Spirit of Triathlon

Ground speed vs. Liquid speed

While waiting for my new roller skis to arrive, I revert to Spirit of Triathlon. Which way to the beach?

Today’s half mile against the tide, cross wave swim felt more like a mile. Although the wind was just moderate from the west, the waves were menacing. Not big in amplitude, but fast and high frequency. I suspect Hurricane Harvey had something to do with this.

I have swum in rough water, but this seemed more difficult than other swims I recall with even higher seas. I was being lifted and lowered about every two to three seconds. Normally waves are more like ten seconds apart around here. Maintaining forward inertia was difficult with all the up and down and side-to-side going on.  It felt like I was swimming on one of those old vibrating football table games [they still make them!]. My travel was not entirely up to me. Add to that the strong incoming tide and you have a striking difference between “ground speed” and “liquid speed”. I really needed a more fluid-dynamic swim suit. My long sleeved shirt kept billowing out and bunching up, constricting my shoulder movement and increasing drag. Pretty much the same deal with today’s  shorts.

The lighting was interesting. Clearwater’s water is seldom clear, and today the bottom was being churned up pretty well. The water was a chalky white cloud. The horizontal light from the nearly setting sun would get blocked by the taller waves, darkening the water just before passing under me and lifting me back up into the more brightly illuminated surface. Dark shadow, chalky light cloud, dark shadow, chalky light cloud, …

North American Vasa -164 days

-164 days (today): Spirit of Triathlon, under sunny skies

-165 days (Tuesday) Spirit of Triathlon, rain soaked)

-166 days (Monday): 6 mile run/walk, rain soaked

Ready to Climb


The vertical profile of the Noquemanon 50 km Ski Marathon has me inspired to climb.

Right at the half-way point of the course described as “deceptively tough” is a climb described this way on the race web site:

As you get closer to the Basin, you’ll come upon aid station #3 at the 29.8K mark. Leaving that party, skiers cross South Camp Road and drop onto the Basin for a 250 meter lake crossing. The rugged hills to the North provide a beautiful backdrop; beautiful, that is, until you realize that they’re up next to climb! Upon leaving the Basin at 27.9K, skiers begin a 400′ uphill climb into the hills of Granite Point.

The Granite Point area contains old growth white and red pine forests and some of the best scenery on the course. This Granite Point section has been revamped in the Fall of 2016 and most of the tight turns and difficult hills have been removed. This section used to be 7K long and is now a 3K stretch straight through to county road 510. Although most of the technical difficulties of this section have been removed, skiers will still reach the highest point on the course with an elevation of 1635 feet at the 25K mark. With 25K’s to go, skiers start to reap the rewards for their efforts as they begin the 1,000-foot “net” (key word) descent to the finish line on the shores of Lake Superior. A 1.5K long downhill cruise leads to County Road 510 – the starting area for the mBank Half Noque.

It is flat here on the “West coast of the East coast of North America” [#Florida], but our bridges rise about 25 meters above the Intra-Coastal Waterway. So, back and forth over the bridge 3 times would result in six climbs, roughly equivalent to that one climb on the Noquemanon. To match the 1,784 feet of climbing over the entire course, I would need to complete 24 bridge crossings. And given the length of the bridge at .77 km, I would need to add about 1.3 km extra to each crossing to make the whole workout match the 50 km race distance. Ok, ready to start with my first one!

Skiing Halted by Another Flat Tire

Got home from work yesterday ready to head down to the Memorial Causeway out to Clearwater Beach and do some bridge climbing. Alas, another flat V2 Aero XL 150 tire. Although I have a spare tube, I cannot change it. The tires are just too tight on the rims unless you have the special V2 Aero Tire Station ($$$), which I have no intention of getting. My option has been to ship the wheel up to the Cross Country Ski Shop in Grayling, Michigan and miss a week or two of training until they come back with new tubes.

I am no longer willing to miss that much training, so today I ordered the cheapest pair of standard (100 mm x 24 mm) solid wheeled skate roller skis on the internet: Ski Sket Shark with NNN bindings for $168 plus shipping, from NordicSkaters.com in Norwich, Vermont. Even Bob at the Cross Country Ski Shop approved. I was warned by [guy at store 1] that my 230 pounds put me over the max for this ski and that they might sag, or even bend #NotGood, but that I could cut and insert a piece of hardwood as a splint into the interior cavity of the ski to reinforce each ski, at least until I get my weight down. Ok, I can do that.

naVasa2018 -164 days.Ski Skett Shark

The [2009] Ski Sket Shark skis, made in Italy are on their way. #SolidTires #NoFlatTires

North American Vasa -167 days

Spirit of Triathlon:

bike: 4   miles
run:  4   miles
swim: 0.5 mile
bike: 4   miles

A glorious day at the beach.

Got out and back before lunch and before the mid-afternoon downpour. Did the whole run segment without stopping to rest. I must be getting lighter again. The water was slightly cooler, with just enough wave action to keep the swim interesting.

The lifeguards had the yellow flags up. The girl manning lifeguard stand #5 said it was due to an undertow condition. After my swim I could see what she was talking about, but the conditions I swam in would cause yellow flags only at Clearwater Beach. It was a beautiful day for a swim. The guy at lifeguard stand #2 agreed, although he said he had swum a mile or so earlier in the morning, and the undertow condition was more pronounced then. Lifeguard #2 also mentioned that he will be doing a longer swim out in California, the Escape from Alcatraz even. Now, that could be a place with reason for yellow flags.

Target Tips

I cannot bring myself to spend $15-20 for roller ski ferrules.  I have been disappointed with how quickly they become rounded and start slipping on asphalt. Forget about concrete. For that price, I expect better. I have also tried rubber tips, but those lasted no more than a week or two before the aluminum tube of my poles began to slice clean through. Since the steel tips will be rounded and start slipping after a few ski åknings, I came up with a dime-a-dozen solution. Well, it is really about a five-or-six-dollar-a-dozen solution, and it involves archery target tips.


I obviously left my old tips on a wee bit too long, but there is still enough plastic left for the steel threads to bite into. There shouldn’t be a problem with them staying attached.

I have a theory that having pole tips that tend to slip at very low angles is a good thing for encouraging development of proper leg technique and strength. I believe in letting the lower body do the majority of the work while the upper body assists with balance and  maintaining the inertia gained by the legs. This is the exact opposite of swimming, which gets 80% of its power from upper body parts. Since I like to swim, too, I will maintain this dichotomy, at least during my summer training. So, when my target tips begin to wear, I do not even bother to rotate them 180° to expose the sharper edge to the pavement. This does work to make the tips bite better, but the effect is short lived and tends to encourage more reliance on upper body strength.

When I do eventually get onto actual snow with frozen ground beneath it, I may change my mind about letting the upper body “kick in” more.

Michigan has more than just the North American Vasa?


This morning before heading out for my Spirit of Triathlon, I discovered two more Michigan Nordic distance events that I simply must add to my schedule! Yesterday I was watching youtube videos of biathlon athletes, equipment, training and racing, when I had the stupendous idea of Googling [traverse city bithlon]. Google kindly corrected my spelling and showed me results for [traverse city biathlon], which included a 2016 article titled, Winter Brings Fierce Snowsport Competitions to Traverse City, . This article mentioned something called the White Pine Stampeed, and somehow I also stumbled upon the Noquemanon Ski Marathon.

I am so excited to have these new goals in addition to the North American Vasa. I am jazzed because it seemed a bit senseless to move to Michigan for two months, just for a race. I was considering attempting Saturday’s 48 km skate and Sunday’s 30 km classic races, back-to-back, which worried me. The 48 km still feels a bit daunting. Even though I completed 56% of the distance in a single åkning, heading back out and repeating that distance is not yet real to me and I have not had a chance to train with classic technique.

Well, now I have three skate events in the 50 km range, each a whole week apart, the first in the U.P.*:

Noquemanon Ski Marathon
50 km; Saturday, 2018/01/27

White Pine Stampede
50 km; Saturday, 2018/02/03

North American Vasa
48 km; Saturday, 2018/02/10

#excited #jazzed #stoked #happySkier #OffToTheRaces

*U.P.: Upper Peninsula; the northern part of Michigan, across the Mackinac Bridge from the Lower Peninsula; The Lower Peninsula, however, is never referred to as the L.P.; The Northern part of the Lower Peninsula is referred to as Northern Michigan, but lies south of the Upper Peninsula.

North American Vasa -168 days

27 km (*);

56% of 48K target

[biker 29] That’s really awesome!

[skier 1] Thank you!

[biker 31] That’s a good way to practice for snow skiing. If you can do that, you can ski on snow.

[skier 1 thinks to himself, with more than a hint of sarcasm] Ah, thanks. I’ll have to look into that.

Roller Ski distance PR

I skied fairly slowly today, concentrating mostly on just staying relaxed. Though tired, I was not as spent at the end as I was after my previous longest ski of 26 km on -189 days. Today I had my own lemon/lime water, though not enough of it, just 1.5 liters. Despite drinking that, plus a glass or two before heading out, my body weight dropped 4 kilograms, from 103.5 to 99.5 during the workout. I hope hydration is not quite such a dramatic issue in cooler temperatures.

I was thinking I might do 30 kilometers, but my route was not friendly to that number. I chose to do several “retracings” of the northern most mile, instead of continuing further north for a straight “out and back”. The particular mile that I retraced has a nice road surface and is completely flat. Today I opted for flat to keep things a bit easier. I do look forward to confronting hills, eventually.

naVasa2018 -168 days.A hill in Lysebotn, Norway

This is a hill: Blink 2016 – Lysebotn Opp – Women’s race, in Lysebotn, Norway

(*) Phone/Striver app failure

27 kilometers is my estimated final distance based on an intermediate reading with about 6.5 km to go, but somewhere between there and home I heard a loud beep from my sopping sweat drenched shorts pocket and the cell phone, sealed in a quart sized ziplock baggie was completely locked up and unresponsive. I had to reboot it and lost all the workout data.

Countdown to 100 kg

I cheated on my diet Sunday at Macaroni Grill to celebrate my daughter’s completion of high school. Chicken Scallopini comes with pasta and I ate it, wheat and all; even had a bite of the bread. Maybe two bites. The bread was not as irresistible as it used to be. Same bread, I just seem to have lost my craving for it


Since Monday, my weight graph seems to have reversed from a down trend to an up trend. I am assuming the gluten was a bad influence and will do my best to get back on track. No other significant changes that I can think of, except my roller ski workouts the past two days got replaced by a triathlon and a 4 mile run, respectively. I do not see the problem there.

Let’s hope that small bodied bearish candle is por·ten·tous.

North American Vasa 2018 -171 days

Skiing was rained out, so I rode the fixie to Pier 60 for a beach run. I also jumped into the water for a few strokes, so technically it was a Spirit of Triathlon workout. I knew I was attempting to thread the needle between several fast moving storm cells [ #again #WelcomeToFlorida ], so I was not surprised to get caught at the Pier 60 pavilion when the winds blew and rains came and darkness covered the face of the deep. I ventured out for my beach run when the rain slowed a bit, splashing through the lapping surf for  about half a mile before nearby lightning drove me back up the beach to the relative shelter of Lifeguard Stand Number 6.

There I met two ladies from New Orleans also seeking shelter from the storm. One was having her birthday.  I saw the weather radar map on one of their cell phones. We were just on the northern edge of a “train” of thunder storm cells making their way from the east toward the Gulf of Mexico. There seemed to be no end. But eventually there was another lull and the ladies gathered themselves under an umbrella and scampered off to their dinner at Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill.

After another ten minutes I determined the coast to be clear, literally, although there were still lightning strikes happening two to three miles off and heading away. The drama had drained out of the immediate vicinity and I enjoyed the light show from a relatively safe distance, if  in a slightly apprehensive sort of way for the rest of my darkening beach run.

North American Vasa 2018 -172 days

20 km; 1:39:27; 12.1 km/h; 49m elevation; strava;

The ultimate pleasure of skiing?

I quoted Dan Mallet back on –176 days:

“The real objective and ultimate pleasure of skiing is riding a flat ski at high speed for as long as you can.” – Dan Mallet, North American Biathlon Champion

Today, I got a better idea of what he may be saying. I was feeling very “rewarded” at about the half way point of this evening’s 20 km ski. I was following Mallet’s suggestion as well or better than I had up to today, moving fast (for me), with longer glides on flatter skis, and it felt really good. Now, to multiply that moment into many moments, and to extend their duration. Part of the solution, I believe has been to improve my physical condition. With reduced weight and increased strength, balance becomes easier and technique improves. Distances, speeds and pleasures go up. I will label these as rules number 3 and 4.

So far, we have these “rules”:

  1. breaking form breaks speed
  2. Eat to perform
  3. Perform to perform
  4. Perform to enjoy.

Lemon/Lime Water

Today I carried two 750 ml stainless steel bottles of lemon/lime water. The mixture contains the juice of one whole lemon and one whole lime in a large (2 liter?) pitcher of Mountain Valley Spring Water (delivered to our home in 5 gallon glass bottles). I believe drinking this tonight played a large role in how much better I felt than the previous two days’ workouts. The last two days I drank about as frequently and about the same volume as today, but from Dunedin’s pubic drinking fountains along the Pinellas Trail. Dunedin has the best municipal drinking water in the area, but it is far from ideal. The lemon/lime water may be very close to ideal. I will make more observations on this to determine if it is really as effective as I hope it is.

naVasa2018 -172 days.water vessels

I carried the bottles in a thin little bag with cinch rope shoulder bands. Technically, it is a Tampa Buccaneers sou·ve·nir bag with GEICO printed in big white letters. I do not need to advertise for them, so I wore the printed side in. Nor do I really need a sipping pipe leading back to a bladder holding my liquid refreshment. I am quite willing to stop, remove the bag from my back, open a bottle and drink. It is not important to me to never stop moving. Taking a little break every few miles is just fine with me.

I almost left the little “backpack” and bottles home, worried that the thin straps might prove bothersome and restrict my arm and shoulder movement. But I recalled how my arms were “falling asleep” on my 8 km walk last weekend, wearing my regular backpack with padded shoulder straps. This little thing couldn’t be as bad as that, I thought, and I was right*. I really had very little attention on having anything on my back and shoulders.

*I was not right. My lovely wife and assistant, Susan was right, since the whole idea of using this bag as a water backpack was her idea. Thanks, Susan.

North American Vasa 2018 -173 days

13.9 km; 1:04:40; avg 12.9 km/h; strava

[skate boarder1] Who needs snow when we’ve got pavement, right?

[skier 1] That’s right. [Thinking: I do. I need snow, but now is not a good time to start a discussion.]

[biker 1] Cool.

[skier 1 smiles]

[woman watering lawn] Looking good.

[skier 1] Thanks. [Thinking: I never look really good negotiating the huge bump all the way across the trail right in this spot. ]

Faster than yesterday’s ski, but still a bit of a grind at the end. Out skied the rain once again, and I got out, which is the main thing.  No falls, despite a couple close calls. Getting longer, flatter glides on the right leg is still a challenge. One of the close calls was having to plant the right pole hard to recover from catching too much of an outside right edge.