Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Longhorn and other thoughts

So we're a few weeks out from the Longhorn half Ironman and I thought I'd share some thoughts on the experience. Overall I was really pleased with the way it turned out. I had a game plan and stuck to it. in the end it wasn't flawless but it was successful. I was ready for the race and I really had a good time once it had started. The beginning of the day, however, was stressful. When I got to my bike that morning I found that it had a flat tire. Because there were two transitions I did not have a pump so I had to track one down. After getting my the tire changed I tried inflating. Either because of nerves or because I was not familiar with the pump I snapped of the stem on my tube while trying to inflate the tire. I changed it again but they were trying to close transition. I cut my thumb but got the tire fixed (again). I got the tire pumped but didn't get a chance to check the bead or do anything else to ensure it was alright. I had also used both of my backup tubes so if something went wrong and I had another flat I was doomed. Luckily for me that never happened. After that I got in the water after saying hi to Kennon and Mel. Maybe because of the stress the flat or the gravity of what I was starting I sort of panicked in the water. My heart rate went high and I was having difficulty getting my stroke on. I eventually got going but never felt fully comfortable. After getting out of the water I headed for transition and got on my bike keeping my fingers crossed that the tire would stay together. My goal was to keep my heart rate at around 80 BPM. This is a pretty comfortable pace but I knew I had a half Marathon to complete. The bike course started off pretty hilly. there are a lot of hills in the first 12 miles. I knew that going in and kind of considered that part of the transition. After turning away from the lake and on to (Somewhat) flatter roads I tucked in and just got in a groove. I saw Liz on the bike. I caught up with her near the end of the bike. Coming in to T2 I could see the runners out on the course and I sort of had a WTF? moment. I was pretty tired and still had hours of running to complete. I shook that off and concentrated on having a smooth transition. I got my running shoes on and hit the road. as I was leaving transition a well meaning supporter yelled, "Congratulations, You're almost there."
I thought, "Are you crazy lady? I'm about to start a half marathon." I just started laughing. I think she may have been annoyed but it totally relieved the death grip that doubt had put on my psyche. During the run the game plan really started to pay off. I felt like I had enough in the tank to complete the run. I even had negative splits on the three loops of the course. After the race I saw Corrie, and all my friends. It was an overwhelmingly emotional experience. After the race I was starving but nothing seemed edible. I ended up eating a powerbar, because I hadn't had enough of those apparently.
I only took a few days off after the race and then got back to the pool. I feel good moving forward and am looking forward to increasing the training heading into St George. I've been working with my friend Robby on my swimming. He's been great and has helped me tweak a few things in my stroke that are having huge benefits.
I was talking to Mark during the Jack and Adams group ride this last weekend. He said something that I will be focusing on moving forward. He said when you're training and racing long triathlons you have to be your own best friend. I've found that couldn't be more true. when you're out there you have to be your own cheerleader, entertainment, and psychologist. It's funny that something that seems so masochistic has already taught me to love myself more. It may seem antithetical but it's one of those beautiful contradictions you find in life when you step outside your comfort zone.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Countdown to Longhorn

Tomorrow is the big day. The Longhorn half Ironman. I'm surprisingly calm given what I have in store tomorrow. I've been focussing on a quote from Mark Twain: Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear--not absence of fear. I'm keeping calm by remembering that It's not a bad thing to be a little nervous as long as I meet that with my training and preparation. Conditions should be good for a great race. I'm all checked in and have everything ready to go. I'm about to head out and grab some pasta with friends then a quite night with an early bedtime. Wish me luck,

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A pool, a pool. My kingdom for a pool.

Why is the City of Austin Parks and Recreation doing this to me. With 3 weeks left until the half Ironman they go and close Balcones Pool for two weeks. Ugh. Balcones pool is so convenient for me. I can get there swim for 40 minutes and get back to my desk during my lunch hour. Now that is out. The closest pool is now a 20 minute drive. So today now when I want to swim I have to schlep it downtown to deep eddy and hope there isn't a twenty minute wait for a lane. I guess I'll chalk this up to another lesson in being flexible.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Adjusting on the fly

So today was a good example of having a plan and having to adjust to life. The Plan was to swim at lunch and to run after work. If only it could just be that easy. About 10 minutes before I was going to leave work for the pool I got an IM from Sylvia our Realtor®. She let me know that some one wanted to come over right away and take a look at the condo and would it be alright if I let them in. So I rushed home and let them in answered a few questions and by then my lunch break was over. I still had two workouts I wanted to do but now had to do them between getting off of work and dinner. To add to that the pool doesn't open until 5:30 now that the kids are back in school. I usually like to go with the swim first while I'm fresh but that was out of the question today. So at four I was off to the gym. 50 minutes on the treadmill and 20 minutes core. Then off to the pool for a quick 1500 M. I still got everything in that I wanted to I just had to be flexible.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


So I've not been so good about blogging. Apparently training for triathlon takes up a lot of time. Who Knew? Well I'm going to try and kick it back into gear. So where am I? My Countdown widget says I have 225 days 20 hours 52 minutes and 12 seconds till the gun goes off in St. George. Am I ready? No, not yet but I don't need to be ready yet. Will I be ready? That's the big question. I think I will be. There is still a ton of work left to do but I'm getting better every day.

So some observations thus far:
Organization is key. Trying to cram everything into my schedule is tricky. I've made a commitment to Corrie to try everything in my power to be done training at 6:30 PM. This has been a blessing and a curse. It's a blessing because I have to keep my act together. I need to make sure I get the my lunch time run in, or that I'm wheels down on the bike within 20 minutes of getting home from work. It's taught me to look ahead. I have to have workouts planned for the week. I know what I'll be doing today tomorrow and the next.

There's a big difference between sore and in pain. I spend most of my time sore. My legs, my shoulders, my back. It's been good to learn the difference between that and being injured.

Alright hopefully I'll talk to you sooner next time.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Galveston Race Report Part 1

Race Report: Lonestar Triathlon Festival Quarter Iron, Galveston Texas 4/5/2009
Joe Puscas
Bib 1167
Age 32
Swim Rank: 55, Swim Time: 29:35.55, Swim Pace: 3:04
Transition 1: 05:21.25
Bike Rank: 51, Bike Time: 1:41:07.50, Bike Pace: 16.6
Transition 2: 03:06.70
Run Rank: 50, Run Time: 1:20:34.25, Run Pace : 12:24
Total Time: 3:39:45.25

Lead in:
I have run a lot in the last few years having completed two marathons. I’ve decided to make the transition to triathlon. That being said I felt a lot more comfortable with my running abilities than I did with my biking and swimming. I made the decision to do this triathlon the week after the Austin Marathon so I had roughly six weeks to get ready. I decided to focus 65% of my training time on swimming since I had very little experience in competitive swimming. The other 35% was mostly cycling. Coming off the Austin Marathon I had promised myself no running for 4 weeks, and I stuck to that.

The swim training I did consisted mostly of lap swimming at Deep Eddy pool. I have to thank my uncle Michael and Brother in Law Steve for giving me some great advice. Without them I’m not sure I could have gone from zero swimming to completing a 966 meter open water swim in six weeks. In the future I plan on incorporating a lot more drill work in my swimming but for this one I decided to Swim, Swim, Swim. Overall I’ve never been a fan of lap swimming but after my technique started to get better and I stopped struggling so much I started to enjoy it so much more. I was only able to get one real open water swim in and that was unfortunate.

The bike training I did in two parts: short weeknight rides, and long group rides with Jack and Adams or the Austin Cycling Association. Again with the cycling I plan on doing a lot more drill work in the future but figured with the short training schedule just getting out and riding would help more than anything. Also being new to cycling I was still working on getting the bike fit dialed in.

For the running I only had a few weeks of real training time and to be honest I didn’t run very much. Most of my runs consisted of short brick runs. A brick run is a run done immediately after finishing a bike ride. I did several of these but nothing over 4 miles.

Another thing I did for this race was rent a wetsuit. Wetsuits are allowed in Triathlons where the water temperature is below 78 degrees. The real advantage of having a wetsuit is that the make you more buoyant and streamlined. It’s definitely an investment I’m going to make for the Ironman training.

Race Weekend:
The race was in Galveston about 4 hours from Austin. I was traveling with two other triathletes, Liz Baldinger and Mercedes Orten, as well as my wife Corrie. We left friday evening after everyone got off of work. We took Liz’s SUV which we packed to the gills with gear. We bought a bike rack on craigslist which we’d never used before but it worked great! We stopped for sandwiches and got to Liz’s parents house in Friendswood about 10:30. We locked up the bikes had a Snack and went to bed.

I have to comment on how great our hosts were. We stayed with Liz’s folks and we received rock star treatment. Liz’s mom had ever food an endurance athlete could want: bagels, cereal, bread, fruit. she had even heard that some people like to have candy with them and had a bag of gummy bears for each of us. She even let me keep the toy from the box of Cheerrios :) Liz’s dad helped us with the bikes and offered some great encouragement.

Saturday was race expo day. I woke up at 6:30 like I do most days. I read the paper and watched sports center till everyone else woke up. We had breakfast and headed to the expo about 11:45. Moody Gardens, the race location, was about 30 minutes from Liz’s parents house.

Galveston is, for the most part, a city in ruin. Hurricane Ike last fall brought this city to its knees. It is not even close to recovered. Many businesses have not reopened and they sit boarded up in disrepair. We saw large boats left in parking lots and now vacant lots. One antique store we went in only had the front part open because the roof had caved in on the back. Moody Gardens, where the race took place, looked good, as well as some of the more touristy areas. The neighborhoods however seemed devastated. I would guess that maybe one out of four houses were inhabited. According to what I heard it was never an affluent city but I’m not sure if it can ever recover. It’s sad because New Orleans got so much publicity but Galveston is just as much of a mess 8 months later. I’m glad I could go there and spend some money. I hope the race does some good for the community.

The expo was great. They had several vendors and sponsors. We did a little shopping and I bought a Tri-belt. There was a mandatory meeting for race participants at 12:45 and then packet pickup. The meeting explained all the rules and the way you could be penalized. After getting everything we needed we went out for some lunch and to visit some places in Galveston that Liz had been before. Unfortunately the retro Ice cream shop that she had been to before had not survived.

We headed back to the house for a delicious pasta dinner. We had turkey pasta sauce with lots of bread. After dinner we went and grabbed an ice cream cone since we missed out that afternoon. Then we loaded up the bikes, checked our gear, and went to bed about 9:30. I slept pretty well all things considered.

The alarm went off at 4:15. That’s right 4:15 AM. I got up as quietly as I could but still managed to wake up Corrie. I had a breakfast of cereal, tea, sports drink and a couple of bites of banana. We threw everything in the truck and headed off into the dark

At the race site everything was so well organized. They had a parking garage about 1/4 mile from the transition area. We unloaded and walked over to the transition area. Being my first triathlon I wasn’t quite sure how to set everything out but I did a pretty decent job. I put down my run gear then bike gear I double checked my tires and felt everything was in order. Then I realized I needed to pee. I wanted to go the the port-a-potty but the line were long and the race was getting ready to start. I didn’t want to get locked out of the transition area. So I made the decision to go in my wetsuit once I jumped in the water. That worked fine, but remember that if you ever rent a wetsuit. Once everything was set I walked over to the swim start. I saw Ray on my way over. He’s a running buddy that had come down to spectate. It was really great of him to come out.

The Race:
I was in wave five of the race. It was a deep water star which means that you jump off a dock and swim over to the start line (After taking care of business of course). Then once they blow the horn everyone starts swimming. Being a weaker swimmer I decided to stay to the back and outside. At the start I was feeling pretty good. My stroke was nice and long and I felt like I was moving well in the water. About 200 meters in we made the first turn. This is where my biggest struggle occurred. I’m not sure why it was set up this way but the wave after the Clydesdales (men over 200 lb.) was the elite women. So they started bearing down on us 6 minutes after our start. Making the left hand turn around the buoy I got kicked in the face and ended up with my goggles around my neck. No problem I thought I just put them back on my face and continue. As I was fixing the goggles one of the speedy ladies swam right over the top of me. I ended up drinking a mouthful of saltwater and panicking a little. I sort of lost my composer for a second and started flailing. Luckily one of the race supporters on a surfboard was right there. She let me hang onto the surfboard and regain my composure. Thank you mystery surfboard lady. After that incident I didn’t quite feel right again. I had lost a little confidence and was taking more breaks to make sure I was on course. I was also concerned I would get in the way of an elite athlete and mess them up. So I stayed wide and took my time in the surf. after the last turn into the shore I started to get my stroke back and finished strong.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Quick update

So I'm working on a full race report for Sunday's quarter iron. I did well and was overall happy with the day. This week has been a little odd. I sort of threw my back out sneezing yesterday. Weird, I know. I'm feeling beter and have been hitting the pool. Hopefully I'll be able to publish the full report by this weekend.