Thursday, September 16, 2010

Ironman Wisconsin Race Report

Well, the day finally came. I swam. I biked. I ran. And at the end of the day I could call myself an Ironman. It was the culmination of a multi-year journey and hours and hours of hard work. It was a day that I am still glowing about, and I will continue to do so for the days, weeks, and months to come until I get the chance to repeat the experience next year.

I rolled into town Friday afternoon, totally anxious and excited. Soon after I got set up in the hotel and went to Monona Terrace and got myself registered. I winced a little on the scale. I knew I packed on a few pounds during my post crash inactivity, but was pretty surprised to see a number closer to my winter weight.

I committed an ironman faux pas by doing some shopping at the IM store before I even finished a race, but I had some time to kill before the athlete dinner. Then as I'm hauling stuff to my car I get a call saying I left my race packet at the bike store. Oops! I'm trying to make the race interesting already.

The athlete dinner was fun. I got eat with a bunch of BTers and the whole energy of the weekend was palpable. Pre race video, listening to Mike Reilly talk, yeah I was definitely ready to race after that.

Saturday morning came around soon enough. It was raining out so I bailed on taking a final ride. I was a little nervous about having two whole days off before the race for fear of being a little flat come race day, but it turned out to be a pretty non issue. I made a last minute decision to head to the Terrace early so I could register for next year. It felt a little weird to be registering for my second ironman before completing my first, but considering how the last 6 weeks of my training went I knew I wanted a second shot at this.

Soon after I met my parents and they helped me drop of my transition bags and the bike. We made it back to the hotel with plenty of time to catch the Iowa game. After 3 quarters of a complete beat down of the cyclones (Woohoo!) it was time for dinner at the Olive Garden.

I tried to crawl into bed by 9:00, but I waited up for my sister and her boyfriend to get into town. They made a last minute decision to come up and support me so it was the least I could do. I said hi and then kicked them out of my room so I could get some restless sleep.

The morning came quickly and I was absolutely jazzed to get going. We left early enough to get to the Terrace by 5. I am anal about getting to transition as soon as it opens to allow myself plenty of time to make sure everything is set up. I put the bottles on the bike, dropped of special needs and then put the remaining odds and ends into my transition bags.

Ok, 5:45. Now what? I decided it was worth the time to wait in line for an indoor crapper. Great decision on my part. Chatted away the rest of the morning and then wrestled into my wetsuit and headed down the helix.


It was hard to believe I was finally at the start line of my first Ironman. I chatted nervously with my fellow athletes as they herded us into the water. The line was long and I was a little nervous that we wouldn't get in the water by 7, but I made it in with a few minutes to spare. I had enough time to drift out to a spot just north of the boat ramp behind about 3 rows of people. No sooner than I made it to my spot did the cannon go off.

The Swim

Oh boy, here we go! The start was physical for sure, but nothing overwhelming. I gave and took my fair share of fists, elbows, and feet, but managed to get moving at a pretty good pace. I took one hard kick to the shoulder, but that was it. Thanks for missing my face, buddy!

Things spaced out (relatively speaking) after the first few hundred yards or so and I cruised to thus first turn buoy. It was crowded there! I brought my head out of the water briefly to join everyone else giving out a loud "Moo" at the turn.

Time to get back to business. Stuck my head back in the water and forged ahead to the next turn. Down the "backstretch" I felt great. I was going at my "cruise all day pace" and even found a nice pair of feet to draft off of for quite some time. It was probably my best bit of drafting I've ever accomplished in a race. I lost the feet at the next turn, but that was okay. I was pretty much done with the first loop and things were feeling good.

I decided not to check my watch at the halfway point and just kept on swimming so I have no idea if my swim splits were even or not. At the start of the second loop my sighting got a little off as I drifted to the north side of the lake, away from the fray. I had trouble staying on course until the next turn. After I was golden, holding a nice tight line against the buoys on the way back.

I was starting to feel a little bloated (I've determined that I swallow air during the swim) towards the end and I knew that wasn't a good sign going into the bike. At the same time I was getting increasingly excited to be done with the swim. As with any race, I love getting this sucker out of the way and on the bike.

Rounding the last buoy and seeing the swim exit was awesome. I was almost done with the first leg of my first ironman. I started kicking a little more to get some blood flowing into the legs and soon enough I was getting out of the water! I was ecstatic coming in at 1:12. I did absolutely no swim training for 4 weeks due to the crash and even after I came back I stuck with pull bouy sets to not aggravate the injury. Only the last week of taper did I finally start feeling "good" in the water again.

Time: 1:12:02
Pace: 1:43 / 100yds
OA place: 608/2550
AG place: 53/186

T1: 7:36

Transition is looooong at this race. I felt like I moved pretty quick though. This was my first experience with wetsuit strippers and it didn't disappoint. She had that sucker off in a heartbeat. Then it was a long run up the helix, but I didn't mind it because it was just packed with spectators and it felt like everyone was cheering for me.

I made it too the transition room and grabbed my own bag off the floor. In the change room I had a great volunteer. He dumped out the bag and made sure I got what I needed. He even sprayed sunscreen on for me. After that it was a long run to my bike, in which I learned not to try and run with a full bike bottle in my back jersey pocket. It was bouncing all over the place and I eventually carried it in my hand. My bike was very close to the bike exit, which was fine by me. Volunteers were busy so I had to pull it off the rack myself, but that was fine. I was just excited to go!

The Bike

It was a great day for a bike ride. I'm so glad I left the arm warmers in the transition bag because I was very comfortable. I told myself to not get caught up in the excitement and hammer too hard too early. The ride out on the stick was nice. I was getting passed by a few people so I knew I wasn't going too hard. I was real glad I had ridden the course a few weeks back because being on familiar roads helped a bunch.

Early on it was cool and I wasn't even getting through half a water bottle between said stations. Other than that I was just sipping on my concentrated infinit and cruising along. All of the signs and spectators and volunteers were awesome. Every once in awhile I'd get that "I can't believe I'm racing an Ironman" feeling. The whole thing was at times surreal.

I knew things were going to get crazy at the start of the 3 big climbs, but I had no idea how crazy. The crowds were absolutely phenomenal. It brought such a surge of energy to have so many people cheering you on up a hill and I probably went up that first one much faster than I should have. I knocked the other two out and then got on the way to Verona, where I was excited at the possibility of seeing my support crew in the crowd. They had kept themselves busy that morning by making chalk drawings and signs and such.


I knew they were shuttling spectators out, but I was blown away by the number of fans lining the streets we went through. Craziness. I didn't see my family but hoped they caught a glimpse of me to make all their waiting worth it.

Soon enough the first loop was done and I was halfway through my Ironman ride. I was still feeling alright, but the residual bloating gassyness from the swim was starting to be a little uncomfortable. I blew by special needs but considered stopping at the kybo to, uh, ease the pressure. Thought I'd try taking some spare gas-x in my bento box first and see how things played out.

By the second loop it seemed to be getting a little hotter. I was going through water much more quickly (almost an entire bottle between each aid station) and at one point I could feel the sweat starting to roll off my arms. Between that and the hills and bowel trouble I really slowed down near the end. The 3 big hills on the second loop had their way with me and by the time I got past them I was ready to get off the damn bike.


Unfortunately I had a ways to go to make it back to Madison, but I toughed it out. In Verona I missed my support crew again, but swore I heard my mom yell out my name. That was enough though. The rest of the miles back on the stick passed by slowly, and I could tell I was pretty fatigued. I was getting passed a lot, but really didn't care. I just told myself to keep pedaling and I'd get there soon enough.

I had never seen a sight as beautiful as Monona Terrace when it finally came into view. I'm sure my pace picked up in that final mile and even the ride up the helix seemed easy. It was so good to be done!

According to my splits I definitely had a rough last 30 miles. It was either heat, hills, gassyness, lack of bike fitness or some combination of all of the above that caused my demise. Biking is usually my strong suit and it was the only of the three that I had any confidence in coming into this race. The crash had only forced me to take a 2 week hiatus in August so I don't think it suffered as much as the rest. Whatever the cause it was irrelevant. I was finished with my first Ironman ride!

BIKE SPLIT 1 40 mi. (2:03:57) 19.36 mph
BIKE SPLIT 2 43 mi. (2:15:07) 19.09 mph
BIKE SPLIT 3 29 mi. (1:40:26) 17.32 mph
TOTAL BIKE 112 mi. (5:59:30) 18.69 mph

OA Place: 556/2550
AG Place: 54/186

T2: 6:17

I toyed with the idea of getting out of my shoes before the dismount line, but figured I would probably screw something up even though I practice it every ride. I handed my bike off to a volunteer and then ran inside to transition. I had another awesome guy helping me out in there. Shoes on, visor on, and everything I needed in the pockets. I was set. Upon exiting the building I made a bee line for the kybos, where I took a few moments to drop the kids off at the pool. I felt sooo much better after that and was able to comfortably run to the exit


The Run:

Okay, so I've briefly mentioned the bike crash I had not too long ago. 6 weeks before race day I did a flying superman over my handlebars while going very fast and landed on my head and shoulder. Coming too in the back of an ambulance having no idea how you got there is never a fun thing to experience and during my overnight stay at the hospital I was questioning whether this IM would be happening. Luckily I didn't break anything and pseudo-recovered quickly. My subsequent attempts at running led to an inordinate amount of groin pain that hadn't been present before the crash. I had to table running for awhile. 3 weeks before race day I started doing some long walks. Eventually I started working in some running intervals and the last week of taper I was able to run 3 and 5 miles pain free. That said, I hadn't completed a straight run over 5 miles since July 22 and I was pretty intimidated by the whole marathon and really didn't know how my body was going to respond.

It responded pretty well right out of the gate. I was able to run out of transition and the legs didn't feel too dead from the ride. Right away I spotted my support crew off to the side. Finally! I hadn't seen them since before the swim start and seeing them right then was just the boost I needed to start this marathon. I rushed over, gave big sweaty hugs to my mom and sister, high fived my dad and sister's fiance, wiped a tear or two of joy from my eye, and continued along the course.

The legs felt pretty good initially and when I made it to the first aid station I didn't want to stop running, but I forced myself to walk it. I knew I would be asking for trouble if I didn't take regular walking breaks. Ice down the jersey and nice cold sponges were an absolute life saver early. I had trained in far warmer temps than this but I was still burning alive. I told myself that I would be walking every aid station until at least mile 15 and if I felt good then I could cut loose.

Soon I came to the donkey aid station and they were doing a great job. Kimk told me to look for my ghoulie sign up the road. It kept my eyes peeled but missed it :( Apparently I have the worst eyes known to man. I couldn't spot my family, I couldn't spot signs for me, I only saw a couple of the BTers and other friends on the course out of the dozen or so I knew were racing. Weird.

I made it to Camp Randall stadium and enjoyed the nice soft surface, posed for the camera, and thought about how fun it would be to come here and watch the Hawks whoop up on the Badgers. At this point I realized that the little GPS unit I had rented so my family could track me in near real time had fallen out of its case. I was worried that they would be worrying about me since it would probably appear that I had stopped somewhere. I was hoping they'd keep checking for my splits as I crossed the timing mats along the course and realize I hadn't died or something.

Another mile or so down the road things started rumbling downstairs again. I needed a porto-john stat! Luckily there was one along the running path up ahead and I stopped yet again to take care of business. It was a quicker stop than the last one and I was on my way again.

As I neared the turn around by state st the crowds were going absolutely nuts. I couldn't help but pick up the pace. I saw my old college buddy, Mitch there. He was being his normal loud and boisterous self and pretty much ran out into the street to give me a high five. The guy next to me told me that I had some pretty rockstar friends and I couldn't agree more.

That energy boost got me out to the inspiration station. On my way by I danced to a little YMCA that was blasting on the speakers. This may have also been the point where I got passed by the women's leaders. I tried to keep up a bit to get some camera time, but they were cruising! They left me in the dust for sure.

I got back to really the only significant hill on the course and decided to walk it because my legs were extremely unhappy with me. Everything was starting to tighten up and each footfall was getting more and more difficult. At that point it was hard to fathom that I wasn't even halfway done with the run. I knew this was going to be a tough marathon coming in, and it didn't disappoint.

My legs weren't the only things unhappy with me. At the underpass I had to duck into the port-o-potty once again. I was really hoping that was the last time I needed to stop.

I came back to State St and there was my dad off to the side! I waved and looked around for everyone else. I caught the rest of them on the other side of special needs and waved. I hit the turn around and told myself that I had ONLY 13.1 miles to go. I did the first half in about 2:05 which wasn't bad at all.

As I passed my family again I pointed at my race belt and yelled that I lost the GPS. They're pretty smart. I'm sure they had figured that out by then. I stopped at special needs. My wet socks were starting to give me blisters and I was so happy to have a fresh pair in there. I slathered on the vasoline beforehand to help with the blisters. My helper had opened up the packet of tums so I grabbed a few. I probably should have taken a couple of tylenol too but I forget they were in there.


I took off again in fresh socks and for a moment felt great. I saw Mitch again and he came and ran beside me for a bit. I know it's against the rules but I didn't stop him. He even admitted later that he was having problems keeping up so it's not like he was pacing me. I told him I couldn't give him another high five because my hand was covered in vasoline, but I could stick my finger up his butt if he wanted me too. He laughed, clapped me on the back, and offered some other awesome words of encouragement before letting me go on my way.

Shortly after that I heard donkeyKim shout out my name and she yelled out, "The Village is with you!" I thought of all my friends on BT, and specifically in the challenge forum and all of the support they've given me day in and day out during the past year. I knew many of them would be tracking me today and I wanted to make them proud and drew on their collective spirit to keep forging ahead.

The second loop was hard, no lies. I was a hurting unit and couldn't wait to get to the aid stations so I could do a little bit of walking. Many times that walk extended well past the aid station and it was a monumental argument with myself to get started again. I walked any semblance of a hill along the way too. Somehow, someway I managed to make my way around the course again. I don't remember as much about the second loop. I kept drawing off the energy of the crowd to keep moving and making sure one foot fell in front of the other. I hit up chicken broth and coke. For some reason solid food did not interest me at, even though I hadn't had anything solid since the morning clif bar.

I hit the state st turn around again and knew there wasn't much left. I also knew I had a good shot at breaking 12 hours. Unfortunately I also had that little guy dressed in red with the pitchfork on my shoulder. He kept telling me it was okay to walk. He reminded me that I was in a crash 6 weeks ago and just completing this thing would be good enough. Then the little guy in white popped up on the other should and told me I can do better than that. I didn't want an excuse. I didn't want to finish the race and say yeah I did it in XX:XX:XX, but I crashed beforehand and could have gone faster. I wanted to leave to leave it all on the course and finish DESPITE that crash, with the best possible time I could. My groin felt fine. That wasn't a limiting factor. My bowels had settled down. All it was was just muscle soreness and stiff joints. I've ran through that crud before and I had less than a 10k to go so get moving!

I still walked the aid stations and hills, but I the breaks were shorter than I had been doing. Soon it was less than a 5k. The thought of getting to the finishing chute spurned me on. The capitol was up ahead and I could just feel the crowds and excitement. I ran through that last station, just grabbing a sponge to wipe my face clean (I had to look purty for my finisher photo). The sunglasses went on my head and I was just in awe of all that was around me.

I wish I would have slowed down a little but I couldn't help but run hard at the end. I entered the finisher's chute, something I had only done in my dreams before, and couldn't believe the spectacle. Hundreds of fans cheering for me, yes me, as I ran down. I high fived some random people, in the process missing my mom's own outstretched hand on the other side of the chute. There it was, the finish line with Mike Reilly up ahead. I heard my name. I raised my arms. I crossed the line. I gave a fist pump. I was an Ironman!!


Time: 4:21:28
Pace: 9:59 / mile
OA Place: 488/2550
AG Place: 53/186

DonkeyKim caught me at the finish line and it was great to have a friend there at the end. She got me my hat and shirt and medal and got me to the photo spot. I felt good. I was walking just fine and felt "with it" still. No medical tent for me. Wooohoo!

Met the family and a few friends just outside and took some pictures and was able to hold some coherent conversations so that was a good. After some time I found the food tent and scored myself the first solid food I'd had since breakfast. Mmmm! Pizza!


My first IM experience was nothing short of phenomenal. The fans were great, the course was fun, my family rocks, my friends rock, and every single one of the 3000 volunteers were most appreciated. All of that combined to make one fantastic experience that I will never forget and cannot wait to repeat next year!

Final Time: 11:46:53
OA Place: 487/2550
AG Place: 53/186

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Ready to Go!

Well, I leave for Madison tomorrow morning. It's hard to believe this weekend is finally here. I've been looking forward to this since I toed the line at my first triathlon, and knew that I wanted to become an Ironman.

The hard part is over. The training is done. As the popular expression goes, the hay is in the barn. It's time to reap the rewards on a long, hard year of training. Here's exactly what that year looked like in terms of training volume:

Bike:209h 46m 38s - 4033.55 Mi
Run:95h 36m 09s - 702.58 Mi
Swim:95h 40m 08s - 304699.6 Yd

As you can see, the remaining 140.6 miles will be a mere drop in the bucket. They always say the hardest part of Ironman is getting to the starting line. I had a few doubtful moments following the crash six weeks ago, but here I am.

Let's get this party started.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

T-minus 1 Week!

Holy smokes! A week from this very moment, if all goes as well as I can possibly hope, I will be an Ironman. It's crazy to think about as I sit here now. All of those hours of hard work are about to be be rewarded, and I couldn't be more excited.

The taper is in full swing and the workouts are short and sweet, but that's not to say that they haven't been quality. In fact I've had a few breakthroughs that have allowed my confidence for next weekend to soar. In the water I had been relegated to doing swim sets with the pull buoy to prevent myself from kicking and aggravating the groin. Slowly, but surely I've been working in regular sets and last Friday I was able to do a straight 3000 swim without it. I've even been able to work in drill sets that were troublesome before, and although I can tell I've lost a little speed since before the wreck.

Out of the water, my running has been improving equally. I was able to lower my walk breaks while increasing my run intervals, and the last run I did yesterday morning was a 3.25 miles of pure running without any ill consequences. I can tell that my muscles aren't used to running continuously, but at least my groin has decided to quiet down. I will still be employing some sort of run/walk interval at the race, but it is going to much more aggressive than I originally thought.

All of this seems to be coming together at just the right time, and I couldn't be happier. A few weeks ago I was in a dark place, really questioning whether the race was even going to happen and whether I would be content walking a marathon, but my body has seemed to respond positively. I can't wait to race come Sunday!

That said, I realize that I have been training pretty solidly since February and I think I'm ready for a little break. With the extra free time I've been able to get all sorts of important things done like clean the apartment, catch up on some reading, watch a ton of college football, and get the last few months worth of comics cataloged and put away. Then there's been the whole checking of my pack lists for next weekend that pretty much occurs on the hour, every hour. They seem short. There's no doubt I'm forgetting something. Better check again, right? ;)

Gear is being laid out in the middle of the freshly cleaned living room and in just a couple of days it will be packed away on on its way to Madison. A quick tune up of the bike, a few more light workouts, and bam! it's going to be IM weekend before I know it.

I'm ready.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

It's Officially Taper Time!

Wow! I seriously can't believe I'm only sitting 2 weeks out from my first Ironman. When I signed up last year, a year seemed like so far away, like it would never come. Yet here I am.

2 weeks to go means the taper is in full swing. My long ride today was a mere 60 miles. I rode about 20 miles out to one of the few significant climbs around here and did hill repeats. I think I confused a farmer nearby who was baling hay because each time I rode up I'd wave and he'd look at me funny. The new 12-25 cassette worked out just fine and I'm pretty sure I'll stick to that for the race.

Normally I'd run on Saturday's too, but given my recent running woes I decided to give the groin another rest day. My long run Thursday was 13 miles, but was still about 75% walking. The run segments felt just fine, but I'm at the point right now that I really don't want to push anything. I'm going to play it cautiously from here on out and if I feel good come race day I'll push it then.

Swimming is still pull buoy intensive, but at least I'm getting some yards in and my shoulders are getting used to the work again, even if I have lost a lot of speed.

Other than that there's just a lot of pre race visualization going on. I'm not sure how I'm going to make it through another 2 weeks of work because I swear my mind starts drifting to the race every few minutes. It doesn't help when there's a wealth of inspirational stuff on the internet to distract me either. This was posted on BT last week and I wish I knew the original author so I could give them credit because it honestly gave me goosebumps of anticipation:

Right now you are about to enter the taper. Perhaps you've been at this a few months, perhaps you've been at this a few years. For some of you this is your first IM, for others, a long-overdue welcome back to a race that few can match.

You've been following your schedule to the letter. You've been piling on the mileage, piling up the laundry, and getting a set of tan lines that will take until next year to erase. Long rides were followed by long runs, which both were preceded by long swims, all of which were followed by recovery naps that were longer than you slept for any given night during college.

You ran in the snow.
You rode in the rain.
You ran in the heat.
You ran in the cold.

You went out when others stayed home.
You rode the trainer when others pulled the covers over their heads.

You have survived the Darwinian progression that is an Ironman summer, and now the hardest days are behind you. Like a climber in the Tour de France coming over the summit of the penultimate climb on an alpine stage, you've already covered so much ground...there's just one more climb to go. You shift up, you take a drink, you zip up the jersey; the descent lies before you...and it will be a fast one.

Time that used to be filled with never-ending work will now be filling with silent muscles, taking their final, well-earned rest. While this taper is something your body desperately needs, your mind cast off to the background for so very long, will start to speak to you.

It won't be pretty.

It will bring up thoughts of doubt, pain, hunger, thirst, failure, and loss. It will give you reasons why you aren't ready. It will try and make one last stand to stop you, because your brain doesn't know what the body already does. Your body knows the truth:

You are ready.

Your brain won't believe it. It will use the taper to convince you that this is foolish - that there is too much that can go wrong.

You are ready.

Finishing an Ironman is never an accident. It's the result of dedication, focus, hard work, and belief that all the long runs in January, long rides in April, and long swims every damn weekend will be worth it. It comes from getting on the bike, day in, day out. It comes from long, solo runs. From that first long run where you wondered, "How will I ever be ready?" to the last long run where you smiled to yourself with one mile to go...knowing that you'd found the answer.

It is worth it. Now that you're at the taper, you know it will be worth it. The workload becomes less. The body winds up and prepares, and you just need to quiet your worried mind. Not easy, but you can do it.

You are ready.

You will walk into the water with 2000 other wide-open sets of eyes. You will look upon the sea of humanity, and know that you belong. You'll feel the chill of the water crawl into your wetsuit, and shiver like everyone else, but smile because the day you have waited for so VERY long is finally here.

You will tear up in your goggles. Everyone does.

The helicopters will roar overhead.
The splashing will surround you.

You'll stop thinking about Ironman, because you're now racing one.

The swim will be long - it's long for everyone, but you'll make it. You'll watch as the shoreline grows and grows, and soon you'll hear the end. You'll come up the beach and head for the wetsuit strippers. Three people will get that sucker off before you know what happening, then you’ll head for the bike.

The voices, the cowbells, and the curb-to-curb chalk giving you a hero's sendoff can't wipe the smile off your face.

You'll settle down to your race. The crowds will spread out on the road. You'll soon be on your bike, eating your food on your schedule, controlling your Ironman.

You'll start to feel that morning sun turn to afternoon sun. It's warmer now. Maybe it's hot. Maybe you're not feeling so good now. You'll keep riding. You'll keep drinking. You'll keep moving. After all, this is just a long training day with valet parking and catering, right?

You'll put on your game face, fighting the urge to feel down as you ride for what seems like hours. You reach special needs, fuel up, and head out.

By now it'll be hot. You'll be tired. Doubts will fight for your focus. Everyone struggles here. You've been on that bike for a few hours, and stopping would be nice, but you won't - not here. Not today.

You'll grind the false flats to the climb. You'll know you're almost there. You'll fight for every inch of road. The crowd will come back to you here. Let their energy push you. Let them see your eyes. Smile when they cheer for you - your body will get just that little bit lighter.

Grind.
Fight.
Suffer.
Persevere.

You'll plunge down the road, swooping from corner to corner, chaining together the turns, tucking on the straights, letting your legs recover for the run to come - soon! You'll roll back - you'll see people running out. You'll think to yourself, "Wasn't I just here?" The noise
will grow. The chalk dust will hang in the air - you're back, with only 26.2 miles to go. You'll relax a little bit, knowing that even if you get a flat tire or something breaks here, you can run the damn bike into T2.

You'll roll into transition. 100 volunteers will fight for your bike. You'll give it up and not look back. You'll have your bag handed to you, and into the tent you'll go. You'll change. You'll load up your pockets, and open the door to the last long run of your Ironman summer - the one that counts.

You'll take that first step of a thousand...and you'll smile. You'll know that the bike won't let you down now - the race is down to your own two feet. The same crowd that cheered for you in the shadows of the morning will cheer for you in the brilliant sunshine of a summer Sunday. High-five people on the way out. Smile. Enjoy it. This is what you've worked for all year long.

That first mile will feel great. So will the second. By mile 3, you probably won't feel so good.

That's okay. You knew it couldn't all be that easy. You'll settle down just like you did on the bike, and get down to your pace. You'll see the leaders coming back the other way. Some will look great - some won't. You might feel great, you might not. No matter how you feel, don't panic - this is the part of the day where whatever you're feeling, you can be sure it won't last.

You'll keep moving. You'll keep drinking. You'll keep eating. Maybe you'll be right on plan - maybe you won't. If you're ahead of schedule, don't worry - believe. If you're behind, don't panic - roll with it. Everyone comes up with a brilliant race plan for Ironman, and then everyone has to deal with the reality that planning for something like Ironman is like trying to land a man on the moon. By remote control. Blindfolded.

How you react to the changes in your plan will dictate your day. Don't waste energy worrying about things - just do what you have to when you have to, and keep moving. Keep eating. Keep drinking. Just don't sit down - don't EVER sit down.

You'll make it to the halfway point. You'll load up on special needs. Some of what you packed will look good, some won't. Eat what looks good, toss the rest. Keep moving. Start looking for people you know. Cheer for people you don't. You're headed in - they're not. They want to be where you are, just like you wanted to be when you saw all those fast people headed into town. Share some energy - you'll get it right back.

Run if you can.
Walk if you have to.
Just keep moving.

The miles will drag on. The brilliant sunshine will yawn. You'll be coming up to those aid stations fully alive with people, music, and chicken soup. TAKE THE SOUP. Keep moving.

You'll soon only have a few miles to go. You'll start to believe that you're going to make it. You'll start to imagine how good it's going to feel when you get there. Let those feelings drive you on. When your legs just don't want to move anymore, think about what it's going to be like when someone catches you…and puts a medal over your head... all you have to do is get there.

You'll start to hear the people in town. People you can't see in the twilight will cheer for you. They'll call out your name. Smile and thank them. They were there when you left on the bike, and when you came back, and when you left on the run, and now when you've come back.

You'll enter town. You'll start to realize that the day is almost over. You'll be exhausted, wiped out, barely able to run a 10-minute mile (if you're lucky), but you'll ask yourself, "Where did the whole day go?" You'll be standing on the edge of two feelings - the desire to finally stop, and the desire to take these last moments and make them last as long as possible.

You'll hit mile 25. Your Ironman will have 1.2 miles - just 2KM left in it.

You'll run. You'll find your legs. You'll fly. You won't know how, but you will run. The lights will grow brighter, brighter, and brighter. Soon you'll be able to hear the music again. This time, it'll be for keeps.

Soon they'll see you. Soon, everyone will see you. You'll run towards the lights, between the fences, and into the night sun made just for you.

They'll say your name.
You'll keep running.
Nothing will hurt.

The moment will be yours - for one moment, the entire world will be looking at you and only you.

You'll break the tape at the finish line, 140.6 miles after starting your journey. The flash will go off.

You'll stop. You'll finally stop. Your legs will wobble their last, and suddenly...be capable of nothing more.

Someone will catch you.
You'll lean into them.

It will suddenly hit you.
YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!

You are ready.
You are ready.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Madison Training Weekend

So last weekend I traveled to Madison to get in one last good training weekend before the taper starts for IMWI and I must say that it was quite the confidence booster given what I've had to put up with the last few weeks.

I rolled into town Friday night and met up with a group of people from BT that are doing the race as well. We ate dinner at a nice little Italian restaurant called Bucatini's that seemed to be a hit with everyone. A few of us may be using it for our Saturday night meal come ironman weekend. It was nice to meet and chat with some other people doing the race and I instantly had eight new friends/training partners.

Saturday morning was a 2.4 mile swim race put on by the U.S masters club. I got to the race site much earlier than anticipated so I picked up my timing chip and then headed back to the car for awhile since I had left my water bottle there. After chilling for awhile I made my way back and wrestled my wetsuit on. My middle finger on my right hand is still a little swollen from my crash 3 weeks ago so gripping and pulling the wetsuit on was interesting to say the least. Soon enough they were herding us into the water like cattle.

I floated out a little ways with 200 of my friends. I figured I would be swimming for an hour and twenty minutes so there would be plenty of time to warm up once the gun sounded.While technically this was a race, I had no intentions of racing it. This was merely part of a training day to prep for IMWI. This would be my longest OWS to date and the goal was to simply survive it. Add the fact that due to RAGBRAI, a bike crash recovery, and flooding in my hometown I had swam (swum?) all of 4000 yds in the previous 4 weeks, I really had no expectations.

The gun (or was it a horn?) took me by surprise. Other people started swimming so I figured it must be time to go. I started several rows back and close to the shore side. As a result this was probably the furthest away from the mayhem I have ever been so my start was relatively clean. About midway down the first section someone made up for it by kicking me in the head. The goggles started leaking and I thought I got most of the water out and sealed back up but my eye was really irritated after the race and is still a little red 2 days later.

Sighting was pretty much awful the whole day. I haven't done a long OWS since June, but even so you'd think I'd retain a little sighting skill. Aside from that I cruised along relatively easily, never really pushing the pace. As I got close to the end of the first loop I could feel my right shoulder (the one that, along with my head, took the brunt of my crash impact and kept me from raising my arm above my head for several days) starting to get a little sore. I couldn't tell if it was just normal fatigue or something I should be worried about. Usually it's my left elbow that starts to get sore after awhile so this was new.

I glanced at the clock as I finished the first loop and saw I was around 37:00. 2 minutes slower than my last HIM, but still good enough to keep me on pace for a 1:15, which is my goal for IM. I felt like I sighted better and held a smoother stroke throughout the second loop, but my pace must have slowed some because by the time I scrambled up the ramp I just over 1:17. Oh well. I accomplished what I set out to do and that was survive with enough energy to tackle the rest of the day.

Afterward I chatted with our training group till my dizziness subsided and then found some food and water for a quick refuel before the ride. It was a good confidence booster to get an IM distance OWS in before the race in 3 weeks. Given the circumstances surrounding the last month of my training (or lack thereof) I am pleased with the result.

Next up was a ride on the bike course. I drove out to Fireman's park where the loop part of the course starts and met back up with our group. Ben led us out and it wasn't long until I hit the first of the infamous hills of IMMOO. It was definitely hillier than anything around here by a longshot. I don't mind the climbing. In fact, for living in a relatively flat area and keep a little more weight around my midsection than I should I am a pretty decent climber. What I am not, is a good descender. Give my a hill straight down I am fine. Put me down a hill that curves and I can't see turns coming up I have a deathgrip on the aerobars and am riding the brakes like nobody's business. I doesn't help that I just had a high speed crash 3 weeks ago.

That said, part of the goal of riding the course early was to get a feel for it. I have a better idea of where I need to brake and be cautious and where I can open up and enjoy the speed. I also got to experience the three big hills on the loop and see just how bad they are. They were big for sure, but I wasn't overly impressed. Only once did I wish I had another gear and I'm still debating whether or not to swap out my 11-23 cassette for the 12-25 I bought. I probably will just to have that extra gear on a few of the climbs, but it will mean a lot more switching in between the small and big chain ring.

At the end of the first loop I decided to turn left on Whalen and ride the stick portion of the course. I had plenty of nutrition at the time and figured I'd be more apt to do it now than at the end of the second loop. I did about 10 miles out and then back to the park, putting me a little over 62 miles for the first portion of the ride.

After a quick refuel I headed back out for another loop. At some point early on I made a wrong right turn. The course was marked with chalk arrows designating turns and I swear I saw one pointing toward that turn but apparently not. Pretty soon stuff starting seeming a little unfamiliar and then I went down a monstrous hill and I knew I was definitely off course. The problem was I really didn't want to go back up that hill so I kept on riding for awhile. Finally, several miles later, I summoned the gumption to turn around and head back. Let me tell you, that hill was the hardest climb I face that ride. Ouch!

Eventually I made back onto route 92 and rode for awhile. As I neared Mt. Horeb I saw I was over 90 miles for the day already so I decided rather than complete the loop I would be better off just turning around and heading back to the park. I rolled in at roughly 105 miles, which was plenty for me that day. I was a little bummed that I didn't get a second look at the full loop, but it was a darn good training anyway. Needless to say I slept like a baby that night.

Sunday I made the drive back to Ames. My legs felt awesome that morning, probably the best they've felt after a century ride. I attribute this to a couple of things. I rode the first loop pretty easy, wanting to just get a good look at the hills and how to attack it. In addition, on a hilly course like that, the descents are so steep that often times I was just coasting down. Around home I am pretty much pedaling the entire ride, with my only breaks being for turns. Lastly, I may just be in the best bike shape I've been in all year, I don't know.

Whatever it was I wasn't just content to sit inside for the rest of the day so I went out for a walk. I hadn't discussed it with my PT yet, but I decided to throw in some jogging intervals to see just how the groin felt. I did a 6/1 walk/run combo and felt great. Last night I did a 5/2 walk/run run combo and felt pretty good as well. I can't begin to explain how relieved I am to get in a little running. I know my marathon won't be the speediest ever, but getting to confidence to know that I'll be able to run at least a portion of it has helped immensely.

All in all, the weekend was a HUGE success for me. Just a couple of weeks ago I wasn't even sure if Ironman was going to happen for me, but know the pieces seem to be falling into place at the right time and I couldn't be happier. Just a couple more days of regular workouts and then the taper begins. 18 Days!!!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Moving Forward

Okay, so I will be the first to admit that the last couple of weeks have been depressing for me. I've been dealing with a groin injury stemming from a bike crash not too long ago. I think I have covered the entire range of emotional reactions during this time, ranging from 'Oh my God, my Ironman is ruined!' to 'Maybe I'll have a miraculous recovery and everything will be just fine.'

The truth is I think I have found a happy medium. I have come to terms with the fact that this will more than likely not be my best Ironman. That's okay. I just want to make it to the start line as healthy as possible and finish the dang thing, even if that means walking an 7 hour marathon. Any time goals have been thrown out the window and that may be a good thing. No undue pressure to put on myself come race day. I can just go out and enjoy myself. There will be more IM races after this one where, if I get to race day as prepared as I can be, I will concern myself with the ticking clock.

The race will not be a total loss though. I still expect to have a solid swim and bike and get myself out on the run course at about the 7 hour mark. I started swimming again this week, and while it hurts the groin a little to kick, I have limited myself to pull buoy sets and believe the wetsuit will help come race day as little kick is needed with one of those.

Biking-wise I feel pretty good. I was able to get out a couple of times last weekend. I did a cautious 30 miles on Saturday and felt no pain whatsoever. I followed that up with a 106 mile ride on Sunday that felt pretty good too. It has taken me a little while to recover, more than the last century, but I think that's most likely due to the 2 weeks of inactivity that I had after the crash.

This weekend should be another good training weekend. I am heading to Madison for a 2.4 mile open water swim race on Saturday at Lake Monona. After that I will be riding the entire bike course to get a feel for it. I am excited to check out the hills and see just how bad they really.

Then it's one more week of hard work and some sort of modified taper. Not sure what the taper is for zero running miles. Lol! In actuality I am going to begin some long walks to get my body somewhat used to that. I'm not sure if anything is really going to get me used to being on my feet that long.

Until then I will continue to see my PT in hopes that the groin will improve and keep trying to get into the orthopedist to get his opinion.

3.5 weeks to go!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Quick Update

I feel I owe everyone a quick update. I haven't been in the mood to write much lately but didn't want to neglect the blog completely.

It's been a week since RAGBRAI ended. It wasn't the trip I had anticipated. We had some setbacks that included our team bus breaking down and the remnants of our team completing various amounts of the trip. Despite that it was still a pretty fun trip. Luckily for me one of the members of the original team biked and drank at about the same pace as me so we pretty much hung out the whole week. Well, the whole week up until my accident.

On day 6 I had a pretty bad accident. I was changing lanes and my front wheel stuck in a gap in the concrete. Needless to say my bike stopped and I didn't. Nasty concussion, 7 stitches in my head and a couple more in my finger, road rash galore, and generally a pretty achy body. Lucky for me nothing was broken.

I spent last week in recovery mode. I had absolutely no energy for anything and making it through an 8 hour work day was difficult. Mid week I attempted a run but didn't make it far due to said low energy levels. I laid low the rest of the week and finally got out on my bike yesterday for a 50 mile ride. All in all things felt good and for the first time since the crash I started to believe having a good IM race was still in the cards for me.

So today I decided to go for a run early now that my energy levels had returned. I didn't make it very far before I started getting a sharp pain in the upper groin area of my right leg. It slowed me to a walk and even now 12 hours later it is still pretty sore. I had noticed a faint pain there earlier after the crash, but it was the least of my worries at the time. My amateur diagnosis is just a strained muscle, but even that is going to take a lot of rest to heal. With just 5 weeks to go, time is becoming a scarce commodity. But I have to do what I can do to get myself to the start line.

Friday, July 23, 2010

RAGBRAI Eve

Well, technically it is RAGBRAI eve eve, since the ride starts on Sunday, but come tomorrow I will be leaving on a bus full of 12 strangers to make the trip to Sioux City to partake in my first ever RAGBRAI.

I have heard of this event every year growing up, but it's only been the last couple years training for endurance events and realizing how much I love being on my bike that it has really piqued my interest and I knew it was something that I just had to do. For those of you that don't know the ride is roughly 500 miles across the state of Iowa spread throughout 7 days. Like I said this will be my first time participating and to say I am looking forward to it is an understatement.

Physically I know I am ready for it. I have covered nearly 3000 miles ytd on my bike, including multiple century rides and these 500 miles won't be hard training miles. They will be leisurely, have fun miles, with multiple food and beer breaks in between towns. It's probably not the ideal Ironman training, but this week is not about that. It's really about doing three things I love: riding my bike, drinking beer, and eating.

Now, for those of you that know me, this is a huge step outside of my social comfort zone, which I can only imagine is a good thing for me. As I mentioned earlier I will be riding with 12 strangers, which is a daunting thing for me. I am not the most social person in the world and making friends can be tough. Stepping outside of what's easy for me can only be a good thing for me and I'm both nervous and excited at the prospect. I suspect the beer consumed on the trip will help me loosen up.

I am already looking forward to a few highlights from the trip, which are overnight stays with some familiar faces. On the second night we are staying with an old college roommate of mine in Whittmore, IA. On the third night my parents have graciously opened their home in Clear Lake. After that, it will be a grand adventure till we dip our front wheel in the Mississippi come Saturday. Stories and pictures to follow!

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Gauntlet (century and race reports)

Well, my crazy weekend of training and racing is officially over and I must say that it was rather successful. I awoke bright and early Saturday morning and departed on my second century ride of the season. I've come to the realization that my body doesn't really want to do anything right when I wake. I always struggle with my morning runs and this ride was no different. I covered only 17 miles in the first hour and I thought I was going to be in for a long morning of riding. I even hopped off my bike at that point to make sure my brakes weren't rubbing. Slowly but surely I began to feel a little better and by the time I was making my first pit stop at the apartment I was feeling much better. I refilled the drink bottles and headed out on the second loop. It was a peaceful morning to be out on the bike and I actually enjoyed the entire ride. As I finished up there was no doubt in my mind that I could go another 10 miles.

Miles: 102.36
Time: 5:15:38
Pace: 19.46 mph

I was happy with the effort. My goal at IMMOO is a 20mph average on the bike and in race conditions I think that's doable. Once I get a taste of the hills on the course we'll see if that goal is still realistic. I finished the ride shortly after 11:00 so that gave me plenty of time to recover, nap, and watch the Tour.

Next up, the Midnight Madness 10k at 8:30 that night (a misnomer, I know). I parked a few blocks away and then ran a little over a mile to warm up along one of my old running routes from when I used to live downtown. The legs felt less than spectacular, but slightly better than dead. I walked the rest of the way to the start line and arrived with about 2 minutes to spare.

So the strategy for the race was to go out hard and see just how long I could hold on. There was a clock at the first mile marker and it read something like 6:10 when I got to it. Whoops! Not that hard. I know I can't hold that, especially with the first hill coming up.

Heading up the hill, my friend Henry pulled up alongside me. This was another sign that I went out too hard as he's usually pulling me along during group runs. We chatted for about a minute then he took off. Eventually I hit the first turnaround and started making my way back toward downtown.

They were a lot of spectators along this part of the route, which is helpful. I heard a few people call out my name, which surprised the hell out of me. Hey, I’ve got fans! It was a couple of people I knew from my tri training group.

I hit the 5k mark at 20:53, which I was okay with. The goal was 42 minutes and I was right on track. I just needed to hold on for the last half of the race. I did the loop around downtown again and noticed the temperature at the bank had dropped from 86 to 77 in the course of the first half of the race. Sweet! Why do I feel like I'm burning up still?

The second loop was tough. My legs were starting feel it, especially up the hills. Suck it up, Sally, less than 5k to go! I kept chugging along. At one point some dude pulled up along next to me and struck up a conversation.

Dude: I hope we're still in the running for mugs.
Me: Mugs?
Dude: Yeah, top 100 finishers get mugs.
Me: Sweet!

Notice my one words sentences? Yeah, I couldn't manage much more than that. When I hit the turnaround I was happy that there was just a little over a mile left. As I started approaching downtown I knew that 42 minutes was going to be awfully close. I managed my best sprint to close things out.

Finishing clock had me at 42:07, garmin at 42:09, official time: 42:14. What? Oh well, still finished in the same place. I got handed my mug and was a little disappointed to find out it was a coffee mug. I was thinking beer mug. Hmmm, I wonder where my mind was! I guess I can use it to make Irish Coffees.

Run Time: 42:14
Pace: 6:48 / mile
OA: 87/645
AG: 10/46

My beer-errrr.....coffee mug!

I walked around a bit and drank a few glasses of water. Then I chatted with some friends and got a big ol plate of spaghetti to replenish the carbs. Yummm! I wished I could have stayed around for the party and beer, but I had a tri in less than 11 hours and I needed my beauty sleep.

While I definitely didn't have my best racing legs, it was still a solid effort. I didn't feel all too bad afterward, but now it was time to see how well I would recover for round 3.

The morning came quickly enough and upon waking up my legs were a little tight, but not as bad as I thought they'd be. I hopped in the car and was on my way to the Iowa Games Triathlon in Ogden, IA. The race was a short one: a 440 yd swim, 13 mile bike, and 5k run.

I drove to the race site in pouring rain. Oh goody another wet triathlon! I parked my bike in one of the middle racks right next to one of my friends from our training group. I chatted with him and a few others I recognized to pass the time.

I decided it would be in my best interests to warm up in the water a bit since I hadn't swam for over a week. I swam the whole course and the water felt great. I was good to go.

The Swim:

I positioned myself in the second row, hoping to get on the feet of some of the faster swimmers. That didn't work out so well as there was quite a bit of contact at the start and I couldn't get clear. At one point some guy started climbing up my back, which is fine because I expect that sort of thing to happen. Then I felt a palm on the small of my back and the a-hole shoved me straight down. I was pretty much vertical in the water at that point, but I managed to get going again. Try that again, d-bag, and I'm kicking as hard as I can. Sure enough a couple of seconds later the hand was pushing on my back again. My feet connected with something solid, more than once, and he let up. See you later.

The swim cleared up after that. I rounded the turnaround without incident, surprised at how many people I was passing after the first couple hundred yards. Do people really gas themselves that much in a 440 yard swim? Maybe I just had that rough of a start. Anyway, I made it to the boat ramp and headed into transition

Swim time: 6:59
Swim pace: 1:35 / 100 yds
OA rank: 34/295
AG rank: 3/17

T1 was a quick 29 seconds

The Bike:

So about a hundred yards from the mount line is a hill. I've complained about this hill before and I'll complain about it again today. It's not that it's all that big, it's just the positioning of it. You can't use the downhill on the way back because of the dismount line. What a waste!

Anywho, some goofball passed me at the crest of the hill, but then he struggled to get his feet in his shoes and I took off and never saw him again. Time to catch some swimmers!

I tried to gauge how my legs felt in the early miles. I could tell they weren't all there, but I pushed as hard as I could regardless. The roads were wet and it may have still been raining but I don't really remember. I caught a lot of people on the way to the turnaround, including most of the "elites" that started in the first wave.

As I approached the turnaround I started counting heads coming back the other way. One.....two......uhhh....really? I'm in third? A brief deluded vision of reaching the podium danced through my head. Hold on, Neal, the fast old dudes (35+) started in the wave behind you. Don't get ahead of yourself.

There was a slight headwind on the way back and I could feel my legs start to falter a little bit. I was passed not once, but twice with about a mile left to go to transition. The second guy was in my age group. Grrr! I kept him in my sights until we were back in.

Bike time: 34:25
Bike pace: 22.66 mph
OA rank: 8/295
AG rank: 3/17

T2 was a quick 22 seconds, but I made a little mistake by accidentally grabbing my goggles

The Run:

I pass over the timing mat, throw on my visor, and as I start to put on my race number belt I realize I accidentally grabbed my goggles at the same time. Fudge! Maybe after not swimming for a week I subconsciously wanted to go for another dip

I wasn't sure what to do so in my confused state I backtracked to the timing mat (careful not cross it again and mess up my results) where there was a volunteer to ask what to do. She said to just toss them on the ground where I could find them afterward. Well that sounds logical. Bye, bye goggles. Okay, off we go a second time. How much time did that cost me? 10, 20 seconds? Oh well, let's run.

At that point in time I could still see the guy in my age group in front of me and I had visions of running him down. After the first mile when we hit the first turnaround area I could tell that wasn't going to happen. If anything, he was widening the gap.

Okay, consolation goal: don't let anyone pass you. I estimated the nearest competitor was at least 30 seconds behind me at that point. I continued to push and coming off the second turnaround point I saw that the guy behind me was gaining. Crud!

He passed me before the long hill about a half mile from the finish line. I held on for the last little bit and finally crossed, pretty spent for a sprint race.

Run time: 21:12
Run pace: 6:50 / mile
OA rank: 24/295
AG rank: 3/17

Finish Time: 1:03:29
OA Rank: 8/295
AG Rank: 2/17

The goggle mistake bugged me. I was only 5 seconds off of 7th and 25 seconds off of 6th. This may have been the difference. Quick side story that is a point of comedy for family and friends. Former Iowa Hawkeye and stud NFL kick returner Tim Dwight competes in this tri every year. I was finishing my post race food when he crossed the finish line some 8 minutes after me. I'm not sure why, but it's just fun to say I beat Tim Dwight at an athletic contest of some sort.

I waited around for the awards. I was given "1st" in my age group due to the fact that the guy who beat me was 3rd overall. Darn, I was hoping for a clean age group win before aging up next year.

A shiny gold medal!

I'm pretty sure that if I had not ridden a century and run a 10k the day before I would have moved up a few spots in the overall placing. All in all I am pleased with the finish (my best in a tri so far) and extremely happy with how my body responded. The weekend was quite a confidence booster for IMWI.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Ready for a fun weekend

Well, last weekend was fun and I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. I got to spend time with family, played some mean whiffeball, and managed a fair amount of training.

This weekend will be a little different. This is another "confidence boosting" weekend. I have 2 races on tap, but instead of going in thoroughly fresh and prepared I plan on riding a century tomorrow before the fun gets started. I am likening this to coming into an IM run thoroughly worn out and tired and pushing through.

I still envision myself doing fairly well in Satuday's 10k and Sunday's sprint tri. A time over 42 minutes on Saturday and placing > than 3rd in my age group on Sunday will be disappointing. Man, I sound like a cocky sonofab@#&%, but I have a good feeling about things right now. I had a nice 80 miler last Saturday and felt great for my afternoon run. No reason things shouldn't feel the same this week. If not, I've got a good excuse, right?

Heading to bed soon. The drink bottles are mixed, the race wheels are ready for Sunday, and I really can't wait for the weekend. Should be a good time!

Friday, July 2, 2010

See ya June

Another month down, another month closer to Ironman. The month of June was a light month for me volume-wise due to the fact that I had to work in a taper and recovery period for the June 12th HIM I did. It was worth it though, as I crushed that race and met a long time goal of mine of going sub-5hrs.

I'm only now getting back up to speed and fully into the IM build so I am anticipating a much better July. Bike mileage is going to be insanely high with RAGBRAI (500 miles) the last week of the month. Conversely that ride, combined with a pool closure next week, will cause my swimming volume to be much lower. Running is getting back to where I need to be at this point. I started off with a 16 miler yesterday so I should have plenty of time to build to a long run of 20 miles before IM.

Anywho, quick post since I have an early morning date with my bike before heading to my parents place to spend some quality time with the family over the holiday weekend. Here's the month's totals:

Bike:22h 47m 02s - 454.03 Mi
Run:10h 03m 20s - 79.33 Mi
Swim:10h 42m 57s - 34858.81 Yd

Sunday, June 27, 2010

First Century of the Season

I completed my 100 mile training ride of the year yesterday! It was nice to get one of those under my belt with just 11 weeks until the ironman.

For awhile I thought the ride wasn't going to happen. The weather forecast for Saturday looked pretty grim. Storms rolled in the night before and when my alarm went off at 5:30 it was still pouring outside. I rolled over for a few extra hours of glorious sleep and when I awoke again at 7:00 the sun was out. A quick glance at the radar showed that the storms were out of the way and there were several hours of clear skies ahead.

I ate a quick breakfast and was on the road by 7:45. I was a little nervous for the ride since my quads were still pretty sore from Thursday's long run. I tried to ignore the negative thoughts and just enjoy myself.

It was fairly cool at the beginning of the ride but it didn't take long for things to heat up. I knew the temps were going to be breaking 90, hence my attempt at an early departure, but that was just another thing I tried to ignore.

The plan was to do two 50 mile loops, but ended up doing 60 for the first loop. I had plenty of nutrition and fluids and by adding that extra ten miles I wouldn't have to tackle one really big hill on the second loop again. I stopped by the apartment to refill the water bottles before heading out again. It was tempting to stop at that point in time because I was definitely feeling fatigued and the wind had picked up to 20 mph, which made the last 10 miles of my route miserable. I told myself to suck it up and headed back out.

I think it was at that point in time that I realized I had forgotten sunscreen. I now have a pretty hot looking two inch red stripe along both biceps since the jersey I wore had shorter sleeves than whichever one had previously given me my tan. The 40 mile loop was pretty uneventful. My legs were sore, my butt was sore, it had gotten HOT (I went through just as many fluids during the 40 miler as I did the first 60), the wind had her way with me, and by the end of the ride I was pretty much ready to be done. Official mileage was 100.72 miles done in a time of 5:24, which resulted in an average pace of 18.65 mph. Given the conditions I was happy with that, but there's still plenty of work to do before IMMOO.

The legs were pretty sore today so I had to give them a day off. It was unfortunate too because it was a lovely day out. I really need to recover so I can have some quality workouts this week. There's a lot to cram in before heading home for the 4th of July holiday where training time will be sparse.

During my free time today I managed to get a lot accomplished around the apartment, including filling up this little guy, which was a present from Santa Claus (aka mom):


I have to admit it feels a little weird having a shrine to myself in the living room, but the case does look a lot better with stuff in it. Of course, I forgot to leave room for my IM finisher's medal and race number so it will need to be reconfigured in a few months

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Recovery!

Recovery is an essential part of any triathlete's training regimen. Not just recovery from hard workouts, but recovery from tough races as well. I needed to recover properly from my last race in order to get in good, quality workouts for IM training. The HIM was about a week and a half ago and only today do I feel that I've fully recovered from it.

I once heard somewhere that you should take a day off for every hour on the race course. It seems like a good general guideline, but I've found in my own personal experience that it's not quite realistic. For instance, I do not require a full day's rest after a hard sprint, which would take roughly an hour. In fact, I often times tack on an extra workout later in the day.

That said, I know a hard HIM will take several days to recover from. I did take 3 full days off (which is about my tolerance for inactivity), and after that it was just some light swimming and biking. Neither of those workouts felt good so I knew I needed to continue to keep everything light and the intensity low.

This week I finally was able to add a little mileage and intensity to the rides and feel good during and after. I added interval training back to the swim and ripped off some of my fastest 100's ever today at the pool.

The only thing that seemed to be taking forever to come around was the running. Every time I hit the road my calves would start to hurt and I would cut the run short. I eeked out 4 miles on Tuesday and was getting a little discouraged. It was taking my legs as long to come around as they did after my last marathon. So tonight's run I set off and told myself to head home as soon as things started getting sore. Surprisingly, I got through a couple of loops at the park without any unusual pain so I decided to keep plugging along. I ended up going 15 miles, which is what the training plan was calling for. I started to wilt in the heat the final 4 miles or so (which is sad because it was only 80 and it's going to get much worse this summer), but all in all it felt as good as any long run I normally do (ie the last few miles suck!).

We'll see how the legs respond tomorrow. They get a day off since I only have a swim on the schedule. After that I'm toying with the idea of doing a century on Saturday. We'll see if the legs (and my ass) are ready for that too!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Liberty Half Ironman

This past weekend I traveled up to the twin cities to participate in the second biggest event of the my 2010 racing season. I was racing my one and only half ironman (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run) of the year, and after having finished in 5:01 and change the year before I had really set my sights on a sub 5 hr finish this year.

I got into town Friday night. Whoever came up with the idea to have packet pickup at the host hotel is a genius. The line was long when I got there so I checked in, went to my room and ate my subway sandwich, and came back later when things calmed down.

I haven't had good luck with quiet hotel stays and this was no exception. A few people were having quite the loud conversation out in the hall at 1 in the morning. Grrr!

I woke up early and mixed up a couple of bottle of gatorade endurance for the bike. Then I ate my bagel and peanut butter and had a banana followed by a Clif bar on the drive to the park.

I was glad I packed a sweatshirt because it was chilly in the morning. As I set up transition I wondered if I should have packed some arm warmers for the bike. Too late now I guess.

At 7:00 I met up with a bunch of the Minnesota BTers, which was nice because racing out of state I didn't know anyone. It's always nice to know a face or two along the way.

I threw on the wetsuit after that and thought I'd go test the water before the pre race meeting. Just a few hundred easy yards to get the arms moving. Afterward I proceeded to shiver my butt off waiting for things to get started.

The Swim:

I was nervous and excited waiting for the start. I had some pretty high expectations with this race, and it was going to start with shaving a few minutes off my swim time from last year. No pressure, right?

Things started off well. No more than your ordinary jostling for the first few hundred yards. After that I was able to comfortably fall into pace. I couldn't find anyone to draft off of so I just swam as well as I could.

It was a long haul out to the turnaround, especially after hitting the Olympic buoys. The distance between those and the half iron buoys seemed much greater than last year. Oh well, I kept the arms moving and rounded them pretty well.

The way back went well too. At one point I managed to catch the feet of a blue cap (wave after me) and draft off of her for several minutes before she finally dropped me for good. After that I just cruised into shore.

Overall it seemed like a solid effort and I felt like I held a steady pace throughout and wasn't gassed at the end.

Initially, running up to transition, I was a little upset at the time. I was hoping for 34 minutes, but now, after looking at the overall results I'm pleased. Top 20% overall is good for me and I even had the fastest swim split in my age group. I guarantee that never happens again.

Time: 35:02
Pace: 1:40 / 100 yds
AG Rank: 1/11
OA Rank: 47/235

T1: 1:24

This was a good T1. One of my better wetsuit exits this year. Time was the 11th fastest of the day

The Bike:

Self control was the name of the game here. The plan was to bike just a wee bit slower than last year in an effort to give my legs a chance to run. Now, it wasn't like I was just going to noodle along for 56 miles. I still hit it hard in spots, but not quite as hard as I could have.

The first thing I noticed was that I was cold. Yeah, those arm warmers would have been nice. The feet were cold too. I kept telling myself that at least it would be nice running weather later.

The second thing I noticed was how lonely the course was. I followed one guy out of transition, but didn't see anyone else for the first 8 miles or so. I didn't pass a whole lot of people during the whole ride and really was only passed a handful of times. At least the course was well marked and the volunteers were helpful so I always knew which way to go.

The nutrition plan was a simple one, but effective. 3 shot bloks every half hour with sips of GE and water in between.

I finished the first loop and checked my time. It was a little slower than I was hoping for so I decided to pick it up a little that second loop. I would probably describe the effort as comfortably hard, if that makes any sense.

At one point it tried to mist a little bit, which was only a little irritating. Thankfully the heavy stuff waited until I was off the bike. It looked like there was a pretty stiff wind out of the north too, but I don't think it affected me too much. The course is pretty protected with trees and hills, unlike Iowa where the flat, endless miles of cornfields offer no protection at all.

I got a little off the nutrition plan that second loop as I was starting to feel a little full and really didn't want to eat anymore. I did manage to down all of the GE I had so that was a good thing. Once I reached the Homestead hill for the second time I happy because that meant there was only 6 miles or so left!

That 3 mile out and back section was nice. Turns out there were other riders out on the course, not just the few that I had encountered the previous 50 miles. Soon enough I was winding back into the park and hopping off my bike.

My goal coming in was a 2:40 split and I pretty much hit that right on. Four minutes slower than last year, but planned that way.

Time: 2:40:23
Pace: 20.95 mph
AG Rank: 5/11
OA Rank: 46/235

T2: 0:52

I missed my foot with one of my shoes, but other than that it was speedy. 3rd fastest of the day. It helps going sockless on a HIM run. Maybe I need to learn how to put my shoes on, which is sad because I probably should have learned this about 25 years ago.

The Run:

Coming out of transition and heading down that first hill I was surprised at how good my legs felt. Last year they were screaming at me immediately. That was a good sign.

My race number was rubbing annoyingly on my leg so I wrestled with it trying to get it in a better position. In the process I knocked one corner out of the clip so as I was running up the treacherous woodchip trail I was trying to get it clipped back in. Eventually I had to come to a complete stop because my fingers weren't working. Not sure if it was the stop mid-climb or my relatively fresh feeling legs, but that climb was so much easier than last year.

After that I settled into as steady of a pace as I could, considering all the mico climbs and descents on the course. Seriously, no real flat sections so to speak of, but no deadly climbs either. I just kept the legs moving, enjoying how good I felt.

After the first few miles I couldn't help but check my watch to see how things were going. At that point I had two thoughts: Wow, you are killing this run and please don't blow up later. My stomach still wasn't real happy, but I managed to take in Heed and water, and a couple of gels later on.

I passed a few people along the way and there was a couple of guys that just flew past me, including the second and third place guys in my age group. The final couple miles out to the turnaround I had a heck of a time catching up to a woman ahead of me. As I really narrowed the gap I remember thinking how it wouldn't be such a bad thing to hang out back here, but I had a pace to keep. It was funny the number guys running back that encouraged me to go "catch that." I finally did just before the turnaround. Bye, bye pace booty.

I took another look at the time. Sweet merciful crap! I've got 56 minutes to make it back and still break 5 hours! Hot diggity dog!

No sense lolly-gagging on the way back. I continued to push the pace. Mist turned into a steady rain and the wet shoes started to give way to a couple of hot spots on my feet. The risk of running sockless I guess. It was nothing too debilitating though, and I plodded ahead.

With just 3 miles to go, I could feel the legs starting to tighten up a little. I had to increase the effort level to keep the pace up, but with just a 5k to go I knew I could get away with pushing a little harder. The goal now was to see how far under 5 hours I could go.

With less than a mile to go I heard footsteps coming up behind. No way I'm getting passed this close to the end. I picked it up. Quite a bit actually. I came dangerously close to taking a header down the woodchip trail, slipping in the mud.

At the bottom the trail straightens out for the last few hundred yards to the finish line. I was surprised to see that the woman I had passed 6 miles ago pull up alongside me. Of course I did what any male would do in my situation, that is speed up. And not just speed up, I was pretty much sprinting, and there was still a long way to go to the finish line. She matched me stride for stride too. I'd surge ahead, then she would, and back and forth. All the while the crowds along the way were going nuts and cheering us on pretty loudly. After 70.1 or .2 miles of racing we still had enough to burn it into the finish.

I edged her out at the finish and she was a good sport about it, sharing a laugh with me afterward. I told her I really didn't need to be doing that at the end of the race. I thought she was the overall women's winner but it turns out she was part of a relay. Either way I congratulated her and then headed out in search of food. What a fun finish to a great race.

Words can't explain how pleased I was with this run. 12 minutes faster than last year and less than 2 minutes off my stand alone half marathon PR. That's a tough run course too. Hardly any spectators so it's just you against your mind for 13.1 miles. It was nice to finally have a HIM run that lived up to my potential.

Time: 1:33:30
Pace: 7:08 / mile
AG rank: 3/11
OA rank: 23/235

Once I stopped moving and the rain really started in I was freezing. Made the executive decision to get my stuff out of transition before attacking the post race food. It absolutely downpoured as I grabbed my stuff out of there and I was shivering the whole time. I actually sat in my car for about 15 minutes before the rain let up. Then I went and hunted down the post-race food.

Final stretch put on a top-notch race. The volunteers were fantastic. As I approached the run aid stations they would yell out ahead asking if I wanted HEED or water. You don't get that kind of service at larger races where the aid stations are overrun with runners. I never thought I'd come back for a second time, but this was really the only HIM that worked out with my schedule this year. At least I know if I come back a third time I'll be well taken care of.

Final Time: 4:51:08
AG Rank: 4/11 (missed 3rd by just 2 minutes!)
OA Rank: 31/235

Friday, June 11, 2010

Nervous Energy

So, I'm sitting in my hotel room on the eve of my one and only HIM and I am full of nervous energy. Maybe nervous energy is not the correct term. I have some high expectations for the race tomorrow, but I'm not worried about it. I'm just really, really excited.

I tried doing some reading but after a page or two my mind would start wandering and soon enough I'd start visualizing the race tomorrow. Now visualizing is a good thing. I've thoroughly gone through each of the 3 sports and execution of my race strategy for each, including transitions. I have a strategy and I think the nutritional plan is solid as well. At least it looks like it's going to work perfectly in my mind :p

At this point I wish my mind would just quiet down a little. You know, shut down for a few hours so I can get some sleep.

Race weather is looking just about as nice as one can hope. The temps will be in the low 60s to start and won't get above 70 all morning. Overcast sky, and some wind, which may get interesting, but really I'll take it. I wouldn't call it optimal for a PR attempt, but darn close.

Last year I did the course in 5:01:46. This year I'd like to break 5 hours and I think that's a distinct possibility. Just for the heck of it I'm going to pull out the ole crystal ball and predict my splits.

Swim: 34:00
T1: 2:00
Bike: 2:40:00
T2: 1:00
Run: 1:40:00
Total: 4:57:00

That seems pretty reasonable, I think. Now, I just have to make sure that I don't place too much undue pressure on myself. The number one goal still remains to enjoy myself while I'm out there. I'm pretty sure I'll be smiling plenty if I put up those times :)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Pigman Sprint Triathlon

Sunday was my third race of the season, a sprint tri held in the little town of Palo, IA. I was feeling a little more rested for this race than the last one due to the HIM taper starting to cut back on my training volume. I ended up finishing with 500m swim/15.5 mile bike/5k run with a pretty good time, 1:14:25, which was good enough for 29th/657 overall and 5th/39 in my age group. Plus I shaved 45 seconds off my time on the same course last year! Here's a little glimpse inside my mind:

Pre-Race

Beep! Beep! Beep! Is that my alarm clock? Yes it is. Is it really 3:15? Yes it is. Frick!

Out of bed, clothes on. Bagel, toaster, PB, nanner. Yum. Out the door by 3:45.

It's dark. There's no one on the road. All the sane people are sleeping right now. In my younger days I might still be awake on an all night bender. Getting sleepy. Open the windows, crank the tunes, headbang a little. Deer!!! That'll wake you up.

Where are you sending me GPS lady? I think I remember how to get there. I'll trust my gut on this one. GPS off.

Okay, I'm 15 minutes early but people are showing up. How about the packet pick-up tent? Yes! Open for business. Put another piggy shirt in the closet. Race number is 232...hey that's a palindrome.

Tires pumped. Where's a nice lady with a marker? She must be new, asks if numbers are vertical or horizontal. Must. Refrain. From. Quoting. Tommy Boy. Top to bottom, left to right... a group of words together is called a sentence. Take Tylenol for any headaches... Midol for any cramps. Wow, they are really marking every limb this year.

Let's find a spot in transition. As close to the bike exit as possible. That'll work. Chat. Drink. Wetsuit half on. Mosey on down to the beach.

Warm-up

The elites are off! Man, they are fast. Fast swimmers make me jealous. This tri thing would be a whole lot easier if I was a fast swimmer.

30 minutes till my wave start, but in reality probably closer to 45 minutes. I'm in wave 8 and the time trial start is ALWAYS late. Might as well hop in the water and swim a little. That's a toasty 75 degrees. Good thing I went with the sleeveless wetsuit. 10 minutes and I'm out. Now to play the waiting game.

The wind has picked up because the buoys are curving now. Hmmm, note to self: follow them on the way out, beeline for the swim exit on the way back.

Hey, that swimmer just got attacked by a duck! Should I laugh? Yeah that's funny, haha.

Line's getting shorter. It's go time!

The Swim

I'm the 3rd one in my wave to go. Runnnnn! High knees! High knees! Dolphin dive! Swim!

See you two guys later. Arms are moving, breathing is good. Take a right around this girl. Straighten out. Left around this one. Now in the middle of these two backstrokers.

Wow, I am cruising by a lot of people. Is this what it feels like to be a swimmer? Watch out! More dodging. That's the buoy rope. Can I get by one more. Is that chop? Is it wavy? Must be. Dang wind.

Keep pushing. Hard to with all the traffic. Round the bouy. Halfway there! The smell of boat fumes under water is going to make me vomit. That would be gross.

First green cap (my wave) is trying to pass me. Quick, grab his feet! Can't, there's a girl in the way. Zig. Zag. Cripes am I swimming or playing frogger?

Just a little further. Kick it in. People are standing up around me. Should I stand up too? No, wait for your hand to hit the sand. There it is, get up! Cap, goggles off. Run it in

Hear the announcer say something along the lines of, "and our first green caps are out of the water." I'm at the front of my wave! Thank you time trial start.

Time:8:39
Pace: 1:35 / 100 yds
OA Rank: 88/657
AG Rank: 11/39

T1: 2:00

The legs don't like to move after a swim. We're racing legs, in case you hadn't heard. Go! Go!

It's a long transition area. Where's my bike? Wait for it....wait for it...there it is!

The wetsuit pops right off. That's so mush easier than my full suit. Shoes and helmet on, grab bike. Clip, clop, clip, clop to the mount line

The Bike

Pedal, pedal, here we go. Can't hammer yet, gotta negotiate traffic out for awhile. Runners (yes, there are people on the run course already. Depressing.), spectators, bikers, CARS, and a partridge in a pear tree.

There's an opening. On the left! Let's roll. Heading south now. Which way is the wind out of? Feels like a crossie, but might be kinda at my back. Oh well, enjoy it while I can.

On the left! Pass, pass, pass. Does anyone look before they start to pass. I'm getting dangerously close to the yellow line and I'm tired of yelling.

Ooh, it's the loop through Palo. Hello, Palo. Yikes! Ambulance and stretcher, that can't be good. Goodbye Palo.

Heading north again. That minivan better get a move on or I am going to have some road rage. Good, he's turning right. Good riddance. Will they ever shut down these roads for this race. They should. They won't.

Up the hill. Should I get out of the saddle? Why not, it's a sprint. Mash away my friend. And down the other side. Woooooooo!!! Why aren't you people pedaling? Don't you want to see how fast you can go? I do. Hammer, hammer.

I'm getting close to the turn around now. 180, I hate 180s, and back in business. Nice volunteers pointing out ginormous potholes. "Thanks!"

Aaack! That guy just passed me! What's the calf say? 31? Okay, but still, push it back up the hill. Back to the park, almost there. Steep hill, watch out, make the turn. Okay uphill to the end. Traffic's getting dicey. Lots of runners, lots of cars. Someone's gonna die.

Let's the get the feet out of the shoes and spin it on in. Did that chick just repass me in the last 50 feet??!! Oh! And she biffed it at the dismount line! That's gonna leave a mark. Volunteer is helping her so hop off and run it in.....and try not to laugh.

Time: 41:58
Pace: 22.2 mph
OA Rank: 29/657
AG Rank: 3/39

T2: 0:55

Zooooooom! Rack the bike. Look at all those empty racks in my section. Sweet! Shoes on, grab stuff and go!

The Run

Legs feel thick. Shorten the stride. Focus on turnover. Hit the turnover, the pace will come.

Mostly downhill the first mile. That's gonna suck coming back. Why is my breathing out of control? Settle.

Have I mentioned how much of a cluster@%*& the park is? Cars going both ways, bike coming in, runners heading both ways. Lots of weaving. Gotta be nimble while running. I'm about as graceful as a bull in a china shop.

I'm going to pass this car on the left, no room on the right. Do I say on your left to a car? Wow, that bike almost clipped me. Would've too if it weren't for my graceful nimbleness.

Hey, aid station! Not thirsty, but the water is cold on the head. Refreshing! Okay, can't be too far from the turn around. Yep, there it is ahead. Woot!

Homestretch now, gotta turn on the afterburners. There's the aid station again. I'll take a sip this time, but the rest is going on my head again. Now, run! Heard some lady yell, "Go 232! Look at that runner goooo!!!!" Thanks for the smile.

Ow, ow, ow. Can I hold this pace? You better, Sally. This hill hurts. Do I look like death like these other runners? There's the last turn. Balls out now. There's trained medical staff at the finish, right?

Sprint, sprint! Go, go! Done!

Time: 20:55
Pace: 6:44 / mile
OA rank: 41/657
AG rank: 7/39

Post-Race

Let's grab a water and walk a little. There's the food tent. Pizza, strawberries, cookies! Yum!

Let's check the results. 45 seconds faster than last year! Nice OA place, stupid fast AGers. But they're giving hardware out 5th place in my age group so I'll take it.

Waited around for awards and talked to fellow BTer Eric (ersynder3654) who kicked my butt for the 2nd straight race. Grabbed my ceramic pig and left. This race has the best hardware!