Trail Running: Kona, Hawaii

While the rest of you were following in the footsteps of the Ironman and cycling Highway 19 or swimming Kailua Bay, I was running the coastline, checking out Kekaha Kai State Park. I actually wanted to drive to Volcanoes National Park to run some of the trails there, but we were staying near Kona, and the schedule didn’t allow enough time to drive to the Southeast side of the island. My trail run wasn’t so much a trail run as it was bits of running mixed with hiking and picture taking. If I had it to do over again, I would have loaded up the family, snorkel gear, and beach supplies and made a day of hiking the unbelievably quiet beaches I found along the way.

I started my run by getting a cab to drop me off at the Southern-most entrance of Kekaha Kai State Park just off Highway 19. Trying to tell the driver where I wanted to go proved amusing as he originally thought I wanted him to take me directly to Makalawena Beach. Since the drive from HI-19 to the beach is unpaved and extremely rough, you’re unlikely to find a cab willing to take you all the way in. Instead of getting dropped off near the beach, I just ran the mile or so from 19 to the beach parking area. It might be tough for a car, but it’s not that bad for running.

Makaole'a Beach

Makaole’a Beach

Once I arrived at the parking area, I turned South away from Makalawena to run toward a small, black sand beach area called Makole’a Beach. The road toward the beach this direction is distinctly 4WD only, and it was much more difficult to run than the main road. The 4WD roads often have rocks in the 4-6” diameter size range bunched together anywhere the road has been washed out which is great for a vehicle but a little more challenging for a runner. After some time on the road, I noticed white markings on the lava heading toward the beach so I blindly followed.

KeKaHa Kai State Park Lava

KeKaHa Kai State Park Lava

The lava was surprisingly runnable, but that isn’t always the case. The lava in this area was smooth with cracks spaced well for my stride. In other areas, the lava was much rougher and reduced me to slow walking to keep my footing. The marked lava route eventually rejoined a road and took me to Makole’a.

Makole’a was empty. At 11:00 am, I was the only person on the beach. Being the type of person who likes to avoid crowds, I was floored. I’ve never seen an empty beach…ever. It would have been nice to stay and spend some time, but this was my running time so I took a few pictures and headed north along the coast.

KeKaHa Kai State Park Trails

KeKaHa Kai State Park Trails

Running from Makole’a to Mahai’ula Beach was a mix of rocks and really loose sand. If you wanted to get a better run without burning out your legs in the sand, returning to the 4WD road might have been a better strategy.

There were a handful of people at Mahai’ula Beach, but it was still extremely quiet. Most people coming to this area likely hike further North to Makalawena Beach.

If I’m remembering the route correctly, the hike to Makalawena is extremely rough. It’s about a quarter mile on little 4” diameter rocks. I was wearing trail shoes, and it was bothering my feet. I felt sorry for the beach goers navigating the rocks in their sandals, but the payoff had to be worth it. Makalawena Beach was so nice that I texted my wife and teased that I was just going to stay for the rest of the day.

Makalawena Beach

Makalawena Beach

From Makalawena, I mixed some coast line running with some 4WD road running. At times the coast line slowed me to barely a crawl while I worked my way around tide pools, and at other times I was running on paths through the trees or along small, sandy beaches.

KeKaHa Kai State Park 4WD Road

KeKaHa Kai State Park 4WD Road

After I left Makalawena, I didn’t see another tourist until I reached Kua Bay at the North side of Kekaha Kai. The few people I did see were clearly locals either heading out for spearfishing or camping on beaches reachable only by truly off-road vehicles. The roads to these areas may not necessarily require 4WD, but you MUST have ground clearance. The smaller Subaru’s I saw earlier in my run wouldn’t have worked here, and an Outback would have been borderline.

KeKaHa Kai State Park Trail

KeKaHa Kai State Park Trail

Eventually I had been out too long on too slow a route. I happened to see a car drive by out of the corner of my eye and realized I was near the paved road to Kua Bay. I cut across some of the worst lava rock I’ve encountered and hopped on the road for a quick half mile or so to Manini’owali Beach.

Manini’owali Beach is by far the most popular beach in this park. It’s a beautiful but smaller white sand beach with much less rock in the water making it a more attractive swimming location. When I arrived around lunch time, the beach was packed. I couldn’t even run the path through the beach without risking kicking sand into sunbathers. There were coolers and towels and people on almost every square foot of white sand.

I had planned to continue North, but there is a historical lava rock area just North of Manini’owali Beach with dire warnings about moving any rock. Not knowing how long it might take me to work my way through, I opted to run back out the Kua Bay access road and return to my hotel via HI-19. Even though my body was pretty well shot at this point, the roads gave me a chance to get in what turned into intervals for the final 3 miles of my run.

KeKaHa Kai State Park

KeKaHa Kai State Park

There are probably better places to run in and around Kona and definitely on the Big Island, but I had a blast at Kekaha Kai State Park. Mahalo, Hawaii.

 

 

 

 

 

A Lost Year

Sloth Brain

Well, it happened again. I lost another year. I didn’t spend the year in a coma or locked up in jail, but I definitely don’t feel like I’ve been “present,” for lack of a better term.

Prior to embarking on my journey from sick and out-of-shape to healthy over 5 years ago, I often lost days or weeks at a time. I would spend months sick with sinusitis and/or bronchitis, and my poorly managed thyroid condition kept me in a persistent brain fog and low on energy. But after 5 years of good health, I thought those days were behind me. Unfortunately I seem to have come up with a new twist on the same old story.

During my training for the 2015 Route 66 Marathon, I began experiencing some unusual neurological symptoms. I was training more miles per week than in previous marathons, and I was running them at much faster paces on much more challenging elevations. After most of my runs, long runs especially, it looked like an army of worms were swimming around inside my calves. Less frequently, I experienced involuntary muscle movements and spasms mostly in my arms. I attributed the symptoms to my training, but my wife disagreed.

At my wife’s urging when I went to the Doctor for thyroid blood work in October, I mentioned the symptoms. My Doctor didn’t seem too concerned about them, but she did feel my blood work warranted a decrease in my thyroid medication. I had been relatively symptom free for 2 years on the same dose of NatureThroid, and now the Doctor wanted to change my dose just 1 month prior to a marathon.

I did as ordered, and I still performed reasonably well at the marathon, but over the subsequent months, my body began exhibiting some of the familiar Hypothyroid symptoms. It’s an insidious cycle as the earliest symptoms for me are mental, and they impact my ability to realize that I’m experiencing symptoms. And, even though some of my neurological symptoms could have been attributed to too much thyroid medication, the symptoms worsened with the decrease in thyroid medication.

In July, my primary care physician sent me to a neurologist for further evaluation. Given its recent publicity and association with fasciculations, the neurologist was quick to eliminate ALS as a potential diagnosis. Being a bit of a hypochondriac, I had read enough online to know that ALS wasn’t a likely culprit. I’ve been much more concerned about Parkinson’s and related conditions, but the Doctor hasn’t even mentioned Parkinson’s as a possibility. I realize the likelihood of it being Parkinson’s is very low, but when your arm starts vibrating uncontrollably, it’s hard to dismiss the possibility.

Since starting with the neurologist in August, I’ve been to the neurologist several times, had an EMG, 2 MRI’s, and tons of blood work, and I still have no answers. In fact, I’m about to give up on ever having a definitive answer, but I have taken some steps to try to correct potential issues in my diet and reduce stress, both physical and mental.

I shored up some potential vitamin and mineral deficiencies with supplements.

I pressed the pause button on all of my side projects and focused solely on one critical work project.

Although I kept my training where running a 15K-25K was possible, I only raced once in 2016, a 5K that didn’t go quite as planned.

Even though I’m a night owl, I did my best to get more sleep.

Mentally, I’ve improved a bit, but physically, I’m still experiencing symptoms. I’m supposed to see both my neurologist and primary care physician in January so we’ll see what they have to say.

Until then, I’m just pleased to be a bit more present mentally. The fog has lifted just enough that I’m in the mood to punch the next person who tells me, “this too shall pass.”

 

 

 

Product Review: Hoka One One Clifton 1

Hoka One One Clifton 1

Well, I did it. During my last marathon training cycle, I finally tried a pair of Hoka One One shoes.

When I first began running, I was a typical heel-striker unless I was sprinting. In an attempt to stave off persistent lower leg injuries, I switched to a mid-foot strike with the help of Vibram’s and Newton’s. Shortly thereafter, I was amazed to find my chronic knee pain had subsided. This wasn’t pain I developed as a result of running but pain I had endured most of my adult life.

I was officially a member of Team Minimal Cushion in time to witness the birth of Team Max Cushion.

I’ve tried on the Hoka Clifton a few times, but I just couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. They didn’t feel right on my feet, and like most other heavily cushioned shoes, I found the lack of stability disturbing. Regardless, I decided to dive in wallet-first and try a pair of Clifton’s, the model I had heard the most about online.

Even though the Clifton 2 had already been released, I ended up with the Clifton 1. For whatever reason, the Clifton 2 felt drastically different between left and right so I went with the Clifton 1. Looking back, I wonder if the Clifton 2 at the local running store may have had different insoles in each shoe. The Clifton 1 came with 2 insole options so if the Clifton 2 is the same, the previous shopper may have been experimenting. Regardless, I was happy testing the Clifton 1 because it seems like it’s the shoe that kicked off the maximal trend.

So without further adieu…

Clifton 1 vs. Clifton 2

The main difference between the Clifton 1 and 2 is the tongue of the shoe. The Clifton 1 has what feels more like a thick piece of leather as a tongue whereas the Clifton 2 has a fairly traditional, cushioned tongue.

I can understand why people didn’t like the Clifton 1 tongue, but I actually liked it. The thick leather seemed to spread out the force of the laces and make it more comfortable on my feet than the thick, softer tongue of the Clifton 2.

Cushioning

How can I not jump straight to the cushioning? That’s really what this or any Hoka review is about, right?

Between August and November, I put in about 400 miles training for the 2015 Route 66 Marathon. At least half of those miles were in the Hoka One One Clifton. During the first several long runs, I honestly considered giving up on the Hoka’s. Nothing felt right. I was slower and felt like I was exerting more effort than normal. It was like running in quicksand.

I don’t remember when that changed, but the first hint was on a downhill during one of many long runs. I don’t like running downhill, and I alternate between trying to go with the flow and applying the brakes. On one of my downhills in the Hoka’s, I realized I was running aggressively downhill without any discomfort. As my confidence grew, there were times I was pushing my downhill pace into the low 5’s on steep enough hills. Considering I was attempting an 8 min/mile marathon pace, that’s pretty quick for me, even downhill.

Shortly thereafter, I noticed a similar change on the uphills. Keep in mind that I like running uphill, and I find minimal shoes great for running uphill. That said, on the same hill where I was hitting low 5’s downhill, I found myself bounding up the hill near the end of a 20 mile run and feeling surprisingly good.

I don’t know which of these changes can be attributed to the shoes and which can be attributed to the volume and quality of training. All I know is I wasn’t a fan of maximal cushioning, but I grew to appreciate its benefits on my long runs. If I were lacing up for a 5K, I would never wear the Hoka’s, but at half marathon distance or longer, soft, maximal cushioning like the Hoka One One Clifton 1 is definitely worth consideration.

Toe Box

Hoka One One Clifton Small Toe Box Bruised Toenails

Unfortunately, there is one glaring problem with the Hoka One One Clifton 1’s and most Hoka’s from what I’ve seen. The toe box is way too small.

Before you object, hear me out . I’ve run in a variety of shoes, both traditional and minimal, trail and road. In 5 years of running, I have never bruised a toenail, much less lost one. Actually, in all of my 42 years, regardless of the sport or activity, I’ve never bruised or lost a toe nail.

So what’s my secret? Ridiculously tough toenails. Seriously, that’s it. Most people struggle with their big toenail, and my big toenails are just tough. If I don’t have the extra heavy duty toenail clippers, the odds of bending the clippers versus cutting the nail are about 50/50. Gross, right? The other toes are softer, but most of them also curve with the shape of toe instead of sticking out straight so they don’t take much impact.

Around mile 20 of the Route 66 Marathon, I knew that was going to change. At the end of the race, I had 3 bruised toe nails. The 4th toe on my left foot and both of my big toes had bruised. A short 6 weeks later, I lost the nail from the 4th toe, but the big toenails look like they will survive.

I know some runners wear lost and bruised toenails as a badge of honor, but I consider most bruises and blisters the fault of bad equipment.

Upper

The Hoka One One Clifton upper is reasonably comfortable and breathes pretty well. The only problem I ran into beyond the size of the toe box was a hot spot on the inside of my right ankle. Given that it showed up on only one foot I suspect this was a manufacturing defect. A properly positioned bandaid prevented the blister, but seeing as I always forgot to put the band aid on, I now have a nice Hoka spot on my foot that seems to be in no hurry to go away.

Sole

Underneath my foot, the Hoka One One Clifton performed well. Traction was good, and the Clifton easily handled a few miles of trail running during my long training runs. It surprised me that I could feel the ground so well running on the trails. The trails here are rocky, and though you could feel the rocks for proprioceptive feedback, the soles were durable enough to protect the foot from injury.

Hoka One One Insole Escape

The insoles included with the Clifton could use some work. As I mentioned above, they included 2 models. The default was more molded to the shoe and more comfortable on my foot. Unfortunately, after about 50 miles of training in the shoes, those insoles decided they had had enough and tried to walk out the back of my shoes during a run. After that experience, I looked around online and found I wasn’t the only one who had experienced problems with Hoka’s insoles. Hopefully newer Hoka shoes have solved this problem because it’s pretty aggravating to find yourself at mile 5 of a 10 mile run with insole sticking out the back of your shoes.

Durability

As far as the feel of the shoe, I’ve not noticed any dropoff in the Hoka One One Clifton. Now closing in on 300 miles, I don’t see any reason to retire them. The outsoles are taking a lot of damage, but it’s not affecting the ride in the least. It might affect the off-road traction after a while, but since these are road shoes, it seems inappropriate to judge them based on trail performance.

Conclusion

Though I generally liked the way I ran in Hoka’s, I will never buy again unless they change the toe box dimensions. What I find amusing is I went into this review leery of maximal cushioning and especially the potential for rolling an ankle in a maximal cushioned shoe. I came out of this review only having rolled an ankle in minimal shoes (looking at you Nike Free), appreciating the maximal cushioning for helping me run better downhill, but disliking the shoe for a very boring, traditional reason….fit.

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Downhill Running Comfort
  • High Mileage Durability

Cons

  • Toe Box Too Small
  • Faulty Insoles
  • Potential QC Issues (hot spot on one shoe)

 


 

 

 

 

 

Product Review: Comply T-500 Isolation Earphone Tips

Comply-T500-Isolation-Earphone-Tips

I’ve been a relatively happy owner of Blue Buds X bluetooth earphones for a couple of years now. The battery life gets me through my long runs as long as I go easy on the volume, and the sound is incredible when sitting in the ear correctly. They also provide good hands-free control of the phone and have even worked for voice calls while on the run.

Unfortunately, Blue Buds X have two major drawbacks. First, they tend to work their way out of your ear during runs. They don’t move so far as to fall out, but they move just far enough that all of the rich bass is lost prompting you to reach up and adjust them every half mile or so. Second, if you get any water or sweat in your ear behind them, they will slip out so frequently that it’s not worth fighting them.

Over the Summer, I lost one of the earphone tips I normally use with my Blue Buds X. I tried some of the other included tips, but since I was already using the large, switching to smaller sizes only made the fit problems worse.

In an effort to avoid spending extra money to replace a perfectly functional pair of headphones, I turned to Amazon. I expected to find factory replacements at the top of my search results. Instead, I found the Comply T-500 Isolation Earphone Tips. These are a foam replacement tip that works with a variety of different headphones, the Blue Buds X included.

The Comply Tips are only $15. Now, that may seem like a lot in the days of $30 bluetooth sport headphones, but I’m going to venture a guess that the lower priced sport headphones are lacking a bit in sound quality, battery life, or durability. If they’re not, by all means, buy those. However, if you have a more expensive pair, consider this a worthwhile upgrade.

The Comply Tips do have mixed reviews.

One common gripe with the Blue Buds X is installation difficulty. Yes, they are hard to install, but it can be done. You just have to take your time making sure it gets over the outer edge of the earbud as it’s an extremely tight fit.

The other negative reported is durability. I just finished up marathon training, and the first set of tips came through relatively unscathed.

The way these tips work is the foam expands back to its previous shape after it has been compressed. That means you can fit it into your ear canal where you normally would the stock tips, and the foam will expand to fill the gaps. It ends up gripping the inside of your ear canal so that the ear buds can’t work their way out as easily as with the rubbery stock tips.

The fact that they are foam means that they will pick up any sort of junk from your ears, and it won’t come off easily without doing some damage. Mine are looking a bit nasty after 3 months so it’s probably time to swap to the next pair.

Each package includes 3 pair of tips so for the money, I will probably make it about 1 year before I need to order more tips or replace the headphones. Obviously, your results will differ based on the amount and type of training you do wearing the headphones.

Pros:

  • Holds earbuds tightly in your ear
  • Higher quality sound due to better position and seal
Cons:
  • Expensive relative to cheaper earbud options
  • Foam holds dirt and grime and isn’t easily cleaned

Race Report: My First Triathlon – Tulsa Triathlon 50 Mile Distance

2015 Tulsa Triathlon TAT50 Bike Transition

In the Summer of 2014, I started wondering if I was approaching the limits of my ability to improve as a runner. Sporting a leaner upper body due to more cardiovascular training and less strength training, I still couldn’t get under 8 minutes per mile for much longer than 5K. As a result, I would be confined to middle of the pack age group finishes in all but the smallest of the local races. While I have no problem with not winning, the competitive side of me still wanted a goal.

I have always had my eye on the triathlon as a possible alternative or complement to my running. Albeit never a trained swimmer, I spent a lot of time in pools and lakes growing up and have always felt at home in the water. I also knew from experience that my legs would adapt well to cycling. So with dreams of passing triathletes during the run dancing through my head, I dipped my toes into the murky waters of the triathlon.

I bought my bike, a Kestrel Talon, in August 2014. I think I wrecked it the first time in…oh, I don’t know…let’s say…August 2014.

After months of trying to convince myself to make it to LifeTime consistently for swimming, I finally broke down and started training with the masters at the Jenks pool. Since my kids are part of the Jenks swim team, it made it easy for me to train during their workouts. Wearing jammers in front of other Jenks swim parents didn’t really excite me, but I got over it.

It took quite a while, but I finally got into a rhythm with the training. I would usually ride 2x per week during lunch and then swim 2x per week during my kids’ practice. Running continued to be 2x per week during lunch, and I would often add either a weekend long run, bike ride, or both.

After running the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon in late April, I had to take off most of May to get over an achilles injury, and then I traveled with my family to China for most of June. A lot of the work I had done toward the triathlon was lost.

On top of recovery from injury, I dropped 20 pounds while I was in China. That is not a typo. I occasionally mention my GI problems on the blog, and this is an unavoidable consequence of them. I’m sure you’ll call it an eating disorder, but given that I don’t really do it by choice, I just call it a massive inconvenience.

When I travel, I drastically reduce my food intake and retreat to the safest foods possible. Under some circumstances, I will skip multiple meals and/or substitute something like 100 calories in EnergyBITS for an entire meal. 20 days in China really took its toll on me physically. I lost a lot of fat, but I also lost quite a bit of muscle.

My original plan had been to compete in the Red Man Triathlon in September in Oklahoma City, but I really wanted some kind of warm up event to make sure I had the equipment and transitions figured out.

When I returned from China, I found out that the Tulsa Triathlon had been postponed due to flooding and would be rescheduled for late July. The Tulsa Triathlon offered Sprint, Olympic, and 50 mile distances so with 3 weeks to train, I saw no reason why I shouldn’t enter the 50 mile event. Yeah, that’s how my brain works.

The biggest challenge in training was trying to get my heat tolerance where it needed to be. I’m normally perfectly happy in the heat, but my month in China, filled with hot weather and long days of walking though it may have been, stole a month of my usual heat adaptation. In the mid-day heat of July in Oklahoma, my body just couldn’t handle running. I went in to the event knowing it might be a problem but hoping some shade and water dumped on my head every so often would carry me through.

The Swim

2015 Tulsa Triathlon TAT50 Lake Heyburn

Lake Heyburn

I knew from my time with the masters swimmers that I would not be fastest, but if nothing went terribly wrong, I wouldn’t be the slowest either. On most days at the pool, I was cranking at about 2:00 per 100 meters, but this would be my first time testing myself in open water without the occasional break at the wall to catch my breath.

The event took place at Lake Heyburn, a smaller lake about 30 minutes from Tulsa near Kellyville. Lake Heyburn is one of those Oklahoma lakes that looks a little like your favorite Starbuck’s drink. The clay soil keeps the water nice and red so you don’t have to worry about seeing what sea creatures might bite you as you cough and sputter your way around the 2-lap triathlon course.

After a slight delay for a breakaway course buoy, we were off. Since it’s a fairly small race, the start wasn’t as bad as what you often read about online. My biggest problem was that I wasn’t sighting well due to lack of practice, and I completely flubbed the first buoy to start the course.

From there, I set off toward the second buoy of the triangular course. Swimming basically parallel to the shore, it was probably 300 meters to that buoy. My biggest problem on this stretch was maintaining a straight line. You take for granted the markings in a clear pool to help you maintain your heading, and I had trouble finding a rhythm for breathing and sighting that wasn’t wasting a bunch of time.

I think it was in this first lap that one of my friendly competitors found me going off course and decided to sink me. I know a lot of people panic at their first triathlon when a competitor pushes them under, but like I said, I really am very comfortable in the water even if I’m not the fastest swimmer. If I hadn’t been at fault for failing to hold my line, we might have had a disagreement.

There may have been one more collision on that first lap, but I began swimming pretty far outside the buoy line to try to avoid messing up anyone’s race.

When I made the turn for the 2nd lap, I decided to breaststroke a bit to see where I was and catch my breath. All systems checked out so I took off again. This time my drift got so bad that I found myself almost to shore when I felt something on my hand. I had initially thought it was the foot of a swimmer in front of me, but I was a good 10 meters off the line so it seems I had an encounter with an aquatic creature. Shortly after touching my hand, it hit me in the chest. I guess I was too big or not tasty enough for breakfast.

The rest of the 2nd lap was a major beatdown. It honestly felt like I would never make it to that first stupid buoy at the far end of the course. As it turns out, the course went long because the buoy broke lose from its tether. The reason I felt like I was making no progress when sighting the buoy was because I wasn’t. The buoy was running away just as fast as I was chasing it.

Most estimates have us swimming 2,200 or more meters for what was supposed to be a 1,500 meter course. When I got out of the water and looked at my watch, though, I saw 45 minutes and 2,200 meters and thought I had zig-zagged so badly that I had added 700 meters to my swim. So that was a bit of a downer, but I knew the swim was my weakest event, and I was honestly much more worried about the hills on the bike.

The Bike

The day before the race, I drove the bike course just to get an idea of the elevation changes and the turns. What I found was far beyond anything I had ridden. I don’t train to avoid hills, but I also don’t train to encounter them either. I spend most of my time on the Riverparks trail system, and you just don’t find long, rolling hills like what the Tulsa Triathlon course offered out on Route 66. Even where you do have some rolling hills, there just aren’t enough of them to compare.

Given my lack of training, my strategy was to conserve my energy uphill and push hard on the downhill. My cardiovascular system was in better shape than my quads so that was really my only strategy. On this course, that frequently meant swinging from 12-15 mph uphill to 35 mph+ downhill, but they were long hills so I often felt like I was going nowhere while climbing some of the hills.

On the 40 mile course, I was able to average 17 mph which I consider a serious win given my level of training.

The Run

2015 Tulsa Triathlon TAT50 Run

I Ran For the Picture...When It Counted

After wasting a considerable amount of time in transition (slowest transition of the field…wohoo!), I set out on the run. I was so happy to be out of the water and off of the bike that I had no care in the world about pace. I knew how to run with burnt quads so all systems were go, and I was probably running around 8:00 to 8:15 pace.

I was so happy that when I saw the first aid station at the beginning of the run loop, I turned down the cold towels they were handing out to all runners. That was a mistake. The heat and the hills quickly caught up to me. Within 1/2 mile, I was questioning why I wasn’t feeling right. After running the first hill, I was forced to walk to the next aid station.

The 2nd aid station was around the halfway point of the 5K loop. For the 50 mile distance, we were running 3 5K loops. I filled up on water, dumped a bunch on my head, let the kid with the squirt gun spray me as much as he liked, and then set out across the Lake Heyburn dam. By the time I got back to the same aid station, I had to do the same dance again. Water, water, more water, and I was still overheating.

That’s basically the story of my run. I had to run-walk the entire 15K run. It was the first time I had ever gotten to run in temperatures that I love running in, and I failed miserably.

On the 2nd lap, I kind of figured out how to keep my body cool, but it was all too far gone. We were running in a 110 degree heat index with absolutely no shade on an extremely hilly course. You can’t let the needle move as close to heat exhaustion as I did and come back from it.

My 3rd lap was faster, but I still only managed to notch a 12:57 pace over the full 15K distance, little better than walking the entire 15K.

The Finish

2015 Tulsa Triathlon TAT50 Finish

2015 Tulsa Triathlon TAT50 Finish

For the 1500 meter swim (hardy-har-har), 40 mile bike, and 15K run, I finished in 5:12:48. Much like most running races, I finished in the middle of the pack. Due to the number of competitors, I actually took home an award for 3rd place in my age group.

The Postmortem

During the last few miles of the bike and most of the run, I didn’t feel right. In training and racing both, I’ve logged some serious time from blowing up for whatever reason, and I had never felt quite like I did during the triathlon. Heat couldn’t explain all of it, nor could my lack of training. In truth, I felt fine later that same day most likely due to the fact that I was forced to walk so much of the run course. My legs were still itching for a run since they hadn’t really run that day, at least not the way they’re used to running.

Within a couple of days, my body gave me the answer. I had picked up some kind of stomach bug. Now, to be completely honest, I could have picked it up before the race, but due to the digestive issues I have already, I take a lot of precautions with food heading into a race. The odds of me having picked up a bacterial infection were slim, and given that school was out, the odds of a viral stomach bug were equally slim.

I believe I picked up something from Lake Heyburn that morning. That would explain why I felt I needed tons more fuel at the end of the bike even though I had been fueling more than normal for a bike ride. It also explains some of my struggle to stay hydrated in the heat. My body just wasn’t digesting the electrolytes in my gel, and due to the fact that I can’t consume gatorade, I was stuck. I had no alternatives.

Keep in mind, I grew up water skiing in Lake Carl Blackwell, a lake that looks every bit as nasty as Lake Heyburn. Picking up some kind of bacterial infection wasn’t even on my radar, but when I did some research after the fact online, it appears to be a pretty common issue. It’s often exacerbated by heavy rains and flooding of which Lake Heyburn had received both in spades in the weeks leading into the triathlon. They even had a greywater disposal pond within site of the swim start and who knows what kind of farms are distributed around the perimeter of the lake.

Parting Thoughts

Suffice it to say I’m having second-thoughts about my interest in the triathlon. For my level of fitness at the time, the Tulsa Triathlon could be considered a success, but I fought with a stomach bug for over a month following the event. No, I wasn’t puking every day, but in the interests of avoiding TMI, let’s just agree that I was not “normal” for over a month. For a person who spent the better part of a decade fighting to find some kind of “normal,” it wasn’t a good experience reliving that time in my life.

Looking at the times logged for the 50 mile event, I could definitely be competitive if properly trained and healthy, but at this point, I don’t know if I want to climb back into another Oklahoma lake. I might be willing to climb into the Atlantic, but that’s a much bigger financial commitment than I want to make right now.

Ironically enough, training for the triathlon seemed to break whatever plateau I had experienced in my running. I’m now pushing my pace down into the low 7’s for half marathon distance so I’m becoming a bit more competitive. If I happen to show up to a race where some of the stupid-fast 40 year olds don’t, I might actually take an age group award. It’s really all luck of the draw unless I can get just a little bit faster…