A 57 Year Old IT Guy Who Started To Run

(and then swim, bike, and Tri)


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My New (to me) Triathlon Bike

This week a member of my triathlon group posted he had a 2003 Quintano Roo Tequilo tri bike for sale for $300. It is a 59cm frame and my road bike is a 58cm, so I jumped on it. It had been hanging around his garage for over four years, and he decided he finally needed to part with it. I know I’m not a threat to drop several thousand dollars on a tri bike, and yes it’s 10 years old bike, but it was a high end bike in its day. It has the original Profile Design tri bar, Shimano bar-end shifters, and Mavic Formula XS1 rims. It’s an aluminum frame with a carbon front fork, and now it’s mine!

Tequilo.jpgSo this is my new project bike. With my LBS doing all routine maintenance on my road bike for free, because I bought it there, I haven’t learned much maintenance beyond keeping the chain clean. I had gotten a new Spin Doctor bike stand for Christmas, and I’ve been putting it to good use. I spent about an hour hour cleaning the chain, cogs, and cassette of a LOT of accumulated grease and crap, got it all washed down, and took off the fraying handlebar tape. The tape on it was black, but the frame is such a great color blue, I went with blue tape. The tubes were also swapped out, not because they were bad, but because they are probably at least five years old. I’m keeping them both as my spares in my bike bag, so they re-purposed nicely. The photo shows plain old bike pedals, but I have a pair of Look Keo Plus pedals in-bound, since I already have them on my Trek road bike. Also have a Garmin speed/cadence sensor to put on. Total cost should stay just under $400, or about $2,000 less than a new tri bike.

Still left to do is to dial in the bike fit, but that will have to wait for another blog post.

Now it’s time to go out and RIDE!


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Seaside Half Marathon

I had heard that the Seaside Half Marathon was a fun course to run, being at the beach at Destin, FL. It was described as “mostly flat and fast” and that was mostly true. This race fell two months after my bad first marathon, so I was already in condition for the distance and wanted to prove to myself I was better than that marathon performance.

I felt that between recovering from the marathon, and tapering before this race, I would have about six weeks to train. So I approached my training with a goal of speed. I had done lots of distance work for the marathon, but those six weeks I worked on speed and intervals. My only previous half marathon had been very hilly, and I had run it in 2:10:07 so my goal here was to beat that time and try to break two hours.

Destin's white sand beach.jpgThe weather on race weekend was absolutely beautiful! After a winter of temperature swings down into the teens, we had lows in the 50′s and highs close to 70. The race officials were saying it was the best weather they had had for the last six or seven years.

Vera Bradley bag and race bib.jpgThis race is sponsored by Vera Bradley and race swag is a large Vera Bradley bag, so the mix of women was probably 75%. The course runs on route 30A, which is all beach living at its best – Florida’s gulf coast version of highway A1A. It was cambered pretty steep in a couple of places, but not too bad, and the first (and last because it was an out and back course) 4 miles were almost flat. However, the road is just two lanes so it was consistently full of runners the entire time. From about miles 5 through 9 the course turned into rollers. Not hills – it is Florida after all – but a lot quick up and downs of 15-20 elevation changes. I had been practicing for flat, so this was a little unexpected. My goal was to try and maintain a 9:00 pace, to break two hours, and in almost made it. I got a cramp going too fast down a hill in mile 8, and had to walk it out for a couple hundred yards, then had a slower pace the next mile.

Finish Stats.jpg

Then I gave it a big SIUP and got back my pace, and ended up with a 2:04:06…which is a new PR and beat my old time by 6 minutes, so I’m happy. All in all, this was a great weekend and a great race. I would recommend this one to anyone looking for an early spring half marathon.

On the way back.jpg
Powering it home.jpg
Finish Line.jpg


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Mississippi Blues Marathon

I have not posted in months, and am not really sure why I dropped off. Just a combination of work and training, I guess. Since my first half marathon in October, the only race I ran was a Turkey Burner 5k, which I PR’d at 26:37. Very proud of that time!

Then I was contacted by an old fraternity brother who is a 50 States Marathon Club member. (His blog is here) He was looking for his 32nd state to run a marathon, had picked Mississippi, and was looking for company after another friend had backed out. So I compared my half marathon training plan with a full marathon plan and thought Well they look very similar, just the long runs start getting longer. Boy, there is more to a marathon than that, as I was soon to learn. But I committed and signed up, along with a third old fraternity brother, and we all started training.

Things went along pretty well for a while, and I got through my 16 mile long run OK, but during my 18 mile long run I pulled something in my calf about mile 14. Things did not go well after that. My mileage dropped, then I finally did a two week taper instead of ten days, but in the end it didn’t help.

MS-Blues-Bib
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A brief note about the race itself. They are saying that they had 3,500 people running, but adding the totals from their own results of both the half and full, comes to just 1,637. Just saying. This runner sums up my feelings really well. The short version is:

  • Almost every road was badly patched asphalt
  • Pretty spotty crowd participation
  • Constant rolling hills – this was advertised, but it makes a tough course
  • Some nice areas but about 3 miles of interstate highway marginal roads (the only good pavement, though)
  • Crossing a six lane highway
  • Running through a construction zone
  • Generally no idea which side of the road to run on, when cones went down the middle.

This wasn’t a bad course, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to run it again.
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Pre-Race ReadinessRace morning arrived, and even though storms had rolled through during the night, the rain had stopped. It was mid 50′s and turned sunny by about 11:00am, too late for many runners, but I was still out there walking. I had decided to try and go for as long as I could, at a 10:30 pace, and just see how the leg held up. This photo shows me wearing a blue shirt, but this came off by mile two, as the sun came out and it started to warm up. By the end of the marathon it was a very pleasant 61 degrees.

It felt good for the most of the first half, I was challenging the hills, taking in nutrition and water, and enjoying the run. We ran through the Jackson State campus, lots of crowd plus their band. Then a long stretch that seemed mostly uphill towards the old capitol building and north past the new capitol building. After mile 5 the half marathon folks took a right-hand turn by a hospital, or most did. I saw three or four running back past me to the turn, even though it was really well marked. Then we were off into some nice residential neighborhoods with a bunch more hills.

You can see from this pacing chart that I was hitting my goal pace nicely through about mile 11.5 (with a couple of water stop walks), but then the bad leg started acting up. So by mile 12 to about mile 16 it turned in to walk/run, in short intervals. Then the leg just refused to allow running. So the last 10 miles turned in to an endurance walk. We went through some more nice neighborhoods, with some huge houses on what must be 10 or 15 acre lots. Which I got to see in great detail, since I was walking.
MS Blues Pacing
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Almost every runner has learned that you argue with your brain while running, about continuing the run, but this marathon I learned to scream to my brain that I was going to finish this, even if it took forever, which is what it felt like. All kinds of people started going past me at this point. A group of Black Girls Run ladies who had been doing run/walk at about my pace left me for good about here. Old people, young people, overweight people – lots of people passed me at this point. The most boring parts of the race were all toward the end (the interstate marginal road, the construction zones, large areas where no one was in sight), and the wind started to blow at about 8mph then ramped up to 14mph directly in my face as I turned down the last mile to the finish line. I managed to do a slow jog across the finish line…not a strong finish, but all I could manage. I was slow, but at least I didn’t need that guy in the medical staff shirt!
Finishing the Marathon

So now I am an official marathon runner, and if I ever talk myself in to doing another (because I am now full crazy) I have a lot better understanding of what I’ll be putting myself through.

Chris had a worse time of it than I did, he was fighting some kind of flu bug. He calls this race his PW (personal worst) race. Scott had a sub two hour half marathon, which I think is a great time. This marathon was really all about the journey, though, and less about the race itself. Friendships started 35 years ago, and re-connecting for a road trip. Oh, and that huge honking guitar finisher’s medal.

Post-RaceScott (kneeling down because he only ran the half), Chris and me

Wearing the Race JacketMe and Scott at lunch on Sunday, wearing the MS Blues jacket


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My First Half Marathon Is Now Checked Off

This last Saturday, I ran the Montgomery Half Marathon. I’ve been training for it for over 13 weeks, starting with long runs every weekend with first hill repeats and then speed intervals on Wednesdays. Then for cross-training I’ve been biking 30+ miles on Sundays and 15+ miles two other week days. Plus swimming and weights.

Oh, and have I mentioned obsessing? Yea, that too.

I went to the McMillan Running website to get all the interval speeds I should be hitting, so lots of Long Steady Distance runs on the weekends. When I first started, his website said I should be able to hit a 2:20 time, so I was planning on beating 2:30 no matter what (unless a leg fell off or I caught fire). But then two weeks before the race, on my last really long run before my taper, I ran with a friend who was just a little faster than me, and found out that after 11 miles I had done a 10:10/mile pace – about 20 seconds faster than I thought I could do. All that training had paid off, but I had not changed my goal time!

My secret goal at that point became to beat 2:15, and to do that I needed to be right about a 10:10 pace I had already proved to myself I could do. So I aimed for even 10 minute paces for the first part of the course, and once I got the downhill advantage to try and do 9:30 on the rest. And I did. I even found enough kick to go the last 0.28 miles at an 8:36 pace, and still don’t know where that came from.
Finish LineMontgomery Half Marathon Swag

This elevation graph explains why I thought the back end of the run could go faster. That first climb is just over 2 miles long, and is 150 feet of elevation change (not counting the part that goes downhill and you run up again) but I hoped the initial adrenaline kick would carry me through those 2 miles. Then just past mile 10 is another hill, our own little “heartbreak hill” that you turn a corner and see staring you in the face for about 8 blocks. This one is only 60 feet of climb but is just 0.45 mile long, and I wanted more than anything to be able to run it all the way to the top. And I did – at the top I shouted out loud “I OWN YOU”! Then stumbled forward for another block and finally got my rhythm back.
OMG does this course have hills

I finished with a final time of 2:10:07, and am still pumped about the race. I’ve got my medal hanging in my office, because by now everyone at work knows I’m “that runner guy”.

Once I started running running 11+ miles every weekend, my wife decided she could do a half marathon too, even if it meant she had to do the run/walk plan. Her longest so far is 6 miles, so to give her plenty of time, we signed up for the Seaside Half Marathon just outside of Destin Florida. She liked it because it’s sponsored by Vera Bradley, and their swag looked impressive.


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2nd Sprint Triathlon Completed

It’s been weeks since I’ve posted anything, mostly because I wasn’t doing anything but routine training for my 2nd sprint tri. This was my first open water swim (in a lake and not the ocean, thank goodness) and advertised as 300 yards. Seemed like a good way to continue to ease into an olympic distance triathlon.

It was held at a nice planned community in our area, with the swim going around a large pier and pavilion, the 11.5 mile bike route being on an “open” course (meaning cars on the road – they try to only let area residents onto the road, but…) with almost all rolling hills (some pretty steep), and the 2.85 mile run going mostly around the lake and neighborhood with only one moderate, long, climb. Bad news was, the community is planned so most houses have good sight lines of the lake. This equals almost no shade!

And, the night before the race, due to construction issues in the area, the swim portion got modified to almost 500 yards. Oh yeah, we’re going to almost double the swim distance, you just got more water for your money! But the run got shortened when the swim got longer, and ended up just 2.85 miles, which turned out ok because my run ended up being poop.

Anywho, it was 75 degrees at the start with 78% humidity, bright and sunny. It ended up at 79 degrees, with very little shade for the run. I did 11:14 on the swim, 40:52 on the bike (17.09mph), and 30:36 on the run (10:35 pace) for a total time of 1:24:57. I need to work more on my running, coming off the bike, because I was gassed and just couldn’t get going. I blame the hills and my (fast for me) speed on the bike, because my heart rate was 10-15 bpm higher than normal, starting the run.

Every race is a chance to learn how to do the next race better, and I got some good takeaways from this one. First is I’m going to have to learn to do flip turns. Without the wall every 25 yards, I struggle getting my breathing in rhythm, and I’ve realized it’s because I take a good deep breath on the wall every time, that I don’t get it open water. My wife said “what if you practiced for a 5k by running sprints up and down a basketball court, but never 3 continuous miles?”

Second is to listen to my body more on the bike – push it, but don’t overwork it. And practice a LOT more bricks, because that’s what it takes to be successful. I’ve been working towards an October half marathon, and while adding distance to my long runs, I neglected my brick work.

So I leave everyone with this photo, which I want to remember as I head in to winter training in a couple months.
Life has no remote


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First Year of the New Me Is Now In the Bag

One year ago, on August 16, 2012, I logged my first activity at the new AUM Wellness Center, a 250 yard swim that took 25 minutes. This involved hanging on the wall and panting at the end of every 25 yards, while being totally unable to comprehend how people could lap swim for an hour. The next day, my first run on the indoor track was just under 45 minutes and I made it 3 miles. That’s a 15:00 min/mile pace – blazing.

Now I’m looking back at the original “just get up three mornings a week and do some kind of exercise” goal, and comparing it to what it has evolved in to, and I can’t believe where I am now. I logged over 1,400 miles of activity! In one year.
First Year Totals
First Year Totals By Week
I’ve done three 5k races, an 8k, a 10k, and one sprint triathlon. I’m now training for the Montgomery Half Marathon in October, and my second sprint triathlon (my first open water) in just three weeks. My best pace for a 5k race is 9:05, my only 8k pace was 9:31 on a very hilly course, and I just yesterday ran 13.1 miles for the first time ever and managed a 10:17 pace. This is what my running has looked like:
First Year Running Totals
I’ve gotten my swim pace down from that initial 11:23/100 yard pace to a 400 yard average pace of 2:04. Still lots of room for improvement, but I’m happy. I try to do a minimum of 2000 yards at every workout, something old me could never imagine. This is what my swimming has looked like:
First Year Swimming
Then, in May, just to round things out, I bought a road bike and started squeezing in cycling workouts so I could compete in triathlons. This is what my cycling has looked like:
First Year Cycling
My goal for year two, and really for the rest of my life, is to never let myself get back to the over-weight coach potato I was. I found a great local triathlon club, Team MMS that gives me great opportunities to run and bike with groups of people who push me, coach me, and encourage me. If you haven’t found a local group to work out with, you should go out and find one.


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You Think You Finished At the Back of the Pack?

I’ve been working on increasing my weekend Long Steady Distance (LSD) runs, working to build from a previous long of seven miles to fifteen, in preparation for my first half marathon.

And I thought, “I wonder where I stand, as a percent of the U.S. population, just finishing a half marathon”? Try looking up the statistics for your country, if you’re reading this in another country.

In the U.S. in the year 2012, half marathon’s were the fastest-growing length of any race. We had the most ever participants in 2012 – 1,850,000 people. The total population between 55-64 (my age group) was 18,331,065 males and 19,711,907 females. In that age group, 9% of the 1,850,000 finishers was male, and 5% was female. Interestingly, the overall percentage of women was higher, but I guess that women my age missed that groundswell.
I started to run
Anyway, that means 166,500 (9% of 1.85 million) males in my age group finished a half marathon, which means only 0.9% (0.009) of the entire country has even gotten off a couch to try and run this far.

For women, it means 92,500 (5% of 1.85 million) females in this age group finished a half marathon, which means only 0.47% (0.0047) of the entire country has even gotten off a couch to try and run this far.

That means even if you finish dead last you will still be in the 99th percentile of the U.S. population. So the next time someone asks why you get up every morning to run/walk/bike/swim, ask them why in the world they don’t!

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