Monday, June 9, 2014

Capital of Dreams Sprint Triathlon Race Report

     Last Saturday was my first race of the season – the Capital of Dreams Sprint Triathlon.  After a week off due to an abscess in a less than desirable location I was ready to come out of the blocks strong.  Plus, this would be the first race on my new bike, so my excitement level was high!

Packet Pickup:

     Located in the grassy amphitheater at Montgomery’s Riverfront Park, packet pickup was a breeze.  I arrived around 3:00pm, just after a brief thunderstorm had came through, so the grass was pretty soggy.  I even saw one lady take what appeared to be a pretty nasty fall, but she came right back up with only her ego bruised.  I was able to quickly show my ID, get my swim cap, bib, and wristband, then on to get my swag bag and lastly my timing chip.  I later found out that the athletes who arrived closer to the beginning of packet pickup had to either wait for the chips to be prepared, or get them the morning of the race.  Not a big deal, but I wasn’t affected either.

Race Morning:

     After a night of fitful sleep due to my excitement, my alarm went off at its usual 4:00am.  A quick glass of water, and I busied myself getting my last minute preps done for the race.  We arrived in Downtown Montgomery about 6:00am and waited just a few minutes for my buddy, and tri-newbie, Justin to arrive with his family.

     Transition had opened at 5:30, so there was activity happening, but nothing out of the ordinary.  Justin and I racked our bikes, and I helped him set his transition area up.  Transition was really quite calm, and the porta-potty line wasn't too bad either.  Once everything was in place we went back out to join our families and put on our wetsuits.

     The swim start was a time trial start from the Harriott II.  We boarded the boat at 7:00, and quickly went upriver to the 400 meter buoy to start race.  After getting clearance from emergency personnel we were able to start racing about 10 minutes early.

The Swim:

     Jumping into the Alabama River was quite refreshing cold.  Even though the swim was a short 400 meters, I was grateful for the wetsuit which actually made the temperature very comfortable.  I took a quick second to get my bearings after jumping into the water, and away I went.  Sighting the dock was easy, and I was soon passing other athletes.  Because of the time trial start the swim wasn't congested at all, but I did notice several people straying pretty far from what I pictured as a line to the swim exit.

     I was soon at the swim exit, which was a single ladder with two guys to help you up.  The first step was pretty high, so I was glad for the help.  My only complaint here is that it was a single ladder, and I had to wait for the 4 people in front of me to exit – probably took 10-20 seconds.  It took a couple of tries for me to get my wetsuit to unzip, but once I found the sweet spot it was down to my waist with ease.  This was also my first time getting to use a wetsuit peeler.  They were located at the bottom of the tunnel that leads into Riverfront Park.  I laid down on my back just long enough for this kind soul to peel my suit off and hand it to me as I was getting back up.

Swim Time: 6:43


     I was feeling good coming out of the water, but did take my time going up the tunnel and stairs into T1.  Even though the clock doesn't stop during transition I wanted to keep myself calm and have a clean transition.  My sunglasses, race belt and helmet went on with ease and before I knew it I was jogging to the bike mount line.  This was my first time keeping my shoes clipped in and running barefoot through transition.  The rubber bands worked great, and I had no issues during transition.

T1 Time: 3:29

The Bike:

     The bike starts off with a gradual uphill for a mile or two.  This really isn't a problem, except that I still had to get my feet into the shoes.  I had to wait until I started going downhill to get both feet in so that I didn't lose all of my momentum.  Once I crested the  hill it was smooth sailing, often seeing speeds of 18-20 mph.  For the first time in my career I was able to say, “on your left,” more than I heard it!  I made it to the turnaround at mile 6, and the tailwind that I had for the first half quickly became a stiff headwind.  I tucked into aero position and focused on keeping a steady cadence and less on speed.  I knew the run would have some pretty steep uphill parts, so I didn't want to kill my legs on the bike.  This proved to be a good move.  I knew my average had dipped a bit, but staying above 16mph is a win for me!

Bike Time: 45:14


     I had already taken my feet out of my shoes, so all I had to do in transition was rack my bike and put my visor & running shoes on and I was off.  I have absolutely no clue what I did for a minute and twelve seconds.

T2 Time: 1:12

The Run:

     The run.  Oh my stars, the run.  We had a very short flat portion before the downtown Montgomery hills.  The lesson learned here is that I need to get stronger on hills.  The first half of the run walk was all uphill.  I ran when I could, but it wasn't pretty.  I didn't wear a GPS, but I imagine I was averaging somewhere around a 14 minute mile.  The best scenery came around mile 1.5 when the uphills were finally over and it was a nice, long, downhill stretch.  It was here that I passed a few people and finally started to feel that I might salvage a halfway decent run split.  With about a quarter mile to go I passed a guy who works for our local news station, WSFA.  Coming into the tunnel one of my teammates who was volunteering said there were two people closing in and to finish strong.  The nasty uphill that I had during T1 was a nice downhill now.  Through the tunnel and to the right and the finish line was in sight.  I could hear the footsteps of the racers behind me, so with about 50 yards to go I started my sprint to the finish – and beat the pack!  Woohoo!

Run Time: 36:52 - Even though that is way off of my 5k pace, I’m happy with the time.

Total: 1:33:29, which was good enough for a Top 10 finish in my age group!

Final Thoughts:

     Team Magic put on a great race!  If it fits into my schedule next year, I’ll be racing again.

     Oh, remember how I passed the WSFA employee?  He was in the group sprinting to the finish, which means I made it onto the news.  Glad I finished ahead of him!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Run for a Mom Race Report

     One of my favorite 5k races each year is Agape’s Run for a Mom.  This was the 4th year for the race, and it gets better and better each year.  I've been both a runner and a volunteer, with each role being extremely fulfilling.

     My race goal this year was to PR by finishing under 31:30.

     Since Brooke was volunteering we needed to arrive at 6:00am which meant a 4:30 wake-up call.  For most people that is early – for me, it was sleeping in an extra half hour (gotta love Ironman training schedules).  I let the dogs out, walked around a bit, gathered my last few items for the race and began sipping on water.  Leaving at 5:30, I grabbed a couple of fiber bars and a banana and away we went.  Since we arrived an hour and a half before the start of the race I spent some time just hanging out on the bleachers and socializing.  I was able to spend a few minutes with one of the basketball players who was on my team this past season as well as catch up with some folks before the race start.  Since it had been raining most of the night with more in the forecast the vendors were set-up in the gym, so I browsed for a few minutes then it was time to head to the start corral.  We were offered a short warm-up by a boot camp instructor, then it was time to run.

     I started about two thirds of the way back in the crowd, and found myself passing quite a few people in the early miles (something that RARELY happens).  About a mile in the crowd started to thin and I had settled into my race pace.  I was ecstatic when I heard the volunteer shout 10:22 as I passed.  Knowing that I was close to a 10 minute mile gave me the resolve to push harder.  The second mile went quickly with more passing (my hill work is paying off), and I was into the last mile soon enough.  It was about now that a lady passed me and gave a quick hello.  I wasn't able to do any more than wave – by this point I was in a steady breathing pattern and didn't want to do anything to interrupt it.  I would be lying if I didn't say I was a little bummed that I got passed, but it probably helped as it gave me a target to keep close as I finished the last mile.  

     As I made the last turn I saw that I was just over 27 minutes and was going to be pretty close to the 30 minute mark.  Passing the 3 mile marker I saw 29:30 on my watch – I knew I wouldn't break 30 minutes, but I was going to be closer than I ever had been. With about 50 yards to go I passed my pacer for the last mile

     Crossing the finish line I saw 30:17 on my watch, and new that would be pretty close to my chip time.  After getting a bottle of water and ensuring I wasn't going to puke I made my way to the About Time Events tent to check the chip time.  Even better!  30:16!!  I smashed my goal and set a great PR!!

I don't think I'll ever be a
"good looking" runner!

     If you're looking for a 5k in the Montgomery area, Run For a Mom is great.  It is well organized, the volunteers are awesome, the course is pretty easy, and it benefits a wonderful organization.  I give it two thumbs up!

You can find me on Facebook and Twitter!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Rocketman Florida 2013 Race Report

*Disclaimer:  This entry is my longest one to date.  I debated splitting it into multiple posts, but decided that if you’re not interested in the race report that you can just skip it all instead of looking at multiple entries.

     It was one year ago today that I finished my very first 70.3 – Rocketman Florida.  Since I never wrote a race report, yet I still remember the race as if it was yesterday, today seems like a good time to give my thoughts of the race.  Many of the links will take you to pictures or videos of the areas.

Bike Check-in and Body Marking-
     Brooke and I left on Friday, May 3, spent the night about half-way to Titusville, and made the rest of the trip on Saturday.  Once we arrived at Space View Park there was quite the line waiting to check-in.  The volunteers were quite efficient, and I was soon paying my one day membership to USAT, having my race number written on with a Sharpie, and putting my bike in a prime spot (1st bike on my rack) in transition.

     The morning came quick enough, with very little sleep, but nervous excitement for the day ahead.  I took a quick shower to wake up, ate a quick bite, had a sip of Dr. Pepper, and started hydrating for the day ahead.  Brooke and I made our way to Space View Park and I quickly put the finishing touches on my transition area and then began the wait for the start.  Rain was threatening, but stayed away.  As Brooke and I were waiting I struck up a conversation with a guy who happened to be a coach for Team in Training.  He’ll never know how much he put me at ease that morning.  Soon enough it was time for me to head to my start wave, so I kissed Brooke and she wished me luck and was off.

Swim- 51:45
     The swim was great!  I was in the 1st wave of swimmers, with approximately 25 other people in my wave.  The water was just cool enough to be wetsuit legal, but to be honest I’m not sure that it made that much of a difference for me.  There were several ladders off of the dock for us to enter the water, and plenty of large buoys marking the swim course.  After a short time treading water the horn sounded and we were off.  Since this was my first open water swim of this distance I took my time and made sure to relax in the water.  Even with a relatively slow cadence and breathing on every stroke I was to the first turn buoy in no time.  Turn left, and head toward the Max Brewer Bridge – an ever present reminder of the MASSIVE hill to start the bike course.   I actually passed a couple of swimmers just past the buoy and settled into a comfortable rhythm.  Just as I was really getting into it, I got kicked in the face – hard!  I looked up, saw the guy who was facing me, adjusted my goggles and started swimming again.  Not two strokes later he kicks me again.  Now I’m mad.  I raise back up, ask him what gives, and he says, “I’m exhausted and have to do the back stroke.  Since I can’t see where I’m going I’m using you to direct myself.”  I quickly responded, “better find a new plan,” and sprinted past him.  I made it to the next turn buoy without incident and saw the swim exit as a tiny dot ahead of me.  It was somewhere in this last third of the swim that I got WAY off course to the inside and had to redirect myself.  It seemed like a current was pushing me to the left, but I eventually got to the exit.  The exit was the only hiccup of the swim, with only two ladders to get out of the water.  By the time I arrived there was a line waiting to exit which included some of the Olympic distance athletes as well.  After a short wait I was helped up the ladder by a volunteer and on my way into T1.

T1- 6:35
     Walking to T1 I was unzipping my wetsuit, getting a drink of fresh water (the river was brackish water – it was beyond gross), and mentally preparing for the bike ride to come.  My wetsuit came off with relative ease, I applied sunscreen, and started to put my socks on.  While I was putting my socks on came the realization that it had rained in transition while I was swimming.  My socks weren't soaked, but they weren't dry.  Have you ever tried to put on wet socks?  Yeah, not the easiest.  Sunglasses on, helmet strap snapped, and out of transition.  For my first major transition, I’m happy.

Bike- 3:48:08
     The bike was the part that I was most looking forward to – getting to ride by the Mate-Demate Device, Shuttle Landing Facility, Vehicle Assembly Building, and Launch Complex 39 (Where the missions to the moon launched from, as well as every Space Shuttle mission).  However, there was about 7 miles between transition and the entrance to the Kennedy Space Center.  Shortly after mounting the bike the Max Brewer Bridge was the first challenge of the bike.  This bridge is MASSIVE.  Basically just put it in a low gear and try to keep enough speed to not tip over.  The joy of that challenge was coming down on the other side, which saw my fastest speed of the day, and a nice tailwind on the way to the KSC entrance.  Another 6 or so miles and I was making the right turn into KSC where the first water stop was.  I had only drank about ¼ of my first bottle, so I skipped this station.

     Riding down Kennedy Pkwy the VAB kept growing and growing.  I was afforded the chance to swing by the Mate-Demate Device and the Shuttle landing Facility before passing the VAB.  The 70.3 course took us past the VAB and onto NASA Pkwy, also known as The NASA Causeway.  A quick turn-around, and I was on my way back to the VAB.  Turning right onto the Saturn Causeway I passed the mammoth VAB and the iconic countdown clock, then found myself riding next to the gravel Crawlerway that leads to launch pads 39-A and 39-B.  By now the temperature was starting to rise, and the wind was really picking up.  Adrenaline carried me down the Saturn Causeway as I saw the pad getting closer.  We made a right turn to begin the path around the pad and there was a photographer to snap our picture with LC 39-A in the background.

     The wind on the back side of the pads was horrendous.  I’m guessing sustained winds of 20mph, but honestly I don’t know.  My legs were burning, and I ate a couple of my Clif Shot Bloks, and realized that would be the last of those I ate for a while because I just ran out of water.  10 miles from the next aid station.  With no shade.  And heavy winds.  I enjoyed heading around pad B, imagining the crawler-transporters that have made that journey many times, seeing the now defunct mobile-launcher platform that was used for the Aries 1-X test, and several more pieces of hardware before turning back onto Kennedy Pkwy.

     Here is where I was at my lowest.  The exciting scenery was behind me, the wind was in my face, the sun was beating down, I had no water, and was dreading going back over the hill on the Max Brewer bridge.  A lady on a mountain bike passed me (it helped knowing that she was in the sprint distance).  I was mentally cussing the race organizers for having only two water stops (one at mile 7, another at mile 49), even though I knew there had been some trouble getting authorization to put one on the space center.

     I finally made it to the aid station and rejoiced as an awesome volunteer poured a Dasani water into my bone dry bottle.  I knew I was behind on water and calories, but by now my stomach had decided that liquid was all it was going to take.  I tried to eat a shot block, but it just didn’t happen.  I figured my best bet at this point was to just drink as much Gatorade on the run course as possible and hope for the best.

     Before I could get to the run I had to face the Max Brewer Bridge once more.  It completely sucked this time.  About ¾ of the way up I decided to walk, lest I lose all forward momentum and fall over.  The walk of shame ended quickly enough, and I was back in the saddle for the downhill ride where I took my feet out of my shoes and prepared for T2.  Space View Park only looked sweeter on launch day.  I dismounted with no trouble, and entered transition.

     I walked to my spot and racked my bike, put on my running shoes, took one last drink from my water bottle, and went to spray on more sunscreen only to find that my bottle wouldn't spray.  Great – guess I’ll have a not-so-gentle reminder of my race for the next week or so.  Oh well, no time to cry over non-working sunscreen.  To the run I go.

Run (i.e. walk)-3:33:01
     I saw Brooke as I was leaving transition and asked her what time it was (I didn’t wear a watch, so I was clueless).  Her response was, “you have plenty of time, you’re doing great.”  I knew I was doing OK, but I knew because of my troubles on the bike that the run was going to be tough, so I wanted to know how long I had before the race cut-off – I planned on using every minute of it.  It turns out that I had about 3:45 to finish.

     The run was a 2 loop course through Titusville with very little shade.  I was doing OK for the first 3 miles, but soon felt myself starting to come apart.  I started counting the light poles figuring I could run four then walk one.  It wasn’t long before it was run 3 and walk 2.  That got me to the turn-around at mile 6.5.  Eventually I found myself running 1 light pole and walking 4.  Then I started telling myself, “run when you can, walk when you need to, and for the love of all that is good, don’t collapse.”  By mile 9 I was having trouble drinking anything with calories.  Gatorade tasted sour.  I asked a police officer what time it was, and he said 2:45.  With only about 2 miles to go at that point I knew I would finish.

     Those were a couple of the hardest miles I have ever walked, though I did find myself catching another athlete and eventually passing him with just yards to go.  I told him that I had never finished a race walking and that I didn't plan on doing that here – let’s run to the finish together.  He declined, but told me to go ahead.  So I did.

Total – 8:23:19

Post Race-
     I heard the announcer say, “Jerry Shands, from Deatsville, Alabama, you are a Rocketman!”  A volunteer placed the medal around my neck, and Brooke was there to greet me.  Just finishing the race put new energy into my otherwise tired body.  I paused for just a couple of minutes to gather my thoughts and congratulate the guy who I passed just before the finish.  We then went to transition and gathered my bike and other belongings and went back to the car where I turned on my phone and had a plethora of congratulatory text messages.  I called my family and let them know I survived, and we made a stop at CVS Pharmacy for some chocolate milk.  This was my first time having chocolate milk for a recovery drink, and I’m sold on it.  I was able to tour the Kennedy Space Center the next day, and SeaWorld the day after that with my worst pain coming from the horrid sunburn I earned.

     Will I do a half-iron distance again?  Absolutely!  Even with the struggles this race solidified the fact that I enjoy endurance racing.  Will I do Rocketman again?  Probably not.  They aren’t offering a half-iron distance in 2014, and that is a really long distance to travel for a sprint or international distance race.  Am I glad I did it?  YES!  I was able to race on some amazingly historic grounds that will most likely be a limited time race due to SpaceX signing a contract for use of Launch Complex 39.


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Friday, May 2, 2014

April in Review

Hey Friends, this week's weigh in will also include April's Review... so, here are the numbers:

Weekend Weigh-in:

Weight: 235 (22lbs down, 36 to go)

2 Workouts
1.1 Miles

1 Workout
16.17 Miles

3 Workouts
5.79 Miles

6 Workouts
23.06 Miles

April Wrap Up:

4.7 Miles / 03:32:24

71.93 Miles / 05:30:54

28.30 Miles / 05:35:06

The more I blog, the more I realize that I'm not as creative as this guy.  I have something to live up to now.  

So, down to 235, which just happens to be my race weight from Rocketman Florida last year.  Here is that finishers picture again, because, you know, I finished!

My goal weight for Augusta is 199, which is just 36 pounds away.  With just under 5 months to go 199 is attainable, but it will be close.  If I get close, I'll be thrilled!  

In other news, I enjoyed an hour bike ride last weekend where I averaged 16.44 - my best pace yet.  I know my new bike is part of my speed, but I can tell that I'm getting stronger on the bike, which is certainly welcome.  

Next Saturday is Agape's Run for a Mom.  Of course, I can't go into a race without a goal of some sort, so I'm hoping for under 31:30.  The plan right now is to run the course again after I finish, just for the extra miles.  It should be a fun time - come out and run for your Mom!  It is one of the best managed races I've been a part of!  


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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Weekend Weigh-in

Weight: 238

2 Workouts
1.1 Miles

1 Workout
18.57 Miles

3 Workouts
8.33 Miles

6 Workouts
28.00 Miles

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Power of a High Five

     It’s no secret that running has been my weakest sport of the three.  Training has been good to me this year, and I’m up to running an hour at a time with a pace somewhere around 11:15/mile.  Monday was my first hour long run.  While challenging, I can truly say that I enjoyed it.  The weather was cool, I had a good night’s sleep, and I wanted to run.

     I started running at the P’ville YMCA around 4:50am, and soon after three ladies started doing a bootcamp type of exercise routine inside of the track.  I didn’t think much of it, zoned into my music, and kept with my steady pace.  About 30 or 40 minutes into my run I was starting to feel a little tired – nothing bad mind you, just feeling the challenge of the run.  It was also about that time that one of the ladies recognized me, said, “Hey Jerry,” and gave me a high-five.

     That quick exchange wasn’t Earth shattering, life changing, or religious.  However, it did give me a boost of energy.  My form improved, my breathing came easier, and I just felt good.

      It’s the small things.

      Don’t forget the power of a simple high-five.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Weekend Weigh-in

Weight: 237
2 Workouts
1.55 Miles

1 Workout
21.84 Miles

2 Workouts
6.1 Miles

6 Workouts
29.49 Miles

     This has been another good base building week for me. I’m still consistent with 2 swims per week, slowly increasing my distance. Wednesday brought 1500 yards, and felt very good. It won’t be long before one day is dedicated to distance, and another is dedicated to speed.

     My runs have been at a slower, relaxed pace. I thought I would never have a “relaxed pace,” while running, so this has been an awesome breakthrough. However, if you happen to see me running, you’ll notice that I resemble a person trying not to die, even if I feel good. I’m just not a good looking runner.

     The bike was a tough workout, with Heather inviting me along for a Sunday afternoon group ride. The distance wasn't so bad, but the hills… oh my goodness, the hills. My quads were very unhappy during this ride, and the day after. But in all honesty, it was a good ride for me. My HIM training plan calls for a hill workout once a week, so this will be a good route to remember.

     My diet has been better, but still not great*. I’m eating more fruit, and making some better choices when I go out to eat, so I’ll call it a win. Between the exercise and a better diet I am down 3 pounds, which is great for me. Just 37 lbs to race weight!

     And I can’t write this entry without sharing my newest purchase – a pair of Louis Garneau Tri X-Speed Shoes! I was browsing and saw them on closeout, so I made an impulse purchase and bought them. I've actually been looking for a pair of tri shoes, and they were the right price, so it made sense. My first ride with them will be tomorrow, so I’ll give an update after the ride.

*My breakfast this morning consisted of 3 donuts from Dunkin’ Donuts. Lunch included 2 more. I’m not a connoisseur, but I find Krispy Kreme to have a superior donut product.


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