June 28, 2013 Second Hottest Day Of Century at Badwater – Furnace Creek

In a previous article we wrote about a trip we made to Furnace Creek which is located in Death Valley.  A solo 18.1 mile run was made  on June 28, 2013 from Badwater to Furnace Creek which turned out the be the second hottest day of the century there.

The starting point of run at Badwater was at a elevation of  282 feet below sea level (Lowest point in contiguous United States).
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 At mile 12 there is a geological feature called Mars Hill (mound of volcanic rocks). Mars Hill was of great interest personally because of the Mars Rover testing that took place there. Also my interest in Mars Hill stemmed from a workshop in Washington, D.C. I attended years back that focused on developing technology for drilling on mars.
Photo- Jet Propulsion Laboratory – NASA  – Location Mars Hill – Badwater
During the run, what was Ironic is at the instant of passing Mars Hill an Associated Press photographer appeared.  To our surprise some of his photos appeared the next day with a number of national/international news agencies MSN, CNN, Yahoo and in major news papers, etc.   As the 1 year anniversary approaches for the second hottest day of the century (June 28) we recently purchased the rights to the Associated Press Photograph below.
West Heat Wave
AP Captions
When we planned trip (purchased airplane tickets) the temperature at Badwater was forecast to be 105 F – same temp expected in Oklahoma at upcoming 2013 Sept. Redman Triathlon.  So unexpected heat wave and 124 to 128F temperatures changed plans when we arrived

We set alarm for 3 am and started run a 4 am – ran under cover of darkness with a full moon, hot wind to our back, and had shade of the mountains until about the last hour of the run. (Had a safety support run crewman follow in a car.)  At run finish temperature had climbed from 96F at 4 am  to 109F at 8 am.   Out on pavement we measured air temp at +112F.  I was worried about rattle snakes on road at night – but during the day pavement was 180 F to 200F.  So pavement still hot enough at 4 am to keep the snakes away.  The Park Ranger told us it would not be the snakes or scorpions that would get me – it would be the Death Valley Desert heat.
We saw maybe 3 or 4 cars during the entire run.
 In particular I vividly recall coming over the rise at Mars Hill and suddenly seeing the view of the Desert Oasis of  Furnace Creek in distance.  The view was spectacular and we knew at this point we would make Furnace Creek before the temperature reached record levels.   Later in the day the temperature reached 128F which turned out to be the second hottest day of the century at Furnace Creek.
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The Furnace Creek crossing from Badwater was at snails pace running 18 miles – in 3 hours 55 mins with rest stops.    We rested a day – and made two more 6 miles  runs later in week on a mountain dirt trail near Hoover Dam – to make good on the 30 miles reported by the Associated Press.
In the eyes of Ultrarunners – the 18.1 run is small potatoes (Texas saying meaning insignificant).   It was not the running that was the major accomplishment it was dealing with a unanticipated circumstance of the unprecedented record Death Valley high temperatures.  No one would have criticized us had we choose to leave and not do the run – and in fact many would have praised us had we left without running.  What made the run special is the Death Valley Park Ranger said at age 60 we would likely “not make it…….” – but by changing our run plan – running under the cover of darkness, hot wind to our back, in the shade of the mountains and reducing running in the direct sun to about hour – this gave us a small chance – which is all we needed. Kind of like the Master Card commercial says – Plane Tickets, Rent Car, food, running gear, run crewman, medical supplies, fees for satellite safety communications many $$$$$$$$ – but the experience of a life time was priceless…..

Vectoring the Force That We Apply to the Water

Part 1 – Safety Considerations – Triathlon Open Water Swims 

In my opinion the problem with 1,000 to 2000+ triathlon swim mass starts is just that ….. 1000 to 2000 + swimmer mass starts!  At a recent event a very experienced triathlete told me he gets at front of the group and quote “takes his beating in the water” and gets through swim.  I have heard other experienced triathletes make similar comments.   Sadly there have been a number of deaths in the Triathlon swims – typically heart attacks in athletes (with unknown/undetected heart abnormalities) brought on by anxiety during the swim.   

See the link below for the USA Today article titled “Swim Deaths Trouble Triathlon Officials”


One way to make the swim safer is stage “wave swim starts” instead of “mass swim starts”.  Also a doctor referenced in the USA Today article recommended that each athlete should have a medical examination.  Each year before the140.6 Redman I have a detailed physical.  Also in advance, I discuss/clear all major swim, bike and running events and my training program with my doctor.

I want to point out that an anxiety attack can occur swimming in a pod of 2 or three swimmers or in a pod of 1,000 or more swimmers.   However the combination of cold water, tight wet suits, chaos of mass swim starts, rough water, “first time open water swimmers!”, unintended body contact with other swimmers, all can and does trigger anxiety and panic.  I have rescued/assisted a number of swimmers overcome with anxiety and panic in a variety of circumstances including during un-crowded practice swims the day  before a event and in one case during a practice swim at Lake Placid (Mirror Lake) months prior to their race.  Also as a safety kayaker I have rescued/assisted a number of  swimmers during actual events that have undergone anxiety and panic attacks.  My long term goal as a Total Immersion Swim Coach and as a USAT Triathlete Coach is to help make the sport safer and more enjoyable  ….. at whatever distance each may choose. 

I would to eventually like to be a contributor to USAT with regard to safety guidance for triathlon events.  No doubt the mass swim start photograph below generates excitement for spectators, swimmers and photographers – but at what cost?  (I respect others rights to swim how they please – but in the crowd below I suspect there are a number of swimmers that do not belong in this mass of swimmers.) 


I predict and  hope that sooner than later we will see more and more swim wave swim starts (instead of mass starts).  In talking to many triathletes at the waters’ edge I often hear “Steve I just somehow have to get through the swim” is their prevailing swim thought.  I expect my comments above about mass swim starts will spark heated debate among some of the readers – so be it.

Part 2  – Avoiding Chaotic Swimming – and Aimless Churning of the Water

 With the above introduction – In my opinion often times the artful skill and enjoyment of swimming gets lost……in all of triathlon mass start swim focus.  A goal I have is to make sure good swim techniques are used during the open water races – as well as during hours of pool practice.  In my opinion to swim across the English Channel or to swim competitively 2.4 miles or to swim in a 1/2 mile or 1 mile distance race you have to find a balance between force applied to the water, turnover rate and holding you form.  If you loose your form – then instead of vectoring  the force applied to the water to propel you forward – the energy expelled will be lost in aimless churning of the water.

 Take Away Key Point:  If we do not develop swim skills that allow us to “Vector the force we apply to the water to propel us in the forward direction” – you will waste your energy, perhaps end up with a shoulder injury, swim slower rather than faster and not make any improvements as a swimmer.

 As a mindful swimmer in the 2011, 2012, 2013 Redman 140.6 triathlon 2.4 mile swims and 2012 Corpus Hits 140.6 triathlon 2.4 mile swim, I vividly remember many of the swim strokes (just as a skilled mindful golfer can recall many of his shots during a round of golf).  I also have fond memories of views of water conditions (waves, glassy water, winds, etc.), seeing the moon at swim starts, sunrise, buoy turns, observing dolphins as we swam in Corpus bay and skylines  that we sighted off of.  These swims were fun “oops, who said the triathlon open water swims are supposed to be fun?”


Swim Practice – Corpus Christi Bay 1 day before HITS 140.6 Triathlon.

I never get bored swimming – I focus on each stroke and swim at a planned pace in open water events.  Was not always that way – before I learned good swim techniques – my swim thought at first Indian Creek tri, Louisville, Kentucky 1/2 (aqua bike), Nashville Olympic tri was “help, help, I am panicking and I might just drown.”

A primary personal goal in triathlon I have set is not just to finish (what ever the distance) – the goal is to execute  swim, bike, run, fueling and hydration techniques in a highly skillful manner, achieve “measurable” improvements each year, have “fun”, find some humor long the way and “literally” walk away from the events injury free.  Oops, sorry I used the “fun” word again. 

  A life time swim goal is to use as much of our energy as possible to propel us forward.      


Swim practice Texas A & M Natatorium


From Terry Laughlin Total Immersion Blog

In November 2007, Popular Mechanics published an article about what a group of physicists and engineers learned while designing a swim foil for the Navy Seals. After comparing the swimming efficiency of humans with dolphins, these researchers calculated that human swimmers average only three percent (3%) efficiency! I.E. 97% of our energy and “horsepower” gets diverted into something other than forward motion.

 For comparison, elite swimmers are less than 10% efficient — that’s right, even Michael Phelps wastes over 90% — whereas dolphins are 80% energy efficient.
What we should take from this is the invaluable awareness that the opportunity to gain endurance (and speed) by saving energy is far greater than what you can gain by getting fitter. Put another way, if you can improve your energy efficiency from, say, 3 percent to 4 percent, that translates into a 33% energy gain for you. From 4 percent to 5 percent is a 25% improvement.

END comments Terry’s Blog


  Here is another photograph at swim practice at the Texas A & M natatorium. I train there three to four times a year – and sometimes get a lane right next to A & M swim team at early morning workouts.  Have also swam with Red Raiders in Lubbock.  I make it a point of studying the advanced swimmers stroke techniques and training methods. 


In the photograph above very few bubbles or splashing are observed.  In the photo in 50 meter/yard pool I was swimming a pace of just under 2 min/per 100 x 400 yard sets x 4 sets  – which is good pace for that distance for a 61 year old age grouper. I am balancing stroke rate with holding my form and maximizing my speed for 400 yard sets.

 If you look closely in the Photograph above – there is not much water disturbance other than a wake coming off my head as body is propelled forward.  Note my wrist is broke and palm of hand facing towards my back wall of pool.  So has I pull the force I apply to the water will propel me forward in the water.

Another take away is as we get  older we will have less surplus energy/strength compared to our youth- We can not stop the aging clock – but in my opinion by becoming more efficient  at swimming, biking and running we can offset/slow the aging curve and continue to race competively for many years to come.



September 20, 2014  – Oklahoma City Redman Triathlon










18.1 Mile Crossing To Furnace Creek from Badwater Basin

Safety Note:  Always check with you doctor before starting a diet or exercise program.   Seek assistance from heath care professionals, training/exercise specialists and a registered dietician when setting up or modifying a health and wellness program.  Weeks of planning were carried out before making the18.1 mile Furnace Creek to Badwater run. The run was part of specific training for an ultra distance (140.6) triathlon in Oklahoma City (where high temperatures were expected), which I have been preparing for the past 11 months.  Also, prior to going to Badwater, I had made heat conditioning runs near my home in high temperatures – high humidity conditions, which resulted in heat index temperatures of over 110 F.  Great care was taken during the Furnace Creek Crossing to take in the proper nourishment, electrolytes, hydration.  Steps we taken to prevent both under hydration and over hydration. Also discussions were had with an emergency room physician about the signs of a heat stroke.

Dr. Tim Noakes recently published a book on hydration called “Waterlogged,” which talks about the dangers of drinking too much water (overhydration as well as more commonly known dehydration).  Surprisingly, life threatening conditions and even fatalities can occur from complications associated with exercise induced hyponatremia (over hydration).  In marathons, triathlons, endurance cycling races, ultra-marathons and other endurance sporting events, race directors and medical race staff are warning to the dangers of under hydration, heat stroke and also exercise induced over hydration.

Dr. Tim Noakes recent book Waterlogged discussed hyponatremia and dehydration in detail.




The Blog Article – 18.1 Mile Crossing to Furnace Creek from Badwater Basin

About 9 months ago, we wrote a blog titled, “Breaking Self Imposed Barriers.”  The article discussed how as humans, it is in our genetic make-up to work continually to improve at whatever we are doing.  In the evolution of flying, in the mid-1940s, we flew higher and faster than any man had ever gone before…On October 14, 1947, Chuck Yeager flying the experimental Bell X-1 broke the sound barrier (Mach 1 – about 761 mph) at an altitude of 45,000 feet (13,700 meters). The photograph below shows the Bell X-1 over Muroc Army Air Field in California, which later became Edwards Air Force Base.  Edwards Air Force Base is located next to Rogers Dry Lake Bed in the Mojave Desert, which is an alternate landing site for the space shuttle. Today, in man’s flight of “inner space” and “outer space,” he continues to strive to break self-imposed distance and speed records.

US Air Force Photographs of Bell X- 1 over Muroc Army Air Field in California, which later became Edwards Air Force Base.

About 150 miles from Edwards Air Force Base as the crow flies (or shall I say as Chuck Yeager flew), there is a place they call Badwater Basin located in the Death Valley region, which is part of the Mojave Desert.  Badwater Basin by road is 18 miles (GPS) (17.4 miles on map)  from Furnace Creek and is the lowest place in North America at 282 feet below sea level.  Death Valley Furnace Creek holds the world record for the highest recorded air temperature on Earth at 134 °F (57 °C), recorded July 10, 1913.  On the other side of Badwater Basin about 135 miles by road west-northwest is Mount Whitney, which is the highest point in the contiguous United States with an elevation of 14,505 feet (4,421 meters).

Badwater Basin 282 feet (85.5 meters) below sea level

At the end of the article written back in November 2012, we suggested that someday we might go there and break a self-imposed distance barrier and we showed a photograph downloaded from Google Maps of Mars Hill along the road from Badwater to Furnace Creek.

Photograph from Google Maps Road View

For the past 11 months, I have been training for a 140.6 full iron (ultra distance) distance triathlon called the Redman that will be held in Oklahoma City in September of this year.  The temperature at the Redman last year (2012) in the afternoon was over 101 °F (according to my bike computer).  As part of Redman training, I was considering participating in the 1/2 Ironman in Lubbock, Texas on June 30, 2013.  I had been biking and run training in the heat to help prepare me for the heat in Lubbock, Texas.  However, Debbie (my wife) could not go with me to Lubbock due to recovering from a run related foot injury.  Since I was peaked to do an event in the heat, I packed up and did a training run that we called the “18.1 mile Crossing to Furnace Creek from Badwater Basin,” which was an 18.1 mile endurance run from Badwater Basin to Furnace Creek Ranger Station.  I ran alone and had a run support crewman (Joel Weber) in the rental car follow me.  A map of the training run is shown below.

OSM Street Map Track taken from Gamin 910XT recorded run

It is interesting how training for the 2011, 2012 and 2013 Redman 140.6 has taken Debbie and I on many interesting training trips to work on specific swim, bike and run training goals.


I have been doing a combination of Maffetone/metabolically efficient low heart rate 4 to 5 hour bike rides, interval training for the past 2 1/2 months, swimming 2 to 3 times a week, and I have been doing running training based on using a cushioned deck Woodway Curve cushioned deck treadmill, a cushioned deck Woodway Desmo treadmill and a set of Powercranks on my road bike.  So what is significance of treadmills and Powercranks?

Last February, we met a professional triathlete and cycling coach in Colorado Springs. His name is Matt Carnal (USAT Level 1 and USA Cyling Level 2 Cycling Coach).


Meet Coach Matt Carnal who has been coaching me formally since my return from Badwater.  He is known to many as the 3,347 mile man (see link below).


(2014 Update: Also in the month of January 2014, Matt road he single speed bicycle unsupported – 4,563 miles in 31 days, which included a ride from San Diego, California to Key West, Florida.)

In February 2013, we talked about long term goals, one of which is for me to continue to complete/compete in endurance distance events until the ages of 75 and 80 (maybe longer).  At present my age is 60.  He suggested to prepare to continue to complete/ compete in swim, bike, run endurance events for the next two decades, I need to stay injury free, slow the aging curve, and get faster on the run while minimizing daily joint pounding road training miles.  I added to this list that perhaps I need to “figuratively speaking” outlive or stay out of the nursing homes longer than some of the faster competition, as there are many very fast 60 year old age groupers that have trained and raced their entire lives.  In contrast, my entire tenure as a endurance triathlete, distance swimmer and most recent distance runner is a mere “drop in the bucket”.  Texas saying meaning not very much! and spans about 3 years (June 2010) with completion of four 140.6 events since September 2011.

Debbie and I were highly impressed with Matt’s recommended approach of getting faster on the run while minimizing daily joint pounding road training miles.  We asked Matt to coach me as one of his athletes and he accepted.  As evidenced by Matt’s ride across America in 2010 and holding a Strava Base Mile Blast (2013) record of riding 3,347 miles in 26 days, he believes in gaining fitness while having fun and experiencing adventure.

The reason we have set a goal of competing/completing in a endurance distance triathlons and other endurance events (open water swims, trail runs, etc.) at the ages 70, 80 and beyond is because this long term but reachable goal results in making a lifelong commitment to health and wellness and training year round with my training partner Debbie for the rest of our lives.  After all the “Ultra Endurance Event” for all of us is living a healthy, happy, active and productive life for as long as possible (into our 90’s and beyond…).   Also, this goal requires daily accountability to try and stay as injury free, while still experiencing adventure and having fun with daily training activities.  I used the word “we” because it takes support of family, friends, coach, doctor, dietician and piers to live a life of health and wellness and compete in endurance events.  Debbie and I train together and enjoy making bike rides together, swimming, training trips and attending endurance events together.

Matt Carnal (http://www.mcendurancecoach.com) recommended that at age 60, I consider adopting a run training regimen that minimizes shock loading to my feet, legs, hips and back by limiting actual pounding miles running on hard road surfaces (pavement and cement).  Together we have pooled our knowledge and have combined a number of  training techniques conductive to “Low Impact Run Training” to protect our aging joints.

Also when running  long distances outside, we try and pick interesting and special places to run – where the run translates into adventure with measurable results such as Rocky Raccoon 50K, 18 mile run at Furnace Creek, 7 mile mountain trail run at Hoover Dam, Redman 140.6 triathlon – marathon around beautiful Lake Hefner, 10K endurance training runs around Town Lake in Austin, a recent 10K run in Hamburg Germany and10K runs around Lake Martin  where you can view alligators and countless species of birds along a wilderness trail.  Also I make runs along beautiful country roads near my home and through beautiful neighborhoods near Red Lerille’s Heath Club where Debbie and I swim 2 to 3 times a week.  Point being our, feet, knee joints, hip joint, back, shoulder joints have a finite – limited number of load cycles they can sustain before they will wear out – therefore Debbie and I want to make every walk, run, swim and bike ride as enjoyable as possible with the outcome being enhanced health and wellness.

Matt suggested I bring much of my running inside to avoid joint pounding outside on cement and pavement runs.  He suggested I consider doing interval run conditioning on our Woodway Curve Treadmill and also endurance run conditioning on our Woodway Desmo Treadmill.  I still run outside several times a week but the runs are highly focused with specific training objectives that have measureable results and in combination with treadmill work.

Woodway Curve Treadmill



Woodway Desmo Treadmill – which can be driven by a computer (left on desk) and also by a metabolic cart that can ne connected via a RS232 port..

Also for the past year I have collaborated with Woodway USA’s Regional Manager Tyler Danen about training on both our Desmo and Curve Treadmills.  The Woodway R & D group has been high responsive to software and hardware upgrades and Tyler has personally visited our metrics testing and training lab in our home. The interface between the Woodway programmable software and also our COSMED metabolic cart have always worked seamlessly.  So Woodway Treadmills are a very important part of our training designed to protect our 60 year old joints.

Matt also recommended high cadence work on my tri-bike on a indoor trainer and also high cadence work while on my long outdoor training rides.  He also recommended that I train with a set of Powercranks, which allow the bike crank arms to act independently of each other.

Powercranks set up on my road bike

Powercranks (alternative run training with no shock loading) – each crank arm is advanced independently.  Independent means one leg cannot help the other in making the pedals go around, and in order to pedal the bike, one cannot simply relax on the back stroke but must actively raise the pedal using your hip flexor and hamstring muscles.  This forces the user to learn how to pedal a bicycle in a more efficient and powerful manner.  Further, this simple change helps to promote leg muscles to become balanced (both right/left and fore/aft) and training additional muscles with coordination is important to both running and cycling.

Low Impact Run Training:

– Power Cranks
– Cushioned Deck Curve Tread Mill
– Cushioned Deck Desmo Treadmill
– Trail Running (dirt, cinder, grass)
– Running in shoes that cushion shock loading ( right now I run in Hoka One One Stinsons and my Glycerin’s on pavement)
 – and on the dirt my Brooks Cascadias and the Hokas 
– Walking
– High Cadence Bike trainer work
– Swimming for low impact endurance and core strength
– Adapting techniques from Total Immersion Swimming for running – specifically turning off selected muscle groups, running tall and relaxed and using proprioception to enhance foot strike positioning to prevent run related foot and leg injuries 
– Run specific strength training

Also, for the past 14 months, I have been following a training regimen based on Dr. Philip Maffetone’s endurance training techniques and also based on Bob Seebohar’s work on metabolic efficiency training and testing methodology.  Also, I based my run endurance training on published work by Dr. Timothy Noakes.  We established heart rate training zones base in individualized testing (both field testing and metrics lab testing) as heart rates vary significantly from one person to the next.

In November 2008, I met Peggy Pletcher, MS, RD,LD, CDE, she has a Masters in exercise physiology, is registered and licensed dietitian and is a certified diabetes educator.


She lives in Austin, Texas with her husband Tim and two daughters.  I owe much of my success to metabolic efficacy pertaining to diet to Peggy.   Turns out controlling blood sugar spikes (as a type 2 Diabetic) go hand in hand with training you body to be metabolically efficient.  Also, over the years Peggy has looked at the endurance training I have been doing.  Peggy helped me to develop meals that control my blood sugar (I am a type 2 Diabetic on no medications!).  Also I consult with Peggy on hydration and fueling during 14 to 16 hour ultra/iron distance endurance triathlon events that I take part in each year.  She recently reviewed the Furnace Creek Crossing run data with me and we have made some changes to my hydration, electrolyte and fueling intake for the upcoming 2013 Redman Triathlon.

Our 2013 Redman Triathlon marathon run plan was developed by good friend Jara who is an experienced endurance runner and has completed numerous marathons, shorter distance races and a 50 mile run called the Rocky Raccoon run in Huntsville, Texas.  Well over a year ago, I met Jara and her husband Ryan who is also a very experienced distance runner.  Since that time, our families have become good friends and I have helped Jara with her Total Immersion swim technique and she has helped me develop some endurance running skills.

Jara pointed out I walked a lot in all three previous 140.6 races (but my walking was unplanned and sporadic, which reduced the physiological benefit of walking and resulted in a longer run splits).  We followed Jara’s Redman run plan during the 18.1 mile training run I recently did from Badwater Basin to Furnace Creek.  Jara’s Redman endurance distance run plan incorporates walking for very short time intervals at strategic times/distances in each of the four 6.55 mile segments (laps) of the Redman marathon that I am training for.  Matt Carnel took Jara’s run walk plan and integrated it into our “Low Impact Run Training Plan.”

The 18 mile Badwater Basin to Furnace Creek run was very technical.  It took a number of weeks of planning; also in advance we had talked with hospital emergency room 70 miles away and determined that medevac air service was available if needed.  You might say that sounds drastic.  Well, at my office and home I have these services available, so in advance we wanted to make sure these services were available in Badwater Basin  as well!.  Also, effort went into identifying the dangers of over hydration, under hydration and heat stroke.  When carrying out any type of exercise program, check with you doctor and qualified coaches and advisors to avoid serous injury.


My big concern was rattlesnakes – I visualized running and a rattlesnake coiled in the shade of a tumble weed along the side of the road striking and biting me on the ankle – hence my interest in the location of nearest emergency room (turns out was too hot for snakes and most creatures including humans on the day of the run).

For the first 14 miles of the run, we would have no cell phone communications.  So, we had a SPOT GPS emergency real time transponder and a run support crewman in a rental car (Joel Weber) with limited text communication via the SPOT GPS satellite link.  During the run, meds/run stats were sent to a number of observers by satellite text every 6 miles.  Also, we had discussed the plan with a Death Valley Park Ranger in Furnace Creek.  The Ranger told us, “It would not be rattlesnakes, scorpions or cars that would get you – because there will be none – pavement during the day was 160 to 180F! ; She said instead it would be a heat stroke we should be concerned about. I had also talked with an emergency room doctor about precautions concerning avoiding a heat stroke and had read an athlete heat stoke guide developed by medical professionals associated with the Hotter than Hell 100 mile ride held in Wichita Falls, Texas that I had done several times.  At the Hotter than Hell Ride I had witnessed a number of riders overcome with heat stroke symptoms  in the rest areas.

On Thursday (the day before the run), we drove the planned 18 mile course and made a series of three 1/2 to 3/4 mile runs at the start, mid-point, and near the end of the 18 mile course during the hottest part of the day, which turned out to be 124 °F.  The 1/2 to 3/4 mile runs were designed to develop runner support – runner protocol, acclimatize to the heat and become familiar with the terrain.  Joel Weber and I had already worked together on another endurance training session – he was a safety kayaker on a 4 mile training swim I do regularly in a lake in Louisiana called Indian Creek.

Four mile training swim Indian Creek (Photograph by Joel Weber)

Joel is a mechanical engineering student at University of Louisiana at Lafayette.  During the run, Joel took photographs, provided run support/drove the support vehicle, operated the SPOT GPS transponder, collected medical data (until digital scale and digital thermometer over heated and stopped working), sent limited information by text via satellite to a number of observers back in Lafayette.  If either he or several folks monitoring our run progress felt we should suspend the run, he would be part of the decision making process and halt the run.


Also, I had read a number of books about Badwater and read a number of Badwater race reports by individuals that had run the Badwater 135 mile Ultramarathon. Also both Joel and I studied training information and run crew information pertaining specifically to running in Badwater Basin.  Each year there is a Badwater Ultramarathon that covers 135 miles (217 km) non-stop from Death Valley Badwater Basin to Mount Whitney, California in temperatures up to 130 °F (55 °C).  Also, I talked with an experienced ultra runner runner that was part of aid station support for ultra distance races at Badwater Death Valley.  We monitored body core temperature and body weight until the digital scale and digital thermometer malfunctioned due to high temperatures.  Next time I will bring fluke meter and fast acting thermal couple from our lab and a mechanical weight scale.  Fluids in and out and fueling and electrolyte intake were also monitored carefully.

For the record, the longest distance I have ever run was a short 50 kilometers (31.1 miles) along with three marathons (26.2 miles) as part of iron distance triathlons sprinkled in here and there.  So out of respect for Badwater Ultramarathon runners (which I am Not) we refer to our run as the “18 mile Crossing to Furnace Creek From Badwater Basin.”

Jara (endurance run advisor) suggested we set a goal to run in a manner that when we left Death Valley that after recovery I would have enhanced endurance from the training run.  We indeed accomplished that.

We took a number of pictures during three 1/2 to 3/4 mile acclimation test runs we made on Thursday June 27, 2013  during the hottest part of the day 124 °F, knowing that we would be starting the run pre-dawn on Friday (which would limit predawn photography).

Coming out of parking lot in Badwater Basin, here is run starting point located 18 miles from Furnace Creek in Death Valley.  This photograph was taken the day before as we started the run at 4 A.M. the next morning pre-dawn to minimize exposure to 110 °F + to 130 °F temperatures expected later in the day.


About 3/4 miles into acclimation run Thursday in preparation for Fridays 18 mile run.



Acclimation Run 2, Thursday.  Though the course runs along a lake bed, the course was not flat (at least from the perspective of someone living along the coast of Louisiana).

During the acclimation test runs, it felt like putting your face in an oven.  The pavement was 160 °F to 180 °F (according the Ranger Station personnel).

Based on the three test runs in the hottest part of the day, we made the decision to start the 18 mile run at 4 A.M. Friday morning (June 28, 2013) with the goal to run 18 miles from Badwater Basin to Furnace Creek.  During the test run, we discovered cell phones did not have signals so we depended on the SPOT GPS transponder, which allowed limited texting with our phones.  Our plan was to complete the 18 mile crossing to Furnace Creek in 4 to 5 hours depending on the heat.  With stops, we finished in 4 hours and 17 minutes with an average pace of 14 minutes and a normalized moving pace of 3 hours 55 minutes of 12 minutes, 30 seconds and an average moving pace of 13 minutes.

Our safety run plan was that Joel would position the car 1/2 mile ahead of me and as I passed him he would hand me water, Endurolytes (electrolytes – salt, potassium, calcium, magnesium), 1/4 banana as needed, and Perpetuem, and I could change out night time and day time run gear as needed.  Also, at mile 6 and mile 12 mile, we would take body weight, core temperature, blood glucose and make a physical evaluation if we should continue the run.  Also, each 1/2 mile as I passed the car I would call out my run pace, heart rate and how I felt for Joel to record in a data log.


Start of run at 4:10 A.M., the air temperature at this time was 96 °F.


At times, because there was no traffic (just like the Ranger predicted), I ran with my head light lamp turned off.  We could see the beautiful mountains and desert floor illuminated by moonlight.

During the dark, I started the run in my favorite triathlon sleeveless jersey and run shorts that I had worn during the 2011 Redman.  I chose this run gear because it gave me confidence and reminded of a successful endurance event I had completed in the past.  Also, in the dark I felt the sleeveless jersey would provide cooling.


Same run gear I took to Badwater that I wore in Redman 2011 Iron Distance Triathlon about a mile into run.  However, I ran in my newest pair of Brooks Glycerins.


At all times (night and during the day), I wore a red flashing tail light on my run belt though we encountered no traffic until about 7 A.M. and then saw only a few cars, a tour bus and one Associated Press photographer.

Mountains and lake bed looking south as we headed north towards Furnace Creek.


Predawn looking northeast in Badwater Basin Death Valley


Running at night by moonlight in Death Valley reminded me of a night swim in Lake George, New York with a friend of mine, David Dammerman (an ultra-distance swimmer).  We made the swim during the passing (aftermath) of tropical storm Irene in 2011.  It was dark, cold and still raining with 2 foot (plus) windblown waves.  He was training for a 26 mile swim so he had made many training swims in Lake George in the cover of darkness.  Ironically, the conditions mimicked conditions he would face on his 26 mile swim.  We wore flashing strobe lights on our goggles and navigated off lights of the surrounding mountains along the shoreline.  As I followed David, I could see the glow of his lights under the water and I could see bubbles trailing off his body illuminated by his and my lights and also I could see some type of algae particles illuminated by the glow of his light trailing in his wake below the water line.  Most recently on September 25, 2013 my friend David reached is goal of swimming in the English Channel.  His time was 10 hours and 38 minutes!

I would have to say that running through Badwater Basin Death Valley by moonlight and swimming in crystal clear water under the cover of darkness at Lake George (New York) are two of the most spectacular encounters with nature I have ever had in my life.  Both events were training related and there was no metals or awards or spectators.  I used my fitness (health and wellness) as a vehicle to allow me to explore nature and go on adventures that were made possible through endurance training and healthful living 365 days a year.


We were protected from the sun by the shadows of the mountains for about one hour after sunrise and we had the hot desert air driven by the wind to our back.  So through planning, we greatly increased our chances of reaching our 18 mile goal – Furnace Creek.  So it is true – I am not a very experienced runner (freshman newbie at best) – maybe strong points were that we were good at accessing current fitness capabilities, run conditions and made a few wise choices on our run plan.



At about 6 A.M., I changed into a running shirt with short sleeves and high-tech fabric (Raceready.com) to provide some protection to shoulders and upper arms from the sun and also to provide optimal evaporative cooling.  Also, the bright green shirt provided visibility for Joel to monitor my progress on each 1/2 mile segment as we leap frogged from Badwater Basin to Furnace Creek.  I ran in Brooks Glycerin shoes that were fit to my foot strike in a local running store in Lafayette called Geaux Run.  So I went “Geaux Running” in Badwater Basin!  (Geaux is Cajun for “go”).

In the event the run extended much past 8 A.M., I had planned to change into a long sleeved white run shirt made of tech-fabric (Raceready.com).  However, by 8:20 I was able to jump in the pool at Furnace Creek and cool my core temperature.



The far mountains ahead of us on the horizon are beyond Furnace Creek.


As we made our way, the scenery and colors were spectacular.


As Joel and I progressed out of darkness into the sunrise, I could not help but think about the buzzards I encountered before dawn in Huntsville State Park during a 50K Rocky Raccoon run I did last November (see photograph below).


Photograph by Karen Thibodeaux www.yoursportingimage.com

Buzzards roosting near the Rocky Raccoon 50K Train Run in November 2012 (Huntsville, Texas).

Funny what goes through your mind while running (I was not running with headphones for safety so I could listen for rattlesnakes that might be on the side of the road, approaching cars and other desert animals) so I had much time to think.  I listened to my foot strike on the pavement and thought about my Total Immersion foot and arm placements, body position and posture.  I would smile every once in a while and wonder if the Death Valley turkey vultures (buzzards) might invite me to their luncheon later in the day…



In the distance, the end of the shadows and the desert hot sun and spectacular desert awaited us.


The run pace was a trade-off between maintaining a reasonable heart rate (sub anaerobic – metabolically efficient heart rate) and finishing the run before the temperatures rose past 110 °F.  (Heart rate is driven up by both run pace and body temperature – hence the pace tradeoff consideration).  That day, the temperature in the afternoon reached 130 °F during the hottest part of the afternoon, which turned out to be one of hottest days in the century and also on the planet.

The 18 mile run was more about “brain than brawn”.  Any of you that know me know I am a real newbie as a runner, but I trained in the hottest parts of the day in the humid heat of southern Louisiana, and have trained my body to be metabolically efficient and pick challenging but very achievable goals.  For the Oklahoma City Redman, it may be over 101 °F in the afternoon as it was last year, hence our interest in run training in the Badwater Basin.

In the distance right next to the left side of the road is Mars Hill at the 12 mile mark and now we no longer have the shade of the mountains to protect us from the heat of the sun.

Mars Hill is coming up on the left about 500 yards ahead and right next to the road



.  Mars Hill is a location where NASA has done some testing in the past on Mars rover designs.

Photo- Jet Propulsion Laboratory – NASA  – Location Mars Hill – Badwater



As we approached Mars Hill out of nowhere or shall I say, “out of the middle of nowhere” a photographer with a number of very high end cameras appeared and started taking photographs.  The photographer (Chris Carlson) told Run Crewman Joel Weber that he was an Associated Press Journalist and he said he was going to call me later to discuss the run.  He never called but we Googled AP articles of Furnace Creek and found his post.  He has a number of pictures and a very nice article that talks about the desert heat Friday (July 28) in Death Valley.  His photographs are beautiful and capture the heat of the desert that a number of visitors experienced that day including us.



Here is a link to larger sized photograph.  Double mouse click on photo when link opens up.


(However, we received credit for more miles that we actually ran.  We completed an 18.1 mile run from Badwater Basin to Furnace Creek and the photographer gave us credit for running 30 miles.  We tried to contact him and ask him to correct the distance from 30 miles to 18 miles on the photograph, but we could not make contact. We dealt with the millage discrepancy as few days later.)

After assessing my physical condition at mile 12 during the Furnace Creek Crossing, we agreed to continue the run past Mars Hill.  Mars Hill with basalt rubble and boulders can be seen directly behind me.


As the run progresses, the scenery and colors of the desert were ever changing.  Mars Hill can be seen behind me a mile or so back on the right hand side far beyond in the road looking south.




In the distance to the left of the mountains about 6 miles is our destination, Furnace Creek.



At this point, about 3 miles from the completion of the run, the air temperature was 109 to 110 °F.


Running from the sun into the shade there was major contrast in pavement temperatures (with regard to conduction, convection and radiation).

At this point, I have run much further than the distant mountains you can see along the road behind me looking to the south.


More beautiful contrasting colors in the desert landscape.  I might add the running surface pavement was really nice and was  softened somewhat by the desert furnace temperatures.


The colors in the desert landscape go from black, to rich browns, to tan, to snow white salt in the desert lake bed…



Furnace Creek Inn is located to my right as I turn inbound west towards Furnace Creek.


Furnace Creek Ranch Resort can be seen ahead.  At the ranch is a spring feed pool, which had a water temperature of 68 to 70 °F that I later jumped into cool my body core temperature after the run.


We ran past furnace Creek Ranch Resort and continued to mile 18.1, which extended out past the Furnace Creek Visitor Center and Ranger Station.


At this point, as I entered the Furnace Creek Visitor Center, I really did not feel the effects of the heat.

We ended the run at the Ranger Station where the official temperature was noted to be 109 °F.  As seen from my posture, I am tired and made good timing on finishing the 18.1 mile run to Furnace Creek before the temperatures climbed towards 130F later in the day.  Once I stopped running, I immediately started feeling the effects of the heat and was ready to start the cool down and run recovery process.  With in one hour I had made a rapid short term recovery and  swam some laps in the pool to help my legs to recover.

With stops, we finished in 4 hours and 17 minutes with an average pace of 14 minutes and a normalized moving pace of 3 hours 55 minutes of 12 minutes, 30 seconds and an average pace of 13 minutes.

Also, we started run at 4 A.M. and finished a little after 8 A.M. The scenery was spectacular both during the 2 hour night portion of the run and the daylight portion of the run.  Weeks of planning and months of training, along with having a run support crewman follow in a rent car resulted in safe crossing from Badwater Basin to Furnace Creek.

This was not the longest run I have ever done but by far the most spectacular and technical run I have ever done.  This was a solo run so I provided our own support.  The finish line was established based on my endurance, air and pavement temperatures.  There was no first place.  Instead there was an “Only Place.”  There were no finish metals; the prize was enhanced fitness and a stepping stone to the next event.


I attribute the successful injury free run at Badwater to the combination of training suggested by Matt, run guidance from run advisor and good friend Jara, and to Maffetone Endurance training on bike and running and also to long term endurance swim training for the past several years using Total Immersion swim techniques.

Last but not least long term success is a result to daily feedback on my training and encouragement from my wife of 40 years, Debbie, who is also an endurance athlete.  And at age 60, Debbie looks much better that I do!

The next stop was the Furnace Creek Resort Pool, which I immediately jumped into to cool my body core temperature.  Just prior to entering the pool, I started feeling legs cramps.

The other 12 Miles …………….

As mentioned above, the Associated Press photographer gave us credit for 12 more miles than the actual 18 miles that we ran from Badwater Basin to Furnace Creek.  We tried to contact him and ask him to correct the distance from 30 miles to 18 miles on the photograph, but we could not make contact. So after a day of recovery we planned two additional run training days.

The second part of our trip was originally planned to do some open water swimming at Lake Mead near Hoover Dam.  We relocated to Boulder City, Nevada in a hotel about 6 miles from Hoover Dam.  Our plan was to run the additional 12 miles that the AP photographer gave us credit for (a 5 mile run on Sunday and a 7 mile run on Monday) on a mountain trail leading to Hoover Dam.  We found a beautiful historic railroad trail with a shallow grade, groomed smooth dirt running surface with many flat sections that included 5 tunnels cut through the mountains overlooking Lake Mead and leading to Hoover Dam.


Trail leading to Hoover Dam.


Looking north overlooking Lake Mead, Hemingway Harbor and Boulder Beach North Side of Hemingway Harbor where a number of long distance swimming events including the USMS 10K National Championships as well as sprint, Olympic and 70.3 distance triathlons.



We took a break and walked about 20 yards off the main trail to enjoy overlook viewing point marked along the main trail.  One of the mountain tunnels can be seen in the background.


View running out of one tunnel headed towards the next tunnel.  One concern I had was rattlesnakes that might be trying to stay cool in the high heat.  The heat during the day in Boulder City was also around 110 °F, but there was breeze coming off the lake, which made running much more comfortable.




On Monday, a 7 mile run (round robin – out and back) took me to the visitor center at Hoover Dam.  The visitor center can be seen in the distance in the upper left hand portion of the photograph on the other side of the dam.


View running down the highway at Badwater Basin during initial acclimation run shown earlier in article.


As I made my way back from Hoover Dam  completing the Associated Press reported 30 miles – I was already thinking about returning to Badwater. The experience was about using ones fitness to experience adventure and beauty.   A accepted custom at Badwater is for runners to stake their location in the event they leave the run course.  So below on the map is a stake posted at 18.1 miles – just past Furnace Creek.

Map Source – Adventurecorps

In the event we return to Badwater in 2014 – we may choose to go during the winter or early spring.  If the temperatures are suitable Coach Matt Carnal’s Jack Russell “Action Jackson” (AJ) may do some pacing for us!

Coach Matt Carnal’s – Action Jackson “AJ”

Epilogue – Post Badwater Training – 2013 Redman 140.6


After returning from Badwater, we continued to train for the Redman through the summer months in Southern Louisiana. We traveled to Oklahoma City 4 days before the event.  On the way to Oklahoma City, we stopped at Tyler State Park where Debbie and I made an open water swim.  Debbie and I swam 1/2 mile in the lake together.



Debbie as she completes her 1/2 mile swim from across the lake.




Debbie has swam in a number of lakes spanning Texas, Arkansas, and New York.

As a result of the training effort, I finished the 2013 Redman 1/2 hour faster than the 2012 Redman and almost one hour faster than the 2011 Redman.


2013 Redman Photos – J.R. Randal


In the months to come we will post a 2013 Redman article.  During the 2011, 2012 and 2013 Redman events, Debbie was on the course 15 to 16 hours tracking and documenting our progress and encouraging me every step of the way.

We train together year around and she often advises me on training progress.




Debbie is the one that deserves the finisher’s metals each year!


Safety Note:  Always check with you doctor before starting a diet or exercise program.   Seek assistance from heath care professionals, training/exercise specialists and a registered dietician when setting up or modifying a health and wellness program.






2012 Redman – The Blog


Jim Glickert’s Redman Figure- Lake Hefner Lake Bed

Photograph – Gojim.tv

This year I met Jim Glickert, a 5 time Redman from Osage Beach, Missouri.  His bike was racked next to mine.  He told me about a video he produced about the 2011 Redman and also that he was producing a 2012 Redman video.  His videos are really great.  In a masterful way he has captured the spirit of the Redman – which I have so much trouble putting into words.  Jim’s great efforts and very significant time that he has put into both the 2011 and 2012 Redman videos are a precious gift to all of the Volunteers, Race Staff, Race Director and Triathletes that participate in the Redman events.   The photograph above taken by Jim, the figure of a man he made with stones in the Lake Hefner lake bed, is a great symbol for the Redman.  With Jim’s permission, we adopted this photograph as a photograph on the homepage of our website.

Links to both of his videos are below:

Redman 2012 Video (Gojim.tv)

Redman 2011 Video (Gojim.tv)



Introduction – Swimfulthinking Blog – Redman 2012

Warning – This blog requires Endurance reading skills …..

I have been told that race report blogs are supposed to be focused, short and about on my race experience – there is plenty of that – however, to get to the Redman, I was touched by many others and their stories are here too.


Oklahoma City Redman by way of the 2010 New Orleans Ocher 70.3 Ironman (Photograph Brightroom, Inc) with Redman annotations added to photograph within Blog


Redman 2012 – Part 1 Oklahoma City Redman – by way of New Orleans 70.3 Ironman

In April 2010 Debbie and I witnessed our son-in-law Derrick complete his first 70.3 distance half Ironman event – the Ocher New Orleans 70.3 Half Ironman.


(Photograph Brightroom, Inc)

Derrick completed the New Orleans Ironman in 5 hours and 30 mins with a swim time of 40:26 minutes, a bike time of 2 hours 36 mins and a run time of 2 hours 7 mins.

Photograph Brightroom, Inc

You might be asking, how is Steve going to “blog us” from New Orleans to the Oklahoma City Redman?  Well, I was so inspired after watching Derrick in the New Orleans 70.3 half Ironman that on that very day (April 18, 2010) I went home and that evening  signed up for the Oklahoma Redman Aquabike (2.4-mile swim and 112-mile bike ride – two of the legs of a full distance triathlon), which took place in September 25, 2010.  That same day Derrick also signed up for the 2010, 140.6 iron distance Redman.   About a week later ….. I was wondering if I had “overloaded my wagon” (Texas term sort of like the saying “biting off more than you can chew”!). I knew I could ride 112 miles ….. but preparing for a 2.4-mile swim in five months’ time loomed as a daunting assignment – might as well have been an English Channel swim at that point, because four months earlier I could only swim half way across a 25 meter pool at Red Lerille’s Health Club (Lafayette, Louisiana) without having to stop and rest. With dedicated effort, I became a Total Immersion open water swimmer and was able to complete the 2.4 mile Redman swim in 1 hour and 44 minutes with a bike time of 7 hrs. 22 min and a total event time of 9 hrs and 13 min – yes, I know slow … but sure!  (derivative of another saying I leaned in Texas “slowly but surely”)

Photograph – Paul Howard

My son-in-law Derrick completed the 140.6 Iron Distance 2010 Redman in 11 hrs 57 minutes and came in 13th overall in a field of 136 competitors, which was very impressive and inspiring to our family and friends.

Photographs – by Paul Howard – September 2010


140.6 2010 Redman – 11 hrs 57 minutes (Photograph – Paul Howard)

Today,  three years and three 140.6 iron distanced completions after the 2010 Redman Aquabike, I continue to be inspired by my wife Debbie, my daughter Hillary, my son Paul, my daughter-in-law Brooke and my son-in-law Derrick.  The pictures below tell the story of the source of my inspiration.

Here is Debbie on her Quintana Roo CD1 tri-bike – Paul also often tells us if she and I can’t be fast … then we need to at least look fast!  Debbie looks fast and is fast!

Paul and Derrick on a Saturday training ride back in 2010.  They not only look fast they are fast!


There is a 100 mile road bike race in St. Francisville, Louisiana – they call it the Rouge Roubaix.  It is a 100 mile bike race over both paved and dirt roads – which include steep long hills with soft gravel sections.  Debbie and I have witnessed our son Paul and Derrick take part in this race twice in the Cat 5 race group (2010 – 5 hrs 54 mins and 2011 – 5 hrs 59 mins).  Derrick also took part in the 2010 and 2011 Rouge Roubaix.  Derrick’s time for the 2011 Rouge Roubaix was also 5 hrs 59 mins.  For reference, the winner of the Rouge Roubaix 2010 Cat 5 Group finished thin 5 hrs 17 min. So Paul’s and Derrick’s times are very good.  Derrick has told me a number of times the only thing more difficult than a full distance Ironman is the Rouge Roubaix.  Any time during training or when taking part in an ultra 140.6 endurance triathlon and I think things are tough I think of Paul and Derrick completing the Rouge Roubaix.


Above is a picture of Paul in the 2010 Rouge Roubaix.


Here is Paul in a Cat 5 criterium a few years back in Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Paul at start of Cat 5 Criterium

At my age of 60 – my slow twitch muscles are still in good shape – I gravitate towards long distance endurance events that agree with my 6 decade aging body physiological attributes – However, competitive road racing is a great way to have fun and stay fit.  In my case, since I am slow and end up riding by myself in races I do – I might as well be doing triathlons where riding and running alone is not unusual.

Our daughter Hillary also takes part in triathlons.  In 2011 she took part in her first sprint distance triathlon at Indian Creek.

Above Hillary completing her first sprint half mile swim at the 2011 Indian Creek Triathlon.  We made several open water training swims together before the event.  We are very proud of her.  Hillary completed the Indian Creek Triathlon in 2 hours and 9 minutes.

Hillary on her Quintana Roo tri-bike at the City Club June 2012 Triathlon.

Besides Debbie and I and her husband Derrick  – Two of Hillary’s biggest fans are her two daughter’s Molly and Elise!  They are always saying “Go Fast Mommy!”



Hillary also took third place in her age group in the October 2011 mini-sprint UL Ragin Cajun Triathlon in 1 hours 5 min.

And of course Molly and Elise are also triathletes and they go really fast! (Reds 2012 Kids Triathlon)

And we have a number up and coming triathletes and cyclist, Paul’s wife Brooke and our granddaughter Zoe and our grandson soon to be born Hayes!  Our daughter-in-law Brooke trains indoors on her road bike and on a treadmill.

As you can see I do not have to look very far for inspiration in our family.  For me personally each of their individual accomplishments are is as significant as if they were all racing in Kona.

Intermission –  OK – if you want to rest your eyes – this would be a good time to take a break – then you can read Part 2 of the 2012 Redman Blog next.

Redman 2012 Part 2 – The Race

The road to the Redman starting line is about eating right and training/exercising right year around – not just 4 months before the race.


If you have read very much of Swimfulthinking – you know I am long winded – I like to think of our readers as endurance readers! and likewise I am a endurance blogger!  I know blogs are supposed to be focused and a way to tell one’s story – and our story often is about people, dogs, horses and even dolphins they we meet along the way!  You guessed it, my favorite animals are Secretariat and Flipper.


Source – kentuckytourism.com  I am sure if Secretariat had been a triathlete he would have one at Kona.  (see article published in Swimfulthinking a while ago on Secretariat.)

Training and Race Background

I completed the 2010 full distance Redman 114.4 Aquabike (swim – bike – no run) and a number of sprint distance triathlons and two 10K (about 6.2 miles) open water swims.

Then in 364 days – from September 24, 2011 to September 22, 2012,  I completed three full distance 140.6 Triathlons, which included the September 24, 2011 Iron distance 140.6 Redman triathlon, the HITS Corpus Christi 140.6 Triathlon (February 2012) and on September 22, the 2012 Iron distance 140.6 Redman. For each of these events, the training effort and adventures are much more significant than the events themselves.  The triathlon event days are a time to have fun and celebrate the everyday way of healthy living.  Event days are not end points but instead are part of 365 days a year of healthy living.


Example – swim practice in Corpus Christi bay in rough waters with a aircraft carrier as a backdrop the day before the HITS Triathlon was a fantastic stand alone experience in itself.  The daily swim training in Corpus Christi  bay for 5 days prior to the February 2012 HITS triathlon would later help me in rough waters at the Redman.


As they said in the “Top Gun Movie” Hey have any of you guys seen an aircraft carrier around here??  As I swam in Corpus Christi Bay, from time to time when I would roll to breathe I would catch a glimpse of the aircraft carrier and a dolphin swimming 25 to 30 yards away from me and in the same direction that I was swimming.  I guess the dolphin was curious how a human could swim so slowly through the water!


It was not my goal to complete three 140.6 triathlons in 364 days – my fitness allowed me in February 2012 to take part in the well run – excellent HITS 140.6 Triathlon event that came up unexpectedly in my hometown of Corpus Christi.  The HITS 140.6 event has a number of common threads with the Redman – both events are very friendly and the winner of the 2010 and 2012 Redman and winner of the Corpus Christi HITS  140.6 was a 38 year old named Austin Saylor, who went to my high school in Corpus (in a different decade than me!)  Austin is a very great athlete and also is a very kind to his aging elderly high school upperclassmen!


Austin in Corpus at the HITS Triathlon


The Oklahoma City Redman is one of the best run Triathlons I have ever taken part in.  In addition to the Redman hosting half and full distance Triathlon and Aquabike events, every third year the Redman hosts the USAT Halfmax National Championship, USAT Club Championships and also the Redman host a Sprint and Olympic triathlons.

Last September 2012 in addition to competing in the 140.6 Redman on Saturday, on Sunday I was also a safety kayaker for the Redman Sprint and Olympic Triathlons.

The Redman has a very special place in my heart – the Redman goes beyond swimming, biking and running – the event is about people the athletes, the spectators, the very special friendly/supportive race staff and the people of Oklahoma City. When I signed up for the Aquabike in 2010, I was really concerned about the 2.4 mile swim.  Dave Wood, the race director, answered my many endless emails and phones calls with his genuine kindness and encouragement during my 5 months of preparation.  He and all of the Redman Race staff and volunteers are very professional, helpful and friendly.


Dave Wood, Redman Race Director, on the right and on the left, President of the Redman, Thomas Hill. (Photograph JA Randell)


When Dave is not taking care of his many duties preparing for the Redman Triathlon, he enjoys trail running as well as more conventional running.


Dave Wood on a trail run – Source Oklahoma Trail Runners Association.com

Dave Wood – Source Teampriana.com

Source: James A. Randell Photography

This year at the 2012 Redman Dave greeted us before sunrise and at the swim start and also……


Source: James A. Randell Photography

Here is Dave at the finish line right before I came in. What is amazing is that – Dave greeted me personally at the Redman swim start at sun rise and  as I entered the finish chute at 10:15 pm Dave was standing right there and gave my name to the race announcer!  So Dave Wood is our Super Ultra Endurance Race Director! At 1:30 AM when Jim of gojimtv.com finished, he was there to greet Jim also.  Dave Wood, Thomas Hill, the volunteers and the race staff make the Redman a very awesome event! Swimfulthinking thanks all of them!

During the years of 2011 and 2012, there was a drought, which resulted in the drop of the lake level.

Lake Level – 2010 during the full distance Aqua-bike I took part in.

Photo – Source gojimtv.com

Lake level 2011 – during drought.(Photo – Source gojimtv.com)


Lake level 2012 taken during early morning swim practice 1 day before the race.  There is much beauty in Lake Hefner – full of water or during drought conditions, the “red” Martian like dirt provides spectacular back for the Redman swim.


Here are two photographs.  Which one is Mars Photograph 1 or Photograph 2?


Photograph 1



Photograph 2


Photograph 2 is Mars!  Photograph Jet Propulsion Lab – Mars Exploration Rover (MER) – Spacecraft Spirit southwest of the rover’s landing site.

So in 2011 and 2012 after the swim, there was a run from the water’s edge to transition of a few 100 yards.  The lake bed was groomed and also a portion of the lake bed was paved with – with red carpet!   This photograph shows the 2012 Redman swim start.


For comparison, this photograph shows the 2010 Swim Start – Normal Lake Level,  This photo taken from same viewing point as the September 2012 swim in the photograph above.


For most the run across the lake bed added to the challenge



2011 “Redman Lake Hefner Dash” on Lake Bed after Swim



Of course there are always those that complain about the dash across the lake bed.  In 2012 most of the dash across the lake bed was on red carpet as shown in photograph below – the race crew did a great job grooming the lake bed and rolling out the red carpet for the Redman atheletes– made me feel really special!  Part of being an ultra-endurance Redman triathlete is taking on the weather induced course challenges (including cold in early morning, winds, waves,  a dash across a dry lake bed from water’s edge to the transition area and high temperatures in the afternoon on the bike and run courses.   The dry lake bed dash, group swimming (swim is very well run and not really that crowded), high temperatures, and high winds – are part of the test to become Redman!

The 2012 swim water temperature was in low 70s – perfect wet suit temperature – (As measures with my Fluke Meter and Thermocouple)




The swim starts in waves – and once past the shoreline the water was clean – I could see a couple of feet.


As see in this photograph starting the swim in waves allows everyone to be spaced out and increases the safety of the swim.

My swim time was 1 hour and 36 mins.  I enjoyed the swim and used my Total Immersion endurance swim stroke with a two beat kick to swim at a relaxed but efficient pace.

The dash across lake bed is cool and fun!!!!!! – it helps with neuromuscular activation of legs in prep for 112 mile bike ride.  Of course at every step across the way they are spectators cheering for you; it as awesome and really touched my heart as I made my way to transition.


I am also a little slow in transition – but with experience I will improve in the years to come.  I accept it; I am  new to the sport –and enjoy every hour of the event – of course I want to have a good race – but I balance racing – with having fun – and enjoying being of the course for 14 or 15 hours.  That’s why the call me Steven “Newbie” Howard – any time I start to feel a little bit smart – I am reminded of  the photos-below that were taken about 5 1/2 years ago.

Steve Howard 300 plus pounds in 2007


It both photographs above I was on trips making rig visits – can you guess which rig visit that was the most productive?  I can now and I do make rig visits where I climb to the top of 180 foot derricks in association with examining drilling equipment at the 90 foot level and derrick crown (top of derrick).  The take away is the endurance training and development of healthy life style has enabled be to be much more effective physically and mentally in my professional career.

O.K back in a the ranch in Oklahoma ……………….!!!!!!!!!

Coming out of transition.

And the bike ride is absolutely beautiful – I road my race plan – we encountered high winds and high temperatures – my race computer said 95 to 100 F during mid-afternoon.  I had so much fun on the ride – and my biked sliced through the wind – with winds at about 30 degrees off my wheel – I did not feel significant drag due to the aerodynamics of the Zipp Carbon Firecrest wheels custom built for me by “Wheelbuilder.com”.  And of course, my Wilier bike designed by John Cobb and custom built for me by Mark Miller at Precision Bikes in Lafayette, Louisiana performed flawlessly.



Coming of the bike I camped up in the first few miles of the run.  Even though I fueled and hydrated as planed – that was not enough.  The high winds and high heat caused me to become dehydrated.  I ended up with an overall 15 minute miles – slower than planed – but I was able on the first 6 mile loop to go easy – and take in some fluids and also some fuel that helped me recover.  I just worked my way through it.

Both Debbie and a good friend or ours Jara that runs marathons and completed a 50 mile run last year both told me during training I need to speed it up a little!  Jara provided feedback and helpful training information and technical guidance while I was doing run training for the Redman 2012  (see article we published on Jara and her family called Influence of a Distance Runner.)  She completed the 2013 Houston Marathon in 3 hrs 58 mins and her time for the 50 mile 2012 Rocky Raccoon – Huntsville, Texas ultra distance run last year was10 hrs and 28 min. Some of the very best advice I have received concerning triathlon training has been from Debbie, our good friend Jara and our son-in-law Derrick.  All three are well informed. Also they know my weaknesses and strengths.  I am very fortunate to have their help.  It is important to have a outside source(s) provide objective input and observations on your training.

Our goal was for me to cut 1 hour of the 2012 run/walk time, –  but I ended of a with a run time of 6:34 for Redman 2012 which is about an half hour improvement compared to the 2011 Redman run/walk time of 7:03.



And I am grateful for the swim-bike-run completion times – what a gift to be able to be a part of the Redman. I did my best for conditions on that day!  I am just a 60 year old mortal Type 2 Diabetic trying to stay healthy and am having the time of my life doing it.  By training and living healthy year around – all I have to do is stay in my sub anaerobic envelop (stay metabolically efficient a much of the race a possible), fuel and hydrate – and I can maintain a heartbeat of 156 bpm average and exercise for 15 ½ hours. That is an accomplishment I am thankful for – says a lot about my state of health and fitness – also says I am slow and I accept that! I am so humbled that I can get out on the race course and observe many truly exceptional athletes that finish many hours ahead of me.



In the 2011 Redman one of the top female finished lapped me (passed me) on the course several times (Lapped me twice as I recall).  I guess she recognized I was an old age grouper doing my best to keep moving – and she would give me words of encouragement.    The one that gave me the most encouragement and who was out on the course the whole day was “Ironwife” Debbie my wife and that is who I swim – bike – run for.  She is my wife of 40 years, coach, training partner, mother of two children, master of unruly rat terrier dog named Pup, she is my best friend and event director.  It was not for her I could have never recovered my health and became a triathlete.    We have so much fun together.


Debbie wife, coach, business partner, friend ….


Last Chapter – Closing Thoughts

I took first place in my age group at Redman 2012 and also HITS Corpus Christi 2012 – not because I was the “fastest” – but because I was the “Onlyest” new Aggie word meaning “the only one” that raced and/or finished in my age group.  As seen I am on the podium by myself.  Over 35% of the USA adult population becoming obese – and a large portion and over 8% of the population having diabetes and I am one of them.  Through exercise and diet I was fortunate to regain my health.  As a way to give back, I encourage and help others that are in the process of getting control of the weight and developing a health life style.



A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Rouse’s

This afternoon Debbie and I made a 20 mile round robin ride out to Rouse’s Supermarket and back home.  The winds were out of South at about 16 mph, so we had to work a little to keep up a reasonable pace.  I stayed off my aero bars and created a little draft for Debbie as we headed South directly into the wind.  We needed to be at Rouse’s at 12 pm as I needed to take a cell phone call at that time and Rouse’s is a place we often stop for a water break on training rides.

As we turned West into a crosswind, Debbie took the lead and I followed and took a few pictures.  It was a beautiful time to ride – sunshine and high 70s on the air temperature.  My watt meter kept dropping out and so I was repeatedly trying to get the bike computer to pair (synchronize) with the watt meter in the rear wheel hub.


Power Tap computer is shown mounted to the aero bar stem.

Well, as I said last week, if I fiddle around with my bike computer or cell phone, I might get dropped (bike term means get left behind to fin for yourself).  When I looked up the photograph below is the view I saw.  I only slowed down for 30 seconds or so and look what happened!  So natually I grabbed for another electronic device – my cell  phone – and took a few pictures from my aero bars as I tried to close the gap!


My Power Tap came back. As can be seen, even with me back paying attention to my business and playing catch-up at 25 miles per hour sprint it took me all the way to Rouse’s (1 mile)  to catch back up!

When we stopped at Rouse’s, she was really happy with the fast pace she maintained at 21 mph.  Many folks that read the Swimfulthinking blog may think because I talk about the 140.6 iron distance events that I do – that to be fit it is necessary to run a marathon or do an Ironman.  Not true, Debbie trains 4 to 6 hours a week and maintains a very high degree of fitness that allows her to ride at my anerobic training pace that I often train at on weekend rides.  She trains about 50 to 60% less than I do and she maintains a very high degree of fittness with regard to open water swim and bike capabilties.  Debbie started riding seriously about 3 years ago.  She worked with several professional trainers and this year trained at the Total Immersion swim camp and also we trained together each week in the pool, on training trips, in our metric lab at home and on weekend rides.  Debbie rides base rides and intervals on her Computrainer 3 or 4 times a week.  Her consistency in training 45 mins to 1 hour three to four tmes during the week provides a high degree of fittness.  I am very fortunate and proud to have a wife that drops me from time to time – we have great fun training and going on bike and swimming vacations togther.


So if you ride with Debbie – do not be surpised if this is the view you may see from time to time.  So you can see why she is always telling me on the bike and run, I need to speed it up a little!







More on Breaking Barriers

Coaching Thoughts —-

As I started putting together photographs and data for the Redman 2012 race report – I reflected on events leading up to the Redman 2012.  Training together with Debbie each day for the past year and her coaching me is more special than the race itself!  On a regular basis when I am running she is always saying “you need to speed it up a little” – and she is right!

View at overlook on top of Mt. Magazine in Arkansas

As Debbie and I trained together through the year we both improved and broke ever progressing, self-defined/imposed distance barriers on land and sea, so to speak.

Recently we made a 30 + mile base (sub anaerobic threshold) cycling ride into the wind. We were doing 15 mph and with the wind 18 to 19 mph while maintaining very low heart rates (mine was 115 bpm and Debbie’s was 100 bpm).  I can remember 4 years ago when a 15 to 18 mph ride for 2 hours would have been an all out anaerobic effort rather than an aerobic recovery ride.

Debbie on her carbon Trek Madone road bike with Zipp 404 Aero Wheel.

– What is interesting these days, if I do not pay attention – no fiddling with cell phones, GPS watches, bike computers. etc. – she will drop me – and right now she has a hurt foot!

Debbie, after a recent bike ride sitting outside at one of our favorite restaurants in Lafayette – listening to some good music and fixing to order some great food.


Comments on Debbie’s self defined breaking swim distance barriers

Last November, Debbie attended a Total Immersion (TI) coaches school with me in Coal Springs, Florida as a observer.  Also, she took part in several days of a class as a TI swim student. During a number of the TI swim class sessions, she received instruction from the student coaches as well as from the Total Immersion founder, Terry Laughlin.

Debbie in Coral Springs, Florida during a Total Immersion swim stroke evaluation session last November.

Since the TI school last November, I have observed very significant and continued improvement in Debbie’s pool and open water swimming abilities.  I attribute her improvements – not to my coaching her – but to the Total Immersion Class and to her dedication to improve as a distance/endurance swimmer.

Swim training in Arkansas at the Mt. Magazine Lodge – on the way to Oklahoma City Redman event last September.  Great training pool, good biking and running on top of Mt. Magazine, Arkansas.  We will be going back to Mt. Magazine for some more swim, bike and run training in the near future.

Debbie continues to enhance her ability to move through the water quietly while breathing comfortably and letting the water support her head like a pillow as she rolls to breath.  Also, note there are no big splashes or bubbles from kicking and arm strokes!

Here is Debbie at Town Lake in Austin having her morning coffee while I was doing a little trailing running.  She told me she could even see padding (literally dog paddling stroke!) differences in the different breeds and sizes of dogs as they took their morning swims.  I regularly hear enthusiastic swimmers report observations about others they observe in the water!


Last August in Austin, Texas at Quarry Lake, Debbie made her first non-wet suit 1/2 mile open water swim and she was relaxed.

Her improved Total Immersion swim stroke resulted in building her confidence in open water and empowering her to swim well beyond her previously defined comfort zone.

Then In September with a wet suit, she broke the 3/4 mile open water distance barrier.  Lake water temperatures were in low 70s F.  She made the swim in Lake Degray, which is in Arkansas.

As in the pool, Debbie moves though the water efficiently with no splashing, maintaining good balance and enjoying no walls and swim lane ropes.

Her swim track as recorded by her Garmin Forerunner 910 XT watch.

Tyler State Park Lake

After the Redman Triathlon while traveling home from Oklahoma, City, Debbie found the beautiful clear lake shown in the above photograph at Tyler State Park just off the highway route we were traveling.  We decided to stop and make a swim in the lake.  The water is very clear and no motorized boats are allowed on the lake.

While at the lake, we met a swimmer named Kristi.  She and her husband are triathletes and live in the Tyler area.  Turns out she has been to New Paltz, New York to a Total Immersion workshop and is a Total Immersion open water swimmer.  Kristi swims regularly at the Tyler State Park Lake.  I swam some with Kristi.  She had an excellent swim stroke and moved though the water with ease and grace.  Kristi also had very good sighting techniques in open and stayed the course we had selected.

After swiming to the other side of the small lake with Kristi, I swam back to the beach where Debbie was and made a swim across  the lake with Debbie.  That was Debbie’s third open water swim in a little over a 6 week period.  What impressed me was that her Total Immersion swim skills that she developed since last November had allowed her to enjoy swimming in open water – simply for the enjoyment of swimming.  In a telephone conversation, Terry Laughlin told her that her newly acquired Total Immersion swim skills had empowered her to swim in open water.  I agree and I would add that her swim skills and confidence in her swim stroke have enabled her to break distance barriers in open water that were unachievable for her one year ago.

Below is a picture of Kristi and Debbie at Tyler State Park Lake.  Also, what a wonderful and fun experience I had swimming with Debbie and Kristi.


We would also like to congratulate Kristi on her recent Olympic distance triathlon (Big Cajun Triathlon, Oct 21, 2012) that she completed in New Roads, Louisiana.  The swim was in False River.  Her overall time was 3 hours, 8 min, with a 17.1 mph average speed on her bike and a 10:11 min pace on her run; and for the 1500 meter ( 0.93 miles ) swim, she had a 34:20 min time with a swim pace of 2 min, 5 seconds per 100 yards, which is very good.




Campbell and Anna-Claire Make Their Anual Camellia Crossing 5K Run

2013 Camellia Crossing  5K Run 




Last night in 32 degree weather, Anna-Claire and Campbell descended upon the Camellia Crossing and took not one but two first pace age group wins and medals.  Campbell  took first place in Female age 6 to 8 year category with a time of 29 minutes 13 seconds and her sister Anna-Claire took first place in the Female age 9 to 12 category wit a time of 23 minutes and 5 seconds.


Anna-Claire (left), age 10, had a time of  23 minutes and 5 seconds and a pace of 7:33 min/mile (Bib number 70).  Her sister Campbell,  age 8, had a run time of 33:51 and a pace of 9:43 min/mile (Bib number 71).

Also in the picture are their parents, left to right, Chris and Kim.  Standing beside Kim are Debbie and me. Chris and Kim are accomplished Ironman athletes as well.  The Camellia Crossing has become a family tradition with our two families. Following the awards we celebrated at La Pizzeria.    I am already looking forward to next year’s race!.



Anna-Claire in a recent race in the Houston area.



2012 Camellia Crossing 5K Run


Last night, Debbie and I were invited to take part in the Miles Perret Camellia Crossing 5K Run with two special young runners and their mom and dad.

Anna-Clarie (left), age 9, had a time of 27:18 and a pace of 9:01 min/mile (Bib number 39).  Her sister Campbell  (age 7) had a run time of 33:51 and a pace of 11:08 min/mile (Bib number 40).

Anna-Claire won second place in her age group. Campbell is going to receive the Howard Award, which will be emailed to here later today .  The Howard Award is given to recognize outstanding up and coming young runners.  The certificate will entitle Campbell to take her two sisters, Anna-Clarie and Julia, to the movie and afterwards have yogurt at their favorite yogurt shop when they return to their home in The Woodlands, Texas.  Campbell told me last night at dinner that her family and ours are a run club.  We look forward to more runs with Anna-Claire,  Campbell, and their mom and dad.

Also in the picture are their parents right to left Chris and Kim.  Standing beside Kim are Debbie and I.  Chris encouraged me to take part in my first Aquabike (Redman swim-bike in 2010).

Both Chris and Kim have completed the Houston Memorial Ironman 140.6 Woodlands event.  Chris’s time was 15 hrs:21min in 2011 and Kim’s time was 14 hrs:37 min in 2012.  I had the privilege to make a 100 mile training ride with Kim and Chris in St. Francisville as part of Kim’s Ironman training.  I spent a lot of time on the training ride trying to keep up with Kim! – she and Chis are excellent athletes.  Chrissie Wellington signed Kim’s and her sister’s Ironman race bibs a few days after their Ironman race at a book signing event.


Again, we congratulate Campbell and Anna-Claire.



Part 2 Distance Runner Blog – Breaking Self Imposed Barriers


US Air Force Photographs of Bell X- 1 over Muroc Army Air Field in California, which later became Edwards Air Force Base.


(As a reminder you should always consult your doctor before starting any type of exercise or diet program or making any changes in your life style. Also, even if you have no known heath problems, you should still consult with your doctor prior to starting a diet and exercise program.  Also, you may want to consider seeking assistance from a licensed trainer and licensed dietitian to help you with setting up your fitness, diet and wellness program.  Debbie and I regularly consult with our doctors, trainers and dietitians several times each year.)

Breaking Self Imposed Barriers

As humans, it is in our genetic make-up to to work continually to improve at whatever we are doing.  In the evolution of flying, starting with the Wright Brothers we strived to fly further, which later in the the mid-1940s evolved into striving to fly higher and faster than any man had ever gone before …….  and General Chuck Yeager did just that!  On October 14, 1947, Chuck Yeager flying the experimental Bell X-1 broke the sound barrier (Mach 1) at an altitude of 45,000 feet (13,700 meters). The photograph above shows the Bell X-1 over Muroc Army Air Field in California, which later became Edwards Air Force Base.  Edwards Air Force Base is located next to Rogers Dry Lake Bed in the Mojave Desert, which is an alternate landing site for the space shuttle.   A common thread to the Mojave Desert, which we will talk about later, is a place they call Badwater Basin located in the Death Valley region.

Seems no matter what type of endurance athletes I talk with – Distance Runners, Distance Swimmers and Ironman Triathletes – many are talking about going longer distances in shorter time periods (breaking ever changing self-imposed barriers).  And likewise, as a “Newbie,” it seems the swimming, biking and running distances have increased over the past 4 1/2 years.  Also, for Debbie who started riding 7 miles to our daughter’s house and has since ridden 100 miles in a single day and recently has moved from the pool to making open swims of 1/2 mile, 3/4 a mile  and rapidly progressed to swimming 1 mile in lakes spanning from Arkansas, Texas to Lake Placid, New York.

First open water swim Mirror Lake – Lake Placid, New York.  Debbie has good position with her left arm extended and is rolling just enough to take a breath while keeping most of her head submerged and her body streamlined.

The buoys in the background mark the Lake Placid Ironman swim course, which took place a month before we arrived at Lake Placid for the Masters National 2 mile swim competition a few years ago.

One question I have recently been asking myself is with regards to distance, how much distance is enough, 5K, 10K, 50K, 100K, 50 miles, 70.3 miles, 100 miles, 140.6 miles, 135 miles, 153 miles, 1,000 miles, 10,000 miles ……????  Some will spend the rest of their lives defining and redefining the ultimate distance.  Each year the achievable distance goals will increase or decrease depending on where we are on the aging curve, health/fitness status, available time to train, where one is in their professional career curve, age of children, and many other individual variables.

At age 60 years – as a mortal my present performance level will start to decline at some point in the years to come.    I could not help but notice on the awards podium at the Oklahoma 2012 Redman 140.6 iron distance triathlon I took first place in the 60 to 64 years age group not because I was the fastest – but because I was the “Only-est” (new Aggie word – meaning only finisher in my geriatric age group).  Same thing happen in Corpus HITS 140.6 triathlon.  I regularly study and observe the effects of endurance training on my 0.6 century old body in our home metrics training lab. I have discovered that to stay competitive in my age group I do not need to go faster but instead I need to slow the age induced declining performance curve and stay injury free!

Last week we posted an article about a distance runner Jara and her family that all take part in running events.  On November 10, she won second place in her age group at the Lafayette, Louisiana Cajun Cup 10K with a pace of 7:42 and her husband Ryan ran a 6:55 pace.  In February 2012, Jara completed a 50 mile trail run known as the Rocky Raccoon trail run.  Pretty sure without the influence of this distance runner, I would have never ventured off the pavement onto a trail, because I did not want to get my running shoes muddy!  She told us about a 10K/25K/50K Rocky Raccoon trail run that took pace, November 3 in Huntsville, Texas.  Initially, I was thinking 50K was about 21 miles (+/-), but it was pointed out to me that that 50K is 31.06 miles.  Like NASA, I discovered my metric distance perception was also a little off.  You may remember NASA had a metric – English units conversion problem and accidentally crashed a satellite on Mars a number of year ago.  After much consideration and recalibrating my 50K metric conversion “Runometer,” I signed up for the 50K.

The race was run by Paul Stone from Tyler, Texas.  The Rocky Raccoon 10K/25K/50K was well organized, had extremely well supported aid stations, and was a very well marked trail. The race volunteers were very friendly and helpful.

There was an 8 hour time limit to finish the 50K.  With my present level of fitness,  I have had a 2 to 2 1/2 hour time safety margin (cushion) on the 140.6 Iron distance triathlons completed to date. For the Rocky Raccoon 50K – 31.1 (30.0686 to be exact) mile trail run, I estimated that I had no time safety margin and in fact I did not know if I would/could finish in the 8 hour time frame.  For me breaking the marathon 26.2 mile distance barrier on a trail run was uncertain.  Yes, I know my times are very slow.

The concern about completing the Rocky Raccoon 50K was based/founded on actual run data I had from a recent 12 mile training run I did October 20 on a hilly trail at Chicot State Park near Alexandria, Louisiana.  The steep hills, roots, and uneven terrain resulted in it taking 4 hours to run/walk/crawl 12 miles and I stumbled over a very insignificant root knob and  fell flat on my face at mile 11.  I left the Chicot Trail feeling a little surprised that I could not cover more distance in a 4 hour period!  So my short time on the Chicot Trail greatly tempered the triathlete long distance confidence I had developed in the past twelve months.

Photograph – Roots encountered on Chicot Trail

Seems I have literally “Stumbled” into the sport of Distance Trail Running that at this stage seems more  challenging than the 140.6 iron distance triathlons that I slowly and methodically have completed.  This is a fun discovery and I am very excited about a new challenge.  I believe trail running will enhance our abilities as runners and overall as triathletes.  Below is a picture of one of the flatter, easier sections of the Rocky Raccoon 50K trail course.  The course was absolutely beautiful with much color in the trail red dirt/sand, red colored pin needles, red and yellow leaves.  (Hold the thought on “red dirt” will be talking more about red dirt later in this blog.)

Huntsville Rocky Raccoon Trail Course

The Rocky Raccoon 50K trail course is made up of sections of a number of trails in the Huntsville State Park, which included Chinquapin Trail, part of the Triple C Trail and other trail segments.


Huntsville State Park Trail Map – Double click on map to zoom in to see trail details.

The Rocky Raccoon trail course was very well marked with white and red ribbon blazes hanging from trees – even a Newbie like me could follow run course without a map.



The Race Director and his crew did an excellent job setting up the trail running course and the aid stations.

Rocky Racoon Trail Course Map

I know what your are thinking – this guy slow as he is maybe can finish a 140.6 Iron distance race in 14 1/2 to 15 1/2  hours but is worried about finishing a 50K trail run? Basically, 50K is little over 4.86 miles longer than a marathon.  I have quickly learned that with trail running you have to earn your pace every step of the way on a undulating terrain negotiating  roots, rocks, soft pine needles and at times sand. I even  encountered a beautiful  3 foot + copperhead snake I had to hop over that was stretched out on the trail.

Photograph shows roots and undulating Huntsville Rocky Racoon trail surface.

There always is much publicity about Ironman triathletes.   I have great respect for all athletes in general.  During my recent “freshman” focus on distance running and recent introduction to trail running, I have learned about a very amazing group of athletes called Ultrarunners.  According to Don Allison in the book “A Step Beyond,”  ultrarunning is a form of exercise in which an athlete runs and /or walks from time to time beyond the marathon “barrier” distance of 26.2 miles.  Hence, the Rocky Raccoon 50K (31.06 miles) and 50 mile races are referred to as ultradistance races.  There are also 100 mile races, one called Badwater that is 135 miles (Mohave Desert), and to help me put the 100K distance in perspective, an Ultrarace I recently was told about called the Spartathon, which is from Athens Greece to Sparta – 153 miles.  I would “liken” an ultrarunner qualifying for Badwater 135 mile ultra race or the Sapartathon 153 mile ultra race to that of qualifying for the Kona Ironman as a triathlete.

You are probably thinking I know where he going with all of this …. now he is going to tell us he is an “Ultrarunner” because he signed up for a 50K (slightly longer than marathon) run.  The only thing “Ultra” about me is I consider myself an “Ultra-Newbie.”  And I have been told my some that my blogs and I are both “Ultra” long winded!   I sign my name Steven “Newbie” Howard because while weighing over 300 pounds about 4 1/2 years ago, I made my first 4.6 mile bike ride (not run) from my home to the office, which was at approximately 5.5 mph and  took 50 minutes including one stop to catch my breath. The reality is …. I am just a 60 year old age grouper tyring to make the best of being a type 2 diabetic. So how do we get from 4.6 miles in 50 minutes on a mountain bike to a 50K run through the woods  4 1/2 years later?   – the answer is with daily sub aerobic threshold exercise and gradual life long lasting diet regiment improvements.  I attribute the aerobic base and training to staying injury free in endurance events I take part in. (As a remined, always consult with your doctor before starting a exercise or diet regimen of any kind.  I have a check up 3 to 4 times a year and check with my doctor before taking part in any major swim, bike or run events.)

Over the past 4 1/2 years as my fitness gradually improved, so did the exercise related activities that Debbie and I participated in. As our cycling skills improved, we then learned to swim in open water and eventually about 15 months ago started do some distance walking and running.  Red Lerille (owner of Red Lerilles’s Health & Racket Club) told me that we all continually need to add new activities to our exercise routines the rest of our lives.  So the latest new trek (not trick) for this old dog is trail running.

The Rocky Raccoon – “The Race” ————————> 50K

The 50K Rocky Raccoon race started at 6 am Saturday Nov. 3, 2012.  There were 104 runners, 38 women and 66 men on the 50K trail run.  Speaking of dogs, in the race photographs, I found the photograph shown below of a dog that was on the Rocky Raccoon trail run course!

Photograph by Karen Thibodeaux www.yoursportingimage.com

I was told the dog im the photograph was there with the family of one of the Rocky Raccoon runners.  The run through the woods and along the lake was beautiful.

Lake Raven can be visible from a number of locations on the trail.  After the 50K run I made a 800 yard swim in 63F water.  The water conditions were great, but I chose to swim just outside the roped off swim area and got put in timeout so to speak by the very nice Park Ranger.  Seems I am always venturing off onto the deep end!  I thought the Park Ranger might have been sitting on the bank admiring my swim stroke – but he motioned me back into the roped off area just like my Mom used to do when I was a kid.

Though this may sound unusual, I remember many of the steps (and stumbles) along the way.  I remember thinking how my ankles were acting as gimbles for my feet as they made contact with the uneven trail surfaces.  Going on uphill grades and downhill grades, I could feel different muscles in my legs being engaged and eventually tiring.  I enjoyed running the first 1 1/2 hours of the run in the dark.  I wore a 300 lumen bike light attached to a headband. The light worked very well. With the light I could actually see the roots, rocks, steps in the dark better that I could see later during the day when the trail had a mixture of sun light and shadows.


Light & Motion Stella 300

The photograph below shows me coming in to complete the first 15 mile loop.  In the photograph you can see the head lamp.


Photograph by Karen Thibodeaux www.yoursportingimage.com

After much testing I settled on carrying a handheld water bottle and wearing a running belt  with some spare water bottles.  I carried 8 gels, some bandaids for blisters (which fortunately I did not need) and salt tablets in some add on pouches (Endurolyte bottle shown in photograph for reference – not carried on run).  I only filled the spare water bottles as needed.

I also had a running pack option, but felt to minimize weight I should use the running belt for the Rocky Raccoon 50K because the race was well supported with aid stations every 3 to 5 miles and many volunteers.

In the pack on unsupported runs I carry a knife, water in two 20 oz. bottles, water in a water bladder in the pack, gels, sometimes Perpeteum, a band aid blister kit, salt tablets, and  a Spot Connect GPS transponder.  The Spot GPS in real time shows my GPS location on a Google map, which Debbie can monitor from our computer at home.  In past years I used the SPOT GPS device when making several 500 mile cross country self supported bicycle trips from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville.  In the event an emergency occurs, I can request help via a satellite signal sent from my GPS transponder to emergency personnel. On solo runs on trails such as at Chicot in the event I fall, get bitten by a bear, alligator, snake, etc ….  and cannot walk out of the woods – I can call for help. I also can send limited text messages via a link between the SPOT Connect device and my cell phone.  Though I enjoy training with my friends my work schedule and training windows often result in me running and riding by myself. So carrying the pack and support equipment, water and fuel allow me to run train on my own – and I have a way to deal with an accident if it occurs.

Prior to the race, I had run a significant number of miles with both the running pack and the running belt, so I had a good feel for both hydration/fueling systems.  On a training run such as the 12 mile Chicot run that I did, when you have no support the running pack is very useful.  Someone told me if I would tie dryer sheets on the pack it would keep the horseflies away – seems to work.

As it turned out the aid stations on the 50K Rocky Raccoon run were close enough that I only needed to use one active reserve water bottle in my run belt. I filled one bottle with water and the rest remained empty on the belt. Because I had not run the Rocky Raccoon trail course before race day, I had to set my run belt up to allow for unknown needs/situations that might occur – on second loop I knew I could reduced items being carried. I had some valuable coaching input from Jara on how to plan the run and equipment items to consider.  For me the endurance 140.6 triathlons and 50K trail runs are intellectual challenges – and adventures (brain – not brawn).


I carried no more weight than necessary.  Also, between a number of the aid stations, there was intermediate aid stations with water, which was excellent.  On the second loop (15 1/2 miles lap) in the turnaround transition area, I took off the light and running belt. I carried gels, salt and extra bottle in my tri-jersey pockets.  This eliminated about 1 3/4 pounds of gear I did not need to carry on the second 15 1/2 mile trek.

One of the contrasts to triathlons I experienced as I ran through woods, no bike, no aero wheels, no bike pump, no flat concerns, no wet suit, no goggles, no crowded waters, no bike helmet, no bike computer to slave to electronic power sensors and no crowded transition area to deal with.  I still had run equipment – but I felt free running down the trail!  And as an engineer, I am always blessed/cursed because like NASA I always have to have 3 back-up plans and backup equipment for every conceivable situation!  I admit, for me the equipment and technology are half the fun and at important events I want to finish – and not deal with issues on race day that could have been avoided because of lack of preparation.  At the Redman triathlon in Oklahoma City, a young lady asked me in transition how much stuff she should carry – she noticed my bike looked like a pack mule on the Grand Canyon trail.  I told her to carry enough stuff to make her feel confident she would finish the race.  Same goes for trail running.  Trail running is a lot like triathlons – much planning is required – you have to think yourself through the trail run.

For the first 1 1/2 hours in the cover of darkness I had several runners that stayed with me because of my bright head light – I could easily see the roots and ever changing terrain and so could the first few runners directly behind me due to my bright light.  The light I was using was a high powered bike riding light – that allows me to see the road well enough to ride at speeds in the dark of 18 to 22 mph.  The runners staying close behind me reminded me of a small peloton of cyclists.  I called out changing trail grades, roots, tree branches obstructing the trail to the runners just as the leader of a group of cyclists calls out road hazards to cyclists following closely together.  In my run thoughts the first hour was an underlying concerning of finishing the race in the allowable time and concern for having enough water between aid stations – because I did not know trail.

I encountered no problems on the first loop – and fell into a pace of running every chance the terrain allowed and walking up rooted – eroded hills and stepping lightly going down steep rooted – eroded hills.  I traded pace for avoiding falling and twisting an ankle or a knee.  On the second loop as discussed above I ran with less gear (lighter) – because I learned the trail and knew the aid station layout.

My time for the 50K (31.06 miles) was 7 hours 40 mins, which is an overall 14:48 min pace; and for the first loop (15.5 miles), the pace was  a 13:34 min pace.  In contrast, the winner of the Rocky Raccoon 50K finished in 3 hours 52 mins (7:29 min pace)!

If you read Part 1 of this blog, I made mention of a number of buzzards that followed me out of the woods during an early morning 6 1/2 mile training run I did on The Woodlands, Texas Ironman course.  During the Rocky Raccoon 50K run I kept having the feeling I was being followed.  Many runners passed me – as a matter of fact, 88 out of the 104 runners (male and female) passed me. So on the second lap, I had contact with only a few runners.  Well as it turned out, looks like word gets around and my buzzard friends from The Woodlands Ironman course or maybe their extended family was thinking about inviting me for dinner if I did not finish the race!.


Photograph by Karen Thibodeaux www.yoursportingimage.com

Source – Gougle Map Image  – Mars Hill

This is Badwater Road that runs through a portion of Death Valley in the Mojave Desert – just down the road about 225 miles from Edwards Air Force Base/Rogers Dry where Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier.  Badwater is a very intriguing place for a sojourn to another self imposed distance barrier to face some day. (not the race – just a little solo self imposed training miles in the future).


Photograph Jet Propulsion Lab – Mars Exploration Rover (MER) – Spacecraft Spirit from the rover’s position near an outcrop called “Seminole.” The view is looking southward.

This area on Mars looks very similar terrain as Mars Hill on Badwater road.  Maybe someday they will hold an ultrarunning event on Mars.  Just getting humans from Earth to Mars would require many distance barriers to be broken – and many distance records being set.

OK, most of you are probably wondering why did he take us from the red sands of Rogers Dry Lake Bed in the Mojave Desert to the red dirt and red pine needles of the Huntsville Rocky Raccoon trail to the red sands of Badwater and then all the way to the beautiful red dirt on Mars ?  The three photographs below tell the story:








Photograph Jet Propulsion Lab – Mars Exploration Rover (MER) – Spacecraft Spirit southwest of the rover’s landing site.

Red Dirt of Lake Hefner – Site of Oklahoma City Redman 2012 Triatehlon!

Redman – Lake Hefner Lake Bed red stones and red dirt… Photgraph by Jim Giickert  – his website is  www.gojim.tv

The Redman 2012 Triathlon Blog race report will be our next article.

Thanks for taking the time to read our blog and our running hats are off to all the runners, swimers and triathelets breaking their self imposed barriers 5K, 10K, 50K, 100K, 50 miles, 70.3 miles, 100 miles, 135 miles, 140.6 miles,  153 miles …………………………………….!!!!!

Steve and Debbie Howard










2012 Redman …… Blog Coming to a Computer Terminal Near You

As a reminder you should always consult your doctor before starting ant type exercise or diet program or making any changes in you life style. Also even if you have no known heath problems you should still consult with your doctor prior to starting a diet and exercise program.  Also, you may want to consider seeking assistance from a licensed trainer and licensed dietitian to help you with setting up your fitness, diet and wellness program.  Debbie and I regularly consult with our doctors, trainers and dietitians several times each year.

2012 Redman – Preparation

We have discovered that the day-to-day journey “preparing” for a major event such as an Iron Distance triathlon is more important than the event itself.    I say “we” because anyone with a family who has trained and completed an Marathon, 10K (+) Swim or Iron Distance 140.6 event knows it requires dedication and support from your spouse and family members.  I am absolutely one of the most fortunate “Newbie” athletes in the world –  because my wife Debbie trains with me many mornings each week, continually provides feedback on my training, coaches me, stays up on the latest diet and training articles and books, helps with the race plans, continually providing updates on the latest results of swim, bike and run events and we take part in the pre and post event activities together.  She is a endurance ahelete and takes part in sprint distance triathlons and as completed a number of time trail races including a Cat 5 time trail in 2011.

Debbie on her  Quintana Roo CD01 Tri-Bike she also rides a 5.6 Madone Road Bike

In our case, a 140.6 distance triathlon lasts for about 14 1/2 to 15 1/2 hours … And yes Debbie is on the course monitoring the race the entire time.  However, while training for the event, the knowledge gained, long term diet improvements, long term heath/fitness enhancements and friends we make along the way will last us a lifetime.  The article below titled “Influence of a Distance Runner” tells about one of these important events that took place while training for the 2012 Redman.

Influence of a Distance Runner!

About 6 months ago I was contacted through Total Immersion about a local runner in Lafayette that was interested in receiving some swim instruction.  Her name is Jara. She wanted to enhance her swimming abilities as part of her cross-training for the 35 to 45 (+) miles of running she does each week.  Debbie and I had several swim training sessions with Jara and we did several video analyses of her swim stroke.  She was no beginner and I made some suggestions to assist her with making adjustments to improve her already nice, smooth swim stroke.  An unexpected and important result of our meeting – Debbie and I ended up with an excellent run mentor/coach.  We have become friends with Jara and her family.

Jara and her husband are perfect examples of parents that take care of the family and jobs and maintain a very high degree of health and fitness.  Jara home schools her two boys, which is a great accomplishment and takes much effort, skill and time.  One of the things that impressed us is Jara, her husband and their two boys (6 and 9 years of age) are active runners and also swimmers.  Their older son recently participated in a kids’ triathlon at Red Lerille’s health club as did two of our grandchildren.

Jara’s and Ryan’s son Henry (age 9) running out of transition.


Jara’s husband Ryan and son Henry after completion of the triathlon.

Ryan is also a very accomplished athelete and runs distances ranging from 5K to marathons.

This is a photograph of Ryan at the Houston 2012 Half Marathon.

As mentioned Jara’s entire family are athletes.

This is a photograph of Jara’s and Ryan’s son John (age 6) with a strong finish!

As a family, they take vacations where they all participate in running events.  Jara has run for 15 years and in the past 8 months has done some trail running.  She has completed about 40 run events and run races spanning distances including 5Ks, 10Ks and a number of marathons and most recently her first 50 mile run (2012 Rocky Raccoon – Huntsville, Texas).  For the 50 mile run, her time was 10 hrs, 28 mins and 11 seconds.  This is an incredible accomplishment.

Long distance runners including marathon distances and longer run distances, half distance (70.6) and full distance (140.6) triathletes, and distance swimmers (10K and beyond) are all endurance athletes.  There is much “common ground” between these three groups of athletes.  To run correctly and to swim efficiently takes much knowledge and skill.  Correct placement of arms and legs and control of the body core and body posture are critical to running and swimming efficiently and staying injury free.  For both running and swimming, proprioception is very important.  Proprioception is the sense of relative position of parts of the body and strength effort being employed during the movement.  As Jara shared her experiences and knowledge of her recent 50 mile ultra-distance run, I have become extremely interested in the science of endurance running.  Both running and swimming take very high degrees of mental skills coupled with physical ability and stamina (“as much or more brain as brawn”).

People ask me all the time when I swim 4 to 6 mile distances at Indian Creek (lake near Alexandria, LA), do I get bored?  The answer is NO.


On every stroke I am thinking about placement of arm and legs and control of body core rotation.  Also, if my head is positioned correctly, I cannot see my arms and most certainly I cannot see my legs, so I must use proprioception.  Jara has taught us that running correctly means looking forward, head held high while maintaining good body core posture.  I have learned that running is done from the core as is swimming.  The same folks that asked me do I get bored swimming might also ask Jara if she gets bored running.  The answer again is NO.  No matter if she is running 5K or 50 miles, Jara is thinking about each stride she takes.  In the photograph of Jara, as she passes the finish line at the end of a race in Colorado, her head is held high and she is looking forward and is maintaining very good posture.

Also, when she runs on the trails, even more skill is required to maintain her footing on the ever changing terrain and grades.  Jara also had to run through mud and water during her 50 mile trail run.  The only mud I have ever encountered in the long distance triathlons was mud on the lake bottom, not on the run course.  Trail runners are very special and skilled athletes!


Jara told me that planning for the 50 mile run was a lot of fun.  She told me she leveraged her physical run abilities with mental preparation and attention to details.  I think the reason her swim skills were good on our initial meeting is because of the ability she has as a skilled runner to articulate/translate thought patterns to muscles in her arms, legs and body core to propel her through the water.

Jara helped me with run training for the Redman and greatly expanded our knowledge and interest in distance running.  Based on guidance from Jara, I focused on improving my endurance running capability for the Redman while maintaining swim and bike endurance levels.  The focus on run training resulted in reducing my run time at the Redman by 30 minutes this year compared with the Redman 2011 run time!  Also, Jara has introduced me to trail running, which has added a new and very exciting dimension to my life!  In the future, any significant improvements in my 14 ½ to 15 ½ hour Iron distance triathlon times can be expected to come from improved run times.  I hope over the next year to expand my run base and increase my run knowledge.

Huntsville State Park Trail – Photo Steve Howard

Recent Run Trail Chicot State Park Louisiana – Photo Steve Howard

After being introduced to trail running, now any time I get a chance to run off the pavement I do!

In the photograph above I took a detour off Woodlands Ironman Course – While on a trip to Houston I made a 6 3/4 mile sunrise run around the Houston Woodlands Ironman Run Course – At about Mile 1 the paved course makes a sharp turn to the right – I choose to run straight, which took me along a 1/2 mile dirt trail detour through the woods – it was beautiful!

I noticed when I came out of the woods back onto the paved run trail there was a group of Texas buzzards that followed me – not sure what that was about – guess at my age …. the buzzards may have been thinking about inviting me for breakfast!  Maybe someday I will take part in the Houston Woodlands Ironman – what a beautiful place to swim – bike and run!!

Jara continues to provide guidance on endurance running and broaden my experiences as an athlete.  However, both Jara and Debbie keep telling me I need to speed it up a little!!

I cannot imagine where the uncharted paved roads and unpaved trails will take us in the future.

Uncharted Roads …………………………….



Our First Three 140.6 Iron Distance Triathlons


Prior to September 24, 2011, we had only completed a number of Sprint Distance Triathlons and one Full Distance Aquabike in September of 2010.  During the period from September 24, 2011 to September 22, 2012, we completed three 140.6 Iron Distance Triathlons – injury free.  I say “we” because anyone with a family who has trained and completed an Iron Distance 140.6 event knows it requires dedication and support from your spouse and family members.  I am absolutely one of the most fortunate triathletes in the world –  because my wife Debbie trains with me many mornings each week, continually provides feedback on my training, coaches me, stays up on the latest diet and training articles and books, helps with the race plans, continually is updating me on the latest results of swim, bike and run events and we take part in the pre and post event activities together.  She also takes part in sprint distance triathlons and as completed a number of time trail races including a Cat 5 time trail in 2011.


Also, most recently she has started to enjoy open water swimming in lakes in Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas.

Most importantly Debbie is a role model for three up and coming triathletes, our granddaughter’s Molly, Elise and Zoe.


Molly, age 4, and Elise, age 3













Zoe, age 1 1/2 years

In a span of 4 years I started out first cycling, then became proficient swimming in open water and most recently started to run/walk 26.2 miles (marathon distance) as part of the 140.6 Iron Distance triathlons.  My poor health and over-weight condition five years ago, including getting diagnosed with type 2 diabetes along with other heath related problems, eventually led me to the lifestyle of healthy diet, exercise and wellness.  Turns out there is a fountain of youth – and it is within most mortal’s grasp – eat right, exercise (30 mins to 60 mins a day), and take care of your personal life and relationships.  You do not need to do a triathlon to become healthy – pick an activity that interests you – many folks walk once or twice a day, bike to the store, run, swim, hike, play tennis, etc. – we just happen to enjoy swimming, biking, walking/running strung together as triathlon events.

September 26, 2007


September 22, 2012



I see my doctor (Internist) 3 to 4 times a year for guidance on my diet and exercise and also to get a check on the type 2 diabetes, cholesterol, blood pressure. triglycerides, A1c, etc. I also have worked with a licensed dietitian, Peggy Pletcher (see November 19 post below) to develop meals that help both with my training and controlling the type 2 diabetes.  These days since my health has improved, during my visits to the doctor, we talk about upcoming swim, bike and running events.  Always consult your doctor before starting an exercise or diet program. I get an EKG before doing major events such  iron distance triathlons as I may be exercising at a heart rate of 150 to 160 beats per minute for 14 1/2 to 15 1/2 hours.  For endurance triathlon training  I also consult with a  orthopedic sports doctor and also a physical therapist to ensure that I maintain my health and reach my short and long term training objectives while avoiding injury.  Though I did get injured this year – after a training workout, I fell putting on my pants on a wet floor at my home – so I guess you can call that a sports related injury!  The fall/injury resulted in dropping out of a planned July 6.2 mile swim in Vermont (2012 Kingdom swim) that I had been training for.  So one minute you can be healthy as “race horse” or in my case maybe a “seahorse” and the next minute lame with a pulled leg muscle (upper left quad).

Did I tell you my two favorite animals ….. you guessed it!

Flipper – because dolphins can move the water gracefully and are over 80 percent efficient swimming, whereas us human mortals are typically on average 3 percent efficient as we move through the water – with super mortal swimmers such as Olympic swimmers (Michael Phelps) being less than 10% efficient.

Source – Google Images

And of course Secretariat  the winner of the Triple Crown!  What a fine example of running. When Secretariat arrived at Saratoga in the summer of 1972, they say he was a good-looking horse with promise and nothing more. One year later, he  had swept the Triple Crown, winning the Belmont by an astonishing 31 lengths.

Source – The Track Philosopher

Three 140.6 Iron Distance Triathlons in 364 days (11 months 29 days)

Well, completing three 140.6 Triathlons in 364 days is no triple crown by any stretch of the imagination – but I can tell you it has changed my life forever.  I am no race horse but I can report that I am as healthy as a race horse and feel like a dolphin as I glide through the water each and every time I swim – be it 2.4 miles or 6 miles and I regularly swim both distances.

On September 22, 2011, I took part in my first iron distance triathlon – the Oklahoma City Redman.  Last February (2012), I completed my second Iron distance triathlon in my hometown of Corpus Christi, Texas.  The Corpus Christi HITS 140.6 was a race of opportunity – as I heard about this race while training for the June 2012 Ironman Coeur d’ Alene (which I did not race). The Corpus HITS Triathlon had much great personal significance. The swim started and ended in the area in Corpus Christi Bay where I fished with my grandfather and mother when I was 6 years old.

Corpus Christi Hits Triathlon swimmers behind the starting line – Corpus Christ Bay

The bike course for the HITS Corpus Christi Triathlon followed along Corpus Christi Bay and out to the Gulf of Mexico National Seashore where I surfed as a teenager.  The run course was along Ocean Drive on a pathway out from the Marina and along Corpus Christi Bay where I spent much time as a youth.  My fitness enabled me to take part in the HITS Corpus Triathlon as an adventure, which triggered many pleasant memories of where I grew up.

One of the most important outcomes of the Corpus Christi HITS Triathlon was sharing the experience of triathlon with my granddaughters Molly and Elise along with my wife Debbie, daughter Hillary and son-in-law Derrick, Cindy (Debbie’s sister) and David(Debbie’s brother), and other family members who live in Corpus Christi.

The run at the HITS 140.6 in Corpus Christi was two loops. As I would pass by the hotel, my wife, daughter, and son-in-law would cheer me on and take a few pictures.  On the second lap, Molly, 3 at the time, and Elise, 2, ran a few steps as I passed by.

Also, later that evening, Molly 3 and Elise 2 stayed up way past their bed time and greeted me at the finish line.


One of the greatest rewards about the Corpus HITS 140.6 triathlon was not me completing the event (no small task for a newbie) but the positive influence it had on my granddaughters.  It was not too long after that the following spring that Molly and Elsie completed a triathlon designed for kids!




Elise (age 3) swimming 25 yards across the pool with her dad, Derrick.

And Molly swimming (age 4) 25 yards across the pool with the lifeguard.


And this picture above says it all –

Being there seeing Molly and Elise finishing the Triathlon at Red Lerille’s Health Club was an awesome experience.  Debbie and I do a significant amount of swim and strength training at Red’s.

At very young ages Molly and Elise ( in green jerseys) have adopted healthy lifestyles and  most recently in addition to their every growing interest in swimming, riding their bikes and running, in the past 6 weeks they have starting playing soccer.



500 Miles – Orey Orgeron – Swamp Rabbit Trail, Greenville, South Carolina


Photo – Jean Orgeron

Recently, a good friend of ours, Orey Orgeron, took up cycling. We have been tracking his progress. This week (October 14, 2012) Orey’s mileage total reached 500 miles!

Orey and his wife Jean live in Greenville, South Carolina.  Orey rides along the Swamp Rabbit Trail, which winds through beautiful Greenville.














View Section of Swamp Rabbit Trail – Source Greenville Daily Photo

Orey’s 500 miles cycling is a major accomplishment. We are very proud of Orey. We will post more on Orey as he progresses with his cycling and fitness program. I remember my first 500 miles that I road and it was much more challenging and took more effort than completing any of the Iron Distance Triathlons I have taken part in which I might add were no small chore!



Preparations for 2012 Redman

During the spring of this year, preparing for the recent September 22, 2012 Redman 140.6 Triathlon took my wife Debbie and me many places to train and enjoy our fitness.  Debbie does selected smaller distance events and has completed a Category 5 time trial several years back.  She has raced in 10 mile timetrials with average speeds as high as 18.7 miles per hour.  We train together every day and share the fun many experiences associated with training for a triathlon.

We made several trips to Austin, Texas where I did some trail running on Town Lake.  There were elite runners, dogs swimming, dogs running, people walking, people riding their bikes, runners pushing their children in strollers, and even runners pushing the dogs in strollers – young and old and the fast and the slow! I was and continue to be one of the slow ones!



Funny thing, I had never run on a trail with dirt and mud – at first I was going to run on the street next to the trail to avoid the people, dogs, mud and dust.  I did not want to get my new Brook’s Glycerin running shoes muddy!  WOW, what a newbie I was, still am, and I have so much to learn about all aspects of triathlons.


Here is Debbie having coffee watching the dogs swim!

Turns out the running on the trail was fun, challenging and great training for the upcoming 2012 Redman.  I learned running on the dirt provided less impact that running on the pavement – and it was so much fun interacting with the runners, walkers and dogs!  Also, I was told by a physical therapist running on an uneven surface strengths leg and foot muscles.

I trained through the spring preparing for the Redman following recommendations from my sports doctor and also using well founded principles in a book that my son-in-law Derrick introduced me to called the The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing by Dr. Philip Maffetone.

Over a 5 month period – all but the last six weeks of my training was at heart rates at or below my aerobic threshold (Maffetone heart rate – will be discussed in future blog article). I did do some swim, bike and run interval work the last six weeks leading up to the 2012 Redman. Training at or below my aerobic threshold kept me injury free and provided the endurance capacity I needed to complete the Redman in 15 hours and 10 minutes and also reduce my 2011 Redman time by 23 minutes. During the 2012 Redman, my average hear rate was 150 BPM on the bike and 138 BPM while running.  Terry Laughlin (founder and head coach of Total Immersion) kindly has reminded me in the past that I might be a completer – not necessarily a competitor.


Open Water Swim Training Austin, Texas

While in Austin, Debbie and Debbie and I made a number of open water swims at Quarry Lake owned and operated by Pure Austin Fitness.

The quarry lake is spring fed and provides a 0.75 mile swim course marked by buoys.




While at the lake, we shot a number of photographs that illustrate a number of open water swim techniques.


As seen in this photograph, the water conditions at Quarry Lake are excellent.  Austin is a great place to train for a triathlon and a fun place to vacation!


We also made a number of trips to College Station to train.  This photograph shows Derrick (son-in-law) and me at the Texas A&M Natatorium.  Debbie and I train at the TAMU facility as often as we can.  We both graduated from Texas A&M and also worked for the University at different times during our careers.



During a training ride that Derrick and I were on in College Station, we spent some quality time on the side of the road when Derrick got a flat on his back tire.



I made a 6 mile training trail run while in College Station – instead of dogs, kids and runners on the trail this posted sign at the trail head indicated that there was a large feline of some kind on the running trails.  Not sure what type of cat but I assume bigger than a house cat and smaller than a lion??



The trail was heavily wooded and beautiful with a number of creeks along the way!  With regard to the potential encounter with a large cat predator – I stayed about 20 yards behind a runner I knew I could out run if needed!


While traveling we continue with a healthy meals – this is a very important part of training.








Also our rat terrier named “pup” who sometimes travels with us enjoys some good vegetable fajitas along with a few chips and salsa at a Mexican restaurant along the way.



I have also made many 3 to 6 mile swims in a lake called Indian Creek, which is located about 60 miles north of Lafayette.  The open water swims of course provide important fitness training – but are  also opportunities for adventures where much beauty can be experienced.



Each week during my training, I made a 50 to 70 mile ride from my home in Broussard, Louisiana out past the town of Delcambre and beyond the town of Henry.  My ride took me each week through beautiful countryside, through marsh areas and along the Vermilion River.  Along the river, it is not uncommon to see water birds, snakes and alligators.  My ride turnaround is at the entrance to the Post Oak Ranch.

Below is a beautiful barn that is on the bike training course.


About 18 miles into the ride each week, I encountered a small dog that would chase me along the road for 400 yards or so. She normally stays in his yard and barks as I pick up the pace to sprint past the farm house where she lives. Her name in Mini Mouse.



As the training season progressed, both the dog and I got faster.  Initially, we sprinted at 18 mph or so.  Then after several months, we were sprinting at 22 mph and most recent on my last long ride (70 miles) before the Redman 2012 we sprinted together at 26.2 mph, which according to Google is very fast for a dog of her size. So the training rides each week allowed both the dog and I to become stronger and get faster!  I know whistle as I near his house to give her warning I am coming – to make sure she races along side me!  I intend to take Mini Mouse a box of dog biscuits now that race season is over – I figure he might like some treats to celebrate her fitness and as a reward from her daily task of guarding his master’s home!

The week of the Redman we took a vacation in our motorhome and traveled through Arkansas on the way to Oklahoma City.

The first day we stopped at Lake DeGray.  The water is crystal clear and was 68 to 72 degrees F.  Debbie made at ¾ mile open water swim there.  She continues to improve in her open water swimming skills.



We also traveled to Magazine Mountain in Arkansas where we trained in an indoor pool that over looked the mountain side.








During the pool training sessions, we worked on selected focal points – here Debbie is working on arm extension to maintain her balance and optimizing her head position when breathing, trying  to keep one goggle in the water.  By not over rolling and picking head up to breath, energy is saved and Debbie is able to move through the water relaxed, enjoying her swim.



The view from a top Magazine Mountain was spectacular.


I made a short 30 minute training ride on top of the mountain being careful to maintain my taper in training for the Redman 140.6 triathlon coming up in 5 days!  I road easy to keep my legs loose and enjoyed the views from Magazine Mountain.



From Magazine Mountain we traveled to Oklahoma City.  We arrived Wednesday evening in plenty of time to rest and make several practice swims on Thursday and Friday before the Redman 140.6 Iron Distance triathlon, which took place on Saturday, September 22.

The day of the 140.6 Redman event was a celebration of our health and fitness.   The day to day journey to the Redman is much more important than the event itself.  The success of the event is measured not how many miles we swim, bike and run but instead in how many people you help on the road along the way.

Coming soon! – The Redman 140.6 race report will be published as Part 2 of this blog article.

2012 Redman Race Report …….. Part 2 of Redman Blog Coming to a computer terminal near you!


In the meantime, below is a link to a video of the 2011 Redman by Jim Giickert.  I met Jim this year at the 2012 Redman. Our bikes were racked next to each other in transition.  He told me about the 2011 Video that he produced.  The video is excellent and Jim is a very accomplished triathlete and wonderful person.  I have only known Jim a very short time but I think we will become life long friends.

Below is a really neat Redman figure Jim made at the Redman 2011 from stones in the Lake Hefner dry lake bed.

Photgraph by Jim Giickert  – his web site is  www.gojim.tv

Below are the links to Jim’s 2011 Redman Video and also his upcoming 2012 Redman videos.

Redman 2011 Video


Redman 2012 trailer












Big Three Are Not So Big Any More

Left to right Michael, Mario and myself

In the coming weeks, we will be publishing article about two friends, Mario and Michael that have developed long term successful health and wellness programs.  I am very impressed and inspired by their weight loss and life styles they have developed.  It is been about 12 months since I have seen Michael and Mario, they are very fit.  You do not have to go to the World Ironman Championship in Kona, Hawaii to see champions – come to Navasota, Texas.  Michael and Mario are real Champions in my book – Congratulations to both of them on their success.