Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Hitting the slopes, yo

So, Cath and I are heading out to Idaho tomorrow to visit my dad and jump into some winter sports.
I haven't skiied all that regularly since I was a teenager, many moons ago, but we went once last year and it came back pretty easily, so I'm excited to get back out there.
The only problem with skiing as an adult is that you're now wise enough to know that a bad fall could lead to many months of painful rehab, so I'm hoping that the ski gods smile on us, take some pity, and we avoid a hospital stay. Still, I'll be massaging my ligaments and tendons all day, hoping they get all soft and flexy before we get there.
Otherwise, training is going well - I've been trying to really test myself a bit this off-season, doing more intervals and just generally trying to get my heart rate higher than I usually would during a typical IM build up. Basically, just enagaging in two types of workouts - intervals and recovery. I figure I have plenty of time to build up a base, but I'd really like to boost my VO2 max a bit before the IM training really begins in the Spring.
Santa was good to me in the form of a new pair of bike shorts - the DeSoto 400-mile shorts, if you're curious - but it will likely be a good number of months before they get tested. The snow and cold temps arrived early in Chicago this year, and they don't look like they'll be leaving any time soon. But, I'm looking forward to making lemonade out of the lemons, tromp around out in the Sawtooth Mountains, and remember that summer always comes back...eventually.
Happy New Year!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Don't Get Old

I am one out-of-shape mother f'er. Seriously.
The combination of a light racing/training year and, uh-hum, advancing age has killed my fitness, and I feel like crap.
Drew and I have been hitting up a boot camp-style fitness class at our gym recently - basically, just a group class with an emphasis on strength and high-heart rate agony - and the results have been humbling. I guess I'm not a kid anymore, and it's going to take some serious training to get back into the game, triathlon-wise.
But, I'm trying to look at the bright side, and think that it's better to realize this now - before the New Year - rather than be shocked when the training schedule starts in the Spring.
As such, I'm thinking of following some sort of pre-season training plan that will get me to April. Not sure what I'm going to do - I thought about a personal trainer, but I'm not inclined to spend the money. I'll probably keep taking the ass-buster fitness class, and add some other non-triathlon-ey stuff so as to not get burnt out before the real work begins in the Spring. I've been taking a day to row, walk the incline machine, and walk stairs, which I think has been helpful. And I need to run more outside. I've been lazy about braving the winter weather, but that needs to change.
In other news, I think we're close to choosing a couple more races for 2011 - Galena ( and Steelhead ( We've done both of these races before, so I know that they're quality events, and the timing is great as far as IM FL is concerned.
Now, if I can just get down to shaking off the rust....

Monday, November 8, 2010

Oh, boy. Here we go again...

So, my buddy Drew and I pulled the trigger on IM FL, which will take place on Nov. 5 in Panama City Beach, Florida. It wasn't exactly our first choice, as far as ironman distance races go, but we have a couple friends who wanted to do this one, and we figured it would be a fun gathering when the time comes. Cath decided to take a pass, and instead focus more on performance training with a personal trainer, and maybe some shorter distance events. Unlike her husband, she had a pretty active year - a 70.3, two marathons (including a BQ!) and an ultramarathon - so I think she wants to recuperate a bit in 2011, but is supportive of me wanting to get back off the bench and into the ironman game. And I'm super-excited to get going again - it feels like it's been forever since I crossed the line in Wisconsin, and I've felt a bit rudder-less without an IM event on the schedule, so I'm happy.
I'm anticipating using the same Don Fink plan as I did for IM Wisconsin last year, which I found to be extremely reasonable in terms of a time commitment. Lord knows you can give your entire life to IM preparation, and generally improve your ultimate performance as a result, but I'm just not that interested in going to that extreme. I enjoy training as much as the next slightly-unbalanced triathlete, but double workouts every day and dozens of century rides is beyond my level of dedication and interest. The Fink plan (as detailed in his book "Be Iron Fit") is 30 weeks in length, and provides three different training plans depending on how motivated you are to crush the race - "Just Finish," "Intermediate," and "Competitive." I think I started with the Competitive plan last year, but pretty quickly found that it required more than I was interested in giving, so backed off to the Intermediate schedule. Even cheating a bit with the Intermediate plan, I still felt that I was in pretty good form for the race in Wisconsin, and never really felt burnt out with the training.
But the training plan doesn't start until April of next year, so between now and then I'm thinking of trying to build a little strength with the help of a personal trainer. I don't do much strength stuff during IM training, so now I think is a good time to get serious before the swim-bike-run takes over. I do some strength stuff now, but I know I don't go as near as hard on myself as a trainer will, so that's probably the way to go. Otherwise, my exercising is pretty pedestrian - swim, bike, and run once (maybe twice) per week, strength stuff twice per week, and one or two off days. Nothing over an hour per session. Easy stuff.
But the New Year will bring more intensity and volume, and I'm grateful for the opportunity. Should be a fun ride.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Damn, what now?

So, my 2010 racing season - as meager as it was - has now come to an end. Cath is doing the Indianapolis marathon in November, but I'm not a huge fan of marathons, so I'll be spectating that one. And, as happens every year at this time, I start chomping at the bit to figure out what to do next year. So, bear with me as I think out loud a little here...

The tide definitely seems turned toward Ironman Florida in November, so, depending on how successful we are in getting registered, that may be the "A" race of the year. If, not, we are also looking at IM Cozumel, which is also in November. We had briefly flirted with the idea of an IM Wisconsin-IM Florida double (roughly two months apart), but sanity prevailed, and we'll stick with "just" the one IM-distance race.
I'd also like to do some kind of hiking/climbing/camping adventure, which we didn't get to do this year. We've discussed with friends the possibility of climbing Long's Peak in Colorado (a 14,000-foot peak that doesn't require extensive climbing experience or skill), or perhaps hiking across the Presidential Range (http://http// back east. Either would be great in August.

Triathlon-wise, we'll likely to another sprint race in the spring, probablyTri Shark again, or a return to Galena (sorry, Cath!), and a 70.3 in the early summer. Cath has become enamored of the Vineman triathlon (http://http//, mostly because of its proximity to all.those.vineyards (!). We've done Muncie, Racine (twice), and Steelhead already, so a change might be nice. But I kinda have a problem with all the travel (and expense) associated with "only" a half-ironman. Elitest much? Perhaps, but that could be a lot of cash for a "B" race, especially if we do some of the other travel-related things I've mentioned. Hmmm...we'll have to discuss that one further.
Well, that's a start, I guess. I'd also like to do the following things at some point, although not necessarily in 2011:
- Climb/hike to Crater Lake, OR (thanks for the idea, Jen!);
- Mountain bike hut-to-hut from Telluride, CO to Moab, UT (;
- Hike to Machu Picchu along the Inca Trail (;
- Climb the Grand Tetons (
So, what do you think? Any other suggestions?

Monday, September 20, 2010

The North Face Endurance Challenge - Race Report

I'll apologize right off the bat, because we took no pictures, so I don't have any good eye candy for this report. The weather was crap - pouring rain and lightning right up until the race started - so the pics just didn't happen. So, sorry about that.

(I did, however, find this yummy looking shot of a Five Guys burger and fries online, and figured I'd throw that up here because that's what Cath and I had to eat the night before the race. It was pretty good - I'd definitely recommend it).

Anywho, as for the race itself, we got up to Middle-of-Nowhere, Wisconsin, otherwise known as Eagle, WI, around 2:00 p.m. on Friday, checked into our Holiday Inn Express and moped around the surrounding strip mall for a bit before chilling in the room until our burger dinner. The weather on Friday was extraordinary - very fall-like temps, clear skies, perfect for running. Unfortunately, the race was on Saturday. Thunderstorms started rolling through
in the early morning hours dumping all kinds of rain, and I was seriously wondering if the organizers would let the race proceed in these conditions. It was looking ugly out there. Regardless, we gathered our stuff and made our way to the park where the start/finish area was assembled, and, luckily, the storms seemed to be making their way east and the rain eased up. By 7:00 a.m., all systems were go, and all 142 of us made our way to the start line. The Ultramarathon Man, himself, Dean Karnazes, was there to give a little pep talk, and we were off.

As mentioned previously, Cath and I had decided to run the race together, and employ a run/walk split in order to conserve energy. I can't remember exactly why we chose to run 9 minutes and walk one, as opposed to, say, a 8-2 or 7-3, but that's what we went with and it worked pretty well. I was actually surprised that nobody else seemed to be doing a run/walk, as they all made their way past us on our first walk segment, but I figured our system would pay dividends in the end.

The course if divided into six sections, each approximately five miles long, seperated by aid stations. It seemed like we hit that first aid station in no time, with Cath and I running somewhere between 8:30s and 9:00s (I wasn't running with a watch, so my numbers could be totally wrong, but that's what it felt like), and feeling pretty good. I had started to get a head cold a couple days before the race, and had taken a decongestant hoping to keep my head clear, and it seemed to be doing it's thing. The weather was cooler than the day before, but humid because of all the rain. The trail, however, was a complete mess - mud, mud, and more mud. That thick, slippery mud where you think you might lose a shoe if you try to run through it. But the scenery was spectacular. Just really beautiful trails, and so, so quiet out there. I can't imagine a more scenic place to do a race. Just lovely.

We hit the second aid station and I was still feeling pretty good. The weather was holding - a few sprinkles, but nothing major - and the terrain had changed for the better. We'd find that each section of the race showcased a different type of trail running - some horse trails, some single-track, some wider cross-country ski trails, etc. It was great to get away from all the mud, but this section had a ton of steep sections, choked with loose and slippery rocks. Cath turned her ankles a number of times, and I was worried that she might be risking a sprain. Luckily, the third section of the race was through a series of relatively flat - but soggy - fields along the Ice Age Trail. They apparently use the Ice Age Trail for a number of endurance events, and I can see why - the views are just incredible and the terrain is challenging, but very doable. The only bad part of this section was that it was all single-track, which made passing - and being passed - a bit of a pain.

It was at the end of this section that I started to feel kinda crappy. My head and chest were getting congested, and I just wasn't really getting into a good running rhythm. Just laboring. We hit the fourth (of six) aid stations at mile 22, and, as I pushed another gel into my mouth, I got that feeling like I just really didn't want to run any more. I started to panic a bit because I knew we still had nine more miles to go, and I was not feeling good. We started out again, but it wasn't long before I told Cath to go on without me. She was running really strong, and I didn't want to hold her back. It was also making me kinda nauseous running directly behind someone, and I hoped that a little distance would do me some good. But, first, I figured I'd walk a spell and try to re-focus. I kept Cath in sight for about another mile or so, running for stretches and then walking a bit, but she was soon out of sight and I was pretty much by myself out there. Unfortunately, the solitude didn't make me feel all that much better.

The run/walk stretches started to get about equal, and my legs were really starting to rebel - my feet, ankles, hamstrings, and hips were all telling me to stop. The last aid station was just 3.7 miles from the finish, and I thought I'd be able to finish relatively strong - or at least run the whole way in - if I could just get to that last station. I was then run/walking with a couple of other guys, which is always a nice way to spend the time when you're not feeling great during a race, and we finally hit the final aid station. One of the guys I was with said that we had 50 minutes left in order to break six hours, and thought we could make it if we did a 4-minute run, 2-minute walk split. We started out running, but I just didn't have much left in me. Everything just hurt really badly, and I was also mentally pretty burnt - focusing on the trail all day, picking a good line, avoiding big rocks, and the head cold had left me really drained. The run/walk splits were now pretty ridiculous - seriously, like 50 yards of each, over and over again. I'd run the downhills and walk the uphills, hoping the end of the trail was just over the next hill.

We finally got back to the main road, which I knew was just a half-mile or so from the finish. I did manage to break six hours, barely (5:59.56!), but it wasn't a world-dominating performance by any means. I pretty much just slogged through those last nine miles. In fact, if Cath hadn't taken a wrong turn near the very end, and thereby run two extra miles, she would have beaten me by at least 20 minutes. She was strong from beginning to end, and I surely was not. But I'm trying to be positive about it - I wasn't feeling 100 percent, I hadn't trained (and taken it as seriously) as I should have, and I probably didn't take in enough nutrition out on the course, and still was able to run/walk it all the way in. I actually lived up to my nom-de-blog, finishing 73rd out of 142 competitors, 20th (out of 35) in my age group, and the 62nd male (out of 112).

And I can say that I've done an Ultramarathon. Dean Karnazes might not be too impressed, but I can live with that.


Monday, August 30, 2010

The North Face Endurance Challenge

So, although Cath and I decided to take a step back from Ironman racing this year, we came upon another challenge that we figured might be equally fun/physically demanding for the latter part of the summer - the North Face Endurace Challenge.
Sponsored by the popular clothing manufacturer, the North Face Endurance Challenge is a series of trail runs ranging in distance from 5k to 50-miles put on in five locations across the country, including one just southeast of Madison, Wisconsin, on September 18. Seeing as we have a couple friends who have done a few ultra-distance running events, Cath and I have discussed giving one a shot sometime, and the North Face Series seemed like a good place to start.
At first we considered going all out and registering for the 50-mile race, but I was pretty sure that I was not going to be in a good position to pull that off this year, so we settled on the 50k instead. Which is still a daunting proposition, seeing as I've never run more than a marathon at a time, and never run a race off-road.
Cath has been leading a marathon training group at work, and I've tried to glean some measure of fitness by dragging myself to their weekly long runs for the past six or so weeks. We've ramped up to 19 miles a couple of times, but it hasn't really done a lot to make me feel very comfortable or confident going into this race. In fact, it's made me wonder how I ever managed to get through a stand-alone marathon in one piece. Running for more than two hours straight is just a ridiculous thing to do, really. It hurts quite a bit. People say, "but you've done three Ironman races, each with a marathon tacked onto a bunch of other stuff..." Which is true, but an Ironman race can be broken down into a series of one-mile (slow) repeats, with a snack break between each one. It's much easier than thinking about - and then doing - 26+ miles without stopping.
I have tried to convince/delude myself into thinking that this course is generally considered the least technical of the race series, and Cath and I have agreed to stay together and tackle it in a run-walk fashion (ie, an 8 minute run, 2 minute walk sequence), so there's really nothing to worry about, but I'm still a bit scared. It's still a lot of miles to cover over uneven terrain.
Regardless, it will no doubt be an adventure, and something we'll remember for quite a while. And that's always exciting.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Racine 70.3 Race Report

First off, a little history (not because it's been so long since I've posted anything that I'm feeling extra verbose, but rather because it's actually relevant to the report) - having completed IM Wisconsin in September of last year, I had just mid-packed my way through my third Ironman distance triathlon in four years, to go along with four half-IMs and a handful of sprints and Oly-distance events during the same period. My buddy Drew had done all that, plus another Ironman event, and Cath now had two IM races under her belt, in addition to a couple of injury-aborted training cycles.

So, needless to say, we all came into the 2010 "season" a tad burnt out by the whole triathlon training process, and opted to take a more chill approach to things this time around. Most importantly we decided no IM races at all for this year, but we'd throw a half-IM on the schedule more-or-less just to have something to train for. We chose the Racine 70.3 race primarily because of the timing and close proximity to Chicago, and perhaps a bit because we did this same race in 2005 and it kicked the boys' asses - especially me, as the high temps and humidity forced me to walk almost the whole run leg, while the wife ran away to family victory. So, a little sweet, sweet revenge over the town of Racine, WI was also on the agenda.

Unfortunately, and perhaps not unexpectedly, training for the event never really got off the ground - I had been swimming and running pretty regularly, if once a week can be considered regular, but the biking thing was pretty much forgotten. I'm thinking I did - maybe - three rides of over thirty miles all year (and they were just a hair above 30 miles, as that), and most of my saddle time had taken place inside on the Keiser bike. And most of those indoor rides were about an hour long, and included some short intervals, but still weren't all that taxing. So, really the "training" was nothing more than some daily exercise, and I was worried that I hadn't give the distance the respect it was due.

Cath and Drew had also been a bit down on triathlon training, so we all went into this past weekend a bit apprehensive over what 70.3 miles of racing was going to feel like.

We hit hit the road on Saturday afternoon, and check-in was rather uneventful - the old Spirit of Racine Half Ironman was taken over by WTC this past year, and is now an IM branded affair, which (in my humble opinion) is typically a good thing - IM events are usually very well-organized and the routes very well-planned. More on this later, but I think they dropped the ball on this one.

Our friend Ross, who's in the midst of training for his first IM, joined us for the race, and is no doubt the most fit of us all right now. We had a pre-race dinner with some members of his training group, and then hit the Best Western for some zzz's. I didn't sleep very well, but woke up ready to roll - ate a couple slices of some cinnamon bread we picked up the night before, and headed down to transition to set up. The morning was slightly cool and bit cloudy, which was a great surprise since the forecast had called for sun and high humidities. I drank a Red Bull as I got set up, along with most of a Powerbar.

The swim in Racine is a point-to-point, and you have to walk the mile down the beach to the start line, but we got down there in plenty of time. Ross and I were in the second wave after the pros went off, about 7:15 a.m. What's nice about this swim is that you've got a nice, wide section of beach to start from, and the waves are four minutes apart, so there's very little contact between athletes. I think I brushed into someone maybe once or twice, and it wasn't anything violent. Just a bump, and then they were gone. Nothing like the chaos that is an Ironman start. The swim actually felt pretty good - water was pretty calm for Lake Michigan, and it ended just when I was getting tired of swimming. I didn't see the clock coming into T1, and I was racing without a watch, but I they say I did it in 42.09. Pretty good for me.

Hit the port-o-let, and got ready to ride. Given my limited training, I knew going in that the end of the bike was going to be hard, but I actually felt pretty good the whole way. The ride started well - the skies were still clouded over, and the temps were in the upper 70s, with little wind - but things changed about half-way through. I actually cursed when I first saw the sun's rays as they broke through the clouds, as I knew the day was about to get a lot hotter. But the air was still feeling pretty cool and the miles ticked slowly by. In fact, the only distress I had on the bike was hunger - I had about 575 calories during the ride, but my stomach started to rumble with about five miles to go - and the mental fatigue of being on a bike for so long.

Rolled into T2 most thankful to be off the bike, and scarfed down about half a Powerbar in the transition area. Jogged out toward the exit, and the heat really hit me for the first time. Yikes. Those first two miles were just brutal. Decided right then that I was just going to run aid station to aid station, stopping at each to drink and throw water over my head. That worked pretty well until about mile 8, when I had to stop between aid stations to let my heart rate settle back down. It seemed like my brain wanted to run a certain speed, but my body couldn't go that fast and my heartrate would spike. So I'd walk about 15 steps, and then force myself to jog again (to describe it as a 'run' would be an exaggeration). That happened two or three more times over the next couple of miles, but I got into a pretty good rhythm with about two miles to go, and even had enough left to sprint it to the finish.

In the end, I'm happy with my times - swim: 42.09; bike: 2:46.23; run: 1:59.54; overall: 5:36.16. Not the best I've ever done, but not the worst either. The weather and my conditioning were pretty second rate, but I was happy with the mental effort that kept me pushing on the run. And it's always fun to do a race with friends - grumbling about all the trial and tribulations we experienced out there is like the fourth leg of triathlon, and I was thankful to have Cath, Drew and Ross up there with me. Very good times.

I don't think I'd do this race again, though - the course really blows. The bike especially. The road quality is for crap - bad pavement, and the course spends way too much time on narrow portions of the highway. The website also boasts that you run through the Racine zoo, but that's a lie - you run *past* the zoo, or maybe it's more accurate to say next to the zoo, and the only animals I saw were the a couple of dogs watching from some spectator's front lawn. And, while I really can't blame the organizers for this, the weather was complete crap. Again. I don't even like to be outside in weather that's ninety degrees and humid, let alone race in it. So, I don't think the Racine 70.3 will be on the agenda again any time soon - there are too many other quality half-IMs in this area to do a dud like this one - but I was happy that we did it. Next time, we might even train a bit for it.


Monday, June 14, 2010

Tri-Shark Race Report

Hey, remember me? The Tales From the Mid-Pack guy? Yeah, I'm back with an exciting new update on my 2010 racing "season" (which, so far, amounts to two races). I actually participated - and completed! - a triathlon on June 5, which I believe allows me to continue to describe myself as an "athletic person." At least for another few months.

The event in question is a long-standing sprint-distance triathlon in scenic Normal, Illinois, which is about 130 miles south of Chicago. The participants included Cath, Drew, our resident Ironman-in-training Ross, and myself. We drove down to Normal on Friday and arrived with plenty of time to register at the lake start. "Register" might be a little strong of a word, considering the whole process amounted to basically crossing our names off a list and handing us our swim caps and numbers. A nice thing about Tri-Shark is that they allow you the option of forgoing a t-shirt in exchange for bumping a few bucks off the registration fee. Considering that about 10 percent of all race shirts ever get worn in our household, this was a nice option. We all took a moment to gander at the lake, which would be the site of our 600-yard swim, and then head back to the 'ol Hampton Inn.

Now, honestly, I wasn't completely sure that this race was going to even get off the ground - the forecast called for a series of major thunderstorms to come crashing through the area all evening and deep into the following (i.e., race day) afternoon, and I know that race directors are typically quick to abort a race - or at least scrub the swim portion - when the dark clouds roll in. My fears were only compounded when the first storms rolled through at 3:00 a.m., and it was still raining and very dark at 6:30 a.m. Hmmm, not looking good.

But a confidently-written mass email from the organizers bolstered our hopes that we'd be racing, so we soldiered on to the race site. We had all gotten settled in the transition area when they told us that the start would be delayed "until further notice" because of the surrounding storm activity. Crapo. Is this going to happen today? But then, all of a sudden, the director is again on her bullhorn telling everyone that we're back on schedule, and looking at an on-time departure! Boo ya!

Drew, Ross and I take off in the same wave - sporting the mighty powder blue swim caps! - and I quickly remember that: 1. I haven't swam in open water since last September, 2. swimming with a wetsuit feels totally different that swimming without a wetsuit, and 3. triathlon swim starts are very. physical. affairs. These people were in it to win it, and swimming like they were in a bar fight. Yikes. Gotta say that the starts are probably my least favorite part of triathlon - it can be just brutal out there.

Luckily, I managed to survive the first 500 yards before I literally had the watch knocked right off my wrist as I made my way to the swim exit. Luckily, it was just my old Nike and not something I'd be losing tears over, but it was still a surreal experience realizing that some catfish would likely be eating my watch for breakfast. Oh, well. Moving on...Swim - 12:19.

Transition was smooth and easy (1:55), grabbed the bike and headed out - legs didn't exactly feel great, but I hoped that they'd warm up as I moved along. The course was super-smooth (gotta love the rural roads), with just a few short hills, but it still felt like a lot longer than 13 miles. I obviously didn't have my watch anymore, and I don't ride with a bike computer, so I had no idea how fast I was going, but I tried to keep up a pace that felt somewhere between good and just a little bit hurty. My bike fitness is admittedly pretty poor right now - longest ride is right around 35 miles, and not exactly a hard 35, either - but I came into T2 feeling fine, and saw Cath just as she was entering the transition area. Bike - 36:30 (21.4 mph); T2 - 1:37.

We started to run out together, and I actually had a hard time keeping up with her - I hadn't taken in any liquids on the bike, and I was feeling a bit dry. Stopped to grab a cup of water, and started to feel a little more normal. I just wanted to hunker down into a steady groove and stick with it until the end. The first half of the run felt like it was all uphill, so I was thrilled to see the turn-around point, but - of course - the way back wasn't exactly an express elevator down to the finish. But you've gotta love a 5k run - it can only hurt for so long, and then it's over. I even had a little sprint left in me at the end! Run - 22:17 (7:11/mile); Total - 1:14.40.

All-in-all, this was a really fun race - really well organized, good size, nice distance. I've never done a legitimate sprint distance triathlon (I've done the Galena tri a couple of times, and also one in Terre Haute, IN, but the bike and run legs were slightly longer for each), and it was a nice change of pace. Not my favorite distance, but it sure was nice to finish the race in time to get back and shower at the hotel before check-out time! I've still got a long way to go, training-wise, to be ready for the Racine 70.3 next month, but this was a really nice practice run.

Now, if I could just get in some serious riding...


Thursday, April 15, 2010

So much to say!

Okay, not really.

I just didn't want this blog to be repossessed or condemned or sold to some high school kid in Des Moines.

Training is still going, although I'm a bit irked because I had a rash of stomach issues a week or two ago that set me back some. At the risk of TMI, I tend to go through bouts of stomach upsets - bloating, gassy spells - that I think are somehow related to some sort of food sensitivity (dairy? gluten? soy?). Anywho, these spells usually last a week or so, and then tend to clear up, but I tend to eat less during these things, which makes me weaker, and the workouts aren't nearly as good. So, having just come off one of these periods, I feel like my fitness has taken a step back.

We did have a great trail run out in the suburbs two weeks ago a couple friends of ours, and it was amazing - almost a 10-mile loop on a rolling course almost entirely in the rain. It felt wonderful to just smell nature again. Our friends were a week out from a 50-mile trail race, so we did a 8-minute run and 2-minute walk pace with them, and it was fantastic. Apparently, the run/walk combo is is a very common practice for ultra-runners, and I can see why - those two minutes can do wonders for your legs, and it felt like we could do that pace all day. Cath and I are actually interested in giving it a go next year! Here's the link:

There's a 100-mile option, as well, but,, thanks. Fifty would be plenty challenging. Could be "fun."

Anywho, not to much else going on here. Our first race this year is in just less than two months, although I have yet to take the bike out into the real world in 2010. Hoping to get her tuned up this weekend, and, weather-permitting, hit the lakefront to clear out the cobwebs. It's been a l-o-n-g winter.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Blogger freak out.

Apparently, Blogger thought I had died. Or was on vacation. Or just had nothing interesting/important to say. Because it hasn't been letting me log-on to post anything. But, thankfully, after much ado, I was able to bum-rush the show and hack into my own blog.

The crops are saved!

Anywho, maybe Blogger was right to keep me out, because life in these parts are pretty vanilla - I've been training, but nothing too crazy. I'm hitting the gym six days a week, but I don't think it's been with any great intensity. Or maybe it just feels that way because the sessions haven't been all that long in duration? Ironman does weird things to your exercise-based perspective. Now, if it doesn't last more than 90 minutes and/or isn't the second workout of the day, it doesn't seem like a "real" session. Oh, well.

Whatever, I've been working out. The running is probably going the best, which isn't much of surprise since running is probably my best discipline. I've been hitting the pool at least once a week for 2,000 yards, and I've been biking (on the trainer or the Keiser bike) for either 45 minutes or an hour once or twice/week. I cranked it up to an hour and 15 minutes on Saturday just to start building a little endurance in the legs. And I'm still doing at least one strength session each week, mostly core stuff like planks and dynamic movements with weights.

Not bad, I guess, considering we're still a ways out from the summer. I'm not really following any kind of training plan as yet, and I'm not sure that I'm going to - 70.3 really isn't that big of an investment, time-wise, and I think I can trust myself to get in adequate amounts of base, interval and endurance work on my own. But that might change if I feel like I'm sloughing off.

In other news, we sorta scrubbed plans for a Spring vacation - the taxman is taking us to the woodshed this year, so money is a bit tight. However, the wife might get sent to Vegas for a work conference around Memorial Day, so we might be able to turn that into a little getaway. We'll see. And we've made a tentative commitment to climb Colorado's Longs Peak in late summer/early Fall with the same crew that did the Grand Canyon last year. Fingers crossed that this comes together, because I think it would be an amazing adventure.

Other than that, nothing new to report. Hope y'all are making it through the final days of Winter with sanity intact. The sun is out today, so maybe that means that warmer temps are on the horizon.


Friday, March 5, 2010


Well, it's three months into 2010, and this particular Ironman isn't looking (or feeling) all that tough anymore. Up to this point, I haven't really felt compelled to commit to a 'big' race, which would require a co-committment to an actual training schedule, so we've sort of tabled the issue for as long as possible.

But yesterday we threw down - Cath, Drew and I are registered for Racine IM 70.3, which will take place on July 18, 2010, or just under 20 weeks from now. As mentioned previously, I'm not a huge fan of repeating 'A' races, and we previously did Racine in 2006, but there were a few factors weighing in its favor:

- it's close;

- it's now a 70.3-sponsored event;

- the timing is good; and, perhaps most importantly,

- there's a revenge factor.

Yes, the 2006 version (then known as the 'Spirit of Racine' half-ironman) was a particularly horrible day to race - temps were deep into the 90s and it was very humid. No doubt the hottest race I've ever competed in, and it was miserable. I remember really wanting to be off the bike, and just struggling through those last few miles. I thought the run would be refreshing, but I jogged out of the transition area and just felt like absolute crap. I probably ran a half-mile before stopping to walk. Luckily, Drew and I met up, and he wasn't feeling much better than I did, so we suffered together - alternating long walk breaks with brief fits of running. There were people collapsed on the side of the road, all red-faced and spacey-looking. It was a pretty gruesome scene.

Of course, my amazing wife was having a great day - she passed both Drew and I relatively early in the run, looking fresh as a daisy, and went on to beat both of our asses (which she takes great pleasure in reminding us...). I think I finished in around 6 and 1/2 hours, which is a good hour longer than what I'm usually capable of. It was just brutal.

So, needless to say, Drew and I are looking for a little redemption in ol' Racine, Wisconsin this year. And I'm excited to have a goal race on the agenda. It sounds a little bratty, but I don't consider a 70.3 to be all that much of a challenge anymore, but it really is a great distance for a triathlon - long enough to be a challenge, but without the uber-long training sessions that a full IM require. I'm not sure I could mentally commit to that kind of intensity this year. So, this should be a good compromise.

I'm still not sure what we'll be doing with the rest of the year - I had thought about a possible marathon, with an eye toward qualifying for the Boston Marathon (which, for my old ass would be a 3:20.00 - I did a 3:26.00 at the Chicago marathon in 2005, so it's theoretically possible), but I'm not sure. A stand-alone marathon just seems really hard, even harder than a full IM (which, of course, makes little/no sense). I've had a few running-related injuries in the years since 2005, and I'm afraid that all that running would be an invitation to re-injury.

But, we'll see. We're taking 2010 in baby steps. At least we have our mid-year goal in place.

Saturday, February 27, 2010


Man, this blog kinda faded into the sunset, didn't it? Sorry about that, but there just hasn't been much to report - my workouts are still pretty unorganized, but are slowly becoming swim-bike-run focused again. Not a ton of any one thing, but I've been consistent, so I figure that's a good place to start.

We're looking more and more at the 1/2 IM at Racine, which is now a 70.3-branded race (something I actually like, just because they seem to do a consistently good job of putting on a event - nothing like putting in all the effort, and having the course distances be incorrect or not having enough water on the course), but haven't yet pulled the trigger. Cathy is getting a little PT on some nagging aches and pains, nothing serious, but rather something she hopes will keep her training/racing throughout the summer months.

I'm also looking at a Spring vacation of some sort to help break up these never-ending Midwest winters. Not really anything training-based, but just a few days to soak in some sun and get away from the Big City. We're looking a bit at Palm Springs, which would allow some phsical activity ( ie., Mt. San Jacinto State Park) if we feel the need to stray from the pool. If anyone's been to PS, we'd appreciate any reccommendations you might have on where to stay, eat, etc.

Anywho, that's it for now - boring, I know, but that's the winter for you. We'll get thins blog crankin' come Spring. I promise.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

So many choices, so little time

So, I had a bit of an epiphany at some point during my early to mid-thirties, when it occured to me that 1. Life is ridiculously short, and 2. There's a lot of stuff I'd still like to do while I'm physically capable.

Not necessarily a novel or profound epiphany, to be sure, but it led me to decide one thing - that I would commit to undertake at least one new and exciting endeavor every year, physically challenging, and something I'd remember for the rest of my days. It started in the early 00's with my two climbs up Mt. Rainier, and two cycling trips to France, and has continued along the triathlon path (from Olympic, to half-IM, to full-Im distances), as well as hiking the Grand Canyon, until you get to today. I've had many incredible adventures during this period, and have amassed a library of wonderful memories from these endeavors, and it has allowed me to really feel like I've accomplished some things in life (as opposed to just counting down the days until Friday).

Now I've become rather obsessed with how to sculpt out the rest of the year, triathlon-wise as well as any other adventure that we might be interested in tackling. I'm lucky enough to have a mate who is up for just about anything, and is phycially capable of backing it up. So, really the issue is strictly scheduling, finances, and priorities. Which is still pretty tough. And is where I'm at right now.

We're looking at one or two 1/2 IMs this year, in July and August, but I'd also like to do some other things - mostly camping and hiking-type things out West. Unfortunately, the timing is tricky - everything outdoorsy needs to be (generally) scheduled for the eight week period between July 1 and September 1 because of weather. Which is also peak triathlon season. So, there's the rub.

Hopefully, this dilemma will work itself out over the coming weeks and I'll have Grand Plans to share with y'uns real soon. Until then, cheers and happy training!

Monday, January 25, 2010

The winter blahs

Ah, winter. What can you say, really? It's long, it's cold, and makes you appreciate the summer months. Oh, and there's some really good winter beers available, like my little friend sitting to the left. I think it's the rich beer that makes the period from December to May at all tolerable.

Not much new to report from the Tales From the Mid-Pack head office. I'm still futzing around with various non-tri related workouts, including some spin classes and even a dash of rowing (!). It's been fun, and a real test of my aerobic capacity. I've also been mixing things up a bit within each workout, like rowing for 15 minutes, then doing stairs for another 15, and then maybe 15 more of incline hills or a short run. I'm totally loving the variety.

Other than that, we're pretty much nestled in for the rest of the winter. Cath is going to San Diego in March for work, but then we're thinking of hitting Palm Springs for a little vacation in April. We've never been there before, and would like to do a little hiking when we aren't lounging by the pool. It'll also give us something to look forward to, which I'm totally needing right now.

Cheers for now, and stay warm!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A little update

I'm sure you're all wondering what I've been up to since IM WI and our Grand Canyon adventure, and I'd love to say that it's been time filled with exotic trips, lottery wins, and fine dining.

But it really hasn't.

The Fall was marked mostly by an unshakable inability to get back to the gym, along with a large amount of television, mostly of the NHL variety (Go Penguins!). But, with time, I have gotten back into the swing of things. Not necessarily triathlon-related things, but things. Mostly aerobic stuff on machines that I rarely use, like the incline trainer and stair-climber. Both have been great for pushing my heart rate into uncomfortable places and providing a relief from all the swim, bike, run I had been doing all summer. I'm still hitting the pool about once a week, but only for about a mile each time, and mostly because I'm afraid I'll lose what little proficiency I have if I take a complete respite from the water. And doing a modest amount of strength stuff. Mostly core. Nothing too crazy.

I'm also running once a week, mostly on the dread-mill. I actually enjoy running outside during the winter, but the Mrs. broke a bone in her foot at the end of September which sidelined her a bit, and Drew has been AWOL with various projects, so my primo running mates have been absent. And I haven't really had the gumption to run outside by my lonesome. Lame much? Why yes, yes I am.

So, activity-wise, I'm doing pretty good - probably doing something close to six days a week, but almost never more than 45 minutes a day. A far cry from an IM schedule, but consistent, and it's sure nice to be able to do whatever sounds like fun as opposed to swimming or biking or running simply because it's on the schedule.

I'll probably segue into a more triathlon-specific routine within the next month or so, but, for now, I'm liking the freedom of being able to play with all the cool gym toys and not pay any attention to splits or miles.

As far as an 1/2 IM goes, we're considering the Door County triathlon in July or Steelhead again in August. The race committee is still in session. But it's sure nice to sit back and dream about summer races - warm summer races, with sun, and beer, and...more beer.

Can't wait.

Friday, January 8, 2010

A little racin'

So, we're (finally) thinking a little bit about triathlon again after a nice, long break. Cath, Drew and I are signed up for a sprint race on June 5 called the Tri-Shark Triathlon Classic. It takes place in Bloomington, Illinois, about two hours from Chicago, and it's a race that Drew and I have wanted to do for a while now. The swim is 600 yards, followed by a 13-mile bike, and then a 5k run.

Can't tell you how nice it is to have something on the schedule. Now, I'm thinking about 1/2 IMs. Drew and Ross are leaning toward Steelhead again in August, but Cath wasn't thrilled with that race. May need to go back into committee for some more haggling. Personally, I'd prefer to do a new race, but we've hit pretty much all of the 1/2 IMs in this area (Racine and Muncie), and I don't think we're all that keen on traveling too far (i.e. flying) for a brand new one.

But, what do you think? Is there a killer 1/2 IM out there - 70.3 sanctioned or not - that deserves a spot on our '10 calendar?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Grand Canyon '09 - Pics!

Mr. and Mrs. Tales from the Mid-Pack.

On the Canyon floor.

This is actually a shot of Cathy, but Blogger cropped her out. Sorry, babe.

Yeah, that's me again. You can't tell, but my heart's beating, like, 200 beats/minute here.


More wow.

Still hiking across the Canyon floor.

Pretty cool waterfall.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Happy New Year!

Well, hello all!

I've decided to resurrect this little blog for 2010, despite the fact that our race calendar is still pretty much empty, solely because it gives me a place to put down my random thoughts.

As a catch-up, after IM WI, Cath and I would have been pretty content to go straight into hibernation mode for the rest of the year, except for the fact that we had already committed to a rim-to-rim crossing of the Grand Canyon almost a month to the day after the race ended. So, after an all-too-brief recovery period, I tried - not alltogether successfully - to regain a bit of the fitness that I had acquired coming into the Ironman. Mostly cardio stuff, but also a some strength training that had been almost totally abandoned during IM training.

It was tough. Really tough. I had forgotten how much IM training and racing can totally drain you of fitness. The easiest workouts were exhausting, and my little bird arms could hardly move a dumb bell. Mentally, I had a hard time accepting that my body was pooped and that I'd have to start all over, just to get to the point where a 30-minute jog would be possible.

But departure day quickly arrived, and, before I knew it, we were gazing over the rim of the GC as the sun went down on the day before we were set to depart. I won't bore you with all the flowery descriptions, but, if you've never been to the Grand Canyon, you really should make it a "bucket" item. I guarantee, it's like nothing you've ever seen.

Our group - 13(!) strong - started off at 4:30 a.m. from the South Rim in the pitch blackness, with trail dust floating through the beams cast by our headlamps. We planned on hiking down the Bright Angel trail, head along the Canyon floor past Phantom Ranch, and then up the North Kaibab trail to the North Rim Lodge, where we'd spend the night. Depending on how everyone was feeling, we planned on doing the reverse hike the next day.

I guess I should have known that this would be a very demanding endeavor. The National Parks Service highly discourages folks from attempting a rim-to-rim hike in one day, and vistors are routinely extracted from the Canyon floor after having underestimated the depth and breadth of the GC. But, going in, I really didn't think that it would be that bad - we had just done an Ironman, and this was just a hike. A long hike - 26 miles from South Rim to North Rim - but, still, just a hike, right?

Whew. Yeah. It was hard. Super hard. Between the altitude (the North Rim tops out at 8,200 feet) and my post-IM fitness, I was seriously sucking wind by the time we reached the North Rim Lodge, some 13 hours after we took that first step down the trail. Thankfully, the weather was perfect, and our group was awesome - everyone got along well and completed the trek in good spirits. The views were extraordinary, as you can imagine, and the adventure really made me want to make a point of exploring more of our National Parks. Truly incredible.

That said, I was bushed after "just" completing the rim-to-rim, so we ended up taking a shuttle back to the South Rim the next day instead of attempting the 26-mile return trip on foot. I would have liked to complete the loop, but there was no way I was going to enjoy the physical toll that was going to take. We had a nice ride back to the South Rim, and you can imagine how good the Bloody Marys tasted when we got back. All of our pics are on Snapfish, and I don't know how to link or copy them to the blog, but I'll try to post some in the coming days.

Anywho, that's all for now - hope everyone is excited for 2010, and all the adventures it's sure to hold.