Category Archives: Flying

Lately

Time flies when you’re having fun. The old adage needs a footnote. Fun, or training for a triathlon. I haven’t added up the number of hours I’ve been training every week, but I’d be willing to bet it rivals the hours I work at my part-time job. Sometimes I wake up in the mornings, instantly transported back to the height of my marathon training last fall. Constantly tired, constantly sore, and constantly hungry (more on this point later). I think it’s an act of God that I haven’t been injured yet through the course of my training because let’s be honest, as I sit here writing this post stuffing my face with a muffin the size of a softball, I know it’s not my physique getting me through these workouts.

Over the past week or so I’ve stuck to the 12 Week Olympic Triathlon Training Plan I outlined a while back, with only one modification. Before discussing what hasn’t worked though, let’s discuss improvements. In my last post, I semi-jokingly (mostly seriously), asked how on earth one goes about increasing swimming stamina and endurance. This walrus is seriously in need of a few pointers from a dolphin (heck, I’ll take trout at this point). Since then though, I’ve made a few improvements. Wednesday I swam a mile in 43 minutes. A full 17 minutes faster than when I started. I’m sure I could shave 5 more minutes off this time if I cut out the breaks every two laps or could learn to flip-turn without making the lifeguard think I was having a seizure at the end of the pool. One thing at a time though.

Running hasn’t provided too many surprises as of late. Thursday I had a 60 minute speed workout and I ran my fastest 10K ever (46:15), which I was extremely happy about. Speaking of 10K’s, I signed up for one that takes place in two weeks here in Stillwater. My goal is to finish in under 47:00 which seems completely doable. There was also a 5K here yesterday to support the OSU Triathlon Team, which I came extremely close to doing, but couldn’t figure out a way to work it into my brick. Let me tell you about this race: First of all, this was basically the most amazing race I’ve ever heard of. After every mile you had to eat a donut (doughnut? That war still rages on inside my grammatically fixated mind…). Essentially it combined two of my favorite activities: running and stuffing my face with as much fried, sugar covered, dough as possible. The Fiancee and my parents can vouch for the fact that if someone was driving in front of me with almost any type of food, I could bust out some sub 5 minute miles (Note: this has never been scientifically tested, but I’m open to it). Unfortunately, I had a 3 hour brick to do.

Which brings us to yesterday, a 150 minute Z2 bike followed by a 30 minute Z2 run. For those of you who aren’t familiar with small Oklahoma towns, I would probably have to cycle around the entire city 30 times to get that kind of time in on the bike. So me being me, I decided to hop on trusty Highway 51 and do a simple 24 miles out and 24 back. A few cyclists use Highway 51 because it has large shoulders and is reasonably straight and seemed only moderately hilly. “Seemed” being the key word there. The thing to realize about Oklahoma is that once you’re East of I-35 the landscape changes from unbelievably flat to moderately hilly. Without considering this fact I blindly headed east towards Tulsa. This is when things got interesting.

Below is the elevation graph for the duration of my ride. For any readers who routinely climb thousands of feet every ride and then get off at the top of the hill only to say, “Let’s do that again!” Let me complain for a moment: The lowest point on this graph is 790 feet. The highest is just over 1000 feet, but the stupid dang road had you do it over and over and over again. The most I’ve ever climbed on a given ride is just over 500 feet. On this route I climbed 1,655 feet. Oh, and add in the fact that the winds were gusting to 28 mph yesterday straight into my face on the way home. It turned what was supposed to be a 2.5 hour ride into 5 minutes shy of 3 hours.

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As I dragged myself back into town after the ride from hell, I found I was having trouble keeping down the GU packet I’d eaten at half way and the GU Brew I’d been sipping on. When I got home I collapsed on the floor of my apartment burnt to a crisp physically and mentally. I was extremely dehydrated and was definitely feeling it. I laid there for probably half an hour taking in as much water as I could stomach. After I while I had the strength to kick off my cycling shoes and shower off. This was my first experience with dehydration during exercise and I was determined never to let it happen again. Coming from a running background, I had no idea how much you should consume while cycling. After a little research I found that it’s generally recommended to drink about 28 oz. per hour of cycling. I had just completed 3 hours with one 25 oz. bottle of GU Brew. Not my finest hour(s).

Needless to say, the brick didn’t happen yesterday. I think part of being a good endurance athlete is knowing when to push and when to say enough is enough. My body had been through enough so I didn’t push it. I joke a lot on my blog because I like to keep things light. My intention with this story wasn’t to highlight my own ignorance (although I think that came through pretty glaringly), but to caution any other new cyclists/triathletes to consider proper hydration. Just because it’s low impact doesn’t mean you can forget hydration.

Lastly, I thought I would share some of my favorite shots from last month. Most of these were over Spring Break in Oklahoma City. I caught the below picture while cycling one morning. Couldn’t have been more perfect!

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The Golden was happy that we were on Spring Break too. That meant more time at the dog park!
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The dog park has a lake that the dogs can swim in. We couldn’t get Brinkley to stop swimming. Maybe I should take some lessons from him. He does two out of the three sports right?

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Spring time in Oklahoma means one thing: storm season. I snapped this picture of a severe thunderstorm that was passing about 30 miles south of us. Nothing can quite capture how massive these things are.

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Hopefully everyone’s training has been going well. Remember to take some time to relax and in the words of The Most Interesting Man in the World: Stay thirsty my friends.

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Happiness: Days 9 & 10

For one reason or another, I’ve had The Pursuit of Happiness on my mind lately. You know, the movie with Will Smith? If you asked me why I couldn’t tell you. Maybe it’s because I’ve felt a little beaten down by all of the stress this past week. Or maybe it’s because I’m a poor college student looking for a job. In either case, I woke up this morning with a sense of clarity I hadn’t had all week. Oddly enough, scenes from from the same movie kept playing over and over in my head. Except this time, the scene I kept seeing was the very last in the movie. The part where Will Smith (or “Chris Gardner” as it were) narrates: “This part of my life… This part right here? This part is called happiness.”

For anybody who is curious, my flight test went well yesterday. I passed! I can tell I’m getting closer to becoming an instructor because although the examiner didn’t have many critiques for me, I spent the whole drive home critiquing my own performance. The curse of a perfectionist, I suppose. The next step will be an checkride with the FAA this coming week, but I’m going to take it one day at a time.

I apologize for the radio silence yesterday, although I must admit, except for a quick hour at work and my flight test, not too much happened. I finished up at the airport about 5:30 yesterday evening. We were delayed due to extensive ice on our scheduled plane. After half an hour of literally pouring on de-icing fluid and hacking at it with a squeegee, we were forced to relent. Mother Nature: 1, Zach: 0. After successfully passing my End of Course examination, The Fiancée and I packed up The Golden and headed south to Oklahoma City. We came home to spend some time with both sides of the family. It’s always nice to come home.

This morning The Fiancée and I tackled a new route: Lake Overholser (or for the 18 and under crowd: Lake Hold-her-closer. Take what you will from that.). This was her farthest run to date, completing 6.5 miles in about 1 hour and 15 minutes. It was cold morning (windchill around 15°F), but with almost no wind. What a great morning to run!

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This is an old part of Route 66 that you run on the north side of the lake.

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She was bringing it on. I felt like I was getting some speed work in trying to catch up to her after stopping to take pictures.

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About 3 miles in, we ran by some llamas. Or are they alpacas? I don’t know the difference.IMG_3920

Here’s The Fiancée standing (semi) victorious.IMG_3919

As we walked across the dam after our run, I spotted these weird ice formations. Any clue what causes these?

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Finally, we made it all the way around the lake and back to the car. The clouds had cleared and I couldn’t help but think to myself “this part of my life… This part right here? This part is called happiness.”

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Pressure: Day 8

Everyone goes through it. That unbearable sense of dread before a test, presentation, or evaluation. Any time your performance is being judged it instills this sense of anxiety that is unshakable. Your pulse quickens and you can’t get that hurdle out of your mind. I’ve never had test anxiety. I tend to perform better than I expect. When it comes to aviation evaluations though, I cannot shake the anxiety. The pressure hangs overhead and seems to peek into every part of my day. It never fails. As soon as I start enjoying myself, my upcoming examination creeps into my subconscious taking joyous and relaxing moments and suspending them in a state of unyielding fear.

Tomorrow’s examination, my End of Course evaluation for my Single-Engine Add-On rating to my Commercial Pilot Certificate (whew, that’s a mouthful), is my next hurdle. I don’t believe there will be any issues, but the fear of the unknown is always the worst. I’m sure mine isn’t the only occupation that shares this quality. We all encounter situations we wish we could run away from.

That’s my segue. Running. In my experience, absolutely nothing relieves stress and clears the mind like a run. I’m getting ahead of myself though. I can’t start a story at the end, but for anyone who reads with any regularity, you know that six days out of my week share that happy ending.

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I woke up this morning to a town blanketed in white. Yesterday’s snow had all but melted away, only to be outdone later that night. This morning I woke up early to pick up The Fiancée and give her a ride to class. It’s the first time this winter that I’ve gotten to utilize the four wheel drive on my truck. I was starting to think I wouldn’t get to use it. To my elation, I was wrong.

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After playing chauffeur this morning, I went in to work. I only put in three hours today before heading home. That pressure, always present at the back of my mind. We were forced to run inside again today. I’m really starting to dislike this weather. A low pressure system is to blame for all of this precipitation (which is slightly ironic considering I feel like I’m under large amount of pressure).

The Fiancee and I swallowed our pride and went to the Colvin again. ADD Moment: One of my biggest complaints with the gym on campus is that you have to pay for parking. Considering my education costs could have purchased a small house by now, it makes me angry that they’d charge $0.50/hour to park at a gym which we’re already charged to use. End rant.

Today’s run was a shorter one. Had we been running outside, it would have been a two mile run. Since we were inside, I ran until The Fiancée said stop (guys, take note of that tip). I got in exactly 3 miles in 22:31, which is about 35 seconds behind my race pace. I averaged about 7:30/mile, which I can’t complain about considering I ran a 3.1 mile interval run Tuesday averaging 7:13/mile and a 4 mile run at 7:35/mile yesterday. For me, someone who trained around 9:30/mile last year, I’m very happy with the improvement.

As runners, we seem to get settled into a pace that feels “comfortable”. When I run 9:30/mile I feel like I can go forever (or at least 26.2 miles). When I speed up to 7:30/mile, I feel like I did when I first started running. Winded. It’s a great feeling. One that makes you feel like you’ve actually done something.

If my writing seems slightly incoherent today, I apologize. My test tomorrow has me preoccupied. After 4:00 tomorrow afternoon, I’ll be free (until the FAA Checkride next week). I’ll leave you with something that always cheers me up, without fail. The Golden.

IMG_3909No matter how much pressure I’m under, I always love coming home to that wagging tail. Have a great Friday, everyone.

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Road Blocks: Day 6

Sometimes morning occurrences are indicative of how the rest of the day is going to go. The event (good or bad) sets the precedent the day will follow. This morning’s precedent? Small road blocks. Being a Tuesday, my week is back in full swing. My alarm went off an hour before normal people are awake and two hours before I like to be awake. We all have our crosses to bear, I suppose. Heading out the door of my apartment I took note of my car. Just yesterday I read a Lifehacker article about how to stop being late. They had one suggestion in particular for people who know exactly how long it takes to get ready, drive somewhere, etc. It sounds simple, but for a procrastinator like me, it went in one ear and out the other: leave a couple minutes to spare. I know that in the morning, I can go from crusty-eyed zombie to fully showered and semi-presentable in exactly 15 minutes. It then takes me 10-12 minutes to drive to the airport. Right on (my) schedule, I was headed out the door at 7:18 to arrive at the airport by 7:30. Small road block one then presented itself. Frost. Again.

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Now, I know anyone that lives above the N36° line of latitude is rolling their eyes right about now. Especially, those on the east coast. No big deal, right? I reached down to grab my ice scraper and… nothing. I came up empty. Road block number two. So after a couple minutes of scratching at my windshield with a rudimentary scraper (read: old magazine) I was on the road. Frost on a vehicle is a foolproof way of determining whether or not there will be frost on your airplane. Sure enough, I wasn’t disappointed. I spent 10 minutes deicing and pre-flighting. Followed by another 10 minutes of pre-heating the engine. After about an hour and half gracing the skies above northern Oklahoma, I landed just in time to make it to my 10:30 class.

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I went flying through campus on my bike and pulled up to the appropriate building with two minutes to spare. See? I learn my lessons. I entered the building, grabbed the handle to my classroom and nearly pulled my arm off trying to open a door that was… locked. Class canceled. This one was more of an annoyance than a road block, but work with me for the theme’s sake. Surprised and mildly in pain I switched gears and rode to work. No surprises there. I put in 5 hours and called it a day.

After a short stint at the dog park with Brinkley, it was on to Boomer Lake for another interval session. I’ll tell you up front, I didn’t beat my time from Day 2. I didn’t really expect to, though. It was another windy day here in Oklahoma. Not nearly as bad as yesterday, but enough to matter. I was much better about starting out at a suitable pace that I could maintain. In fact, I was slowest for the first half mile. I focused on a nice warm-up with a gentle lead into the first interval. Then, I don’t know what happened. The devil must have lit a fire under me or something, because I got down to almost a 6:00/mile. I’m pleased with that pace, but there’s no way on earth I could sustain that for any length of time.

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I was pleased with the consistency with which I returned to my “Steady” pace. It was almost always around 7:30/mile. I’m getting a feel for how that pace looks and feels vs. my 9:30/mile goal last year. You can find the details below.

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Lastly, my mile splits. They were much more even than Sunday’s which was great to see. Overall, I felt that the run was a much more solid performance than Sunday’s despite being about 11 seconds slower.
Screen Shot 2013-02-19 at 5.54.35 PMAfter my run, I took about 10 minutes to walk and recover. These speed workouts really have a tendency to kick your butt.

IMG_3899I returned home to an eager Retriever and a clean apartment, thanks to The Fiancee. All in all, for a day that started off with a few road blocks, it turned out to be a great day.

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The Long and Short of It: Day 3

Today began very, very early this morning down at the airport. I’m finishing up my single-engine commercial add-on rating for my Commercial Pilot Certificate so I can fly smaller planes for hire. For the unversed, the cockpit of a Cessna 152 is not the ideal place to unwind on the weekends. It’s more like cramming yourself and a complete stranger into a tin can with wings. It was a cold morning (about 22 °F), so we began with defrosting the airplane. There’s nothing quite like standing outside for twenty minutes waiting on the airplane to pre-heat while you freeze your extremities off. Not all of that time was spent standing around, though. I got the pleasure of spraying anti-ice on the wings to clear the frost. Although “spraying” is a misnomer considering the fluid was the consistency of syrup. Ah, well. It was a beautiful morning to fly.

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Similar to runners, airplanes perform better when it’s cold out too, so it was a great flight. Below is a shot of the tarmac this morning along with my previous plane, a Piper Seminole. Winds calm, sky clear. You couldn’t ask for a better day to fly or run.

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Returning home didn’t offer much of a reprieve before heading out the door again on The Fiancee’s weekly long run. She’s up to six miles and doing great week to week. This success shouldn’t be glossed over. When she started running last September she could barely run for two minutes continuously. I don’t mean “two minutes” in the exaggerated sense. I mean, literally, two minutes. I’m sure she’ll hate me for posting that on here, but I emphasize her starting point to show how much progress she’s made since that time.

Today was a 6 mile run around Boomer Lake, the route I posted yesterday. The Fiancee and I traversed the 6 mile loop in a little over an hour. This was her longest run to date and she rocked it. I’m using these slower training runs as an opportunity to focus on my form and trying to make my energy use more efficient. I see so many people flailing their arms to and fro, bouncing up and down, and kicking their legs up so high you’d think they were running a five minute mile.

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A really good book I would suggest for novice runners is The Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer by David Whitsett, Forrest Dolgener, and Tanjala Kole. I used this book exclusively when training for my first marathon and came out injury free. The authors cover the basics of running form to mitigate chance of injury and to use energy more efficiently. The suggestions are easy to understand, but could be hard to implement if you’ve been running in an inefficient manner for a length of time. Bad habits are hard to shake. Of all the tips there are three basic things they suggest that will improve your running posture.

  1. Mid-Foot Strike-Long distance running is a high-impact and traumatic activity for the bones and muscles in the legs. Ensuring that you are striking the ground mid-foot reduces the impact that your feet, and ultimately, your legs feel. By distributing your weight over a larger area you are less likely to put undue strain on any leg or foot muscles. 
  2. Arms at 90°-135° Angle-Ideally, your arms should make about the same angle as your thigh does with your body when your leg is extended. This allows your upper-body muscles to remain relaxed and keeps your shoulders loose.
  3. Eyes Forward-This may sound unrelated, but it serves a larger purpose. Keeping your eyes focused on the road a good distance in front of you allows you to analyze your gait. If you notice the objects in your gaze moving up and down with your strides, chances are you’re using too much energy moving vertically, rather than horizontally. Try smoothing out your runs to more effectively use your energy stores. A small amount of energy conserved over three hours can really add up.

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All of this isn’t to say that to book is perfect. It is dated, and while discussing proper foot strike, it suggests either a mid-foot or heel strike. From my research, heel striking hasn’t been suggested for many years. That said, it covers everything you need to get yourself across this finish line. For anyone looking for an all-in-one training book that requires almost no prior experience, you’d hard pressed to find a better option.

I was thankful for such a beautiful day to fly and run. It isn’t often in Oklahoma that you’re blessed with a day without wind. The pictures tell the story of the day. I think I annoyed The Fiancee enough today by saying “just one more picture”. Although, I’m finding it rather therapeutic to look back on these last few days and remember specifics.

Tomorrow is another interval run for me. I normally try to take the the day before and the day after a long run off, but I missed one of my interval days this week due to inclement weather (read: freak Oklahoma winter storm). Tomorrow is shaping up to be another beautiful day. Check back for the results.

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Inauguration: Day 1

Valentine’s Day. I never understood why this innocuous day in February got such a bad wrap. Even when I was single, I never hated the day. I suppose it’s because I’m a fan of love. Not the public display, no-one-wants-to-see-that type of love, but the happy naiveté of youthful relationships. It wasn’t all that long ago for me, but I still look back on those times with a twinge of nostalgia.

Now, here I sit, a senior in college. Engaged. Moving in a matter of months to a new city. A new state, for that matter. Trying to make some semblance of making that new “place” a new “home”. I’m sure you’re very cognizant of the difference. The thought of moving doesn’t terrify me. Nor does the fact that I’ll be attempting to find a job for which I have no qualifications. (ADD Aside: Most people don’t realize how little you can do with a Commercial Pilot Certificate. There is literally, almost nothing. It’s the aviation equivalent of getting a Bachelor’s in Pre-Cold War Russian Literature. Rant over.) No,  the weight on my mind has been the impending challenges. The Certified Flight Instructor practical test before the end of May. One marathon in October and another in December. Throw in a marriage and a move and you’ve got your plate full.

I’ve also had this nagging feeling that I need to start writing. I don’t know what yet, or why. My senior english teacher told me that if I majored in anything other than english I’d be wasting my time. She expected me to become a writer. I suppose that’s the beauty of modern-day technology. Anyone with an agenda and an ISP can espouse their thoughts to the masses. Maybe that’s my goal with this blog. Trying to fulfill someone’s expectations, albeit without all the grandeur and apparent pretentiousness of the literary elite.

All jokes aside, I wanted this inaugural post to explain my attitudes and my goals. As far as the first point goes, I hope you’ve realized that overall, I’m a fairly jovial person, but a critically deep thinker. Two qualities that I feel society lacks today. The second point, my goals, is a much more broad subject. My goal for this blog is to chronicle my training and accomplishments. Any of you who have trained for an endurance event can relate to the number of hours you spend by yourself. Before my last marathon I peaked at about 40 miles per week. That’s a considerable amount of time to spend by yourself. You never truly know yourself until you’ve spent three hours alone on the country roads of Oklahoma. Self-reflection inevitably follows, followed either by self-loathing or  self-actualization. The latter was the case for me and I found that I was pretty comfortable with myself. Some of the most personal and awe-inspiring  moments I’ve experienced have occurred in the middle of a 20 mile Saturday run. It’s these moments, these flashes of perfection in an imperfect world that I want to capture and examine.

That’s really the heart and soul of this blog. “IronTry” is my attempt at giving a play on words deeper meaning. In May of next year I will be competing in my first Ironman. Hence the “iron” and “tri”, but it’s not really just a “tri” that I’m attempting. It’s the attempt itself. The “try”. The months of endless training. Pulling myself out of bed every morning, doing the work, and against all odds, finishing the race. I hope the metaphor is apparent in that last sentence because really, the hardest thing we do every day is wake up and get out of bed. Anyone can run 26.2 miles. It’s a test of endurance not commitment. That’s the point I want to make very clear in this post and on this day: that I am going to try my hardest in my training, and in my life, to finish the race. After all, it’s not about the destination. It’s about the journey.

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