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.
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?”
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
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:
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.
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 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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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
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.
HITS Corpus Christi 140.6 Triathlon February 19, 2012
This Blog has 3 parts.
Part 1 – Introduction to HITS Series Triathlons and the HITS Corpus Christi Triathlon
Part 2 – Summary Statistics – Steve Howard HITS Corpus Christi Race Results 140.6
Part 3 – Steve Howard HITS Corpus 140.6 Race Experience and Comments on Health and Wellness
On Sunday, February 19, 2012, the HITS Corpus Christi 140.6 and 70.3 Triathlons took place in my and my wife’s hometown, Corpus Christi, Texas.
At the turn buoy at the end of the swim course as you would roll to breathe to the west this is your view as seen from the water! If the 2.4 mile swim race does not not take your breath away – the view certainly will!
The HITS Triathlon Series,
(HITS Logo – Trademark)
is a new race series designed for seasoned triathletes, as well as first timers. All are invited to compete in the HITS Triathlon Series, from the beginner in the Open, to the experienced triathlete in the Sprint, Olympic, Half and Full, providing for the first time, “A distance for everyone!TM” I took part in the Iron Distance 140.6 full distance race that took place on Sunday. The HITS staff was very professional and the pre-race, actual race and post-race programs were very well organized. As a “Newbie” to full distance 140.6 triathlons – and for that matter triathlons in general, the HITS pre-race meeting instructions and HITS excellent support throughout the event were highly beneficial and made me feel that I belonged in the event. (P.S. This was our second ever full distance triathlon with my first 140.6 being the Redman in Oklahoma City 4 1/2 months prior to the HITS Corpus Christi.) I use “our” because Debbie and I train together almost everyday, she provides coaching recomendations on certain aspects of my training and assisted me with the many pre-race preparations and provided considerable encouragement. As Debbie says, getting ready for a full distance triathlon takes more effort than getting ready for a wedding!
The HITS Transition area was excellent. Each athelete had a change stool and bike rack – storage area as shown in the photograph.
The bike rack was very stable compared to more conventional unstable pole type bike racks. The bike rack has a boxed in storage area, which was very useful for organizing swim, bike and run gear. Also, during the race, the boxed storage area served as a collecting point to throw gear from the previous activity and transitioning to next activity. Also, the change stool made it very easy to put on and remove the wet suit.
If I had to use four words to describe the HITS staff it would be “Highly Professional” – “Very Kind”. Debbie and I immediately made friends with many of the HITS staff. Mark Wilson, the Corpus Christi HITS race director, did an excellent job. Mark is a highly accomplished triathlete and coach with more than 20 years of experience. He is an Ironman 70.3 World Championship Finisher and is a seven-time finisher in the Ironman USA Lake Placid with a P.R. of 10:59:40. Mark is also a Professional Life Coach and the Founder/President of the Hudson Valley Triathlon Club, which has more than 100 annual members.
Race director Mark Wilson on right in photograph is shown at the HITS Corpus Christi 70.3 and 140.6 swim start with Triathlon legend Dave Scott.
Photo by HITS Staff/Rolly Astrom.
At the athletes’ dinner the night before the race, Dave Scott advised us to break up the race into segments and to not start off thinking about the 140.6 miles ahead at the beginning of the swim. Dave Scott also told us that it was our duty as a triathlete to compete and do our very best. Lastly, he said find some humor in the race and have fun. I made sure I did all three!
The winner of the HITS Corpus Christi 140.6 Triathlon was Austin Saylor (shown in photo below) with a time of 9 hours and 29 minutes. I first met Austin in Oklahoma; he was the winner of the 2010 Oklahoma City 140.6 Redman, with a time of 9 hrs 21 minutes! Austin’s accomplishments are an inspiration to us all.
Austin is also from Corpus Christi. Turns out we both went to the same high school in Corpus – but different decades! Also, we both have completed the 140.6 Redman and also the 140.6 Corpus Christi Hits Triathlon. I am very proud that someone from my hometown and high school has participated and won two triathlons that I also have ties with. Austin is a very cordial and humble athlete. I hope to see Austin later this year and the 2012 Redman or at another HITS triathlon!
Photo by HITS Staff/Rolly Astrom.
On Saturday, there were a number of races including a Sprint, Olympic and an Open Event, which consisted of a 300 yard swim – 3 mile bike and 1 mile run. The open event was designed to introduce athletes young and old to triathlons.
The swim start was in an area where I fished with my grandfather when I was 6 years old. The bike course followed along Corpus Christi Bay and uut 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 side Corpus Christi Bay.
PART 2 – Steve Howard 140.6 Race Summary
2.4 mile Swim – about 3,800 swim strokes. Time: 1 hour and 43 minutes
112 miles on Bike – about 29,500 pedal revolutions. Time: 6 hours 34 minutes
26.2 miles – about 48,700 run strides (steps): Time: 6 hours
14 hours and 36 minutes later, I ended up needing a flashlight to finish.
Debbie, who has been patiently waiting for me for 40 years – was waiting patiently waiting for me at the HITS finish line!
and when I thought it could not be any better than that – my daughter Hillary, son-in-law Derrick (140.6 2010 Redman and 2011 Houston Memorial 140.6 Ironman triathlete) and granddaughters Molly and Elise were also waiting with Debbie at the finish line for Paw Paw.
Part 3 Steve Howard Editorial Race Comments
If we have not already bored you, below are the details of the race as seen through my eyes out on the course along with some thoughts on health and wellness.
There were 82 athletes (half and full distance) in the swim start. Air temp 52°F (with wind chill factor) and water 61.5°F. As I stood shivering in the 52 °F blowing cold wind, my thought was not how fast was I going to swim but that I wanted to start with a smooth swim stroke and maintain good body form with precise arm-hand position on each and every stroke. I also wanted to have quiet legs with an easy 2 beat kick as later my legs would be needed carry me 112 miles on the bike and 26.2 miles on the run.
I was shivering before getting in the water (cold and/or nerves I guess?) – but once in water with wetsuit, the water temperature felt perfect. I swam 200 yards or so before starting horn was sounded. In the photograph below, you can see me swiming parallel to pod just before the starting horn was sounded.
I found a hole in the pod of swimmers and established my pace around 1.45 tempo – and held steady to finish. I swam a little wide of the pod of swimmers and 1/2 mile into swim, I swam the rest of the race neck-in-neck with fellow swimmers and drafted when I could. I was very relaxed. (In a number of other triathlons, I have had to deal with mild to moderate panic the first 10 minutes or so. The past panic situations are not “help, help, I am going to drown” – the panic interrupts my breathing and prevents me from establishing a rhythm. This results in slow breast stroke until my breathing becomes under control – end result, I lose 10 minutes or more starting the swim.)
From the first “Total Immersion” stroke on the 200 yard warm up till turning inbound and crossing the starter buoy when the gun went off I was relaxed, and every swim stroke was precisely positioned to save energy and move at a controlled pace through the water. The Corpus Christi high rise skyline to the west was awesome; and to the east, the sunrise with sea birds and the aircraft carrier in the distance was so beautiful. The swim filled my heart with joy and happiness. I was expecting a time of 1 hr 25 min on swim – however, swimming wide accounted for my 1 hr 43 min time. Based on the estimated swim distance (2.5 miles), my swim pace was around 2:15 per 100 yards. I felt really good about my Total Immersion Swim form; body kinematics and stroke were the best I have ever had in a tri-event. I would not change anything on the swim.
I maintained my planned swim plan and swim form from start to finish during the 2.4 mile swim – because I chose to swim on the edge of the pod, swimming wide, I ended up swimming a little over 2.5 miles at pace of 2.15 min/100 yards.
Nothing is more calming than the sight of a race ready bike the night before the race. The Zipp 808 Firecrest carbon wheels were extremely stable in cross winds and head winds with gusts up 18 mph.
During the HITS Corpus Christi 112 mile bike ride, I felt like a 6 ft 4 inch 174 pound jockey in the aero position riding the fine race horse Secretariat!
My moving speed on the bike was 18.2 mph and with feed/water stops was 17.4 mph. I ended up with 6 hr 33 min bike time (with 15 minutes of the time being feed/water and restroom stops). Need to reduce this non-riding time!
The last 28 miles I adjusted my bike speed to maintain a heart-rate of 150 bpm maximum to optimize the transition from the bike to the run. I also made sure I maintained optimum hydration and fueling (energy) intake during the entire bike ride. I was fueling not only for the bike but also as importantly for the run.
The 26.2 mile run along the bay front was very beautiful and interesting. At several points the run followed park pathways along the bay. I ran the first 13.1 miles at a pace of 13 min miles.
During the second half of the race, I ran when I could at a 12 to 13 minute pace and walked when I needed to. My run time was 6 hours, which was one hour less than my iron distance 140.6 Redman run time in September (4 1/2 months ago.) The reduction in run time allowed me to complete my race goal of finishing in 14 hr 36 min for the full 140.6 triathlon.
The HITS Corpus Race director was waiting at the finish line when I crossed at 9:30 pm Sunday evening.
O.K. I know what many of you are thinking as you read this race account, “oh he is one of those athlete types that never had a weight problem.” I think I forgot to mention to our new readers that 4 years ago, I weighed 305 pounds and was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Also, I struggled to complete my first Olympic distance triathlon almost 2 years ago. As seen in this photograph back then I had way too much wagon and not enough horse.
In a 4 year period, I have transitioned from 305 pounds to the HITS race day weight of 174 pound body frame as seen below in the transition area getting ready to start the 26.2 mile run. I got there by losing ounces at a time, not pounds. Initially, I rode a mountain bike because I could not bend over and reach the handle bars of a road bike due to my weight condition. I started out biking, then a little swimming and now I even do a little running now and then, and I am becoming more and more drawn to running. I think it is important that I relate much more to the some 34% of adults in the United States that are over weight and many (about 8.3%) of which have type 2 diabetes just like me. My family has greatly supported me on my road back to health.
Our entire family enjoys cycling related activities.
Debbie has done a number of sprint events and also 1-Cat 5 time trial. The photogragh shows a pratice ride near our home.
She also enjoys swimming and has made a 1 mile swim in Mirror Lake – Lake Placid.
Our son Paul is a Cat 5 cyclist. This photograph shows him in the process of dropping me on a Sunday afternoon ride!
Our Daughter Hillary has done a number of sprint triathlons. This shows her on a 40 mile endurance training ride.
Derrick, my son-in-law, has completed two full 140.6 distance triathlons including the Redman and the Ironman Memorial in Houston and also 70.3 Ironman New Orleans and a 70.3 in Lake Conroe, Texas.
Road biking, swimming and triathlons are a good fit for our family. However, there are many activities you can do to achieve fitness beyond triathlons, such as walking, weight lifting, hiking, cross county sking, hiking, and many more.
My training is a combination of self-coaching and a very elite group of coaching advisers, which include Terry Laughlin – Total Immersion (Founder and Head Coach), my wife Debbie (race results evaluation and training critique swim – bike and run training ) and my son-in-law Derrick (140.6 2010 Redman and 2011 Houston Memorial 140.6 Ironman triathlete and multiple 70.3 triathlete) for bike and run training.
As I ran near the hotel, I passed my granddaughters running with their dad Derrick!
The most important result for me in the HITS 140.6 was finishing the race knowing that my good health will enable me to spend many more decades riding, swimming, and running with my family; and just perhaps when Debbie and I are 100 years of age,I will still be able to take part in endurance events.