Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Blakeney Masters

So it's been quite well documented that swimming is my weakest of the three triathlon disciplines.  Just to prove it to you, let's look at my performance at Ironman Chattanooga.  With a huge current that kept me much closer to the leaders than any other course would, I was way back in the pack.  I mean coming out of the water in 737th place out of almost 1,600 non-pro men, isn't exactly impressive.  Thats the 46th percentile.  Compare that to my bike and run splits that were both in the top 1% (well 0.7% and 0.5% respectively).

So there's some work to do. I put more yards in last year than ever before.  I did a lot of 4,000+ yard workouts.  Most of that was on my own.  I was still going to Masters in Rock Hill, but the last few months I had been swimming in my lane by myself.  There are quite a few different group levels, and quite a few lanes in the pool.  So consequently, there are not a lot of people in each group.  So I'm ahead of the beginners, but not fast enough for anyone else.
The Bubble
I got the workouts, and they were great, but no instruction.  I guess I was hoping that there would be more "coaching".  There really was none of that.  The people were great, and it did help me a lot last year, but I still felt like I needed more.
Sans Bubble.  Someday I will see this!
So my friend, Melissa, at Inside Out Sports gave me Patty Waldron's email.  I had meant to contact her at the beginning of the year, but I was a slacker.  I finally got to meet her at fellow Big Sexy Brad's fundraiser, Bubbles for Bears.  It was good to connect with her and put a face to the name.  So shortly thereafter I showed up on a Wednesday in the middle of February.
Bubbles for Bears with the Big Sexy Crew
The Blakeney Swim and Racquet Club is located on Rea Road south of I-485.  It takes me about 17-18 minutes to get there at 5 o'clock in the morning.  It is an outdoor pool, but they have a bubble.  The concrete is still very freaking cold!  As I started swimming there, I quickly realized that these people were hard core.
8 Degrees and Fog
One morning it was 8 degrees outside, and like 30 people showed up to swim in this outside bubble with frozen concrete. Hard Core.  The facilities are probably the least of any pool I've swam at.  Luckily none of that really matters.

This could be fun to swim at in the summer
Patty started instructing me from the get go.  She runs the practices but she doesn't swim.  She observes people and gives instruction along the way.  She also explains the workout, gives encouragement, and yells at people to start intervals.  I never swam growing up, so she is by far the most enthusiastic person about swimming that I have ever met.
Summer, Summer, Summertime
She even took a video of me one morning to show me had bad I was.  Well, she didn't phrase it that way, but you get the point.  I've also begun learning different strokes.  Before Blakeney, I had never done anything other than freestyle.  Now I'm actually learning breaststroke and the backstroke.  No butterfly yet, we'll see.
Bring your Equipment to the Bubble
I did have to get a kickboard.  Like I said, the facilities have a lot to be desired.  So you bring your own paddles, buoy, kickboard, and fins. So I'm starting to get used to it now, and I'm really starting to enjoy it.  I don't have to think about swim workouts.  I just show up, and do the workout.  There is usually 5 or 6 people in the lane, so I can just follow everyone else.  I've never really circle swam before, so that's taken some getting used to.  I'm always afraid I'll get in someone's way because I'm so slow.  Luckily I seem to be able to hold my own during the kicks.
The Clubhouse
After the swim, I dry off some, throw some clothes back on and drive up to the clubhouse to shower.  Sometimes the guy has coffee ready, which is nice.  I hop back in the car and head up to 485 to get into Charlotte.  The traffic is good on 485 as they have the extra lanes opened up from Rea all the way to 77.  I hit some traffic at the 485/77 merger, but overall not too bad.  It is faster than making the drive all the way in from the Rock Hill Aquatics Center.
Yeah, we do some serious kicking
The cost of the group is about the same as the Y.  I did have to join US Masters Swimming.  That's basically for the insurance, so Patty or the Club is not liable.  So I'm gonna stick with it this year.  Patty thinks in 3 months I can make some real progress.  So we'll see at Eagleman 70.3 as that will be a non wetsuit suit.  It will be a true test.  Bring.  It.  On.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Banks Trail 5K Race Report

My first race of the year.  My training had finally started to kick in the last few weeks.  I felt like I was floundering for most of November, December and January.  I felt pretty good heading into this little local 5K race.  This is the second year of this race.  It is a fundraiser for the sports at my son's middle school.  I did this race last year, and as I said, it's mostly kids 11 to 14 years old and their parents who occasionally jog.

So why do I show up?  Think of the children . . . and how much fun it is to rub it in the face of a bunch of punk teenagers trying to run fast to impress the girls.  But I digress . . .

My parents were nice enough to pick up our packets on Friday.  They were both going to do the walk, but my mom had to pass on account of her heel.

The weather was dryer this year, but also colder.  It was about 32 degrees at the start.  It was just me and my 14 year old son running the race.  My wife and younger son opted out.  They didn't have as many people running this year.  There were just 140 registered this year, and there were over 300 last year.  I think the age group breakdown that they do kept a bunch of regular runners away.  Some of the people that came just to do another road race didn't show up when they heard that all the adults were lumped into one 16 and over age group.
All the stuff in the bag

So everyone huddles in the gym until right before the race starts.  I mean they don't leave the building until about 3 minutes before the start.  I did get in a little warmup and some striders in.  I had been pretty sore all week from playing basketball on Tuesday night.  We played adults versus the kids with my son's 6th to 8th grade team.  10 minutes of basketball and I was hurting the rest of the week.  It's tough getting old.  But today was yet another opportunity to school some more punk teenagers.
Start/Finish Line

I positioned myself near the front with my son and a couple of his friends.  As the timing guy yelled "Start" I just kinda strode out pretty easily and slowly built up to pace in the first couple hundred yards.  Not much competition as just after the 1/4 mile, I took the lead from 3 kids.  As I passed I heard, "OK, we're dead."

Initial Out and Back

So then I just tried to keep my stride and my pace.  I've rode this road hundreds of times on my bike, but haven't really run it. This first mile is basically a slow gradual uphill the whole time.  About a half mile in, I felt pretty tired, but thought "this is what it's gonna be like" so I just went with it.  I started feeling less sore as I went.  I guess I was working the kinks out, so my stride started to feel smoother.

I was glad to come though that first mile with a 6 flat split as it was mostly uphill.  The second mile had several ups and downs in it.  I didn't do so well on the 'ups'.  When I hit the end of the lollipop of the course I tried to lengthen my stride and push.  Seeing all the people on their way out certainly was a pick me up.

As we came back through the crossover for the lollipop, the gator that was leading got hung up in some traffic.  I passed them on the left between the oncoming traffic.  Once it thinned out a bit, the Gator sped up and passed me.

So I tried to length my stride that last mile.  Again, when I passed people, I kinda got a boost of energy.  That was especially true when I passed my Dad who was doing the walk.  I came down near the turn for the finish and went up that last little hill.  I was glad to put a good last mile in at 5:52 to make up for that 6:09.  I just tried to push that last little bit for the finish.  I crossed the finish line first to very little fanfare.  The RD congratulated me on a good race.  I told him it was a course record (that's  a joke).

The Boys after the Race

I got some bagels and bananas and something to drink.  I waited for everyone else I knew to finish.  One of my son's friends that I've known since he was born came in second just ahead of his principal.  I went outside just in time to see my Dad finish the walk.  He said he enjoyed it quite a bit!
My Dad Finishing

They had a raffle for all the entrants (and you could buy extra tix), but we didn't get anything.
Ann, Thomas, Ransom, Jake, Kary, and Me
Since this is a middle school fundraiser run they have different age groups as I mentioned before.  They have 10 and under, 11-12, 13-15, and then 16 and up.  That last one is kind of a big age group.  I got the overall award, but they double dipped and gave me the 16 and up as well.
Winners, Winners, Chicken Dinners
Our friend Kary won the women's 16 and up.  And Thomas, who was second overall, obviously won the 13-15 age group.

Always Representin' Big Sexy Racing
I was glad to get a good tempo run in and win the race.  Full Results Here.  I got a gift card to Six Pence Pub and to Omega Sports.  And a sweet certificate!