Friday, March 16, 2018

2018 Umstead Marathon race report

Hello internet friends! How are you? I am good, thanks for asking. Yes, of course I some money for you. Do you take checks wired through Nigeria?

The Umstead marathon is a doozy. It's not an ultra which is more of a doozier, but it's pretty tough.

My goal was to beat my 2016 time, which I thought for most of the training was 3:53. A couple days before the race I looked up the results and saw I actually ran a 3:48.  Whoops. I adjusted my sneakers a little bit and tried to stay focused. Could I do it? Would I do it? The tension was palpable. You could cut it with a banana.

The weather was perfect, in the 40s and 50s, and the crowd was only missing 3 of the 200 enrollees. They got a quiet boo for not showing up. We started. We ran. A couple buddies I had influenced into running took off immediately.  I followed my plan. My plan was to not hurt and stay relaxed as long as possible. We ran the trails. We came out of the trails. I passed a couple people. A couple people passed me.

Then it was high five time.

I felt pretty good and kept it rolling through the miles. There is a nasty downhill uphill section from mile 22 to 24 that I stayed even on despite the discomfort.

I finished, in a 'race' to the finish with a 50 year old. He beat me. Then some youngster sprinted by as well. But my time was 3:45.45. Yay for me! 

In training I only did a couple 20 milers at an easy pace, but having run several marathons and knowing that the final miles hurt whether you run, walk, or crawl, I pushed through and held steady.

This weekend I will trot at a medium pace in the Tobacco Road half-marathon, having never done it before. I feel reasonably well recovered from the marathon but not full force 100%.  Then a few sprints:

Sampson County Super sprint
White Lake sprint
TBD through summer

I'll finish with the B2B (NC 70.3) half.  Biking has definitely been in the backseat.

I'd post more about the family and Bri's excellent Ironman training, but I don't want to right now.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Article: How to improve your swim

There are just a handful of tenets you need to subscribe to in order to improve your swim.  Swimming well is enormously dependent on technique. Survival swimming is a different story. You've already realized that survival swimming is not the greatest way to get through a triathlon or open water swimming competition. So what do you do next?

You can watch lots of videos on Youtube. There are a number of pretty good explanatory drill videos and even a handful of longer discussions.

You can join a local US Masters Swimming team. These teams usually have all level of abilities, and coaches on deck to run the workout and provide you with technique feedback. A lot of newer swimmers are intimidated by these groups. You have nothing to fear. Every person in the group was once someone who did not know the difference between early vertical forearm and Splashy McSplashyface.

You can have a couple individual lessons with a technique coach. This is a good investment of time and energy to quickly identify the key issues you need to work on.

You also need to get in the water! Without practice, you'll just be a video watching- and article reading expert. When you do get to the pool, your practice needs to reflect your level of ability. 

Swimmers at the beginner level may swim 2-3 times per week. Pure competitive swimmers train more in the range of 5-9 times per week.  Most adults are not professional swimmers who can get to the pool every day, and sometimes twice a day.  So, you need to figure out how much time you can devote to your swim, in tandem with whatever other goals you may have like triathlon training, strength training, and so on. 

I usually recommend 3 swim sessions per week to maintain the balance of time and life demands. Athletes competing in long distance marathon swims or with high-achieving goals in US Masters meets should swim more often.

Beginners: You should focus the bulk of your practice on improving technique with swimming drills. There are a bunch of drills out there, but for beginners you need to focus on the essential basics. Body position, comfortable breathing, and forward reach/extension. A practice like this can and should consist of lots of 50 yard repetitions of drills, a few 50s of kicking (fins if necessary), and just a bit of steady endurance swimming towards the end of the session. Essentially your drills training to endurance swimming ratio should tilt towards 75% / 25%.

Intermediates: As your mastery of the basics improves, you can graduate to more advanced drills. You should also start spending a larger percentage of your practice on improving strength and endurance. As an intermediate swimmer, your practice should be about 30% technique specific focus, and 70% 'just swimming'. That is a qualified 'just swimming' as you should continue to swim with good technique during these warm ups and main sets.

Advanced: Once you've conquered the key techniques involved with swimming, you can spend less time actively doing drills, and more time training speed, strength, and endurance. The key here is that advanced swimmers have ingrained patterns that continually reinforce good technique habits. An advanced swimmer should have a level of awareness of technique at all times during a workout. The ratio here for drills to training is closer to 10% / 90%.

All swimmers should break workouts into separate sets. I know some newer swimmers like to jump in and just swim laps. This is exercise and technically is training, but it is training without purpose. An occasional steady endurance swim is appropriate when training for longer swim races, but should be in the 1 time per 2-3 weeks when approaching your key event.

Workout structure for beginners
Warm up 200-300 yards, break as need be
Drills 8-12 x 50s working on specific technique issues
Kick 2-4 x 50s
Main set: swim 4-8 x 100s steady

Workout structure for intermediates
Warm up 300-500 yards, mix it up with optional non-free stroke, break as need be
Drills 6-8 x 50s for specific technique issues
Kick 4-6 x 50s or mix within the main set
Main sets: Between 800 to 1,500 yards with various effort levels
Cool down: 50-100 easy

Workout structure for advanced
Warm up 500-800 yards, mix it up as above
Drill/kick mix 8 x 50 or so
Main sets: 1,500-2,500 yards with various effort levels, can include sprints, equipment, hard kicking, and so on
Cool down: 100-200 easy

In general, main sets are broken up swims: 100s to 500s for endurance, 50s to 200s for mod-hard/tempo efforts, and 25s and 50s for sprints. 

You can read more about swim training on the general internet, and we have a few articles archived on the One Step Beyond article page.

Marty Gaal, CSCS, is a USA Triathlon coach. He started swimming at age 10 and went on to compete in college and open water competitions. Marty is the head coach for One Step Beyond.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Happy New Year!

So many new and exciting ideas to share with you since we last spoke!  For real! I'm just kidding! It's just more of the same!

We have been doing lots of fun things with Junior.  He turned six. We had a fun party at a local park.

The three amigos reunited

We went to Orlando and got to visit with my sister and her family, and Bri's Mom, two sisters and their kids.  That was good fun.  Disney World and the Seaworld Water Park were involved.

 Check out the muscle car

Good fun at Aquatica (Seaworld)

 Fireworks artsy angle

 Thunder Mountain!

He can read a little bit en Espanol. Better than his English.  He is doing well in kindergarten. It is a Spanish immersion program.  I visit him for lunch every few weeks.  He likes to add an extra -ed to the end of past tense verbs.  For example, "I closed-ed the door."  He is a good kid and we have a lot of fun together.

We had Christmas. It was very Christmas-sy. We had family in town.  We celebrated gift giving and egg nog ing.

 The family Christmas meta-photo

Christmas weaponry

Our elf is into rappeling and other feats of strength

The Me paragraph
I am pseudo-training for the Umstead Marathon.  The plan is to work up to a couple 18-20 milers in the 2 weeks before. I have a loose goal of matching or beating my 3:54 or whatever I ran from a couple of years ago.  I have not been riding much.  That is fine. I have been swimming more. That is fine. I will ride more when Bri is riding less. I signed up for Ironman North Carolina 70.3 at the end of the season. I, I I. Me, me, me. I have read a few Star Wars books in recent months and really enjoyed the new movie. I don't care if they had unexplained new powers. Waaah.

We have done several hikes, some solo and some with buddies. Having Umstead State park and Crabtree county park just down the street is fantastic.

 How the master hikes

 Loblolly stream crossing

On the eve of Junior's bday, we visited the Mellow Mushroom, where the little rascal began his journey into the world.  Re: Labor began here.

 Six years later!

We got together with some good buddies for a New Year Kid Friendly celebration.


 Da boys and da dabs

Da ladies

We recently hit up a birthday party.  Junior figured out how to roller skate. He only wiped out about 15 x.

Word up

We also just have some random good fun.

 At the Jordan Lake Brewing Co for a random evening out

Getting in some sledding
Bri is training hard core for Ironman Texas at the end of April. She has a good group of buddies in for the distance. They're doing well.

Here is a random battle scene.

 Massive casualties on both sides

The OSB clinic schedule for 2018 is:

February 24 - 3 hour running form clinic
March 17 - 4 hour beginner/intermediate swim clinic
April 14 - 3 hour open water swim clinic
May 19 - 3 hour open water swim clinic
July 07 - 3 hour open water swim clinic @ Harris Lake
August 11 - 3 hour open water swim clinic
September 22 - 3 hour open water swim clinic
October 20 - 6 hour Powerstroke freestyle swimming technique clinic

You can read all the details and sign up on the OSB camps and clinics page here.

See you again in a few weeks!

Friday, December 15, 2017

Swim Run NC 2017 race report

Bri has already written a nice report about our swim-run race, but here is my version.

It was difficult and fun. The course includes some serious terrain, including a bit of cliff-like climbing, harrowing descents, and overall slippery conditions. The total elevation gain was around 2,800 feet in 14 miles of running/hiking. The swim portions were not bad other than the sub-60 water, which you do get used to.

Our approach was to enjoy ourselves and not dilly dally more than necessary. As first timers, our transitions were slow, and we probably gave out too many high fives to our friends. No more high fives!

Bri and I did several workouts in the preceding weekends at Jordan Lake.  A few friends joined us along the way. It was good fun training and a nice way to spend a Saturday or Sunday morning with my wife.

Our toughest workout was a ~11 mile run and 1.2 mile or so swim broken up into 3 separate legs.

The actual race was fairly chilly and we enjoyed our steady approach to the race. Neither of us is a great descender, so we gave up some time on the way back down.  Had a lot of fun with our buddies cheering and Junior Awesome slapping high fives.

photo by Richard Hill

In the end we finished as the 9th place coed team with a time of 4:25, 31st overall.

The course is not for sissies. There is some serious ascending and descending, and the water temp was about 57-58 degrees. The final swim through the Dan River is more like a crazy otter float smash through shallow water and small boulders.

I was going to write a more recent update but realized I never finished this one!

Also in October, we watched FSU play Duke football.  A couple fun pics here.

More updates next week, I hope!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Summer, summer: You turn me upside down.

Wow.  You know what I'm talking about. The whirlwind. The chaos. The crying. The screaming.  The angry rants and pounding on tables. Begging for mercy at the end of the day.

And that's you, not your spawn.

"I kid, I kid," as my Dad likes to say.

As you may have noticed, I haven't bothered sharing anything with bloggo world in a couple months. I have been on full bore summer dad duty / family trips / height of the triathlon season. We did a lot of fun stuff and I am going to document it here, even if it gives me a hernia.

Let's start with racing and training. This summer I kept it completely local:

Rex Wellness Garner sprint tri on July 23. It was good. The run was 2 miles. It was hot but I ran really well. I took 4th. The end.

Rex Wellness Wakefield sprint tri on August 12. It was good. It was a bit hot. I ran OK. I biked pretty good. I swam good. I took 3rd. The end.

Rex Wellness Knightdale sprint tri on September 17. It was good. It was not hot. The run was 2 miles. I ran pretty good. I biked really good for how much I ride. I took 3rd. The end.

Now, onto the next segment of our show: Travel tails!

Hi, I'm Space Eagle with a new report for Travel Tails! Let's get right to it, shall we?

Taking it back to June, in step one, Space Mom & Space Dad had a great time at Boone camp.  That really deserves a separate write up so I'll table that till who knows when. You're lucky I'm here right now.

It was super awesome, so here's one picture (ok, two).

I am the scary guy in front

Then, Bri went back to work/life while I toted the little Admiral up the Shenandoah Valley towards New Jersey.  I need to simplify the trip and stories into snippets and pictures:

We stopped in Harrisonburg, VA, home of James Madison to overnight on the way.  Home of JMU.  Nice little town.


 Blue Ridge on the way out of Boone area

 Playing in the hotel room in Harrisonburg

We went to Massanutten WaterPark in the morning. Off the hook for a fife year old, know what i'm sayin', dawgs. I didn't get many pictures inside, because my camera is a phone, and my phones are allergic to chlorine and water. And stupid decisions.

 The waterpark.

 The valley seen through our car. It is very pretty. This is a terrible picture and representation of it. You should look up other pictures on google images.

Into WV, home of the WV peoples.

To NJ for family fun with my sister and extended in-law family. Visited Ocean City, Point Pleasant, Avon, Ocean Grove, and the Asbury Park pinball machine museum (summary).

 Avon by the sea

We got suprised by a wave here. Genuine laughter. Not the usual fake kind I exhibit.

Our buddy's son and Junior Awesome take over Ocean Grove

Cousins and cousins-in-law on a fishing excursion

3 generations of your favorite porky-tellers

Uncle Timmy is the only one more funnier than me

Does this picture need a caption, or would a caption ruin the picture? Time will tell.

Cousins cruising the boards with ice cream and attitudes.

Boards in Bradley Beach

Pinball museum in Asbury Park. This place is really neat.

My sis and I


More cousins and cousins in laws

The Ocean City boards!

Fun times.

On the corner of our hotel block. Grilled cheese and quesadillas. Can't go wrong.

Our hotel room. This is $250/night in OC primetime.

My 4th zone bueno amigos from the 1990s. The middle fella (Fran) is now a Lt on the beach.

Where I spent six summers and got my perma-tan marks.

Return home over the Cape May - Lewes Ferry.  Overnight on the Southern Shore.

Time for a milk or whatever is in his hand.


This place had great food. It was in Exmore VA. Sunrise Pizza in a gas station across the street from Hampton Inn.

AM fun before hitting the road to get home.

This was a 9 day journey all told, and we had a great time. I love my boy. He is great. He is so much fun. I was comatose for two days.

Then we did stuff around here. Lots of fun in between the work and the chores.  I don't recall what. Here are random pictures of things on my phone.

Daycare officially wrapped up on August 10. Kindergarten didn't start until Aug 30 (1 day on the first week) and for reals after Labor day. Daddy Daycare commence.  Went to Boone area to hang with Gigi. Went to see Guns n Roses with our buds.  More stuff. A blur.

Mr. Daniel feeding the deerzs

Yes, I wear ear muffs at concerts. I also say, "pardon," and "sorry" and "what was that" a lot because I CAN'T HEAR YOU GODDAMMIT IT

Then in early August, it was off to see my Mom, sis and nieces in Orlando; visit my Dad in Miami; then back to Orlando for a re-visit. Junior Awesome & me again. Goddess Bri has some job she has to get into the office for.

Went to the Venetian pool in Coral Gables, very neat if you've never been. This went OK, he was hungry and the water was cold so we had a 45 minute emotional journey.  A giant ice cream sandwich fixed this. I am not sure what grade of parenting I give myself for that one.

Got to hang with my best man Tom and his son Tommy for a night in Miami.  Went snook fishing with my Dad and Junior.

Then we had a Five Family beach vacation week. This was awesome and I highly recommend it, if you can make it happen.  We went to the Outer Banks with some of our good buds and rocked the banks. Like we beached the shells outta that beach, you know what I'm saying?  We made that beach an offer it can't refuse.  I need to break that into a different blog for pictures.

Then we came home for the final week of Daddy Daycare. Daddy Daycare was closed for Wednesday, when Junior Awesome had his legit orientation day at KG. I think I biked and slept.

And then, Junior Awesome lost his first tooth (at/on the first day of KG for real).

And that brings you up to speed on me/us.  Bri has other things to tell you but those are her stories, not mine to share. I bid you a good day.

I said, Good Day Sir!