Today we celebrate our two year anniversary of our changed life style. When we initially embarked on this journey we just wanted to get fit. Last year we looked forward to meeting our 1 race per month goal and while for some 12 races of any kind in a year might not seem tough for some it turned out it was rough for us.

Both of us got our toes wet in triathlons and we liked it so much that we took advantage of the early bird special offered by Dallas Athlete Racing and signed up for a bunch of races with them for 2013.

At the end of 2012 we got in contact with Skechers, who accepted us into their sponsorship program. We love all the Skechers shoes we tried so far.

My season was going to have two peaks, with an A race early and late in the year. My first A race was a joint venture, the 50k Cowtown. Many say a 50k is tougher than a Half Ironman. Well it was tough! Training for it required a lot of running miles in the North Texas winter. On New Years day we finally had enough of running in the cold and rain and joined a gym in order to have treadmill access. Another plus is that our gym offers a really nice 25m pool and it is located the same distance from our home, and our workplaces.

Nevertheless the 50k took a toll on us as we both had to battle minor injuries. But I was extremely happy to have great shoes that took the stress away from my feet. Even though I was a bit skeptical about minimalist shoes for a 50k a t first, it worked out perfect.

After this race Erin had to shift her focus on school while I spontaneously joined a team of 7 to conquer the 200m relay from Gonzales to Houston. This was a very different experience (in a good way) and on top of it I made new friends.

From there on out the focus was shifted toward triathlons. Erin kept her focus on the sprint distances while I was going to increase distances in order to get ready for my second A race: The Austin Half Ironman.

To ensure I will be well prepared I enrolled the help of the Mineo Athletics coaching team. Looking at my training schedule I have no doubt that I will finish the HIM, at this point the question will be if I can beat 6hrs? time will tell…

Our recent race was the Disco Triathlon in which I elected the X-50 distances. With 1 mile swim, 40mile bike and 9 mile run it was close to the Half Ironman (1.2;56;13.1).

We understand that not every year can come with new records.Therefore Erin will dial back for next year with half-marathon as the longest distance, which will allow her more time for school. Currently my idea is to start strong into the year with redemption on the 50k, 6 weeks later a Half Ironman and another 6 weeks later my first Ironman. But I know that this might not happen, life, health and other things can get easily in the way.

Looking back on the last 12 month I:

  • Dropped another 24lbs
  • Run for 225 hrs (1,290miles 3.5miles a day)
  • Biked for 150 hrs (1,832 miles 5 miles a day)
  • Swam for 91 hrs (117 miles 0.3miles a day)
  • finished a 50k
  • finished several triathlons
  • finished several Half Marathons (and broke 2hr)

So stay fit my friends!


While it is now 2 weeks that I have left ya’ll hanging about of my TIR story continuous, I am sorry to say that prior to continuing the relay tales I will insert my impressions about the Kemah Triathlon.

In order to prepare for my first ever Half Ironman (HIM) Triathlon (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13 mile run) in October I have several races staggered throughout the year that will help me build up to the big event. The Kemah Triathlon was going to be my first Olympic distance (1mile swim, 24 mile bike, 6mile run), my first away from DFW race, my first check-the-bike-the-night-before race, my first boat start, my first ocean swim, my first wetsuit legal race, my first race with a race plan…

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With so many firsts it seemed obvious that something would happen and not work out. Until Saturday evening everything was great, my bike was in transition (I gave Blue Flash a big hug before living him out there, but he was in good company).P4270047

My mother in law had cooked the super delicious and excellent pre-race meal of Spaghetti with Meatballs. Then mother nature made it rain and if you know Houston, you know rain is often accompanied by strong winds and thunderstorms.

I went to bed as scheduled around 10pm and slept rather well till about 4am. Knowing that the severe weather might impact the race I checked my e-mails, but no change had been posted YEAH!

So I went to eat my breakfast (traditional pre-race breakfast is bread with Nutella and Grafschafter) and quickly wanted to post a good-luck wish for my coach (as she was in the run of winning the pro female field). Once on facebook I stumbled upon the cancelation of the bike leg. And further the early close of transisiton and early boarding of the boat.P4280075

Well that just through my 2 page detail race plan out of the window. Now it was time to wake up my wife and rush her to the truck to get going. Because all of sudden we where in a time crunch.

On the way to Kemah (30 min drive) we noticed the strong winds and talked about how bad the swim might be. Erin noted that I could always back out or just not jump of the boat. And to be honest the thought of jumping into the ocean 1 mile of shore with probably high waves was a bit intimidating.

Arriving at Kemah I set up my transition, took my bike back to the truck, slipped into my awesome Desoto 2-piece wetsuit and started my 0.5 mile walk to the boat. Too bad that it was then when I realized I needed to pee again. Since taking the wetsuit off and getting out of my 1 piece is a bit of struggle. Also I knew that some pee would make my wetsuit warm and comfy once I am in the cold water. Little did I know that the time from when I boarded to the time when I jumped was about another hour.

Once the boat got into position I was a bit nervous. Since I needed to pee so bad I just wanted to get in the water as soon as possible. I got in line, all of the sudden the line moved, I moved with the line, then there was a door to the outside, 3 people in front of me, I hear the volunteers shout: “Go, Go, Go, Go” and another one “Left, Right, Left, Right”, I am through the door, I hear “Go”, I am in the water, I start swimming (before someone jumps in my back).

I did not get to stand and look how far that mile swim would be, I did not have a chance to hesitate. I just got in the water, got up and swam, following the crowd. I looked for buoys in the mad sea, but could not find any, so I kept following the crowd. After a while I noticed the yellow markers to my right, apparently the boat had drifted a bit. P4280080

I still needed to pee and tried to do so while swimming, which is not as easy as you might think. Overall the swim was truly enjoy full. The gentle waves carried you harmonically up and down. The suit and salt water floated you gentle like a baby in mother arms. The first and only time I looked around I was half way done!

Out of the water I looked for my shoes to get to T1 (0.5 miles) and could not find them. Why? Well because I thought I had number 1964, though I had 1469… Keep telling everybody: I AM NOT GOOD WITH NUMBERS! Barefoot I went to T1, put on my running shoes and off I went.

About 1 mile in I noticed I forgot my race belt…

At this point I decided to take it easy from here as I knew I would not have a great race anymore.

I crossed the line with a new 10k PR and set a new threshold pace. Guess overall not to bad of a race.

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So yes Kemah was not what I expected it to be, but it became a great race and a very valuable lesson for me!

 

P.S: I was not the only that did not find their shoes:

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It has been a while since I posted the last segment about my relay experience.

With the run now being almost one month in the past memories start to dwindle. Therefore I am very motivated to write down as much as I can remember before it is too late. Though in the first 3 segments I covered very exciting moments of the event.

My 3rd leg would be my first night run. At home I had run late in the evening and early in the day during the winter. I used some handheld lights and a bike light tail light, combined with my reflective vest. Those runs had been in my neighborhood, the area where I know the streets, the route, the dogs, basically it is an extension of my living room. For the relay I would be running in the middle of Texas in the middle of the night. Knowing that total darkness would surround me I bought a $80 high quality running headlamp at REI earlier this week. As much as I do not like to violate the “nothing new on race day” rule, I just did not have the time to take my new lamp for a test run.

So there I was at the starting line in the darkness ready to go. As I was about to start after 11pm, I instructed my team to head to the checkpoint and get some rest. I knew that a 5 mile leg would not be an issue for me, especially with the low temperatures. When I started I had lights of other runners in front of me. I pushed the pace and passed them one by one until, well until I was out there without anyone in front of me. No support van next to me, just me and the Texas Darkness in a beautiful spring night. I could hear coyotes howling in the woods that surrounded me, but my newly obtained light provided me with excellent view of the roads and my legs just carried on.

I got to the exchange after a little less than 39minutes, the other team was ready to run and  awaiting me. Once they headed out I looked down the road and saw hundreds of white van’s. Well in one of them would be my team… Off I went to find our van…

Once in the van we had a quick discussion if we would try to find a place to eat (at midnight in the middle of no-where in Texas, lol) or if we would just go ahead to our next exchange point and get some zzzz’s….

 

Find out next what we decided upon!


I know all of you are very interested in reading what is next about the Texas Independence Relay, but I need to take a short break from the story to share my March wrap up.

At the end of every month I review and share my training totals for the month.

March is not just a month that ends, but also the end of the first quarter of this year.

The last month I run for 106 miles, biked 211 miles and swum 11.15 miles. This seems to me really very little. Now let’s compare this to last year same month 68R, 55B, 17 walking. As you can see I increased my running (walking) by 25%, my bike more than tripled and I did not even swim last year. This sounds pretty good, right? But why I am a bit disappointed with March?

Let’s look at my training time a total of March 2013 it took me 34:35 hrs to train the distances as above. This is the lowest amount of training I had done in a month since October 2012. Just a few month ago in January I had trained for over 56hours, which means my volume had dropped 40%.

The software I use quantifies all training with a training stress score in order to compare it. My score for March 2013 was 2,765, which is higher than previous month. On that note in February I trained more time, but with a lower TSS. Which means my intensity has gone up. But my 2,765 looks low compared to December with 3,847 TSS.

Now putting March 2013 versus the prior year it does look great as my TSS was 988.

Looking at my Q1 versus total 2012 is really interesting. So far in 2013 I did 515 R, 328 B and 31 S versus a total of 2012 1,027 R, 1,335 B and 52 S. It is clear that my bike is on par with last year as I have biked 25% of last years volume (consider that this year is only 25% over). Though that is really not enough volume for a Half Iron Man and I know I will surpass 2012 soon. My run is clearly ahead of last year as I have already half the volume. Assuming that I get redemption at the 2014 50k Cowtown breaking 2k miles is not out of question! The swim is my weakest leg and seeing that I am at 60% of last year is awesome. I used to shudder at a swim over 1,600 meter as I could not fit this into 60minutes, today I swam 2,300 meters in under an hour!

So it is all about perspective, compared to last year in total and March 2012 my month was just awesome. But now holding myself to a higher standard and comparing it to the last 6 month it doesn’t look so great anymore.

Taking a non statistical approach there are some great things in March: Running in my first 200m relay and the season opening Triathlon (Sprint) in Keller, TX.

Though where there is light… I was sick in March and missed 2 training days, beyond that I know my body had to fight off that flu. Then I had business travel which puts additional stress on the body and caused me to miss another training session. But worst is that my right hip is still bothering me.

So overall I guess it is not a horrible month, but it does have some stale taste to it.

Maybe I need to re-allign my perspective?


So, here we are in the middle of nowhere as it belongs to Shiner, TX. I certainly asked my team mates if we could swing by the brewery, I wanted to visit the place where the famous beer comes from. As nice as my truck-mates where this was not an issue, so of we went.

After some picks outside I stepped into the gift shop. To my surprise they offered free beer samples, up to 4. Let me tell you: There are very few things tasting better than a fresh beer after you just run hard for 4 miles. I also found a shiner cycling jersey on sale for me, a beer cookbook for my wife and a nice metal Wild Hare sign for our house. Leaving the brewery I noted the lack of a restaurant, as this is common in cologne for every brewery to have their own restaurant that serves fine foods and plenty of the brew from next door. Unfortunately Shiner did not offer such an establishment. Of to the “downtown” of Shiner we went. Where we found the Shiner restaurant, YEAH!

The food was not too bad, though not great. Nevertheless a(nother) shiner , shiner-jalapeno-cheese bread, burger, fries followed by a coffee and a cheesecake did fill me up. My van mates where quite amused by the amount of food I was able to ate, especially with the outlook of soon running my next leg. Once we got back in the van, the 3hours of rest the night before and the vast amount of beer with company joint forces and put me to sleep. That was pretty sweet as it is not easy to get any rest during a relay (which we had yet to learn). It may have been only a short nap (though I don’t know for sure how long), but I enjoyed every second of it.

After a good 3 hour break it now was time for our 2nd out of 5 turns. By now it was 1:30pm, which means all of us would be running in the heat of the day. Texas sun is quite intense at the end of March already with temperatures of up to 80F/26.5C. The fact that we would be running on black unforgiving tarmac would certainly not help the situation. Through all our turns we kept with the same order, hence Pat was the first out.

By now we understood the importance of the support van and therefore kept close to our runner to aid with water as needed.

My run was about to start at shortly after 4pm, still brutal and sunny. Ironically the German guy would start it’s run in the Texas town of Weimar! As I was standing near exchange point I decided to jog around the block for a warm up. Once back at the start line I noticed a young male runner (about my age) with blue shorts and no shirt getting ready. For some reason I decided that I want to beat him to the next exchange point. I had no idea how fast he was. The upcoming leg was leg 12, which meant while this was my 2nd leg it might very well be his first leg. I watched the runner leave and noticed Briana coming towards the exchange point. I could feel the tension inside of me, waiting for the baton to slap around my wrist and pursue the prey I had previously marked. Once the baton clicked I sprinted out of the exchange zone like a cage animal. The first few steps at a pace of 4:30min mile, the first mile in an amazing 6:54minutes. I could see that with every step I was getting closer to the runner in blue shorts. He was far out, but every step and every breath brought me closer to him. I passed a few other runners on the way, though this did not matter to me. At an incline my crew stopped and Pat had come over to my side of the road with a water bottle. I did not have time to drink on my pursuit. Nevertheless some cooling would be nice, so I pointed to Pat to pour water in my hat as I run by. This felt extremely good, nice and refreshing.

At mile 2 out of my 4.7 mile leg I finally passed the blue shorted runner! I felt amazing. My second mile clocked in at 7:33 despite an incline! I knew I had given a lot to catch up and that I still had more than that to go. After I passed the runner he tucked in behind me to draft. Every breath and every step I could feel, I could hear. At some point he offered that he would lead. We know worked as a team! We kept taking turns every 0.3miles bit for bit we now pushed each other. I was spend, but still managed to keep mile 3 at a 7:54 pace. At some point a volunteer was on the side of the road offering a spray down with cool water, we requested a run by spray as we did not feel like slowing down. After mile 3 I got bad stiches in my right side, I told my new running buddy and offered for him to go ahead, but he had nothing left. He offered we could walk, though this was not an option to me. With a little less than 2 miles to go it was time to push hard through the pain. As we approached the final mile I noticed a pink shirted runner on the horizon and asked him if we are going to catch the pink shirt. He answered ‘maybe’ and in an attempt to convince myself answered in running there is only a ‘yes or no’. He then noted that me probably not going to make it, I apologized and told him that I had to try…

I run like I had never run before while I was not extremely fast it took all I got to push my pace below that 8min. Once I reached that exchange point I was ahead of the pink shirted runner! I had done it! My new running buddy came in a few seconds after the pink shirt. I know we had exchanged names, but I am very sorry to admit that I have forgotten it by now. So if my running buddy from leg 12 should read this: “I am truly sorry, but to my defense I am horrible with names”

Nevertheless this experience was the first time I ever fought hard to catch up to someone going close to my pace. I never worked with a runner before taking turns drafting. And I never before pushed hard for than just a 100m dash at the end.

This was truly amazing and it just shows the special flavor of racing!


After a few hours of riding the bus I got into Austin with just a few minutes of delay. Patrick was waiting at the stop for me already. We left to pick up our van for the weekend which was parked not too far away. Our next stop was Olive Garden. After my breakfast and lunch I only had a BigMac and Quaterpounder which cheese. Which meant that I was missing a Dessert for the day (very important) and a small dinner. Oliver Garden has a menu with items under 550 calories and I figured that would be just right.

Now it was time to get a few hours of sleep, since it was 11pm by now there are only 4 hours of sleep left until we needed to head out to the meeting point. The actual start of the race is in Gonzales which is about 1 and ¼ hours south of our meeting point.

Once we started loading the supplies we (thought) we would need the van with 4 seating rows, which looked huge the night before, it now all of sudden looked very small. Once at the meeting point we loaded more goodies and our fellow team-mates. Now with 6 people and goods for the crew the van was stuffed. We expected that by the end of the weekend most of the supplies would be gone.

We got to Gonzales just in time to pick up the packet and meet the rest of our crew. Once we met up it was time to change into running clothes and head over to the starting line.

The first mile was a ceremonial mile which we run together as a team dressed in our team t-shirts. We took it slow and easy. Once the mile was complete our first runner, Patrick, headed out to finish the first of 40 legs and the rest of us scrambled around the van/truck to get ready and head out. Our first stop was going to be at a gas station to pick up ice for our coolers and for me to use a real restroom. Little did I know how rare a real restroom would become in the following 36hours.

Thereafter we headed to the first exchange. This was when we learned our first lessons about relays. Since none of us had done a relay race before we were not well prepared. We did not know the exact pace our runner would be going, neither did we know the exact length of the leg nor when he started. So we basically had no real clue when to expect our runner to show up. Which meant we stood in the cold outside and waited and waited and waited…

Now runner two, Kristi, was out and covering the next leg. The rest of us hopped in the van and headed over to the next exchange. Where once again we waited without a clue when to expect our runner to come in.

If it would have not been for our team captain who sacrificed a whole day putting together running and driving directions and a folder per van with the exchange points, we would have not even made it to the exchange points.

Once our third runner was out on the road we started to understand the role of the van was more than drive from point to point. As we came up on Briana one of us had the idea to offer grabbing her jacket, which she had taken off due to the increased temperature. It became clear to us that the van was essential in also supporting the runner with goods such as water (since there were no aid stations along the way) as well as mental support.

See in any usual road race you have some spectators for mental support, most of the time other runners around you and then you have aid stations ever so often. Further the paths are closed off to traffic (most of the time). In a relay all of these roles need to be assumed by the support vans of your team and of other teams. This is actually important to know as vans would give heads up to runners about 18-wheelers approaching or vice versa alerting 18-wheelers of the runners.

During the running legs at night in the middle of Texas it would make you feel a lot safer knowing that the next support van was never far away.

It soon became time for me to get ready and run my first leg of a relay, ever. I knew my total distance for the relay would be in the 26mile range. But this was over 5 legs with legs between 3.8 and 6.8 miles. So I had no real idea at which pace I should be running. Since we were set-up to run every 8 legs (I had 4, 12, 20, 28 and 36) you had 7 legs in between to rest-up. At an average length of 5 miles this was 35 miles of your team-mates running. Our team was scheduled for a 10min/mile, so your rest time should have been 350 minutes or 5:50 hours. Now the question became how well do you recover in almost 6 hours?

Not only that bat out of the 6hours, almost 3 hours would be spent being in the van supporting your van-mate running, leaving you with 3 resting hours. Though in those you needed to also cover 35 driving miles, which on backcountry roads in a van can take up to 1 hour.

Once that baton snapped on my wrist I was gone. It was so excited and felt so great (as I had run very little during the week) that I churned out at one of my fastest paces run so far. I could feel the stones of the gravel road directly through my Skecher GoRun2 shoes and was thinking that maybe it would have been better to go with the GoRide as they have more cushion. Though at that moment this was water under the bridge. I was running and I was running fast, just below a 7:40 minute mile. My strategy at this point was to go hard and see what happens at the next leg. It felt good to finally pass people in a road race, as this doesn’t happen too often for me. I finished my leg with a 7:41 min/mile somewhere on a dirt road that belonged to the town of Shiner, TX.

Those from Texas might recognize that I was now in the town that is home to the Shiner brewery. But more of that in the next section….


So here I am sitting in the Megabus on my way to Austin.I have not been on a bus in a while. The last time I took a bus in the us was about 17 years ago when I took a Greyhound from SanFrancisco to visit a friend of mine somewhere else in California. This ride was not the best, but not the worst. Hey some random guy thought I looked like i needed money and gave me $50!

This time around a lot is different. The bus now has free WiFi, which in the first ten minutes is a hit or miss. I got with me a smart phone, a book (the lore of running) that would last for hundred of bus rides and my new surface (on which I am typing as I ride). Also I am a few years older and we all know with age comes the desire for comfort.

The crazy thing about all this is why I am on the bus: To run in a 200 mile relay across Texas! It may not sound as bad,but think about it: You will be running at night in the middle of nowhere, just with some blinky lights and headlamp. Around you are scorpions, snakes, bob-cats, coyotes and maybe even cougars and jaguars! Even more dangerous things such as homo sapiens in motorized vehicles, possibly under the influence of alcohol. Well that is scary right?

Also think about the fact that for 34hours you will get little to none sleep. At no time more than 4hours a piece. Yeah we all stayed up, drank and partied all night. Though remember, that was in our early to mid 20s! In a relay you don’t party you exercise heavily! And again you are not in your 20s anymore.

Not crazy enough? How about the fact that I don’t know any of my 7 team mates? I answered to a post in an internet forum. I believe in the words of a friend of mine who is a pro-triathlete and has been in the sport for a while. He stated he has never meet someone who is not a great and nice person in the sport of triathlon. Which is why I am sure that all 7 will be great team mates.

I often ask myself why I am interested in doing these endurance things. I was never a very athletic kind of guy. My whole family is rather the couch potato fraction, except for my mom. Maybe it is that I am somewhat like my mom. She travels everywhere in the world, by herself with old friend or just finds new friends. I am certain that this lifestyle of her is why I am here right now. Out to explore something new, a new country, new friends and at the same time another test of my own limits. At the same time I see something of my dad in me as I travel. He likes his electronic gadgets and his comfort and now take a close look what is traveling with me: smart phone, tablet, GPS, camera (with GPS). At the end it truly looks like I am the kid of my parents. And talking about it I want to say thank you to both them for supporting me to the best of their abilities anytime, who being there for me when I needed them and for leading by example.

Now coming back to my question on why I am doing this… Well I still haven’t figured out why I do what I do. Some do it to this to test their own limits, some to excel themselves to new limits, other for bragging rights, some for  cause to raise funds, some just want to be healthy and go overboard  and many more reasons. For me I think it is about testing my limits and seeing how far I can push myself. Also to meet new and exciting people, be out in nature, stay fit and healthy and have fun.

But lets talk about the bus ride…

The other travelers in the bus are a really mixed crowd, mostly students so it seems. Luckily no one that looks scary by any means. I think I am the only crazy on the bus, haha. The ride is pretty bumpy it seems more bumpy than a car/truck, truly some of this is due to the roads. Nevertheless the comfort is suffering. Luckily the bus is only half full, so everyone got 2 seats for themselves. I think tables like in a plane would be nice, because you somehow need to put your laptop on your legs. Not really very efficient. My seat is in the emergency exit area, therefore I got 6 feet of leg room, the other seats look tight though. Having full power outlets is a plus, I guess with my gaming laptop I might be putting them to the test (as other outlets had given up on me when challenged with the gaming laptop), nevertheless for a conventional laptop they are just fine. The rest room is a big plus, but due to the movements of the buss the man are requested to use the facilities in the seating position. Given the fact that the restroom is a upgraded porter-potty this does not seem appealing by any means. As a result man can choose to be rebellious at the risk of pissing all over yourself.

 

With about one hour travel time to go I will close this section and open a new one soon….

Stay tuned! 

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