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

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!

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

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.