Toughman Alabama Half Iron

I realized when I started this post that it has been almost 3 months since I have last posted. There has not been much to say, really, just a lot of training going on. And this is what I’ve been training towards.

Toughman Alabama Half
I signed up for this 70.3 race for a number of reasons. It was less expensive than an Ironman branded race, it was much closer than Augusta (the closest to me), and the fact that Team Magic, the event organizers, do a great job and have no cut-off time. That time thing ended up being important.

Now the bad part of this race was that it was held in Alabama in the middle of August, so I knew going in that it was going to be bloody hot and humid. Plus, it was a really hilly bike and run course, and the swim was in a lake, with no current-assist and no wetsuit. But I figured Go Big, or Go Home.

Transition pre-dawnThis is what transition looked like at 5:00am. There were 281 total racers, but four of those were aqua bike, and ten more were relay teams. So really, 267 individual racers. Including one pro, who ended up getting second place by two and a half minutes. That must have hurt.

Swim Stats

It was 64 degrees when the swim started. The swim start was on one side of a small slough, and transition was on the opposite side. This made the turn-around buoy closer to 2/3 the distance and not half way. The first wave of swimmers started at 6:30am, and my wave started at 6:48am (one wave every three minutes). I had no trouble swimming the entire way, my fitness was good, but between fogged up goggles, contact lenses, and choppy water, I was having to constantly stop to sight the barrels. I absolutely have to work to correct this. Bi-lateral breathing may be the key to helping me actually swim in a straight line, requiring less sighting. That will be step #1.

Bike Stats

I took longer than I should have in T1, but they had just cut the grass in the transition area, and it was still wet from the dew and made getting my feet clean a real pain. I had ridden this course about a month ago, so I knew what was in store, and I had practiced hill climbs.

The bike started, for me, at 7:55am and 66 degrees. As you can see, there was over 2,200 feet of elevation gain, and most of that was from mile 3-6 and of course, for punishment, again at mile 43-49. The bike portion was mostly fun. I was so long in the water, that when I started the bike I saw no one until around mile 18. Then, I started picking off the slower bikers. OK, a lot of them at first were women biking in tennis shoes, but then I started passing more. I ended up passing 12 bikers, and being passed by 4 guys on expensive bikes. Seems that a bridge (which by the time I got to it had a truck with a volunteer yelling to slow down and don’t go through the orange paint) had caused more than a dozen flats to early riders. By the end of the ride, it had now gone up to 86 degrees, but thankfully a lot of the course was well shaded. I was doing good, and following my nutrition strategy, but by the time I hit the very last climb, my thighs were both cramping. And I still had 3.5 miles to T2, plus that little half marathon run thing to go. I averaged 16.5mph though, so I was happy with that.

Run Stats

Then the run began, for me, at 11:10am. I had planned on using Hammer Endurolytes to keep up my sodium and electrolytes, but now I had to begin the run behind the curve. So I walked most of the first two miles. That seemed to work, so I began to run some, but just never seemed to be able to keep going. I was wunning – the opposite of the Galloway method – walking most of each mile and running some. You can see on the elevation graph that my watch seemed to screw up at mile 9.5. While I was on the course it showed me my mileage, but once home the file stops at 9.5 miles (I have manually entered the correct distance and time, even though the graph doesn’t show it).

There was no shade – none – anywhere on the run portion of this course. I started when it was 86 degrees and finished when it was 92. But the volunteers were great, and they really took care of everyone. A lot of planning went in to their run support, and they deserve kudos.

This was an out and back course, so look on the graph at the fun everyone had between mile five and the 6.5 turnaround! The water station at mile six said “we hear it’s a hill and a bump to the turnaround”. At mile five, we were at 536 feet of elevation, in the next 3/4 of a mile we went up 70 feet, then back down 60 feet, then from mile six to the turnaround that “bump” was another 40 feet in a tenth of a mile. Then please repeat all of that elevation backwards as you head back to the finish. The graph shows over 1,000 feet of elevation gain, but that’s just the first 9.5 miles, so it was more than that.

By mile 9, I was walking way more than I was running. It was horribly hot, and I could not get enough water in me. I had stopped at every water stop (every mile – very well planned) and was drinking 2 cups of water, then pouring half a cup over my head and the other half on arm sleeves I wore. Additionally, they had small towels in ice water that they would put on your neck, at every stop. Yet with all of that, and all the water, and the Endurolytes I could tell I was not in good shape.

I also knew I was blowing my time limit – remember that 8 hour time limit that Ironman imposes? – well I knew it was going to be a close thing. Even though they didn’t have a limit, I still wanted to make it in under 8 hours. Final time, 8:02:11.

As I crossed a wooden bridge back to the finish line, maybe 400 yards away around the last turn, one of my TeamMMS friends who had long been finished came running out and said “come on man, the camera’s right around the corner, you can finish strong…I’ll run it with you”. So I did, and they said “David Stankard, you are a Toughman” and I believed them.

After the race, several people who have raced multiple Ironman 70.3’s said this was the toughest course they had ever done. But I’m actually glad to know that I finished a course this difficult, and this awesome.

Here I’m coming out of the water, heading into T1. At this point, I’m ready to crush the bike ride.
Heading to T1

Here I’m coming off the bike, into T2. My thighs are cramping, I’m having trouble walking, and I’m thinking “just 13.1 miles of running to go”!
Heading to T2

Here I’m back in the hotel after the race, showing off my race tattoo and finisher’s shirt. Just glad it’s over, but really glad to know I finished.I Am A Toughman


Capital of Dreams Olympic Triathlon

Time to jump in the river
This was my third triathlon, and my first Olympic distance. The big reason I wanted to race this, besides the fact that it’s in Montgomery and I wanted to support it, was that we got to get on the riverboat, then ride it upstream for a mile and jump in to swim back to the riverfront. Who could resist?

Getting ready to leave the dock
I had my new wetsuit, I’d done a trial swim downriver with a group that was supervised by the Montgomery Fire Department. I was ready. That’s me in the top left of the picture, on the upper deck of the riverboat. Needless to say, with the current I had a good swim time, and popped out pulling off the wetsuit.

Exiting the swim

Coming back in on the bike
Then it was off on a two-loop bike course. It was mostly flat, but there was a nice climb up and over the interstate on the way back, twice. But it felt good, and I made good time, averaging 17.8mph over the 24 mile course.

The 10k run
Finally, there was the 10k run. I did OK, but could have done much better. It was a hilly course, it was hot, excuse #3. I could have done better. But I somehow medaled, in the Grand Masters category. 2nd place, and I’ll take it thank you very much (I know there are four of us standing there, but it was the Masters and three Grand Masters, only two of each were there for the awards).

Awards ceremony

View upriver
All the way up the river, past that bridge, at about the point you can see the right-hand bank behind the middle pier, that’s where the swim started.

Kingry Metric Century


This was my second attempt at a Metric Century, and thankfully ended a whole lot better. I completed all 65+ miles dog-free, at a very good speed, and rode over half of it with a group of nine riders who challenged and encouraged each other.

As you can see from the graphic, this ride had only 1,600 feet of elevation gain, much less than the last ride. It was hilly, but not a roller coaster of high climbs and steep descents. There were more groups of riders, and more riders stuck around after the ride. We had a great BBQ lunch waiting at the finish, and all had a good time after the ride as well. It was everything the first ride was not.

My goal for both of these rides was to prove to myself that I could complete the 56 mile bike portion of my upcoming August Toughman 70.6 Triathlon.

Kingry Metric Century

Tour Autauga Metric Century Ride

Tour Autauga
This was my first attempt at a Metric Century bike ride (62 miles) and I had a great time up until just shy of mile 55, when a dog ran out of a driveway from behind and knocked me down.

Earlier, I and the guy I was riding with were charged by a ginormous Pit Bull, but we were going downhill and he missed his angle.

The Dog that got me came out a driveway from behind, the first I saw of him he was next to the bike trying to get under my front wheel. And I went down.

Funny thing, I’m laying (lying?) on the side of the road. I’ve pulled my phone out of my seat bag (thank goodness, because I carry it in my shirt pocket a lot, and the wreck probably would have killed it) and I’m calling the SAG wagon that the organizer’s provide, when a woman stops. She asks if I’m OK, I say yes, thank you, and she drives off. About 2 minutes later she’s back, and I’m still happy to be laying on my back. She says, I don’t want to alarm you, but with all this rain you should watch out for snakes coming out of that drainage ditch. Sooo, I stood up!

The elevation on this ride was called “challenging”. At mile 20.74 we climbed 330 feet in 3.84 miles. But I was still fresh. Then from mile 47 we started a 3.5 mile steady climb of 115 feet, turned a corner and saw the next hill – with no break – going up another 262 feet in 1.4 miles. I walked the bike up most of that.

Of course, I also had a lot of downhills over 30mph without pedaling. I went over 36mph twice. But it doesn’t make up for those long slow uphills.

Tour Autauga

Catch Up Posting

Wow, two weeks with no posts – I have been busy at work and busy working out. Oh, and watching the Tour de France for the last three weeks!

I have had to give up my August Sprint Tri, but have signed up for my first half marathon in October. Last week I did my longest bike ride yet, at 40 miles, and today I ran my longest run ever at 9 miles as I ramp up my training for the half marathon.

I’ve also signed up for my second year of the Montgomery Dragon Boat Challenge. If you ever see one of these in your area, get involved and join a team or start a team. It is an absolute blast.

You, Only Faster
I have also bought the Kindle version of Greg McMillan’s new book “You, Only Faster”. Hopefully this will help me to fine-tune my training. For the last couple of Wednesdays I have begun to run quarter mile hill repeats with my local running/biking/tri club. We do laps of a quarter mile up the hill, quarter mile back, rinse and repeat for 8 or 10 loops. Then I’m doing my long run on the weekend.

I also pulled the trigger on the Saucony Kinvara 3’s. I found them online for $69.00, and could not resist them at that price. The wide version I wanted only comes in this subtle muted color, so I will glow in the dark every morning I wear them!
Saucony Kinvara 3

Road ID App (now in beta) Is Free

I just found out that the folks at Road ID have an iPhone-only app that is **free** that allows you to set up to five people up to receive an email when you go for a run/ride. They get an email that tells them what you’re doing, and has a link to a website map where they can track your progress.

It even has a feature that will send an alert if you have been stationary for longer than 5 minutes, before your activity is supposed to end.

I downloaded it today, and will be testing it out, and so should you!

My First Triathlon Is Completed

I picked my first triathlon based on several factors – it was only four weeks out when I registered, the day after I bought my bike; it was a pool swim and not open water; and the bike portion was only seven miles. Seemed like a great first tri.

And it was. The 33rd annual Huntsville Sprint Triathlon was a great introduction to the sport. The local club putting it on were friendly, the event was very “newbie” friendly, and the weather was great.

Here’s me sporting my first-ever leg chip.
Spandex makes everyone look so nice

It began with everyone giving their 100 yard swim speed when registering, and then the swim was to be a “criterion” start in the pool. But a lot of people either had no clue what their speed was, or just didn’t care, but you jam two slow people in one lane, and bottlenecks occur. I had read people saying they though open water swims were easier than pool swims, but couldn’t believe them…until now. I know I can swim 400 meters in 9:15-9:30 (slow and steady, that’s me) but could only get out with a 10:45 time.

My T1 was quick, mostly because I was biking in my running shoes. I just didn’t feel like I had enough time to get comfortable on the bike AND comfortable with clipless pedals. But clipless pedals are going on the bike this week. So with running shoes I averaged 17.1mph on a mostly flat course with a bunch of turns in a neighborhood before getting to the main road. I was happy with that.

T2 was quick, and then then run began. It was advertised as “rolling with a challenging cross country and pathway type of elevation gain and loss” but what looked like a long section of sidewalk on the back side was in fact all gravel. So it was a 5k trail run, complete with narrow wooden bridge, really skinny sidewalk next to a main road with traffic, one section with large rocks and badly patched asphalt, and one 20 foot steep grass descent. Oh, and it was a two-lap course, so rinse and repeat all those conditions. But I loved it! (have I mentioned this was my first tri?)

I only ran a 33:26, after going sub-30 my last two 5k races, but between the trail run and this being the last of three events, I am OK with it. Looking on the bright side, I set a PR with plenty of room for improvement!

I’m already signing up for my next sprint tri in early August, the Mountain Lakes Triathlon. It’s a lake swim 300 yards out and back, a 15 mile cycling course billed as mostly flat and fast, and a 5k run on streets and not a trail.