Colorado Bend race report – A humbling experience

Posted on August 14th, 2012
Colorado Bend Trail Race

Colorado Bend 30k, trail race. Put on by Tejas Trails.

RunKeeper Race Data

This was my first trail race, ever.  I didn’t know what to expect exactly, all I knew was what I heard from other runners in the Tejas Trails group that I run with on a weekly basis. I was however familiar with the course, having run it two weeks before, but having run the course seemed to make very little difference once the sun set. It was helpful, mentally, though to know what to expect at pretty much any part of the course. This particular course was VERY rocky, though, and I took my fair share of falls and near falls throughout the run. My goal was to finish in 4 hours or less.

Rocky Colorado Bend Trail

One of MANY rocky sections at Colorado Bend state park. Now, just immagine running most of this at night by headlamp.

The first section of the course was the second easiest part of the course in my opinion, even though it was a fairly good climb. It was one of the least rocky sections of the course. The first .5 miles was flat and fast. I found myself going out too strong, as I noticed I was keeping pace with some fast runners. After the first .5 miles you begin go climb; I continued a pretty decent pace for a short while and then realized I needed to back off a bit as I was already starting to feel the effects of the near 100 degree heat.

By the time I reached mile two I was already starting to incorporate some walking into my rhythm, something I thought I wouldn’t do since the first aid station was only three miles out. It was also around this time I began to get passed by other runners that stayed back at the start. This was just another indicator I probably went out too strong.

After reaching the first aid station I refilled my bottle and hydration pack, and filled a bandana full of ice and was off fairly quickly (thanks to the Boy Scouts that manned this station). I also munched on half a Bearded Brothers bar on my way out of the aid station as I held the ice close to my core. Pretty soon after this I was feeling good again and kept a decent pace through mile five. I probably would have kept this up, but I took a digger shortly after seeing another girl fall (and yes, I stopped to help). I blame the guy in front of me though! I was attempting to pass, but he had headphones in and couldn’t hear me coming up behind him. As I backed off a bit I wasn’t paying attention and tripped on something – THAT, he did hear and turned around shocked to see I was there, but he did offer assistance. I declined and continued on after shaking off the dust, but my rhythm was broken.

Around mile six I had another distraction that caused me to twist or sprain my ankle on a rock. It wasn’t exactly a twist, more of a hard landing, and awkward placement of my body weight over my foot. It was right around the corner from a crew that was collecting cooling vests that were being demoed to runners. The twist/strain really set me back, and once again broke a good rhythm I was just getting back into from the previous fall.

One of the few "runnable" sections of the trail, which I didn't get the benefit of enjoying because I had just twisted my ankle.

After the ankle issue it took several miles to work out the strain (but still managed a decent pace somehow). I contemplated getting it checked out at the next aid station, but by the time I was there it wasn’t bugging me anymore (although, now it is slightly swollen). It took 2.5+ miles before it was feeling “better”. I did spend just a bit more time in the second aid station, and ate some bananas and chatted with the rangers handing out water as well as other runners. This resulted in one of my slowest splits, but surprisingly not as slow as some of the most heinous sections of the trail.

Miles nine and ten, though slower than the first couple miles were consistent, and didn’t include any walking. It was the best I felt on the entire course. Mile elven and twelve was a couple of the slowest miles on the course (but was expected), due to heinously rocky terrain that was un-runnable by night in my opinion. It was a section I walked during daylight hours just two weeks before. Nobody I was around at this point ran this section.

The nastiest section of trail, around mile 11. Didn't see anybody running this section.

The best part of miles 9-13 was the open sky. Here, you are pretty much at the high point of the course and could see a vast amount of stars. I didn’t do too much gazing though as to keep my feet on the trail and avoid another spill. The last portion of mile 13 is a quick downhill trot into the Gorman Falls area, that then spits you into a steep 3/4 – 1 mile climb up to the Cedar Chopper loop. I spent most of the hill switching between a run and a walk, as to save energy for the gradual uphill portion of the Cedar Chopper loop. Once I topped out the ginormous hill, I knew the next aid station wasn’t far so I kept up a pretty good pace, and just a few hundred yards away from the station I took the worst digger of the night that had my front and back side covered with dirt. My calves also cramped up during the fall, which really freaked me out; because in the past when my calves cramped up I was pretty much done for.

The fall shook my confidence a bit and ruined my rhythm, but I wasn’t hurt to badly and my calves didn’t stay cramped. Another runner who had been behind me for the entire race ended up passing my after the aid station and beat my time by 10 minutes. The third aid station was also super busy, making it difficult to get out quickly. But, having just taken a pretty big spill I wasn’t in a huge hurry to get back on the trail. I also knew the last two or three miles would be flat and if I saved enough energy I could hit those last few miles hard.

I took it easy leaving the third station, as my confidence was shaken and I felt as if I was starting to have stomach problems. The ice I was using to cool my core also felt more upsetting than helpful, so I moved the ice rag to my neck, but rather than feeling refreshing, the ice stung the back of my neck, so I ditched the ice and just wrapped the bandana itself around my neck. I had a love hate relationship with that bandana throughout the race, I even dropped it a couple times and had to stop to pick it up.

Mentally I had trouble the last two (flat) miles, despite striving hard to conserve energy to hit them hard (on top of that, “conserving energy” resulted in my slowest split of the night). I kept telling myself, you can run two miles hard without walking – just do it. But every 1/6 mile or so I caught myself walking. I also kept wondering when I was going to break out into the home stretch… the final .8 miles of gravel road to the finish line.

Rather than leaving my GPS alone, I kept looking at it to see how close I was. I really should have just buckled down and RAN the entire thing. I did however, manage to run the last .8 miles without stopping, but did slow down a bit towards the end. I also ended with what might be the worst race photo ever. As I crossed the line I looked down to turn off my GPS, so in my finish line photo I’m looking down, rather than high and proud!

I ended up crossing the line at 4:25, just .25 minutes short of my 4-hour goal. It was a somewhat soft goal though, but something I knew I could achieve. I have found trail running to be a humbling experience. When I used to run half marathons I always met my time goal, and I always got faster, and I was MUCH faster on roads. In my road racing days I would always finish in the top 25%. This time, I was pretty much dead center of the pack. I feel as though my progress in trail running is much slower than what I was able to achieve on roads.

My wife was very encouraging about my finish though. She kindly reminded me that very few people will even consider doing what I did that night. So, I should still hold my head high and be proud. Another thing I came to realize this morning on my run is that life is changing, and I may never be as fast as I used to be, or in as good of shape. But, I think I’m ok with that. I’m about to have my first child, and once she is born life will take on an even different dynamic.

As I get older the things that are important to me are changing. Spending time with my wife, and soon, my daughter are more important to me now than how fast I can finish a race or how hard I can climb. I will always have that competitive nature in me, but perhaps I should be content with being a middle of the pack runner (most people will never even get off the couch). I may never improve (although I likely will), but in the grand scheme of life, time spent investing in my family is far more important than finishing front of the pack.

Lumpy Ridge Loop Trail – 11 Mile Run

Posted on July 2nd, 2012
Lumpy Ridge Loop Trail

Lumpy Ridge Loop Trail

So, a few weeks before I left for Estes Park, I saw Ultra Runner Scott Jurek Tweet a photo of Lumpy Ridge Loop Trail. At the time I had no idea there was a loop trail, even though I had been climbing here before. After doing a little bit of research I decided to run the route clockwise, which turned out to be a mistake. The steepest section of the trail was about three of the last five miles. I would have been better taking the steep 1.5 mile ascent counter clockwise, to have a majority of the difficult trail sections on the downhill slope. Next time I return to Estes Park I will likely complete the run in this fashion.

Before I detail the run, I will say there are LOTS of pictures in the RunKeeper data. In effort to save time, I’m going to send you to my RunKeeper profile rather than saving pictures and re-posting here. This post is also a few weeks late. Things have just been so incredibly busy with Bearded Brothers. One of my 2012 goals was to blog more, but I have fell short at meeting that goal, but there is still time to improve on that. Also, I have started training for the Cactus Rose 50 Miler, a 50 mile Ultra Marathon! You may call me crazy, but I can’t seem to get away from the crazy people running these races, so I decided to join them!

The Run!

Lumpy Ridge Black Cannon Trail

Lumpy Ridge Black Cannon Trail

The first two miles of the trail are the most scenic, also known as Black Canyon Trail. This trail runs alongside the infamous Lumpy Ridge rock formations, that are a popular destination for rock climbers. This particular section of the trail is relatively flat, but slightly downhill aside form a short uphill section starting from the parking lot. Along with the stunning rock formations: Pikes Peak, Mt. Lady Washington, Flat Top Mountain, Storm Peak, and several other mountains can be seen from the trail. Most of them still had lots of snow on them.

As you approach mile two you begin to go uphill into the trees, it’s at this point you also cross into Rocky Mountain National Park, but not need to pay an entrance fee. Foot traffic enters in here for free, but overnight stays require backcountry permits. The trail also begins to get a bit “technical” at this point, but compared to what I run in the Texas Hill Country the trail was a cake walk. My feet landed mostly on soft ground as opposed to hard loose limestone. I had actually wore my thick soled running shoes for this run, but wished I had went with minimalist gear.

I took mile three relatively easy though to conserve energy, since I was in altitude and wasn’t sure how much it was going to effect me throughout the run. Mile three was by far my slowest, but it was also all uphill. But, near the end of mile three you hit the turn off for Cow Creek Trailhead. From here it was mostly downhill or flat until mile six, which took you back uphill for three miles.

Around mile for you are on the back side of Lumpy Ridge and begin a fun downhill ascent through trees. Up until this point I hadn’t crossed a single person, and didn’t see a single hiker until close to mile six. It made for an enjoyable solitary run. I did enjoy RUNNING past the hikers though. It was obvious one of them was a newbie hiker and was very taken back by the fact that somebody was running through the mountains! It was also about the time I passed the hikers that the trail came out of the trees into open meadows. The trail was relatively flat here as well until reaching mile six.

Meadows on the backside of Lumpy Ridge

Meadows on the backside of Lumpy Ridge

Mile six began a brutal three mile uphill ascent to Gem Lake. I chose to run the route clockwise because it seemed the three mile ascent was easier than the steep 1.5 mile ascent from the other side that totaled 1,500 feet of elevation gain. Running the direction I went, the elevation gain was 1,000 feet. In hind sight, I would have rather gotten the steep gain over faster, rather than dragging it out over three miles. And, the reduction in elevation gain wasn’t what I thought it was. Needless to say, my pace slowed again, but not was slow was my third mile when I conserved energy, not knowing what was ahead of me.

On my way up to Gem Lake I only crossed one other hiker, but upon arriving at Gem Lake I was greeted by a slew of tourists that had hiked up from the side I was about to descend. After taking a quick break to pump some filtered water into my CamelBack, I began my descent. I didn’t spend much time lingering at the lake since I had just hiked up to it a few days before.

The two mile descent back to the parking lot didn’t go as quickly as I thought. The trail was fairly technical and had lots of large steps. It was never possible to just let loose and fly. On top of that, there were lots of hikers at this time, as it was later in the morning. But, I still wasn’t slower than my third mile, which I was happy about.

Overall I would say the run went GREAT, especially since I have never really run at high altitudes before. Considering I didn’t have much of a problem running the 11 miles at a 16 minute pace, I think I’m in a good position to finish my first 50 mile race in under 12 hours. The race is in October, so I have plenty of time to train. On top of that, I will be training in heat and the temperatures will be cooler in late October.

The total elevation gain for my run was 2,700! The temperatures during the run were in the low to mid 60′s. Slightly higher than I was hoping for, but still FAR better than the brutal humid heat we are experiencing in Texas. I’m looking forward to possibly running more here in the future. Who knows, I might even run Leadville one day!

I would never do that

Posted on November 2nd, 2011

Things have been insanely busy lately with Bearded Brothers so I haven’t had much time to blog here, but hope that will change as the business becomes more self-sustaining. But, today I find myself sitting in my favorite coffee shop with a bit of time to kill. So, I thought I would write a blog I had thought about several months ago.

“I would never do that”, is something I have said many times. Many of the times it has been climbing related, other times fitness or goal related.  Despite having said that, many times I find myself doing the very thing I said I would never do.

When I first started rock climbing I felt safe in the realm of top rope climbing and said to myself I will never sport climb; but quickly realized my climbing options were very limited without that skill set. So, I set off to learn how to become a sport climber. This opened up lots more possibilities to where I could climb. Rather than being stuck at a crappy conglomerate stone crag in West Texas, I was able to venture to places such as Shelf Road in Colorado and Horseshoe Canyon in Arkansas.

Phillip Snow on First Blood (5.9) at Shelf Road, a popular sport climbing crag in Colorad.

The next thing I caught myself saying I would never do was trad climbing. But if you have been following this blog for any length of time, you will know I’m an avid trad climber. I would much rather spend a full day climbing 3 – 12 pitches high above the earth, than climbing just a few hard sport climbs. Trad climbing has opened up endless potential in terms of climbing.

Since taking up trad I have made many ground up first ascents of previously untouched rock. I have blazed my own trail up the East Face of Longs Peak when the start of the partially bolted route was covered in snow. There is a much greater since of satisfaction having climbed a route while placing your own gear than merely clipping a pre-drilled bolt. On top of that, I get to climb in places a majority of climbers will never even dream of. It has even allowed me to use my skills to guide groups of other climbers with the non-profit organization Ascend Outdoors.

I have even said this about running and triathlons. When I first started running I thought I would never run more than three or four miles, but one day after running six miles I was challenged to enter a half marathon. I replied, “no way, that’s not for me”. In other words, I would never do that. But, after researching the training required I realized I was half way to being able to run a half marathon with plenty of time left before the Dallas White Rock Marathon, so it was at that time I became a runner.

After having run several half marathons I knew several people that participated in triathlons, and again I said, “I would never do that”. Fast forward to over a year later I find myself starting my training for the Austin Triathlon, in which I finished 17th out of 71 in my age group. Once again, having said I would never do something, I found myself doing that very thing.

View of the Olympic Distance swim from the Lamar Pedestrian Bridge. I was in the 700m swim that turned just before the train tracks. My friend John's wife Brenna took this photo.

My latest business endeavor, Bearded Brothers was another such thing I told myself I would never do. Even though I had always wanted to own my own business, I told myself I didn’t want the responsibility, but looking back on it now I see that it was just fear. Now I am fully emerged creating, selling, and marketing the best energy bars on the planet. We are just 7 months into the venture and already have a presence in nearly 50 retail locations. We are currently working on getting our product into larger grocery stores such as Whole Foods.

So, the lesson to be learned here is, never say I would never do that, because you just might. And, if you catch yourself saying it – realize it could be fear holding you back. It’s likely just an excuse to not try something you really do want to do out of fear of failure or putting in the time it takes to learn it. When in doubt, just go for it!

Austin Triathlon Review

Posted on September 12th, 2011

View of the Olympic Distance swim from the Lamar Pedestrian Bridge. I was in the 700m swim that turned just before the train tracks. My friend John's wife Brenna took this photo.

Having never participated in a Triathlon before, I didn’t know what to expect for sure, so I found myself attending a couple of clinics the day before the race to get a better grasp on what to expect; and it was a good thing I did. I found out important rules, such as no drafting allowed and that I was required to wear a race number on my jersey during the bike, and the run.
The clinics were extremely helpful in figuring out exactly what I had to do, from start to finish. I was most worried about the transitions, but both clinics did a great job of explaining the process and gave helpful tips of what to do and what not to do.

Having taken the time to attend the clinics and explore the transition area the day before the race, I felt ready. My only goal was to finish in under two hours. I figured it was an attainable goal, and having beat that time in practice runs I knew I would be able to crush it.

I knew the swim portion of the race was going to be my weakest, so I went in not expecting much, but at the same time was pretty confident I could beat a time of 18 minutes for the 700 meter swim. Two weeks prior I had swam an entire mile in 40 minutes including a rest period. So, I thought with the adrenaline flowing from the race and swimming only 700 meters that time was totally attainable.

I ended up with a swim time of 19:52, so I was a little bit frustrated, but at the same time happy considering it was my first triathlon and I had never swam two months prior to that. My training never focused on form or improving my stroke, just getting through. In the future I hope to improve on my stroke and time.

I feel I made a few mistakes starting out with the swim. First of all I was one of the first ones in the water, which meant I had to wait for A LOT of other swimmers to enter the water, approximately 71 to be exact. This mean I had to tread water until all the swimmers had entered. In the future I will probably be one of the last ones in the water, rather than the first.

My second mistake was not checking my goggles before I started. About 15 meters in my goggles began filling with water, so I had to stop and fix them. Once I put them back on my right eye was smashed in. I Thought I would fight through it at first, but quickly realized that wasn’t going to happen, so stopped again to fix the right eye.

Seeing how it was my first tri I stayed back from the pack as much as possible to avoid getting kicked in the face or to have to compete for space, I also wanted to pace myself to be sure I didn’t tire out too soon and go faster than I was capable of. Turns out I could have gone faster. I kept noticing my form was bad while doing the breast stroke (which was 75% of my swimming) so would attempt to speed up, but then noticed myself slowing down again. I kept wanting to make sure I had enough energy for the bike.

I never found myself scared or nervous the entire time. I even eventually found myself passing a few swimmers in my wave, but at the same time was getting passed by several swimmers that started in the wave behind me. After rounding the last turn I transitioned into a freestyle stroke to give myself some extra speed at the end. As I got closer to the exit I went back into a breast stroke to make the  exit more comfortable. I found getting out more difficult than expected and took the hand of a volunteer to help myself out of the water. I was thankful they were there.

After exiting the water I felt wobbly and found it hard to get into a good stride running into the transition area. But after hobbling around a bit I was jogging behind the racers in front of me and made a 3 minute transition onto the bike. My transition time was a bit longer since I had to put on a jersey and I kept wavering back and forth between wiping off my feet and just putting on my shoes. I also had forgotten to loosen the velcro on my bike shoes, having them open and ready to jump into. But, considering the long run I had to make from the swim exit to my bike, I’m fairly pleased with the time.

I had pretty much ridden the bike course several times commuting around town so I knew a pace of 20mph would be attainable, but we had a lot of wind to contend with. Thankfully the strongest head wind we faced was going downhill, but this made going downhill feel like going uphill. At a place I would probably average 30+MPH I couldn’t break 25 MPH.

One part of the course had a gradual sloping downhill (with wind at your back) that allowed me to make up for lost time on the uphill and windy downhill. It was lots of fun riding a course I would normally get caught at numerous traffic lights. The only real challenge of the course, other than the wind, was navigating around other cyclits.

With a no draft rule, you had to make sure you passed other cyclists if you got within three bike lengths. This proved to be difficult at times, especially when one cyclist in front of you was passing another cyclists to his right. There were also occasions I wanted to pass another cyclist but couldn’t because how tightly other were riding next to them, I also broke the no passing on the right rule a few times because of this. I was even pushed into some road bumps on two occasions in the SAME spot due to riders being tightly packed during a turn. It was also partially the other rider not paying attention as well.

The course was a total of 24km, which was two loops of the same course. The entire time I bordered on 19+ MPH average, but managed to finish strong with a 20mph average. Had we not had any wind I’m sure I would have done even better. But so would everybody else. Another challenge on the course was surprisingly pedestrians trying to cross the street. On a few occasions I thought people were going to jump out in front of me. At one point a woman crossed at a 90 degree turn and was almost run over by myself and two other cyclists.

A couple times during the ride I felt like I could have been pushing myself harder, but I never really stuck with hammering hard. I’m sort of glad I didn’t though. It allowed me to truly enjoy the experience and take in my surroundings. It was fun seeing my family and friends along the course cheering me on. Had I been too focused on going fast I might have missed out on that. It was also fun zipping by people ringing cow bells. It created a nice Tour De France like feel, it made me smile!

Transitioning from the bike to the run was a lot easier since I already had my jersey on and number pinned to it. The only difficult part was putting on my Vibram FiveFingers. I had practice this a lot, but still managed to get my toes jammed putting them on. But after getting the proper alignment I was off.

I had my iPhone with me to keep track of my pace, I as I was hoping to run a 7:30 pace. But my legs just wouldn’t allow it. I ended up with a time of 24.43 and a pace of 7:58, but I never felt like I was going that fast. My legs felt like led, and pretty much felt like that the entire run. They had never once felt like that during any of my training sessions, either. So it was a very odd feeling.

I kept looking at my RunKeeper to check my pace but couldn’t even believe I was averaging 7:58 – it felt like I was going SO slow. But, no matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t go any faster. I also though the GPS had to be malfunctioning because It didn’t feel like I was going that fast, but I was pleased to discover my pace was even faster than the 8:32 average RunKeeper reported.

Around mile 2.5 of the run I noticed I had a small rock in the bottom of my left shoe, but decided to battle through it. I’m surprised it took that long to notice, I had assumed it was there since transition. After the race was over I pulled off the shoe to discover a large blister. So either there was never a rock and it was just a blister that formed, or the rock had moved down in the last section of the race.

Despite the rock in my shoe, I finished with a faster split than my second mile, but slower than my first. Upon entering the finish line I was cheered on by friends and even one pro triathlete I meet the day before that was cheering “Go Bearded Brother”. Upon rounding the final corner into the finish chute I heard my name called over the PA and saw my lovely wife at the end cheering me on. My parents were soon by by side too congratulating me on a strong finish.

The Festivities
The post race festival was one of the best I have seen. There were lots of vendors, plenty of free samples and New Belgium’s beer (Lips of Faith was my favorite), which beats the crummy cheap light beers most races provide. There was also live music, free massages and treatments for injured athletes. My only complaint is that the post race meal provide was cold. Although it tasted good I couldn’t pull myself to finish the cold veggie wrap.

I look forward to participating again next year. I will most likely enter the Olympic Distance as well. I just hope I won’t have to train in such extreme heat next time. Even though most of my training was done early morning, and avoided the 100+ degree days. I was forced to train in the evening at times and found it quite challenging. Hopefully by next years tri I will have entered a few others and improved my swim stroke drastically. But with other goals such as a full marathon, we will see what happens.

Time and Ranking Break Down
Finished 17th in Men 30-34 out of 72
Finished 135th overall, out of 709

Swim Time 19:52
Transition 1 3:26
Bike 50:11 (Average 20 mph)
Transition 2 2:16
Run 24:43 (7:58 pace)

Kristy and I after finishing the race.

Me, with Jon (left) and Ben (right). John and I spent three days a week training together in Barton Springs Pool. John and Ben both are Olympic distance finishers!

Austin Triathlon Training – Part 2, and some climbing news

Posted on August 11th, 2011

With the Austin Triathlon being three weeks away there is a small part of me that wants to register for the Olympic distance after having swam 1200 meters last weekend. This was done almost without stopping. The only time I rested was at 800 meters to say hi to a friend that had entered the pool. I know I’m capable of pulling it off, but not sure how wise it would be considering I only have three more weeks to build up to a full mile and feel comfortable with it.

Chances are I will still just enter the sprint distance, seeing how it is my first triathlon. I’m very excited about it though, and have thoroughly enjoyed the training. I’m still not a huge fan of swimming, but imagine I will continue doing it on a regular basis. Especially since I will probably want to enter an Olympic distance triathlon next. I think the most enjoyable part has been seeing myself become more toned, and feel better overall.

Deep Eddy Pool, one of the places I have been training.

Living in Austin really is a great place to live and train for an event like this. I can wake up early, bike 3.5 miles to Barton Springs Pool and enter the gates for FREE before 8 a.m.; this really helps when you are on a tight budget like myself. After the swim I have my choice of two places to run, and both leave from the Barton Springs parking lot. I can either run the Town Lake trail, or get some rocky trail miles in along The Greenbelt. Lately I have been opting for The Greenbelt, and have been having a blast running the trail in my Vibram FiveFingers.

Learning to swim has definitely been the most difficult part of my training, but learning to run properly in the FiveFingers has also been a challenge. I seem to be fine when running trails, but as soon as I hit the pavement sore calf muscles are an unwelcome certainty. But, the severity of the soreness has been declining lately. They key has been more trail miles, slower pace overall, and gradually building up mileage. Running with my friend John has helped with this, as he has never run more than 4 or 5 miles before and is working up to six miles for his Olympic distance tri.

I guess you could say I have been overtraining for the bike portion of the race. My weekend rides have ranged from 35-40 miles. The sprint triathlon distance is only 16 miles. But, I love cycling around the Texas Hillcountry. Austin really is a great place to live if you are into cycling. There is no shortage of group rides to join up with on the weekend.

Cyclists await for the start of the weekly Middle of the Road Ride, outside Mellow Johnny's bike shop.

On an unrelated note – but then again it is related based on the blog’s name. I have been climbing outdoors in the Greenbelt about once a week with a group called Climbing Buddies. My climbing ability has been slowly progressing back to what it was a few years ago. I am finally able to lead 5.10 climbs again and have been top roping 5.11 climbs. I actually feel that the triathlon training has helped my climbing ability through weight loss (less weight to pull up the rock) and a stronger core.

Having climbing access IN TOWN is just another advantage of living in Austin. I live just five to ten minutes away from all climbing access points. It makes for easy evening climbs as well as longer day trips if you so desire, but being right in town you really don’t even need to spend the entire day climbing. You can easily wear yourself out within a couple of hours. The crags are practically an outdoor gym with quick clips at the top of every route!

The climbing community here too is pretty great. There are a couple of email lists most of the regular climbers are a part of and they regularly message their climbing plans, so finding a partner to climb with is never difficult. The community is even friendly and open to new climbers. You will almost always find people willing to let you top rope climbs they have set up. I’m not even sure such community exists in places like Colorado. But I can’t say for sure since I haven’t lived there.

If you are interested in joining the email lists I mentioned, here are the links:

Austin Climbers (More hard-core climbers in this group, usually meets at New Wall)
Climbing Buddies (more laid back climbers but have lots of experience, more welcome to newbies)

Also, if you are interested in the Austin Triathlon, here is the website with complete details about registration and race distances.

Austin Triathlon Training – Part 1

Posted on July 23rd, 2011

I recently mentioned I decided to train for the Austin Triathlon, Olympic distance, so I thought I would post an update about how that was going. I guess I will progress from the worst to the best, in terms of how my training is going for each event.

Barton Springs Pool

Barton Springs Pool, a great place for triathlon training.

Barton Springs pool is where I have been doing most all of my swim training, and let me tell you –  it’s intimidating.  While in the water, I feel like a fish out of water – seriously! I’m having a hard time getting into a good rhythm and breathing properly, which causes me to get anxious and break out of whatever rhythm I had going. On top of that, early in the morning the spring is FULL of triathletes training for their next race. You are pretty much guaranteed to run into somebody every time you cross the 1/8th mile pool.

Swimming in a sea of people has advantages and disandantages. The main advantage is it comes closer to simulating actual triathlon conditions. Lets face it, swimming solo in a lap pool isn’t going to help your training for being lost in a huge pack of swimmers. The disadvantage is that it’s intimidating for a novice swimmer like myself, and often causes me to freak out and get out of a freestyle stroke and frantically preform a head out of water breast stroke, which is hardly an efficient stroke, but I find myself doing it a lot.

So far I have had good and bad days. But I have yet to swim more than 200 meters without stopping and have yet to even swim 100 meters just freestyle. I am making progress, though. Jut this morning I was struggling and feeling stressed because nothing seemed to be clicking, but I forced myself to swim another 300 meters, and swam the fastest most efficiently I have since taking on this new endeavor. Even though I’m not totally happy with where I am now, I definitely can tell I am making progress. I’ve never felt like I really struggled with running or cycling, but now I know how a lot of people feel when the first try to take on running. This is a struggle!

I also decided to step down from the Olympic distance and register for the Sprint distance instead. Even though I have already swam 900 meters (not continuously). I’m not positive I will be able to work up to a full mile in the amount of time I have, plus I want to be safe and not drown.

Downtown Austin

View of Downtown Austin from Auditorium Shores, close to Town Lake trail.

Running has surprisingly been challenging for me recently. This is frustrating for me because the last half marathon I ran, I finished sub 1:50 with a pace of 8:19. Lately I’m lucky if I run under a 10 minute pace. This has a lot to do with the fact that I’m running in Vibram Five Fingers, to reduce stress on my knees and back that resulted from a recent bike accident.

Running in these shoes requires a “natural” running style which is completely different from what most people do in traditional running shoes. In barefoot running shoes, you can’t heel strike, which means you have to land on your forefoot to mid-foot, lightly kissing the ground with your heel as your foot comes down. You also lift your knees high, sort of like you would do while skipping. So needless to say I am using a lot of muscles that are not normally used, so the distance I am used to running is down as well as my pace. It’s a frustrating feeling not being able to run as fast as you once did, but I also have to remember I took a LONG break from running and was completely inactive for nearly four months.

Considering how long it took me to run a pace of 8:19 in traditional runners, I guess I should not be too hard on myself, but I do hope I can at least run that pace during the 5k. Considering it is a race and the adrenaline will be flowing, I just might be able to make it happen. But I would be very happy if I ran a 9 minute pace as well. The other difficult part of running in the Five Fingers is sore calves, since those muscles aren’t used to being worked, and I’m only running twice a week, they seem to get sore very easily and sometimes force me to skip runs. So, I’m hoping the muscles build up and get stronger in the next couple weeks so I can focus on speed again before it gets to close to the race and I have to start tapering.

Biking North on HIghway 360 just outside Austin

Cycling has surprisingly been the easiest for me during the training process. Last weekend I went on a 40 mile ride and felt like I could have gone longer. I have been riding efficiently up hills, passing other cyclists along the way. In the past I attacked hills hard and petered out towards the top and end get passed by most of the group, but now I’m flying past other cyclist and staying ahead!

Riding the hills on 360 is overkill for the course in the Austin Triathlon. My top speed going downhill has been 45 MPH, and the hills are killer going up. The return trip features approximately 3+ miles of uphill terrain. There is no point in attacking those hills. The best choice of “attack” is to just slip into a low gear and relax in the handlebars and sit back in the saddle as you slowly make your way up hill.

Also, I honestly have to say I think my love for the bike is overtaking my excitement for running (and definitely surpasses swimming). I have thoroughly enjoyed riding through the scenic hill country around Austin. I’m looking forward to one day taking my bike up to Colorado (or any mountainous state) and enjoying more challenging terrain. Not that the hills here aren’t pushing me, because they are; but I’m a glutton for punishment and enjoy being challenged.

Since I don’t imagine I will do very well in the swim, and even the run is questionable, I will have to CRUSH IT, during the bike portion of the race, which should be no problem since I ride the streets of downtown Austin on a regular basis (which is where the bike course is at). It’s familiar terraine for me, and a pice of cake compared to what I have been riding recently. Another athlete recently told me a lot of triathletes are “one trick ponies” and they rock at the swim, but suck at everything else. So, just because I don’t do well in the swim doesn’t mean I won’t finish well overall! My plan is to pass as many people as possible during the bike portion of the race.

Training for this race has been exciting and challenging! I have even been trimming down, and losing weight. I can’t say how much exactly since I don’t own a scale anymore, but I recently put on the pants I wore for my wedding 9 months ago and they are fitting loosely! I remember they fit pretty tight on my wedding day. So I’m very pleased with the changes that are occurring. I will say though, I am ALWAYS hungry! It makes me thankful I own my own energy bar company right now! Otherwise I’d be breaking the bank just buying energy bars.

A New Adventure – My First Triathlon

Posted on June 24th, 2011

So, after some coaxing by a friend of mine that is moving into my apartment complex I agreed to enter the Austin Triathlon, and train with him! I had always told myself I would never enter a Tri, but I think I knew deep down inside I wanted the challenge. The swimming part has always been my biggest fear for two reasons. One, it’s just different and for some reason a lot more scarry than biking or running, even thought at one point I had never done either of those. Two, I simply fear being the one guy that doesn’t look good in a speedo, but I have recently learned that speedos are pretty much no longer a part of tri’s.

To make this an even crazier challenge, I am entering the Olympic distance. That is a one mile swim, 25 mile bike ride, and six mile run. I’m not in the least bit worried about the bike or run portion of the race. My only fear is being completely exhausted after the one mile swim. It will be even worse if I’m not able to train enough to swim the entire mile. Thankfully I know a couple of people that are willing to help train me in the area of swimming. With some luck and hard work I should be able to pull this off.

This is will by far be the most challenging thing I have done in terms of endurance sports. I have had plenty of challenging climbing endeavors, and worked hard to finish my third half marathon in under 1:50, with a pace of 8:21! It’s also been a while since I have even done any endurance running due to my bicycle accident last October. But having almost fully recovered from that I am up for the challenge.

I will also be doing the run portion in my Vibram Five Fingers. I have been running exclusively in them lately, but am still struggling to build up the muscles in my calves, but the frequency of my runs is also not what it used to be. But, six weeks (the time until the Tri)  should give me plenty of time to build up the necessary muscles. It helps to have natural running resources like Endura Lab. I have become a huge advocate for natural running ever since my bike accident (I tore meniscus in both knees) and have noticed a huge difference in how I run. I had always had arch pain in my left foot due to it being slightly smaller, but since I’m now running without arch supports… NO PAIN! I highly recommend leaving traditional running shoes behind and picking up natural running.

Barton Springs Pool

I will be hitting the open waters of Barton Springs tomorrow morning for my first official swim. Barton Springs is a naturally spring feed pool, so the water will be VERY cold. Hopefully it will be a hot, sticky humid morning so diving in will be a welcomed relief.

The training program will be pretty rigorous compared to the training I have done in the past for half marathons. So finding time to do everything may be difficult, but I’m up for it, even if it means waking up at 5 a.m. and riding twenty miles before hitting up Barton Springs. I’m thankful to live so close to the springs since admission is free before 8 a.m. So I won’t have to worry about pool fees during my training. A short 2.5 mile bike ride puts me outside the gate.

My training has pretty much already begun, as I have put in more workouts this week than I have in a long time. I look forward to updating everybody about my training progress. I will be posting all my workouts on Dailymile, and Tweeting a lot, so be sure to follow me there. I have also added a category “Tri Training” so you can keep up with me that way as well.  I’m also open to any advice you might have for training if you have participated in Tri’s, yourself.

Adventure Naturals is now Bearded Brothers

Posted on February 6th, 2011

Just wanted to send out a huge thanks to everybody who made our project on Kickstarter a huge success. We wouldn’t have been able to do it without you. Check out the video below for the latest news about Bearded Brothers and see the new logo.

You can also check out the original project on Kickstarter.

Healthy Goals for 2011

Posted on January 3rd, 2011

Every year around this time, I sit down with my journal and reflect on the previous year and journal my new years resolutions. They are always legit though, they are never cheesy, unattainable or campy. But, this year I thought I would go a step further and set some health related resolutions, or goals if you will. It’s hard to say how they will shape up for me since I’m in a crazy chapter of my life right now, but by far the best chapter to date. So, without further or do, here are my healthy goals for 2011.

2010 Cowtown Half Marathon

2010 Cowtown Half Marathon

Start Running Again
2010 delivered a hard hit, drastically diminishing my climbing, running and cycling time. On, October 1st I was hit by a car on my bike and have been suffering from bone contusions, torn meniscus, and a bulging disc ever since. I still haven’t fully recovered from those injuries. I actually wasn’t even missing running that much until I went on a few walks around Town Lake recently and saw runners all around. I longed to ignore the doctors advice and run my heart out. So, it is my hope that the Occupational Therapist will place me into physical therapy so I can get over these nagging injuries. A follow up visit should be in my near future.

Climb More

Me, near the summit of the First Flatiron in Boulder Colorado. A day's journey that was fueled on raw foods!

Since getting engaged in July, and married in November, life has been hectic. Even though I live in Austin, close to great rock climbing-  right in town; I haven’t had much time to climb. Life has been filled with wedding planning, visiting families, attending other weddings, and holiday traveling. Hopefully things will calm down in the new year, and I will be able to work climbing back into my schedule. It’s also hard because I can’t boulder due to the torn meniscus in my knee (the repeated falling would not be good for it), which means, no easy trips to the gym without a partner for an evening of enjoyment. The bright side of this is, I will be forced to climb outside more and meet people in the climbing community here in Austin.

Drink Less Coffee
I hate to admit it, it’s a pride thing. But, from August 2010 until now I have drank more coffee in that time than I have in 2009-July 2010 combined. How did this happen? Well, It started off as one cup a week, gradually increased to three, and then became five or more cups per week when I moved to Austin and began working in coffee shops daily on my startup business Adventure Naturals. But, in 2011 I hope to curb the “addiction,” which at this point is only mental. Too much caffeine, in addition to the added sweetener I pour into the cup is not exactly good for me. Additionally it’s dehydrating, and I can truly tell. After drinking 12-16 ounces I am left extremely dehydrated and feel a dry sensation all throughout my body. It isn’t exactly pleasant.

Launching Adventure Naturals
If you aren’t tired of hearing about this yet, you eventually will be! Actually, I hope you are not. I hope my excitement for creating 100% organic, mostly raw, energy bars and snacks becomes contagious. There is nothing better than fueling the body an all natural, raw, and organic foods. We are still raising our startup funds on Kickstarter and are working on refining our business plan while we get ready to start production in early March, but it will only happen if our project meets the goal.

I have had a huge passion for raw foods ever since I started including them into my diet back in August of 2008. Ever since then I have seen a HUGE increase in my overall health and fitness level. Raw foods really have changed my life, and I want to help them transform your life too.

Establish a good work-life balance
I spent seven years of my life working in jobs I hated. I was never truly passionate about any of them, so maintaining a work-life balance was not very difficult. I was always out the door at 5pm. Now, things have changed. I love what I am doing and am extremely passionate about it. I’m always anxious to start my work day and feel like I can work well into the night. So, far overworking has not been difficult, but I fear that as Adventure Naturals becomes a success it may not be as easy. So, my hope is that I will not let work rule my life, but I make sure I spend time with family, fiends, and exercising.

Stricter standards on my diet

The Crazy Makers

Since moving to Austin, I sort of let myself go in terms of what I eat. I allowed myself to truly enjoy the wonderful eateries here in Austin after first moving here, and I certainly enjoyed my share of sweets during the holidays. But in 2011 I hope to start fresh and make sure I am only eating whole, nutritious food.

My wife has recently been reading the book, Crazy Makers, and through listening to her tell me about it I have been reminded just how much crap is in the food out there; I really has a huge effect on us and our children. I also reflect back on how I felt when my raw food intake as much higher and realize how much of a difference healthy eating can make in your life. If I was able to be strict about it before, I certainly can do it again. But at the same time, I feel “strict” is the wrong word. I think appropriate and good may be a better way to describe it. There is certainly a time and place for indulgence.

Healthy Reading
In 2011 I also hope to read more books about healthy eating as well as natural remedies. I’m already having a hard enough time being on prescription medication for a neurological disorder. I truly believe that we can prevent a lot of sickness through eating a healthier diet and we can also cure our general sickness with natural remedies, instead of using prescription drugs that fill our bodies with unnatural substances and have an acidifying effect on the body, thus reducing our immune systems in the long run. I find that reading about healthy eating also helps remind me why it is so important. I also learn through continued education. If I’m not continually learning about a certain topic I quickly forget about it.

20011 is definitely going to be an exciting year for me. I’ve never been more excited about a new year. What are some of your goals for the new year?

What is an energy bar?

Posted on December 16th, 2010

What makes an energy bar and energy bar? Watch the video and find out, and listen to by short plea about how you can help launch my new energy bar company – Adventure Naturals.

The $5 Plea

Now, through Christmas, if you donate just $5 to our Kickstarter campaign you will receive an extra energy bar. These bars will retail for around $3 each, so you are essentially saving $1, AND you are helping start an AWESOME company, dedicated to bringing nutritious energy foods to the masses.

Think about it, $5 doesn’t go very far these days. Five dollars barely will cover a large latte, you can’t even buy a move ticket with five dollars, it will barely even get you food off a value menu, and five dollars won’t even get you two gallons of gas. So, when you think about it, your five dollars is going a LONG way by helping start our company.

So, check out our project and make a donation today! Kickstarter