Dear PPD Beach2Battleship

Dated:  June 6th, 2015                (6 Days after I broke my collarbone in a cycling accident)

You probably haven’t heard but in case you do, I was thrown a curve ball recently in the form of a broken collarbone in a cycling accident. Don’t worry. There will be no deferral. I’ll still be meeting you on October 17th. The date I’ve set for completing my 1st Full Iron distance event has not changed. My goal time has not increased….only my determination. It’s been 3 days since the surgery to install a plate & 9 screws and my body is doing well. I had no pain during my 2 hour stationary bike ride today. My training and race plans between now and then may have changed a little but don’t you worry, the end goal is still the same. Looking forward to our epic meeting on a Saturday in October in 133 days.

Rookie Full Iron Distance Triathlete,
Tom Lehr

White Lake Half

 My first Half Iron Distance event.   I couldn’t have asked for a better venue and weather.   Calm lake and wetsuit legal.  Temps a little chilly to start the bike which meant the run wouldn’t be too hot.  Just a few minutes before getting ready to head down to the swim start, I wiped the grass off my tires with a towel and noticed a white spot on my rear tire.  Uh oh.   It looked like a stone but I couldn’t tell for sure so I asked one of the Open Males to see what he thought.  He said he thought it was maybe a tread or part of the inside of the tire and I “should be ok”.  Not a confidence inspiring statement to hear just before your first Half.  I really didn’t have much time to switch to my backup tire and I didn’t hear any air leaking.  In addition, I ride with the pink liquid in the tires that fills pin pricks automatically so I figured that would stop a leak if it did penetrate.  After the race, I removed it and found that it was in fact 2 tiny stones wedged together but they had not penetrated the inner tube.   I’ll take a little good fortune!  J

With the swim being my weakest of the 3 legs, the words “Wetsuit legal swim” are 3 words that I love to hear!   Nice calm swim and I was out of the lake in 32:46.     Had a good transition and onto the bike…

So I had previously decided to only take 1 bottle and switch out twice for water on the course.   Turns out this wasn’t the best strategy.  Sometimes you have to learn from experience.   So given I didn’t need to stop at the first water bottle handoff, I thought it would be good to practice the bottle exchange.  I didn’t slow down much and BAM…the bottle bounced right out of my hand!  Hmm…let’s try that again…there was another volunteer so I tried it again…BAM…2nd bottle bounced out again.  Ok.   Learned something there…my speed was too fast to grab the bottle so I definitely needed to slow down more because turning around for a bottle would cost a lot more time that slowing down a little.     2nd water bottle stop…slowed down more…Success on the handoff!   Swigged some water..then went to put the snap cap back on the Deer Park water bottle…WHAT?!?  No blue cap!!   Not good.  I have a horizontal water bottle holder in between my aero bars.  The instant I lay the water bottle down, water pours out with no lid!  Not good.   So I ride the next ~15 miles with my finger stuck in the top of the water bottle to keep the water from coming out!   I thought to myself “You’ll laugh at this AFTER the race is over!”.   What are you going to do, right?   Races rarely go perfectly.   Stuff happens to you in a race.  So when it does, just think “Oh…here’s one of those times that “stuff” is happening…..now what’s the best I can do given this situation?”   So when “stuff” happens, you just have to make the best of it!     Now when I got to the 3rd and last water stop, I had another successful exchange…and this time, it had a blue cap on it!   YEAH!!!   The little things in life that make you happy!

Since this was my 1st Half, keeping fueled properly was a new thing for me during a race since it’s not as critical during Sprint & Olympic triathlons.  My strategy was to take a gel pack every 45 minutes, a salt pill every hour and eat part of a powerbar ever so often…and drink!    It worked out ok but I remember thinking…jeez, this is way to complex and a lot to remember.   This lead to me going to a liquid only strategy in future Long Course events (which is working out a lot better for me).

So I had a good bike (2:31:30)  and felt good for my run.  White Lake has a nice flat run course.  Was keeping to my target pace and felt pretty good on the run until around mile 7.  Then it started getting harder but at least I had made the turn at the lake and was heading back to the finish line.  Had a couple people pass me on the run who were doing the International distance race but I didn’t know that for sure so it urged me on and gave me incentive to try to keep up with someone else.   Finally the finish line in sight and I finished with a time of 4:44:04!   Very happy with that result for my 1st Half.

What did I learn?   It’s better to take multiple water/fuel bottles with you than to depend on water out on the course.   I’d realized that, for me, a liquid fuel solution (Infinite – Available at Inside Out Sports)  is a much easier way to go in long distance events.  Keep a positive attitude because when situations happen to you like the stone in the tire or cap on the water bottle, you just have to make the best of it and continue on with your race!

Tobacco Road Marathon

I know, I know.  “A marathon blog entry on a triathlon team website?  How does that fit in here?”

Well, I’ve done Sprint and Olympic/International Distance triathlons in my previous 2 years racing but had never done a Half or Full Iron Distance event.   So I decided this was my year to do both.   So I figured that since I was going to do a Full Iron Distance event, I had better run a marathon first.        So when getting ready for a marathon (or any race), I always seek out people who have done one before and ask for their advice.  (I advise this as a good step for any race!)  What I heard most often was “Oh, the marathon doesn’t start till Mile 20!   That’s when you might ‘hit the wall’!”.    So there is some debate over whether you should actually run 20 or more miles in your training leading up to your marathon.   There’s no question in my mind that I think running several training sessions over 20 miles makes sense.   I didn’t want to have to wait until race day to know what it was like to hit that 20 mile mark and keep running.   The extra confidence in knowing that I had done it before was worthwhile just to have more peace of mind and confidence in myself.   My race day strategy was to follow a pace group, 3:25 in my case.   I’d recommend this if you can tie into a pace group in your race.   Now our pace group actually finished in about 3:24 so it’s not exact but pretty close.   I think keeping a constant pace for the whole race throughout is key.    If you can allocate budget for a coach, I’d recommend that if you really want to be effective.  If you can’t do that now, you can get some free training plans on Hal Higdon’s website (http://www.halhigdon.com/training/51135/Marathon-Training-Guide)

What did I learn?   I’d highly recommend training for a marathon in the offseason.  Get in several training session of over 20 miles in distance.   That will help your confidence on race day.   And running a marathon will not only prepare you for the longer distance triathlons, but it makes a 5K or 10K race seem short!    Nice by-product!!