Sunday, April 22, 2012

Team Red, White & Blue

Through my involvement in triathlons, I became aware of an organization called Team Red, White & Blue. I know a couple of people who race for them and became interested in them myself. Team RWB’s mission from their web site ( :

Team Red, White & Blue’s (Team RWB) vision is to transform the way wounded veterans are reintegrated into society when they return from combat and exit their position.

While much has improved since the post-Vietnam era, some polarization between veterans and our society still exists today. Strong relationships between wounded veterans and their fellow Americans are critical to veterans’ reintegration into civilian life as well as our nation’s success. That’s why Team RWB’s mission is to enrich the lives of wounded veterans and their families. Team RWB works toward this mission by focusing on three key areas:

1. Personal connectivity between Veterans with invisible wounds and citizens in the community where they now live
- Community-building events that bring Veterans together with citizens
- Formation of friendships and natural individual relationships

2. Reintegration through physical fitness
- Physical: rebuild the body, give structure to life and bolster self-esteem
- Psychological: help to process experiences from Iraq/Afghanistan
- Social: connect with people to run, bike, workout and be active

3. Galvanization of esprit de corps and team membership
- Bringing back the feeling from the military of pride and being part of a unit

I decided a while back that I wanted to race for Team RWB in 2012 and raise money for their cause. I ordered a tri kit in the fall so that I could race all year as a Team RWB athlete. And then early in the year, I was asked to step up and do something more.

One of the ladies I know who is in the Army and is in charge of the triathlon portion of Team RWB asked if myself and a fellow local triathlete would be interested in helping to put on a triathlon camp for about 20 veterans. Not really knowing all that we were getting into, we said yes.

We met with the coach who would be in charge of the training. He happens to be the coach of at least two professional female triathletes, one of which is his wife. We discussed the vision for the camp and then set out to put everything in motion. This past weekend, it all came to fruition.

Thursday Evening

As soon as I left work Thursday afternoon, I headed to the airport to pick up one of the athletes. We went back to Jack & Adams (J&A), the local bike shop that was supporting the camp, and got him started on putting his bike together. Several athletes had arrived earlier and were either putting their bikes together or getting set up and fitted on brand new bikes that they would be able to take home with them. Bikes, shoes, helmets, wetsuits, etc. – if they didn’t come to the camp with it, they would be leaving with it.

When it was time for dinner we headed over to the park where the Texas Beef Council would be providing dinner. More athletes arrived as did the two pro triathletes who would be joining us for the camp – Jessica Jacobs and Jessica Meyers. The Beef Council grilled steaks for those who eat meat (not me) and we all introduced ourselves. Some athletes would be in home stays and went home with their host, while a few who registered last minute headed off for their hotel.


Friday morning we all met back at J&A. Derick took the athletes and a few volunteers over to a large field and went over some running drills. Then it was time to run. Those who wanted to could do a 2-mile time trial while the rest could just run for 30 minutes. I chose the latter as I didn’t really feel like punishing myself so early in the morning. Let me just say that some of the athletes are really fast, including the athlete who stayed with us.

Once back at J&A, those that still needed to get fit on bikes did that and lunch was delivered. Everyone just hung out, ate lunch and got to know each other better.
The two pros offered a ride for those that wanted to ride with them while the rest of the folks headed next door to the pitch-n-putt for a “closest to pin contest”. I thought I’d go out with the pros, but had my road bike instead of my tri bike and quickly realized that their version of a conversational pace and mine were two totally different things.

After the pitch-n-putt contest, it was time for a bike skills clinic. Everyone took their bike back to the same field we were at in the morning. Derick had everyone practice getting going with one foot clipped in to get a feel for how to start with some motion. Then he had us come back with the opposite foot clipped in. Let me just say that when you’ve ridden for over 5 years and always keep the same foot clipped in, it’s a little hard to do it with the other foot. Many people hit the ground, including myself.

He had us see who could go the slowest without falling over, had us do some bumping drills, had the athletes try to pick up bottles from the ground, etc. It was a very good clinic for first timers.

After the bikes skills clinic it was time to pack up and head north for some swimming. A lesson was given in how to get the wetsuit on (there really is an art to it and the zipper does go in the back). We were split into 3 groups – those with no open water experience, the really fast group and the rest of us. Jessica Jacobs was assigned to “the rest of us”. She went over some tips on breathing and sighting and then people were free to swim the loop.

After the swim, folks were on their own for the evening. I also had one of the volunteers staying with us, so we went home and ordered pizza. We were tired.


Saturday morning we met down south for a bike session. Derick went over a quick lesson on how to set up your transition area and how to think when you are packing for a triathlon. Then it was time to head out on the road. Remember, some of these guys had not been on a bike since they were little and we were getting ready to head out in a 2-up pace line on the shoulder of a fairly busy road.

Derick asked me to lead up front with him and asked another volunteer to bring up the rear and make sure no one got lost or fell off the group. We went really slow (like 12-14 mph), but the guys did amazing. I told Derick that day 2 of getting my clipless pedals there would have been no way I would have been out doing that.

After we finished the first loop we could go back out in smaller groups and do more of our speed. I stayed with some guys going out, but I am familiar with the area and did my own thing on the way back in. Once we were all through, it was time for lunch.

After lunch was another swim session. This was interesting as the athletes worked on a beach start scenario with dolphin dives into the water. Most of the triathlons I do have in-water starts, so that was something even I have not really done. After everyone tried it once, we broke back into groups. The group I was in worked on drafting. We were paired up and drafted off each other for the full loop, rotating who was in the lead and who followed.

After the swim, those who wanted to could run a couple of short laps around the quarry where we were swimming. Then it was time to shower and have a nutrition clinic. I thought I drank a lot of water, but after hearing how much Derick recommended and tracking my intake for a couple of days – yikes! I have some drinking to do.

Then it was time to head to dinner and a roundtable discussion with the pros. We were joined by Kelly Williamson and Patrick Evoe. How often do you have the chance to spend the evening with 4 pro triathletes? Awesome.


Sunday’s session was just a “long run”. We had about 2 hours of time, so people could do an out and back for up to an hour if they wanted. I did a 5 miler. The faster folks did around 10. Then it was time to break the bikes down and pack them up. I have to admit, I got a little teary eyed thinking about the weekend being over.

There were 14 athletes in attendance, each with their own unique story. Some shared a lot of their story and others were more reserved, but you could tell the camp meant a lot to each and every one of them. It just confirmed my decision to race as a Team RWB athlete this year leading up to IMAZ.

While the camp is over, the mission of Team RWB is not. If you believe in what they are doing and wish to support my fundraising efforts, please feel free to make a donation at:

Please know that the money you donate is going to the cause. They are not paying for my race entry or any part of my travels this year. I bought the triathlon uniform myself because I wanted to. I want to give back this year and this is my way. My first race in the Team RWB kit was Lonestar 70.3 where someone snapped this picture of me.

If you don’t wish to donate at this time, at least try and say thanks next time you see someone in the military or someone who is a veteran. You have no idea what their story is, but I can guarantee that they will appreciate a kind word.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Lonestar 70.3

Friday afternoon I left work early, met up with a few other folks racing, and headed to Galveston for the Lonestar 70.3. This would be my second time to race this race and just like last time, I wasn’t where I wanted to be with my training. Despite that, I knew that I would be ok and could complete the race barring no major catastrophe.

We arrived in Galveston, got settled, grabbed a few items from the grocery store and headed out for dinner. Then it was time to get some rest.

Saturday morning I slept in. It was nice as I don’t get to do that often. After grabbing some breakfast it was time to take the bike out for a short spin to make sure all was working properly. We just did a little over 20 minutes, but all seemed well. I was happy that it didn’t feel like much of a headwind either way and hoped for the same on race day.

After the ride, it was time to load the bikes and head to the race site. There are “mandatory” meetings for the athletes and the first one was at 12:30, so we hit that to make sure there weren’t any surprises we needed to know about. One thing they said was that all bikes needed to be racked by the seat. No big deal for me as that’s what I usually do.

After the meeting it was time to register and pick up the race packet. Because of how early it was, there was a big line heading into the tent. As I got close, I noticed there were different lines based on bib numbers. Of course mine was one of the longest AND it was on the end, so people were going around the line and trying to cut. Umm, I don’t think so. The other thing that annoyed me was that lots of people were bringing their bikes into the registration tent and it was not set up for that.

I made my way through all the stops – signing the waiver; getting my wristband, race numbers and shirt; activating my chip, etc. – and then exited through the expo part. When everyone was done, we went back to grab the bikes and head to transition to rack them.

When we got to transition I found my spot and put my bike on the rack by the seat as I had been told. And it just hung there. My front tire did not reach the ground. It was windy (it is Galveston afterall), so my bike was rocking back and forth and looked like if a strong enough gust came along it might just blow off the rack. One of the volunteers came by at that point and she said that the officials told her it was ok to rack the bikes by the handlebars tonight because of the wind, but they would need to be fixed in the morning. No problem. I switched my bike around, took the obligatory “bike rack” picture and left transition.

At the big races they usually have a pro panel and it was time for it to start, so we headed that way. They had six pros (3 men and 3 women) on stage. I knew Tim O’Donnell, Kelly Williamson and Caitlin Snow. I was far back and couldn’t see who the others were. Then I glanced at the big screen. Oh. Lance Armstrong is up there. I know there are mixed feelings on Lance and I won’t get into that here because he is bringing recognition to triathlon, but the whole pro panel seemed to be about Lance and not much about the other 5 pros being up there.

After the pro panel we chilled out for a little bit and then headed for an early pasta dinner. We timed that just right because after we walked in a whole bunch of people came in. We were seated fairly quickly and those behind us had to wait a while.

After dinner it was time to get everything ready for race day. Once all the race gear was laid out it was time to sleep. Or try to sleep. I did good until around 2am. After that, I’m not sure I got much sleep.

The alarm went off at 4am race morning. I got up and dressed, made my race day shake and ate my Lara Bar. I also mixed my Infinit for the bike and double checked to make sure I had everything. It was time to head to the race.

You would think that getting to the race site early would mean good parking. Nope. Parking this year was quite a ways away from transition. Well, that would be my warmup.

Once in transition I began to lay everything out. I’ve tried to simplify my “spot” over the years with just the basics I need. I’m still amazed at how much stuff people bring into transition with them. Some folks had backpacks on that were as big as a suitcase. I’ll never know what they have in there. Anyway, I got my stuff laid out, talked to a few ladies around me (including another one racing for Team RWB), hit the port-a potties and put on sunscreen as best as I could without smearing my body marking.

Transition closed at 6:45 and my swim wave didn’t go off until 8:20, so I grabbed my wetsuit, goggles, swim cap, and my second breakfast of a Lara Bar and Gatorade. The walk to the swim start is a pretty decent walk, but I was obviously in no hurry to get there.

Once at the swim start I found a place to sit and just soaked up the atmosphere. The pros were allowed to jump in the water, the national anthem was sung and the race started. After the pros went off it was funny to watch the age groupers who hadn’t planned well and realized that their wave was about to jump in the water. They would come running through with panicked looks on their faces. Some of them didn’t even have their wetsuits on. This scenario played out over and over again. I didn’t want to be one of those, so around 7:45 I put the bottom of my wetsuit on, found the bathroom again and then found some other ladies in my swim wave. I got the top of my wetsuit up and had one help me with the zipper. I was ready.

When it was time, we lined up and made the march down the pier. It wasn’t long before we were jumping in the water. It’s about a 3-foot jump off a pier into the water. I tried to hold my nose and my goggles, but my goggles actually came off when I jumped in. Good thing I found them before they sank. I got them back on and swam to the start buoys. The water was a tiny bit chilly at first, but I knew it wouldn’t be cold while swimming. We had a couple of minutes before our start, but it wasn’t long before that gun went off and we all went horizontal.

I don’t like cold water and it hasn’t been real warm yet, so I had not done a practice swim in my wetsuit before this race. In fact, I don’t think I have even worn it since IMFL in November 2010. I could tell in the first few strokes that it was a little more effort to stroke than without it. I was also trying to go a little hard in the beginning so that I could get some room around me and get into my grove. I noticed that I was having a hard time breathing (the wetsuit felt a little tight around the chest) so I just told myself to slow down and just swim.

I got into a little bit of a groove and was feeling ok. I noticed that I was able to pass a guy from the wave in front of us before the first turn. It was also around that point, however, when a guy from the wave behind us passed me. Lovely. I was a little worried about this as we had M55+ and M18-25 behind us. I knew I would get passed, I just hoped I wouldn’t get beat up as they went over and around me.

I managed to keep a fairly good line with the buoys, but there were a couple of times I veered off course. I also had to kick really hard a couple of times because the guys were swimming upon me.

Finally, I reached the final turn to head back in. I had no idea how I was doing. I tried to look at the color of swim caps around me when I breathed, but I didn’t really see a bunch from my wave. I was a little worried as I didn’t want to be the last out of the water.

When I reached the ramp, I stood up. I got a little dizzy at first, but grabbed the bar at the exit and kept going. I unzipped the wetsuit and got the top part off. I didn’t see strippers at first and thought I’d have to get out of the wetsuit in transition, but then I saw them further down. I pointed to one, lay on the ground and she ripped that wetsuit off in a split second. I’d gladly have her strip my wetsuit again. I got up, grabbed my wetsuit and headed into transition.

Swim Time: 44:29
79th in my division of 126

I ran into transition, found my spot, put my wetsuit out of the way and started putting my cycling gear on. I did the socks and shoes first and then the glasses, gloves and helmet. I grabbed my bike and was out of there.

T1: 3:25

I got onto the bike feeling good. I wasn’t out of breath. I don’t wear my HR monitor in tris because my garmin isn’t waterproof, but it didn’t feel like my HR was high. It was time to see what I could do on the bike. I made my way through the grounds of Moody Gardens and turned on the Seawall Blvd. You never know until race day how the winds are going to be, but when I made that turn I felt good. It seemed like the wind was mostly a crosswind but with a slight headwind. Since I was doing around 16mph I was hoping this was the case. If we had a slight headwind on the way out we would have a slight tailwind on the way back.

I started passing several people. The only people that passed me were the fast guys behind me. It was a while before a female passed me. That made me feel good as well. About 10 minutes into the ride, I saw the pros coming back in on the other side. Based on the bike, the lead cyclist was none other than Lance Armstrong.

Since I carry all my nutrition on my bike, I didn’t need to stop at any of the aid stations. I do usually have to stop about mile 20 for a potty break but I was hoping to at least make it past the turnaround at 28. I accomplished my goal. I might have been able to make it the whole way back, but I decided I would rather empty my bladder and be able to cycle stronger than have the full bladder affect my speed. I stopped at the first aid station after the turnaround and felt much better.

As anticipated, on the way back in we had a slight tailwind. That was nice as my speed increased by a couple mph. I did start getting a little uncomfortable toward the end. I haven’t had the long rides I would have liked leading up to the race and I haven’t been in aero for long periods of time either. I would try to stand up every now and then to stretch the legs out, but that’s hard to do on a flat course. I also noticed my right inner quad muscle was a little tight at times. I definitely need to get in more bike rides.

I was very happy to make the final turn off of Seawall and weave my way back through the grounds to transition. Rode right up to the mount line before getting off.

Bike Time: 3:20:25 for a 16.77mph average
first 28: 1:45:50 for 15.87 mph
second 28: 1:34:35 for 17.76 mph
85th in my division, so I lost some ground here

I ran as quick as I could to my spot, racked my bike, took off the cycling gear, got the running shoes on, stuffed nutrition in my pocket and took off out of T2. I have to admit that there was another woman in my age group in transition at the same time and I was extremely motivated to beat her out of there.

T2: 2:14

There is an aid station immediately after you exit transition. I went to grab a drink and realized it was Perform. I can’t stand the stuff, so I dumped it and grabbed a water instead. The last time I did this race I had a little bit of stomach discomfort on the run, so I knew I needed to get and keep fluids in me. I could tell already that it would be a hot run.

I wanted to do as much running and as little walking as I could. I kept looking for the first mile marker so I could check my pace and adjust accordingly. Somehow I missed the first mile marker. This made me start questioning whether I was going the right way or not, but I just kept running. Finally I saw mile 2. I knew what time I had exited transition and saw at this point that I was doing around 10 minute miles. Good. Not too fast and not too slow.

At mile 3 I took my shot blocks. I was alternating drinking water from the aid stations with Gatorade I was carrying. Somewhere around mile 4.5 or 5, I decided I needed a walk break. I tried to keep it short and tried to keep the rest of the walk breaks to the aid stations. When I hit the part of the course that took us out on the airport runway this year, I had to walk more than I wanted. There was absolutely no shade and a good portion of that section went straight into the wind. I wasn’t really looking forward to doing that 2 more times.

I just kept going. Every 3 miles I did my shot blocks. I would walk through the aid stations grabbing water and ice and the cold sponges when they had them. I would even dump a cup of water on my head. I kept checking my watch for a while to see if I was still around 10 minute miles, but somewhere along the way quit doing that. It no longer mattered. I just wanted to get it done.

I finally hit the last loop of the runway and knew it wouldn’t be long until I finished. I pushed through as much as I could and was glad when I made the little turn and had the tailwind behind me. I knew at this point I could run the rest of the way in. When I hit the final stretch for the finish chute, I ran a little faster and crossed that line with a smile on my face.

When I looked at my watch and saw 6:25, I was happy. I couldn’t remember what my PR was at the moment so I didn’t know if I had beat it or not, but I was happy with my time.

Run Time: 2:14:22
10:15 overall pace
70th in my division, so I made up some time here

Splits from the course:
2.9 miles in 28:00 for 9:41
1.7 miles in 15:15 for 9:04
2.7 miles in 29:52 for 11:16
1.5 miles in 15:15 for 9:58
2.8 miles in 30:09 for 10:36
1.5 miles in 15:51 for 10:29

After I crossed the finish line I headed straight for the athletes food to grab a Coke. They didn’t have the real thing so I grabbed and RC Cola or whatever it was and headed back to the finish to wait for everyone else to come through. After that we grabbed the bikes from transition and headed out.

It was a hot race, but I’m glad I did it. I did, in fact, set a new PR with a final official time of 6:24:55.

My swim will probably not improve much since it really hasn’t in 4 years. I definitely have room to improve on the bike and if I put together a solid bike, then I know I can have a solid run at IMAZ. I’ll take the next couple of weeks fairly easy and then start my “official” IMAZ training plan. The first weeks of the plan are light, so it will still feel easy, but just like last time, I will follow the plan and know that it will get me to the start line in good shape.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Cap 10K

After a busy day yesterday doing the Rosedale Ride, driving 1.5 hours to my son’s soccer game, watching the game, driving 1.5 hours back, and going to the rodeo to see Kevin Fowler, I got up early to run the Cap 10K.

Luckily (or unluckily) the race didn’t start until 9am. The race use to be held the same weekend as daylight savings; hence the late start. However, since daylight savings has changed, that is no longer an issue. But after the rodeo last night, a later start was welcome.

It was a little cool this morning as well, but not as cool as yesterday morning. I dressed in shorts and a tank. When we got downtown, I was a little chilly walking to the start line, but I knew that would soon change. I got in line for the port-a-potties first thing as I always do. I still had almost an hour until the start, so I just found a spot to sit and watched the lines for the port-a-potties grow. When they got to a certain length and there was about 30 minutes until start, I got in line again. After that, I headed to my coral to await the start of the race.

Standing in the coral, I knew it would be a tough race. The sun had poked through the clouds and I was no longer even a little bit chilled. I wasn’t expecting a PR today so I just told myself to do my best and have fun.

The gun went off and 3 minutes later I crossed the start line. I was off and running. The first 3 miles of this course are pretty hilly. The first of the race is a slight incline up toward the capital of our city. Once you round that, you have some rolling hills.

Mile 1: 9:09

I thought I might be going a little too fast, but it didn’t feel like a struggle so I just kept going.

Mile 2: 9:06

Hmmmm. I might pay for this later, but oh well.

Mile 3: 9:22

Ok, that hill got me. I flew on the big downhill and settled in for the last 3 miles.

Mile 4: 9:10

Good, I feel back on pace. I was really hot at this point though. All I saw at the aid stations was water (someone after the race said they had Gatorade at one of the stations, but I must have missed it). I could have used some Gatorade at this point. I probably should have brought my own. Instead, I sucked down water at each aid station and dumped a cup on my head as well.

Mile 5: 9:23

The heat is getting to me. Just a little over a mile to go and I’m done. Keep pushing.

Mile 6: 9:24

I can see the finish line, but I don’t really pick up my pace. It’s not a PR so there is no point in pushing it.

The last .2: 1:54.

I came in at 57:28 for a pace of 9:16. It was under an hour, so I’m ok with that. I grabbed some more water, found the bananas and then found some shade for a little bit.

Overall, it was a solid weekend of races and I feel ok going into next weekend’s race.

Rosedale Ride - 42 miler

The Rosedale Ride is a local ride that I like to do every year if I can. It starts not far from my house and benefits the Rosedale school. The Rosedale school is the area’s only school for children with multiple disabilities. I didn’t get to do the ride last year, but was able to at least squeeze in the 42 miler this year.

Since I wasn’t able to do a longer ride, I figured I would actually ride to the start in order to get in a few more miles. When I left my house in the morning, things were looking ok. It was a little chilly so I decided to go ahead and wear my wind jacket even though the sun was expected to pop out. I’m glad I made that decision.

Not long into my ride to the start, the fog started to set in and get pretty thick. I wasn’t overly worried about it as I was on country roads with not much traffic. However, the fog did get thicker the closer I got to the start and at one point I had water droplets hitting me in the face from the condensation of the fog. I don’t think I’ve ever ridden in fog like that.

I made it safely to the start after covering 7.28 miles in 28:24 for an average of 15.38mph.

Since I haven’t been able to ride as much as I would like this year, I was hoping that this ride would be a good one and give me some confidence heading into my half-ironman next weekend. I knew that I had to be back home by a certain time (to leave for my son’s soccer game), so I figured I would push as hard as I could.

I started at the back of the folks doing the 60+ ride so that I could leave the start line a little early. Most of the folks in this pack are strong and fast cyclists. Since there are so many at the start, you kind of get caught up in everything and at one point I noticed I was doing about 20mph. That’s not unusual for me at times, but I knew I could not sustain that over 42 miles. I was happy when the crowd thinned out and I had some space.

I did stop for a quick potty break at the second aid station, but was quickly on the road again. The fog did not let up for a long time and the temps were colder than expected. Once again, I was glad I had my jacket on.

Around mile 30 we were routed down a road that is currently being repaved. It had a layer of black top down, but was pretty rough. I lost about 2mph for that 3 mile stretch of road.

I followed the route back to my cutoff to go home and then made my turn. When I pulled into my drive I noticed I had gone 42.24 miles in 2:32:42 for an average of 16.6 mph.

Overall, I was very pleased with this ride. I was riding 16+mph with very little effort even into the wind. There was one long stretch in there where a guy even latched on and sucked on my wheel for a while because he was having a hard time. No offense guys, but anytime a guy has to draft off of me makes me happy.