A Running and Swimming Brick

Last night I met friend Uli for a little triathlon training. Uli is an Ironman finisher (Zurich, Switzerland 2009) and my mentor for my first tri on Sunday. She and her husband Bernd (also an Ironman) are the main reason I am leaving my comfort zone and trying a tri. Uli will also be participating in the event, I expect she will be finished and showered before I make it over the finish line ;-)
In any case we met at the quarry pond in nearby Linkenheim for a run and a swim. It was hot 32°C (90°F) as we headed out for a roughly 5 km run. Despite the heat we ran an increasingly faster tempo, eventually circling back to the parking lot. The quarry pond has a nice sandy beach that is maintained by the town, on weekends they charge a fee for parking your car.
Following the run we left our running shoes in the car and made our way over the beach to the pond. The water was a bit cool as we plunged in, but as our bodies cooled the water was actually quite warm. We swam around 500-600 meters, adequate for the event on Sunday. I felt quite comfortable in the water and swam easily. A couple weeks ago the water was so cold I could barely catch my breath while doing the freestyle.
This morning I rode my bike the roughly 22 km (14 mi.) to work. On the way home I will try to ride part of this distance at my estimated race pace, which basically means as fast as possible because I have no idea what my race pace will be.
The weather prognosis for Sunday is not promising; it could reach 36°C (97°C) by midday. The triathlon starts at 10:00 a.m. or 10:40 a.m. depending on which swim group that I start with. The swim and cycling should be okay, but the run will be hot. I usually can run pretty well in the heat, maybe I’ll have a chance to catch someone before the finish line :-)

Fine Tuning for my First Sprint Triathlon

The past week has been getting increasingly hot, I believe the highest temperature so far was 37°C (99°F). I have been taking advantage of my recovery week status and have been running less, 3 runs of 10-13 km (6-8 mi.), and swimming more – 4 times over the week. I also rode my bike to work on Friday, which is 21.5 km (13.5 mi.) one way.
With my sprint triathlon this coming Sunday I will continue running shorter runs so I can concentrate on swimming and cycling. The triathlon consists of 500 meters swimming, 20 km cycling and 5 km running – I believe the swimming distance is a bit less than some “sprint” distances.
The swim takes place in the village of Blankenloch (Town of Stutensee) in a Baggersee, or quarry pond. The pond is quite small, the swim course consists of 2 loops around the middle. Here is an overview cut out from Google Earth:
baggersee_google.jpg
The water temperature in the pond was still around 16°C (61°F) just a week or two ago, but the hot days we have been having have done their work, the pond is warm enough to swim without a wetsuit (or so I’m told).
Here is picture from last year, right before the start:
baggersee.jpg
The first transition area is to the north of the first picture, roughly 100 meters from the pond, in a large parking lot. The 20 km cycling course begins on the street in front and turns onto a county highway, whereas we will complete 3 rounds, finally ending near the front of the sports hall on the other side of Blankenloch. The 5 km run portion is 2 rounds heading south out of Blankenloch towards the next town and back on the same path.
For experienced Tri freaks this event is a joke, but for a totally new swimmer, cycling newbie, I’m terrified. My only goal for the Triathlon is to finish it. A year ago, when I was setting personal bests for almost every ultra distance that I ran, I probably could have done pretty well with the running and cycling. This year as a result of back problems and a leg injury I have only one speed, slow! I will of course try to be competitive, that’s just how I am. At least my swimming has improved a little, the only question remaining is whether I will panic or not when attacked by the fast runners on their second loop.
Some might think why I even want to do this when I seem to be so woefully unprepared. Based on all common reasoning I should probably stay home and train another year. Being an ultrarunner, my reasoning left the realm of “common” some years ago.
I actually considered not starting several times over the last few weeks, but then I thought about the times that I dropped in a race and regretted it. Then I asked myself the question that I always ask myself now when I am having a hard time during a race “If you drop now will you be able to live with the decision in the morning?” The answer is simply “no”! There is no reason that I can’t complete the triathlon, and if I am so slow that I finish in last place, so be it. I think the experience that I will gather during this first attempt will be invaluable.
In any case I have a few more days to train…

A Triathlon Dress Rehearsal

I have been playing with the ideal of a short Triathlon for a couple years, but didn’t trust my swimming enough to do this. After my freestyle course over the winter a couple friends of mine from my running club, Bernd and Uli – both Ironman finishers, gently nudged me to the point where I heard myself say that I would do it. I have tried to keep up with my swimming since then, but other than that have been training for my ultra runs.
With my sprint triathlon less than 3 weeks away my friends suggested a dress rehearsal. With about as much enthusiasm as a cow going off to the slaughter, I agreed and last night we met at a local quarry pond (Baggersee).
Under the careful supervision of my two masters, I laid out two transition stations and we walked through what we wanted to accomplish over the next hour or so, namely a mini-triathlon.
The water in the quarry ponds in our area usually start warming up in the hot days of May and June, but unfortunately we haven’t had too many of them. The good news was that the last couple of days were around 80°F and the pond had warmed up considerable (according to my mentors). The bad news was that the “warmed-up” temperature was still around 17-18°C (63°F). I don’t have a neoprene suit, and in most cases these aren’t allowed during the summer events anyway. I was not looking forward to freezing my tiny hiny off!
As we began our min-Tri I wore a normal bathing suit and elected to wear a tight-fitting running shirt hoping it would keep me warmer. I also had a bathing cap and my goggles. Friend Uli wore her Bikini in an attempt to convince me that the water was not THAT cold, and for safety Bernd wore a complete Neoprene suit in case he had to fish one of us out of the pond (I don’t think he meant Uli).
I walked to the water and tested it gingerly, and much to the surprise of my two mentors (and myself) I dove in and started across the pond. I quickly discovered that it is incredibly hard to breath correctly when you are shivering. There was a small island about 40-50 meters from the shore, I headed for this, trying to swim the freestyle, but mostly using the breast stroke because I couldn’t get enough air. By the time I reached the island and turned I was very near panicking, but my mentors stayed near and encouraged me. After a while I settled down as I got used to the water and was able to freestyle swim, but much slower than I would in a swimming pool.
After a few loops I decided we should continue with the next portion of our experiment and exited the pond and ran to the first “transition station”. I wiped my feet quickly and put on my running socks and shoes, then realized I forgot my running shorts, but managed to pull them over the shoes. I decided to exchange my wet shirt for a dry own, then put on my sun glasses, helmet and headed to the parking lot with my bike. Bernd, who was going to accompany me was a bit slower as he had to wiggle out of his wetsuit.
We headed out on a 10 km ride, a bit slower than race pace, but good enough to give me the feel for the bike portion of a tri. As we finished I hopped off my bike and deposited my sun glasses and helmut at the second “transition station” and grabbed my baseball cap. I started heading across the parking lot, Bernd first changed from his cycling shoes to running shoes.
I haven’t done any speed training this year (period), so he quickly caught me and we ran on. After about 10 minutes or so we turned around and headed back to the “finish”.
I learned a lot in this short session, having a couple experienced triathletes walk me through a tri is invaluable! I have a rough idea of how the transitions should run and can practice these a bit on my own. This was the first time that I swam, cycled and ran one after another. The practice session gave me a bit of insight on how this might feel during the sprint tri.
On Saturday night is my 80 km (50 mi.) event, then I can spent the next two weeks cramming for my triathlon debut!

Another Ultra this Weekend

Recovery weeks are always fun, first the weariness and stiffness from the race, then the listlessness from the lack of activity, and sometimes even a bit of post-race depression when the adrenalin wears off. I spent the last couple nights trying to catch up on odd jobs around the house, plus fighting a flood of strawberries in our garden, 42 kilograms so far this year and there is no end in sight.
I also have lots of ideas floating through my head on other races that I would to participate in, but so little time, so many races.
Speaking of races, this weekend I will be running the local 80 km (50 mi.) race, the Fidelitas Nachtlauf (Night Run). I’ve done absolutely zero specialized training for this race, thus will be using it for a long run for my main event in September, the KuSuH (who did their homework and knows what this is? Google knows).
Last year I ran the Fidelitas Night Run in 9:02:05, a new personal best. This year I will run/walk at my kilometer killing 100 pace, so expect to take around 12 hours. My 100K running partner Birgit may decide at the last minute to run with me, but is still undecided. We went for a 10 mile run last night, she is leaning in the right direction with her decision.
I have also been trying to swim and cycle a bit more in anticipation of my first sprint triathlon on July 11th, unfortunately the weather has not been cooperating and I have done much less than planned. Tonight I am meeting friends from my running club at a local quarry pond (Baggersee) for some training. The two Ironman finishers are going to do a run through including swimming, cycling and a short run, complete with transition stations. I am dreading the ice cold water, but need to get used to it. I don’t have a Neoprene suit…luckily the sprint Tri has only 500 meters of swimming.
I’ll let you know how my evening goes…

Waking the fish within me

Last night I came to grips with my secret fears inside and met friend Uli at the swimming pool in Karlsruhe. Fear? Yes, you see Uli and her husband Bernd are Ironman (Ironmen?), and they have been the main catalyst in my decision to participate in a Triathlon. I have seen both of them swim, they make it look sooo easy, I mean I thrash through the water in comparison.
I arrived at the pool a little early so I could warm up before Uli arrived. The pool was full, which didn’t help my nerves, which were doing backflips due to my lack of confidence in my swimming ability. After a couple hundred meters I spotted Uli’s red swimming cap and joined her. Bernd was with her, he wanted to train with the Triathlon club that met Friday nights.
Uli warmed up with a lap as I talked to Bernd, then Bernd turned me over to my new swim instructor. Uli swam a lane with me, then got out of the pool and watched me as I swam the crawl back to the other side. To my surprise she said my technique was much better than she had expected. She mentioned that my main weak points seem to be that I don’t lift my elbows out of the water enough and I need to learn to glide forward.
From there Uli got down to business, we did lap after lap of various drills, with only a short pause after each to explain the next one. Most of the drills I recognized from my swim class, and I managed to once again prove how uncoordinated I am in the water. Luckily Uli understands the difficulties of a beginner and has a great sense of humor – she kept me smiling as she dogged me out.
After about 45 minutes Uli noticed that I was suffering, and I admitted that I needed a break. She left me to unwind with some easy laps and she knocked out 700-800 meters of her own training. Afterward she suggested we do a couple fast laps, I knew there was no way this was going to happen. She took off in the lead and I tried to hang with her, after 25 meters I could barely lift my arms any longer, so slowed down. I met her at the end of the 50 meter lane and I said I probably need to swim the breast stroke back. As she took off I decided to at least try to crawl as far as I could, after about 25 meters I noticed Bernd was watching me from the sidelines, no stopping now, I tried to bring my form in grips and managed to make it to the end of the pool still crawling.
At this point Bernd took over and suggested we go to the smaller pool in the back and work on some specific training. He showed me several different drills that I could use to improve various points in my swimming technique.
Finally after almost two hours at the pool I headed for the showers, I was exhausted, this was the hardest swim workout ever! As I showered I thought about all that Bernd and Uli had said, it was clear that I have a lot of work ahead of me. But they both said that I should have no problem completing my sprint Triathlon in July, I only need to keep up the training. As I walked to the car my muscles ached, I was hungry, tired – but my heart glowed, I can’t wait to head to the pool again!

My training is about a month behind last year’s schedule…

On Tuesday I met friend Birgit at the local research center for a couple laps around the outside of the lighted compound. Most of the snow from the previous weekend was gone, making it much safer to complete our 13.2 km (8.2 mi.) run.
On Wednesday morning I stopped at the swimming pool in Karlsruhe on the way to work and did 1200 meters of laps, alternating 100 meter breaststroke and 100 meter crawl. My breathing is slowly improving, as is my overall swimming endurance. I still need to work a lot on my technique, but first when my breathing is more comfortable.
Last night I met Birgit, Uli and Gerd at the local research center for two 6.6 km laps. It was a bit warmer than it has been, around 3°C/37°F, and the asphalt path surrounding the complex was mostly free of ice. We had a good time running and chatting, time goes fast in a group. Towards the end of the last round we were joined by Uli’s husband Bernd, who ran from their house to join us. He talked Birgit and I into running part of a third loop with him, he knows Ultra runners are easy to talk into a couple more miles.
Tonight I am meeting Uli at the pool, she is sitting out the Triathlon swim training that she usually does on Friday evenings and offered to give me some pointers on how to improve my swim technique. Uli completed her first Ironman in Zurich, Switzerland last year, she and her husband Bernd talked me into doing my first sprint Tri this coming summer – they obviously don’t know how bad I swim.
This weekend I have 24 km (15 mi.) on my training plan for Saturday and 20 hilly km (12.5 mi.) on Sunday, I hope the weather cooperates. We are supposed to get more snow in the next couple days, snow is okay, but ice I could do without…we’ll see.
My training is about a month behind last year’s training, I figured out that I peaked about four weeks early last year, so adjusted my schedule accordingly. At the moment my body is still getting used to longer runs and higher mileage, most runs feel a bit sluggish in the moment – but last December was the same, so by next end of next month I should be ready for some hard training. Stay tuned.

Snowy trails wearing me down, swimming SLOWLY improving.

As the old year ticked over into the year I officially started training for the 2010 race season. Over the last three weeks I have been averaging around 80-85 km (50+ miles) of running a week, 10-15% more than I have on my training schedule. The past two weeks we have had up to 20 cm of snow on the ground, making longer runs challenging. On Saturday it warmed up just enough to make the snowy trails treacherous to run, I slipped and slid my way over 24 km (15 mi.), the effort leaving my legs sore and tired, particularly noticeable when I woke up Sunday. I ended up reducing my Sunday run from 20 km to 13, no point in overdoing it on icy trails, besides my mileage was well over what I had on my training schedule.
I was looking over my training plan yesterday afternoon and concluded that my training is much too advanced so early in the year. My gut feeling is that if I continue at this rate I may end up peaking way too early – not around the 100K in June when it is desirable. To counter this I want to drop back to 4 days a week running and add some weight training (Crossfit). I also want continue with my two days a week swimming for a couple more months, at least until my mileage starts to peak.
Speaking of swimming, I was at the pool on Friday following work and for the first time in a couple months had a halfway decent workout. Since my swim course ended at the end of November I have been struggling to complete a 50 meter freestyle lap without running out of breath. On this particular night I slowed down and concentrated on my form and was completing 100 meter laps without hesitation. I swam a total of 1300 meters, alternating 100 meters of breaststroke and crawl, with a 5-10 breath pause at the end of each 100 meters, probably not impressive for most of you out there, but nevertheless a breakthrough for me.
My swim goals for the next few months are to work up to 2000 meters combined breast/crawl by the end of June, with at least 700 meters nonstop crawl. The latter is needed for my sprint Tri in July, it will take lots of hard work!

Swimming is improving, still running and kitchen almost done

Last night was swim class number 8 (out of 10). The last couple weeks I was suffering from a cold and had a lot of trouble with the breathing, which played havoc with trying to learn the proper freestyle (crawl) technique. I arrived a little early at the pool and warmed up with 300 meters of breast and freestyle before the class. I noticed that my breathing was better, but was still nervous as the class began.
As we warmed up with two laps (one trip down and back in the 50 meter pool) I concentrated on relaxing and concentrating on my form. We then launched into 45 minutes of various swim drills that really got the heart pumping. I continued to concentrate on relaxing, my breathing and correct form, somehow I survived without panicking like I sometimes do when I don’t get enough oxygen. If my practice sessions are similar I hope that by next week I can finally start progressing with my swim training.
I ran three times this past week, Friday through Saturday, a trade show kept me away from my normal routine. I managed to get in an almost 22 km (13.5 mi.) run on Sunday afternoon with Ironman Bernd – RB accompanied us for 17 of the kilometers. On Monday night I did a single 6.6 km (4 mi.) loop around the local research center with two Walter and Horst L. from my running club, then headed to the swimming pool for 600 meters. Tomorrow night I hope I can return to the pool for some more laps – practice makes perfect, especially while trying to learn swimming.
Our new kitchen is in place, the only thing left to do is to cut out the slots for the sink and stovetop in on the large counter tops. A friend of mine is coming over Saturday morning to help do this – we should be able to cook our first meal by Saturday evening. I will try to take a couple pictures for those who wonder what a German kitchen looks like. My wife did a super job of coordinating all the colors, the room is worlds brighter than it was before!

Bilateral breathing, is that something to eat ??

On Tuesday evening was the third class from my 10 week freestyle swim course, we practiced our bilateral breathing. For the first half hour nothing seemed to go right, I think I drank half the pool dry…but then all at once everything clicked into place, well at least the breathing, but somehow I managed to forget how to kick, gosh!
Wednesday morning I returned to the pool and tried to practice my kicking and breathing. It went pretty well, but it seemed like after every 40-50 meters I had to stop and catch my breath, somehow I just wasn’t getting enough air. I think that I don’t release enough air before coming up for air, I guess it needs time and lots of practice.
On Wednesday I took a day of vacation so that I could plaster the walls in our kitchen. The new electrical cables and water pipes are installed, so it was time to close up the walls. At the same time I also installed Styrodur (foamed polystyrene?) insulation to the inside wall that connects to the outside of the house – the kitchen was always cold in the wintertime. Now I only need to put a light layer of plaster of the Styrodur panels and we can wallpaper.
I also ran on Wednesday night, picking RB up shortly before our group met. The group that I normally run with wanted to do some speed training, but I was worn out from the days activities, so RB and I ran at a slightly slower pace. After about 5 km we were joined by Birgit who was late getting off work and missed the group at the start. She just returned from a weeks vacation wandering in southern Germany, so filled us in on some of the highlights. The run was quickly finished, just like it always is when running with good friends. Oh well, I look forward to the next time!
Am Dienstagabend war die dritte Nacht von meine 10 Woche Kraul Schwimmkurs, wir haben bilateral Atmung geübt. Die erste Halbstunde hat es gar nicht funktioniert, ich habe viel Wasser geschluckt…aber dann auf einmal es hat geklappt, nun es hat mein Beinschlag durcheinander gebracht, oje!
Mittwochmorgen war ich 6:15 Uhr noch mal im Wasser, ich habe versucht mein Beinschlag und Atmung zu üben. Es hat teilweise funktioniert, aber fast jeden 40-50 Meter musste ich anhalten weil ich zu wenig Luft bekommen habe. Ich meine ich Atmung nicht aus zwischen durch und bekomme nicht genug Luft – ich glaube es braucht Zeit und viel üben.
Am Mittwoch habe ich auch ein Tag Urlaub genommen um die Wände in die Küche zu verputzen. Die neue Elektrikleitungen und Wasserleitungen sind installiert, es war Zeit um die Wände zu schließen. Ich habe gleichzeitig das Innere Wand an die Hofseite vom die Küche mit Styrodur isoliert, im Winter war es sehr kalt im Küche. Jetzt muss ich nur die Stryrodurplatten leicht verputzen, dann können wir anfangen zu tapezieren.
An Mittwochabend habe ich auch gelaufen, kurz vor den Lauftreff habe ich RB geholt und wir haben die Rest on die Gruppe getroffen. Die Leuten das ich normalweiß laufe mit wollte ein Tempo lauf machen, aber ich war müde so RB und ich habe mit ein etwas langsamer Tempo gelaufen. Ab 5 km Birgit hat uns auch getroffen, sie hat spät von der Arbeit gekommen und uns verpasst. Sie hat gerade ein Wanderwoche gemacht und hat ein bisschen erzahlt wie es war. Die lauf war schnell vorbei, wie es immer ist wenn man lauft mit gute Freunden, na ja, ich freue mich auf die nächste lauf!

Freestyle Swimming Class: Session 1 & 2

A week ago my latest adventure in swimming made its debut, a freestyle (crawl) swim course. The 10 week course meets on Tuesday evenings and will hopefully prepare me for future plans in the triathlon world.
I took an adult swim course a couple years ago, whereas I became more proficient with the basic breast swimming technique and was at least exposed to the freestyle technique. Unfortunately I didn’t stick with my swim training and still swim rather poorly. This was evidenced last week during the first evening of the course, I suffered dearly for my neglect in keeping up with the techniques.
Last week we swam a couple laps in the pool so our instructor could view our level of swimming. As far as I could see I was the only one of the 12 in the class that attempted to swim with something other than the breaststroke. I presented my rendition of the freestyle, probably hoping to impress, which may have been working until I almost drowned after swallowing half the pool on the way back on the first round. Humbled, I switched to the breaststroke and managed a speed that would match any aging grandma.
Unfortunately there were no aging grandma’s around so I jammed up the lane with my pitiful technique. Our instructor is a sweet young lady with a pretty smile, probably about the age of my daughter, with the heart of a drill sergeant. She led us through a series of kicking drills that had all of us begging for mercy by the end of the 45 minute session. I humbly slouched off to the shower afterwards, I was beat and aching in new and interesting places.
The following morning (Wednesday) I stopped at the pool before beginning my day to practice what I learned the night before. After about two meters the aches and pains from the night before flashed back and I struggled through 500 meters of laps in any way, shape or form that brought me forward. Frustrated, I decided to wait a day or two and rest my body from this unaccustomed sport art. On Saturday morning I returned to the pool and struggled through another 600 meters, but at least didn’t feel like I was drowning the whole time as with the previous sessions during the week. On Sunday before church I again entered the pool and after a couple laps, finally started to relax a bit – but was still worn out after 500 meters.
So last night (Tuesday) I arrived early before the class and warmed up with a couple laps before the class session began. I swam the first 100 meters using the breaststroke and the second 100 meters with my version of the freestyle, both went well, I felt ready for whatever drills we would be doing.
Our instructor sent us up and down the lane to warm up, then we started the first drill, propelling ourselves down the lane with the freestyle kick with our arms closed to a “V” in front of us. Halfway down we were told to clasp our hands behind our back and continue. This proved to be harder than it sounds for most of the class, the main problem being the breathing. We did this for 200 meters, then went on to the next drill, swimming on our side with one arm before us, the other by our side – again switching arms in the middle of the lane and 200 meters. We then flipped over to our back and kicked down the lane with our arms in a “V” before us – I managed to get kicked in the head when I overtook the woman in front of me. This of course shocked me and I ended up inhaling half the water in the pool.
Finally the instructor passed out flotation devices and we more or less repeated all the drills again using these training aids. At the end of the 45 minutes session the instructor wished us well and sent us on one more 100 meter loop, swimming however we chose – I tried my primitive freestyle technique, concentrating on the newly learned kicking technique.
Next week we are going to practice the correct breathing technique, which sounds entirely useful. In the meantime I hope I can get to the pool and get some practice in, I have a long way to go.
Tonight I need to run, really bad…but will my aching muscles even allow this, stay-tuned.