Archive for July, 2011

Sunday was a big day.

Not only was it my 44th birthday and first birthday as a Dad, but it was the day when this marathoner would become a triathlete.

Jack’s Generic Triathlon or JGT as the folks at Jack & Adams refer to it, was to kick off in New Braunfels, TX at 8:00 a.m. sharp.  At 8:18 I would wade into the water for the Men’s 40-44 year old age group wave along with 63 other athletes.  The event called for a 500 Meter Swim, 13.8 mile bike and 3.1 mile run.

All distances I have covered time and time again during training, but never back to back to back.  I was ready.  I was confident.

I was also scared sh#%less standing in that water before the horn sounded.  But we are getting ahead of ourselves a bit.  Afterall, this is our first triathlon race report.  I’m better than that.  You deserve all the details.


I had an hour long drive more or less to the race site at the Texas Ski Ranch and I wanted to get there shortly after they opened the gates so I could get a good transition spot for my bike.  I was hoping to be near the bike out, bike in area so I would not have to run very far in my bike shoes.  This meant a 4:10 a.m. alarm clock to pack up my cooler and make my way down to New Braunfels arriving at 5:45 a.m. when the parking lot opened.

I had packed my gear the day before, everything was looking good, until I went to put my bike in the truck.

Flat back tire.

Really?  Really.  Not the omen I was looking for.

I quickly phoned my friend and cycling guru Ed and asked if I could swing by and try to get to the bottom of why the tire wouldn’t hold air when I pumped it.  I would be racing on Ed’s Zipp carbon fiber wheels on Sunday – I didn’t want anyone touching them but him.  We discovered that the stem on the back tire was bad and replaced the tube.  No muss, no fuss we were back in action.

Ed gave me a few last minute tips and I was ready for the big day.

After a pretty restless night of sleep I woke to the sound of my alarm, got into my TRI gear, grabbed my bagel, power bar, bike bottle that I had filled with Gatorade and frozen the previous night and a few last minute items.  I left the neighborhood and made my way down to the ski ranch.  Very little traffic, no issues, arrived on-site about 5 minutes early.  Perfect.

Setting Up:

I got body marked with my Race Number 89 on both arms and my age on my left calf “44”.  I had only been awake about 2 hours and already I was a year older.  I was able to score a great spot, right on the end of the row for my bike very close to the exit/entrance to the bike course.  I got my gear laid out according to plan and met some of the friendliest athletes I had ever met at an event before.

An entirely different vibe than a typical large running event, where there is a lot of tension and a lot of quiet runners.  This was much more festive.  Much more family-like if that makes sense.  Everyone was there to lend a hand, give some advice and even compliment me on my transition area for being a first-timer.

Transition Area - All Set

After an hour or so it was time to get in line for the final porta-poty break and make it down to the water for the national anthem.  After the announcements were made and the Star Spangled Banner was played live on Acoustic Guitar from the stage it was time for the Open Division to kick things off at 8:00 a.m. sharp.

18 minutes to go time.

The Swim:

O.K., here’s the part where I’m starting to feel scared to death.  I know you’ve been looking forward to this.

Starting line of the Boston Marathon?  Piece of cake.

First time chasing 2:59:59 at this February’s Austin Marathon?  Not a problem.

But staring out at the water for those 500 Meters around the island and back to shore on the small lake.  Pretty scary.

It was not the distance at all that I was worried about.  I had swam 2,250 meters continuously out on the Quarry Lake on several occasions without stopping.  It was the element of swimming in a crowd, throwing elbows and having other athletes literally swim over you on the way to the first buoy.  It is every man for himself out there and it really lends a lot of stress to the environment.

To top things off the TX Ski Ranch lake is very shallow.   Only 9-10 feet at its deepest.  This means that the swimming churns up the silt bottom of the lake.  The water is essentially black.  you cannot see a single foot in front of your eyes under water.  Every foot, arm or elbow that strikes you is a complete surprise.  It is impossible to see anything coming.  You are swimming entirely by feel.

Rookie in the water

I decided I would start in the middle of the pack and try to stay right there.  As the horn sounded we were on our way and the chaos of the open water swim began.  I fell into a pretty solid rhythm for about 30-40 meters when I could not reach out fully without hitting a swimmer in front of me.

I tried to swim slightly right or left, but there was traffic everywhere.  No clean water to be found.  I did the best I could to stay calm, let the swimmers go in front of me and tried again.  There was a swimmer on my right that kept swimming into me angling for the buoy.  We would hit arms and shoulders a half-dozen times before we reached the 200 meter mark.

I did a good job keeping my composure, never needed to break stroke and my sighting was solid, but I couldn’t really “swim” as hard as I was hoping to.  I knew I was going slower than I had hoped.

We made the turn around the island and things got a bit more open.  That signaled to me I had simply fallen back from the pack, but I stuck with it and kept on pulling.  With about 100 meters to go I had caught up to a group of swimmers and things got congested again.  I navigated to the buoys and finally saw the beach ahead of me with volunteers helping the athletes out of the water.  I got to my feet and started to pull off my goggles and swim cap.

Holy Moly

I had no idea what my time was, I only knew that it was time to get up to transition and get on that bike.  Ed was there at the water exit and told me to get it in gear.  It was just the jolt I needed to get moving and I started to run barefoot up into the bike area.  I saw Dawn and Landry on my left as I got underway and Dawn was able to snap a quick photo.

11:53 Swim Time. 374th out of 626 Athletes.
It is probably a good thing that I swam without my watch as I had no idea how fast my swim was.  Or how slow I guess I should say.  I was hoping to get out of the water in 11 minutes or less.  I was out in 11:53.  I was in 374th place out of the water.  Man did I have some work to do.
Tranistion 1:
I found my bike with no trouble at all.  I got on my socks and shoes.  Strapped my Garmin on my wrist.  Turned on my bike computer, put on my glasses and helmet and tucked my gels into my shorts. 
I pulled the bike down and ran out onto the bike course.  All in 1 minute and 52 seconds.  I was hoping to be out in 2 minutes or less.  Just about spot on perfect.
The Bike:
I made it to the mount line, threw my leg over the bike, clipped in and started hammering away.  The course was straight uphill out of the ski ranch and I could see a ton of cyclists up ahead of me.  It was time to make up some time on the swimmers.

Bike Mount

I flew through the gears and powered to the top, flying by numerous athletes on the way up.  I was looking at their calves as I passed them, searching for my competitors from the 40-44 age group.  The first three miles flew by on the bike as I was recovered now from the swim and starting to churn those leg muscles as hard as I could go.
It seemed like I was gobbling up the course in big chunks, riding in the passing lane mile after mile chipping away at the leaders. 
A 3:00 minute mile on the bike is equivilant to riding 20 miles per hour.  My opening 7 miles were at 2:49, 2:32, 2:34, 2:27, 2:49, 2:28, 2:23 before we hit the second major hill on the course.  It would be uphill for the next several miles and my splits were:  3:33, 3:22, 3:19, 3:35, 3:12 until we reached the final pinacle of the course for a hard right turn back downhill to the ski ranch.
I hammered away at the pedals and covered the final mile in 1:57, well over 30 miles per hour hitting a new top speed for me of 36.9 at one point.
I hit the dismount line and felt like I had put together a very solid bike.
My time was 39:17 – the 36th fastest time of all the competitors, averaging 21.1 mph.
Transition 2:
I ran back into the transition area, racked my bike and Ed told me that I was in about 12th place in my age group.  I had made up a lot of time from the swim, but the run course was not going to be long enough for me to catch the really top age-groupers.  I switched into my run shoes, got a quick sip of gatorade, snapped on my bib number belt and hit the course. 
Transition time of 1:08.  Very solid.
The Run:
Finally, the run.  I felt strong heading out, I just needed to get my legs back under me and lengthen out my stride.  After a short run through a field at the Ski Ranch, we made it onto the road of the run course.  An out and back with a turnaround at the top of a small hill.  Straight shot, only one turn and plenty runners up ahead to reel in.
I was hoping to run 3:15 half miles which would put me right at 6:30 pace.  Not my typical 5K pace, which is closer to 6:10, but I don’t usually warm up with a 500 Meter Swim and 13.8 mile bike ride before a 5K.  The sun was high in the sky as it was now close to 9:30 in the morning, the temperature was pushing 90 degrees and I was feeling it.  I just focused on the runners ahead of me and picked them off one by one.
My first four half-mile splits were:  3:02, 3:11, 3:13, 3:19.  I was just about where I wanted to be with one mile to go.
I hit the final water station and poured the cup over my head to cool me off.  There was one more small hill to get up and over and then the race was all but over.  Mile 2.5 came in at 3:16.  Time to go. 
I hit the last turn and sped around the lake.  I could feel a runner on my left shoulder, no clue at all what age group he was in, but it was time to go into my kick anyway.  Might as well do it now I thought.

Finally, something I know how to do

His footsteps fell away and I closed with a final 1/2 mile in 3:08.
My total run time was 19:11.  The fastest overall run time in the 40-44 age group and the 6th fastest time of any competitor. 
The Finish:
After making my way through the chute I found Ed, Tiffany, Dawn and Landry.  The post-race party of hamburgers, New Belgium beer and various other drinks and snacks was getting underway.  One of the most festive post-race events I have ever been a part of.
They posted results after a half-hour or so and  I learned my fate.
Total Time of:  1:13:23
8th place Men 40-44
38th place overall
I left the water in 374th place and caught all but 37 competitors.
I would like to say that I was disappointed in my swim time and that I should have done better, but honestly, the number I had in my mind before the race started was 1:15:00.
If I could finish my first TRI in 1:15 or better, I was going to call that a win.  A big win.
Having better more experienced triathletes beat me on Sunday was supposed to happen.  There would have been something seriously wrong if I found myself on the podium (1st, 2nd or 3rd) in my first event in my age group.
I learned quite a few lessons on Sunday.  Lessons that are going to pay huge dividends when I show up for my next event of this kind.  The first is that I simply need to keep swimming.  A lot.   I have a lot of room for improvement, and just like running, it is going to take hard work and dedication to get there.  There are no short cuts or magic beans from a bean stalk that are going to help me.
I have to do it.  Nobody else.
I also learned that we’re pretty dangerous when it comes down to the bike and the run.  If we continue to work on the bike and continue to focus on our speed work and hill training, the sky is the limit for us.
Lastly, I learned that being a 44 year-old new Dad is a pretty amazing gig.
I’ve got a beautiful, loving, understanding and amazing wife who follows me through all this craziness through thick and thin.  Never asking me why I choose to do these somewhat crazy things.  I think she knows why I do it better than I do. 
I’ve also got the absolute coolest 11 month old little girl who thinks I’m pretty amazing whether I am racing or I’m making funny faces at her at the dinner table.
No matter what, fast or slow, with those two ladies, it’s impossible for me to lose.
Oh yeah, and I learned that I’m a triathlete today.
Pretty darn good birthday if you ask me.

Thursday of race week is always one of my favorite training days.

The nerves aren’t too bad yet, and you can still get out there and get in a quality workout without worrying too much about leaving your “race legs” out on the training course.

For Sunday’s Triathlon, I will be resting entirely on Friday and just running a very short 2-mile shakeout run on Saturday morning.  Just enough to remind the leg muscles that we have some work to do this weekend, but not too long or too intense to rob us of any race-day mojo.

With the decreased activity on Friday and Saturday my mind will instead start going into overdrive.

Always a bad thing.

I will be pouring over the course maps for the swim, bike and run.  Planning my transition layout for my Towels, helmet, glasses, GPS watch, socks, bike shoes, race number belt, racing flats and making sure everything in our transition bag that we could possibly need has been packed.

I will be busy worrying about all kinds of things – most of which are outside of my control such as the weather, the chance of a flat tire, where my rack space will be in the transition area, how far I will have to run to get on and off of my bike, and of course, the swim.

Will I get clean water or will I have to fight my way through the crowd to the first buoy.  Will my sighting be sound or will I end up off course, swimming further than needed and losing precious time.

Even the 3.1 mile run portion of the event will provide me with some things to fixate on, namely what my pace strategy should be.  I have run 17 5K’s in the last 14 months.  I am more than familiar with that race and distance.

But I have never run one immediately coming off of the bike following a 500 Meter Swim.

My usual strategy of dropping an opening mile of 5:50-5:55, a middle mile between 6:10 and 6:20, with a 6:05-6:10 finish is not going to be possible on Sunday.

The smart move will be to lock in around 6:35-6:45 pace on the opening mile and then gradually ramp things up from there and close strong.  I may end up leaving some time on the course that way, but I would guard against a major meltdown over the final mile if I miscalculate and burn too much energy over the course of the first two events.

I have had a lot of success racing “smart” in the past, but have run my best times when I have thrown caution to the wind a bit and simply held on for dear life over the closing miles.  That seems to play to my strength as a runner – not falling off as much as some of my competitors when things get the toughest.

A hot day, sun beating down on the athletes after a 500 Meter Swim and 13.8 mile bike ride over the Texas rolling hillside.  Isn’t that exactly when I should put the hammer down and chase down my competitors?  Set a pace that they do not even think about trying to match?  Lay down sub 7:00 minute mile after mile and push hard through the finish?

Yep.  That’s the smart play after all.

I’m sure I will change my mind at least a dozen times between now and race morning – only truly knowing what I am going to do and what I am capable of when I get off of that bike and pull on my trusty Brooks ST4 race flats.

The same shoes that carried me to my half-marathon and marathon PR’s just a few months ago.

I hope there is at least one more great race left in those shoes.

But today I was able to head out onto the hills of Parmer Lane just as the sun was coming up for my final bike ride before race day.

Even after running back to back 8+ milers on Tuesday and Wednesday with a couple of swims thrown in as well I had a tremendous bike this morning.

15.02 miles in 40 minutes and 20 seconds.

I averaged over 22 mph for the ride while climbing more than 400 feet in elevation changes.

I have never, ever been faster on the bike.

With that training is complete for our first Triathlon.  Much like the marathoner who after their final training run before race day has to simply resign themselves to the fact that there is nothing left to do but race, that is where I am today.

I’ve done the work, prepared the best that I know how, hell – I even had to learn how to swim for this event.  I’m not sure too many of my competitors in the Male 40-44 year old age-group will be able to boast that claim on race morning.

Expectations?  I have a time goal that I am going to keep to myself as I’m not sure exactly how realistic it is given the litany of things that I do not know about this sport.  But I have a number that will make me smile, and another one that will make me frown just a bit – determined to work harder and get faster.

In the end I am going to be spending my 44th birthday with Dawn and Landry, compete with some great athletes and see where we stack up.  It’s going to be a big day on Sunday on a lot of different fronts.  Be sure to stop back after the weekend.  I have a feeling this next race report is one you won’t want to miss.

Happy trails!

Monday was a big day for little miss Landry.

Enough is enough - get this thing off me!

After approximately four months of wearing her cranial band for 23 hours a day, every day, she had her “Graduation” ceremony, taking off her helmet for the final time.

Landry in the technician's office

The purpose of the band was to help shape Landry’s still forming noggin, as one of the downsides of her being such a great little sleeper was that the back of her head developed a flat spot.  This is becoming more and more common today as the instructions are for babies to be placed on their backs to sleep instead of on their bellies as was the case when I was a little guy.

The thought is that by placing infants on their backs when they sleep will help reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death syndrome or SIDS.  Statistics and studies bear this out, but who really knows as that horrible phenomenon remains a mystery to the medical profession.

Landry was a great patient once again as the technicians placed a stocking mask over her face to take 3D images of her little round head.  They use these images to compare the progress she made over time.  Pretty interesting stuff actually.

Look at that round little noggin.

Mom and Dad are very excited to be done with the process of getting Landry in her helmet, out of it for baths, cleaning the inside of the band with alcohol, washing her hair every night and especially being careful about how much time Landry would be spending outside with her helmet on.

Due to the fact we are experiencing the hottest Austin Summer on record since the 1940’s, it has been tough to have Landry out for walks and outdoor activities.

But perhaps the most exciting news is that Landry will be starting swim lessons with Dad at Aqua Tots here in Austin next Thursday!

Landry is officially enrolled in the Tadpole class and will be taking lessons once a week with her soon-to-be triathlete Dad. 

Landry has always loved her bath time and her limited experiences with the pool and ocean, I’m betting that she loves her swim lessons and will hopefully take to learning how to swim a lot faster than her marathoner-Daddy did. 

Go Landry!  Exciting times right now as Daddy and daughter will both be trying something new this week.  I hope I remember to have as much fun as Landry does this Sunday when I look out onto the TX Ski Ranch Lake for that 500 Meter open water swim.

Like most runners and endurance athletes I keep a training log.

It is a way for me to record my workouts, keep track of my mileage, my improvements and of course my races.

I record the temperature during my workout, what the humidity was like, what my pre-run or pre-race nutrition was like and record the mileage on the pair of shoes I was in – always making sure not to run more than 300 miles in any pair to help avoid injury.

I will revisit workouts several months later, especially when I am training for an “A” race or marathon to gauge where I am at that given moment to a similar time in the past when I was preparing for an event.

Sometimes there are several sentences or even paragraphs to read.  Other times only my mile splits are recorded and whether or not I felt as if my training was going well or if I was too heavy on mileage at that particular time or perhaps needed more hill or speed work.  I have found reading back through my log very enlightening and sometimes pretty humorous.

With our first Triathlon now less than a week away, I decided to look back to my entry from April 11, 2011.  The first time I attempted to swim.

The workout lasted just .12 miles.  My comments were direct and to the point:

“I sucked at this.”

There really was nothing else to add.  I could not swim a single length of the pool.  Had no idea how to breathe, what a catch and pull was, let alone how to do it properly and I seriously doubted I would ever be able to swim the 500 Meters that would be required of me to complete the swim portion of Jack’s Generic Triathlon.

Three Months and two weeks later and I have logged 40.74 miles over 53 swim workouts.

I have swam 37 hours, 14 minutes and 4 seconds – with my longest continuous swim without stopping being 1.4 miles out at Quarry Lake.

Over the same period of time I have ridden 276.87 miles on my Triathlon Bike climbing over 6,096 feet.

I completed 80 runs and races totaling 562.03 miles, climbing up and over 14,916 feet of hills, running for 70 hours, 19 minutes and 49 seconds.

We’re ready.

As ready as I can be at this point with just 6 more days before sliding into the water at the Texas Ski Ranch in New Braunfels, TX with the rest of the Male 40-44 year old competitors to take on the 500 Meter Swim, 13.8 Mile Bike, 3.1 mile run course.

On Saturday I completed my final Bike/Run Brick Workout where I would speed away from the house for a 15 mile ride, pull back into the garage, take off my helmet and glasses, switch into my running shoes and run out immediately for a 5-mile run.

15 Mile Ride:  42:20 at 21.3 MPH

5 mile Run:  32:59 at 6:35 min/mile pace

When I look back on my run at the Pure Austin Splash & Dash from Tuesday evening, I think the stomach bug that I was fighting through took more out of me than I had realized.  I was able to run 5 miles :20 seconds/mile faster on Saturday coming off a tough bike ride through the wind and up and over 496 feet of hills on Parmer Lane.

I feel like my bike and run are right where I want them to be for Jack’s on my birthday.  My first race as a 44-year-old.

The swim remains the great unknown at this point.  I will continue to work in the pool this week, swimming Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to further refine my form and especially completing my stroke a full 100% through the water.  This added power will help me glide a longer distance after every stroke, and hopefully push me toward a faster swim time to start the race.

A lot of things can go wrong at a triathlon.  A poor transition, a flat tire, a bump, a fall, equipment problems, nutrition issues – the list is truly too long to cite.  But the one thing that I will take a moment to remember before the horn is that this is supposed to be fun.

That is why I am doing this.  I’m not fighting it out for a spot on the podium in my first triathlon.   That type of expectation is not only ridiculous, it is pointless and harmful.

When I ran my first 5K back in 2006 in Malvern, PA I ran a time of 22:07.  Not a bad maiden voyage actually come to think of it.  The funny thing about that race is that I had no idea when I finished whether my time was good or bad.  I just wanted to experience a running race for the first time before I toed the line at the Philadelphia Marathon a few months later in November.

I wanted to know how it all worked, where to pin on my bib, how to put on a timing chip, what it felt like to race in a crowd.  What crossing a finish line would feel like.

I remember every part of that race six years later.  The young boy who I chatted with before the start.  Racing down the hill to start the race, the long climb up to the finish and having cold beers with Dawn, Ralph and Michele post-race.

That 22:07 in and of itself turned out to be pretty meaningless.  I doubt very few athletes looked at that race and saw the 39-year-old runner who posted that time standing in the starting Coral at the Boston Marathon less than 3 years later.  A runner who would turn into a six-time marathoner with a PR of 3:15:01 and owner of a 1:23:55 half-marathon.

That single 5K race took me across finish lines from Austin to Boston and will this November drop me at the starting line of the NYC Marathon.

Pretty incredible.

No matter what happens on Sunday it is just a step.  The first step.  There will be more.

Where will it end?  Impossible to know.  Will I get bitten by the bug and transition full-time to the triathlon after this spring’s Boston Marathon?


Will I continue to focus on short distance triathlons, or will I find myself at the start of a half-ironman (1.2 Mile Swim, 56 Mile Bike, 13.1 mile Run) or even an Ironman (2.4 Mile Swim, 112 Mile Bike, 26.2 Mile Run)?

Who knows really.

The only thing I do know is that come Sunday with Dawn and Landry looking on, they might just be there to see the start of something special.  It’s all about going out there and doing my very best.  When I have been able to do that in the past and block out everything else, I’ve been able to surprise myself time and time again.

So here’s to surprises on your birthday.  What could be better than that?

Like most runners I get asked a lot of questions about why I do what I do.

“Isn’t it hot out there?”

“Are you sore a lot?”

“Don’t you get bored?”

“That seems really far, why do you do it?”

And my personal favorite:

“Aren’t you worried about your knees when you get older?”

I’m not nearly as worried about my knees as I would be worried about my heart if I was out of shape, not eating right and not exercising – so I suppose there are trade-offs in everything.

I’ve heard ’em all over the past few years, especially after running those back to back marathons for Dom last spring.  But the question that I have yet to be asked by anyone other than myself is a simple one.

Am I running toward or away from something?

At the core of being a runner you would think that those are really the only two answers as to why a person would choose running as their sport or hobby.  You would venture a guess that every “reason” that someone cites would fit neatly into one of those two categories.

Why do people run? 

To outrun a medical condition, middle age, or find balance in their lives.  In search of a challenge or a test.  To experience the excitement of chasing down a dream or a goal.  Possibly in an attempt to regain the physical fitness from their youth. 

Some people run to find friendship and camaraderie, push themselves further than they have gone before or maybe they run just because it makes them feel good.

On some level I suppose I run for all of those reasons above.  Some more frequently than others, some mean more to me than others – but certainly of the more than 1,000 miles I have run so far this year, and the close to 10,000 I have run over the last half-decade – certainly some of them were run for the reasons above.

But every once in a while I find myself running neither to something nor from something.

Instead I feel like I am running FOR something.  When I think back to this time last year when Dom was slipping away from us, we had all arrived at the very sad, dark reality that cancer was going to win this one.

Dom was having a harder and harder time fighting off his illness and his body had grown weaker and weaker.  What seemed so encouraging in January and February had become so stark by June and July.  Ultimately Dom would leave us on August 15, 2010.  Just two weeks before our little girl Landry would be born.

I remember those first few runs after losing Dom.  Austin Marathon training had not yet begun.  I was once again searching for something, anything to hang on to and believe in.  I ran my fastest ever 5K Race just 13 days after Dom passed away.  I would run my fastest 10K, 10 Miler, Half Marathon and Marathon with Dom’s initials on my race shoes in the months to follow.

I was no longer running toward something or from something – I was truly running “FOR” someone and there was great power in that.  I expected to run my best races with D.V.D on my instep, and without fail I was able to go out and do it, time and time again.  There is no coincidence in that.

Well just last week I registered for another race, this one doesn’t fit nice and neatly into my marathon training calendar like some do, but after hearing about it, there was simply no way I could pass it up.

Here in Austin there is a 5-year old girl named Jaylie Nielson.  Blond hair, blue eyes, cute as could be.

In April she was complaining about having some vision problems.  She was taken quickly to the emergency room and after a series of tests were conducted, it was discovered that she had a brain tumor.

Jaylie underwent immediate brain surgery and had the tumor successfully removed. 

Much like my mother’s situation last month, upon testing it turns out that the tumor was cancerous.

Jaylie’s type of cancer however is an extremely aggressive and rare form of cancer:  Supratentoral Primitive Neuroectodermal Tumor or (PNET).

On June 1st Jaylie begun her journey through the very difficult path of chemotherapy and radiation treatments.  I have yet to meet Jaylie, but from everything I have been able to learn about her through her website and on Facebook, she sounds like an amazing young girl.

On August 13th, just two days before the anniversary of Dom’s passing there will be a 5K Race and Fun Run at the Southwest Williamson County Regional Park.

Haeley Vaughn, a finalist on AMerican Idol will be in attendance to perform the National Anthem.

Joe Run for Dom will be there honoring my good friend and helping to make a difference in a young girls life.  For more information about the run or how you can help by making a donation please visit:

Information for Race Day Below:

Saturday, August 13, 2011
Southwest Williamson County Regional Park
3005 County Road 175, Leander, TX


  • 6:30am Day-of-Race Registration and Packet Pickup
  • 7:30am for 5K (this is chip timed!)
  • 8:30am for 1-Mile Fun Run (not timed)
  • 7:30am-10:00am Many fun-filled activities for the entire family!
  • 10:00am Event ends


  • $30 for 5K (includes t-shirt for registrations up to August 1)
  • $15 for 1-Mile Fun Run pre-registration (includes t-shirt for registrations up to August 1)
  • Any donation for 1-mile Fun Run pre-registration and race-day registration (no t-shirt)

Awards will be given to the 5K top finishers in each age group!

Packet pickup will be available the night before the event at Rogue Running in Cedar Park (1431 and Parmer). More details will be available later.

Chip timing for the 5K and registration is courtesy of Event Data Solutions.

  • Raffle – tickets will be $1 each and available at the event
  • DJ
  • Performance by Haeley Vaughn – American Idol Finalist
  • Face painting
  • Mother’s tent
  • Carnival games
  • Coloring and letter-writing booth
  • Mammal booth
  • Reptile booth
  • Tutus and wristbands will be available for sale – all proceeds go to Team Jaylie!
  • More fun activities to be announced!

 100% of the proceeds will go toward Jaylie’s medical expenses.

I’m not too sure what kind of race I will be able to pull off on August 13th.  I will be in week number 8 of NYC Marathon training, lots of miles on my legs that week including a return to our hill repeat training that served us so well during the Austin Marathon back in February.

I know this much however, we are going to leave it all out there on the course on the 13th, whatever power, strength and speed we are capable of that day is exactly what we will expend.  Anything less would be a disservice to Jaylie and the fight she is in as well as to Dom who just one year earlier was battling every day for a chance just to wake up one more time to see Val, Nico and Sierra.

Almost a year has passed and I miss my friend.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Tuesday night was a pretty big step forward in our transition from marathoner to triathlete.

The event wasn’t such a big deal to many in attendance.  Just a 750 Meter swim followed by a 3 Kilometer run as part of the Pure Austin Fitness Splash and Dash Series.

But it was the first time that I would ever be swimming with other athletes in the water, all of us trying to navigate the buoys around the course, exit the water, transition into my run shoes and head off into another discipline.  An all-out 3 Kilometer (1.9 mile~) run.

To add a couple more things to be worried about, I had come down with a little virus overnight on Sunday.  Something that had been passed around at Landry’s Day Care last week, where all of the little infants were having some tummy issues.  I spent most of Monday feeling ill, Monday evening I was only able to have a bowl of soup at dinner – the thought of food was very unappealing.

Knowing that the Marathon makes allowances for nobody.  I still needed to log my 8 run miles on Tuesday, so I hopped out of bed at 5:15 a.m. and ran a steady, easy-paced 6.25 miles.  I didn’t want to tax my race legs too badly, knowing I had the Splash and Dash event later in the evening – but it was good to get out there and get the legs moving after Sunday’s 17 miler.

Still without much of an appetite on Tuesday, I ate my usual breakfast and lunch while making sure I hydrated throughout the day.  The temperature at the start of the race (6:00 p.m.) would be right at 98 degrees, the lake temperature a cool 86.  Even though the race was a short one, I would still be pushing pretty hard for about 28 or 29 minutes I was guessing.  If my swim went well that is.

I needed to make sure I wasn’t so tapped out and dehydrated that the final mile of the run felt like the final 10K of the marathon.

Pre Race:  I made my way over to Pure Austin about an hour before the race start.  I wanted to make sure I could get parked, check-in and find a good place to lay out my transition area exiting the lake.  Quarry Lake off of Stone Lake Boulevard as you might guess is an old stone quarry that has been flooded to form the lake.

It makes for beautiful clear water, but as you might imagine a very rocky exit out of the water and up to the trail that surrounds the lake.  I wanted to be sure to find a good place for my towell and shoes so I would not have to cover too much rocky terrain in my bare feet.  I checked in, strapped on my ankle timing chip and made my way down to the lake to lay out my towel, socks and shoes to transition.

I bumped into my coach before getting into the water and as the pre-race announcements were being made, I slid to the back of the pack for the Men’s group start.

There were 101 Men in the water all jostling for position.  About two times the size of what my Age Group Start will be like at Jack’s Triathlon.  They instructed the strongest swimmers to the front, the slower swimmers to the back.  I started to tread water about 8/10 of the way from the rear of the pack.

The Swim:  At the sound of the horn there were arms and legs everywhere.  One of the disadvantages of starting in the rear was I would have to swim a bit further than the rest of the men.  Everyone’s time started at the horn, not when you crossed the starting line.  I thought it was wise to avoid some of the major pushing and shoving in the water and sacrifice some time.

Even still over the course of the first 100 Meters or so there was a lot of kicking and shoving going on.  I couldn’t find smooth water and I knew that I needed to stay calm and relax.  I slowed down my stroke and just focused on breathing easily.  I made the turn at the first buoy and started to sight up ahead to the second one.

I had found some smooth water, which meant I was very far behind the leading men, but I was able to get into a rhythm and go.

My sighting was pretty solid, there was only one point around 500 Meters into the swim that when I came up to look for the buoy, all I saw were swim caps.  I had to sight two more times to pick out the buoy and adjust my course just a bit.

Somewhere along the way I had lost count of the buoys, my plan was to start pulling hard with about 300 Meters to go, once I passed the second to last platform.  When I reached what I thought was the second to last platform, it was actually the last platform.


So as I started to increase my pace I knew that I had left even more time out there in the water, only swimming “hard” for the last 150 Meters or so, just crusing for the first 600.  Not good enough.

Transition:  I have to admit it was a pretty good feeling to swim up onto the shore and get out of the water.  I glanced down at my watch and saw a somewhat disapointing time of 16:34.  I had swam the course in 15:45 previously during a workout.  I was hoping for something under 16:00 minutes even with the rear of the line start and all the turmoil of swimming in a crowd.

I got horizontal, found my transition mat and quickly got the sand off of my feet.

I pulled on my race socks, slid into my running shoes, hiked up my Yanxz speed laces and made my way up the hill to the running trail

The Run:  When I hit the timing mat the clock said 17:34, meaning my transition was about :50 seconds.  That wasn’t too bad, but I had a ton of time to make up.  The fastest man out of the water Jamie Cleveland had posted a 10:14 swim.  He was running his final loop around the trail while I was only starting my first.

The trail was very crowded due to the fact that I was the 115th athlete out of the water, I was going to have to pass a lot of athletes.

I tried to lock in to a slightly uncomfortable pace – not sure really how fast I was going as I did not have my GPS watch on my wrist as it is not waterproof, only water resistant.

With the soft granite trail pulling at my strides and the constant zig zagging around the runners up ahead, it was pretty challenging to really put the hammer down on the run the way I would in a 5K on a road course.  I thought that the Lake would provide a nice cooling effect prior to the run, but I was already drenched in sweat less than 1 time around the course.

My 1 Kilometer splits were:

Loop 1:  4:14 – 8th fastest

Loop 2:  4:19 – 9th fastest

Loop 3:  4:07 – 8th fastest

The Finish:  My total time was 30:05.  I left the water in 115th place and finished 42nd overall.  Among the men, I would catch up to and pass all but 29 competitors, finishing 30th overall, 8th place in my age group of 40-44.

Post Race:  So, with just over a week and a half to go before Jack’s Generic Tri I learned that I still have a long way to go if I am going to succesfully transition from marathoner to triathlete.  On my 8.3 mile run this morning, just 11 hours or so after last night’s race, I carried the disappointment of my swim and to some degree even my run with me for 1 hour, three minutes and 30 seconds.

In the shower after my run I decided that I would do what I do with every workout that wasn’t exactly what I would hope it to be.

Flush it.

It’s over now.  Yes I could have swam harder, longer and not been so timid in the water.  There is a balance I am going to have to find at Jack’s between not being afraid to fail and blowing up in the water.  I have that in my road races and can adjust my pace accordingly.  I need to find that in the water.

I also learned that even if my swim is not so great, I need to forget about it and focus on the next event.  I know that not having a great swim effected my run.  I should have and most certainly could have run faster last night.  My heart just really wasn’t in it.

Lastly, nutrition.  Being under the weather for a couple of days definitely effected me.  I’m down in my weight this morning about 3 1/2 lbs.  That is strength that I need to lean on when I am fatigued that I simply do not have right now.  I need to get back on my diet, eat even if I’m not feeling hungry and make sure I get my calories back to where they need to be by the weekend.

Then take it easy Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday during my workouts.

Taper on Thursday, Friday with a little shake-out run on Saturday and then Rock the TRI on Sunday.

I’ve been here before.  Doubting myself before a race.  Am I fast enough?  Strong enough?  Have I trained enough?  When things get difficult, will I have what it takes to dig deep and push even harder?

We’ll find out on July 31st. 

If history is any indication, don’t bet against me.

We are one more step closer to the starting line of the NYC Marathon after completing our first 100 Mile Training week.

Trying to balance my preparation for my first Triathlon on July 31 along with building a strong base for NYC has me burning the candle at both ends just a bit.  I know that I have to get stronger on my swim.  I also know that the only way to get stronger on the bike is to log time in the saddle.  I also know that the marathon makes exceptions for nobody.  If you don’t put in the work you will be exposed on race day.

And exposed cruelly.

Missing a workout right now is just not an option with only so many hours free to train.  Last week added the complication of a mid-week trip to Cedar Rapids, IA for work, which made for a lot of early mornings to get my miles in.

Monday:  15 Miles on the tri-bike trainer a.m., 1.4 mile Open Water Swim p.m.

Tuesday:  8.35 Mile Run before my flight.

Wednesday:  10 Mile Marathon Pace Run

Thursday:  15 Mile Ride

Friday:  8.35 Mile Run, 2000 Meter Swim Lesson, 15 Mile Ride

Saturday:  8 Mile Marathon Pace Run

Sunday:  17 Mile Long Run

10 Hours, 47 Minutes, 27 Seconds covering 100 training miles.  99.8 technically, but I decided to round up.

This week is going to prove an interesting one as we are beginning to scale back just a bit for our Triathlon debut two Sundays away.

I can’t afford to go into full “taper-mode” as I am still building that base for the Marathon, but I am going to take down the intensity level just a bit this week and even more next week as the race approaches.  Showing up in New Braunfels with fresh legs and a positive mental attitude is going to be a big contributor to whether or not I race as well as I can across all three disciplines.

I am feeling confident about my bike and my run, but the swim still has me a bit nervous truth be told.

This past week Coach Claudia continued to refine my form and suggest a few technical changes to the way I am entering the water with my hands and how “complete” my stroke is.  I had been cheating myself of some power and speed by ending my stroke a bit prematurely.  Cutting it off more or less 80% of the way through.

I was able to incorporate her suggestions into my workout on Friday and my lap times in the pool showed immediate improvement.

Tuesday night I will be able to take that technique to the Quarry where I will be participating in my first ever “Swim Event” – as I will be racing in the Pure Austin Splash and Dash.  The event is a 750 meter swim followed by a 3K run.

There will be a large wave start consisting of all male participants which based on past events should be approximately 110-125 swimmers.

If I was ever going to get my feet wet swimming in a crowd, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so without a lot at stake.  After exiting the lake and transitioning into my race flats we will come up the hill from the lake and then run a 3 kilometer (1.9 mile) footrace, which I should be able to hammer away on without too much difficulty.

I don’t have a lot of expectations from a time perspective for Tuesday evening, I just want to stay calm in the water, experience getting jostled around a bit and not lose my cool.  Just swim my pace, gradually pulling harder each 100 Meters until I am swimming hard to the finish.

I’ll hop out, dry my feet, pull on my flats and then go all out in the run.

The path is rather loose granite and there will be a lot of runners along the course as it will be three laps around a 1 Kilometer loop.  I will have to dodge a lot of traffic along the way, especially after coming out of the water toward the rear of the crowd.

I’d like to hold pace somewhere around 6:25-6:30 min./mile but we’ll just have to see what the swim takes out of me.

It will certainly make for an interesting race report if nothing else.  Make sure you stop back on Wednesday for all the gory details.

I am glad I took my coaches advice to participate in the event, I’m hoping that most of the nerves that I experience tomorrow evening will be out of my system when it is time to get in the water at Jack’s Generic Tri on July 31st.

That will bring its own set of challenges swimming, biking and running in race conditions for the very first time.  We’re still in the, “I’m new at this” mode to put too many expectations on myself with respect to results – but during the run portion of both events I expect to kick a little ass.

That is our discipline after all.  Shame on me if we don’t make a little bit of noise.  I’m hoping to hear a lot of, “where did that guy come from?” over the next two weeks, then it will be time to focus on NYC. 

I never thought of training for a marathon as being “easy”, but I must admit, it is going to feel like quite a break only worrying about my run workouts and the occasional swim or bike-ride thrown in for cross training.

I’ve been running early mornings for more than 5 years now.

Unless it is a race day, which typically start around 8:00 a.m.,  when I leave the house for my morning runs it is dark out.


Basically night.

It is a rare morning when I am not out the door and well into mile #1 by 5:15 a.m or 5:20.  Unless I am in marathon training and I am running “long” meaning 15-22 miles, I am out the door even earlier.  If I’m not back, showered, dressed and ready to go to breakfast after a 20 mile run by 8:00 a.m., Joe is not a happy boy.

My stomach?  Even angrier. 

So for those extra-long run days where I might be out for 2 hours and 20 minutes or more, I’m up and out the door by 4:45 a.m.  Pretty early.

Up until a few weeks ago I never really thought very much about my safety out there.  Sure I’ve stepped on my share of stones on the trail system in the dark and rolled my ankle a time or two.  Once during a cold snap there was a patch of ice on the sidewalk in Austin where a neighbor had run their sprinklers and I took a nasty tumble.

Another time one of the footbridges I crossed had some early morning ice on it and I slipped, but for the most part I’ve always  felt very safe out there morning after morning, mile after mile.

Well when my good friend Scott Birk was killed in a collision with a motorist during a training run in last month here in Austin it really shook me.

Scott had been running far longer than I had, knew the route as well if not better than I know the routes that I regularly train on and still was tragically killed.

I have invested in a headlamp over the past year and run in a lighted vest when I am going to be doing the majority of my run in the dark along surface streets and not on the Brushy Creek Trail.  I believe that to properly train for a road race marathon, you need to train on the road, not always on the softer more forgiving trail surface.

But what if something happened to me out there?

Would anyone know who I am?  How would they contact Dawn?  Would precious time slip away before contacting an emergency contact person that could make a life or death difference?

Well on my 16-miler this Sunday I thought a lot about Scott and a lot about Dawn and Landry.  Wouldn’t I want to give myself every possible chance to survive an incident out there while I was out running or cycling?  If I passed out during a race, wouldn’t I want race officials to know if I had any allergies, or how to reach my wife by cell phone?

Of course I would.

So after more than 5 years of putting it off, this week I logged onto the Road ID website and ordered their product.

Road ID is without question the number one provider of identification wrist band, ankle band and shoe pouch ID systems for athletes in the US.  Their product is designed specifically for the endurance athlete – 100% customizable with 5 lines of text that are engraved on their bands where you can put your name, phone number, age, contact information, allergies, blood type or any other information you see fit.

Road ID Wrist Band

If you already feel like you have too many things on your wrist when you are out there like your GPS Watch, Livestrong Bracelet etc. you can opt as I did for the Road ID that goes around your ankle with a velcro strap just like a race timing chip.

Road ID Ankle Band

Or you can choose their product that affixes to your shoe laces, however for me who rotates between 4 and 5 pairs of running shoes throughout a training cycle, I didn’t want to have to try to remember another item at 4:45 a.m.  So ankle it is for me.

Road ID Shoe

The product will be in my hands in less than a week and I will be out there safer than ever hitting the roads by foot and bike in Austin.  It is truly a shame that it took the loss of a close friend to bring me to this point.  I still find it hard to believe that I won’t see Scott at IBM this fall or at the Resolution Run on New Years Day, the 3M Half Marathon in January or any of the dozens of road races we typically competed in together every year.

I have a lot of great reminders and memories of Scott Birk, but now when I cross an intersection and triple look for cars coming in each direction I’ll have a reminder strapped around my ankle of just how lucky I am to be out there doing what I love to do.

If you haven’t gotten a Road ID yet, please do so.  The folks at Road ID were actually kind enough to send me an e-mail message today confirming my order and offering a discount coupon for my friends who want to order one of their products.

Good marketing on their part of course.

Just click:

Or you can enter the coupon code of:  ThanksJoseph8148257

Happy trails guys – Be safe out there.

Is it really July 12th today?  I can’t believe how fast this summer is flying by.  Selfishly, I have to admit that I am looking forward to the Fall.  This has been one of the hottest summers in Austin with the lowest rainfall since 1942.

We have been over 100 degrees more than two dozen times already and we still have a long, long, LONG way to go.

As the calendar continues to move forward there are 8 races approaching over the next 16 weeks, no two of them are the same.

July 19 – Splash and Dash (750 M swim, 3K run)

July 31 – Jack’s Generic Tri (500 M swim, 13.8 bike, 3.1 run)

August 13 – 5K

Sept. 5 – Capital of TX Tri (10K relay leg)

October 2 – IBM Uptown Classic 10K

October 9 – Denver Rock N’ Roll Half-Marathon

November 6 – New York City Marathon

Obviously NYC is going to be the “A” race this Fall, along with October’s IBM Uptown Classic.  Two feature events where I hope to prepare my best, show up focused and determined and hopefully post PR’s at each race.

If I can pull that off I would achieve my most pie in the sky goal for 2011 which was to PR at every distance from the 1-mile to the Marathon. 

But there is something about doing something for the first time that takes on extra meaning.  Jack’s Generic Tri on my 44th birthday will be my first ever Triathlon.

There are not too many things that you can do for the first time at age 44 that you are still excited about, especially athletically.  I know that I am poised to make just about every rookie triathlon mistake in the book on July 31st.

No matter how much I train for the event, practice my transitions from swim to bike and bike to run, something is bound to go wrong.  That is just the nature of the beast.  It is a complicated race that tests many different disciplines and muscle groups all at the same time, and all at some level of fatigue after the swim.

I have really been hitting the swim hard trying to cram a lot of learning and improvement into the last 16 weeks.  My swim coach Claudia continues to push me and make small technical changes to my form to help me get faster.

Just this past week she changed the way that my hands enter the water at the top of my stroke and the way I catch and pull the water through and past my body as I glide.

The result yesterday was a 4 minute 15 second improvement during a 1.4 mile Open Water Swim on the lake.

Now, just the fact that I am now swimming 2,250 Meters or 1.4 miles continuously without a pause or break at this point is pretty remarkable.  4 months ago I honestly could not swim the length of our pool one time without stopping.

But to drop my time at that distance to 55:57 has me very encouraged with just a little less than 3 weeks to go before Jack’s.

I continue to work hard on my bike days and practice pushing through the low gears and staying in the aero position down over my bars on the Tri bike.

Yesterday a new aero helmet arrived just in time for me to get a few rides in it to get comfortable prior to race day.

Aero Helmet

The helmet will reduce drag and improve efficiency as I race over the course, reducing my “profile” and making me more aero.  Over a SPRINT TRI I may only pick up 30 or 40 seconds.  At the half-ironman distance, that type of reduction in drag can mean as much as 3 or 4 minutes.

In the end, it will be all about the run for me at Jack’s.  No matter how my first two events go, the run is where I am looking to make my mark.  I am going to go out with the intention of posting the fastest run time in my Age Group.

If I can swim the 500 Meters in 11 minutes, bike in 42 minutes and run in 2o:30, I’ll be looking at a total time with 3 1/2 minutes added in transitions of 1:17:00.

My stretch goal is to be somewhere below 1:16:00 on race day.

Will I get there?  Tough to tell.  I think I will know a whole lot more after next Tuesday night’s splash and dash where I get my first taste of swimming “in a crowd” with arms and legs going in every direction.

Exciting times – first birthday I can say I’ve been looking forward to in a long, long time.

Last week I spent a lot of time thinking about my Mom and her now 30-day long battle with cancer.  I thought about all of the things that she has gone through to this point which of course brought me back to this same time last year when Dom was in the final stages of his battle with the same disease.

I thought about the proper way to remember my good friend Dom who passed away on August 15th last year as well as honor my Mother’s recovery from brain surgery just 13 days ago and the fight she will be waging through 35 rounds of radiation treatments that will most likely begin next Monday. 

I was asked repeatedly after last springs back to back marathons and then again after Dom passed away, “what’s next?”.

What are you going to do now that Run for Dom is over.

My reply then was the same as it is now.  This thing is far from over.

Landry and Dad received a Livestrong Package this week


Dom’s children Sierra and Nico have yet to celebrate their 5th and 2nd birthdays.  They are going to be growing up without their Dad for the rest of their lives.   It is up to those of us who were fortunate enough to know Dom and love him to share his memory with his children.  So that they too know where they come from.  What they are all about, and just how much their Daddy loved them.

I said many times that, “I wasn’t sure what was next, but when the time came I would know.”

Well, it looks like the time is now and just to make sure I didn’t miss it, it knocked me firmly on my ass.

Cancer has a way of doing that to you.

So last week I spent exactly 8 hours, 50 minutes and 13 seconds training and thinking, thinking and training for my upcoming race(s).

After an off-day on Monday, traveling back from Charleston, SC we hit it hard.

Tuesday Morning:  8.3 Mile Hill Run.

Tuesday Afternoon:  1.4 Mile Continuous Open Water Swim.

Wednesday Evening:  5K Race with a 1 mile warm-up, 1.3 mile cool down.

Thursday Morning:  8.35 Mile Recovery Run

Friday Morning:  2,000 Meter Open Water Swim

Friday Afternoon:  20 Mile Bike Ride

Saturday Morning:  8 Mile Marathon Pace Run (6:54 min./mile)

Sunday Morning:  16 Mile Long Run

69 miles of swimming, biking and running with our first Triathlon now just 20 days away and the NYC Marathon looming 17 weeks down the road.

Funny how the more things change the more they stay the same.  My goal remains identical to the way I felt one year ago racing for Dom.

I might not always have the freshest legs, be feeling perfect or have the right race day mojo.

I might not be the youngest, strongest or fastest.  In fact it is a certainty that I will not every time I pin on a race number.

But I can try harder than anyone else out there.  That is the one thing that I can control.  When things get tough, I can try harder.  Not cede a single inch to the heat, hills, wind, rain, course or fatigue. 

Training for 9 hours last week.

I can do better.

I will do better.

Go Mom. 

We’re going to keep kicking cancer’s ass 26.2 miles at a time.