Category Archives: Health and wellness

Getting (Re)Started

Six years ago I completed my first century (100 miles) bicycle ride; less than a year later my first Half-Ironman triathlon. I considered an hour ride or a three mile run a warm up. I was one of those guys and loved every minute of it. My fitness level eclipsed even my Marine Corps days. At 39 years old I found myself in the best shape of my life.

Fast forward to today. I am fifty pounds heavier and my idea of a workout is taking the dogs down three flights of stairs for a walk around the pool. My mood has soured, as can be seen in my last few blog post. My confidence is shot and I am quite peeved for allowing myself to get this way. Oh sure, there are excuses: life, stress, marriage, moving, new jobs, and finishing my novel. But excuses are all they are. I can clearly recall myself telling others that exercise must be a priority in your life. Only then will you find the time. I know how to fix my situation and I have finally been doing something about it.

For the last week or two the wife and I have been taking increasingly longer and more intense walks. Because of them my mid-day energy levels have increased, my motivation is elevating (although in small increments), and I can feel a twinge of the old self lurking under that 50 pounds of fat. This past Sunday morning I took it to the next level. Running at my age and weight will tear up my knees and inflame the plantar fasciitis of my right foot. I needed something that will allow a long cardio workout while keeping the impact low. The obvious answer has been sitting on my porch for the last year — my bicycle.

I must admit that getting the bike, the bike rack, and my cycling kit down three flights of stairs was a workout unto itself. I seriously considered tossing everything over the balcony or just skipping the workout altogether. I held fast and headed to downtown Fort Worth. Less than a mile into the ride, I had more doubts. My thighs were tight and trying to maintain a pedal cadence of 92 rpm (rounds per minute) seemed impossible. Being over a year since my last ride, I realized that I’d have to start slow; let my muscles loosen up and get back into the routine. I slowed down the cadence and eased into the aero-bars for a long ride. Over the next 7 miles I realized a few things.

 

1) There is a LOT of construction going on along the Trinity Trails.

2) My 50 pound belly makes leaning over while pedaling very uncomfortable.

3) There have been some massive changes along the trail — all for the better. (Thanks to the Fort Worth Mayor — may God bless her and keep her in office for another term.)

4) Road bike seats are not very comfortable when your ass isn’t used to it.

5) MapMyRun app for iPhone is cool as shit — it even gives you mile splits without turning off Pandora.

6) I’m slow as hell.

 

At the 7.5 mile point (my turn around) I took a five minute break. Stretched, clean my glasses, and hoped I could make it back without passing out. Back on the road I could feel that I had a tailwind, which help out tremendously. By this time, my legs had eased into the routine and my belly fat had shifted enough for me to go into the aero position with suffocating or crushing my testicles. I know it is probably my imagination, but I could almost feel my system cleansing itself of the toxins that were injected into my body over the last few years. I didn’t just stink of sweat, I reeked of ammonia. But, then again, that is one reason why I am out there.

I finished my 15.5 mile ride in 1hr 9min 56sec. It’s nowhere near my pace of five or six years ago, but this is an older, rounder, and slower self. I really don’t mind too much, I’m going to use it as a benchmark — my starting point. Less than an hour after the ride and I felt great. The rest of the day I had energy and felt productive. I got out there, pushed past my boundaries, and finished. I am better for having done it and I know it is only the beginning. That is the hardest part — starting. Get started and it will be easier from here out. I know it, I just need to keep reminding myself.

The Man In Progress has started once more!

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Return of the Dread-mill

My desire to regain my manly physique (sans belly) calls to memory my last round with being overweight. Many people have asked me about the battle during the divorce; how I dealt with the emotional pain and managed to overcome the transformation of losing so much weight. I’ve told the story so many times and my recent recollection urged me to put it all down. Perhaps someone out there will find encouragement, and if anything, find some entertainment. But be warned, this piece is 100% honest to goodness, no holes barred, flat out, how it was. I’m a man, words happen. So be warned.

In mid-February of 2005 I decided to begin influencing my future by getting control of my body. Fortunate for me the facility I worked in contained a decent sized gym with a few free weight and a hand-full of aerobic machines, like treadmills.

Nothing really happens over night. There never is a switch that says ‘today I’m going to be different’. Change happens over a period of time and some people just don’t see the clues to adapt in time. My divorce being a prime example. The  warning signs were there with my ex-wife, giving my the ultimatum of moving into a smaller house or divorce. Yeah, not a hard choice there. We moved and abandoned a perfectly good home in the hopes of keeping the peace. But that wasn’t good enough. Next it was bankruptcy or divorce. Well shit, we didn’t have anything anyway.

“Now you know Mr. von der Heydt that a bankruptcy stays on your record for seven years,” the lawyer said sliding the papers for us to sign.

“Yeah I know,” I said signing my name, the whole time thinking maybe it’ll keep the wife happy for another seven years. Nothing else seemed to keep her happy.

The house, the bankruptcy, and the fact that she appeared to be in perpetual sour mood were all signs of our marriage changing. And like any good American-blooded male I ignored every single one of them, until the day she announced her leaving me.

The desire to change my appearance became a conscious choice in January when an endowed stylist only took off only one clip of hair. But the changes began much earlier and much smaller. Not liking my appearance I cut my hair shorter. When that didn’t work, I let my goatee grow out as well as the mustache — oh God the ridicule I got. A blond goatee and mustache only creates a shade on the chin and lip, much like a smudge of dirt. Enough to catch the eye, but  not enough to define a look, resulting in the common comment. I actually tried to let the goatee grow out during a two week trip to Argentina on business. Larry was the first to notice when I got back.

“Hey Kirk.”

“Yeah.”

“You got some dirt on your face. Oh wait, is that a mustache? It is… How cute.”

“If I didn’t need you so bad Larry, I’d fire you ass.” Yeah Larry worked for me. Our relationship went way back — before I even met the ex — so I didn’t let his ridicule dissuade me.

Facial hair wasn’t the only thing that changed with me. Scared to actually work out at my size I started with stretching. The physical trainer, an attractive woman named Allison, took me through a fifteen to twenty minute stretching routine every day. While subjecting me to the pain of pretzel twisting the petite Allison encouraged me to take my fitness to the next level. I finally acquiesced (also known as ‘giving in’) on a cold morning in February.

For my gym apparel I picked the baggiest shorts and a triple extra large tee-shirt with a pair of my old sneakers. Can you tell I wanted to cover my over sized body? I would have used a muumuu if they made them in a masculine print. I hated the way I looked, especially the rolls about the middle. When I stepped on the scale for my starting weight, my fears were realized. The scale teetered around 245 pounds — without my shoes. Allison was quick to notice the dismay in my face.

“Don’t worry about the weight, Kirk. This will be the last time you’ll see that number.”

“So you say.”

“Really. Stay with it and it’ll be off soon.”

Next came the tape measure from the drawer of her desk. My heart sank.

Do we really need to go there, I thought. “What’s that for,” I asked.

“We’re going to measure you waist,” she said unrolling the tape.

“We are?” Like hell we are, I wanted to say. The image of her wrapping her arms around me locked my jaw shut tight. Did I happen to mention that Allison was a petite and attractive female. Any female touching me after three months of celibacy would be a step up.

Measuring a man’s midsection is not like measuring for pants. Oh no, one can’t find the shortest path around. Nope, she managed to trace that tape around the widest parts of my waist. The result turned out to be four inches more than the 42 I used for dress slacks. Had I any ego left at the time, her reading of the measurement crashed it to hell. Luckily, only she and I were in the room at the time, so my shame didn’t filter out to co-workers. If the tape measure wasn’t bad enough, the next thing to come out of the drawer was a box with a massive set of calipers used to check body fat. I knew that, but she didn’t know that.

“And what, pray-tell, are those,”

“These are used to check body fat,” she explained.

“I don’t need those to tell me I’m fat. I know that. Hell, the scale just told us that.”

She went in a dialog explaining that scales were not always accurate and could fluctuate day to day. Weight changes based on a combination of fat and muscle, so the body fat percentage would give us a better scale of my achievements. I knew all this as well. In my twenties, I worked out with a body-builder and physical trainer. It was old news to me, but she looked so cute explaining it all that I wasn’t about to tell her she couldn’t touch me. I’m fat, not stupid.

We stepped into the small room that the gym staff used as an office. Once in ,she pulled the blinds closed and my heart skipped a beat. Maybe I would get lucky. With the door closed she turned toward me.

“Please take off your shirt,” she asked.

My heart skipped another beat. “Huh?”

“Your shirt. I need you to take off your shirt so I can make measurements.”

My hopes plummeted, “Oh.”

The body fat took about ten minutes for the seven point test. Not the best in accuracy, but my stomach flittered nonetheless when her soft fingers pinched at my fat. Moments later, my shirt once more covered my bulk and the door opened. I know the idea of more happening was a dream, but that’s what fantasies are for. Right?

My work out began with the traditional stretch. My mind obsessed on the upcoming event with the treadmill while we went through our routine.

It’s been what four years? Five years? I wondered. I knew the only way to shed the pounds was to get back to running. It worked in the past and would work again, even if I was a decade older. I knew that to burn fat fast the exercise selected needed to incorporate the largest muscles of the body — all in the legs. With the stretching done I walked over to the cardio-area. Every gym, regardless of size, has sweat machines. Even the dinky ones hotels call ‘workout rooms’ have at least one sweat machine.

The most popular of the time was a machine called the elliptical. A torture device said to simulate cross-country skiing while incorporating all major muscle groups in the body. To me the machine requires too much coordination, so I passed. The next most popular, but falling out of favor was the stair-master. In the 90s the master was the must-have for gyms. I admit, I did take to the craze in its hay-day. It’s failure though came from the fact it functioned as designed. People worked up a sweat while butts and thighs screamed in pain. Doomed from day one. The average overweight American wants to feel like they are working out, but don’t want the burn that goes along with it.

My heart, and sweat, remained with the good old treadmill — or dreadmill as I affectionately call them. My dreadmill choice for the day turned out to be a massive industrial machine called the Life-fitness 9500 Platinum with with a 4hp direct drive motor and latest heart monitor gadgetry. If I wasn’t so intimidated I would have been grunting in my best Tim Allan man-call.

“Do you know how to work that, Kirk,” Allison asked.

“Sure I do,” I lied. Fact was, the machine’s displayed contained more buttons than the cockpit of a Boeing 747. Okay, so I exaggerate a little, but it was just as intimidating.

Allison gave a knowing uh-huh before heading back over to the desk. I didn’t fool her, but she let me go. I purposely marched up on the belt and to the display and scanned the multitude of buttons looking for an on switch. I about gave into the unmanly act of asking for help when I noticed a button in the corner labelled “Quick Start”.

Yippee, I wanted to shout, for my manly status would remain intact.

I punched at the button expecting the belt to begin moving. Nothing. The damn thing’s broken, I wondered. Before getting off and moving to the next machine I glanced at the screen.

“Weight = 155” it displayed. Yeah, not since high school.

Figuring the machine meant for me to input my weight I typed in the dreaded number and pressed enter.

“Time = 15 minute.”

Sounds good to me, so I just hit enter.

Another question popped up, followed by another. I kept entering through the freaking questions wondering if what the machine wanted to know for a long start.

Suddenly, the belt jerked into motion, scaring the hell out of me in the process. Had it not been for me holding on to railings, I would have flown out the back. Just to be certain I didn’t embarrass myself too much I looked to the front entrance. Allison and a co-worker were engaged in a conversation, safe for the moment.

More co-workers came into the gym while I did my five minute warm-up. Part of me wanted to crank the puppy up, but another part told me I needed to get back to my desk and give up the fool-hearty endeavor. I compromised by studying the controls while keeping the pace around four mph. After the warm-up it was time to speed it up. My first time running in about five years.

Let me tell anyone that hasn’t been on a treadmill before, there is some coordination required when running on a moving belt a hair over two feet wide and five feet long. The damn thing could have been two inches by five inches for all my difficulty. I’m not sure if the extra weight threw me off or if I am just clumsy. I found myself all over the treadmill, but on the freaking belt. And just for a bit of education, don’t step half off and half on a moving belt. I made the mis-fortune of attempting this — quite by accident mind you. The toe of my left shoe headed to the back of the machine while the heel remind put. This happened right as my right foot came off the belt. I’m not entirely sure how my body reacted, but my stumbling like a fool was the result. By miracle alone I managed to find my balance, accompanied by a few loud bangs from my stomping feet.

I held the hand-rails while doing a check of the room to see if anyone caught the fiasco. The others in the room didn’t notice or were very good at stifling a laugh. After a couple of minutes, I managed to adjust to my extra weight and the moving belt. Being a man I couldn’t help but to start to play with the buttons. The machine could tell me everything about my workout except my core body temperature. Come to think of it, if engineers could come up with a reading that didn’t require a rectal probe I’m sure they will add it. Being distracted by the information being displayed I didn’t happen to notice the “pause” label under one button.

I clicked, the belt stopped, and my momentum carried me forward — right into the display. Lucky for me, I came equipped with extra padding around the middle to minimize the physical injury. The distinct of a snicker came from a cute blonde pumping away on an elliptical.

I know she took note of my stumbling because later I received an email with a video attached. The video showed a polar bear’s altercation with a treadmill. I laughed so hard I nearly fell out of my chair. I could sympathize with that damn bear. I think the video is still out there. Do a YouTube search for polar bear and treadmill, I’m sure you’ll find it.

The blonde’s smile disappeared when I glanced in her direction.

Nice boobs, I thought pressing the pause button once more. The belt began moving and I started running again. Yes, running. Not jogging, trotting, shuffling, or any other word you want to use. Those are all colloquial terms. The fact remains the same, by definition running means that I am moving forward so that only one foot strikes the ground at the time. The format of running was what I was attempting to replicate, even though at a snails pace. I’m only about three minutes into my run when I find the pace setting. Slow. Too slow.

In high school cross country meets were typically three miles in length and I have records of me completing the distance in just under 19 minutes, which I calculated to be about six minutes a mile. The display showed I my pace at 5.5.  I bumped that baby up to six and after two minutes I wanted to drop dead. I forced myself to complete a half mile before dropping the speed down to a pace just slightly better than a crawl.

A pain burned its way across my side and I huffed like a two pack a day smoker. My legs were lead heavy with a few pellets in my lungs to counter the balance. I cursed whatever demon possessed me to attempt such foolishness.

No woman will want a fat, balding, old guy, that fucking demon told me.

Shit, I mentally responded. I gulped in a few more breaths of air and adjusted the speed to 3.5 mph to finish out a mile.

Yeah, it hit me right about then too. The difference between speed and pace. The former being distance over a set time and the former time over a set distance. Water caught in my throat when my brain completed the calculation of my high school speed. Six minute miles equates to ten miles per hour, or as I like to call now ‘rabbit speed’. Sixteen years and one hundred extra pounds slowed me down four miles an hour and two and a half miles endurance. If the cute blonde with the bodacious tatas wasn’t sneaking peeks at me I would have cried.

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Body, Mind, and Soul

Yeah, I know the title is out of order. I wrote it so I would not forget the body part of the equation. A recent morning (like this past Saturday), I was given a reminder that if you slack on any one of the three, the other two suffers. I am not claiming this is the same for everyone out there (and I welcome comments to the contrary or in affirmation), but for me the trio are incredibly linked.

Back flash four and five years ago (see my earlier — though awfully written — posts in “Health and Wellness”) to the pinnacle of my athletic lifestyle. My body was fit, I had vitality to spare, and my stamina went unmatched. It was during that point I found myself most creative. My mind was so crisp and active that I began story idea upon story idea in a small composition notebook (some of which I swear I’ll finish one day). It was also the period that I went through a dramatic transformation in the way I view the world, myself, and the person that I wanted to present to the world. Body, Mind, and Soul all working in unison and harmony. I do have to admit that there were times when my body was at odds with my mind. Forcing the body to endure running in freezing, rainy weather with only shorts, tee shirt, and a beanie cap wasn’t one of the mind’s best ideas.

Toward the end of my wellness phase, I got the epiphany which grew to become RABBIT SLAYER, and THE ALICE CHRONICLES. The strength, enthusiasm, and passion for the work was beyond anything I experienced to that point. The first few chapters flew from my fingers with ease. I always enjoyed writing, but the passion for it, I didn’t know existed.

During the three years it took me to write RABBIT SLAYER (including the multiple rewrites) I began to neglect the care of my body. Injuries, family, work, and other stress weighed heavily on me, and the body suffered. I gained back much of the weight I lost in my 30s. My fitness level plummeted, as did the rest of me. The passion in my soul shriveled back up and my mind developed this annoying hum, like an overworked tube-television from the 80s. And if you’re too young to remember (or wasn’t born yet) ask your parents. I can remember laying in bed, trying to sleep, while my folks stayed up. I couldn’t hear the televisions only the high pitched, barely audible hum that seemed to penetrate the deepest dreams. It ranks up there as the most annoying thing of my life. And here it was perpetually going on in my mind every time I tried to work out something.

Which leads me to my current revelation. An idea for a new novel has come my way. The idea is there and the high concept is easy to grab, but when I try to nail down the details, to plan the suspenseful plot, and envision a thriller like no other, the hum returns. A brain melt-down. In total frustration (more my wife’s than mine) I loaded the bicycle and headed out for the trails.

At some point during those 14 miles the solution to the novel’s questions were answered. Even that OMG twist every thriller should contain. All of it was there, clear as day, waiting for me to pluck it and store it to my long term memory. I don’t know if it was the extra oxygen from the huffing or the extreme blood flow to the brain, but something about working the body fueled the brain and stoked the soul. Even my wife gleefully acknowledged the happier attitude I exhibited for the remainder of the day.

I know I’ve read this before, but it stands to be said again. Writers should not overlook the need to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. To write well, and with passion, all three aspects of your physical being need to be kept healthy. I have decided — nay, I vow — that I will regain my former lifestyle and reclaim the vitality that comes from fitness. If you are active — keep doing what you are doing. If you aren’t — start. You might be thrilled with the results — as will your readers.

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The Vineyard Run

September 30, 2006
Who would have thought that the Male age group 35-39 is probably the most competitive of all age groups. Well I found out on this particular day. The morning of I was probably the most ill prepared I have ever been before a race. I got up late – after only 4 hours of sleep and rushed to take my dogs to the groomers. (I really need to change days! Perhaps Friday mornings.) Once the dogs were dropped off I had an hour to get to Grapevine (some 18 miles away – cross town), register, and warm-up before the race start. It was then that I realised that the car was sitting on empty. I know I did not have the time to fill-up so I took a gamble and went straight to the race. I made it there without running out of gas and had time to register. With just a few minutes to the start I jogged over to the car to put the race T away and jogged back – straight to the starting line. There is my warm-up. At the starting line I did a little stretch trying to loosen up. I am hoping that my calves do not tighten up like it did the day before.
 
Remembering the previous races I have run in I decided that I would stay close to the front of the pack. I’m glad I did because the starting line was about 20 people wide and much more than that deep. Later I learn that there are some 950 people that finished the race. I am sure there was more that started and did not finish. The official started us off with a blast from the siern. I am always amused how many people carry personal GPS or timers with them. Myself included. Today though, I’m running naked. Not literally, but I am running without any electronic gizmo. Its an uncomfortable feeling for me. I am so used to having the digital display telling me to speed up or that I am right on pace. Today, I am listening to my body and going as fast as I can go – or so I hope.
 
The course is measured out in kilometers rather then miles. All part of trying to keep a Eupropean feel in the middle of Texas. Yeah right. The first turn around is about 500 meters and I see that I am not too far behind the leaders, but I am running my race – not theirs. The first kilometer and I am feeling okay. My calves are a bit tight, but the motrin I took a couple of hours ago is keeping them at bay. Our turn around has taken us back to the starting line an beyond. By this point I feel that I am going to smoke this course. Then we make a right hand turn and faced with the first of many hills. At the top of the hill is our 1st water station. It is quite a bit warmer then in days past so I take a cup and slosh a few sips down my throat. On the down hill I do my breathing exercises to recover from the hill. At the bottom we make another right hand turn and face another hill. This one is longer then the first but perhaps not as steep.
 
The second kilometer slips by as we start up the hill. The third kilometer goes by and still climbing the hill. Okay so there was a little dip here and there, but it is generally up hill. To make matters even worse it seems that the wind is in our faces the whole way up. As we approach the next turn around we catch a glimpse of the leaders. They have a good pace going and most have stripped off their shirts (good idea, but I keep mine on – lest I scare the other runners).  I estimate that we are past the 3.5K mark when we make the turn around and start heading down the hill. I use the time to do more breathing exercises. That uphill trek had taken a toll on me. It is at the fourth kilometer marker that I realize that there is only one kilometer left. Just a quick jaunt. No problems. A left hand turn and we are again faced with out first steep hill. I try my best to push up over the hill – I ignore the water station. More because there is only one person there and she seems a bit overwhelmed at the moment. Most of the volunteers are still working the station for the people that are still working the first hill.
 
Top of the hill and I am sucking wind. I keep my pace constant. As I catch up to another runner sucking wind he challenges me to pick up the pace. I know he is just wanting someone to push him, so I try a little. Down to the bottom of the hill and a left turn and smack into the seemingly gale force winds. Another group of about three runners jaunt past us and my kitchhicker ditches me to tag with them. I pick up my pace a bit more as we pass the original starting line. The finish line is within sight. My calves have been burning for about two kilometers now, but I push the pain aside and decide to go for it. In the last few hundred meters I manage to pass up the hitchhicker and his new pack and finish with a time of 23:12. At least that is what the clock said when I crossed the line. The official time has me down as 23:22. But what is 10 seconds between gentlemen. Its still faster then any of my officially recorded times, so I’ll keep it.
 
A friend has convinced me to stay. I search her out and and run with her a few hundred meters before her boyfriend gets this hint and pulls up along side of her. I drop off to let him run with her to the line. He had finished 28 minutes and she at 31. Both of them do wonderful. Afterwards she talks me into staying around for the awards. She feels that with my time I might actually place!! Okay, curiosity has me going. I hang around. I get hopeful when I hear the younger age categories going into 24 minutes for thrid place finishers. At the beginning of the 35-39 mens category the official notes that this is the most competative age group. All top three finishers in this age group finish sub-20. Crap!
 
When the results are finally published I am listed as 62nd place overall out of 950 finishers – top 6.5%. For my age group I place 8th out of 60 men – top 13%. Not bad considering last year I was only in the top 30% overall. My quest for the "hardware" is on. I am close, I just need to find a venue that is not so large – or run faster.

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Hotter N Hell Hundred

August 26, 2006
3:58 a.m.
 
Good morning to me. My sleep went well and my concern about not getting a full eight hours of sleep was for naught. Hopefully, a great many other things will be for naught before the day is out. I pull myself out of bed and start preparing for my departure. The dogs, not accustomed to my getting up so early is slow on realizing what is going on, but before long they are all up for the idea of an early breakfast. I was hoping that I would be able to hold them off until Marie comes over to feed them; however, they figure that if I am up, they are eating. With the dogs fed I can finish getting my stuff into the car for my hour and a half ride out to Witchita Falls. I know it is going to be a long day so I make myself a PB&J to eat before taking off. I have over two hours before the start of the "event" so I should be okay.
 
Let me interject here for a moment and explain why I have used the word "event" rather than race. I have come to realise that the word "race" ensues the thought that one is capable of placing or even winning said event. As I know there are going to be nearly 10K (yes, that’s ten thousand) people participating my chances of winning are fairly shody. Especially, knowing that there will be "category racers" there. This being my first orgainized ride and my first attempt at completeing 100 miles, there is no way I will be a competitor. Therefore I have elected to refer to this ride as an "event" in which I am just a "participant". I think that I will continue to use these terms until such time as I become somewhat confident that I might actually receive some elusive "hardware" for my participation.
 
 6:05 a.m.
The ride out to Witchita Falls was fairly uneventful. What does one expect for a pre-sunrise drive? There was significant amount of traffic relative to the same drive the previous day. Obviously most of the personally owned vehicles had a bicycle or three attached to it. My departure from home was a few minutes late, but I made good time and the bladder is suffieciently full. Before getting into the heart of the event I figured that this would be a good point to stop and empty the bladder. Not suprisingly there are other cyclist patroning the same convience store as I. The good thing is that there are not enough here to hinder my quest in emptying the ole’ bladder.
 
A few more miles down the road and I take my exit. As soon as I am on the off ramp the size of the event starts taking shape. The exit deposits motorist a mile or so from the starting area and already there are vehicles parked on every paved or concrete spot in town. Police are doing do diligence in directing traffic, both vehicles and cyclists alike. I take a turn left from the main road and find more parked vehicles and cyclist. A narrow, short culvert of sorts sits unoccupied on my right. Having a short compact SUV makes the culvert a perfect parking spot for me. The better news is that I doubt I will get blocked in and the way out of town is the next left. Life is good.
 
6:40 a.m.
I am in the staging area for the start. I have walked my bike several block toward the front of the line. I can see the top of the start line still several blocks ahead. I don’t want to get too far up front for fear of being included with the cat racers. Little did I know that I still have nearly a half mile to get to the front and there are several thousand people between me and the car racers. In retrospect, next time I will move further to the front.
 
As I stand in the queue I take a few moment to look about at the other participants in this event. Behind me are a few gentlemen from the bayou also attempting there first 100 miles. From their conversation and their choice of attire I question to myself their ability to make it. Lets face it, jean shorts, tennis shoes, and a short sleeve buttoned shirt is not the choice of an experienced rider. They look more like they are heading down to the local crawdad hang-out then a 100 mile cycle ride. There are other characters in the pack in my immediate vicinity. One group of riders includes a rider that has adorned his helmet with a red pig – no doubt symbolic of a football team. Up ahead there is a couple with matching feathered helmets. To my right is a rounded type woman fumbling with several different gadgetry. I find myself strangely inticed by woman uncoordinated actions. Much like motorist find themselves gawking at acciedents or broken down vehicles on the side of the highway. The woman has so much junk on her bike I find myself hoping she is only doing the 25 miles. There are others about, couples, groups, matching attire, grossly mismatched, tandem cyclist (as many as four to a bike), recumbants, decorated helmets, barely acceptable helments, high dollar bicycles, 20 year old Schwinns. Anything imaginable is present and accounted for and that is only in my area. I look behind me and the line goes for at least a mile to a mile and half back!!! I am sure there are more out there that even my simple mind can not dream up.
 
7:04 am
The PA system is continuing to blab something undecernable, but soon a hush moves over the 12,000 people dominating North Scott Avenue. As the hush gets to me I realise that someone is singing the National Anthem. Yeah, this thing is about to start. And its a good thing too, because I got to empty my bladder. As the singer reaches her crescendo people begin looking toward the back of the line. My gaze follows theirs just as three of the US AirForces finest jets fly over. Okay, maybe they weren’t the finest, but the effect was there. Once over a cannon shot is heard and the excitment to get going runs through the crowd. We surge forward. Ten feet later we stop, again. Thus begins the long march (more like a sliding walk) toward the starting line.
 
7:26 am
I finally am able to cross the mat and start the my time for the event. I might have walked/slid for the last 10 blocks, seen the big red hulking balloon thingy, watched the radio personality provide their commentary, but now I can get on and ride.
Right?
Wrong!
No sooner do I clip my free foot into the pedal then I have to remove it to keep my balance again. This is quite frustrating. More walking and sliding for a few more block. There is an over pass up ahead and I am hoping I don’t have to walk up the thing. Not long after and I am able to get on and clip in again. I pedal maybe another quarter of a mile and there is another stop. Seems like the first accident of the day has occurred. The crashed cyclist try to move out of the way of the 9,000 people behind them, but they are hindered by all the well wishers and helpful cyclist. I manage to skirt to the outside of the blockage (riding up on the sidewalk) and continue up the overpass. Once on top of the overpass I manuver to the center of the road and I am able to pick up speed on the way down. Finally! I am riding!
I stay to the outside for the next couple of miles. Pass on the right and ride to the left. At this point there is a whole lot of people riding and not many people passing – except me and a few others. I do recall the advice given to me to be leary during these first 20 miles. All distances of the ride today will ride on this stretch of road. Including the more ridiculus costumed riders out doing the shorter "fun rides". I am able to snap off a few pictures of some that I see as I pass people. I find that taking pictures while riding a bicycle at 20MPH among several hundred people is not a very smart thing. I put the camera away and focus on my riding.
 
8-ish
I have been riding for about 10 miles now. I have been passed by only a handful of cyclist, one of which I was able to draft for a little before getting trapped by a group of "riders". There are many people linning the streets either aplauding our efforts or to comment on how stupid these city folk are fir doin a dam-burned thing like ridin a two wheeler for all that there distance when them all got’em selves perfectly good functionin cars. Frankly, I find the people watching us more entertaining the those doing the ride!
Anyway after about 10 miles or so we ride through a city called Iowa Park. Never having been to Iowa, I can’t really say if the town does its namesake justice. I really hope that it doesn’t because the town is flat and most inhabitants live in homes with wheels. In the midst of the town a large throng of people are in a parking lot to the left. As I approach I see a line of porta-potties and bicycles strewn all over. I have been riding pretty much in the center of the road so by the time I figure that that is the first rest area it is too late for me to pull off the road. Unless of course I want to be the center of a multi-cycle pile up right there in the middle of town. My bladder is full, but I am certain I can make it to the next rest stop. I seem to recall there is one about every 10 miles or so.
 
I continue past the rest area and quickly the 100M and 100K riders are directed to turn left, across the tracks. I make an nice easy turn with 50 or so other cyclist and recall images of Tour de France. So this is what it is like to be in a crowd of cyclist making the turns in France. Okay, so that is a totally different league, but its nice to dream. We are now heading down FM368 (Farm to Market street) which turns out to be a two lane residental street at this point. About half a mile down this street I am on the aero bars watching for the traffic ahead. About  a qaurter of a mile infront of me I witness a cyclist go down. Not quite sure what, but I am certain the cyclist collided with that of another. People need to watch what they are doing before jumping out to the left. By the time I get to the down cyclist there are 10 other off their bikes helping the down rider. She appears to be a bit shaken but not much more. I know that there is nothing I can do, but to clear the area, so on by I ride – careful of the gawkers not watching where they are going.
 
Sometime around 8:30 I guess
We are now about 15 miles into the ride. We have turned onto FM367, which became FM368 somewhere. The road is still two lanes and very rough. The road seems to have been covered with chuck of rock covered in tar. I learn later that this is called "chip sealed" surface. Why anyone in their right mind would want to seal a road like this is beyond me. Obviously they were not cyclist. For those not initiated, let me explain. About 90% of the cyclist out here today are riding specialized (and I don’t mean the brand name – which by the way is what brand I am riding) road or triathalon bikes. These bikes ride on very narrow tires that are pumped with upwards of 130lbs of air pressure. Essentially making the wheels rock hard. As these bike are made for traveling long distances very quickly attention is made to reduction of weight – not comfort. Therefore; there are no shocks, springs, or any other device to reduce road vibrations and bumps. This, combined with the wheels, allows for the rider to feel every small imperfection of the road’s surface and mostly in the seat area. Now recall that this road surace is sealed with chips of rocks? Well ever rock is felt to by the rider.
In fact the vibration from riding on this surface for the past 8 miles now has some how vibrated the screws to my water bottle holders loose. And as I try to hold the bottle and drive with one hand and try to tighten the screw with my other hand I loose my sun glasses! I try to catch them, but nearly collide with the pack around me. I know there is no sense in trying to stop and get them. I know that they are probably crushed by the pack behind me and will be useless before I can even stop. After the near collision I decide to put the water bottle back and pay more attention to my riding. I am certain that those around me will appreciate that as well.
 
Sometime just before 9 am
As we ride up another rolling hill I spot a mass of bodies up ahead. The mass seems to take up the entire road – which is not very wide to start off with. This must be the second rest stop. It is somewhere around 20 miles now. Not to mention there has been comical pirate themed signs for the last five miles. I had already planned to stop at this rest stop, but now with a full bladder and a shaky water bottle rack, the stop become paramount. Cresting the hill and traffic comes to a stand still. Its seems that every other rider has also planned to stop here. Right up in front of me and to the right is a tent with the bike mechanics. All I need is an allen key to tighten the screw. Should not be a problem right? Again, I am proved wrong. I am totally ignored by the mechanics. It doesn’t take me long to realize that there is a line to see the two overwhelmed mechanics. The queue to see the mechanic is only exceeded by the queue to get to the porta-potties. No wonder I witnessed several dozen guys lined up along the fence. I am quickly learning that there is no shame amongst cyclist. But I do not so easily toss modesty out. The next rest area is only 10 more miles down the road. I tighten the water bottle scew as much as I can with my fingers and head off down the road.
 
I figure it is somewhere close to 9:30 now
From the second rest area we headed north along 2384 (I don’t even know if this road is considered a FM anymore). The road is also chip sealed and instead of rolling hills it is just long and straight. No trees, very little vegetation over 3 feet tall – except for the posts holding the barbed wire fence. People seem to still be in a festive mood. People are joking, talking, and in one sad case – singing. Most of the costumed riders have disappeared, but there are still a few riders with unusual biking equipment. Of these the most common theme is creative ways to carry music. According to the rules (for those that bothered to read them – and from what I seen many did not) personal headphones are not allowed on the course. Therefore, the creative ones found ingenious ways to strap portable radios and speakers to their bicycles. Somewhere around mile 25 – 28 the 100K riders continue north while the 100M riders take a left turn onto 287/477. At this point pretty much most of the festive, musically enriched riders continue north, while myself and the more serious riders head west. Much to our bottoms relief this road is paved in a civilized manner. A sigh of relief is emitted from me and my fellow riders. The road is flat and smooth.
At some point I pick up a drafter. I really don’t realize it until I take a glance to my left and see a shadow that was not mine. I figure it is just some rider attempting to pass me. I move to the right to give him space to go, but he tucks in right behind me. The rider behind me matches my moves as I pass others. At first I am annoyed, but then again I can’t blame him/her either. The rider continues to stick with me until I slow down a little to get a drink of water from my water bottle (yeah, I know I got to pee, but I am still thirsty). My drafter picks up on another duo that passes me while I am sipping from the bottle. I guess just jumping behind someone is accepted. Don’t try that in a triathlon.
Finally up ahead on the horizon is a mass of cars and people. Must be the third rest stop. The chip sealed road has not been kind to my bladder and I am about to explode if I don’t relieve it soon. I lay my bike down amongst the hundreds of others and beeline it to the porta-potties. Low and behold there is a queue for the porta-potties. Great!!! As I approach the queue I notice several guys along a line of trees and a 12 foot high stack of water main pipes. Much better option!
Now that my bladder is releived I head over to the tent to see what is offered. There has got to be some sort of food there. Sure enough they are offering bananas, oranges, cookies, and – believe it or not – pickles. I don’t quite understand the pickles, but I partake of the sliced bananas. As I eat my banana I notice the mechanic area is not too crowded. I grab my bike and ask the attendent (can’t say he was really a mechanic) for an allen wrench.
Screws tightened, bladder empty, fuel tank stated, I head back to the road. I snap another quick picture before jumping on the bike and heading on.
 
Okay, I am only guessing on the time now. Probably around 10:30 am.
The course had taken us from the third rest area west along 287/477 for several more miles into the town of Electra. In electra we make a sharp (very sharp turn) north onto TX-25. Once through the town the road returns to chip sealed paving. The road has narrowed a bit which bunches up the riders once again. I manage to catch a draft with a pack of riders. I am amazed at the boost I get from riding with this group. I was able to manage to stay with the group for a few miles before the group broke up amongst other riders. From 25 the route took a turn east on TX-240, another chip sealed road. Around mile 42 I manage to strike up a conversation with a recumbant rider all the way from Louisana. The conversation is brief and I head off ahead.
Somewhere, along the way I pass one of the rest stop looking for the one around the 50 mile point. Those past 20 miles have been long. There is not much to see out in north west Texas so I entertain myself with looking at bikes and their riders, watching groups pass me or me passing them, counting lost water bottles, or watching the yellow lines pass under my wheels. Around 10:30 (again just a guess) I look up ahead and wonder to myself "I wonder if that was what Woodstock back in the 60s looked like." As I have stated there is not much out in this part of Texas, just miles and miles of fields, but on top of the hilll we are currently climbing shows a dark mass on both sides of the road. As I get closer I realize that there are hundreds of cars parked in the field on both sides of the road. And why not? There has not been a house around for the last 10 miles, people have to get out to the rast area somehow. Even closer now and I see that there are massive tents set up to the side of the road and there are hundreds of people all around. Even if I wanted to I would not be able to just ride through this station. Luckily I have already planned on stopping. I am getting hot and I need to replace the water I have been drinking for the last hour.
 
The theme for this station is Hawaiian. Very out of place in the flat pairies of Texas, but it is jovoal nonetheless. I find a nice spot for my bike and head over to the main tent. One of the volunteer places a cold disposable towel on my neck – oh joy does that feel good. I now begin to realize how hot I am. Continuing over to the water tent I pick up a couple of orange slices and banana pieces. Getting water is an ordeal. There is no real order to the chaos here. Cyclist swarm the volunteers trying to get bottles and water packs filled. Other cyclist have decided to take advanatage of the multitude of chairs set up in the shade offered by the tent. The whole scene reminds me of a large family cook-out, except here mostly everyone is dressed in spandex. Heading back to my bike I check my phone and see I have some missed calls from curious friends. Returning the calls provides a good rest before getting back onto the bike.
 
Sometime before 11:30am
Okay forget about the time. My mini-goal at this time is to get through Hell’s Gate (whatever that is) before the designated 12:30PM cut-off. Our course from the 5th rest area takes un continuing west on TX-240 into the town of Burkburnett, where the road becomes TX-267 for a short time. I am feeling good and I am sure I am making good time. Hell’s Gate should be just a few miles up ahead. From TX-267 we meet up with I-44 heading south. We make a right hand turn onto the service road and begin heading South – and right into the wind. My leisurely 20mph pace immediately drop to a hard pressed 15mph. Luckily I am not the only one that slows to crawl. All around me riders feel the brunt of the hot air blasting us in the face. Several riders tuck into a single file to break through the wind. I catch the tail end on one line to help me get through.
 
Around mile 62 we get to Hell’s Gate. I know this because of a big sign that says "Welcome to Hell’s Gate" standing in front of the Red Hulk balloon thingy. I later learn that Hell’s Gate is the point that the race officials will redirect cyclist traffic to a shorter, more direct route, back to the finish line. This re-route will shorten the race by about 25 miles. The decision to close Hell’s Gate is based on temperature conditions. Normally, the temperatures exceed safe limits around 12:30, but today they close the gate at 11:30. About 30 minutes AFTER I get there.
 
Of course I know none of this as I pass by the rest station, the red hulk, and the old man sitting under the I-44 over pass with another little "Hell’s Gate" sign. The old man is manning the timing station that is dutefully recording out times as we ride over the mat. I soon figure that Hell’s Gate is reference to the hellish conditions we encounter as we continue heading south east and then south west. At this point I forget all about what time it is, I am just concerned how many miles is left to the next rest area. I figure if I can focus on achieving small goals I can make it to the end.
 
30 Miles to go…
The rest area here is packed. More cyclist are pressed under the tent for water then anywhere else. Several riders are siting under any shade they can find sipping water and eating pickles. An old beat up pick-up is sitting across the street with some locals cheering the riders on. "Only 30 more miles" they shout. On the truck I do notice a fairly attractive young woman, but I really can’t think about that now. I am too hot and too tired to even remotely think about the opposite sex.
 
25 Miles to go…
Out in the middle of nowhere sits a lone woman under a shading tent. Next to hear is an electric generator. An extentsion cord runs from it to a metal suitcase sitting open beside the road. Every few moments the suit case beeps. Beside her chair is a plain white sign with two black numbers. A 7 and a 5. I ride pass her and the electronic chip strapped to my ankle sends the metal case my number. The case merrily beeps again signfiying that I only have 25 miles to go. Just over an hour….
 
23 Miles to go…
Under the canopy of large oak trees we find out next rest station. At this point I am completely fed up with the arm pad for my aero bar which has been slipping for the last 40 miles. I head over to the mechanic and explain to him the situation. As he continues to replace the spokes for another cyclist he suggests using electrical tape. I really don’t want to lose the pad (not only does it hurt riding on the bar metal, but I don’t want to pay another $25 to replace the pads) so I tape the pad into place. I then proceed to get my allotment of fruit and water (still have not decided on the pickles). I also realize that mud and the cleats on the biking shoes don’t go well together. As I try to knock the mud out of my cleat I witness yet another accident. This time from someone trying to stop only to get into the way of another that is not. Down he goes.
 
15 miles to go….
Okay, something screwy is going on with the every 10 miles rest area thing. I haven’t quite figured it out, but that is more from my brain ceasing to function 20 miles ago. Regardless the rest area is a blessing. The heat and the wind at this point has been very draining. Already I had seen several people stopping beside the roadside to rest and sit in shade. Up to this point I have passed hundreds of people that stop to fix flats or do minor repairs to bike, but now there are more "engine" break downs rather then mechanical failures.
The rest station at this point has added something unique. A BBQ. Serving up hot dogs and hamburgers. I know it is sometime after 12PM, but a hot dog does not sound appetizing. I stick with my orange and banana pieces. Back at the bike I forget to kick off the mud and nearly cause another accident fumbling with the pedals.
 
8 miles to go… (at least by my bike computer)
Seems like everyone is stopping at this station. I can’t say that I blame them. As I walk over to the enormous tent I notice that have the tent is occupied with cot. What a wonderful thought. And right infront of the cots is one of those huge industrial cooling fans. Just what the doctor ordered. I beeline it to the nearest cot right in front to he fan and plop myself down. Within a minute a volunteer is over handing me a cup of cold water and a cold towel. I put the towel over my head and sip at the water (don’t want to cramp). Another cyclist asks a volunteer how many more miles. 13 more miles he proclaims. The cyclist sitting on the cot next to me shares the same sentitment. We hope not. Both he and I show we only have 8 more miles.
I don’t sit for too long. I can feel my legs beginning to tighen and I know that if I don’t get back on the bike soon I am doomed. A few minutes after getting on the bike my right groin muscle start to cramp. I try my best to entend my leg and pepdal somemore. I will overcome this. I will finish.
 
2 miles to go… (again, going my my computer)
Since passing through Hell’s Gate I really loose track of all the turns we make or what roads we take. All I know it that the roads radiate a lot of heat and they are almost all paved with the chip sealed method. At this point we make another turn, but there on the corner is an old corregated steel building with a huge sign hand painted in red proclaiming itself that the rouge mile 98 rest stop. There are scantly clad local girls dressed like throw-back to Daisy Duke of the Duke’s of Hazzard holding huge signs announcing "Free Beer". There are several large locals in cover-alls (the name Bubba comes to mind) holding cans of bud yelling out "Free Beer" as we pass by. I glance over and notice that a few cyclist have indeed taken up the hospitality and is partaking of the free beverage.
 
0.5 miles to go… (NOT)
My bike computer ticks off to 99.5 miles and there is no finsih line in sight. In fact we are in the middle of a residential area. No crowds, no SUVs parking everywhere, no music, nothing. I am midly upset. Who advertises for a 100 mile race and does not finish at 100 miles. What’s worse? At mile 101 there is a freaking overpass to transverse. Not a little one either. This ove scales over the local train yard!! My legs are like lead weights now. I am sure I am dehydrated (even though I have been drinking fluids all day), and I feel like I can fry an egg on my forehead and now I got to climb this damn mountain of an over pass. Half way up I shift to the dreaded "granny gear". I don’t care now I am tired. At least I am not walking up it like several other cyclist I pass. The climb has got to be the longest, most grueling climb I have ever made on the bike, but eventually it crests and I begin the decent. No pedalling. Just coasting. The overpass dumps us into the middle of the city. Off in the distance I can hear the music from the crowd and I know I am close. A couple of quick turns and I see the finish line. I keep my pace, I have no energy for a sprint to the finish. I am just content to finish.
 
Over!! 2PM
I cross the line slightly after 2PM I stop and got off the bike. My legs are like mush and all I want to do is go find my car so I can sit down. I stop at the chip people to take my timing chip off and I collect my little "finishers pin". I walk through the crowd of people toward the tents where I know I am going to find food an water. I pass several people carrying beers already half crocked. Must be from the shorter distance run rides, I think. I get up to one of the food tents and ask for a banana. I have a bike in one hand, cup of water in the other, and the volunteer peels the damn banana for me and hands it out to me. Like how the hell am I going to grab that? I shift the cup of water to my other hand with the bike (spilling half of it on the bike). As I walk away from the tent, half the damn banana breaks off and hits the floor. I am really bummbed. I was really wanting the whole thing.
 
The rest of my day is anti-climatic. Its a typical Saturday. No one around to share and I don’t think anyone I know can really appreciate the accomplishment. I head home to a shower and perhaps a nap as a reward to myself.

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My First Triathlon

I am finally getting around to doing an entry for my frist Triathlon. In general I had a blast. It was quite an experience and something that I will do again. But I also learned quite a bit from the morning. So let me take you through the morning events.
 
Started off at 5:30am meeting Alex and Marie at a local gas station. Was not too sure if I should eat something or even drink some caffine before the race. Since I was driving alone (Alex and Marie followed in their car) I opted on tea and a banana. First lesson. Bananas at gas stations are horrible. Most are still green. I’m not sure about anyone else, but I don’t like crunchy bananas. Another lesson; make sure you (me) have something pre-made the night before to eat for breakfast. A bagel would probably be great. I did pick up on one lesson from my group ride (see earlier entry) – I bought some Gatorade and water and put in a cooler for later. Glad I did.
 
I thought we would be getting to the race early enough, but I forgot that getting ready for a triathlon is not like getting ready for a foot race. One has to take down the bike. Make sure you have all the biking gear together, get the transition bag (packed the night before). Getting into the transition area you got to get marked. Never did think about this. The volunteers have permanent markers and mark your number on your arms and left leg. The right leg is reserved for your age (year end age). Once in the transistion area I had no problems find a place for the bike. Right at the end of any row. Plenty of space. I figured out why later.
 
Got all the stuff laid out at the transition area – glasses and gloves in the helmet and on the handle bars. Shirt with stuffed pockets laid across the cross bar of the bike. Shoes laid out on a towel with the socks. Water bottle close at hand to wash off the feet. Took off my street shorts (tri-shorts were underneath) and shirt and headed for the porta-potties. Of course there was a line, but for the most part not bad. Got in and out fairly quickly. Its amazing how quickly women triathletes can go to the bathroom. Now I am curious to know why it takes so long any other time!!!
 
Okay, next stop was to get the timing chip and head down to the water. Once down at the beach I saw many people doing warm ups in the water. Sounds like a plan to me. I put on the google and the swim cap (stupid thing) and down to the water I go and dive in. Water is wonderful!!! My first time in a lake and open water for a race event like this. I swim out 25 or so yards and back. Check out my breathing and sighting – all looks good. Swim back, make sure that Marie was able to find Alex; listen to the ref covering the rules, head down to the beach again for the start of the race.
 
Race start. I am in the second wave. I move around until I am surrounded by other blue caps (my wave). Whistle goes off and the first wave hits the water. I watch the wave as they converge to the middle. Sort of looks like ducks flying south for the winter. How interesting. I look around me. No one in front. Blue caps to my left, blue caps to my right, blue caps behind me!!! Crap! I am in the middle!!!! Time to move – what was that? The whistle? I am being pushed into the water. Time to make the best of it. In the water I go.
 
As soon as my head hits the water there are bodies every where!! I have people swimming on my right, on my left, under me, ON TOP OF ME, behind me. Hands and feet everywhere. Water is flying around and I can not get a lung full of air without getting water as well. I give up on the freestyle swim and try breast stroke. No luck. I try dog paddle – WHAT AM I DOING HERE! I SHOULD JUST ABANDON THIS THING. I CAN’T DO IT.
 
That’s when I realize I am panicing. I look up ahead and I see an orange cap holding onto a kyiak. I can go over there and relax if I have to. I start heading that way when I seen another person swimming on his back!!! Great idea. I flip over, close my eyes, take a deep breath – clear out my lungs of water – and focus. "You can do this. It is only 500yrds. You do this all the time in the pool. Just get to the outside or inside and find clean water." I flip back over and find my line. By this point the main part of the wave are a few yards ahead and I am with the stragglers. I do my breast stroke for a little longer and notice someone standing. I put my feet down and find bottom. I push a few feet this way before I realize that this could be cheating. You are supposed to be swimming not walking. So head down and off I go. I force myself into the freestyle, but I modify. I breath every stroke. I don’t care if it is effiecient. I am swimming and I am going to make it. I do run into a few more people, but I finish. Out of the water and I am a happy camper.
 
Up the bank and into the transition area I go. Quick stop by the volunteer with the hose and rinse of the feet. Oh yeah, forgot to take off the google and cap. No problem finding the bike. Now all my prep work goes to hell. First, the shirt. Wet body, dry shirt (dry as in wicking) don’t go well. As soon as it is over my head the shirt sticks and rolls up. I spend the next few seconds trying to unroll the shirt – and in doing so out comes the stuff in the pockets. Lesson here – just get your arms and head into the shirt – fix it later. Better yet put the shirt on BEFORE going into the water – looks better for the pictures. Best would be to just not put the shirt on for the bike and use a singlet with you start the run. As for the stuff in the pockets – find a place for it on the bike. Next the shoes, socks on, shoes one. More time – sand still in the socks. Many people just put on the socks and preset the shoes into the cleats. Need to work on that. Next is the helmet, glasses and gloves. Glasses not a problem, helmet not a problem. Gloves – probably should have left them off or put them on after I get on the bike. In all my transition time was 3 mintues. There was people there doing the transition in 47 seconds. I could cut 2 minutes off of my time easily here.
 
The biking part was a piece of cake. I kept my computer on the RPM setting and focused on keeping my candence up. Stayed on my line and passed as needed. I think that was probably the fastest 17.5 miles I ever bike. Computer said that I averaged 21 mph. I was quite please with that. About a mile before the end, I gulped down a gel and got some water. Perhaps I should have done that a little early, but over all not bad. Exiting the bike, I took it slow and easy. Unclipped at the right time. Quick walk to the bike rack.
 
Helmet off, gloves off, shoes off.
Another lesson here – gloves off BEFORE getting back and learn to get out of the shoes before getting off the bike. Unclip and take off helmet as you are running (you can run now that you are not wearing the shoes) back to the rack.
 
Shoes on, number on (needs a better number belt – I broke this one) and off to the run I go. Instead of walking out – next time run out. Should of been slurping a gel here too and down it with some water.
 
The brick I have been doing seemed to help, but my legs still felt like rocks. I know that when I do bricks at home I have a tendency to actually start off faster then I really think I am going – so I made a conscious decision to hold back. My legs started loosening up after the first mile. But a stich in my side was being persistant. At the half way point I finally gave in and used the water stop as an excuse to walk a little. I took in some water then started again. The run back the stich was gone and I was able to focus on the run. Getting to the end I decided to move the number belt so the number could be seen – that’s when I ripped the belt. My pictures show how stupid I look holding the number in place while finishing off the race. Why didn’t I just tuck it under the belt – I don’t know. I was not really thinking at this point.
 
Across the line – race time 1 hr 39 min – some odd seconds. My official time was 1 hr 36 minutes 18 seconds. Not too bad for my first outing. I do need to remember to shower and change before getting back into the car – rather then putting on my street shorts on over the still wet biking shorts. Besides – you can’t leave anyway until the transition area opens up (after the last racer returns from the bike leg).
 
Well that was the first triathlon. I know it was long, but no one reads this anyway. Its more for me. And if someone other than me actually reads it. THANKS – I hope it was not too boring.
 

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My First Group Cycle Ride

I decided to try out riding in a group this morning. I met up with a group from a local website – TriCowTown. I know that riding in a group is going to be important when I try to do the Hotter N Hell race and my up coming triathlons. Luckily the group that I choose the ride with are also triathletes so I knew it was going to be a learning experience.
 
There was another group there as well as other people from various other groups. My contact, Rick, was very friendly and introduced me around to some of the other people that we would be riding with us. In all it turned out to be myself and 7 others. All 7 have competed in triathlons before.
 
The first few miles Rick kept myself and another back a bit. Rick was aware of my medical procedure that was done last Friday and was not sure how I would be on the ride. The rest of the group wound up driving up ahead, but did wait for us to catch up. From that point I decided to stay with the lead pack. They were not riding too far out side of my normal pace zone.
 
At one point in the ride they decided to ride up a long hill. I made it up, but barely. It was one nasty hill. The amazing thing was that once they got to the top and caught their breath that wanted to do it AGAIN!!! So back down the hill we went down the nice country road at over 35 mph. Once down to the bottom they turned around and back up they went.
 
Another hour or so of riding was really uneventful until they decided to run up to a hill they call "The Wall". At the turn off point I realized that I had a flat. I stopped to fix the flat and the rest of the group went on ahead. I guess they thought I did not want to do the hill. My flat was an experience in itself. I figured out how to get the tire off without too much trouble. I got the tire off the rim and worked on getting the tube replaced. As I was getting the tube in finally a couple stopped by and asked if I had everything. I explained this was my first flat on the bike and thought I had everything but was not sure. The guy that stopped explained that the CO2 should be enough to fill up the tire and should equalize. Unfortanetly my cartridge was much larger then what he expected and the tub exploded. He gave me a new tube and we used his CO2 to fill up the tire. A quick minute later I was back on the road.
 
By the time I got back on the road the other 6 in the group returned from their wall climb. A few minutes later we got back to the marina. It was a nice ride and learned quite a bit from the other riders.

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