Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Little Horn Tooting

So I'm going to brag a little bit tonight, something I rarely do, but after today's swim workout I just can't help myself. I set a goal this winter to improve my swimming. It's easily the worst of the 3 sports for me and the one I struggle with the most. So eight weeks ago I set my focus on the swim and embarked upon a new plan. This plan had me swimming 4-5 times a week with a huge emphasis on drilling. At the beginning of the 8 weeks I swam a 1000yd time trial. This is an all out effort in order to see how fast I was. The result of that test was 17:21 or 1:44 per 100yds.

Well, after 8 weeks of hard work (and ample time due to a running injury) I got to repeat the time trial to see if there was any improvement over that span of time. Well, I finished in 16:07, or 1:37 per 100 yds, taking a whole 1:14 off of my previous time! I was so stoked when I finished today. This is the most notable improvement I've had since I first was able to finish 100yds without being completely out of breath.

So there it is. Yay me! Kudos! Congrats! A little well deserved horn tooting.

But I'm not quite done. I originally set out with a goal of going sub-16' by the end of March. It's time for another 8 weeks of swim focused fun and I should easily be able to shave off that 7 seconds and more by the time March 1st rolls around. I can't wait to see what I can accomplish. Swimming across the bay come May should be a breeze ;)

Sunday, December 27, 2009


So Christmas has come and gone once again. Not only that, but it passes quickly like always. I enjoyed some down time with my family and spent nearly 5 days with almost no activity and some pretty atrocious eating habits. It was awesome.

But, with the holiday over it is time to get down to business. I was dying to get back in the pool today and had a pretty good swim all things considered. I figured all the food I put in my gut the past week would cause me to sink and slow me down. Fortunately that wasn't the case. With today's workout I have come to the end of my 8 week swim focus. Sometime this week I will be doing another 1000yd time trial to measure my improvement. I know I am faster, but I really can't wait to see how much faster.

And while there has been mucho progress in my worst sport, there has been little to no progress on the running front. Last week I managed a short run with little pain, but the constant discomfort is still there and I just can't fathom running hard or far at this point. I have one final appointment with my PT and we will discuss a long term plan.

I ceased biking a few weeks back in hopes that it would help facilitate the healing of my hip. I'm not real sure if that accomplished much of anything so I will be getting back on the bike this week. It's perfect timing too as there is going to be a lot of bowl games to watch and I have a fun interval workout while I watch that makes the trainer time pass by.

I realized today that I have just four months to get ready for my first tri of the year. Having not run for 2 months makes that seem a little daunting. If only Santa had just brought me a new hip like I had asked for. If I'm not completely 100% my May 2 perhaps I will just take it easy and enjoy the San Franciscan scenery. Either way, the off season is starting to wrap up and I must say that I am sufficiently unwound and recharged, ready to tackle the goal of the upcoming season.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Trying to stay positive

Well, my injury has an official name so I guess I better take it seriously. I haven't been injured since my sophomore year of high school in wrestling when I separated some tendons from my sternum. This time it doesn't sound as painful, but it's irritating nonetheless.

I have hip bursitis in my right hip. Burisits is an inflammation of the bursa sacs (fluid filled sacs that provided lubrication for joints) and in my case it was caused by repetitive motion, ie. running. I've been working with a physical therapist to try and get this thing nipped in the bud. I was allowed to try some run/walk workouts where I would run a quarter mile then walk a quarter mile. I was okay for about a mile and then things got ugly and painful. So we decided I would be better off with some more rest. Biking and swimming are still in play and I can use an elliptical (meh) or do some aquajogging (double meh) to keep the aerobic fitness up without the high impact.

During the appointment yesterday I got a patch on my hip that delivered anti-inflammatories for four hours via magnets (sweet, I know) so I was forced to lay on the couch and be lazy when I really wanted to swim. I'm hoping they help, but my hip feels more sore today.

I'd wouldn't be lying if I were to say the my motivation is lacking. Even though I've been cleared to bike I've been rationalizing that skipping some workouts here and there can only help the hip rehabilitation. It doesn't help that winter is settling in(it's cold and we got some snow today) and all I really want to do is settle under a blanket and watch a movie. I will continue to swim and I'm still really excited about that. It helps to have a concrete goal there and I can still feel the progress being made every (well, almost every) time I get in the water.

It helps to focus on the positives and before I know it February 1st will roll around, marking the beginning of Ironman training. Provided I am up and running by then I'm sure motivation will be firing on all cylinders. For now I'll weather the off season storm the best I can and hopefully retain some measure of fitness these next couple of months.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Early Hope

So as most of you know I started my swim focused training at the beginning of November. I have a goal of reaching a 16 minute 1000 yd time trial by the time March rolls around. It seems to be a pretty daunting goal considering the first time trial I did was 17:21 on the first of November. That reduction is the equivalent of going from a 1:45/100yd pace to a 1:36/100 pace.

I started swimming 5x a week, with 4 out of the 5 swims focusing heavily on drills to hopefully bring about changes to my stroke that make me faster and more efficient in the water. Today my swim set consisted of 1000 yds of drilling followed by a nice, easy 1500 yd continuous swim. Well, my time for the first 1000 of the 1500 was 17:04, a 0:17 reduction from just 19 days ago. And this was an easy swim! Just a nice long, efficient stroke. No heavy breathing. No really pushing the pace. I won't time trial again for another month, but I'm ecstatic about the progress I'm seeing in just 3 dedicated weeks.

For the first time I'm feeling like I don't have to settle for being just an average swimmer. Granted I have a lot of work to do if I ever want to be front of pack, but if I can continue to make progress I feel like maybe I can contend at not just sprints, but Olys as well.

It has me completely excited to head to the pool for each workout. In fact I'm bummed I'll have to miss a few over Thanksgiving, but I've already set a record high for monthly swim yardage. I can't wait to add to it!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Test Run = FAIL

So I have been harboring a hip injury for the last two weeks or so. I'm not sure what it is, but being the stubborn person that I am I decided to try and treat it with my normal course of action: copious amounts of rest. Well, maybe not copious, but I did go twelve days without running and that has to be some sort of record for me. In the meantime I have been able to walk, bike, swim, and lift my lower body (ie squats, lunges, etc.) without pain. So I thought hey, why not give a light jog a shot.

I made it through the first mile with little discomfort, but after that it seemed to escalate. No sharp, shooting pains like before, but definitely not something I would want to contend with for multiple miles. Grrrrr!

It appears I'm probably contending with an actual injury. That means getting an actual diagnosis from a doctor. Looks like I'll have to overcome my proclivity to avoiding doctors. I guess at this point all I really want to know is what is going on, how to treat it, and just how dang long I'm going have to go without running. Is that too much to ask?

In the meantime, back to the pool. Yippee!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Fishy, fishy, fisheee!!

I've been to the pool so much in the first week of November that I'm starting to get that permanent chlorine scent that doesn't wash off no matter how long I shower. In the first 9 days I have gotten in 7 pool workouts for a total of 16,300 yards. I've had full months with less yardage than that.

Is it helping? I don't know it may be too early to tell, but I'm starting to feel some things coming around. I read somewhere once that when you change something, whether its a swim stroke, golf swing, or running gait, it takes a minimum of six sessions with the change before it is integrated into muscle memory. So correcting bad habits may take awhile, and I have the distinct disadvantage of trying to change several aspect of stroke and that itself diminishes the returns. Am I doomed? I don't think so. I am persistent and that's half the battle. Replacing old bad habits with new good ones is the tricky part.

The good news is that I'm not getting bored. The workouts are varied enough that my time flies by and overall they've been enjoyable, except for the kickset from Hell on Friday. I'll die a happy man if I never do that workout again.

On the injury front the hip feels good, but then again it felt good last Thursday when I last went for a run and came hobbling home 3 miles later. I will continue to rest this week and contemplate a test run this weekend. It's too bad really because the weather will remain nice all week. I won't even be able to ride because there just isn't enough light after work gets over. It's a good thing I tripled dipped the rides over the weekend while it was 70 degrees out and got my fix for awhile.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Aches, pains, and injuries

Day #2 of my official off season training and I'm already taking a rest day. I'll give you 3 guesses as to whether or not it was planned and the first 2 don't count.

I've been dealing with some pretty intense hip pain all day. Yesterday I did my longest run since the marathon, an 11 miler, and felt pretty good throughout. Well, as the night moved along I started to sense a little pain in the hip and by this morning it felt pretty bad. Walking, stairs, planting and turning all are painful. So in my ever infinite wisdom I decided it would be a good day to take rest. I realize it is the off season so I can treat these aches and pains with rest, rather than pushing through like I would be tempted to do if I were in race season. I'll do some light stretching tonight followed by an intense session with the foam roller to see if that does any good. I'll play it by ear after that, but it may just be me and the pool for awhile (which is where I should be anyway). So far in the past few years I've lucked out with major injuries. I've had some knee and ankle pain that has put me out of commission for a few and that's about it. I'm hoping this is just another one of those fluky things that seems to happen to me every once in awhile.

I completed the first workout of the new swim program yesterday. The main set was a 1000yd time trial, which I completed in 17:21, a 1:45/100 yd pace. That seemed about on par with what I expected. Using the time trial I am able to set up some training zones and target paces for specific sets in subsequent workouts. Tomorrow's workout should be fun. 2800 yds of mainly drilling. Goody goody.

An another note, I got an email today from Brooks saying that I was accepted into their Inspire Daily program. This was the first of a few sponsorships that I applied for recently. Very cool.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Goals, pt. 1

It's about time I got around to setting some goals. Some are new, some are carried over from last, but either why they are going to guide how exactly I approach the off-season, next season, and beyond. First up are the immediate goals (ie. off-season goals)

During the last few weeks of my unstructured training I managed to scrap together a rough training plan for the next few months. And by rough, I mean it's very free flowing. There's no "you must run x miles on Thursday and ride the trainer with 16' LT intervals on every Monday morning following a full moon." I figured this way I can keep my sanity this way by not being overly anal about missing workouts and not getting the distance in. I'll have plenty of time to freak out about the plan once the official Ironman training starts.

That said there are some definites. For instance the swimming has got to improve. I'm tired of seeing guys finish ahead of me in my age group only because I was out-swam. It's no secret that it is my weakness and probably one of the areas I can most easily improve upon. So, as things get busy, these workouts will take priority. How will I improve? Well here's the off-season plan:

4 swims/wk with an optional 5th. I have gotten a lot of good information from www.swimsmooth.com and will be using a 12 week plan from there. The fourth day will be a light drill-focused 1500yds and the optional 5th would be a long steady swim. The workouts look fantastic and I'm looking forward to working on my stroke rather than just putting in the yardage.

3 rides/wk with an optional 4th. One of the members of BT is running a 14 week "Improve your power" workout group. He is a very knowledgeable individual and having never really followed a structured biking plan I am looking forward to hopping on the trainer and not just putting in the mileage. The optional workout would be a 2 hour steady effort ride. The DVD collection is stocked and I'm now the proud owner of a PS3. Hopefully that will make the long steady rides fly by.

4 runs/wk. One day of speedwork and a one minimum long run of 10 miles. In the past I have allowed my longest run to drop to around 5 miles over the winter. It makes for a long build up in the spring. I gotta suck it up this year and brave the elements for longer periods of time. More frequent running has definitely helped my speed this fall, and I'd like to keep these gains over the winter. I think 4 days a week will do wonders to maintain that speed.

And last but not least, stick to the strength and flexibility plan. I am notorious for letting this slip, mostly because when I do it, it's at 8-9:00 at night. It's hard to not convince myself to veg out at that point. So this will consist of 3 core sessions, 2 circuit training sessions, 3 foam roller sessions, and 1 total body stretching session per week. It seems like a lot, but they are short sessions (even more reason to not skip). And I may add in a day of yoga too, but we'll see how things go first.

It seems like a lot to handle in the off-season, but if I want to improve its what is needed to be done. If enjoyed the last few weeks of unstructured training, but it's time to get down to business. And after some much needed R&R, I'm ready for it.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Season in Review

Well, I am now a few weeks into my off season. I think I have managed to escape the blues that usually accompanies this time of the year. I've allowed myself a couple of weeks of unstructured training. Initially I was going to take 2 whole weeks off, but I think I may have been kidding myself. I had to get off my butt and do something. But the lack of structure has been a welcome change. I haven't been worried about the mileage, I've just gone out there and moved, and there has been a sense of freedom I've come to associate with that.

But like any good triathlete I have become reliant on a good plan to improve and progress and make myself race ready. So I have been laying the bricks for a focused 3 month off season plan and in doing so I have had to think a lot about what I want to accomplish in not just the off season, but next season as well. So as I contemplated that, I realized that I needed to take one step back and look at this past season and what goals I have accomplished before moving forward. Thus, the title of this entry.

So I have decided to dissect each race to find at least one positive that came of it, as well as what goals were achieved and what goals I fell short of.

The year started with a 5k in February. We had gorgeous 40 degree weather and I PR'd by 29 seconds. Next up was another local 5k in March and I set another PR, this time going under 20 minutes and crossing that goal off my list. I ran my first ever stand alone half-marathon in April and finished well under my goal time of 1:35.

Next up, tri season. I did a chilly sprint up in Minnesota mid-May, and despite an incident where I almost ran into a parked car and fell on my bike I managed to put up a decent time and place 3rd out of 14 in my age group. That race was a real confidence booster and the first time I thought that I could really compete in my age group.

Next up was the Bluff Creek sprint. I had a great race and cracked the top ten overall and another 3rd place finish within my age group. One week later I finished a much larger sprint 5th out of 44. I was especially proud of my swim time which was 14s/100yd faster than the previous weeks.

Six days after that last sprint I raced my first half ironman on the year. I completely blew away my expectations of myself and finished in 5:01:46. The goal was to break 5:15 and I shattered that, setting a 33 minute PR in the process.

Hy-Vee was next and this was the first time that I would repeat a race from the year before. The course was a little different but I beat the previous year's time by 7 minutes and that was without a wetsuit. Next up was another sprint and another repeat course at the Iowa Games triathlon. I beat that time by over 5 minutes and had my fastest bike split and run split pace-wise of the year. Also, it was my fourth hardware race of the season with another 3rd place age group finish.

My second Oly of the year was Big Creek. I ran a 2:22:09, a PR by 2 minutes on the same course as last year. The Pigman half was an entertaining race this year. Massive rainstorms combined with raging winds made for a fun race. While the weather made it impossible to come close to a PR, I relaxed and truly had fun with this race while still managing to beat my previous year's time by 11 minutes.

My last tri of the year was a Olympic-ish distance that came in the thick of marathon training. That led to a super fast run split and allowed me to beat last year's total time by ten minutes. And last but not least was the marathon I ran two weeks ago. Obviously the 22 minute PR was the icing on the cake there and it ended my season on a positive note.

So I really didn't know how much progress I had made from year one to year two until now. They say the biggest gains are made early on and while I really don't expect to move by the same leaps and bounds between this year and the next, I will work hard to make sure I keep moving forward. That's all I can do, right?

Now it's time to decide exactly what I want to do with next season (besides becoming an ironman, that's a given) and how exactly I want to do it. Just a few short months before ironman training begins. I better make the most of it.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Twin Cities Marathon

Sunday I completed my second marathon ever, another stepping stone in the ironman journey.

I arrived in the twin cities Saturday night and did the whole expo / packet pick up thing. I managed to sleep okay at the hotel even with some rowdy neighbors. Ate a couple of clif bars in the morning and walked to the metrodome. It was chilly and they were letting us inside the dome to warm up so that was handy. Soon enough it was getting close to race time so I dropped off my sweats bag and headed to the race start. I got to start in corral 1 and that was not nearly as packed with people so that was nice. With a race this long I was going to warm up in the first few miles. No sense making this any longer than it was going to be.

So I'm at the starting line of my second ever marathon and I couldn't be happier. I'm injury free, training was near perfect the last 7 weeks, and the weather is as good as you could ask for on race day. Excited may be an understatement.

A little pre-race hoopla and then there's the gun and we're off. Starting in the front corral was a bonus. Things spaced out very quickly and I settled into my own pace fairly early. Okay, quick check. Does this feel too hard? Nope. How's the breathing? Under control. Alrighty then. Let's run.

I was wearing my Garmin but I told myself to ignore it. I didn't want to get too caught up with what pace I was running. I just wanted to run and as long as things felt easy and I wasn't getting carried away with an absurd effort I was just going to run. It seemed like a simple approach. Did it hurt me later on? Maybe. Who knows.

Crowd support at the race was amazing. Hardly a block went by without someone out there cheering for all of the runners. That alone made it easy to keep going. I smiled, waved, high-fived when appropriate. Random spectators calling you out by bib number and telling you good job never gets old.

I hit the 5k mark at 21:36. A little fast. Tone it down a shade, mmmkay. I tried. Hit the 10k at 43:18. Holy shnikies that's a PR (yeah, I haven't run a stand alone 10k in awhile). So that toning down thing, were you listening? I think so. This is feeling effortless right now, let me enjoy it while I can okay.

Those miles flew by early on. I was enjoying myself, soaking in the atmosphere, loving the crowds. Spent a mile behind some excellent pace booty. Mmm, baby blue shorts. It was a good day to be running. Sadly though, I had to leave her behind. I started taking in nutrition at mile 5. Popped a gu and then had one every 4 miles from then on. Water at the aid stations and I was good to go.

When the halfway point hit I happy not to be having dreadful thoughts of having to run another one of those. I saw my time (1:31:46) and was ecstatic, but kind of scared at the same time. Ecstatic because I was on pace to go under 3:11:00 and fulfill my semi-delusional goal of BQing. Scared because I was only 3 seconds off my half mary PR. Way too fast my friend. Tone it down or you are going to crash and burn!

I dialed it back a notch. Really, I did this time. The next few miles went by and slowly but surely I began to notice more people passing me. I began to sneak a few peeks at the watch and saw the pace was dropping too much. That and the effort level was rising. Oh, and pain increasing in the left hammy and right calf. The wheels weren't falling off yet, but I definitely felt a few lugnuts loosen up and go tumbling away.

The fan support continued to be amazing. I wish I could remember all of the great people and cool signs. I liked the one that said "toenails are overrated." Then there were the people dressed as nuns (or maybe they were real nuns) with the one sign that said "run like hell" and another that I couldn't make out. I flashed them the devil hooks and stuck out my tongue. Yeah, could be going to hell here.

Where am I? Mile 19. Ugh, too soon to be falling apart. Suck it up. Hey, I recognize those blue shorts passing me. I tried my best to stay behind her, trust me, but couldn't. I reached the giant inflatable wall at mile 20. Yup, I'm definitely hitting the wall. Nicely placed symbolic balloon fixture. I managed to keep running until the mile 22 aid station, where I stopped to walk and take in some powerade to help with the cramping. I stopped again at the next aid station, but this time had a much tougher time getting going again. Move feet. Feet? Are you listening? Come on. We are running startingggggggg.........now! No? Okay a few more steps. How bout now?.........now?........ok, now! Dammit, get moving!

Eventually I mustered up the energy to get moving again and as punishment I told myself that was the last walk break I was allowed. Miraculously I stuck to my guns and ran the last few miles in. At least it was a pretty good imitation of a run. It felt so disjointed and painful at that point. I was pretty sure that it wasn't pretty.

Soon enough, I had the finish line in my sights. I realized I was going to be really close to 3:20:00 so I started running harder the last half mile or so. The mileage was off on the garmin so I really had no idea how much further it was. When we started the final downhill I was flying past people like they were standing still. I guess there was a little juice left in the ol legs and it was coming at a very painful cost with each stride. In my mind I kept alternating the words "ow" and "3:20" until I pounded across the finish line.

Woohoo! I'm done! Did I go under 3:20? I don't care, get me one of those heat blankets and some food!

I am envious of those people that can go out and run an evenly paced marathon. I am hoping that as I continue to lay on the mileage year after year that becomes a reality. Seriously though, I went out at a pace that would have gotten me a BQ and I couldn't hold it. Simple as that. Am I disappointed? A little. But this was another valuable learning experience and a heck of a confidence booster. Boston is in my future in the next few years, I am sure of it. This was an awesome, awesome race. I would highly recommend this marathon and if I ever plan on repeating one, this would be high up on the list. Missed my BQ, but you know what? I don't care. It was a huge 22 minute PR!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Peregrine Charities Race Report

My last triathlon of the year was yesterday. It was sad to see the season come to an end, but at the same time it capped off what has been a rewarding and successful season. Here's how it all went down.:

Pre-race routine:

I got into woo town the night before for the expo and bike check in. I'm still not sure about the whole body marking the night before thing. The number on my arm was well faded by morning and gone by the end of the race. I spent the rest of the night yelling/cheering at the tv as Iowa knocked off Penn State. I was so jazzed after the win that I had troubling falling asleep. On the bright side trouble sleeping due to race nerves is a non issue.

A little on the chilly side race day morning, but it seemed like it was going to warm up so I tried not to think about it. Transition set up is getting routine.

Event warmup:

None to speak of. I really didn't feel like hopping in the water and back out to freeze in the cold air and breeze. I did chat a little, but I wasn't planning on used my jaw muscles too much in the race, except for a little cheering, so I don't think that counts.


Well, last tri of the year. No need to hold anything back. I stayed to the right early and that seemed to alleviate the congestion. I found a decent stroke and just went about my business. We were the first wave to start after the elites so I didn't have to worry about navigating around slower swimmers (yes, I do occasionally pass people in the water). About 2/3s of the way to the turnaround I passed one guy in my wave that had gassed. After that I was by myself until the end, with a person or two from the wave behind me getting by. Boring really.

The nice thing about this out and back course (aside from being really long) was that they had a rope between 3 big buoys and attached to the rope were a bunch of noodles. I realized early on that every time I breathed to my left I would catch a glimpse of the bright flotation devices and sight that way, instead of looking forward into the glaring sun. Sweet! So I switched it up and breathed every four strokes so I was always looking to the left. Soon enough I was out of the water and up the boat ramp.

What would I do differently?: Not much. I was hoping for 30 minutes or better, but with the lack of emphasis on swim training lately I wasn't too disappointed.

Time: 00:31:02 | 1760.72 yards | 01m 46s / 100yards
50/107 overall, 7/10 age group


So I mosey into T1, have a seat on the ground, prop up my feet, and open up a good book.

No, I really didn't do that but I feel I could have with the amount of time I spent in here. My dang wetsuit zipper stuck. I wrestled with it from the moment I got out of the water until I was standing helplessly at my bike. It came down about 3 inches and just stuck. Crap! Yank! Nothing. Frick! Yank! Nothing. Frick! I reach back there. There doesn't seem to be any neoprene stuck in there. Try it one more time. Yank! Nothing. Frack! Okay, time to reverse the tracks. Up again, and back down. Woohoo! I'm free! There was a nice little cheer from the crowd behind me. As I struggled out of my wetsuit I smiled and thanked them. Okay. Glasses, helmet, shoes, let's ride!

What would I do differently?: I usually lube up my wetsuit zipper with a little zipper lube before each race and that will make it come off quicker than a prom dress. Forgot that this time and it had been a month and a half since the last tri. So, when in doubt, use more lube.

Time: 1:46


I'm always happy to get on the bike after the swim, even more so this time around after the T1 debacle. I passed a few people heading out of the park and once we hit the roads I settled into a pace that was comfortably hard. No reason to go totally balls to the wall with the marathon next weekend. Just keep that in mind. Okay, so maybe there was one ball on the wall.

This course was flat, flat, flat and felt fast, fast, fast. I think we went over a couple of overpasses but I don't even think those could qualify as real hills. One section small section was under construction and wow, that was a rough little patch. It was like our mini little block's worth of Paris-Roubaix. Cool! Not.

I successfully navigated the corner that I crashed at last year so that was a bonus. Other than that, things were pretty uneventful. I didn't get passed and I passed a lot. Standard.

What would I do differently?: Nothing. After a less than stellar bike split at Pigman last month I had an underlying fear that I had lost some bike speed somehow. Stupid irrational fear, take that!

Time: 00:58:08 | 22 miles | 22.71 mile/hr
14/107 OA, 3/10 AG


Flying dismount. In and out. Quick stuff.

What would you do differently?: Nada

Time: 0:32


I gave a quick wave and smile to my parents on my way out and started turning the legs over. There were 2 guys up ahead not to far at the start. Okay boys, you're carrot #1. Ran them down in the first half mile. Legs are a feeling GOOD. All that run training does pay off I guess. I ran past the MXC club member with the speakers on his bike trailer and cowbell in hand. That made me smile. Soon enough I'm on the park trail that is nicely shaded. I love this run course. So much shade and quite flat.

Saw Noz before the turnaround and after a high five and a woot I did some math and figured there would be no catching him. He wasn't audibly swearing so I figured his toe was okay. That was good to see. After that I continued to pick people off. Once back on the roads I saw another guy up ahead running at a good click. The final mile and a half I tried to catch him and got dang close at the end. He heard the footsteps though and turned it up a notch. I had burned a few matches the last mile trying to catch him and couldn't close the gap.

What would I do differently?: Nothing. Smoked it. I wish they would add the extra 0.2 miles to make it a 10k. I would have crushed my PR.

Time: 00:40:07 | 06 miles | 06m 41s min/mile
23/107 OA, 6/10 AG

Total Time = 2h 11m 29s
Overall Rank = 27/107

Age Group Rank = 6/10

Post race

Warm down: Walk, gatorade, food, chat.

What limited my ability to perform faster: Residual swim and bike fitness carried me through. Trying to save a little somethin, somethin for the mary (and possible BQ attempt next weekend).

10 minute improvement over last years time! Woot! It helps when you don't suck at swimming, crash your bike, or have a foot injury. Awesome organization. Great race. An event like this should attract many more people than it does. Hopefully it keeps growing. It looks like they're adding a sprint distance next year too so maybe that will help. I'll be back. 2 weeks is enough to recover from IMMOO, right?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Confidence is a funny thing. When you have it, it's like you're walking on air. You feel like you can do anything. When you don't have it, the most trivial task seems insurmountable and you shrivel with anxiety.

When it comes to racing confidence can be almost as important as fitness. Going into a race knowing you can go the distance or knowing so can hold the pace can make all of the difference in the world. Fortunately this season my training has gone extremely well and I have entered into every race with the confidence not only to finish, but with the confidence to finish well. Now that's not to say that I haven't had less than stellar races *cough* Pigman *cough*. That will happen from time to time, sometimes due to things you can't control *cough* sideways rain *cough*.

In a little over a week I will be racing my second marathon. Last year was an experience to say the least. About a month out I hurt my foot during an 18 mile run and after that I did very little running leading up to the race in order to stay semi-healthy. Come race time I wasn't feeling real confident and I switched from a time goal to a "let's just finish this thing" sort of goal. Well, I did finish that thing, but it was a complete sufferfest after mile 20. I finished in 3:42:09 (8:29/mile pace), but it wasn't pretty.

This year things are going much different on the running front. I've stayed injury free and have been putting in all kinds of mileage. In fact for 5 consecutive months I've put in 100+ miles. All of my long runs have gone very well. The last was a 20 miler that I ran at an 8:00 minute/mile pace, with limited discomfort and soreness both during and after. Things have been going so well that a couple of letters have been floating through my thoughts the last few days. That B and Q keep on fluttering by, tempting me, taunting me. Part of me think its absurd, but there is also part of me that thinks qualifying for Boston is quite possible with proper training.

Have I had the proper training? I'm not sure. I think if I set aside 2-3 months to focus solely on running its a sure thing. All this biking and swimming tends to get in the way though, and I'm not ready to sacrifice that yet. I ran a 1:31:42 (7:00/mile) half marathon earlier in the year and based on several running calculators that predicts a 3:13ish marathon finish which is 3 minutes shy of the BQ time. I would hate to go out too hard and completely blow up. Maybe I should just be satisfied with a solid PR. Hmmm, decisions, decisions.

I guess I have another week to figure out what to do. Actually only 4 days as my decision may dictate how hard I go at this weekend's triathlon. It's a nice little Olympic-ish distance event in Waterloo. I'm hoping to take another crack at the bike course (I crashed last time. Don't ask). Until then I'll do my best to keep those pesky letters from dominating my thoughts.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Simply Amazing

That pretty much sums up my experience this past weekend, and I'm relatively certain that is an understatement. I journeyed to Madison, Wisconsin to volunteer at the 2009 Ironman event. My motive for doing so was twofold. First and foremost, volunteers get first dibs at signing up for the 2010 events (well, second dibs since the current race's athletes get a shot before they even race this year). Since doing my first triathlon a little over a year ago I knew that I wanted to race an Ironman so volunteering seemed like a sure fire way of getting in (Wisconsin is notorious for selling out online within minutes once open to the general public).

The secondary motive was to scope out the event ahead of time to see what I was getting myself into. What I found simply blew my mind. The energy was palpable even before the event started and it only seemed to escalate as the day progressed. That energy transferred to each and every athlete competing, infusing their souls with the strength to progress one swim stroke, pedal stroke, and footfall after the other.

My volunteering experience started out Saturday morning. As the athletes brought their biking gear into the first transition area I helped them find their spot amongst all of the other transition bags. Some people looked nervous and I did my best to help calm them and answer their questions. Others I could tell had done this before as they methodically went about their business. I ran into a few people I knew and even met for the first time a couple of my online friends from beginnertriathlete.com. All in all the 5 hours flew by and already I was starting to feel a little jealous that these people were going out to become ironmen the next day and I would have to wait a whole year. After my shift I found an outlet for my energy by going on a nice long run along the lakefront path of Lake Monona.

The next day I arrived at Monona Terrace an hour before the race start. It was already packed with athletes and spectators. 2400 bikes sat in transition while the athletes made their last minute adjustments and ensured that all of their nutrition was in place. Friends and family watched the preparation, some sporting custom shirts in support of their favorite athlete. I moved through the sea of people, amazed at the enthusiasm. At the top of the terrace I could hardly squeeze into a spot to see the swim start. When the cannon went off the race was on and the crowd went wild with enthusiasm. Now, I have watched Ironman starts on tv before but seeing it in person was something different all together. All athletes start at the same time and the water instantly turns into a frothy mass of churning limbs in what is affectionately referred to as "the washing machine." I was so awestruck that it sent chills down my spine.

After watching for awhile I retreated back down a few levels to the transition area where I reported for my first volunteering duty as a bike handler. As the athletes came out of T1 it was our duty to grab their bikes off the rack and get it into their hands. It was slow going at first as the pros came through, but we all cheered loudly and soon enough the age group athletes started pouring through. Like a fire brigade we called out the athlete numbers to those further down the line to get correct bike pulled from the rack. It was chaos as 2000+ athletes filed in. Some took their bike straight from your hands, some asked you to hold it as they pulled on their bike shoes, and almost all had kind words of thanks. The best part of all was the crowds cheering just as hard for the last man through as the first.

A few hours later I was manning the transition aid station as athletes came in off the bike and took off on a grueling marathon in the heat. We handed out ice and water or any combination thereof and were as helpful as we could be. Our cheering was loud and boisterous and amidst the grimaces of pain you could see the smiles on the faces of the athletes. In 26.2 miles they would be calling themselves ironmen, and you could see the determination in all of them.

Later in the day I was privileged enough to find myself at the finish line. I sort of felt like a VIP. The general crowds were not allowed back here, only volunteers and other race officials. I was working as a catcher, which entailed supporting the athlete after crossing the finish line, guiding them to their finisher medal, shirt, and hat, ensuring they got fluids if they needed it, getting them to the photographer for their official finisher's photo, and in extreme cases walking and/or carrying them to the medical tent.

Again it was slow as the pros trickled in first. I got to see them give interviews (the winner talked about how he had vomited several times and lost his vision for awhile during the marathon). Off the record last years winner, Chris MacDonald, who finished 5th this year, put it succinctly: "That %&$#ing sucked."

And then, slowly but surely, more ordinary people doing something extraordinary began crossing the finish line. It was a privilege to be there for them, to be the first person they talked to. There was so much raw emotion it was overwhelming. I heard so many uplifting stories over the course of the evening, whether it be fist timers or IM veterans.

I caught a couple pros and several top age groupers. One woman in particular qualified for Kona for the third time despite in her words having a horrible marathon. She was in good enough spirits to joke about it and playfully infer that the woman who had beat her had lied about her age. I spent ten minutes helping another man walk after he had jumped around so ecstatically at the finish that his left calf had completely seized up. "Why did i do that? That was stupid," he kept saying over and over, but with a smiling grimace on his face.

Some people were all smiles and tears of joy, others were dazed and out of it after pushing their bodies so hard for so long. One man, after walking and not saying much, finally turned to me and simply asked, "Do you think I could get an IV." "Absolutely," I told him and promptly took him to the medical tent. Another woman I took to the med tent because she could not stand on her own anymore. She said her rear derailleur had broken during the ride and she had to ride the last half in a fixed gear. Doing so completely torched her legs. Those hills were hard enough with a full range of gears. Speaking of hills, everyone I spoke to that had completed IMAZ or IMFL (notoriously flat courses) said those courses were cakewalks compared to the hills of Wisconsin. That may have just been the post-IM pain talking though ;)

I watched best friends cross the finish line at the same time. I helped a young woman who set a 2 hour and 15 minute PR. She had a smile that I'm pretty sure was still on her face even when she fell asleep that night. The stories were numerous, the athletes inspiring, and I wish I could remember it all. I spent over 6 hours catching that night, and it was easily one of the coolest and most rewarding things I've ever done. After a full day of volunteering, I took a break, got a bite to eat, and found a spot just before the finisher's chute to watch the remaining ironmen come through.

By the end of the night I was exhausted, even though I had not done near as much as those incredible ironmen had done over the course of the day. Despite being tired I didn't sleep all too well as I was excited to get signed up for next year's race in the morning. By the time I reached the registration site (1:15 before it officially opened) the line of volunteers was already stretched out along monona terrace. Thankfully they were letting people in early so the line was moving, but even so it took about an hour and a half to get in. The time flew quickly though as I chatted with a girl from Iowa City. Turns out we had done quite a few of the same races this year and we exchanged contact info so we could do some training and/or racing together next year. Soon enough I was through the registration line after plopping down a good chunk of change to become an Ironman. I practically skipped back to my car, as if I was holding the golden ticket or something.

This year is going to be a life changing experience and I am so ready to undertake this adventure. I love a good challenge, and what better one to take on than Ironman. Bring it on!

Monday, September 7, 2009

All the cool kids are doing it

It seems like everyone is blogging about something these days and in my never ending futile attempt to be one of the cool kids I figured I might as well give it a shot too. While my life is pretty mundane I do have a teensy weensy interest in this little sport known as triathlon. I am nearing the completion of my second season and next year I plan on taking the plunge into the full Ironman distance (No, not the one in Hawaii). I figured a semi-routine blog would be a good way to let my family and friends in on the journey.

My original intent was to start this thing up next weekend as I spend a few days volunteering at Ironman Wisconsin and take the first official step towards becoming an Ironman: slapping down the hefty registration fee. However, I figured things could be a little hectic and knowing me, I would push this off so long that it would never get done. Well, for a change I'm ahead of the curve.

Today I took an unofficial step towards becoming an Ironman, a step that I will be taking many times over in the future. This morning I awoke at 6:00 am, strangely chipper and well rested. Although, I did have to set an alarm to wake up. I mean who in their right mind gets up that early when they don't have to? After a decent breakfast and a little too much internet surfing I meticulously began filling water bottles with gatorade endurance. A couple went in the fridge for later and the rest went down with me to the bike after I threw on some biking gear (shorts, jersey, and arm warmers since it was chilly out). It took me a little while to get the bike set up (bottles in their places, food in the bento box, double check that I have the spare tube and tools, pump the tires up, etc.) and after that I kind of just sat and stared at it for awhile. I was going to be spending the next 5-6 hours on it and I was oddly a little nervous.

Cyclists call it a century. 100 miles. To an ironman that's merely a fraction of his race. I had never attempted the distance before. There was really little doubt that I could do it. I had completed several 70-80 mile rides in training for my half-ironman events this summer and another 20 or so miles didn't seem like too much to ask. Of course at the same time there was that little bit of unknown, like hitting mile 18 of the marathon last year knowing that I was now running further than I ever had before. For my psychological sake, I kept telling myself that I was doing two 50 mile rides, with a brief pit stop at the apartment in between for refueling. I hope that wasn't cheating ;)

The ride itself was pretty uneventful. My legs didn't fall off. I didn't get run off the road by upset motorists. I didn't have any annoying songs stuck in my head. It was cool and for the first part I wished I had more than just arm warmers. I remember doing rides last February and March when it was only 40 degrees out and now I couldn't handle low 60's. Despite that it was a nice calm morning with very little traffic, which is why I love early morning rides. Too bad they don't happen all that often. Before I knew it I was back at the apartment with the first 50 miles in the book. The legs felt good at that point and I felt like I could push the pace a little the second half.

It took me all of 10 minutes to stop to refuel and I reasoned that wasn't too timely of a layover. I was back on my way and still enjoying things. The wind had picked up a little and I could feel it pushing me along. I enjoyed it while I could, but tried not to think about the last 25 miles in which it would be a headwind. I continued along, mooed at some cows, outran a dog, and before I knew it I was turning around to head back home. At this point in the ride I was starting to feel my legs getting tired and my butt was starting to ache from being on the saddle for so long. I really just wanted to get home. The last few miles were a struggle on weary legs and into the wind. A few of the hills particular kicked my butt, but I managed to continue pedaling. I kept looking at my watch to see how many miles were left. Only 20 miles, down to 15, woohoo less than 10! Soon enough I was pulling back into the parking lot and hopping off the bike quicker than you could blink.

So now that that's done I should sleep easy tonight (which I really should be doing right now). The first century is in the books and I feel pretty good about it. There will be plenty more in the future as I train for the 112 mile bike leg, but for know I think I've laid another brick in the ironman foundation and building that foundation has really been what this year has been all about.