calls and haggling with the boarding gate. After much angst amongst the team, Kristy gave us the solution. We would leave at 4:00pm on a flight to New York City. The flight would arrive at 12:30am. The bus company that would have been picking us up in Albany agreed to drive an extra 4 hours to New York City, but that they could not pick us up until 6:30am. So we would have to sleep in the airport. Why 6:30am? Bus drivers need to sleep. Anything earlier would not allow for adequate sleep for the bus drivers. Fortunately, Kristy would later inform us that a bus company was found that would be willing to drive us at 1:30am. We would be in Lake Placid by 7:00am. Woo-hoo!

So the plan wasn’t perfect. Yeah, we would be inconvenienced. It didn’t matter. We were still going to Lake Placid. We were still going to race. Everything was going to work out! Right?

American Airlines for some reason did not want to transfer our luggage to the new plane. “Don’t worry,” they said. “You can pick it up in Albany.” I guess that works. We could stop in Albany on the way to Lake Placid. Nobody is sure why they would not transfer our bags. There are a few theories (and some choice words) floating around about the incident. I really wish they transferred our baggage.

The trip from San Francisco to NYC went off without incident. Jesse was fussy, but everybody swears that he was an angel. He did cry when we started to land, but he was for the most part, well behaved.

We arrived in NYC just after midnight and took up some floor space near baggage claim. We weren’t claiming any baggage, because American Airlines sent our luggage to Albany! Anyhow, many of us hadn’t really eaten very well, and there was a good chance that most of us were getting dehydrated (traveling does do that to you sometimes). Luckily we found a 24-hour cafĂ© on the 2nd floor. I grabbed some stuff just in time so that we could get on the bus.

The bus… Oh my God! The bus! It looked like your standard issue Grey Hound bus. In fact I think in a previous life this machine was once a Grey Hound bus. What it was now was a bus covered in spotty white paint (used to hide the graffiti). I would tell you what bus company we were using, but there were no recognizable markings on it! Our bus driver looked like he could use as a cup of coffee or 10.

I’m really glad that I hadn’t gotten a lot of sleep, because it allowed me to sleep through some of the more horrific parts of the trip. I was awake for the car fire in the road that caused us to move to a different highway. I did sleep through the 2 times that the bus went off the road when the bus driver fell asleep at the wheel!

We stopped in Albany around 5:30am to pick up our luggage. You know… the luggage that we shouldn’t worry about… the luggage that would be there in Albany for us to pick up. Well the luggage was only half there. Out of the 4 bags that we checked in, only 2 were there. We weren’t the only ones. Most of the team had some luggage missing. Unfortunately for some, the missing luggage contained their race gear (wetsuit, cycling shorts, tri shorts, etc.). My paranoia had anticipated a loss of luggage, so I packed all of my race gear in my backpack, so I was okay.
At 8:30am, after almost 24 hours of traveling, we finally arrived at the Comfort Inn in Lake Placid, NY. Teammates who did not travel with us were there to greet us with applause for the Herculean effort that we made to get there. I felt like the castaways on Gilligan's Island, and we had just been rescued... "a three hour tour, a three hour tour..."

Race registration opens at 10:00 am. That would give me just enough time to shower, rest up, and get some breakfast. Vickee and Jesse looked tired. I told Vickee that she should stay and rest. She wasn’t going to argue. I wished that I could stay and sleep too. Though I was tired, I was very happy to know that I was going to race. It seemed that we had gone through the worst of it. Things could only get better from here on out.

I was in a fog the rest of the day as I mechanically went through the rigors of race preparation while still trying to maintain a relaxed state. Rest over the past 24+ hours had been sporadic and filled with interruptions, as was nutrition and hydration. It was nice to get a walk around, and breathe the fresh mountain air.

The day consisted of:
· Race registration
· Bike pick up (thankfully transported by truck)
· A swim in Mirror Lake (site of the race day swim). Some team members had to swim without there wetsuits, which were missing along with their luggage.
· EATING!
· HYDRATION!

Good news did occur later that day. By now, everybody back at the TNT office had heard about our trip; the lost luggage, the bus, etc. One of our honorees, Leslie, was flying into Albany. She gave a call and said that she saw our missing luggage at the airport! She rented an SUV and transported ALL of our missing luggage to Lake Placid! Things were finally starting to fall into place!

The hardest part was now behind us. Now for the easy part… time to race the IRONMAN!

The Night Before
I ate my last meal around 5:00pm on Saturday night. Trial and error determined that I would eat a light pasta meal with some vegetables. I followed this up with some watermelon and an all-fruit smoothie (no dairy). If I got hungry, I would snack on pretzels or drink water and Gatorade.

We had a relaxation session at 9:00pm led by Coach Tom. Something he said stayed with me the rest of the night. “You have given of yourself selflessly for the past 10 months raising money to fight cancer. Now, for one day, it is time to put aside your selfless ways. It is time to celebrate your accomplishments as you race in the IronMan tomorrow.”

I got into bed around 9:30 pm.

The night before a race is usually the not the most restful of nights. A typical pre-race sleep involves tossing, turning, and a paranoia-induced urge to check the clock 5 times during the night. Once you accept the fact that much sleep will not happen, it actually becomes quite restful. The trick is to get an ample amount of sleep TWO nights before the race.

I set about 5 different alarms to go off at 2:30am. I was relaxed as I talked to Vickee. I went over my race plan in my head one final time. I was feeling good… really good. I fell asleep around 10:30pm while watching “The Waterboy” on TV. I did not awake again until all 5 alarms went off at 2:30am.

The first thing I did was put on my timing chip around my ankle. I drank some water and walked around to try and wake up. It wasn't difficult to wake up since I had been waiting for this day for 2 years! I was excited to have the day finally here.

At 3am I had 4 waffles with 2 tablespoons of maple syrup for a total of 600-700 calories. This would be the last solid food for then next 19 hours. I then drank more water. It was time for a bathroom break.

I find it relaxing to take a shower before these races. It is silly if you think about it since I'm going to swim first. It just feels good to wake up this way. It also gives me time to think and relax. So I stood in the shower for a few minutes.

A put on my speedo, warm up pants, jacket, and hat. I gathered my special needs bags and my wetsuit. I got the bag containing my bike nutrition. I was ready to go. It was 4am. Only 45 minutes before the first shuttle would leave for the transition area. I sipped on Gatorade.

At 4:30am, I decided to walk towards the shuttling area. I gave Vickee and Jesse a kiss, and was out the door. I was the first one there. I heard people in the breakfast area of the hotel. I thought about going over and talking to them, but I was so much in a world of my own at the time. I was focused on the race. That's where I wanted to be.

Alex and Mike finally pulled up. They seemed a little surprised to see me there so early. They went in to get breakfast. So I waited. And waited. Race morning was here! The thought was sinking deeper into my mind. I started to think about all the hours I trained. The miles on the bike and run. The vast improvements on the swim. I just needed the race to start.

I honestly do not remember who was in the shuttle with me. All I could think about was, "What next?" First, put some last minute items in my transition bags. Second, check my bike and attach my water bottles and food. Third, get body marked. Fourth, walk my special needs bags up the road to the special needs drop-off. Fifth, put on my wetsuit, sunscreen, and walk to the water.

We had gotten to the transition area a few minutes early, so the gate wasn't open. "Breathe," I told myself, "Relax and let the day unfold." Once the gate opened, everything went off without a hitch from the time I checked my transition bags to the time I walked down to the water. Along the way I saw the familiar green and purple flames of other TNT racers and supporters. I gave them hugs, high-fives, or the cool faraway head nod. I noticed at this time I was starting to smile. It felt good. All year long I had been so focused on training, that this was the first time that I remembered to have fun.

I got down to the water. I stood on the grass for about 15 minutes and stared at the water. There was quite a bit of overcast from the previous day’s rain. There was steam rising from the lake. I pictured myself getting in the water and swimming smoothly. I knew that I would get kicked, punched, slapped, but that wouldn't matter. I would stay calm and relaxed.

It was almost 6:30am. We would be allowed to enter the water soon for warm up. I wanted to have as much warm up time as possible. I headed down to the entrance. I saw more TNT people. They commented that I looked ready. I knew they were right. I felt it too. Bobby commented on the new body, and how I didn't look like I did back in 2004. It made me want to cry, but I needed to stay focused.

I was maybe the 3rd person in the water for warm up. I heard people swimming and thrashing all around me. I stood there for a moment up to my waist in water and stared again at the water. It finally dawned on me... I was finally here... at the IronMan. To express what I was feeling at the moment is difficult. All I could tell you is that I felt as if I had something to prove; to the guy who laughed at me when I told him that I was doing an IronMan, to the people who never believed that I could stick to anything, to myself. This was the place to prove it.

I started to warm up for the swim. I felt relaxed. I wanted to warm up for at least 400 yards. I didn't want the first strokes I took to be right after the gun. I've been there before, and know that it is an easy way to get tired. I just kept swimming.

Around 6:50am, I found a spot on the far right side to start. The area had a good place for me to stand too. I wanted to stay as far away from the combat swimming area as possible. My plan was to swim from my spot to the first turn buoy. I figured it might add another 0.2 miles to my swim, but it was a good trade-off to getting kicked and punched repeatedly. After the first turn, I would find the underwater buoy cables and sight off of that.

I already accepted the fact that I'm not the fastest swimmer… yet. I don’t have the years of training that it takes to hone those fast swimming skills. But the swim is just the "Entry Ticket" to a much bigger race, so I also wasn't worried. The minutes that I use during the swim will be gained back during the bike.

The race was about to start. I stood as others treaded water during the singing of The Star Spangled Banner. I even sang along. Then there were the bag pipes playing Amazing Grace. Then, BANG! The gun sounded and the race officially started.



The Swim
As I said, my race strategy was to head straight for the first turn buoy to avoid the combat swimming zone. The problem with that plan was that from where I was I could not see the buoy. “No problem,” I thought, “I’ll just follow the people in front of me.” It seems logical, right? It would be logical if they were headed for the buoy that I wanted, but they didn’t. Pretty soon I found my self near the underwater cable right in the middle of all the combat.

I got kicked, punched, whacked in the head, and my foot got cut (on a bracelet I assume). All of it was unintentional for sure, but it was what I had been trying to avoid. Actually, it wasn’t too bad. When I got kicked in the head, the water helped absorb the impact. I was actually starting to like all the combat! I even rolled over a few people to try and find open water. I found some clear space in the inside of the swim loop too.

First loop was done. I jumped out of the water, crossed the timing mat, and then jumped back in the water. It was time for the second loop. This time I swam right back into the fray. I wasn’t going to be intimidated anymore. The combat was good. I was feeling so good during the swim that I felt like I could have swum 4 more miles. That was a good sign! My pacing was good, and I wasn’t too fatigued.

I finished the swim in 1 hour and 24 minutes. That’s much better than the 2 hours at Full Vineman in 2004! As I exited the water, I ripped off my shirt, cap and goggles. I looked for a stripper (those are people that strip the wetsuit off of the racers). I’m sure it looked funny from the perspective of the audience. They told me to lie down as they ripped my wetsuit off. The stripper threw the wetsuit at me and I was off and running to the transition tent.

Once in the transition tent, I stripped down and toweled off. In retrospect, I should have toweled off much better than I did. All I had on my mind was to get my bike shorts on. The volunteer offered to help me get my shorts on, but I still think there are some things that a guy should do on his own without the help of another guy. He could have helped me put on some sunscreen, but I overheard one volunteer saying that they were running low on sunscreen… way to be prepared! I finally asked, and he gave me a quarter-sized dollop of sunscreen to use. I got a hold of the bottle so that I could cover more of my body than just my right arm.

I made one final check before leaving T1. Helmet? Shoes? Race number? Chamois Butt’r? Everything seemed like it was in place. I ran out of the changing tent. A volunteer had already unracked my bike. Time for part 2!
The Bike
At the top of the hill, where we mounted our bikes, I saw Steven. He said something to the effect of, “Yeah Baby.” Or, “Let’s do it, Baby.” It had that sort of feel to it with the word, “Baby” in it. Steven went down the hill really fast. The road was still wet from the rain. I wasn’t as ready to go all out just yet… especially with the wet roads.

The entire bike ride was absolutely perfect! It was a beautiful scenic course with rolling hills. The hills of the San Francisco Bay Area made these hills in Lake Placid seem harmless. Yeah, there was some effort, but there wasn’t anything here that I wasn’t prepared for. The whole course was so perfect that I had this permanent smile plastered on my face. I either looked extremely happy, or like I just had a lobotomy.

Throughout the course there were the familiar faces of TNT supporters. One person that deserves honorable mention is Laura’s friend. She was cheering like a cheerleader on crack! It made me really happy and proud to be part of TNT. She was yelling and screaming like my mom at a Tom Jones concert! “It’s not unusual…” Seriously, it was like she was cheering just for me. The amazing thing is that she cheered like that for every single TNT person she saw, which, in my opinion is harder work than doing an IronMan.

There were some oddities on the course. For instance, guys with one foot clipped in while peeing on the side of the road. I mean, if you are going to make the effort to pull over, you might as will clip out and pee the right way. Can you imagine falling over with your bike while peeing? If you get a bunch of guys falling over while peeing it would be like the fountain at the Bellagio. And of course there was the older guy who passed me on the right (a big cycling no-no). I would later see him on the run course walking and peeing at the same time… now that’s talent.

I sure do talk about pee a lot.

I entered T2 having finished the bike portion in about 7 hours. My lower back was really tight and sore. I can only assume this was the price I was paying looking good in the “Aero Position.” I had some difficulty stripping out of my bike clothes and into my run clothes. There was also this “Raw” feeling in my crotch region. As I was reaching down there to check, I felt sand. “Where did I get sand?” I thought. Like I said earlier during T1, I should have toweled off better.

I was dressed and looked ready to go, but I was not ready to go. My back was making it difficult to walk. Luckily there was a massage therapist in the tent. He stretched my back out. He also helped me stretch out my hamstrings. He said that my hamstrings were some of the tightest he has ever seen. MENTAL NOTE: Take a yoga class.

This is it! The home stretch! It was sudden death overtime in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals! Time for Part 3!
The Run
Out of T2 and on to the run. It was only 3:30pm. There was still 8.5 hours left in the race. I knew that I could walk 4 mph… easy. What that meant was that if I walked the remaining 26.2 miles, I should finish in 6-7 hours. Bottom line… I was going to finish! I was going to be an IRONMAN!

I obviously wanted to finish as fast as possible. My strategy for the first part was to run 4 minutes and walk 2 minutes. I didn’t want to go out too fast and burn out. No problem… my back was so tweaked that I was a bit burned out already. The walk breaks were important as they helped me recover.

One spectator said to me while I was running, “You call that running?” I know it was supposed to be some form of encouragement. I was oddly at peace with what he said. Okay, he was drunk. I was smiling and enjoying the moment. The thought had already entered my head. I was going to be an IronMan.

Let’s talk run nutrition. On the course I had Gatorade, GU, chocolate chip cookies, flat cola, and chicken broth. Chicken broth?!!! Surprisingly, it is really good during these events. It has protein, salt (electrolytes), water, and it warms you up. By the way, it was very cold as the sun went down.

On the second half of the run, I was getting a bit chilly. I had already abandoned my run/walk strategy and adopted a strict run strategy. I passed my special needs bag that contained my long-sleeved shirt (for when it got cold) back at mile 13.1, and it was getting pretty chilly. I figured if I kept running, it would help me keep warm. It was a bit of double edged sword. I would run faster, and the wind would cool me down.

I saw Heather walking. I walked along side her for little while. It started to get cold, so I started to run again. I left Heather with my Xena Warrior Princess yell “Ai-yi-yi-yi!”

In the darkness, I started to see people wrapped in space blankets. You know… those shiny, silver, plastic things? It looked like a good idea, and I wondered where I could score one for me. Somebody informed me that they were handing them out at one of the aid stations. Score!

I walked/ran with a space blanket on from mile 20-23. Meigan passed me. She laughed at me too. I was still okay with it. I was even okay when her father (who was cheerleading on the course) said to me, “Meigan told me to tell you to suck it up.”

It’s hard running with a piece of plastic wrapped around you (it also turns your arms silver). At mile 23, I threw the blanket away and started to run. Only 3.2 miles left! I could feel my pace quickening. Hey, there’s Vickee (my wife), Jesse (my son), and Alex (coach). I waved to them as I ran the little out-and-back portion before the finish.

As the race drew to a close, my mind was flooded with thoughts of my IronMan journey. I knew I had come so far. Not just today, but in the last 2 years. I thought about Full Vineman in 2004 and not finishing. I thought about the undying love and support of my wife who helped me get here. I thought about the person that I had become. I realized that the events of one single moment could erase the torment of the past. Finishing the IronMan could be that moment, and it was going to happen tonight.

I saw Vickee, Jesse, and Alex. Vickee and Alex told me that they were really proud of me. I’m sure if Jesse could talk, he would say the same too. There was still a quarter mile left. I wanted to soak up the moment. Vickee handed Jesse to me, and I proceeded to walk to the finish.

I entered the speed skating oval. The lights, the sounds, the cheering people, are all still imprinted in my mind as I saw the finish line in the distance. Jesse was feeling heavy, and my arms were sore, but nothing was going to tear the smile off face. 10 more steps left. 9, 8, 7,…

At 14 hours, 51 minutes, and 46 seconds I crossed the finish line at IronMan USA –Lake Placid. I never did hear it over all the noise, though I’m sure the announcer said it. It didn’t matter. In my head, I heard the phrase that was 2 years in the making, “Rommel, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!”

Epilogue
Here are some interesting stats for the year:

Never had any flat tires.
Spent almost 1000 miles on my bike
Ran almost 400 miles
Lost 35 pounds this year
Lost 65 for pounds since 2004.

With my first COMPLETED IronMan race behind me, I am now looking towards the future. I never expected my IronMan journey to end with any one race. I always expected that the experience would remain a big part of my life whether I decide to race again or not. It is like life, right? You have a goal in mind, you strive for it, encounter obstacles along the way, learn how to beat those obstacles, and whether or not you reach the goal, you become a better person.

It is now a month since the race, and already I miss having the camaraderie of the IronTeam. Part of my team is racing IronMan Canada as I write these final words. From here, my heart is racing with them as they too cross the finish line and become Iron Men and Women. GO TEAM!

I do have some upcoming races. I will be doing the Silverman Iron-distance triathlon in November 2006 in Las Vegas. As a warm up, I will be doing the Big Kahuna Half-Iron-distance triathlon in September 2006 in Santa Cruz, CA.

Eventually I would like to qualify for a spot at the IronMan Triathlon World Championships in Kona, HI. If I only do one race next year, I plan on doing the Vineman 70.3 (formerly known as the Half-Vineman). The Vineman 70.3 is a qualifying race for Kona.

For now this ends this leg of my IronMan journey. I will now continue my journey as I look for the road to Kona. The road to Kona may be packed with hardships and obstacles as well as reward and fulfillment. Will I ever get to Kona? I don’t know. What I do know is that the road to Kona starts now… Posted by Picasa

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Track IronMan LIVE... Bib# 528

On July 23rd, you can track my race progress LIVE at www.ironmanlive.com. The race starts at 7am EST and will go until Midnight. It will give you up to the minute stats on my swim, bike, and run times. There is supposed to be a live video feed as well of the finish line.

Just enter my name or bib number: 528.

 

This is a picture of my bike from the last 90 mile ride I did. My bike will be set up similar to this on Sunday. Notice the gel packets taped to the top bar. That's my lunch and dinner! Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

5 more days... my race plan

5 days. That’s it. 5 days.

Ironman is upon us. Lake Placid, NY… July 23, 2006. Start 7am. Finish by Midnight.

For the past year and half, I have been training and thinking about this moment. Now that it is finally here, I don’t know what to think. I’m a jumble of nervous energy, but focused.

I have a race plan that I would like to share here. It is only what I plan on doing… this does not mean that I will do the plan. I want to make this distinction because I want to stay flexible… adaptable. If you read my Vineman 2004 race report, you know that my eventual undoing was being rigid in the execution of my plan. I don’t want that to happen this time.

"Let the day unfold. Don’t force it." -Coach Wayne Spalding on Ironman-

"The greatest mistake that one can make is predicting the outcome of a fight." -Bruce Lee on the Art of Jeet Kun Do-

"There is surely nothing other than the single purpose of the moment. A man’s whole life is a succession of moment after moment. If one fully understands the present moment, then there is nothing left to do, and nothing else to pursue." -from the movie "Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai."

"Even though a samurai’s head is suddenly cut off, he should still be able to perform one more action with certainty. If one becomes like a revengeful ghost, and shows great determination, though his head is cut off, he should not die." -from the movie "Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai."

The race plan:
Friday 7/21
o Focus on eating whole grains and carbs. A third of the intake should be lean protein (soy, turkey, etc.)
o Hydrate. Use Gatorade. Pee often.

Saturday 7/22
o Focus on eating whole grains and carbs. A third of the intake should be lean protein (soy, turkey, etc.)
o Hydrate. Use Gatorade. Pee often.
o Eat last meal by 5pm (absolutely no later than 6pm). No spicy, cheesy, or oily foods. Low GI food, 3 oz. protein, greens or corn.
o A fruit smoothie by 7pm
o In bed by 9pm
Sunday 7/23
o 02:30 Wake up
o 03:30 Eat 4 waffles with 2 tablespoons maples syrup (~600 calories)
o Sip Gatorade. Check pee color.
o Shower (I know… I’m going to swim first, it just helps me to wake up)
o Put on timing chip, speedo, rash guard, warm-up pants, hat, and IronTeam jacket.
o 04:30 Walk down to transition
o Tape 8 GU packets to the top tube of my bike.
o Add to my bike.
o Saddle bag with flat kit and two tubes
o Tire
o 2 bottles Gatorade Endurance
o 1 bottle water
o Endurolytes
o Baby wipes (porta potty baby!)
o Frame pump
o Pump up tires

o SWIM: Start off to the right and let the field start (about 30 seconds). Go easy first length (one side). Get into a rhythm. Focus on good form. Good form means better energy economy. Kick the last 100 yards before transition.

o T1: Get naked. Put on bike shorts and tri-singlet. Put on chamois butt’r (lubrication for the shorts. Body glide on the nipples and underarms. Gloves, sunglasses, helmet, socks, shoes.

o BIKE: Start slow. If the pace feels comfortable, then back off a little more. I plan on doing this for the first 30 miles or until my heart rate comes down. Start hydrating with water ~15-30 minutes after T1. I want to keep my cadence at 80 to100 rpm. I will think about going faster on the last 30 miles. The nutrition plan is:
o Gatorade Endurance: every 15 minutes or as needed.
o GU: Every 45 minutes (starting 45 minutes after T1) or as needed. Take this with water, not Gatorade.
o Endurolytes: As needed

o T2: Change out of bike shorts into tri-shorts. Chamois butt’r (because it feels good). Body glide on nipples and underarms. Do not run out with helmet! Put on shoes. Grab baby wipes and a canister of Endurolytes. GO!

o Run: Start by run/walking (4 minute run/2 minute walk). Do this until I fall into a good rhythm. Even if I am feeling good, I should hold off on doing any real running until the second loop. When mile 18 hits, let it all out.

So that’s the plan. It ain’t set in stone. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

My IronMan Hat

Check it out! A good friend of mine at work, Keri, knit me this hat... my "IronMan Hat." It's got all the triathlon distances on it (in case you or I forget).

 
 

... and it goes well with all of my existing triathlon gear!
  Posted by Picasa

Monday, June 26, 2006

The Danville Triple BRICK! Flippin' HOT! 98°F

This past Sunday (6/25/06) was the last big training before IronMan. It was the Triple BRICK. Just to refresh your memory, a "BRICK" is a bike ride followed by a run. As the name implies, we were going to do a BRICK three times.

Each BRICK consisted of a 30 mile bike ride followed by a 50 minute run. The idea behind this training was to give us a long steady effort in less-than-ideal coniditions... which is why Danville was the venue of choice. Luckily for us, it was cooler than forecasted. It was only 98°F instead of the 105°F that I had been dreading all week. It was practically snowing.

If you read my Berryessa report, then you know that I was dehydrated... severely. This weighed heavily in my mind as I prepared for this weekend. Being the last big training before IronMan, this would be my last big test. I wanted to do well.

I started to prepare on Wednesday. I tried to take in more water and salt than normal. This meant putting more salt on my food, and drinking 1-2 quarts of Gatorade. I also eliminated caffeine from my diet, except for what trace amounts are found in my daily chocolate fix.

By Thursday, I had elminated dairy from my diet. Not that I don't like dairy, it's just that it sometimes makes me feel like it slows down my digestion. I needed a fast metabolism for the race.

Friday would be the most important day in terms of nutrition. It typically takes 24 hours for food to completely digest. That means that the food that I was eating on Friday night would be the calories that I would be burning on Sunday. I loaded up on pasta, bread, and rice. I accompanied that with some protein... mainly beans and some meat. I topped off the night with a smoothie that had yogurt (to aid in digestion).

Saturday was all about keeping the calories and water that I had been storing topped off. Breakfast and lunch consisted of 2 meal replacement shakes which gave me a combined total of 1020 calories. I would snack on pretzels if I got hungry. Dinner was half a plate of brown rice, polenta, tomato, and some lean turkey. I finished this meal by 5pm. I topped this off with a smoothie (no yogurt) at 7pm. I was in bed by 9pm.

I weighed myself before I went to bed. On Wednesday I was 156 lb. I was now 163 lb. I attributed most of the weight gain to water, which is exactly what I wanted.

I woke up at 4am on Sunday and ate 4 waffles and 2 tablespoons of maples syrup, which was about 600 calories. I started to take in some water and Gatorade. A quick pee-color check showed that my urine was fairly clear. Good. I set my alarm again for 5:30am and went back to sleep.

By 6:30am I was on the road. I was sipping Gatorade to keep my fluid levels topped off.

My plan for this training was to start slow. I wanted to take the first two BRICKs easy, and then give it all I got on the third BRICK. This was unlike what I had been doing all season. For most of the season, I would start out as fast as I could go, and then see what happens... or like Coach Alex said, "Go till you blow."

My plan for race nutrition was to drink Gatorade Endurance every 15 minutes or as needed. I would take a GU every 45 minutes or as needed (with water). I would take in Endurolytes as needed (if I felt any cramps).

We started at 8am. The first bike was easy. We were all paced at about 15 mph. We were instructed to not pass Coach Wayne. I tried to go slower. The "going slower" part wasn't hard since my bladder was full... it was hard to pedal. It felt like I had a 2-ton weight on my bladder. Luckily, Susan, Peter, and myself found a gas station. My pee was clear... hydration wasn't going to be a problem. The first bike was finished in about 2 hours.

The first run was also easy (it would get more difficult as the day wore on and the temperature would increase). I figured I was running at about 8 minutes/mile. This was too fast for my strategy, so I walked a few times for about 2 minutes each.

On the second bike, we were instructed to not pass Coach Wayne until half way through. I was still trying to go slow. I was the first one to reach Wayne, followed by the "Fast Bike Guys" on the team. I passed Wayne and still tried to remain slow. That thought of going slow quickly left my head as Cesar passed me like I was standing still. Instinctively, I gave chase.

I have to admit, it was fun chasing him. Damn he's fast. I kept up with him for several miles until good sense once again entered my brain, and I slowed down. "This is not part of the race," I would tell myself. "This is the warm up." "The race is the last BRICK." So I slowed down. I was averaging about 16 mph for the two bike portions combined.

The second run was hard. It was now close to 2pm. There was very little wind. I changed to run/walk stategy and ran 4 minutes followed by a 2 minute walk.

Maybe it was my transitions, but by the time the third bike loop started, I was all alone. I figured this would be a good test... there was nobody to pace me... just me.

I got to the water stop and they informed me that I was the first one there. I kept looking back, expecting that somebody was going to catch me eventually.

BTW, the people at the water stop rocked! They had ice-cold towels! That was definitely a boost.

By this time, the Gatorade was tasting gross. Too much sweet for me. On top of that, my calf started to cramp. I gave up on the Gatorade and opted for Endurolytes and water. The cramps went away.

I kept looking back, but I never did see anybody. The next time I saw somebody was on the way back out of the loop when I saw Mo who shouted, "Holy Sh*t, you're on fire!" It felt good!

I made it back to the transition for the last run. This was it. It was all or nothing. I ran 10 minutes, and walked 5 minutes, ran 15, walked 2, ran the rest of the way in. I finished 8 hours 34 minutes... and for the first time, I finished first.

Now finishing first wasn't such a big deal because it was first. Afterall, it was training and not a race. It was such a big deal because the last time I did the Triple Brick, about 2 years and 35 lb. ago, I finished last.

My total run time was 2 hours 30 minutes for about 12-13 miles. My total time in the saddle was 5 hours 32 minutes for 89 miles (16 mph average). That leaves 32 minutes for transitions (about 10 minutes each). I consumed 1400 calories on the bike and run. After a post-race turkey sandwich and a half-gallon of water, I weighed 155 lb.

It was good day. Now I have to turn my attention to Lake Placid. July 23, 2006. Hopefully, I can build upon the things I learned today.



This is a picture that Raf took just after I finished the Triple BRICK. Sorry about the open shirt... it was flippin' hot! Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Last long run. One month to IronMan!!!



This past Sunday was the last long run of the training schedule before IronMan. I ran 17.24 miles in 2 hours and 59 minutes along the Contra Costa Canal Trail.

Up until now, I had been worrying about my nutrition during the race. I've tried Perpetuem, HEED, HEED + Protein, and Spiz. They all seem to do well in moderation. For some people, these product work. For me, there is a fine line between doing well and stomach cramps.

So now I'm simplifying. I understand that Gatorade Endurance and GU gels will be on the course in Lake Placid. During my run on Sunday, I used only Gatorade Endurance. You know what? I feel great. Now I have to try GU. The coming weekend I have a long 9 hour workout... that is when I'll try the GU. If it works, then that would make my life so much simpler... it'll be less for me to bring to NY.

THERE IS ONLY ONE MONTH LEFT TO IRONMAN!!!

Time to DONATE...www.IronMel.com

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Lake Berryessa Training Weekend

We had a training at Lake Berryessa from June 9-11. The training was supposed to simulate some of the race day conditions. We started Saturday with a 2 mile swim. This was followed by a 100 mile bike ride through some really hilly roads and some pretty dry heat (mid-80s). On Sunday we would have a 13.1 mile run.

My swim went very well. I finished the 2 miles in about 57 minutes, which is good for me.
 
The bike also started well. I just got some new "faster" wheels, and I was anxious to try them out. I felt light, fast, and speedy. I would say for the first 30 miles, I was averaging about 15-17 mph including the hills.

BTW, the hills weren't the only thing hard about the course... there were also stream crossings.

Anyhow, after about 30 miles, I felt like somebody had just pulled the plug on me. I couldn't seem to go any faster than 8 mph. Pretty soon all of the people that I had passed were passing me. I thought I was psyching myself out, but I could not will my body to go faster.

At about mile 40, there was a Shell station, so I decided to go to the bathroom. I had been hydrating as planned (or so I thought), but oddly enough, I really did not have to pee. Usually by this point, if I was well hydrated, I should have to. Urine color should be clear to mildly yellow. Mine was nuclear yellow. 


I got back on the bike and headed for the next water stop at mile 45. The awesome TNT volunteers asked how I was doing, to which I replied that I had been better. I was "Bonking" big time. They iced me down, and gave me fluids. A few coaches came up to me and noted that my skin was completely dry. Coach Alex told me, "I've seen you look much better than this."

Coach Tom suggested that I call it a day. I was fine with that.

I did not do the run the next day either.

So what happened. Well, I can track it all the way back to Wednesday. On our way home back from San Diego (see Rock 'n' Roll report) we stopped to get something to eat. I had some French onion soup. Ever since then, food was going through me... perhaps a bit of food poisoning? My inability to keep food down also inhibited my fluid uptake.

It took me until Monday to finally feel like I was rehydrated.

This is definitely not the scenario I want at IronMan.

I'm a little paranoid about food now. If I'm not cooking my own food, then I definitely want to see the food prepared.

Wish me luck. And if you haven't already, please donate... www.IronMel.com

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Race Report: Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon- San Diego

I ran the Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon in San Diego on June 4, 2006. This is the 4th time that I’ve done this race. Of all the venues I have run, this one by far has the best support. My friend Ron also ran the marathon, which made the race even more fun.  Posted by Picasa

Since my IronMan race is so close (July 23, 2006), I promised the coaches that I would not run the entire race. Instead, the intention was to run 13.1 miles, walk 12.1 miles, and then run the last mile (so that I look good for the cameras). I got the approval, just before the race, to run/walk the last 13.1 miles… walking 0.75 miles and running 0.25 miles. I was happy to hear that.

The official results show that I crossed the finish line at 5 hours and 24 minutes. Here are the unofficial results (as shown by my watch).
• Half-marathon: 1 hour 58 minutes
• Marathon: 5 hours

So where did the other 24 minutes go? Read on…

The first half was pretty fun. Ron is pretty impressive. He runs a lot faster now than I remember from college. We played a game that was part cat and mouse and part free-running. We were weaving in and out of race walkers just trying to keep up with each other. Luckily for me, Ron was easy to spot with his school-bus-yellow shirt. I on the other hand, with my purple singlet, blended in with the other Team-In-Training participants running the race.

BTW, Team-In-Training is abbreviated as “TNT.” Ron would periodically yell, “Go T-I-T!” You just had to laugh… especially since I never realized it before.

Around mile 7, I had to really go to the bathroom. That would be Number 2. I waited in line at the porta potty while Ron took my picture. He would yell things like, “Rommel, do you gotta take a dump?!” or “Why don’t you just crap in your pants like that lady at the Boston Marathon?” We waited for 10 minutes. When I finally got in the porta potty, Ron started banging on the porta potty. I swear, he scared it back in, because all that happened was that I passed gas. But I did feel better.

So we kept running. I lost Ron somewhere on the hill around mile 9. All the while, my stomach was hurting, but I figured that could just wait until after the halfway point.

I finally saw Ron again around 13.5 miles. I had already started the walking portion of my race when he caught up to me. I told him to go on since I wasn’t supposed to run flat out. I think he had a good race and finished in under 5 hours.

I would walk briskly for 10 minutes, then run to the next mile marker. This allowed me to average about 13-14 minutes per mile. I found this to be tough for a few reasons.
• Restraint: my body wanted to run
• The weather: it was uncharacteristically cold, so my muscles started to get tight. I had to stop a few times to stretch.

So where did I lose the other 14 minutes?

I lost the other 14 minutes at Mile 14. It was there that I unleashed something unholy in the porta potty.

You may be wondering at this point (or earlier in the report) why am I being so crude… It is so that you can learn from my mistake. Let this lesson become a part of you, and that is this fact. DO NOT eat Cajun Chicken Pasta with a Cream Sauce the night before a race!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

You never know where the road will lead you...

I'm here in Chicago for a conference... have some down time, and I started to reflect on the bike ride I took this past Saturday.

The bike ride was supposed to be for 45 miles. Admittedly, I intended to do 60 miles... 3 loops on the Three Bears route (sorry coach). Now the "Three Bears" is a route near my house that happens on Bear Creek Road that has three monster climbs, baby bear, mama bear, and papa bear.

It was getting late in the day, and every excuse in my head was coming up why the 2nd loop should be my last. "I'm tired." "The workout said 45 miles." I don't know why, but I went ahead and started the 3rd loop. No particular reason.

Along the way, at Papa Bear, a runner stopped me. He had apparently gotten lost on the trails, and had gotten turned around. He hurt his knee, and his mother was waiting for him a few miles up the road. It was a good 4 miles for him to run, but he looked like he was in no shape to run. It was getting dark too. I told him that I would go ahead and find his mother and have her pick him up.

I went around for awhile, until I finally did find his mother. It all ended up well for him, and I did 60 miles.

What would have happened if I didn't do that 3rd loop? So I guess the point of the story is... Finish your workouts!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Wildflower Half-Ironman

April 7-9, the team headed out to San Antonio Lake to do the fabled Wildflower Long Course... which is a half-iron distance course (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run).

We arrived in San Antonio Lake on Friday and were greeted with lots of rain and wind. It looked like an ominous sign for the following day's race. I on the other hand was optimistic that conditions were going to be rain-free (that and the weather forecast said no rain).

Saturday (race day) didn't start out as expected... actually quite unexpected. There was a thick layer of fog everywhere. With the limited visibility, we could not do the swim as planned. There simply were not enough water craft to monitor all the people in the water. The swim was shortened and we did laps for 30 minutes. I estimate that we did 1200-1600 yards total. I am assuming that I would have finished the swim portion in about 45 minutes but will call it 1 hour.


Posted by Picasa


After a quick transition to the bike, we were off to tackle the fog once again and the "Nasty Grade." The first 30 minutes of the bike was fast, but it was hindered by the accumulation of condensate on my glasses. I would wipe it away every minute or so with my gloves. Slowly, the fog did burn off and we had sunlight!

The bike course consists of rolling hills and Nasty Grade. Nasty Grade is a 3 mile climb that rises 1000 ft. What's worse is that it comes at around mile 45. This is the part of the course where the most speed is lost. However, after having done the courses around the Bay Area, Nasty Grade didn't seem that nasty.

Now I had done this course before, but I felt much lighter, faster, and nimble on the bike. My average speed on the bike course was 16.23 mph with a finishing time of 3:45. The last time I did the course I finished in about 5 hours.

The run, which up until now had been my strongest event, was the most difficult. Due to nutrition problems on the bike, I was having pretty bad stomach cramps for the whole 13.1 miles. Add a really hilly trail run, and that equals a mediocre run day. I walked a bit, and ran where I could. If I pushed the run, I felt like I was on the edge of vomitting. I finished the run in 3 hours.

With the 1 hour assumed for the swim, I finished the course in 7:45. The last time I did the course, I finished in 10:15. That's a 2:30 improvement. To say that I am happy with the outcome would be a severe understatement. Just think about what might have happened if my nutrition wasn't out of whack.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Rommel's soapbox on dieting

A few people have asked me recently about my diet. I don't have a good name for it yet, but you can call it the IronMel diet for now. The following is a little something I wrote about a month ago. It was actually a personal entry, but I'll make it public now since people have asked (it isn't that personal :) Enjoy.
=================================================================

...Ahem... allow me to stand on my soapbox for a moment...

So this journey started in October 2005. At the time, I was at 182 lb.

Today I'm at 163 lb. That's my high school wrestling weight (15 years ago).

That's a total of 52 lb loss since my first attempt at the IronMan distance back in 2004.

My relatives and friends keep asking me what I'm doing to lose so much weight.

"Are you doing the low-carb thing?"
"You stopped eating rice, right?"

No, no, no, no, NO!!!!

For starters, I'm Filipino. I love rice. Call it stereotypical, but for me, it's just plain true. I also like bread. Low-carb, shmo-carb, it's pretty much bull-ony to me. So what did I do? Quite simply, I redefined the word, "Diet."

Let's face it, we've all been on a diet at one point, right? It usually meant decreasing or elminating the intake of something that you like (sweets, carbs, meat, fat, etc.). Then it would be combined with some kind of drastic exercise plan, causing you to go from sedentary to marathon in 3 weeks. Sound familiar? It does to me, because I was there.

What happened? It was difficult to sustain, because there is no joy in it. So you went right back to the same foods that were bad (but now you eat more of it). You stop exercising, because (insert lame excuse here...such as too much work, fatigue, pain, people weren't meant to run, etc.).

Here's what a diet is to me. A diet is a way of eating that I'm willing to stick with for the REST OF MY LIFE! Simple. That means that I eat carbs, protein, fat, and fiber. I'm full all the time. I eat 5 to 7 times a day. I just don't stuff myself.

One other criteria that I have is that I opt for quality food. That means no partially hydrogenated oil, no high-fructose corn syrup. I tend to eat more natural food. I look at it this way... if I can't recreate it in my kitchen, then I won't eat it.

This is what my typical daily diet looks like.
  • 5:00 am: Bowl of oatmeal (something high in fiber to keep me full. I tend to go with Irish, or Scottish Oats... I believe they are also call Steel Cut)
  • 8:00 am: Some fruit and/or nuts (tend to be dried)
  • 10:00 am: half a bagel or cliff bar. Sometimes a piece of chocolate (dark).
  • 12:00 pm: Sandwich and soup.
  • 3:00 pm: Fruit, candy, just something to wake up my brain
  • 7:00 pm: Dinner. Half a plate of rice, 1/4 plate meat, 1/4 plate of vegetables
  • 9:00 pm: Nachos (good food to watch the Sharks play)

There are variations, such as a Cliff bar instead of fruit and nuts... or juice... or a small oatmeal cookie... or...

I workout 3-6 days a week. Even if it just means walking for an hour. For me, it usually means running from building to building at work.

I welcome any comments on my thoughts here. I'm sure people will think that I'm full of it, and they are certainly welcome to their opinions. I just know what is working for me.

Here's to your health!

I'm getting off my soapbox now.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Reality Check... 4 months left to IronMan

I made the stark realization last night that there is only 4 months left before the IronMan. It just seemed to creep up on my so silently. I personally started training almost a year ago, while the team started training in October. Even with the headstart, I have a feeling that borders on excitement and vomitting... but then I remember why I'm doing this.

Why am I doing an IronMan?
  • I am trying to raise awareness of leukemia, lymphoma, and other blood cancers. I know that me suffering through an endurance race has nothing to do with curing cancer directly, but the process itself is magic. When people ask me why I would even think travelling 140.6 miles on my own power, I am happy to tell them that I am raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
  • There are people who would love to do what I'm doing, but by no choice of their own, they cannot. I have the choice, so I do.
  • I DNF'ed in 2004 at Vineman (Did Not Finish). I was short about 8 miles. I want to finish.
  • I want to be a good role model for my son.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Where am I now?

I started the 2004 IronMan season at 215 lb.

I started the 2006 IronMan season at 182 lb.

Now I am at 163 lb. That's my high school wrestling weight from 15 years ago.

I've dropped at least 6 inches off my waist.

I'm looking forward to a great race in Lake Placid.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Danville DOUBLE BRICK

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The team did a double brick in Danville this past Sunday (2/19). What's a BRICK? I'm not really sure what it stands for, but I think it means Bike Run In Combo Kinda. Essentially it is workout in which you bike then run.

Now I know that it seems simplistic, but to those of you who have ever biked really hard, then decided to run right afterwards, then you'll know exactly what I mean. The muscles emphasized in each discipline are different. The bike uses more quads whereas the run uses more hamstring. They are two opposing muscle groups... which feels like your muscles are fighting each other.

The best way that I can describe the experience is that it feels like I'm holding in my pee.

We biked on trainers for about 80 minutes. That was followed by a 40 minute run. Then we got right back on our bikes for a 29 mile ride though rolling hills in Danville. Then we went for another 40 minute run.

It was an easy 4.5 hour day of training. Of course this is nothing compared to 17 hours at IronMan!

Be sure to donate! www.IronMel.com

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Louie Tri

Just wanted to share some pictures from the Louie Bonpua Memorial Triathlon. Posted by Picasa

Friday, February 10, 2006

Train, sleep, work, repeat...

Been pretty busy. This past weekend was the first in about a month in which I did not have to go to work. On top of that, I got sick. It wasn't anything tragic, though I did lose my voice. It's a respiratory illness, so I have shyed away from my normal swim schedule of Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

I did go to my swim workout the past Wednesday. While it wasn't a huge mistake, it might have been a bit premature. My form felt awkward. I also think that being out in the water aggrevated my cold.

I did a long run last weekend with the team up at Inspiration Point. It was a 8.5 mile rolling hill run. I finished it in 78 minutes.

And I'm tired...

Oh waah.... get me a waahmbulance.

In spite of the complaining, I am so glad to be here. Back in the winter of 2002, when I did my first event with TNT, Coach Al put it all in perspective. This is what he said (and I'm paraphrasing a bit):

"It's cold. It's rainy. It's windy. And it's 5 am. But remember this. You made the choice to come out today. There are others, who are not able to make that choice. People who are ill cannot make this choice. They would gladly switch places with you, if it only meant that they can feel the wind on their back, the rain on their faces, and to be a little cold. It would mean that they are alive."

I am thankful for this opportunity.

Train, sleep, work, repeat...

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Louie Bonpua Memorial Triathlon

This past Sunday was the 5th annual Louie Bonpua Memorial Triathlon at Treasure Island (near the Bay Bridge between Oakland and San Francisco). The triathlon is a day for the entire IronTeam to train, and more importantly, to remember why we do what we do as we celebrate the life of a true IronMan... Louie Bonpua.

Louie was an IronTeam participant. He finished IronMan Canada in 2001 with only 3.5 minutes left before the official cutoff. That fact makes him remarkable. But to those who know would say that him finishing was a miracle. Louie had leukemia.

He tried to remain upbeat in with his disease, but it eventually caught up to him. Shortly after IronMan Canada 2001, he set his sites on IronMan Canada 2002. He would never race again. In January 2002, his condition accelerated, and his end was near. His downturn happened 2 weeks before he was supposed to carry the Olympic Torch as the relay made its way through San Francisco.

Some would say that he willed himself to stay alive just so that he could be part of that Olympic moment. He also had some help from friends that "broke him out" of the hospital. He pulled up to the Golden Gate Bridge in an ambulance. His frail body seemed to have new life, though he must have been in tremendous pain. He carried the torch for 0.2 miles... on his own power.

After he passed the torch, he got back into the ambulance and made his way back to the hospital. Later that night, he would slip into a coma. He died 2 days later.

Louie lived like we should all hope to live our own lives; to the fullest. I have never personally met Louie, but I feel like he is there with me on the swim, the bike, the run. There are times when I feel like quitting, but I know that Louie wouldn't have... so I don't either.

If you would like to read Louie's personal story, in his own words, visit his website at www.shrimplouie.com.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Rain, Hail, Biking, Swimming

Today, the team met at Treasure Island for a nice morning open water swim. Then we spinned on our bikes for 1 hour followed by 30 minutes of riding followed by 30 minutes of spinning.

Did I mention that it was frickin' cold? It is a downright miserable day in the San Francisco Bay Area. We were poured on several times, and at one point, it was hailing. The swim was actually one of the warmest parts of the workout. I don't know how cold it was, but the weather forecaster said to expect upper 40's and 50's.

It wasn't too bad. I'd do it again!

Peace!
Rommel

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Stress and scheduling

Okay, it's starting to get to me.

I love the workouts. I love to train. Similarly (but to a lesser a degree) I like to work. I just got a butt-load of work at my job. Don't get me wrong, the project is rewarding, but a bit overwhelming.

But then, that's life... it's like an IronMan. It isn't easy. Along the way, you will have challenges. How do you deal with them? There's a finish line out there. Are you willing to do what it takes to get there?

-"I did a marathon to take on something that was bigger than myself. In the end, it was never really big at all... I just always felt smaller than I really was"-- Rommel

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Happy New Year!

It's been difficult to maintain the BLOG over the vacation, but rest assured, I've been training. I ran, swam, and biked over the holiday. I was also able to catch up on some much needed rest.

Just a few things I wanted to get out of my system... ahem...

Cal won the Las Vegas Bowl!!! GO BEARS!

also... GO SHARKS!!!

I recently made a challenge to my friends. 3 out of the past 4 years, I have run the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon in San Diego. I'm running this year, and I have invited my friends to come along. I thought it might be fun to hang out in San Diego together... why not throw in some mutual suffering and pain!

Some of them are in the same boat as a lot of people... they have never run a marathon. Surprisingly, it doesn't take as much prep time as one might imagine. In as little as 16 weeks (2-3 training sessions per week), you could be race ready to run 26.2 miles. You may not run every bit of it, but you can travel the entire 26.2 miles by foot.

My wife is a perfect example. When we trained for the Mardi Gras Half-marathon back in '02, she had not run more than 1 mile in her whole life. 3 months later, we are crossing the finish line in New Orleans... 13.1 miles. We did Rock 'n' Roll a few months later... 26.2 miles!

I have found some good training schedules at www.RunnersWorld.com. There are others on the internet, but I'm not sure what they are. Curious? Interested? Check it out. If you need some extra motivation, train with a team, such as www.teamintraining.com. You get fit, and raise money for a good cause.

Shameless plug... you could always donate money to my fundraising. See the link at the right, or go to www.IronMel.com.