Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sleepy Hollow

October 29, 2009 -

Ahh the verge of Halloween. The little ghouls and goblins trekking out in their well organized costumes under their coats and umbrellas in an unending competition to see who can get the most free candy....I love it. Especially now, having two little trick-or-treaters myself.

But before the hustle and bustle of everyone out and about, scouring the neighborhoods door-to-door for handouts of packaged sugar....there was me this morning. In the drizzly, foggy and chilling haze of Kirkland at 6am...I voluntarily got out of bed...and I ran.

It brought back chilling memories of last winter in the beginning of Ironman training making a commitment to get up and get one of my workouts in before work because there would be no way to fit them in otherwise. A seemingly simple decision and task for unbearable task for me. I hate getting out of my warm bed, in the dark, to go run in the cold and rain.

However, last year, I found out that after the initial shock of waking early and getting out in cold...I discovered some of my best runs ever. Something about bundling up, braving the elements and doing something at a time when no one else will or wants to. It elevates you.

The breakthrough today was that I usually wouldn't start thinking about this until January/February, which is my official kickoff to triathlon training (based on my schedule). October through New Year's is traditionally my "slip 'n slide" time. The time where workouts are at a bare minimum, food and drinks are consumed frequently, weight is gained and the fun of the season is consistently enjoyed.

Then, like a time when I am feeling like a lazy, gluttonous fat slob (somehow exactly by Jan. 1 every year), I break back into hard core training, fitness and diet. Traditionally, you would not see me out on October 29th at 6a running in the cold, but rather sleeping until 7:30 and waking up to some coffee and cereal with a consideration of a 30 minute mediocre jog or bike indoors at the gym.

About two days ago however...egged on by wifey...I decided...not this year. I don't want to start training coming from behind. How great would it be if I started Jan. 1 at my Ironman weight ready to crush records and times rather than training to get back up to finishing speed. (And wifey wants to have a "visible abs" contest.)

I'm making a go of it...could you too?

That is why sleepy hollow...I got up and ran 7.5 miles in the cold "make a go of it." Now I know I excuses.

I'll keep ya posted.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Lake Stevens 70.3 - Part 2 - The Extra Mile

August 27, 2009 -

All anthemed up and ready to go and...the race start is delayed 15 minutes....bah. There is this eerie fog over the water that looked as though it was ready to swallow any swimmer who ventured into it. We all wait patiently dressed up in our wetsuits and nerves. For the most part it is quiet, but you can hear the anticipation. People are getting pep talks, sharing their plans of attack for the day and just standing still....watching that fog covered lake.

After about 15 minutes the pro's were in the water and off! I was only two groups behind so I made my way up the doc and within 6 minutes I was in the water with the rest of my age group watching the other swimmers ahead disappear into the fog that still hugged the lake. With a 10 second countdown from the announcer and crowd...the gun went off and we were underway!

The very first thing I noticed was how easy it was to take off with hundred or so age groupers rather than 2200 of everyone as in IM CDA. I quickly swam through the mess and was swimming free in my own space within a couple hundred yards....very very nice. The swim was good, but seemed to drag as I couldn't spot the buoys until 20 or so yards out from them. The fog still seemed to be thick on the lake causing me to swim a little zig-zaggy, which I never do. I typically find pride in my straight swimming but whatever crack I smoked this day was weaving me all over the swim coarse.

I usually judge my swimming by the buoys using the next one as my visual and motivational marker swimming buoy to buoy knocking out one after the other and getting to the finish. This swim was different though. Not being able to judge or see the next marker made it tough to gauge my progress causing the swim to seem much longer. Eventually however, I could start to hear the announcer and the shore appeared through the haze and I could finally judge my one last sprint to the shore....and the swim was done.

Swim: 39:16 (Last year was 41:53)

I cooked it up through the corral of spectators to my bike where I tried to make a point to move through T1 very quickly. I ripped off the wet suit, threw on bike shoes with no socks (a new preference), pounded a GU and was on my way.

T1: 3:44 (Last year was 4:03)

I headed out on my bike with the attitude to not even consider the run. All I wanted to do was race and you can't race if you are worried about your nutrition, or saving your legs for the run (which is a good thing for your first couple). I decided I just wanted to try and kill it and I would deal with the run when I got there. I started out cooking pretty good, climbing the hills as hard as I could and going for raw speed on the flats and downhills. I averaged 20mph on the first hour and kept pretty close...about 19.5 going until about mile 35. This is where I was so in the zone of just killing the bike that I rounder this corner following about 15 other cyclists. I can remember going over this small wood-planked bridge and thinking it was odd I didn't notice this on the first loop of the course. After a couple miles I could see the end of the road and the first bikers in the pack yelling and turning around.

We took a wrong turn!!! They noticed when they hit the end of the road and saw all the other bikers coming down the correct loop of the course. We had taken a side road straight through the loop and came out on the other side of the course! We all backtracked to the course, which ended up being a little over a four mile detour. The bikers were yelling at the cop directing traffic at the intersection and he tried telling everyone that we weren't listening...but I find it hard that about 15 cyclists staggered all couldn't heard this guy. What a poop!

After this I was really fired up so I started cranking harder than before, but I could tell as with last year, that the second loop of this very hilly course eats your legs for lunch....whatever, I had to make up about 12 to 14 minutes by my guess. I kept cranking, gradually wearing down and starting to wonder when I hit the loop cut-off to head back to transition...when would this bike end? I forgot there was another eight miles or so after that cut-off. Finally, I came screaming in missing my goal of breaking that three hour mark....this time. (Odometer read 60.3 at the end of the bike...I rode and extra 4.3 miles!)

Bike: 3:05:37 - 18.1 mph (Last year was 3:23:05)

I raced up to that dismount line and watched some guy (happens every time) try to do this riding dismount thing and totally eat it giving himself the gift of road rash. I clicked out one shoe...came to a mostly complete stop...and hopped off. That first 20 yards or so right after you hop off your bike and start running in your bike shoes with your bike toward T2 is always a little awkward. I made it in though and switched out for running socks and shoes, visor and power tabs. I pounded one more GU, swigged some Gatorade and was back on my way to do this thing.

T2: 4:59 (Last year was 4:28...slower, but I threw a pee in there that had to be about two minutes as I held it for 30 or so miles on the bike.)

I headed out onto the run course where the legs were feeling surprisingly solid and the sun was out and warming up. I just started cooking along trying to keep a consistent pace and keep up with the hydration and power tabs as it was getting hot...but I was full. My belly had that end of race slishy sloshy feeling. I was full buy needed to keep the nutrition and hydration coming. For the first six miles I was hitting eight minute miles, which was fast for me in that distance race...I was expecting to hit 8:30's to start off with. It was about mile seven however when the gradual slowdown started. I incorporated some walking through the aid stations and some slow jogging as I at my tabs and I could feel myself starting to accept that I hadn't trained as much as I should have and I may have went a little too hard on the bike.

It was then I remembered...hey wussy came here to race...suck it up...gut it out...and do it. So I pressed on the last few miles with everything I had left to offer that day, which pretty much was just running a slow pace and not stopping. Finally I came along the waterfront and could see the finish line across the lake. It is a great thing when you can visually judge the distance you have left. I pounded out that last half mile or so and found the power to sprint out and spaz out (as per usual) the last 100 yards of the race. I raced up through the finish chute between the spectators yelling and throwing my hands up, raising the roof and coordinating the general spaz out finish that I love to do....and then...not so gracefully....but with rediculous enthusiasm I crossed the finish line. It was then when a spectator came out of the crowd to find me, give me a high five and said, "now that is the way to finish...thanks man." Sweet. A perfect compliment on a great race and season finisher.

Run: 1:54:47 - 8:46 pace (Last year was 2:03:00)

Overall was: 5:48:23 - a new 70.3 PR by eight minutes - (Last year was 6:16:25) - I beat last year's time for the same race by 28 minutes...even with four extra miles on the bike!

I moved through the finisher's area grabbing a slice of pizza and a coke relaxing for a little bit in the sun. Then...since there wasn't really anything going on and my family was waiting at home...I hit the road about 20 minutes after finishing. I packed up my gear, loaded the bike in the car and headed for the real after party.

I was stoked for this finish breaking new ground in my times. While I can, I always want to work hard enough in this sport to get better, faster and smarter progressing to new levels. A new PR was a great way to end the season of Ironman. I look forward to training through the winter and readying myself for a solid 2010 season of 70.3 and Olympic all out racing and not having the full IM on the books...for now.

Until then...I enjoy tri - ing nothing for a change.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Lake Stevens 70.3 - Part 1

August 18, 2009 -

Spoiler alert...this is my recap from my last big tri of the was my best one to date...even with a small snafu. On August 16th 2009 I competed in the Lake Stevens Ironman 70.3 (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run). I beat my time from the same race last year by 28 minutes and set a new PR for the 70.3 distance by 8 minutes.

I was a little wary of how this race was going to go as it was six weeks after the CDA Ironman. I wasn't worried about the time in between, but more about what I didn't do in that time in between. After CDA I pretty much took three weeks off and then in the three weeks leading up to Lake Stevens I trained pretty inconsistently. I knew however, that I would be able to do the race just fine....I just didn't know if I could race it how I wanted with this new Ironman confidence, or if I didn't prepare enough and I would watch as my wheels fell off.

Despite this, I was really calm and had virtually no nerves leading up to the race and all the way up to the starting gun. I knew what it took to do a 70.3 and I just had finished a full Ironman so really this race was about racing. It was my first time at this distance I where I knew exactly what to expect and how to do really, I just had to get out there and tackle it.

The night before I ate a boatload of pasta and bread, watched a movie and hit the sack around 9:30. After a restless sleep I woke up three minutes before the alarm at 3:57a. Went through the morning ritual of two cups of coffee, banana and peanut butter, stretching, 300 movie battle scenes and oatmeal....oh and....the most important pre-race BM.

I headed out around 4:45a up to Lake Stevens, which is about a 4o minute drive from my house. After getting into town, parking and getting a quick pee, I got to transition about 5:45a. I got everything all organized and properly placed. I talked to a couple guys around me, pumped up the tires and headed out around 6:10a. I headed over to get one more pee in and pickup my timing chip and was down by the water by 6:25 for the 6:30 start.

If you have never participated in a triathlon is my favorite part (other than crossing the finish line). It is 6:30a in the morning, your nerves are jumping, you're in your wetsuit, the air is still cool and crisp, the grass is dewy giving your feet a chill and everyone around you is looking around for anything from confidence to support to camaraderie.

Then, in a union of patriotic pride and sport, a local woman sings the National Anthem. You stand there a little cold, a little nervous, in silence. As she sings, you think about what will take place throughout the day and are proud of even just making it to the start line. You visualize your victory and you look around a bit watching everyone who also seems to be in their own patriotic meditation. She hits all the notes perfectly driving home this moment even more and ends beautifully and powerfully. Everyone cheers and you know what is what you came to do....race.

To be continued....

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Caveman Triathlete

August 15, 2009 -

Since the dawn of time man was made to be a triathlete. There was swimming to catch fish, running to hunt food and then it all came together with the invention of the wheel. From that point on...triathlon has ruled the lives of many men and tomorrow...once will rule mine.

My wave at the Lake Stevens 70.3 Ironman starts tomorrow at 6:38a and something is different this time. It's not about curiosity or the unknown, or nerves. Its about just going out there and having fun and doing exactly what I know how to do. It seems too casual almost. I just have to get up, drive up there and crank it out.

Despite sticking with a regimented, strict plan for CDA Ironman and then training casual until now, I am still very prepared. Physically and mentally, I know what it takes and I know how to get out there and have a good day.

I'm really just excited to go out there and race and really enjoy it.

It does however, almost seems a burden to have this little road bump interfering with my summer plans causing my wife to ask me why I was even doing this race as I have not trained super hard for it and I already accomplished my big goal of Ironman this season.

At first, I didn't have a good answer so I thought about it for a couple days. Why am I doing this race? Why put up the expense and time to squeeze in one more race this summer when I'd much rather be doing something fun with the family for the weekend?

My initial answer was simple. If you are an triathlete and there is a race like this in your own backyard, you have to do it. Triathletes travel all over the world to do these Ironman and 70.3 races, so to have one at home, only 30 minutes away is a blessing. No travel, no hotel, no bike shipping, no weird food, bad beds etc. The best of racing with the comfort of your own home.

But that was just a small part of it. As I thought about it, there were so many other reasons I wanted to do this race.

I love having something on my calendar to keep me focused and accountable. I love the comraderie, nerves and excitement at the registration and expo. I love the maticulous detail as people rack their bikes and setup transition. I love flushing away half my nerves with a 500 yard swim at the race site the day before. I love trying to relax the day before but never actually getting the chance in the preparation tornado. I love tinkering around with my bike, cleaning it up and preparing for mach 3. I love laying my gear out and compulsively checking it over and over again. I love visualizing myself at every second of the race. I love stuffing my face with more pasta, salad and bread than should ever be consumed. I love the restless and fast sleep and usually always waking up before my alarm. I love that morning coffee, stretch, oats and most importantly....pre-race poop letting you's gonna be a good day. I love getting to transition and having time for a pee, couple songs on the iPod and a quick jog. I love the cool, misty mornings with the announcer blabbing and music cranking in the background. I love feeling nervous that the porto lines are too long and there is not enough time for one last pee before my wave goes. I love zipping up the wetsuit and making my way past other athletes and spectators down to the water. I love to plunge in the water and swim a few yards...and finally get that last pee before the start. I love the gun going off and the chaos of a triathlon swim start. I love getting into my swimming groove after the initial adrenaline wears down a tad. I love being done with the swim and getting started on the bike thinking to myself...alright, I'm in it we go. I love finally getting off the bike and testing the running legs knowing the end is near. I love the constant battle against my mind on the run and always pushing new barriers. I love thinking that the race will never end, but also knowing just how quickly it will be over. I love rush you get when you come around the corner and see the finish line and hear the announcer and the music calling you in accross the finish line. I love goofing off for my race photos thinking of what crazy pose will immortalize the fun of this tri. I love the feeling of crossing that line, arms raised and getting another shiny medal around my neck. I love savoring the victory for the rest of the day and celebrating the accomplishment and I love going to work on Monday morning and finding out what everybody else did on Sunday....because usally while everyone else earned the title of Lazyman...I earned the title of Ironman.

And why I love to race, and why I will get up at 4am tomorrow morning, push with everything I have for a half a day and walk tall with another successful race under my belt.

That is what I did this weekend....what did you do?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Barf Mouth

August 14, 2009 -

As fate would have it I woke up this morning at 5am so I could proceed to the toilet and barf my guts out. Only two days out from the Lake Stevens 70.3 and I'm on the floor wrapped around the toilet with this hard core, uncontrollable, projectile sucky.

I didn't even know I was sick? I went to bed feeling fine? I'm feeling progressively better as the morning drags on and am trying to hydrate and eat, but the stomach still feels a little blah. I'm heading up to Everett this afternoon to register for the race and attend the mandatory pre-race briefing (annoying).

For now, I will hope it was the morning flu and goes away quickly leaving me strong to race it out on Sunday. If it does not leave so gracefully or quickly.....expect to catch a rooster tail of barf if you're riding behind me on the bike....bbblllluurrrpp!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Golden Prostate

August 12, 2009 -

Another two days of great workouts down and now I can officially begin my Lake Stevens 70.3 taper. Most likely I will take tomorrow off and then just do something small on the bike or swim on Friday or Saturday to get the blood flowing.

Yesterday I did another brick, which was a run/bike. I hit the trail for six miles at a 7:21 pace. It was just one of those days where it all worked, felt great and I took advantage and just cooked for the whole run getting faster with every mile. From there I went straight to the gym for 45 minutes of hard intervals on the bike. Both activities were solid and combined with the swim/run brick the day before, have me feeling ready to rock this weekend.

Today I hopped in the pool for a 3000 yard swim. It was my longest swim since Ironman as I have been sticking with 2500. I knew I should get a long one in before this weekend so I cranked out 3 x 1000. The first set was the hardest but also seemed to go the fastest. The second two sets were easier, but seemed to go forever. Ah well, it was all good and a good swim....again...ready for this weekend.

On a side note, my wife's has grown this insane garden with the tomato plants on steroids. They have been turning and ready to eat over the last week or two, but there are so many we are eating tomatoes for like eight meals a day. Tomato breakfast, tomato snacks, lunch, dinner and tomato dessert. Ok....maybe an exaggeration, but lets just say my prostate has been getting its fair share of lycopene.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Plan B

August 10, 2009 -

Well the whole time preparing for the CDA Ironman, I always had a plan. A very specific, daily training schedule, which I followed to a T. Since then, I have been following plan B, which is no plan B.

I have been trying to mix in consistency with some big workouts. An now, with the Lake Stevens 70.3 approaching this weekend, I am trying to mentally prepare where physical preparation may have failed. After a full Ironman, I feel like I can pretty much gut this half Ironman out and hit my goal of five hours and forty-five minutes....but we'll see.

I just got back from five long days in Baltimore where I managed to eat poorly, get little sleep and magically slip in two workouts. One was a 10 mile run around the harbor and city at an 8:27 pace and the other was a four mile run the next day at a 7:10 pace.

Today, I hopped in the pool for 2500 yards, which took me 38 minutes and then hopped right on the stationary bike for 42 minutes of medium and hard intervals. Both workouts were great and a little confidence building. I will do one more brick tomorrow (bike/run outside), and then just plan B it for the rest of the week, most likely focusing on swimming.

As for this Sunday, despite my potential lack of preparation...I am excited and confident for a solid race, maximum effort and beating my times in all three sports over last year putting me far better then 2008's 6:16:25 finish. I'm looking to beat it by a full 30 minutes this year...we'll see.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

I Huff And I Puff

August 4, 2009 -

In an effort to not get my house blown down in the Lake Stevens 70.3 I decided to try to build my foundation of bricks today with a bike/run. I don't want to be the little piggy out there getting eaten alive due to a post Ironman lack of exercise and nutrition.

It seems as though my pattern the last few weeks is to workout relatively inconsistently and then throw in one long workout to make sure I still have a little mojo and today was that day....and....I still got a little mojo.

I started with a bike around Lake Sammamish, which rocked. It was sunny and 75 degrees and I was haulin. I polished off 26 miles at a 20.5 mph pace. After that I transitioned into my running gear and headed out to the trail for a six mile run.

This was not the run I wanted it to be, however it still ended up at a solid pace. I hit six miles at a 7:47 pace. I'm sure if I would have slowed it down to an 8:30 I could have had a much better run, but instead I just gutted it out. It ended up being about 78 degrees and sunny for the run and I was starving. It seems that without a training calendar anymore, I just do whatever and don't always plan my nutrition as well as I was.

Happy though, to get a nice little brick in with some fast times. Now I'm off to see what kind of training I can get done in Baltimore over the next five days.

In the meantime...Lake Stevens (big bad wolf) is huffing and puffing. I hope my bricks are strong.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Baby Come Back

August 1, 2009 -

"Baby come back, you can blame it all on me, I was wrong, and I just can't live without you."

That was about a week ago singing to my swimming, biking, and running. As I struggled to regain consistency and fuel to get back to longer, hard workouts. Well the sports got the message and came back to me.

I had a great week, which kicked off with a fast eight mile run, a great lake swim, a couple five mile run/short bike bricks and the pinnacle re-confidence booster....a 54 mile bike.

I rode this loop around Lake Sammamish, up through Redmond and Bellevue on 520 and down into Kirkland. Continued through Kirkland, Juanita, up to Finn Hill, down to Kenmore, through Bothell, Woodinville and back to Redmond. The total was 54 miles in two hours and forty minutes!!! This was a smokin fast ride for me in 90 degree heat and with some good hills mixed in. I felt great the whole way and didn't have any issues with sore neck/butt/back etc.

All good in the hood!

Going into a 70.3 race in two weeks I needed a solid bike like this to know that....I still got it babay! I'm going to try to get in another one or two of those bikes, and a couple more run/bike bricks and then focus on my swimming the last week.

I'm hoping a five-day trip to Baltimore next week doesn't throw too big of a kink into my plans.

Now its back to summer fun. I spent the whole day yesterday with my wife and some friends out on a boat at seafair. Today, we are taking the kiddos on our first family camping trip to the San Juans....should be pretty sweet!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Post Ironman

July 29, 2009 -

I thought in the fifth and final installment of my Ironman race recap it would be important to detail the fall of an Ironman....the post race recovery and ongoing celebration. It always amazes me how quickly you can go from endurance race shape to struggling to crank out a short workout.

I was advised to take a minimum of a full two weeks off after Ironman for ample recovery. Being that is is the peak of summer, this was a perfect time to relax and relish in my Ironman honeymoon. Only problem was I immediately entered into a busy travel schedule. After a few days in Northern Idaho after the race we headed home where I enjoyed one day back before heading to Anaheim, CA for four days. The next week I was in Kona, HI for four days and the week after that I was in San Diego, CA for three days. I followed that up with one more two-day trip to Portland, OR.

Needless to say it has been a month of eating out, not working out and enjoying the sun. It was two full weeks before I did my first workout, which was an 20 minute bike and 20 minute run at the gym with some situps and pushups too. I was sore like crazy for a couple days after....weird right? After another five days off I did another gym workout similar to the first one but did not get the soreness this time. So in three weeks those were my two workouts.

It was at this three week mark when I started to just feel gross and the workouts commenced. Without another race on the horizon I started to feel this post Ironman let down, like I didn't know what to do now. Best thing to do...register for another race to keep my butt in check. So I did. I'll be racing the Lake Stevens 70.3 on August 16th.

Recently I've hit a 30 mile bike ride, a few 5 mile runs, an 8 mile run, a couple weight sessions at the gym, a 2,000 and 2200 in the pool and 30 minutes swimming in the lake. I have been back to four days a week training the last two weeks and and feeling like I'm coming back and will be adequately ready for Lake Stevens in a few weeks. I have a three hour bike tomorrow and will be doing a couple 25 mile bike/6 mile run bricks.

As far as Ironman itself goes...I said the entire time I was training that Ironman for me would be one and done and then I could just go to being competitive at 70.3. But what can I say....I'm an addict. I can definitely see doing more. Maybe one every three years or so??? We'll see. Ultimately I have the feeling like I will have to race Kona someday to really feel whole, but getting there is an issue I will have to figure out somehow because I don't see myself qualifying in my age group any time soon.

It's good to be back though, training regularly and looking forward to another event. I think with my personality type I always have to have an event lurking out there on the horizon to keep me happy, excited and constantly pushing least that's what I tell myself.

I also thought it fitting to post some photos of my race support crew. My wife, her two sisters, her parents, my kids and a splattering of friends moved around the crowds, braved the cold rain and wind and made sure they caught me at every opportunity. I thank-you.

For this post Ironman blog, that is still one of the things I was most thankful for and really amazed by. Good work team.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Ironman - The Run

July 27, 2009 -

And I was off. Heading out of transition and just feeling giddy to not only be this far along, entering the last leg of my Ironman, but also just to be off that damn bike. Right out of the gate, I was feeling surprisingly solid. Surprising I guess, because I had no clue as to how my legs would react to a marathon after the first two legs. I did some long runs and some long bikes in training, but did nothing close to testing the actual feeling of a marathon after a 2.4 mile swim and a 112 mile bike.

As I headed up the path, through the mobbing crowd all nudging and wiggling just to catch a glimpse of their athlete, I found my own family. This was great because it was my first time that I was able to actually hug, thank, and check in. I stopped briefly to handout hugs and high fives. After a couple words, I continued on to really start my run. I headed out on the path along the trees and lake. It turns out, this first little jaunt was just a dog-leg that quickly looped back after a couple miles to really head through town and out along the lake.

It was a two-loop course that was pretty flat outside of one hill. The weather was constantly declining. The wind was picking up even more than on the bike and the drippy droppies were starting to rain down. Status check: I was good. My goal was to run 9 minute miles for as long as I could and to absolutely make sure I ran at least half of the marathon without stopping.

I had heard lots of horror stories about eating on the run so I tried my best to jam in all the food on the bike as my plan was to only consume powertabs. I ran through all the aid stations downing a quick water and a gatorade and kept popping a couple powertabs every 20 minutes. All in all it was mile 14 and I was still feeling pretty solid. I had ran the whole way so far and arrived at my special needs bag...yes! I restocked on powertabs and grabbed my energy drink. I ran and drained the energy drink and kept on trucking; heading back through town and out on the lake again to finish the second loop. The rain was starting to pick up and blow sideways and it was getting pretty chilly, but I didn't care....I had to keep moving.

I made it all the way to mile 16 before I started to incorporate walking into my plan. I started walking through the aid stations before picking it back up again. I also started incorporating cola into my fluid intake at each aid station.

Around mile 18 I even tried some chicken broth but it was luke warm and pretty gnarly tasting. I could definitely feel around mile 18 that I was slowing down and running lower on juice, and walking a little more each time I stopped, but still mentally strong. There was this turnaround out on the lake that was about a half-mile or so long hill. I ran it on the first loop, but there was no way the second time around so I speedily walked up it and the picked up the pace again on the way down.

I made it to mile 22 (so close) before the wheels really started to come off. It was funny, because my body was done, but I always had a strong mind about me. It was at mile 22 where I pretty much walked a half mile then ran a half mile for each of the last four miles.

But then it seemed just at the race had was ending. I found myself back in town winding my way through the neighborhood streets, wet, cold, tired and fired up! The cheers from the house parties were motivating along with all the stereos blasting a different genre of music from each party.

Then....I heard that volunteer say, "one more turn and you'll see the finish line!" I got a chill in my spine. It was from that moment on that I could not feel pain, I was not tired or sore and I suddenly had an abundance of energy. I rounded that last corner and found myself on that downtown street crowded with cheering supporters and I could hear the music and announcer at the finish line. I looked ahead and I COULD SEE THE FINISH!!!

That last 400 yards into the finish could only be related to some sort of out of body experience. It was so crazy, I was trying to soak it all up and take it all in, but I was so excited, I was just spazzing out and suddenly my wheels turned on and I found myself running and spazzing. I can only imagine what I must have looked like, but I didn't care. I couldn't figure out how to express all this excitement and sudden rush of adrenaline.

I made it down the street and then hit the finishing chute. It was about 20 yards cuddled in between sets of bleachers full of screaming fans. At this point I was full spaz. Yelling, cheering, throwing up my arms, jumping....I did it all. all my glory....I crossed that finish line to the echo of the announcer saying those words I imagined hearing over and over again for the last six months...."Josh Clark, you are and Ironman!"

I was an Ironman....yes....sweet success!

RUN SPLIT 1: 7.47 mi 7.47 mi (1:09:24) 9:17/mi
RUN SPLIT 2: 21.75 mi 14.28 mi (2:21:09) 9:53/mi
RUN SPLIT 3: 26.2 mi 4.25 mi (1:02:54) 14:48/mi
TOTAL RUN 26.2 mi. (4:33:27) 10:26/mile 1165 164

(I was shooting for a 4:30 marathon, so I was happy about this time. You can really see my time drop off in the last four miles.)

As soon as I crossed the line, my "catcher" was waiting there for me, only I didn't need any catching. She handed me a gatorade, my finisher shirt and medal and a warm foil blanket. Then I was whisked over to take my finisher picture, still not really touching base with reality. Then I saw my wife and daughter and sister-in-law. Somehow they had worked their way into the finish area to show me some love and congratulate was great!

I made my way through the finisher area and inhaled some pizza, probably the most delicious thing I had ever tasted at that point and then back out to transition to gather up all the gear.

I met up with the family to hear their stories of the day, moving from point to point, braving the crowds and weather to see me and cheer on other friends we knew in the race. I packed up the car with my gear and we were out.

My Ironman journed had seemingly ended just as quickly as it began and I was now an Ironman. Somehow already feeling different...changed. Feeling that tasks were not ever going to seem quite so big again.

1:24:45 - 6:48:44 - 4:33:27 - 13:05:57 - 1165 - 164

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Ironaman - The Bike

July 14, 2009 -

I made my way through the labyrinth of bikes and finally descended upon the felt b-12. Loaded up with three water bottles stacked with Gatorade Endurance and ready to go. After a very long and relaxing transition (almost like a day at the spa with all the time I took), I was recovered and ready to get on the bike. I grabbed the bike and started to run down the isle toward the exit as my banana sticking half in and half out of my jersey flew out and went bouncing on the embarrassing. One of the volunteers swooped in mysteriously, grabbed it for me and handed it over. He also mentioned to me that he had pumped up my front tire that morning. Uh-oh...I had already pumped it up again when I got to transition...problem lurking?

Whatever, couldn't think about that now, I was ready to go go go and nothing was going to stop me from getting out of that transition area and starting leg two of my Ironman journey. As I ran my bike down the grass path through the racks...there I saw my wife Shelly and her sister Jill at the fence cheering and snapping photos. It was an instant pick me up and a great way to start the ride. I zoomed over and said hi, kissed the wifey through the fence and headed out the chute to finally mount up and ride. I was no more than 50 yards out of the start and just getting situated when another group of friends cheered for me. A mixture of pals from college, some that lived there and others that just came out to support (thank-you), were braving the weather and the crowds to come out and make sure through loud cheers that I knew I had their support too.

After that I set out to start the 112 mile haul.

Things were going well for the most part. I was trying to find my pace and place. I didn't really know what the course had in store, nor what I should be trying to pace at to ensure that I had enough juice for the marathon. What I decided was to deal with the bike now, deal with the run later. So I took off and just tried to ride hard when I could and slow down when I needed to. I would have been happy to hit an 18 mph overall for the course....but I also didn't know what that course would have in store for me.

I was feeling great and just cruising along, trying to get into my zone...and then around mile 26 or so I started climbing this hill. It was the first real hill of the course. About halfway up the hill and in my easiest started getting harder? Then harder, then harder like I was continually gearing up. bike eventually just stopped. It was like on a spin bike where you gear up and gear up until it doesn't spin anymore. I quickly clicked out before tipping out and immediately started to assess the problem.... as bikes just kept zooming past me.

I got out my bike tool and tried to loosen up the brake cables. I hopped back on the bike only to find I hadn’t done anything. After 10 or so minutes of tinkering and starting to freak out as I couldn’t find the problem and hundreds of people kept flying by....a bike tech car came. He determined my wheel was off balance. It appears that there are two small screws that come out of the mouth of the prongs where your back tire goes in. These screws can be adjusted in and out to balance and control the distance of the wheel from the frame based on your tire size. Funny thing, I had no idea they even existed. After the bike tech determines the problem he realized he didn’t have an allen wrench small enough to adjust them so he just worked it out a little with some other tool and put the tire back on. I tried again to go and it was still rubbing. Now I was really tweaking. So this MacGyver bike tech pulls the wheel back off, grabs a little pebble from the road and jams it in there in front of the screw and clamps the wheel lock down over it....problem solved. After somewhere between 20 and 25 minutes, I was back on the road.

I was riding in the balance of trying not to overdo it and trying to get back to where I was. I kept telling myself that 25 minutes in the course of the whole day was not a big deal, but I couldn’t help but be discouraged. The bike was a two loop course where I found it was a lot hillier course than I anticipated. Nothing too bad, but definitely a consistent amount of hills for the last 15 miles of the loop.

Around mile 61 they had the special needs bags. My number was shouted down the road to a volunteer who met me with my bag as I stopped. He immediately opened up a sandwich and cracked my energy drink for me. I dumped the drink in my aero bottle and ate about half the sandwich in one bite as I thanked the man and started up again. I wasn’t more than a mile down the road when I saw a row of portos and realized it was a good time for a pee. I stopped and a volunteer grabbed my bike for me as I did my thing. He was also waiting for me when I got out. I mounted up and made it a couple hundred yards and realized I had a flat...bah! I changed the tire, but couldn’t fill it up as my CO2 cartridge nozzle was jammed stuck into the screw that attaches it to my seat cage, so I couldn’t attach a cartridge. I had to flag another volunteer to find me a bike pump. All in all, probably another 10 minutes lost with this flat.

Finally, I was on the bike again. I was cruising and feeling pretty good, especially with the food fuel. I made it another 17 miles before....boom...another stinking flat. I got the tire off, changed out the tube, and just before I was pushing the tire back over the rim a bike tech cruised up on his moped, and took over the operation. He put it back together, filled it up and put the wheel back on. I also had him get that screw piece out of my CO2 nozzle. This flat was about five minutes.

I was on my way again and cruising pretty good, but the wind really started picking up and whipping and the hills seemed to grow harder and more never ending than the first loop. My lower back, neck/shoulders and ass were all getting sore. I ate my last sandwich at 92 miles and kept cranking. At mile 100 I felt this sense of accomplishment like I had done it, I was there......but I was wrong. That last 12 miles seemed to be the toughest and longest of the bike.

I was watching my odometer, trying to focus on anything but my sore rear and just keep cranking one after the other. Finally, after well surpassing my time goal, three peanut butter and honey sandwiches, four GU’s, one pack of power tabs, four bottles of Gatorade Endurance, one Energy Drink and two waters....I was done. I had completed the 112 mile bike of my Ironman....with a huge grin/grimace on my face as I dismounted and tried to teach my legs how to walk again. My butt was so sore, I was stoked to start running because I was just so thrilled to be off that bike.

BIKE SPLIT 1: 34 mi 34 mi. (2:08:11) 15.91 mph
BIKE SPLIT 2: 90 mi 56 mi. (3:22:57) 16.56 mph
BIKE SPLIT 3: 112 mi 22 mi. (1:17:36) 17.01 mph

TOTAL BIKE: 112 mi 112 mi. (6:48:44) 16.44 mph

(My goal was to hit between 6 and 6:30, I missed that by a bunch, but also figured I lost around 30 minutes with flats and the wheel balance thing.)

A couple other notable things on the bike - first, were the partiers. There were so many spectators out on their lawns having Ironman parties. Some trashy and boozy and some young and fun. Everything from loud stereos to a live band, to cowbells and megaphones and a few keggers. The local contingent support was pretty funny and often times put a smile on my face.

The second, was my support crew. My wife and kids, her two sisters and parents came out to support as well as a few clusters of friends from the area that I went to college with. They way they moved from point to point around that course and planned it all out so they could see me at such precise times was amazing and motivating as you fly by can catch the cheers and a glimpse of your true fans. However, as you are flying on the bike it is definitely quick; both you and them gotta be on the ball to catch each other because it is kind of a blur. Most times I heard the screams as I was passing and had to look back with a wave.

As I got off the bike, a volunteer grabbed my bike to escort it back to it’s place on the racks and I headed to meet up with another volunteer who got me my run transition bag. I made my way into the men’s changing tent where, once again, I took my time. I dried off, put on fresh socks and running shoes, peed, put on the visor and my shades and headed back out.

T2 Time: 7:38 - (I was going for 10 minutes or less, so I was cool with this.)

Two down and one to go. I headed out of the men’s changing tent and through the Ironman blow-up archway to start my 26.2 Ironman run. At then end of this I would be an Ironman. I was so curious to find out what would happen on the run. How fast I could go for how long? How much would I run, how much would I walk? The run was really the only part of Ironman that I just could not predict what would happen because I had no clue how my legs would hold up after those first two events.

So, I head out, through the crowds, onto the course and began my marathon.

To be continued......

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Ironman - The Swim

July 12, 2009 -

I had a rough idea...but really no clue what to expect for the 2.4 mile, 2200 person mass start swim for Ironman Coeur d' Alene. Although I have been getting faster and more confident with every triathlon swim start, I still have remained fairly timid with my approach. Usually starting in the the middle to back of the pack hoping to avoid the bulk of the kicking and clawing cluster.

I think my ignorance as to what happens at the Ironman mass start worked in my favor as I just kinda moseyed my way up toward the front rather than slipping to the back of the pack. Not that I thought I was the fastest, but I just thought I was gonna go for it. I could either get trampled at the front and leave all the slower people there, or get trampled at the back and have to fight crawling over the slower people. I guess it was the confidence that I wasn't the slowest person anymore, and I had a place somewhere up there in the middle/front.

Then.....the cannon.....BOOM!

"And the 2009 Ironman Coeur d' Alene is underway!"

It was the only time I would stand next to Yukon for the rest of the race. We ran into the water and took an awkward diving plunge in, trying to avoid the mass around us....but as I quickly found out...there was no avoiding it.

For at leas the first 100 yards there was no real recognizable stroke of swimming. If there was, it was a this bobbing, head out of water freestyle. The only goal was to move forward and try to find some space to swim freely because if I could just do that, I would be fast, I could finish in my goal time. But there was no opportunity for this, for me, at this point in the swim. There were people everywhere, kicking, clawing, swimming in diagonal lanes across you, stopping and was chaos.

It was at this moment when I learned the real trick to triathlon swimming. It's not sticking in the back of the pack, it's not timidly swimming your way along and it is definitely not stopping every time someone claws at you, reorganizing yourself and starting again. In this race, there was no opportunity to do that. The real trick, in this mass start race, with 2200 athletes all trying to swim in the same place you are, is to swim aggressive. Not to fight against the people swimming around you per se, but to fight for your swim. To not let people grab your feet and ankles but rather to give big kicks to shy others away. To not let people into your swimming space by using big aggressive strokes to let them know that it's your space.

I learned as I practiced this that the people that swim this way through the crowds are the ones who get to swim the race they practiced for. Everyone else has to swim timidly and shyly letting everyone else by until they get to swim last. I was a lion out there fighting through all the lambs clobbering back, kicking big and trying to do what I had practiced so long to do...swim my 2.4 miles in Ironman.

The swim was a two loop swim and the first loop was pretty much a struggle for most of the loop. I used a ton of energy trying to fight off all the people knocking. I got a heel in my calf turning in to a charlie horse and an elbow to the goggles jamming them into my eye socket. That was about the worst of the contact, the rest was just a lot of grabbing and small kicks.

The first turn turned into this crazy bottleneck where all the swimmers who were 50 yards wide converged on the turn where it became a standstill. Hundreds of swimmers stuck in a traffic jam trying to kick and swim, but so jammed in there was no room to kick or swim. It was the only point on the swim where I felt a little nervous at the chaos. Eventually, I got around it and on the way back on the first loop, it opened up a little and we were with the choppy waves so it was a quick trip back to shore.

First loop: 39:43 (I was shooting for 40, so happy about that)

After a quick 10 yard jog out of the water and over the timing mat, I plunged back in for loop two. The second loop was nice the field had cleared out enough to get a swimming lane, however the drawback was that there were not as many swimmers to break up the chop. It was a windy morning, which meant the chop was active out there. That leg out to the first turn was taxing; the waves kept coming. You would catch one wave at the top of your stroke breaking your power coming down, and sometimes you would catch one wave at the bottom killing the opportunity for a full stroke. Eventually, I got some sort of cadence to it, but I could tell this leg was slower.

Fortunately, this next turn was only half the bottleneck as the first time so I was able to pretty much swim right around it and the next one, and head back into shore. I was getting tired, but had a clear swimming lane and was going with the waves so I just had to get back to shore. I could feel myself slowing down although I still had plenty of strength to power to that beautiful Ironman arch on the shore that was slowly getting closer with every stroke...and then....I was there. I had just finished the 2.4 mile, 2200 person mass start, choppy water swim of my first Ironman.

Second Loop: 45:02 (I was shooting for 40 here too, so I could see a definite decline)

Overall Swim 2.4 miles: 1:24:45

I walk/jogged out of the water passed hundreds of cheering fans through a gradually narrowing shoot into the transition area. Immediately, two women approached asking if I would like help with my wetsuit and I was all for it. I had already committed to taking full advantage of all the help the Ironman volunteers had to offer. First, the arms and then on the ground while the ladies yanked the legs off. They handed me my wetsuit and I ran toward the transition bags where I encountered the next volunteers. They asked what my number was and upon hearing, ran to my bike transition bag handing it to me and off into the men's changing tent I went.

I had decided in my plans that I would really take my time during the transitions to adequately prepare for each leg because I was sure that the few extra minutes preparing in transition would not have any damaging effect on my overall finish and I was more interested in being comfortable and prepared, than I was in being quick on transition.

I dried off, threw on the socks and bike shoes. Ate a goo, peed, strapped on the helmet, threw on the shades, stuffed my jersey with a peanut butter and honey sandwich and a pack of power tabs and headed out of the tent leaving my bag stuffed with my wetsuit, goggles, swim cap and towel for another volunteer to take back to its rightful place.

Outside I encountered yet another set of volunteers waiting to grease me up and slather me down with sunscreen. Rather than take that offer however, I quietly stood aside and applied my trusted spray-on sunscreen and face lotion. From there, I headed over and stuffed the sunscreen into my run transition back and then....finally....after the eternally long transition...I headed to my bike.

T1 Time: 11:23 (I was shooting for 10 mins or under so this was pretty slow)

After winding my way through the maze of slowly disappearing bikes, I found mine and prepared to set out on the next leg of my Ironman journey....the 112 mile bike.

To be continued.....