Monday, October 5, 2009

Adios (for now), amigos y amigas!

I've been giving some thought to what I should do - or not do - with this little blog now that the Big Race is over. As much as I've enjoyed laying down my silly thoughts on various things in here, I don't have any races scheduled for the rest of this year and next year's schedule is still in committee. And, sadly, my quiet little life doesn't really warrant a regular update in the cyber-verse.

As such, I'll probably leave this blog as a discreet little reminder of my adventures leading up to - and through - IM Wisconsin 2009, and, if I decide to embark on a new adventure or two, I'll start something new.

So thanks for following me on this journey, and good luck to everyone with your racing goals for the rest of '09 and into '10.


Friday, September 25, 2009

Final Thoughts

That sounds so profound - "Final Thoughts" - but they're really not. I didn't have anything in mind when I reserved a post for a bit of reflection after the actual race report ended, thinking that a flood of things would come to me in the days following the race. Unfortunately, the real world hasn't allowed me to really reflect much on this training cycle and the race itself. Dog health issues, work, etc., have kept me pretty occupied since the 13th. But, because you've no doubt been on pins and needles waiting for some Final Thoughts (ha!), I'll throw a few out there:

- The Ironman is so much more than just a really long triathlon. It's much more than just another endurance event. It's unique. I hope that my extended race report brought out even a hint of the emotion, and tension, and drama that surrounds the weekend surrounding the race. It's really like nothing else you'll ever experience. I'm not sure if it's because it's still considered by most to be such an extreme thing to put yourself through, or because the athletes themselves invest so much of their lives (and their family's lives, no doubt) into a single day, but the atmosphere surrounding race weekend is just amazing. To be a part of that stew of athletes, spectators and volunteers is like being initiated into a special club - one that meets only on select occasions and for only one day at a time.

- That said, the Ironman is a really hard race. And I don't mean just physically hard. They say that every athlete that competes in one will face adversity - usually severe - sometime during the race. As I mentioned earlier, there were times during the run when my body was begging me to stop and rest, or "just walk a few hundred yards." And I'm positive that there were plenty of other tired bodies out there making the same demand. And you just don't know how your mind will respond. Push forward? Or give in? I think this is actually one of the reasons a lot of people do this race again and again - they want to know how they're going to react on any given day when things go bad out there. It may sound crazy, but you really don't know until you're facing that challenge. And who doesn't want to know?

- There is one problem with Ironman racing: it makes all other distances look insignificant. I certainly mean no disprect to anyone who has/does non-IM distance triathlons, and perhaps has no interest in doing an Ironman race, but I will tell you that Ironman races are truly addictive. I don't know of a single person who has done their first Ironman race and thereafter said, "Well, that was nice, but I wouldn't want to do another." I'm sure it happens - bucket list item, or whatever - but I haven't seen it. If you've done one, you know the feeling.

- If you end up doing an Ironman race, you really have to watch the last finishers come in at midnight (the 17-hour mark). I swear, if you could harness all the positive energy coming off of the crowd during these last few moments of the race, you could light up a city. This is the first year that we were able to go back to the hotel, get cleaned up, and return for the end, and it was so worth it. Mike Riley, the official announcer, was leading the cheers/singing, and each finisher got a hero's greeting as they came across the finish line. Again, my weak description can't do it justice. Just make sure you go. You won't regret it.

- So, when's the next one? much as I was determined to have IM WI '09 be my third and last Ironman race, there has already been talk of taking on Ironman Florida in '11. That's a quite a long ways away, and a lot can happen between now and then, but I'd be excited to re-live the experience. Like I said, it's addictive, these stupid IM races. It gets in your blood and causes you to spend an insane amount of time swimming, biking, and running - way past the point of being 'fun.' And Florida's a flat course!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Run

So leaving T2 is always a nervy experience in IM because, no matter how well the rest of the race has gone, you just never really know what it's going to feel like when you start running. Could be easy, could be next to impossible. You just don't know until you take those first tentative steps onto the course.

In '06, having just come off of a cold and pretty miserable bike ride, I was shocked to discover that the run started super easy, and it stayed that way for about 17 miles. In '07, upon leaving T2, I immediately felt an uncomfortable bloat in my belly, which stayed with me for most of the marathon, but was manageable enough so as to keep going. Two different IM races, and two different run experiences. This year, having already experienced some cramping on the bike, I was especially unsure of what the run was going to offer. I took another pee break heading out of T2, and shuffled toward the transition exit.

Crap, I thought to myself. Not feeling too good. The legs were turning, but I felt really slow and my heart rate already seemed too high. But I figured, "Give it some time, let the salt tabs kick in, get into a nice rhythm, everything will work itself out." Made my way around the Capitol square, past the first water station, and gritted my teeth for pretty much the next 26 miles.

Cue the Drama Queen Moment (DQM): This was by far the most difficult run I've ever endured. I don't think I've ever had to pep talk myself more, engage in more internal negotiations ("Okay, just run to the next aid station, and then you can walk for as long as you want..."), or just plain demanded that I continue the forward motion than I have during this race. Which is funny, because I don't recall being in extreme pain, or having (too bad of) an upset tummy, or anything that would usually make you want to sit down and cry, but something inside me really, Really, REALLY just wanted to walk. Running just seemed too damn hard. There were definitely moments, especially early on, when I didn't think that I'd finish. Then I thought that I'd probably finish, but much later than I had hoped. After that, I figured that we were looking at a repeat of '06 - running for the bulk of it, but walking in the last 10k.

But, luckily, the miles somehow kept ticking by. I'd run aid station to aid station - downing water, Gatorade, and/or Coke - telling myself that, if I could just get to the next aid station, I'd get another break. Apparently, a great many of my fellow competitors had a similar deal going with themselves, because I saw very few people running through the aid stations. And quite a few people had given up running entirely - they'd be walking in one's or two's, commiserating about "what went wrong" and how hot it had become.

At around mile 8, a nice guy named Juan drifted back to me and started running alongside, asking how I was doing and if I wanted a runningmate for a while. I said sure, despite the fact that I really didn't have much conversation in me at this point. It was taking all my will just to keep soldiering from mile to mile. But it went well - not a lot of talking, just a few questions or comments here or there, and we knocked off miles 9 through 12 together, before Juan faded a bit and I was alone again.

Pretty soon I was back at the Capitol, where the course takes you tantalizingly close to the finish line before scooting you back onto your second loop. Although I still felt pretty lousy, I figured that I was a half-marathon away from finishing my third IM, and that started to feel totally do-able. I feel bad for all the volunteers who handed me cups of liquid during that second loop, though, because the look on my face must have been a mix of anger/dread/fear/pain great enough to intimidate an NFL linebacker. I don't even recall faces, or cheers, or much of anything at that point except my internal dialogue telling me to "run, don't walk." Drew once reminded me that your slowest jog is almost always much faster than your fastest walk, and that if I could just keep turning my legs over...

Coming toward mile 16 or 17, I knew that we were once again approaching the only really steep section of the run course - a series of hills that take you over the top of the UW campus before heading back toward State Street. I had already walked this section on Loop 1, and actually looked forward to doing the same on Loop 2. Knowing that this break was coming gave me a huge boost. I knew that the final miles were counting down as I made the last turn on State Street, and once again hit the lakefront trail that would take us out toward the Ford inspiration zone (an electronic board where people's messages of support are shown when your chip trips the corresponding mat). That's at mile 22. The aid station there was great - the volunteers were all dressed up as characters from famous movies - but I was still pretty grim-faced and serious as I thought about the handful of miles I had left.

About a half-mile later I saw Cath and Drew running together going the opposite direction - I was excited that Cath looked like her chipper self (she's probably the happiest racer that you've ever seen - smiling, high-fiving, and cheering on other athletes), although Drew looked like he might be struggling a bit. We exchanged encouragement, and I went another 50 yards before I had to stop and walk. The last four miles had a lot that: run 50 yards, walk 10 yards, run 50 yards, walk 10 yards, etc. I finally got to the 25 mile marker, and could visualize the last mile+ to the finish, but again had to agree to a walk break through the last aid station before my legs would let me run again. I saw Ross at this aid station, where he was volunteering, and I barely remember telling him something about how glad I was to be finishing up.

The adrenaline kicked in when I sensed how close I was to the line, and then, out of no where, there was the finishing shoot - I let the one gal in front of me have her finishline moment, and crossed the line with three fingers up on each hand to signify my third time coming home as an IM finisher. 12:03.22. A 30-minute improvement over my time in 2007, and almost two hours faster than 2006. My super-secret, really-shouldn't-even think-this, don't-tell-anyone, pie-in-the-sky, goal time was sub-12, and to be this close, after the run I had just endured, was too good to be true. I couldn't believe it.

It's really impossible to explain what's going through your head when that finish line finally arrives. Words just really don't do it any justice. It's weird the way that the finish is always a million miles away during the race, until it's right there in front of you - there's, like, no transition from being hip-deep in the heart of the race until it's absolutely over. No mental downhill to the line, just racing and then there's no more racing. Even after such a long day you want desperately for that finishing shoot to go on for just one more block, to allow you to absorb the enormity of what you've accomplished, but then it's done. You're an Ironman.

Crossing the line, two volunteers ("catchers") grabbed my arms and immediately asked how I was feeling ("great!"), what size t-shirt I wore ("medium"), if I needed any water or Gatorade ("yes, water, please") and helped me get a photo taken (yeah, great, my hat's on crooked). I walked around a bit and soon found a folding chair to collapse into. Sipping a mix of water and Gatorade, I just sat there, silently watching as athletes made their way across the line and into the arms of waiting volunteers, each person's face etched with a mix of joy and relief. It took me a bit for the emotions to hit me. I had never expected to be so close to 12 hours for this race, especially after suffering through what I thought was a horrible run (oddly enough, my 4:18.14 was actually a 10-minute improvement over my run at IMAZ in '07). The PR, combined with all the mental pushing that I had to do during those last 26 miles, almost had me in tears. This race was really hard - much harder than IMAZ - and I actually felt like I had done something pretty special. Sure, my finish time didn't get me to Kona, and wouldn't win me any praise on Slowtwitch, but it meant a lot to me. I kept on going. I ran when I could have walked. I overcame the doubts. I persevered.

And I think that's what Ironman is really all about.

The numbers:

Overall - 544/2397
Total Time - 12:03.22
Swim - 1:17.43
T1 - 11:07
Bike - 6:07.58
T2 - 8:21
Run - 4:18.14 thoughts.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Bike

I don't care how good of a swimmer you are, every IM triathlete has *got* to experience a profound sense of relief when the water is behind you and the remainder of the race awaits. There's just a certain sense of unpredictability associated with swimming, especially in a mass-start format like IM Wisconsin. You hear too many stories of people getting clocked so solidly during the swim leg that it kicks them out of the race - imagine training for over six months, putting in all the blood, sweat and tears that's required, only to get kicked in the eye and be forced to drop out within the first two miles of the race. Horrible. But it happens.

So, needless to say, I was thrilled - as always - to be heading out onto the bike course. Hit the porto-let real quick before grabbing my bike, and quickly made my way back down the helix. The first five or so miles on this course is pretty uneventful - the roads are narrow, and you are pretty much forced to follow single-file as you make your way out of Madison. Which is fine - it's nice to take a few moments to gather yourself after the swim and focus on the new task at hand. Of course there's always some idiot that's too eager to get going, and, sure enough, one hotshot took an unceremonious spill when he failed to negotiate a tight 90 degree turn not two miles into the course. Luckily, he was up quickly and didn't disturb any other riders.

I was much more surprised when I heard Drew call out my name and pull up beside me just a few miles later - it was great to see him, especially after having missed each other at the start, and it was good to know that he also had made it through the swim leg unscathed. We chatted a few minutes, during which time I looked over and saw probably the nicest view I'd see all day (except for the finish line, of course) - a ginormous field of yellow flowers off to our right. Considering that Drew and I last did this race in 2006, under a steady cold rain, this bright yellow field laid out peacefully under the morning sun just felt like a good omen.

As riding side-by-side is considered a penalty, we soon parted ways, and was again left to my own thoughts. I've had people ask me what one thinks about during the course of a six-hour bike ride, and, honestly, I can never really remember anything specific. Feelings come and go, little internal pep talks get thrown out there, snippets of songs get sung (sometimes out loud). Nothing too profound, that's for sure. But it's crazy how quickly the time flies by. The first loop - roughly 60 miles total - was over in a heartbeat. My nutrition plan - an area where I've failed miserably in the past - was going pretty well. One bottle of Infinit (275 calories), one of water, and one of Gatorade was already inside me, and I'd knocked back at least 3/4 of my gel flask and a package of Shot Blocks. I stopped at special needs and choked down a Balance bar, and stuffed another package of Shot Blocks in my jersey pocket. I had another bottle of Infinit in the bag, but it was warm and sounded gross, so I decided to just stick with Gatorade and water from there on out.

The second loop seemed to drag a bit slower than the first, but I was feeling great when I hit the hill leading up to Mt. Horeb High School. At that point, I knew that I just had the string of rollers along Witte and Garfoot, and the final three hills, before I'd be heading back to Madison. My nutrition faltered a bit here, as gels sounded less and less appetizing. I kept drinking as much as I could, and killed the second package of Shot Blocks, but that was it for the solid food. I was definitely excited to make that final turn-off back to Madison, just before the 100-mile mark, and it was nice to note the lack of any appreciable headwind. But it was even nicer to know that I'd soon be able to get off the &*@#%^ bike seat, which had by now pounded my nether regions into hamburger. Seriously, I won't get into details, but the pain I was feeling down there was ridiculous. A brief glimpse post-race was pretty shocking. Let's just say that I wouldn't wish that kind of pain (or injury) on anyone. Yikes.

Unfortunately, it was also at about the century mark that I got a bit of a scare. Both of my quads started to cramp up. Nothing horrible, but definitely uncomfortable, and it got me worried about whether I had taken in enough water and salt. The thing with IM is, you can feel great one minute and wiped the next, and it often depends on what you did or didn't do in the hours before. So, although I still felt good, generally speaking, I was afraid that maybe I hadn't done as good of a job as I had thought, nutrition-wise, earlier in the race (which, considering that I didn't have to pee AT ALL during the bike, was looking more and more plausible).

Anywho, I made it back up the helix with the cramps coming off and on, and handed my bike to another nice volunteer before walking (I couldn't run) into the Convention Center and toward T2. Grabbed my bag and found an empty seat, where another volunteer materialized out of no where and started helping me get my run stuff together. And here's another instance of extreme IM kindness - the athlete next to me, a guy in his late 40s or early 50s, saw me rubbing out my quads and asked if I was okay. Told him I was cramping up, and he immediately started digging into his own transition bag for salt tablets. I couldn't believe he was taking time out of his race to help me, a complete stranger, but he handed me three tiny ziploc bags with three pills each and told me to take one package immediately and then another if the cramping wasn't going away. I had salt pills in my T2 bag, courtesy of Drew, but I took the little baggies because I didn't want the pills to dissolve in my pocket.

I, of course, thanked this man profusely for his thoughtfulness, and, once again, thought about what an amazing event this truly is - how everyone out there has there own goals and dreams, and have invested so much in this one race, but so many will gladly go out of their way to help a fellow competitor. It's this kind of positive energy that envelops the whole day - it's like the air is saturated with it. I've never felt this kind of energy in such force during any other competition, and I think it's part of what makes an Ironman race such a unique and special athletic event.

After downing the three salt pills, I jogged out of transition, hit the porto-let, and was soon on the run course.

Bike split: 6:07.58.

T2: 8:21.

Next up...the run.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Swim

Surprisingly enough, I slept pretty well - for Steelhead, the half-IM we did earlier this year, I don't recall sleeping for more 10 minutes all night. This time, I was much more relaxed. Very strange, but also very welcome. The alarm summoned us awake at 4:00 a.m., and Cath and I silently assembled our special needs bags (goodies to be stashed at the half-way points of both the bike and run) and choked down some breakfast. We then went down to meet the rest of our masochistic friends in the lobby at 5:00 a.m.

As you can imagine, the tension was pretty thick as we nervously greeted each other and death-marched our way to the special needs drop off boxes, and then to the start area. This is always the worst part of the entire IM experience - 2500 athletes, all stewing in their own anxiety, waiting for the final moment when Mike Riley (the long-time IM announcer) orders everyone into the lake. The nervous energy is so powerful, and not at all in a good way. It's like every competitor's worst fears are all escaping from their heads out into the air at once, creating a huge cloud of dread in the air. Yuck.

Unfortunately, after we all (somewhat reluctantly) pulled ourselves into wetsuits, Cath and I got seperated from Drew and Danielle. They are both much better swimmers than either of us, and were therefore going to situate themselves in different start positions, but I was still sad that I didn't get a chance to wish Drew well out there - he and I did our first ever triathlons together, and have started both of my previous IM experiences together, wishing each other good luck just before the cannon sounds. I probably wouldn't be doing triathlon without his influence, and almost certainly not at the IM distance.

It's that kind of thing that you think about before an Ironman - at the risk of over dramatizing the whole IM thing, it really is an incredibly emotional experience. Maybe it's the thought of the full-day's racing that awaits, or realizing that you've put so much time and energy into one event, but it's hard not to get choked up during those last moments before the clock starts. I was admittedly a little teary-eyed just thinking of how Cath had successfully balanced her work and training for the last eight months, and how cool it is to have a wife that supports this arguably crazy lifestyle. I gave her a last hug and kiss and we drifted to our respective start positions, hoping that she'd have an easy and uneventful swim to start her day.

And, just like that, Mike told us that we only had one minute left to wait and then - BANG - the cannon sent us on our way. I seeded myself about halfway between the shore and edge of the rectangular swim course, hoping to let the speedy-McSpeedersons go ahead, but stay ahead of the truly swim-challenged. (An interesting aside, and not meaning to sound demeaning to anyone, but you would amazed at the number of truly BAD swimmers there are in a typical IM race. The rules give you 2:20 to complete the 2.4 mile course, and there are a substantial number of people that need the bulk of that time to finish. If they finish at all. Now, maybe some of these folks are kick-ass bikers and/or runners, and will blow away a lot of the field later in the day, but still, I'm always taken aback by the number of people that are still in the water long after I'm done, and I am by no means a good swimmer).

Anywho, the swim starts pretty well for me - there's contact, but I'm moving forward, and not getting pummeled. Much. At least not until we get to the first turn bouy. Then the beatings commence. To say that the seven turns that you need to make on this swim course are 'physically-challenging' would be an understatement. It's more like a bar fight. Or full-contact karate. But you get through it. I advised Cath before we started to just go with the punches - literally - and not let the contact throw you off your rhythm. I tried to take my own advice, and was able to get back on track pretty quickly. I actually thought the first loop went by pretty fast, but resisted the urge to look at my watch and just press on. The second loop wasn't as good - I think I got a bit off-course, and spent a goodly amount of time getting back on-line, which freaked me out a bit. I have a tendency to do this in open water, and it's frustrating to think that you're going farther than you really need to. But at least the water was becoming more and more open, and, therefore, easier to just swim with a nice cadence.

The backstretch also seemed to take forever, as it usually does - the intermediate bouys just keep coming and going, but you never seem to get to the big red one that signals the turn for home. Luckily, my shoulders felt good and I wasn't feeling overly tired, but I could have used a gel around the 3/4 mark. Having made the final turn for the swim finish, I successfully battled all the last-minute sprinters and exited the water in 1:17.43. I could hear Mike Riley tell the crowd that 1,100 athletes had already completed the swim portion, which was a bit disheartening - I know I'm a mediocre swimmer, but had half the field already passed me?! Bummer. But I felt good physically, and figured that was the most important thing - conserving energy and escaping the water without a fat lip or black eye (which, sadly enough, not everyone did).

Jogged up to an inviting-looking wetsuit stripper, who had me on my way in no time. The swim out requires you to run down a path and then up a multi-tiered parking ramp (the so-called helix), which was lined with loud and excited spectators. The support here, and everywhere on the course, was totally incredible. Madison is a great IM location - even the people who were stopped in traffic because of the race would be yelling support for the racers. It felt great. Ran into the Convention Center, grabbed my transiton bag, and changed into my bike gear. The appetizer portion of the race was done, and now it was onto the main course.

T1 -11:07.

Next up...the bike.

photo courtesy/stolen from:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ironman Wisconsin 2009

Wow, as usual, what a crazy ride it's been. It's Tuesday, and I can't believe that it's already over. That the race is now behind us instead of up there, somewhere around the bend. That I don't have a plan to follow or workout to complete. Which I guess is both refreshing, but just a little sad, too. Anywho, I think I'll indulge myself in a multi-part race report, so please bear with me. I want to try and remember all of it. We'll start with the build-up.


Cath and I dropped off the dogs at the boarding place and were on the road by 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, and made record time up to Madison - something like 2:10 from Chicago. It was a beautiful drive and, despite the undercurrent of nerves, it felt great to be going back to such a great city. We arrived and checked into our room about 12:30 p.m., and set out for some lunch. The weather was spectacular - nothing but clear, sunny skies. Took a nice walk down State Street - which we'd spend quite a bit of time on come Sunday - and had a nice (long) meal at a little Lebanese place. Decided to push off registration until Friday, and instead opted for an afternoon nap. Dinner was had at the Great Dane Brew Pub, where it very, Very, VERY difficult to avoid indulging in their great selection of in-house beers. They looked delicious. But, being a tad concerned about hydration issues, I stuck to Ginger Ale,and we ended up going to bed pretty early.

Friday we hit the Expo and checked in as soon as they opened at 10:00 a.m. We hoped to avoid the long lines, and were pretty successful, escaping just around noon. Cath got some ART done on her hips and hamstring while I watched former IM champion Greg Welch interview some of the pros who would be competing. I also had a little work done on my hips and hammies, which felt great - wonderfully loose. So nice to have that available, and totally free! Afterwards, we picked up sandwiches and waited for Drew and Ross (who would be volunteering on Sunday) to arrive, as well as Danielle and her Husband, John, who were coming in from Minneapolis. After everyone got registered, we got together for dinner at a Mexican place on State Street (where there was just a little drinking involved - but it was Mexican food, it's mandatory, right?!). It was another incredible evening, weather-wise, and, after a leisurely walk around the Capitol, we retired to the hotel for some dessert, hot tea, and more good conversation.

Brief aside: Apart from the race itself, and exceeding our personal goals, this weekend - and Ironman, generally - was all about connecting with great people. So many times during this experience I was reminded just how great this sport is - how it brings different people together, how supportive they can be, and how great the energy is that surrounds the whole thing. Cath and I both noted that, despite the nerves and stress, we laughed so much this past weekend, and were greeted with such kindness, it was almost overwhelming. Coming from a big city, where so many people think that "Fuck you!" is an acceptable greeting, it was a wonderful refresher that there are genuinely nice people out there.

Anywho, on Saturday, I decided to brave the thick algae and dead bodies (sadly, a fisherman drowned early in the week in the lake that we'd be swimming in and had yet to be found by race day) and head down to the Gatorade swim. Luckily, the water wasn't as bad as I had feared, and was crazy warm. There's something about a warm-water swim that's really comforting, and I was super glad that I checked it out. I just did an easy 20 minutes, checked out the site lines, and headed back to meet everyone for breakfast. We then made our way back to the Expo for a bit before getting our stuff together. Putting together your transition bags and special needs bags really brings the magnitude of the event into focus for me - double checking, triple checking, quadruple checking to make sure everything's in there....pfft. It was then that the nerves really started to kick in - the 'Holy, shit, we're doing an Ironman tomorrow!' moment. Yikes. I get a nervous belly just thinking about it again!

Dropped off the bags and bikes, which always takes way longer than you'd expect, and we (finally) sat down for lunch (again, at the Great Dane - highly recommended, btw) at around 2:15 pm. I knew the anxiety had started take over at that point because I was agitated that we were eating lunch so late, which would mean that dinner would be pushed later, and I don't like eating late before a race...blah, blah, blah. Hopefully, my friends didn't/don't think I was too much of an ass, and it was just the pre-race jitters doing their thing. Regardless, we then retreated for a little naptime before gathering again for dinner. Because of the size of our party, we decided to just take advantage of the pasta buffet in the hotel and avoid a long wait somewhere outside, which meant that we were done eating by 7:30 pm. The food was pretty blah, but, by that time, everyone's thoughts were more focused on raceday than the quality of the cuisine. Again, we capped off the night with some hot tea and dessert and wished each other good luck on getting some measure of sleep.

Next up...the swim.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

I should probably have something profound to say...but I don't, so I'll just ramble a bit

Well, the days are ticking away, and the start line awaits. Cath and drop off the dogs at the Petsmart Hotel and make the three-hour trek to Madison tomorrow, around mid-morning. Drew is coming up on Friday, as is our friend Danielle and her crew. We've got tri stuff piled up on our dining room table, wetsuits on the floor of the guest bedroom, and clothes that still need to be packed, but our bikes are tuned and we should be ready to hit the road by 10:00 a.m.

I was freaking out a bit over the weekend, but have calmed down quite a bit over the last couple of days. Even the (deteriorating) weather report hasn't phased me much, which is nice. Perhaps I'm in a good 'head space' about the race. Or maybe it's just denial. Whatever, at least it beats anxiety.

I'm not sure if I have a time goal(s) for this race - Ironman is a hard race to have goals for, just because the day is so long, the conditions so unpredictable, and the human body is...well, let's just say that we've all had a bad day on race day. So, it's hard to predict a time goal. I'd prefer to think of IM as less of a race and more of a journey from start to finish - a long, steady journey around the great state of Wisconsin. Just taking each leg as an adventure. Never getting too winded or stressed. Trying to be in the 'the moment' at all times. Having that mentality worked well for me at IM AZ, and I think it's the key to a successful IM experience. I also think that this one might be my last, for at least a year or two. Never say never, right? But I'm honestly ready to move on to some other challenges (including fatherhood, perhaps?), so this gives me extra motivation to run a smart race.

Racing an IM truly is a gift - getting to the start line is your reward for getting through a tough training cycle. The day, itself, is a celebration of all that hard work.

I probably won't be able to post again until after the dust (or mud) has settled, so thanks for reading everyone (anyone?). I look forward to recounting what the day gives me. It should be quite an adventure. Ironman always is.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The agony and the ecstasy

When my buddy Drew first brought up the idea of possibly committing to an IM distance triathlon, I distinctly remember thinking two things: "Oh, God, are you kidding?! No way" and then "Well, really, how hard could it be?"

With time, the idea of doing one became less crazy and more doable - I figured that we all exercise anyway, that we might as well have a (major) goal at the end of our training, that we had already done a 1/2 IM (and lived), and that it would be fun to go back to Wisconsin - where I had lived a bit as a youngster and later attended law school - to race the ultimate in triathlon. So, we signed up and ended up finishing it (albeit not entirely the way that I had hoped). But the journey from registration to finish line was a lot more complicated than I had ever imagined.

Make no mistake, twenty-four to thirty straight weeks of ever-increasing training is a beast. It's not just a series of workouts, it's a gauntlet of sessions designed to trick your body into going harder and longer than it would otherwise want to go. It beats your body up in more ways than you can imagine, but, hopefully, at the end, you'll be acclimated enough to move continuously for 140 miles. Once. And then have nothing left. A lot can happen during that period, and most of it's bad. Cath signed up for IM WI 2006 with Drew and I, and had put in a huge amount of training, only to have a freak bike crash take her out of the race before she even got to start. My blogger friend Kristin is now, sadly, in that same boat - a freak injury may prevent her from competing in a race that she's already invested so much in. It's not fair. Both gals put in the time and effort, made the sacrifices, had gained the fitness, but had their IM dreams put off for another day.

Unfortunately, Ironman can be cruel like that. Maybe that's what makes it so special. The race, itself, is just one (long) day, but the training it takes to get to that day makes up a huge chapter in your life. Watching a competitor cross the finish line is merely the last page of the IM novel. If you miss a 10k this weekend, there's no doubt another scheduled for next week. The next IM is a whole year away, and another long training cycle awaits. But it will be there. If you want it enough, it will be there. Cath put the disappointment of 2006 behind her, and successfully completed IM AZ in 2007. I know Kristin will be back, as well. And all the disappointments will be forgotten. That's the Ironman.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Now, this is living

Despite what I noted in my previous post, I'm actually enjoying this taper quite a bit. Granted, I'm only one week in, but I already feel more rested and peaceful than I did two weeks ago. This past week just struck me as being a lot more civilized, in terms of both training load and intensity. And I liked it.
My week went something like this:
Monday - rest day.
Tuesday - swam 2300 yards (100 WU, 1 x 300, 2 x 200, 1 x 300, 2 x 200, 1 x 300, 1 x 300 pull, 200 CD).
Wednesday - 90 minute keiser ride (five minute WU, then increasing one gear from set point every five minutes through 45 minutes, then downshifting one gear every five minutes until set point; then two standing climbs, each for 2.5 minutes, with an equal amount of rest between).
Thursday - 45 minute hilly run.
Friday - OWS with Drew, 1.5 miles, 55-odd minutes.
Saturday - solo ride along the lakepath, two hours and twenty minutes.
On Sunday, Cath, Drew and I competed in the Chicago Accenture Olympic triathlon as a relay. Cath did the swim, Drew the bike, and I did the run. It was a ton of fun, despite the fact that we needed to check Drew's bike into transition by 5:30 a.m., and didn't start racing until almost 10:00 a.m. (wave 56!). Which meant that I got up at 3:30 a.m., and didn't start running until just after 11:30 a.m. But it's always fun watching this race - it's absolutely emormous, over 9000 people doing either the sprint or olympic distances, so it makes for great people-watching. The weather was cool and breezy for most of the morning, but cleared up nicely by afternoon.
Poor Cath had to swim her leg mostly into the windy swells, but posted a great swim time, and Drew powered through the headwinds like a knife through butta.
I was actually a little nervous about doing this event so close to race day, even as a relay, thinking that our competitive juices could lead to injury, but it ended up being a good time. My run actually felt effortless for almost the whole way, and I put up mile splits that I haven't seen since I was a much younger man. My 10k time was 43:34, which works out to just over 7:00 minute miles, and, more importantly, I felt great at that pace. Now, obviously, I didn't have the swim or bike in me before running, and it was only 6.2 miles, but it still gives me some confidence going into IM WI that I've got some level of run fitness going on.
I'm sure that this week's training will be similar to last week's easy-feast (people, when I taper, I taper HARD), and I have to get my bike into the shop for some last minute tweaks. I can feel the nerves starting to percolate, especially before drifting off to sleep, so I know that race day is on its way. Gulp.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The taper

I've found that tapering is an odd and awkward beast for most triathletes. Which has always struck me funny, because it makes perfect sense, physiology-wise, and it's easy - you just cut back on the either the number or length/intensity of your sessions (typically 25 percent each week until race day). How could doing *less* exercise be a problem, you ask?

It just feels weird.

I've always found that, as much as I enjoy the mental break that comes from tapering - I swear, just trying to schedule 30-weeks worth of workouts, day in and day out, is like the fourth leg of triathlon - the physical part is baffling. You'd think that, given the additional rest, your body would feel better and better everyday. That you'd wake up each morning a little bit more chipper and energized. That you'd just feel stronger, and smarter, and more confident with every passing hour.

Yeah, not so much.

My taper is usually filled with doubt and anxiety, mostly because I *don't* ever get that feeling of physical rejuvination. There is no grand rebound in the weeks before my big race. I don't get the sense of growth that's said to come from the body's response to a period of continued stress. I just feel flat. Really tired. Always hungry. Certainly not an Ironman poised to conquer the 140 miles of water/road that ends just blocks from the Capitol building.

There's also the ever-present fear that you're either tapering too much or not enough to do any good. For example, I typically swim in the morning and run in the afternoons on Tuesday. This past Tuesday, I blew off the afternoon run. Just didn't really feel like it, and, in honor of the taper starting, I didn't do it. Instead, Cath and I had dinner and watched TV. And, of course, I felt guilty about missing the run. I still do. Did I *need* that run to do well on September 13? Probably not. But the doubt still lingers.

Typically, when asked for their advice, most folks will just say "stick with whatever plan that you've been following and you can't go wrong," but that gets tricky when your body is telling you one thing (either it hurts, doesn't hurt, or is somewhere in between) and the plan says something else. Or you just can't read your body's signals - yeah, your knee is bothering you a little, but is that just a random nothing or the beginning of something debilitating? Is that last long-ish run going to push you over the edge? Or not? Hmmm...

I certainly don't have the answers, but, for me, I'd rather not chance anything at this point. It's been a long road, and I'd hate to have anything go wrong before I've even hit the start line. One more swim, bike, or run isn't going to make or break my race. But it could lead to an injury that could take me out of the race, or, at least make it a more difficult one. So why chance it?

We're another day closer to the Big Dance, kids. Be smart with your training!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Welcome to Tapertown!

Mission accomplished!

While I certainly didn't follow my training plan to the letter - in fact, I gallantly started at the "Competitive" level and quickly dropped through "Intermediate," and am now somewhere closer to "Just Finish" - I think I put in some quality training this IM cycle, and am proud of myself for sticking with it. I've no doubt put in more pool time and hard cycling miles than I did prior to IMWI '06 or IMAZ '07, and my running is probably at a similar level. Hopefully, when we're all floating about on September 13, waiting for the cannon to fire, I can be confident that - for once! - the "hay" really is "in the barn," and just let the day unfold.

On the way back from Madison (more on that later), my beautiful wife - out of no where - started to sob in the seat next to me, happy and joyful that she had made it through this IM training cycle without getting hurt. As I may have mentioned, Cath had a nasty crash prior to IM WI in '06, and the injuries that resulted kept her from the start line. She has also had set-backs over the years due to various strains, pulls, breaks and other physical issues that either kept her out of races or at least hindered her performance. The relief she felt to realize that the start line is just a short taper away was emotionally powerful and the tears just ran out of her.

And it got me thinking - it really *is* a huge accomplishment for any of us to have gotten this far. Twenty-seven weeks ago we started this latest adventure, which works out to several hundred miles, laps, and intervals, six days a week. That's a ton of effort, both physical and mental, over a very long time. To hold it together - even on cold, rainy days when no one else is stupid enough to be out there - shows an incredible resolve and focus that deserves a bit of congratulations in and of itself.

Regardless of what happens on Race Day - and a lot of crazy things can happen on Race Day - the fact that we've all gotten to this point in one piece is something that no one can ever take away from you. All those early mornings. The sweat in your eyes. The rain on your sunglasses. The skinned knees. The bee stings. All of that "hay" is in the barn because you moved it there. And that, by itself, is reason to celebrate. Take a minute to do just that. You deserve it.


On the training front:

Saturday, Drew and I ran 18 miles along the lake path in about 2:40. The weather was fantastic - cool at the start, and then sunny as we finished up. Probably around an 8:40 pace throughout (I don't have my Garmin in front of me, so I'm guessing a bit).

After Cath finished up at work, and took a short nap, we blasted up to Madison for another crack at the loop. Talk about night and day. Whereas two weeks ago it was hot as all get-out, with high humidity and wind for added pleasure, Sunday morning was c-o-l-d, like, in the 50s cold. I actually had to wear a t-shirt under my jersey for the first loop to keep out the chill. There was fog in the lower valleys, but that burned off pretty quickly. Our friends couldn't make it up, so it was just Cath and I, and the course was unusually quiet - I had expected a huge turnout for one of the last weekends before most folks begin a taper. But the parking lot at Fireman's Park was almost empty when we arrived.

Anywho, I felt much, much better this go-around. The first loop was challenging, but not demoralizing, and we were back at the parking lot in no time. The weather could not have been better - lower 70s, with little or no wind. It doesn't get any better out there. Oddly enough, I felt even better on the second loop. Knowing where the turns were, which section of rollers were coming, and where the tougher climbs started, was a huge mental advantage. I recovered well after the climbs and we finished both loops in just under 4 and 1/2 hours. Cath's legs were pretty beat, so we just bricked for 15 minutes afterward, but I felt vindicated and much more confident about taking on the bike course. Hopefully, I'll have just as good a day on the 13th.

Welcome to Tapertown, kids - let's be smart about this final training phase!

Friday, August 21, 2009

The final push

So, we've finally arrived. It's the last big training push until the taper leads us to the start line. I've had a good week, so far - nothing too strenuous, but consistent, with a few challenging sections to keep things interesting.

Monday, Cath and I swam - I did 3,200 yards (100 WU, 5 x 600, 100 CD), which felt good. No intervals, but a good race-type pace throughout.

Tuesday I took a rest day.

Wednesday I rode der Keiser for 90 minutes, including a series of standing and seated climbs in Z3-4 (the sequence went like: 2 minutes, 3 min., 4 min., 2min., 3 min,., 4 min., and then 6 x 1 minute seated climbs, all followed by an equal amount of easy recovery). I then bricked that ride for 15 minutes at 8:45 pace.

Thursday I ran 45 minutes at about an 8:40 pace.

Today Drew and I swam two miles in the lake, which took just over an hour. The water was freezing, but very flat, and I actually felt like I was swimming *gasp* fast (!). These longer swims are still killing my shoulders, but, aerobically, I'm feeling pretty good. I'm intentionally trying to not think about the fact that the IM swim is actually another .4 miles, and how my arms are going to feel after that. (Luckily, I get to just lay on them for several hours thereafter.).

Tomorrow Drew and I are going to run another 2.5 hours, which should work out to around 18 miles, and that should be my last long run of the program. Apart from some hamstring pain (strangely, not the one that's caused me problems in the past), my running has been great. My pace is a little slower than I'd like, especially on the longer stuff, but I keep reminding myself that I'm not training for a marathon, I'm training for an IM, and it's a totally different experience. A steady 9:00 pace on September 13th would be fantastic.

Then, as soon as Cath is done with work, we hit the road and head back up to Madison. We may or may not have company this time, but, regardless, I have maps and figure there will be plenty of folks like us hitting up the course one more time before the Big Day. I'm excited to get back on those rollers and get a little bit more familiar with the whole loop. Truth be told, I've never felt that this was a very good course for me - the short, sharp "rollers" really kill your momentum, and I just never feel like I'm any any kind of groove out there. In 2006, it took me just over 7 hours to finish it, and, I swear, it felt like 2/3 of the field was already running by the time I shuffled out of T2. I'm hoping that this weekend's ride - even if it's slow and exhausting - will make me feel better about the course, and bring just a hint of mental comfort come race day. The weather up there, unlike two weeks ago, is looking good, so fingers crossed.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Doubt Phase

So, we've officially entered the part of the training cycle that I hate more than any other - the Doubt Phase.
As in, "Oh, God, I hope I did enough to train for this stupid race, but not too much so that I am over-trained and now past my peak."
I've trained for three different IM races now, and the Doubt Phase has hit me every time. I was hoping to avoid it this year because I was smarter about following a more structured training plan and figured that, if I just followed the plan, I'd eliminate any questions I may have about being ready to race.
But, truth told, I haven't followed the Fink Plan as closely as I had originally intended. Probably about 75 percent, really. Maybe 70 percent. Haven't run as much, haven't swam as much, and haven't biked as much as ol' Don prescribed in his "Competitive" plan. Some avoidance came from design - I didn't want to tax my wonky hamstring too much by running 4+ times per week - and some came from pure laziness/lack of will (i.e., just swimming 2x per week, and usually at distances shorter than those Coach Don recommended).
So, following the Plan hasn't really served to allay any concerns I have over being IM ready. In fact, I'm pretty anxious about being under-trained at this point. I know I've done more quality work than I have previously, but I'm really not sure if it's enough to have a good race on this particular course. Because it's a toughie. Don't let anyone tell you that all IM races are similarly difficult, because it's just not true. Flat courses - like IM Florida or IM Arizona - are nothing compared to hilly courses. You can argue that riding in the aero position into a headwind is equivalent to a long day of riding rollers, in terms of overall exertion, but that just isn't true. Riding hills just takes a lot out of your legs, which you then need to run on for 26.2 miles. Riding in the wind just slows you down, it doesn't (necessarily) wear you out.
But, at the same time, my body is telling me that it's been worked over pretty good - nothing painful, really, just an all-over body fatigue that doesn't go away. I also haven't felt like I've made any real progress, aerobically-speaking, for quite a while. For example, rides that I did a month ago are now harder than they were then. I'm able to do the prescribed workouts, but I worry that they're not making me stronger. Just more fatigued. Or maybe this is just the nature of a 30-week training plan? That kind of effort is bound to wear on you over time, and presumably the fitness gains will only show once the taper period ends. would all be so much easier if we just had a dial or gauge on our bodies to show how much fitness is in the tank.
This period is especially frustrating and confusing because, with only a few short weeks left, there's really not a ton you can do about it either way - you've either slacked way off too much or put away too many miles to make any real difference to your race result. The damage - if there is any - has already been done.
I guess there won't be a definitive answer as to where I am, fitness-wise, until Race Day. Until then, I'm going to just stumble my way toward the start line as best I can and hope for the best. We're just over three weeks out, with one more big weekend left to train.
Fingers crossed that I'm on the right path.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Training update

I just realized that I've been a bit remiss in keeping track of my workouts this past week, so here goes:

I took a rest day Monday, but was back in the pool Tuesday morning for a quick 2400 yards (4 x 400, 16 x 25 [alternating AN and easy], 200 pull, 200 CD) and then ran for 75 minutes in the afternoon (9 miles, 7:37 average, 2 rather long intervals buried in there).

Wednesday I hit the Keiser bike for 75 minutes, and threw in six sets of standing climbs of varying lengths (two minutes, three minutes, four minutes, two minutes, four minutes, three minutes) and then bricked that for 15 minutes.

Thursday I just sat on the Keiser bike and spun my legs out for 45 minutes.

Friday I swam 3,000 yards (something like: 100 WU, 3 x 150 [alternating AN and easy], 4 x 250 [alt. AN and easy], 3 x 150 [alt. AN and easy], 8 x 50 [alt. AN and easy], 300 pull, 300 CD).

This morning Drew and I hit the lake path for a 2:30 run. It was wicked humid out there, but the air temp was relatively cool still at 6:30, so the first half of the run was nice. I felt a ton better in the humid air than I did last Sunday, but the sweat was still pouring off of us and there were plenty of water breaks. Our 8:45 pace caught up with us after the half-way point, and the run back was a bit labored, but I feel good now. I doubt that I'll run any longer than this for this training cycle, but I may repeat the 18 miles next week. I'll have to see how my legs hold up. I'm not super concerned about my run, and would hate to invite an injury at this late date.

Tomorrow Drew and I are heading out to Palos for our last long ride out in the suburbs (next week Cath and I are heading back up to Madison for what I hope for me will be a more successful ride on the IM course). I'm kinda hoping that the humidity will make another appearance, just so our bodies are ready for it come race day. We're probably looking at five or so hours tomorrow - I'm not so concerned with total time anymore, but rather just get in some good roller and hill work. Then I suspect we'll brick the ride for 30 or so minutes.

I have Monday off, so Cath and I plan on hitting Lake Michigan for an OWS. Hoping to put in another couple miles of slow and steady to compliment the shorter/faster stuff I've been doing in the pool. Cath also runs with her training group that evening, so I may join them for 7 or 8 miles and take Tuesday as my rest day next week.

Whew. That all sounds exhausting! I'm hoping that there's a nap or two buried in there somewhere.

Cheers all!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Two weeks

Well, that's what it's really come down to - two more weeks of pretty intense training and then we'll be starting a two-week taper. Although, I'm sure that I'll regret this soon enough, I'm already a bit sad that this training cycle is coming to a close. As much as the week-to-week beat-downs can get to you (and, believe me, they have), there's something comforting about having a really big goal out there that takes a long time - and a lot of effort - to achieve. We decided quite a while ago to forego any IM in 2010, instead electing to try some new things (ie., the Hood to Coast relay, or perhaps the Triple T), which will be a nice break from the months-long training that's required for an IM, but I'm sure that I'll miss it soon enough.

There really is no race like the Ironman. It is a ridiculously long and grueling day, both physically and mentally, but the payoff at the end is absolutely enormous. Words can't describe it. The energy, the excitement, the tension, the joy - it's all there. And it's still a small enough event, with most folks (even most athletes) thinking that it's an insane undertaking, that you still feel unique for having taken part in it. The 2009 IMWI will be my third IM distance race, and, while there's never any way to replicate the feelings associated with your first, you can't help but be awed and excited by the Ironman. A year ago, I spoke with a small group of athletes - mostly strangers - who were preparing for this same race, and literally got choked up and teary describing how amazing it truly is. At the risk of being overly dramatic, it's really that powerful. If you can complete an IM race, there's nothing that you can't accomplish.

We're just a month out from the Big Show, and the excitement is already building to get up there and take part. Two more heavy weeks and we'll be ready to go. Bring it!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Four years!

Today marks the four-year anniversary of one of my happiest days ever - Cath and I got married on August 13, 2005, and I can't imagine what my life would be like without her.

I'll save you from the unnecessary details, but we met under extremely unlikely and somewhat complicated circumstances back in 2004, but it was quickly apparent that we were a match like no other I had ever experienced and we were destined to be together. It's been such a great trip so far, and I often look forward to the times to come and what adventures await us (and the dogs, of course!). She's the perfect partner for me - supportive, smart, funny, and always my number one fan. She makes me eat my vegetables and take my vitamins so that will "live forever."

I know that, regardless of whether I finish first in my age group, or fail to finish at all, she will still think I'm a winner, and there's really not much more you can ask for than that from another person. I count my blessings every day that we found each other.

I'm the luckiest guy I know. Happy anniversary, Poochie!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Two steps forward...and one back

Welcome to week 26 of our IM adventure! As is typical of this (any?) IM training cycle, I had a couple of really good days followed by one crappy let down of a day.

I'll start with Friday - another (unpaid) day off meant that I could swim in Lake Michigan with Drew. We hit the beach around 9:00 a.m., and there were plenty of other swimmers mulling about. The water looked pretty smooth, but with some chop father out. I was trying my new XTerra sleeved suit for the first time and I'm happy to report that the fit is great - the suit is lined to the interior, which makes it super comfortable. I treated myself to a slightly higher end model with thinner material at the shoulders for greater flexability. The water was a bit chilly getting in but it got comfortable pretty much right away. The suit felt great, and, despite the chop being a little bigger than it looked from the beach, we knocked out two miles (a season high in open water) in just over an hour. My shoulders were still sore at the end, but I'm sure that was a result of my non-existent strength training program and not about the suit. Happy with the day and happy to get in a longer OWS.

Saturday, Drew was out of town and Cath was teaching the marathon group, so I decided to run on my own. I set out along the lake path just after 6:00 a.m. and the rain clouds were gathering. After about two miles, the skies opened up and the rain fell for about the next hour. It actually felt great and my pace was pretty much where I wanted it to be (8:00-8:20/mile). I ended up doing just over 17 miles in 2:20 and felt good for almost all of it - I could definitely used another gel (or two) on the way back in, and was lucky to run across a Fleet Feet table with Gatorade about two miles from home. Thanks Fleet Feet!

Saturday afternoon we dropped off the dogs at the PetSmart Hotel and blasted up to Madison to meet a couple freinds who are training for next weekend's Dairyland Dare (a 300k cycling torture fest). Had dinner at a cute little pizza place not far from the IM swim start and spent the night in Verona. Got to Fireman's Park (the traditional gathering place for IM'ers in training) around 7:30 a.m. and hit the road.

And here's where things went a bit sour.

Unlike the weather we've had so far this summer, it was crazy hot and humid even at that (relatively) early hour. Within five miles the sweat was everywhere and the wind - which was also kicking pretty hard - did nothing to cool things off. The couple that we rode with, Nancy and Chad, are ridiculously good athletes - a listing of their accomplishments in triathlon, running and other adventure sports would take its own blog post. And they've ridden the IMWI course a bazillion times, so they were right at home. Cath was also feeling really good, and all three were riding their road bikes like little kids on Christmas Day. I, on the other hand, was quickly feeling like I should have stayed in bed.

For whatever reason, I just didn't have it mentally. Physically, I was pretty good - I had forgotten how deep the rollers are for the first half of the IMWI loop, which made riding the tri bike a bit of a chore (lots of shifting, moving in and out of aero, quick turns, etc.) and my heart rate was higher than usual because of the humidity, but I was hanging in there. We stopped at about the 25 mile mark for water and Pop Tarts (blueberry!), and I still felt fine. Then we knocked off the three big hills, which really weren't as bad as I feared, but as we coasted back into the parking lot to re-load supplies before heading out again, I was already feeling like I was done.

I just flat out didn't want to be on my bike. My companions were super supportive, offering to take an extra (and longer) break during the second loop, but, despite the regret that I knew was coming, I just couldn't convince myself to get back in the saddle. So I let them leave without me, and I slowly stowed the bike, and set out to brick my ride. My ride portion ended up being a sickly 40 miles total over 2 1/2 hours. Certainly not what I had planned on.

I actually had a good run - averaged just over 8:00 min/miles in the very hot sun for 40 minutes - but was crazy disappointed in my ride. Despite having all kinds of motivation - good friends, ample nutrition, and actually riding the IMWI bike course - I just couldn't tough it out. I spent a good long time trying to figure out what went wrong, watching a steady stream of athletes enter and leave the parking lot for loop No. 2, and I can only conclude that my brain was just a bit spent. Maybe too many weeks of sport-specific focus caught up with me. The will to continue wasn't there. I don't know. I was pretty down yesterday, angry that I had let this training opportunity get away from me, but I'm already feeling more determined today to get back at it.

We've made tentative plans to go back and ride the course again before Game Day, probably the weekend of the 22-23rd, so I can give it another go. And I may bring both bikes to see which one I feel better on. Luckily, we have a bit more time to get back up there, and I'm thankful for that. Can't wait to give it another shot (which is, hopefully, a sign that my brain isn't too far gone). Just another reminder, I guess, that there are good and bad days from beginning to end in an IM training cycle.

Here's to a brand new week!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The road ahead

Well, I'm not going to lie - my body was a bit beat down after Sunday's race. My quads were sore well into Tuesday, even after going for a less-than-strenuous 60-minute spin on Monday. I swam Tuesday, and nixed the afternoon run that I usually do in favor of some more stretching/rolling/couch time.

Felt better yesterday, and hit the gym for my mid-week mini-brick, which went really well -- 75-minute ride, including two sets of 5 x 1-minute hard seated intervals with one minutes rest in between. The brick portion was a rather benign 20 minutes on the treadmill (.5 percent grade) starting at 8:47 and ending with 8:25s.

Today, I feel great. Plan on a run of some sort this afternoon, somewhere in the area of 45-60 minutes, with a handful of short intervals thrown in. Tomorrow, Drew and I are swimming in the lake (hopefully, a double-loop, or two miles) and Saturday's our long run. As mentioned, the Plan and I have a serious disagreement over running volume, and it's now really starting tro get ugly -- Coach Fink is demanding a 2:45 run this week, and I haven't yet gone beyond two hours (to his credit, the longest run in the Plan is three hours, scheduled for the following weekend). I'm a bit torn as to how far I want to push my running, considering I have that wonky hamstring, but I think I need to get to at least 2:30. As such, I'm thinking Saturday will be 2:15 and the following week we'll shoot for the 2:30 (Week 27).

The big surprise is that we may actually get up to Madison for a ride! Yes, friends, the stars have aligned, and it's looking like Cath and I will blast up there Saturday night, crash, and then hit the course with some friends on Sunday morning. Given that I remember very little of the actual course from 2006, I'm excited to give it another look-see before Game Day. Logistics are still being worked out, but it's looking good so far.

Stay tough, everyone - the starting line is just up the road a piece.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The raw numbers

Swim: 37:39
T1: 3.19
Bike: 2:47
T2: 3.49
Run: 1:45

Total: 5:17.29

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Steelhead 70.3 - (at last, a real) race report

Well, I finished. Which was my number one goal coming into the 2009 Steelhead 70.3 Half-IM, considering that I haven't actually completed a race of any type/distance since 2007. So, mission accomplished. And I PR'ed the distance, to boot. So, double-nice. I only have accurate run splits from my watch, but I'll post others as soon as they're available online.

We got into Benton Harbor on Friday afternoon, picked up our race packets at the Expo (which had more stuff for sale than I've ever seen at any race, ever, even Ironman. Mouse pads, glasses, coasters, everything you could possibly think of. I held my ground and just bought a new race belt). Then we checked into our hotel and napped a bit before dropping our bikes off at T1.

Neither Cath nor myself had ever been the western side of Michigan before, so seeing the lake from the opposite shore was great - rolling dunes, tall grasses, beautiful homes. It was altogether wonderful. The set up process all went smoothly and we then proceeded to try and figure out where to eat. Considering that none of us (in addition to Cath and I, we were traveling with Drew and his buddy/business partner, Ross - the three boys are pictured above, awaiting the swim start) were from there, this was a bit of a challenge. The only non-chain looking place had a 45-minute wait, and it was already almost 7:00 p.m. local time, so we split. And ended up at, of all places, Dairy Queen. Yes, the DQ. Cath was determined to get a Blizzard for dessert so, to save time, we decided to "dine" there as well. Which ended up being fine. A double cheeseburger is a double cheeseburger, and I really just wanted to get some food in as early as possible so that race morning would start out, uh-hum, smoothly, if you catch my drift, so we ate and headed back to the hotel to begin a (typically) sleepless night before game day.

We got up at 4:00 a.m., checked out, and headed over to the shuttle area, which would take us to T1 (there was no parking allowed on-site). Got there in plenty of time to get situated, and, after making the long walk to the swim start (you essentially walk the length of the swim so as to exit at T1). The morning was lovely - a soft breeze, clear skies, comfortable temps. We waited/peed in the shallow water before seeing Cath's wave leave just past 7:30. Up next, Drew, Ross and I were up at 8:00 a.m. sharp. The race begins with a beach start, and follows the current. The water was a bit roll-ey, but super warm, and the current made for a fast swim. The staggered waves also made for a wonderfully congestion-free first leg (sadly, I know from experience that IM WI will not be the same. Sigh.). Exited the water and then made the long, painful run through the soft sand and into the transition area.

Transition was fine, no real problems, but I should have peed again before hitting the bike course. I ended up carrying a full bladder for the entire bike leg. Oops.

Big props to the race organizers - this is the first race in recent memory that did NOT include some ginormous hill immediately out of T1. So, thanks for that. And, actually, although it is relatively rolling course, the bike leg was probably the smoothest and most pleasant biking experiences that I've ever had in triathlon. Seriously, most of the roads were smooth like butta. The only bad part was the winds, which picked up dramatically as the day moved along, making the last 20 miles a true test of will. I thought I was putting together a pretty great (for me) bike split up to that point, but those last 20 miles put an end to all that. Even so, except for my sore nether regions (standard tri shorts and a bike saddle just don't mix), I felt good going into T2, and, after polishing off a big cup of water, I hit the run course.

Here, the organizers were less generous, as they throw a pretty substantial hill at you before you've even hit the first mile marker. But, again, I was feeling pretty good, hitting the first mile mark in 7:43. The course then makes it's way through a little neighborhood before entering the Whirlpool corporate campus. The campus includes a nice shaded path through a wooded section, but always seems to be creeping ever so slightly up in elevation (which, strangely enough, you never seem to ever get back..hmmm...). Anyway, I continued feeling good through the first three miles, going 7:52, and 7:38, respectively, and then went through a bit of a rough patch (8:21) before taking in half of a banana and some Gatorade. I would continue to take either water or Gatorade at every aid station, which seemed to keep me pretty well hydrated/fueled.

The sun was now completely covered by clouds and the cooler weather was incredibly refreshing. Just outside of the Whirlpool campus, they turn you immediately up another steep hill and then wrap you around for a repeat of miles two through seven (splits: 8:10, 8:14, 8:01, 8:24, and 8:30). Although the running had been going well for me, I got to mile 10 and was looking to be done. Made it to the top of the final hill and started for home, wondering if I could keep this pace to the finish line. Hit the mile ten mark in 7:50, then went 8:29 for mile 11, and got to mile 12 in 7:50 (down that first killer hill).

There's always that fantastic feeling in any race when you can just start to hear the race announcer calling out people's names and you know your day is almost over and you can finally.stop.moving. The finish shoot is pretty long at Steelhead - they have you run the entire perimeter of the very long transition area - but I felt good and took it hard all the way to the line (8:10, including the last .1). Yikes, that last push really hurt something fierce, but there's nothing like emptying the tank going across the line. I actually had to take a knee a few steps across the finish to get my wind back, and then I just wanted to take a nap. In an ice bath. For a long time.

Total time (by my watch): 5:17:27. Thankfully, everyone in our little group finished, including Ross, who had never done a triathlon of any distance before! Quite an accomplishment.

I ended up PR-ing the distance by over 10 minutes, and, more importantly, felt really good for most of the race. Even though the IM course is much different than this one, I'm hoping that this as a good barometer of where I am, fitness-wise, and I actually think my nutrition plan worked out pretty well. I was never low on energy and I had no stomach issues all day.

My legs are really sore today, and we're taking the day off, but I hope to spin my legs on the Keiser bike tomorrow for a bit and swim on Tuesday. Just a few short weeks until the Big Dance!

Have a great week, and thanks for reading.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tuesday (mini) double

Just noting today's mini-swim:

3 x 150; 200 pull; 3 x 150; 200 pull; 3 x 150; 100 free; 100 pull; 100 CD = 2050 yards.

Tonight Cath and I are going to run a bit, but I'm not sure how much. Probably in the 30-45 minute range. Gotta love taper weeks.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Race week!

I probably shouldn't mention anything, considering that my track record with actually completing a race has been pretty abysmal of late, but we have a race set for this weekend!

Yes, we're heading out to Benton Harbor, MI, on Friday for the Steelhead 70.3 tri on Saturday morning. It will be my first 1/2 IM since the Muncie Endurathon in 2006 (!). Yikes, how time flies...

Anywho, I'm excited and nervous about the race itself, but mostly excited because it means that we don't have to ride long this weekend! Yay, Sunday rest day! Speaking of which, we were out in Palos yesterday pounding (read: cursing) the hills for four and 1/2 hours under beautifully sunny skies. We recorded somewhere between 75 and 80 miles total (naturally, three different watches measured three different distances), which felt pretty good - my legs were fatigued from the hill work, but I was strong on the flater sections at the end. The Training Committee decided to scrap the brick portion, so we spent a good 20 minutes or so stretching before hitting our favorite Mexican place for burritos and ice cold Diet Rite (don't laugh -the shit is good. And they don't have beer).

I'm going to kinda taper this week, but nothing too extreme, because Steelhead is really going to be just a long training day for me. I'll keep the distances short, but plan on doing the same workouts through Thursday. Friday is a travel day, and Saturday is race day. As of today, there's a 30 percent chance of rain/thunderstorms. Last year, they scrubbed the swim portion because of extreme water conditions, so we're hoping that doesn't happen again.

Fingers crossed.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Yeah, you can hate me - another three-day weekend

So, my mom is in town from the west coast, so this weekend is a little crammed, but I took advantage of the furlough today to get a nice OWS in with Drew. We did roughly 2400 meters (one and one-half miles) in 48 minutes, which seems kinda slow (especially since the water was almost perfectly flat). But, oh, well. I felt good, and I always prefer the lake to the pool, especially when the water is so nice.

I have been sorta free-forming the training plan of late, just doing what feels good during the week while maintaining the longer stuff on the weekends (excluding last weekend's travel, of course), which has brightened my mood and lifted the training funk I was in. It's actually been fun again. Not fun enough to foresee doing another IM any time soon, but fun enough to get me to the start line in Madison.

Like I said, mom is in town, but we're still running long tomorrow and riding long on Sunday. My hamstring has been a little grumpy ever since last Sunday's long run, so I'm not sure how "long" the long run will be, but Sunday's bike should be another intense session. We're running out of weekends to get quality rides in - next weekend is the Steelhead 70.3 and we have the Accenture relay in August, which will chew up a couple of Sundays, and we're hoping to get in at least three more 4-6 hour rides in the hills before the taper begins in late August/early September.

Can't believe that game day is that close! Gulp.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Terrific Tuesday (okay, I'm done now)

Had a great weekend - especially getting two rest days so close together (Thursday and Sunday). Not so much going on this week, but I wanted to jot down what I've been doing training-wise:
- Saturday Drew and I ran just a hair short of two hours at about an 8:45 - 9:00 pace and then went over to the lake for a 25-minute swim. There was a Swim Across America event going on, with a variety of different OWS events to benefit cancer research, which was cool to watch. It was nice having so many people out there in the lake (usually it's just a few random triathletes and one or two old school swimmers sans wetsuits). The water was pretty choppy and cool, but it was nice to get into the lake again. I'm going to try to go again on Friday.
- Sunday was a travel day.
- Monday I rode for 90 minutes (mostly) on the lake path, which was a bit of a nightmare. It never ceases to amaze me how people just DO NOT pay attention on the bike path, nor do they look after their children. Even on a very short ride, I was almost killed at least twice by people not paying attention and just wandering aimlessly across a busy path. Like, screeching brakes, bike going sideways-type near-crashes. But, whatever. That's the lake path, and I can't bitch too much because it has - and always will - be like this, especially at 5:30 on a summer evening. Anywho, I did a series of one-minute pick ups that (also) almost killed me, but somehow managed to limp home.
- Today I swam before work (2 x 200; 1 x 100 AN; 2 x 200; 1 x 100 AN; 2 x 300; 1 x 100 AN; 6 x 75 [easy 50, hard 25]; 100 CD = 2250 yards) and plan on doing a short run after work. Tomorrow I'll do a short brick at the gym, and Thursday Cath and I are contemplating a ride before work (!).

That's all for now. Hope your week is going well!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Phabulous Phriday!

Well, I was pretty good about easing back this week. It's weird how, even when you want to cut back on training - and know that you probably should - there's that little voice in the back of your head urging you to keep powering through. Which is funny for me, because I am definitely NOT one of those crazy, driven by demons, Type A athletes that drive themselves to exhaustion week after week in preparation for whatever race they're preparing for. No, I am usually perfectly content to bail on a planned ride when the rain is falling (or threatening to fall) or push today's swim into tomorrow (or next never). But that voice is still there - "don't slow up now, you'll never get back on track!" and "you're in the home-stretch, don't ease up now!" and "everybody else is going farther/doing it faster/putting in more than you!"

It's really annoying, and stressful, and counter-productive. Maybe that voice is what keeps me on task, forces to me get back out there every day, but sometimes I wish I could just switch it on and off. But you can't. Luckily, I was able to mostly ignore the voice this week, and just do what felt good. Which was really refreshing - just go out there and do whatever felt good, for as long as it felt good. And no more.

As such, despite the mental fatigue I complained of the other day, I had some really nice sessions - Tuesday evening I ran 80 minutes at about an 8:10 pace (thank you, Garmin!), with a faster section mid-way. I hadn't planned on going this long, but the weather was nice and my body felt good. Wednesday, I did 60 minutes on the Kaiser bike (including a series of 60-second standing climbs) and then bricked that for 15 minutes. I took the day off Thursday, and rode easy for two and one-half hours this morning (43 miles). Cath and I are planning an OWS this afternoon depending on the weather - it's plenty windy out there, which will mean plenty of swells. Yuck. If we don't go today, I'll try to convince Drew to swim after our run tomorrow. Sunday will our rest day this week, and Monday I'll be back in the pool.

That's all for now - have a great weekend, kids. Be safe.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tuesday's swim and a little break

Just wanted to note this morning's swim before I forget what I did:

- 2300 yards: 2 x 200; 1 x 100 (AN); 2 x 200; 1 x 100 (AN); 2 x 300; 1 x 100 (AN); 1 x 300; 3 x 100, alternating aerobic and AN 50s.

Swim was fine - didn't really feel especially fast or slow. I plan on running this afternoon after work, although I'm not sure how far I'll go. It hit me last night that I'm really starting to hit the wall, mentally, and could use the remainder of this week as a step back. Physically, I'm still feeling pretty good, but the will is just not really there and I've been a touch grumpy lately. I've also noticed that I'm starting to dread the workouts, especially the longer stuff, which usually means that I need a few days to chill. So, given that we're traveling this weekend anyway, I may cut the training back and hope that this sets my head back straight.

As such, Wednesday is looking like a short brick and Thursday another short/medium swim. Friday I'd like to bike and Saturday I should be able to get a run in before we hit the road. Apart from Friday, I don't plan on doing anything lasting over one hour, and with no intervals.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Deep in the heart of it

The only problem with taking a Friday off from work, is that it makes Monday a bit of a clusterf&#%. There should be a rule that, when you're out of the office, no one can leave you messages/send e-mail/otherwise burden you with junk that will need addressing when you come back to work. Somebody make that happen, m'kay?

Anywho, the weekend was totally lovely - the wife and I had dinner at Frontera Grill (Rick Bayless' restaurant), which was good, but not worth the two-hour wait (they don't take reservations). We pooped around together on Friday after my swim (3000 yards; 5 x 600, with a few hundred being pull), and it was a nice day. Saturday I ran two hours at a pretty steady 8:00 - 8:05 pace, but it was harder than I expected. Maybe it was the high humidity, maybe it was the two bird attacks (!), but it felt much harder than it should have. My interval session earlier in the week actually felt easier, so go figure. Had lunch with my aunt who was visiting for the day from Milwaukee in the afternoon.

Sunday, Cath was feeling a bit worn out, so Drew and I went out to Palos for our weekly long bike. The weather was absolutely picture-perfect. The lack of extreme heat so far this summer has been such a blessing for our training. Couch potatoes are complaining up a storm that it's too cold, but I'm totally loving it. Especially when stuck in the saddle for 4+ hours. Drew and I put in our beefiest ride to date: 82 (hilly) miles in 4:45, followed by an unpleasantly difficult 28-minute run. The ride actually went by pretty quickly, or, rather, about as quickly as 4:45 can go, and I was much better with my nutrition this time out - religiously took my gels every 30/45 minutes, and had a granola bar about half-way through. I think I could still use some more food, though. I had another bar before running, but I think it was too little, too late, which contributed to the poopy brick. I really need to get this ironed-out before the Big Day. It's too important to ignore. But, fitness-wise, I think we're in really good shape - the training has been of much higher quality this year than before previous IMs, and I think all the hill work will make race day that much easier to take (* fingers crossed* ).

Cath and I are going to visit her mom this weekend in Indiana, so the training schedule will be a bit jumbled this week. Am considering an OWS after work tonight, and I'm taking Friday off again, so that should free up some time that will likley be lost to travel. We're deep into the hardest stretch of training, which is starting to wear on me mentally, but I just keep telling myself that it just for a few more weeks, and then we'll start to shorten things up again. I can't wait.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Long weekend and happy birthday!

Well, I've got tomorrow off, so this is my Friday - yay, Friday! It's my beautiful and talented wife's 34th birthday today (Happy Birthday, Pooh!), so I'm squeezing in a quick strength session at the gym this afternoon, and after work we're going out to dinner.

Tomorrow we're planning on an OWS in the morning, but they're predicting thunder storms in the am, so it may be (yet another) long pool session. Saturday, I'm running two hours and Sunday we're heading back out to the suburbs to brick (we're thinking 4.5 to 5 hours in the saddle, and then a 30 minute run). The weather is looking good for Sunday, so fingers crossed that it stays that way.

My workouts this week have been good, but sleep has not - dog issues have interupted our sleep a few times - so I'm dragging a bit today. I took Monday as a rest day, then swam on Tuesday morning (2200 yards - sorry, I don't remember the breakdown, but it included a bunch of 50 and 25-yard intervals) and ran in the evening (75 minutes, including three long intervals; 7:40 average). Last night I spent 90 minutes on the trainer, at a pretty steady pace (my legs were a bit fried, so no interval sets).

Probably no more updates until Monday, so everyone please stay safe over the weekend. Cheers!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Good times, good times

Well, I managed to put a pretty good training week in the books. This, despite the fact that I decided to trade in a long run for a strength session on Thursday (as a brief aside: all-in-all, I like the "Be Tri Fit" plan that I've been [mostly] following, but it is decidedly run-heavy. And he includes no strength sessions. In fact, if you elect to follow his "Competitive" program, you'll be running five times a week. Yes, I said five times a week. I didn't run five times a week when I was training for a stand-alone marathon, let alone an event with two other disciplines. Personally, I think all the running is a bit excessive, and potentially harmful, so I've cut down accordingly.).

Anywho, I had Friday off for the Independence Day holiday, and celebrated by riding for two hours along the Lakefront path and around Northerly Island. The ride was lovely, but I'd forgotten how crowded the path is and how poor the pavement can be - we've obviously been spoiled by riding out in the suburbs. The path around Northerly Island (the former Meigs Field) actually saved the ride for me - although it's only a little over a mile circuit, the pavement is pretty new and very few people are ever out there. And the City views are spectacular. If you can handle the monotony of one-mile loops, which I apparently can, it's like having your own personal velodrome. Very nice.

Saturday, Cath and I swam 3,000 yards at the pool (5 x 600) in about 55 minutes, and I took the rest of the day to relax.

Sunday, Cath and I returned to Palos and had a great ride. It was crazy foggy for about the first hour - droplets of water were attached to your arm hairs and dripped off your helmet - but the sun soon burned it all off and we were treated to largely windless and mild morning. We explored a little bit, and finally crafted a route that pretty much eliminates all the poor road surfaces that we've come to hate, but with all the crazy hills that we need to prepare our legs for IM. We did four hours on the bike (just over 70 miles), and then bricked that for 30 minutes on a hilly section of trail close to where we parked. By then, the sun was starting to bake, and the running was hard, but we felt great at the end.

After some recent concerns about low volume, this past week's efforts did a lot to ease my fears and get juiced for our final push to the start line. The poor economy should also help my training, as I have a few mandatory furlough days to take in the coming weeks. Although our bank account will be a bit lighter, at least I won't be forced to cram workouts in before and after work, and might actually get some open water swimming in.

Hope you all had a great holiday weekend, and your training is humming along.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The week so far...

...has been great. I think having a lighter load last week was a blessing - I feel better both mentally and physically, and have had some great sessions this week. The weather has been great for training, too - cool and (mostly) dry, which is a true blessing for this time of year.

- Monday: I did 100 minutes on der Keiser (alternating two-minute and one-minute intervals after a 15-minute warm up) and then bricked it for 15 minutes.
- Tuesday: Swam 2000 yards before work (6 x 150, 6 x 100, 6 x 50, 200 CD).
- Wednesday: Ran 75 minutes at an 8:00/mile pace, with two longish (10 minutes and 5 minutes)intervals at 7:00/mile pace.

Today I plan on riding after work (they're letting us leave early because of tomorrow's Holiday), and Friday will likely be a long OWS.

Oh, and I'll share an interesting anecdote from the pool this week:

Him, already in water, breaststroking toward me:
"You're not coming into this lane, are you?"

Me: "Umm, if that's okay with you..."

Him: "Well, this isn't really a lane for two people [it's the lane closest to the wall] - there's really not enough room."

Me: "I think all the lanes are the same width."

Him: "But the others have room underneath the lane dividers so you don't run into each other or hit the wall."

Me: "Would you rather I take the wall side? I'd be happy to take the wall side."

Him: "[Somewhat frustrated] No, I'll just get into another lane [which he does]."

Crazy, no?

(The goody below is a Garmin 405cx, which is essentially a 405 with an allegedly improved GPS antenna and some weird calorie consumption feature that I'll never use. Our running store didn't have the regular ol' 405, so I got this one in order to take advantage of a rebate that's expiring soon and a small discount we get at that shop. I used it last night on my run, and my initial thoughts are that it's awesome - so nice to have pace, distance, and time all at once. I'll try to provide a more thorough review after I figure out/try more of the features).

Monday, June 29, 2009

Surfing the waves of panic

Well, the weekend, like so many that have come before, carried about equal amounts of success and failure as far as IM training goes. Cath and I had decided that, because she had the day off excpet for coaching her running group, I would run in the morning with her group and then we'd head over to Lake Michigan for an OW swim. The run was great - her group is made up mostly of running newbies, all training for their first marathon, and they're all very outgoing and positive people. I ran a modest pace - probably somewhere in the area of 8:45 to 9:00/miles - with a guy named Chadwick, and had a nice time chatting with him. The weather was beautiful - sunny, but not too humid, so I felt great affterwards. Then Cath and I walked over to Oak Street beach to swim. There were a good number of triathletes already out there (around 9:00 a.m.), but it never felt crowded, and we had a great session. I put in one and one-half loops of the marked course, so roughly 2500 yards, in just under an hour. Not a great pace, but we weren't really pushing it, and it was nice to just get out there. I can't believe that it's taken until almost July to get into the lake!

Sunday, we had planned to go out and do a century ride in the suburbs. Drew wouldn't be able to go with us, so it was just Cath and I, and just before heading off the bed on Saturday night, I checked the weather - clear skies, high around 82, with * 20-30 mile/hour winds *

Hmmm. Yeah. That sounds pretty crappy.

With that in mind, we went to bed. Checked again in the morning, and winds out there were already in the teens and expected to go higher, so the training committee met and voted to scrap the ride. In fact, it voted to scrub training for the entire day. I was anxious about this for a while, but ultimately decided that:

1. We still have eight solid weeks of training left before the taper starts;
2. We have established a good base of 60-70 mile rides in conditions similar to the IM course;
3. We both could use a blank Sunday to do a whole lot of nothing, and to do that nothing together.

So, we got up early and went for coffee and a long walk along the lake, and then went out for breakfast. Then we came home, napped, and went to the running store for some new goodies (I'll share what they are soon). Later, we had drinks on the deck, while playing with our two grateful-that-we-were-home dogs. In the absence of a long ride, the day was gloriously long and peaceful.

I'm still a bit anxious about getting in all the necessary miles, especially biking, but I'm hopeful that taking back this one Sunday will actually set us up for a solid push to the taper. The plan calls for some ridiculous amounts of training over the coming weeks, and I'll likely appreciate both the mental and physical break this lazy Sunday provided us. There's still a long road ahead.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Quickie update

Just a brief update on training so far this week:

Monday was an all-too-brief rest day.
Tuesday I swam 2500 yards before work (4 x 600, mostly free but with a few sub-sets of pull thrown in for variety; 100 CD)and ran an hour after work. Didn't do any run intervals because it was ungodly hot, and I thought I'd pass out if I did any.
Today I'm riding der Keiser for an hour after work and following it with a very short run.

More soon.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Monday = rest/best day

Things didn't go entirely as planned during the last part of last week, but I ended up getting in most of the training that I wanted to. I'm not sure what happened on Thursday, but I just could not muster up the energy to hop on the bike and put in the 75 minutes that I had planned for. Just. Couldn't. Do. It. I think the intervals on Wednesday kicked my ass a bit more than intended, and I was just pooped.

So, I left the bike on the trainer.

I was taking Friday off from work, so I used that as an excuse to bail on Thursday's ride. Friday, I did Thursday's aborted ride, but nothing else. Storms were coming in and out most of the day, so Cath and I decided to kick the swim to Saturday after our long run.

Saturday, Drew and I ran an easy 100 minutes along the lakefront path. It was pretty humid, but some cooler breezes seemed to keep my core temperature from getting too high. Sadly, the heavy rains that came down the last few days closed the beaches, so the OWS got pushed back a week, and Cath and I hit the pool for a quick 1600 yards (500 free; 10 x 50 alternating hard and easy; 500 free; 100 CD).

Sunday, Drew was tied up with Father's Day responsibilites, so Cath and I went out the Palos Park for 60-odd miles and a 30-minute run. Again, the humidity was pretty high, but the sun was hidden behind clouds for most of the ride, and the winds were calm, so I had a pretty nice ride. Never felt too terribly taxed, and we explored some new areas off our typical route. That said, I'll be happy to ride a brand new course when we head out for the century next weekend - the change of scenery will be most welcome. And so will some flat roads.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Deca Ironman?!

So, I'm reading an article in the latest issue of Inside Triathlon, which describes the subculture world of multi-IM racing. Yes, I said *multi* IM racing. Apparently, there is a growing interest in taking IM to another level, with double, triple, quadruple, and, yes, deca (10) IM-distance racing. These races can take days, or even weeks, to complete and are typically performed in a pool, a short bike circuit, and a track.


Now I can understand the urge to push yourself further, and if you've done a number of IM-distance races, perhaps the lure of a greater challenge starts to loom large. But I can't imagine ever wanting to do something like that. I just don't see the point. There are other challenges in life besides multi-sport racing. If IM gets boring, just try something else. Climb a mountain. Skydive. Maybe an adventure race. But 10 IMs in a row? Over the course of two weeks? Really?


Personally, I'm just looking forward to IM Wisconsin - although it's just a single IM, it's plenty enough challenge for me.

Training-wise, the week so far has been good: Tuesday I swam 2800 yards (4 x 600; 1 x 200 pull; 1 x 200 CD) and ran an hour on the treadmill. Wednesday I rode der Keiser for an hour, with a bunch of painful intervals thrown in (5 x 2 minutes and 5 x 1 minute, with comparable CDs) and then ran for 15 minutes. I've been sitting on a tennis ball at work for my hamstring, and trying to stretch more after training sessions, and, so far, so good. Nothing seems to be getting any worse. * Fingers crossed *

Tonight I'm doing an easy 75-minute ride, and tomorrow Cath and I are hitting the lake for an open water swim! I'm excited to hit the lake again - it's so much more fun than lane swimming, and I'm excited to try the new suit. It's an XTerra Vextor Pro X2. We recently got Cath an XTerra full-suit, and she really likes it, so I'm hopeful this guy will feel good out there.

Hope everyone's having a good week.