Thursday, August 31, 2006

Ironman Run Course

The ultimate Tri-Jedi Simply Stu has posted a video of the complete run course - Check it out here!

Thanks to Stu - my iPod overfloweth with usefulness!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


I've actually been sleeping lately. Okay well, last night there was about an hour and 15 of lost time, but generally since Friday night I've been getting at least 8 hours each night. I think it helps me to get completely away from Ironman after dinner, so it's not in my head when I go to sleep, looking for ways to get out. Last night I was doing Ironman stuff until just before bed. Thusly, I was awakened. There you go.

I had a massage yesterday. I've only had 2 other massages in my life, and one was on vacation so that doesn't count. I don't tend to think they're important or something. Or that I can make time for them. That's stupid, and I should go ahead and change perspective on that. I had planned to go in and just have something relaxing, but in the last week some unknown trauma in my left shoulder blade has caused a serious tightening of the muscles there. It's not affecting my range of motion, like a lower back injury would, but if I sit a certain way at my desk or on the floor or whatever, it fatigues in a hurry and hurts like hell. It was something of a pain in the ass this weekend on my rides. It doesn't seem to be an issue running or swimming. So anyway, she worked on that area for 30 minutes. A bit of good done, maybe, but it's still pretty tight and painful there. I'll see her again next Tuesday, 5 days before the race. In the meantime I'll smell like IcyHot and ice it a lot. I'm not worried about it in terms of Ironman - I don't expect it to affect my performance, and don't consider it an "injury", so much as a "pain in the (shoulder) ass". But it is uncomfortable, and comfort is big over a 17 hour race.

If you're out there and in taper, I highly suggest a massage. She spent the next half hour on my legs and neck and shoulders. Wow did my legs feel great when she was done. In the middle of a massage, when you can feel somebody working on all the fibers and accumulated knots of your muscles (especially in the legs - who knew?), you can really quantify what all of this does to your body.

Amy starts school today. Her summer is over now. The kids that are out practicing football each morning, they start next week. Meanwhile, we're under 12 days out.

I've adjusted to Taper a bit. Thanks all, by the way, for the well wishes, shared experiences, and general presence - I appreciate it. Much of it, like the rest of this crazy game, is mental, and is will. It helped me to recall a conversation I had a few months ago with Amy. I was getting a bit crazy, and starting to crawl inside my head to live there - which I've done before and never, not once, has it worked out to my advantage (slow learner, I). I was getting edgy and tired, and somehow a "discussion" was started, and by "discussion" I mean "argument". And she essentially pointed out that this isn't something I get to do all by myself. That I'm not allowed to crawl into my head and live there and simply THINK IRONMAN. That if I do that, then Ironman just becomes a thing I'm doing by myself, and everybody else is just watching. "Then," she said, "there is no team."

My ADD is way ratcheted up, and I do lack mental capacity for much outside the race just now. Listen, that's just how it is. You don't work this hard for something and have it this close and just go about your day like you're not living in its shadow. But I do have some choices for how to handle this kind of stress. The sleeplessness - not a lot I can do about that that I'm not already doing. The ADD - what can I say, except to ask for patience from those around me. A lot of the other stuff - it takes care of itself. But one thing I won't do, this close to Ironman, is increase the drama by alienating or isolating or removing myself from the world around me entirely. There's a lot about Ironman that you do alone. No matter how surrounded, you go alone. Accepting that, then, I'll look for opportunities where I don't have to. And in those I'll relish the experience all the more.

Also important is to be mindful of how many have sacrificed so much so that I can do this. My friends and family, they've acclimated with great patience and understanding my general absence all weekend long since March, my lacking of a social life, my consistent mental disengagement, my precise nutritional requirements, etceteras ad nauseam. I have a responsibility to them. I choose that. I run this race, and God willing cross the finish line, on their behalf. They have been Becoming Ironman with me, and I'll certainly not choose now to retract the invitation by exclusively going solo, just when the music is finally starting.

So in my thinking, I decided that the tone I want for Ironman starts now. I have a list of Ironman goals, and number 1 is to race and finish smiling. I figure, if I can't enjoy this thing after all it's taken to get there, then I haven't earned anything at all. I'll race hard, I'll race strong, I'll race till I collapse if I have to - but I will enjoy doing it. I'll embrace every high and low, and I'll enjoy every single moment - even the extremely unenjoyable moments.

So today: Dammit if I don't feel great. My sister asked me last night if I was nervous, and I answered truthfully that I am not. I'm excited. I'm impatient for the gun to finally sound. I'm restless, I'm fascinated, I'm sometimes perplexed and even a little intimidated. I'm sometimes frustrated, often distracted, and sometimes just now totally useless to the world at large. But also: I am ready. The nerves, I'm sure, will come - they always do. But mostly I just cannot wait.

Man, this is a great game.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Crazy Times

This is nuts. between thing is kicking my ass. Taper is weird and I feel restless as hell.

My workouts are lighter. Same intensity, but less long. Or only one thing each day, like swimming, instead of the usual swimming and then running or whatever. So I feel like a sloth. I feel like a fat tub of goo. I haven't gained any weight. It just feels like I'm gaining weight. It feels like because I'm not doing 2 miles in the pool yesterday and a 12 mile run today or something insane like that that I'm becoming an instant couch potato. I'm fact I've lost two pounds (down to 183! Whoohoo!) And this is absolutely symptomatic of any taper, anybody will tell you that. But man it feels weird. Part of me wonders if the lightened physical load means I'm less doped up on endorphins and adrenaline than I normally am, and that part of my neurosis right now is just run-of-the-mill withdrawal from my body's own chemicals which I've been saturated with for so long now. Tomorrow I have a 3 hour bike followed by a run, and Sunday a 2 hour bike and a run. That feels a little more like it. Maybe that'll help.

My mind is making up for the limited amount of physical activity by working overboard on lists of things. I am a restless, obsessed (even more than usual), relatively disengaged freakshow. I'm switching mental gears at work seriously 10 times a minute. My usual ADD is cranked up to Featured On 60 Minutes proportions. I'm all hopped up on insanity and excitement. And we're still more than 2 weeks away!

I'm sleeping like. crap. and that part is irritating because the sleep is critical. I'm falling asleep okay, but awake inevitably 4 hours or so later with a brain that wants to discuss Ironman. It's not worry or fear or any of the usual suspects - I just wake up thinking about Ironman. What it'll be like, how it'll feel to finally be racing, what it'll look like. Nothing that should require my attention at 3am, but there you go. And then the gears get spinning and I'm wide awake for the next 2 hours before finally falling back to sleep and having to wake up to get to work tired. I am sometimes able to make up for the deficit with a nap, but that's not ideal either. I don't know what all to do about that part. It's driving me nutso.

I have a list 2 pages long on my desk. It's my Ironman To-Do list. Some of it is totally inane stuff that shouldn't require being on a list, like "Listen to Strauss Podcast." But I'm hoping if I just put everything on a list then it won't fly into my head at some inopportune moment, like say when I'm trying to get some friggin' sleep. My iCal is worse. Swear to God today at 2:30, I have scheduled "Visualization". Who schedules visualization?

I can't imagine living with me right now.

But. In all of that, here's what I'm not...and I keep expecting it to come, but it hasn't and with all the fertile soil I think it would have: I'm not afraid. I don't think of this race with fear. I'm not doubtful. I'm not sitting around worrying about a bunch of what-ifs. I'm not paranoid about things I can't control. I'm not even paranoid about the things I can control, because I seemingly have some kind of peace of mind about those things that don't require their constant maintenance. So. That's a plus, I guess.


Strange days, these. And more to come I'm sure.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

and that'll be me.

Right. Well if this doesn't wake you up first thing in the morning, nothing will.

The Bridge

The world continues to revolve in such a way these days that some would describe as serendipitous. I maintain the description I've held all along: It's not that these things are meant for me, but that I am meant for them.

There is a new Elton John single. It speaks to me a great deal just now. It says everything about this journey that I feel today. Here. Now.

Run to iTunes and get this. Don't walk, run. You won't regret it.

I've seen the bridge and the bridge is long
And they built it high and they built it strong
Strong enough to hold the weight of time
Long enough to leave some of us behind

And every one of us has to face that day
Do you cross the bridge or do you fade away
And every one of us that ever came to play
Has to cross the bridge or fade away

Standing on the bridge looking at the waves
Seen so many jump, never seen one saved
On a distant beach your song can die
On a bitter wind, on a cruel tide

And every one of us has to face that day
Do you cross the bridge or do you fade away
And every one of us that ever came to play
Has to cross the bridge or fade away

And the bridge it shines
Oh cold hard Iron
Saying come and risk it all
Or die trying

And every one of us has to face that day
Do you cross the bridge or do you fade away
And every one of us that ever came to play
Has to cross the bridge or fade away

Has to cross the bridge or fade away

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Last Long Weekend

Well, I thought I'd give you a few more details about the long weekend. On Friday, as I mentioned, I did the full IM distance of 2.4 miles. My budgeted time for this is 1:30, but in fact I don't really care. As long as it's before the 2:20 cutoff, what's 10 minutes on either side of 1:30? Considering how relatively little time in the day is spent in the water, this is not where I'm going to lose my mind over a few minutes.

(By the way, all the pictures here have been updated in the "training" photo album over there on the right.)

Still, it was good to have the distance covered and get some idea of what I'm capable of. I finished the first 1000 yards in just under 18 minutes, and stayed pretty much within a minute of that for each subsequent 1000, which was great - it means I didn't go out too hot and I was consistent. If I can maintain that at Ironman, with a wetsuit swim to boot, I should be okay. That and mastering the mass insanity that is the swim, but I have a few ideas of how I can handle that.

Friday night, then, was the long travel night before getting up early for Saturday's epic brick workout of 112 mile bike and 4 mile run. It rained and misted mostly all evening on the way to Madison, and when I awoke to ominous clouds I considered changing my plans and scratching the ride to Sunday, which was forecasted for bright sunshine. I would have done that had there been rain forecast all day or something - it's too close now, and I don't need to prove to myself that I can ride in rain. But in fact, the forecast for the day called for mostly clouds but no rain and high 70's for an afternoon high. Solid.

Mike and I loaded up and headed out to Monona Terrace, which is pretty much the nucleus of Ironman - all starts, finishes, and transitions come and go from there. A local Masters swim group was swimming the IM course that morning and had set up buoys - it was useful to see the actual course defined. It's really long and narrow, with each long side of the rectanglular course going parallel to the shore, each probably half a mile, with the short ends of the rectangle connecting them 100-200 yards or so. In order to avoid the traffic we drove the first 3 or 4 miles away from Monona Terrace on the bike course until we were just out of town. Then I got organized and got on the bike.

I've ridden the challenging 40 mile Verona loop several times now, but had never ridden the 14-16 mile stretch from Madison to Verona. It seemed shorter than I expected, and also with more rolling hills than I'd expected. Somehow in my mind I'd figured that stretch to and from Madison would be flat, with the hills only on the loop. No idea where that dumb assessment came from, but it was good to learn otherwise.

The morning was really foggy and humid when I started out - so much so that I couldn't wear my glasses for the first few hours because all they did was fog up. The course was, as usual, full of other riders training for Ironman. It's a cool feeling being out there - you know that it's likely everybody you see is doing the same thing you are, for the same reasons. If one of us is stalled on the side with a bike issue, we call out "okay?" to each other, and assist where we can. It's an unlikely comradarie that I appreciate.

That's me on the left (what the hell am I doing in the middle of the road!?!?). The fog made for some interesting descents those first few miles.

40 or so mostly uneventful miles later and I was on the other side of Mt. Horeb, about to begin the Roller Coaster. This is the section, beginning with the first descent, that nearly killed me in July when I suddenly had the uncontrollable wheel wobble at 40mph. With new wheels I was confident - but still a little nervous - about tucking in, staying off the brakes, and just letting fly. But it felt great letting go, no wheel was wobbling, and in that the last of the ghosts evaporated.

The rest of the ride was clockwork. My nutrition was sound, hydration solid, and everything clicked okay. I ran into a bit of stomach cramping around 80 miles in, but it passed after a few miles. Oh, and I wore a pair of shorts that have comfortable padding - meaning I don't chafe much - but I found it was really, really painful to pee...and took a long time. Too Much Information, I know. Anyway, since I didn't have any problems before the ride, or after...and have never experienced that on my long rides in other shorts, I think the culprit was the comfy, but ultimately unhealthy padding. A good lesson to learn now, rather than that day.

The hills. Here's something about those Ironman hills, of which there are three that are sinister. When you're away from them, and especially riding other hilly courses like I've been doing near Stillwater, you have a tendency to minimize them. You've heard me say on my other long rides that the hills were Ironman caliber or something like that. Right. No. When you get back on these hills you realize you've just been telling yourself that, because these are difficult. The first is steep, then levels off with a bit of trickery, then steep again, but mostly long. The second, not half a mile later, is steep and straight up, but short. The last, a few miles later, is consistent and winding and long. They all suck. And they aren't the only three hills on the course - I discovered there's on more formidable one awaiting me on the road back into Madison - but they are the most significant.

The happy thing for me was discovering that I've gotten stronger since I first rode them in June. I watched my heartrate and my power the whole time, careful not to spike either and trying to find a consistent, level pace. It hurt, but not as bad as it used to. The true test came on the 2nd lap, and I found that, while they were a bit harder - especially by the 3rd (and surprise 4th) hill, I was okay. I wasn't cramping, my legs weren't screaming, my heartrate wasn't sky-high, and I didn't collapse at the top and stop pedaling just so I could rest.

No I'm not giving Mike the finger...look closely and you'll see I'm giving him the universal sign for "still kicking ass".

Finally, and with a little bit of course adjustment to actually reach my 112 miles (since we'd started a few miles in from the actual beginning), I finished in the sunshine and heat in 6:33. This is a whole one minute later than last weekend's 112 miles in 6:32, so I was pleased with that kind of consistency. I'm not holding myself to that though - I've budgted myself 7 hours, and if you consider some maybe more lengthy bio-breaks or a longer rest at the halfway point, when I get my bike Special Needs bag, I might have time to spare in the event of anything unexpected. Anything under 7 hours is gravy, a happy and unexpected bonus. Most importantly, my pace from the first 12 mile stretch, then the first 40 mile loop, then the second 40 mile loop, and finally the last home stretch never wavered more than .5 mph for any of those intervals (so my 2nd loop was .5 mph slower than my first loop, and the other sections were within that). That means I watched my pacing enough to not go out too fast and I didn't blow up my legs with too hard an effort on the first 40-60 miles. All good things.

Then we headed over to Lake Monona again for my 4 mile run, which I'd finish up at the Terrace. The run felt great. It always feels great to just be off the bike and move from horizontal (in the aero position) to vertical. After last week's ride I was pretty wiped out, but this week I felt pretty good. My legs were under me right away, I found a comfortable pace that was faster than I needed it to be, and was enjoying myself. I felt hungry, but nothing an aid station can't satisfy. When I finished up the 4 miles, tired but not exhausted, I spent 10 or 15 minutes looking for Mike around the Terrace, which gave both of us an opportunity to explore it a little.

This parking lot is where all the bikes will be for transtion - I'll actually ride down and up that helix (which will be covered with spectators) to get back and forth. Pretty crazy.

This view of the capital will be something similar to where the finish line is, again right near Monona Terrace.

Again, huge thanks to Mike. His coming allowed Amy to stay home after several hectic weekends of her own, and he drove all the way there and back, allowing me some much needed naps. He navigated the course flawlessly and with a helpful, cheerful attitude, was a master of Gatorade-Bottle-Preparing, and snapped these great photos (I think the descents on the roller coaster are way cool). It really was an invaluable way to do my last long ride, and it wouldn't have been possible without him. So shout out one more time to Mike!

A few other shoutouts while we're here: Todd raced his last Sprint of the season this past weekend, and it looks like he blistered a top 3 finish in his division...6th in his gender, and 7th overall...'zat right dude? Crazy! Kickass and well done! promised a full race report to my mail box tomorrow. I also want to shout out to some regulars, friends, and fellows who are now in taper as well - SLS, qcmier, IronWil, Derek L., and TriSaraTops. Also, today our Athlete's Guide became officially available at, and today I got an email that allegedly our bib numbers will be in by Thursday! How freaking exciting is that!!!!!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Final Fire Before The Forge

If there is an analogy, it might be that as a high school senior, you reach your last day of classes, or maybe in college you take your final exam. You might still have days or weeks ahead of you before graduation, but essentially all you have to do at this point is not throw any parties that get you arrested. And in that same analogy, then, that career is essentially behind you. The memories, opportunities, adventures - you have either lived them, or you have not. There is nothing more to be done between now and the graduation, which is the culmination, the reward, the pinnacle, the point. The experience has already been had, but for that final experience, for which all others are preparation.

With an exhale, that is where I am now, at last.

Date: September 12, 2005
Subject: mark your calendars...

Hi all -

Well, the first step is the least interesting, but the most critical...

At 9:04am this morning I was officially registered for Ironman Wisconsin! September 10, 2006. Come one, come all.

Stay tuned for more on this exciting thing in my life -


But there isn't an analogy, because nothing in my experience is like Ironman. This. Exhale again. This is something else.

I thought about this on Saturday afternoon, as I was in my fourth and final mile of fitness building for Ironman. I had swam 2.4 miles 24 hours earlier. Had just ridden 112 miles in 6:33 on the Ironman course. And was now finishing a run-off that would conclude this epic piece of Becoming Ironman. I thought - with no self congratulation, just objective observation - that this is amazing. Because at mile 4 I was at naturally at a pace 40 seconds faster than I intend to begin the marathon. And I could've kept going. And I thought - I've prepared my body to not just endure, but thrive in this environment. That my first goal of "finishing" Ironman has been replaced with "experiencing" Ironman.

January 9th, 2006
Becoming Ironman blog

You want to say something important and significant. You want some phrase that simply captures something momentous...something like "In The Beginning", or maybe "And So Began", or "Once Upon A Time", or "All children, except one, grow up", or "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away", or at least, "Marley was dead, to begin with." But ultimately it's just a day, just like most other days, and so in most ways unremarkable. Except that today, January 9th, 2006, Ironman begins.

And so today, my first day of tapering, my first day into what is the finish chute to race day, now less than three weeks away, is again, just a day. And mostly unremarkable.

Except that I who live in it am changed. I who live in it am not the same as began this thing. I who live in it am one who has done more than he thought possible of himself. And that makes all the difference.

"I have to go this last bit alone now," The Rider said to the Machine. "I'll be back to get you before we go down. It's only a short way."

"I understand," the Machine replied.

The Rider left on foot, running up this last climb. It wasn't as steep as he thought it might be. The terrain not as rugged. He saw before him the footprints of tens of thousands. Some cratered in the earth and hardened, ancient. Others fresh in the dirt, recent by moments.

He finally scrambled up the last of it. He kept his head down until he was sure of his footing, then stood fully atop the peak, raising his head last. For the first time, he looked on the other side of the mountain, which had for so long promised so much.

"My God." He whispered.

"What is it?" The Machine called from behind. "What do you see?"

The Rider spun around. "I see it all!" He shouted. "Everything! It's here! It's real! It's now!" He turned back again onto the new horizon. In the blue distance he saw the faint outlines now of structure and form. Gone were the ragged peaks and deep valleys that they'd been traversing, which they were now leaving behind. The landscape ahead was smooth and true, and all downhill.

"Well?" The Machine called, and the Rider turned and began bounding back down the peak to retrieve it. "What are we waiting for? Let's ride!"

And the Rider laughed and clapped, and when they crested together to begin their final descent, he didn't even have to pedal. And not a single ghost followed.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Last Long Swim...

2.4 Miles



Hitting the road now - I'll give details on the weekend and decompress the long swim on Sunday - have a great weekend everybody!

Insanity's Conclusion

Whew. Well, the weekend is nearly here and the biggest week of training volume and intensity for Ironman has nearly reached its zenith. Lots of miles this week, including 12 solid miles at a 9:40 pace on Wednesday. But the steepest part of the climb is always just before the peak - today, full Ironman distance of 2.4 miles in the water. Then me and Mike are jumping in the car for a road trip out to the Mad City where tomorrow I'll cover 112 miles on the Ironman bike course with Mike driving along as support crew so he can get familiar with the bike course a bit for spectating and also give me as realistic an experience as possible so I don't have to load 'Blue up with 50 bottles or stop at every gas station or whatever. HUGE shout out to Mike for being the kind of guy that doesn't just agree to sitting in the car for 7 hours while I trapse around in lycra on the bike, but actually looking forward to it! It allows me the opportunity not everybody gets, to ride it with pseudo aid-stations built in and even a halfway-point Special Needs Bag emulation. So cool, that guy.

(At Ironman we get a "Special Needs Bag" at the halway mark of the bike and the run. It's a bag we stash beforehand with stuff we'd like at the halfway mark. On the bike I'll have a PB&J, extra tubes, tire, and CO2 cartridges, extra gel, an extra pair of socks and gloves, and maybe some other stuff. Just FYI.)

Wrap it all up with a tidy 45 minute run immediately after the bike, and we're officially into taper. Whahoooooo!

So stay tuned - I'll try and give you some kind of report after today's swim (if I can before travel), and we'll take pictures this weekend so you'll get all the details.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Bicycle Porn

So sexy you should have to sign a waiver.

--New '06 Rolf Vigor Wheels (that arrived this morning...with killer black paintjob...the old - now dead - '03's were aluminum and with uglier stickers...huge shout out to Full Cycles for giving me the best price and delivering these bad boys in two days, enough time for a short ride today before tackling the IMWI course this weekend)
--New black Continental 4000 tires.

--Black handlebar tape, as chosen by the Becoming Ironman Blog Alliance - good call on the black everybody. I would have leaned towards metallic blue, but now with the complete picture this is one. bad. mutha. Note the blue bit of tape on the right I wear a blue rubberband on my wrist...and a shout out to the 49% who wanted the blue -

And just to refresh everyone on what's new on the bike throughout the '06 season, all in preparation for Ironman:

--FSA carbon pro compact crankset (that's the arms the pedals are connected to and the big gears the chain runs through)
--Carbon fiber bottle cages...because dammit, you can never shed enough weight from those bottle cages
--iBike Power Meter (the white computer thing)
--Trek computer (that's the other, smaller computer - and that one's there just because my other one crapped out in May or so)
--New seat post (the thing the saddle is attached to)
--New Specialized Body Geometry saddle (with special notch cut out for improved blood flow so that after long hours on the bike I can continue to have sex, thanks very much) with a carbon fiber body and titanium rails (rails are the things that actually attach the saddle to the seatpost), because dammit you can never shed enough weight from the saddle
--Swanky new Shimano chain as of last week

This is it - you're looking at the official Ironman setup (minus my little lunchbox thingy that straps to my top tube). Can't wait to ride it this weekend on the Ironman course!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Well. I don't know if it's because my SwiMP3 player needs recharging so I didn't have it or what (and was what, bored? lacking motivating sound waves? something? Maybe my speedos were too tight. Maybe I was intoxicated from the perfume slick left behind by the old lady in the next lane), but that was about the crappiest swim every swum. Sheesh.

The hour long bike afterwards went fine though. But shout out to anybody who regularly does urban cycling - I usually head out of town for all my rides, but today stayed around, and boy howdy does that suck. Apparently nobody knows how to drive but me.

Here's to a more solid 2.4 mile swim on Friday...

Monday, August 14, 2006

Impending September

This morning, when I look out my upstairs windows at the high school athletic fields, they're full of kids at their first practice for whatever fall sport.

On my run through the rain yesterday, I noticed two things: a few trees, scattered here and there, had just a hint of yellow around the edges of a few random leaves. And there seemed to be a few more blowing about on the ground than normal. Early exiters, those. Also: acorns. Lots and lots of acorns crunching under my feet.

The wind, I noticed it last week. Even with still plenty warm temperatures in the 80's or so, the breeze has the first hint of an edge to it. Only on certain days, on certain hours. Like it's testing itself out little by little.

I'm opening the windows more lately, and turning off the A/C.

Here's a crazy thing: I've spent enough time - 3 to 4 days a week - on the same stretches of road to see them barren and thawing, then dark but seeded, then green and infant, then about to my knees, then taller than me, and now in some cases golden or already reaped, the ground barren again and waiting.

I realized this yesterday: I've been generally a non-participant in the passing of 2006. By that, I mean that I never fully entrenched myself in its winter, or anticipated its spring, or hoped for its summer. Everything has existed around September 10, 2006. I've counted months. I've recognized the seasons by what I'm having to wear on my bike. That's not to say I haven't enjoyed the year, or that it's passed me by - I've just marked its passing in very, very different ways than I normally would. Indeed, while I can say I haven't much participated in its passing, I've been wholly engaged in its present. 10 years ago I worked at a camp for the summer, and it was completely of-the-moment. The world at large continued without me as I lived and worked in this joyful little bubble for 3 months, never having to think about anything but that moment. This has been a little like that, but for 9 months. While the real world has continued doing what it does, I've lived in this parallel universe called Training For Ironman.

I have a friend who's pregnant, and she's due 8 days after Ironman. The bigger she gets, the closer Ironman is. And that's been amusing.

Ironman UK is this weekend. Ironman Korea and Ironman Canada are the following weekends. Then, it's our turn.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

What a ride...

112 miles.


Well. That's a very acceptable time, and it's good to finally see what I'm capable of at the Ironman distance. It was a pretty solid ride, and I went south again to the hills - and it was hilly - and have to feel like this gives me some kind of indication. We'll know more next week, when I actually ride the Ironman course 112 miles, but it's good to have this in my proverbial back pocket.

The wind was from the South/Southeast, and that worked to my advantage on the way home, as I headed mostly that direction going out. I averaged about 16mph going down and about 18mph with the wind at my back for an average just shy of 17mph. I'm riding with heartrate, power, and cadence in mind before any consideration given for speed at all, and I've figured anything around 16mph, or 7 hours, seems pretty realistic - and that's what I'll continue to think. But of course, you just never know what drama might await to throw off any said plans - wind or rain or broken hub on a rear wheel (we'll get to that), so - like all of Ironman - the numbers always require some perspective.

Is anybody familiar with the comedian Dane Cook? He makes me laugh. And once he came out on stage and just suddenly kicked over the stool and said, "I hate you stool." And it was so random that I laughed. So that was me on this section of road southeast of Hugo yesterday. Seriously, this chunk of road is absurd. There are cracks in it that are seriously 3 inches wide at least. They need to repave it, and yesterday. And I hate that road. My teeth rattle on it and I can just feel my machine quaking all over. I'll of course never ride it again - I will go 20 miles out of my way if I have to just to avoid it - but just that it exists pisses me off. I hate you road.

So I have two sets of wheels - training wheels and racing wheels. Not everybody does, and they're not required in any way - but some people do, and I am one of them. My training wheels have lots of spokes and are a bit heavy and I just mash them all over the roads. They're kind of cheapy things that aren't made of anything special, go out of true pretty easily, and are basically on the bike for me to bang around on for hundreds and hundreds of miles without a ton of regard for their performance. I put the biggest, thickest tires on them. They're big and thick and inelegant. My racing wheels are freakshow light. They have few spokes to create less turbulence. They have a carbon fiber rim around them an inch thick to cut through the wind. They're ultra responsive, and I probably average 1-2mph faster with them - which can be 15-20 minutes at Ironman. Physically, it's a little like running with ankle weights or something - you acclimate to a heavier load, so then on raceday, with the lighter weight, less surface area and more responsiveness, I ride and especially climb much faster and easier. There's also a mental thing that's useful to me. But lately my racing wheels and I, we haven't been getting along. First was the infamous wheel wobble the last time I was on the IM course, which nearly friggin' killed me. So they've been off the bike since, and getting straightened out at the shop, etc. Yesterday was my first ride with them since, and I wanted to get a couple workouts at the full distance in on them before the race. Anyway, after I get off the miserable annoying hateful stretch of road yesterday, with about 20 miles or so to go home, everything goes to hell. I'd spin my pedals but they wouldn't catch on the wheel. I'd just sit there. It was especially fun at stoplights, when the light turned green and rather than pedal through the intersection I stalled there spinning away and going nowhere like a jackass. I'd have to spin and spin, then finally it would catch. It basically meant, once it caught, that I couldn't stop pedaling. So I'd walk the bike across stop lights - or pedal through in whatever monster gear I could get to catch in - and then once I finally got going, I couldn't stop pedaling or I'd risk not being able to catch the wheel again. Not even to coast. So the last 20 miles were pretty crazy, but valuable I supposed - I kept thinking, Well, if this happens at Ironman, what are you going to do? Just figure it out. Anyway, I knew that the culprit was the hub of the rear wheel - the damn road killed my hub. Stupid road. I hate you road. I drove straight to the bike shop from my 112th mile - about 3 blocks from home - and they confirmed it was a hub issue. I rode the bike home, brought the wheel back to them a bit later, and today did my ride (more on that in a minute) on my training wheels. Vampire called from the bike shop (remember, the dude with the puncture wounds tattooed on his neck complete with gushing blood effects - sweet) and told me the wheel's shot all to hell. Gooood times. Back to that in a minute.

Today's ride: I was scheduled for about 40 miles, but only got in 20 thanks to a Wrath of God thunderstorm that didn't so much as rain on the earth as it did crash down on it. It was fun riding through for about 5 minutes, and then it felt stupid. I stopped and waited it out a bit under a tree, but 15 minutes later it hadn't changed tone one bit, and with lightening and thunder everywhere I decided to turn around and get home. We're just too close now to risk something stupid like a wipeout or a driver not seeing me or whatever. There's a time to do battle and a time to retreat, and I tried to keep the larger war in mind. So, not without some reluctance, I rode back to the car and then ran 3 miles in the torrent. It was crazy. And then Steve commented on yesterday's post that SLS is out there today in this for 112 miles! I hope she's safe and having a kickass time out there. What a rockstar. Can't wait to read all about it. By the way, check out Steve's blog, he's freakin' hilarious.

So, the wheels: Cripes, I don't know. I have my regular wheels, and I could ride them...but they have always been more of a training device for me. They're intentionally heavy and bulky. I've ridden them on the IM course, and pulling them up a hill compared to my lightweight race wheels is night and day - and things like that will make a difference for me. So I'm thinking it over today, but have a new pair of my same wheels bookmarked and ready to order tomorrow if that's what I decide. Whatever I decide, they have to be on my bike by next Saturday for my final 112 miles on-course. And only 28 days out, it's not ideal to be throwing new toys into the mix (which is why I'd stick with my same I love the wheels in general...just not lately with these particular two...). Sigh. Things to think about.

Anyway, I was thinking today, sloshing through ankle deep puddles - this is crazy. Only crazy people do this, ride 112 miles and then not 20 hours later throw themselves into a thunderstorm for the better part of a morning. And only crazy people do that because Ironman is not made for the sane and rational. It just isn't. So. So be it. Here's to the crazy ones.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Awaiting Sunrise

6:09am. And it takes longer now for the sun to come.

In the next 7 days I'll ride my bicycle just over 300 miles. I'll swim just over 5 miles, and I'll run somewhere around 23. It's the most intense week of training. Also my last days of "training". After this, I start preparing to peak and taper. These are the last miles that will build my fitness for Ironman, after all this long, long way. The final deposits in the Ironman account.

And on paper it looks pretty insane.

Well. Nothing to do but start. 112 miles today. Let's see if the sun is as ready as I am.

Friday, August 11, 2006

3:14 am

This thing, it wakes me up.

For about the last week at least, maybe 10 days, I fall asleep okay but I wake up at some ungodly hour and I stay that way for the next 45, 60, 75 minutes. It's a pain in the ass. I'm tired in the mornings. I wake up from dumb, repetitive dreams where usually I'm on the bike or something. It gets worse if I have a major workout on the horizon, like my 112 miles on Saturday and 40 more plus a run on Sunday.

It's not (I don't think) symptomatic of overtraining or exhaustion, which can cause sleeplessness. My dreams aren't ones of catastrophe or subconscious fears of one thing or another. I don't wake up worried or paranoid or nervous. I'm just...thinking about it. All the time. Even, I guess, when I'm not supposed to be thinking and should instead be sleeping. I think I'm just really excited. And really preoccupied. Can you relate to having your whole universe revolve around a day on a calendar? Probably you can.

29 days.

Yawn. I'll go try again.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


...'Blue's black handlebar tape came in. Can't wait to put it on tonight after my ride...I'll definitely post pics.

...Picked up my race wheels from the bike shop in St. Paul, allegedly truer than true. We'll see next weekend when I'm on the IMWI course for 112 miles if this is the end of the forsaken wheel wobble...

...Bought brand new shiny black Continental 4000 tires for said racing wheels, to complement the black handlebars. Hey, if we're going Vader for Ironman, then dammit we're going all the way.

...Picked up 'Blue from a different bike shop where it had a drivetrain bath and got a brand new chain. "Any thoughts on what kind of chain you want?" Dude says. "The dopest, illest, best thing you have." Says I. The Machine is freakshow sparkly. 1000+ miles of grime and gross all cleaned right away. Can't wait to take it out tonight and feel how smooth it is. Sweet. By the way, at that bikeshop - where I've had some drama with incompetent idiots - there's now one guy who's allowed to touch my bike. And he has all these crazy tattoos, including two that look like puncture marks on his neck with blood dripping out. 'Blue was attended to by a vampire. Kickass.

...I got an email from "Ford Ironman Wisconsin". Granted, it was only for some info about a company that will help me pack up my bike and bring it to the race if I needed that, but still. It was an official email from Ford Ironman Wisconsin. And that's cool.

...I ordered t-shirts for the Team that will be cheering me on at Ironman - something like 18 people are going to be there! How cool is that, that I even have 18 people who give a damn about me!?!? Friggin' awesome, man.

...I weighed in at a svelte 185 today. 24 pounds lighter than when the blog started on January 9th. 5 pounds lighter than last year's race weight. 50 pounds lighter than when the Becoming began in late '03. Haven't weighed this since...hell, Boston in '96 I suppose. And did you know I had obliques? Who knew? And still 30 days left to shed those extra 5 (or more?) if I can. Dialing in people, dialing right in.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

When it began:

When I was ten years old, the police department in my hometown hosted a "bike rodeo". It was a goofy Saturday morning when kids could pedal around a parking lot dotted with orange cones and learn about bike safety. We could register our bikes and get these little decal license plates to stick on them to identify them if they ever got stolen. I had a purple bike with a banana seat. It kicked ass. But they were raffling off a cool new bike from the hardware store in town, Coast to Coast. And I knew I was going to win that bike. Not, I had confidence that they'd call my name. No, I had some psychic idea that my ten year old mind couldn't understand that I was going home with that bike. So when they gathered us all together at the end for the raffle, and then read "Bullwinkle from Bemidji, Minnesota.", I started to cry. Because I cried a lot, and I didn't get the joke, and it was simply not possible that I didn't win that bike. I calmed down then when I learned they were kidding. And I knew as soon as they started reading a last name they couldn't pronounce that the bike was mine. It was red and white and had a cool pad on the handlebar crossbar that said "Chaser", and cool "Chaser" decals on the frame. It had red tires with a pattern on them called "snakebelly". It had a red seat. It kicked total ass. The bike they had on hand for the raffle was a girl's bike. I didn't care. I took it home and rode it until the store called and said they had a boy's model in stock and I could go pick it up. My twin brother felt left out so the policemen gave him all the extra ice cream bars they had from the rodeo, and they melted all over the car on the way home. And because parents have an innate sense of fairness, they went and bought him a bike that same day. But I have clear memories of cruising down the sidewalk on University with my weird friend Robby with my new Chaser. And that's when I began training for Ironman.

Growing up and watching the Williston Coyotes high school sports teams, about the coolest thing ever was when the cheerleaders made these hoops covered with paper with painted words and cheers and pictures on them, and then during introductions or after halftime the players would crash through the paper and all of us kids would make an aisle for them to run through and they'd high five us as they ran onto the field or the floor, and the best was when you were right next to the paper hoop and got to take some of the ripped shreds, bright with orange and black paint, back to the stands with you. My parents were the really cool about making our birthdays really special, and on our 9th birthday they'd papered the doorway to our bedroom like that, so that when they woke us up we could crash through it. And my brother and I shared a bedroom, and my bed was closest to the door and I wanted to crash through the paper like my Coyote heroes so I sprinted to the door while my brother was too, but I was a step ahead of him and was going to be first, but in my grogginess I instead hit the side of the doorway head on in a full out sprint and was thrown right back on my ass while my brother ran by and crashed through the paper. And I cried because I cried a lot, and my damn head hurt, but mostly dammit I wanted to crash through that paper. And that's when I began training for Ironman.

In gradeschool - I think I've told you about this - we had these annual track and field events called Olympics. They were every spring, and we got a whole day off school to go to the Olympics. We each got to be in three events, I think. Three or five. And for two weeks before the Olympics, our teachers would let us have an extra recess to go "train". And so me and my friends would go run around the alley at Rickard Elementary, around the playground. In the 2nd grade I was in the 100 yard dash, and I was winning the race so I started looking around and cheering at the crowd before some little weasel passed me just before the end and I took second place. I got a red ribbon. But I was happy. And that's when I began training for Ironman.

That summer, after 2nd grade, my baseball team - sponsored by Hendrick's, one of two department stores in my town, made it to the championship game. We lost, and I cried. And cried. Sobbed, really. Because I cried a lot. And I hate losing. And that's when I began training for Ironman.

When I was 12 years old I won a free-throw contest, making 14 out of 25, which meant I got to go compete at the state contest all the way in Jamestown. For the weeks in between my Dad would take me to go shoot freethrows at the gym, just me and him. I only made 9 of 25 in Jamestown. But that's when I began training for Ironman.

In the 8th grade I picked a fight with the most unpopular kid at school for no reason at all. He was weird, and poor, and dirty. But I didn't know him, not really. His nickname was Buttcheek. Swear to God. I thought it'd make me cooler if I kicked his ass. So I picked a fight after lunch, and got my ass kicked. Which is precisely what I deserved. I was embarrassed and humiliated and, wouldn't know the word or how to to identify the feelings then, but humbled and ashamed. And that's when I began training for Ironman.

When I was a freshman in high school, I was little and awkward and scrawny. I didn't get to play much on my football team. When I was a sophomore, I was little and awkward and scrawny. But I knew I wasn't too bad a player because my Dad had played catch with me since I was 5 years old. But the coach would never put me in. One day at practice this kid hurt his back and was lying there on the field. "He just got the wind knocked out of him," the coaches said. So on water break everybody - including the coaches - went to the sideline and this kid was out there by himself. So I brought him some water. His name was Ty and he was my best friend in the world after that, all through high school and college. He's the only person from high school I even still talk to. And that's when I began training for Ironman.

When I was a junior in high school I grew a little, and became a starter on the junior varsity football team. I was a wide receiver. I also dressed for varsity games, which was a big deal. One day in the hallway my dumbass sophomore coach said to me, "I hear you're doing really well on the football field this year." And I said, "Yeah, imagine what I could've done with some playing time last year, coach." And he said, "Say now, that's not fair." And I said, "You want to talk about not fair, we can do that too." And that's when I began training for Ironman.

The summer between my junior and senior years in high school I worked really really hard. And I became a varsity starter on the football team. And I got to crash through the paper for real this time. And it was everything I knew it would be. And that's when I began training for Ironman.

Then I hurt my ankle just before the basketball season, and I couldn't play. I couldn't heal in time to make the team. I was done playing organized sports. And that's when I began training for Ironman.

When I was a freshman in college, I was coming home really late one night after a party and this dude and his girlfriend were fighting in the entryway of my dorm. And as I approached, the dude hit the girl. So I ran up and told him to stop it, and tried to separate them. And he pushed her away and got in my face, so I punched him hard, like in the movies. He reeled back, and the girlfriend gasped, and I turned to her like Superman would and asked if you're okay miss, and she pushed me and called me an asshole and put her arm around her boyfriend who was doubled up and escorted him outside, asking him if he was okay. And that's when I began training for Ironman.

In the summer of 1995 I met a boy named Teddy who had a sister named Katherine, and they were both abused and I reported it to people who could do something about it...and likely made things much worse for them before they got better. And I met a boy named Zyontis, and he'd never been on a canoe before, and when I suggested we all go on a hike and said, "What's hike?", and I googled his name and I'm not sure, but there might today be a warrant out for his arrest. And - this happened long before I would have imagined any kind of impending irony - I woke up a kid named Jacob because I'd gotten a call at 2am that his Dad had died and his mother thought I should tell him. These kids are all men now, but in my mind they're still 10, 11, 12 years old. But that's when I began training for Ironman.

In the spring of 1996 mother and Dad came to visit me in Boston, and we watched part of the Boston Marathon go by. And that's when I began training for Ironman.

One early fall day in 1996, I spent the day on the lake with my mom and Dad and Amy. Dad was driving the boat. I water-skied a little, when suddenly the boat died. I was behind the boat, and for some reason let go of the rope. The wind was coming up, and Dad tried to get the boat started up but couldn't. The boat was drifting away, and I was swimming after it as fast as I could. But it was hopeless. I was not going to reach it. I started looking around for a backup plan, like swimming to shore. Just then a boat came by and picked me up and towed us in. And that's when I began training for Ironman.

The next day, I golfed 36 holes with my Dad and his buddies. I spent the day trying to outdrive my old man, who could hit the ball a ton. I think I managed it a handful of times. On the 35th hole I had a huge drive, but felt a little pull in my back. On the 36th hole, standing on top of the ball for the final putt of the day, my legs suddenly gave out underneath me and my back went into horrible spasms. The pain was excruciating. I was 22 years old, and my Dad had to carry me back to the car, then into the house. I could only lay on the floor, so he sat next to me and held my hand, the way good friends clasp thumbs in a handshake. He had to help me to the bathroom, I was so useless. That was the last round I ever golfed with my Dad. And that's when I began training for Ironman.

In the last days of 1996, I shoveled the walk because I didn't know what else to do, and the house full of mourning was suffocating me. And that's when I began training for Ironman.

The next day I literally carried my brother and sister and mother into the room to see what we should never have had to see, and in that moment lost the vision of youth; the Rider wears lenses because he was blinded that day. And I'll never erase their trembling wails as I somehow wrapped them up, all three of them, and carried them into the room. And how I thought, one of a handful of clear thoughts I'd have for the next 8 years, that I have to keep my head up, I have to keep my eyes open, I have to do this. I have got to do this. Not because I was stronger than any of them. But because I was much, much weaker. And that's when I began training for Ironman.

In the spring of 1997 the Red River flooded the town I went to college in, so they cancelled classes so we could all go help sandbag, and we'd sandbag all morning and by that afternoon our work would be flooded, and I sat in my apartment with Amy and it was nearly midnight and we'd had no sleep for two or three days because this water was not stopping and it just wasn't possible that all these miles away from the river the streets were filling with water, and then the National Guard drove by and said over a loudspeaker that they were evacuating the area and it was like a post-apolcolypse movie and I was sitting on the couch exhausted when it suddenly occurred to me, and I turned to Amy and said, "We have to go right now." So we left and drove an hour and got the last hotel room in a little town on Highway 2 and the next day the entire city went underwater, and then a fire started and downtown started to burn, and that was the worst year I could think of, ever. Ever. But that's when I began training for Ironman.

On Ash Wednesday 1998 I went to church and they made a cross made of ashes on my forehead and I went to Barnes & Noble after that but chose to not wipe the cross away and people looked at me weird, and I liked that. So I wrote a song called Dust, and I that's when I began training for Ironman.

In 2001 those Towers fell and that made no sense at all, and it never ever will. And that's when I began training for Ironman.

In 2002 I nearly lost everything else that mattered to me, but by grace did not. And my friend Mike said "I believe you can be the best among us." And that's when I began training for Ironman.

In the fall of 2003 I swam 25 yards before stopping at the wall, wheezing and dizzy and gasping. And that's when I began training for Ironman.

In the spring of 2004 I took my new bike, the Grey Ghost, fresh from the bike shop out for a short ride. I got a flat tire and had no tools to fix it. Hell, didn't even know how to fix it. It was raining and cold and getting dark. I walked 3 miles in my cleats before a guy in a pimped out bright yellow pickup picked me up. And that's when I began training for Ironman.

In summer 2004 I finished my first goal race, and learned what it felt like to set that kind of goal, something absurd and lofty and impossible, and then change your life to reach it. And I became an addict, and that's when I began training for Ironman.

In 2005 I crawled and clawed my way through a Half Ironman, inexperienced and - I know now - unprepared. I collapsed at the finish line, but it felt so good. And that's when I began training for Ironman.

Last October I finished my first marathon. I lost 5 toenails and my left little toe exploded in the world's most spectacular blister. I was physically unprepared after spending the summer training for a Half Ironman. I didn't know I could hurt that bad. I didn't know the human body could endure that level of self infliction. I usually give my medals away - the "stuff" of being a finisher never meaning too much to me. But I kept that one. And I wear it around the house somedays, if only to remind myself that yes, I can and once, I did. And that's when I began training for Ironman.

On May 20, I rode my bike 100 miles for the first time. And that's when I began training for Ironman.

This summer I've finished - not always easily - 2 Half Ironman races, when last summer one about did me in. And that's when I began training for Ironman.

Two days ago while I was running this kid was pulling his puppy along, and he had a gentle-leader type leash on him, only his mom had put the leash on the dog's nose way too tight so it was like a muzzle, so I stopped and loosened it and then showed the kid how to walk his dog with a gentle-leader on it. And in a world where kids should not talk to strangers and strangers do not help one another, I was glad our paths crossed. The puppy's name was Roscoe. And that's when I began training for Ironman.

Later today I'll run 12 miles or so. And I'll begin training for Ironman.

There are many for whom it's just a race. It's not some "high drama metaphor" as Iron Wil calls it. Who are training to qualify, or to outdo, or accomplish some specific time, or placement. It's just another part of a season maybe, or the end of a season, or a pinnacle of whatever height. To them I say very very good luck. I hope for you to accomplish all you're setting out for. I hope you do everything you're capable of, I hope you have the most excellent race of your life. For me, it's somehow become the fruition of a lifetime. Is that possible? Is that even possible, that one could have the audacity to think his entire life is leading to this single moment? I guess I think it is. Is that lacking perspective? No, I think for the first time I'm capable of perspective. Is it self important? I don't think so. Maybe. But it is important, at least to me. Listen; the world still spins, the sun rises and sets, the dogs bark and the winter will fly regardless of my impending September. I know that. And not that this moment won't combine with everything in between and before and after to become the trail to which the next milestone, whatever and wherever it is, is reached. But today, here and now, this is it. This is everything I've ever wanted to be. This is everything I never knew I could be. This is everything I would have hoped, wildly and unspoken, could be possible. On the precipice now; my calendar isn't defined by days or weeks, but by training days and miles and meters. And every day of that is a new reality, a new opportunity, a new possibility. And everyday, I begin training for Ironman.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Ironman Bike Course...

I've never met him, and only know him through the blogosphere (though SLS hung with him awhile back), but he seems way cool; Simply Stu has posted a complete covereage of the bike course on his website. Every mile (sped up so it won't tak you 7 hours to watch it...though you will want 15 minutes or so...)

Check it out here...

A few things of might want to watch the video on one screen and have a look at this on another as you follow along...

...When you get to Locust Drive, then turning right on Bruce Street before you get to Paoli Street - Stu will be talking about how sometimes there's water here and sometimes there isn't - right there, to the right, is Firemen's Park in Verona. This is where I raced the Triterium on Father's Day '05 (with my Grandpa!) and where I park my car when I go and ride the Veronoa loop when I'm in Wisconsin...

...When you see, after turning right off of Cty Route G, the red numbers come up saying you're at about mile 25 of the bike course - look quickly on your left and you'll see a sign fly by - this is the sign that says "Donald Park - Pop's Knoll" - the picture is over in the training images (I think...)

...Just out of Mt. Horeb, you turn onto S, and then a quick left onto Witte Road, just after Stu says "great, great rollers" and where the red text says "fast and fun..." - This is the hill that I shot video of before on the blog, and which nearly friggin' killed me with my wheel wobble. This descent, right away on Witte, is a 42+mph descent -

...Just after you're on Stagecoach, Stu shows a shot from a plane pointing out a hill in the trees. This is the first of what I call the Triplets. These. Suck. Ass.

...Notice how little time there is between hills 1 and 2 of the triplets. Somehow have to save leg strength and get the heart rate down between the two. Hill 1, as you see, goes on forever. Hill 2 is shorter, but steeper. Neither are easy at all.

...Looking forward to the fresh pavement on Timber Lane...

...That last hill on Midtown Road, especially on the second loop - honestly. I know there will be walkers up that hill. It's a tough one.

...Man it sound like all the crows in Verona are going to be a blast!!!

Anyway, great that you have a chance to see everywhere that I'll be. Can't wait to ride the whole shebang one more time next weekend - so exciting to watch this stuff!!!! Thanks Stu!!!!!!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Becoming Ironman: Wave Rider

Right, so I'm the water today for around an hour. Monday is typically all technique - mostly drills. Nothing too terribly exciting. But one thing I did do today was a 100 yard time trial. You do these here and there throughout the season to get some kind of gauge of your speed. Its relevance to Ironman requires's a 100 yard sprint. Not a 2.4 mile haul. But still, it's a little like bench pressing your 1 rep max or something. Not totally useful in the real world, but it gives you some measure of what you're capable of.

So I do a few hundred yards warming up and then I do the first of two time trials. To this point my Personal Record has been 1:35...which I think I posted somewhere on the blog awhile back. The thing about swimming 100 yards fast is learning to not try and swim fast. When you try and swim fast, you end up sloshing around. You lose your form and your technique goes to hell. Productive time in the water is all about efficiency - going as fast as you can while maintaining technique. If you lose your technique, you lose efficiency and are creating drag in the water. So the whole time you're swimming "fast", you're really trying to swim "smart". Constantly gauging your physical position in the water and making adjustments.

By the way, sometime in spring 2005 I remember setting a P.R. of 1:53. If that gives you any idea from whence we came.

Okay so, back to today.

I'm all warmed up and I swim my 100 yards. Concentrate on form. Concentrate on breathing. Don't rush, don't splash, don't slosh.

I hit the wall at 1:30.

Sweet! A new P.R.! Outstanding!

So I tuck that into my cerebral back pocket and continue with my workout. Drills for the next half an hour or so, before I attempt another time trial - this one gives me an indication of where I am after a bit of a workout, when I should be just a shade fatigued.

So I'm 35 minutes into the workout or so and I start my second time trial. Form form form. Easy easy easy. If I felt myself getting a little too out of control, I'd back off. I wanted to stay within 2 seconds of my previous time, and ideally match it. I pushed my last 50 through the fatigue now setting in.

I hit the wall.

I looked at my watch.


Oh well. Not too bad anyway, only 4 seconds.


I took off my goggles because they must be foggy.

I wiped off the watch because there must be some water droplets distorting the digits.

Nope. It's not a mistake. Holy shit. Not 1:34.


Are you kidding me?

And this is what went through my head while I recovered on the kickboard for 50 yards:

Sick? What sick. You know what? Fuck you ghosts. You're useless to me now. Your haunting is starting to sound like whining. You think you can get in my head anymore? You think I'm still that weak? You think I'm not capable of this? You think I don't know what time it is? Hell, I was down that road when it was gravel, son. Shut up and let me swim.

And that's when Eminem came on the ol' SwiMP3 player.

Sometimes you just feel tired.
You feel weak. And when you feel weak, you feel like you wanna just give up.
But you gotta search within you, you gotta find that inner strength
and just pull that shit out of you
and get that motivation to not give up.
and not be a quitter.
No matter how bad you wanna just fall flat on your face and collapse.

And that's what rang through my head the rest of the swim, before my 4 mile run. Till I collapse. I will do this all day. All day long. 17 hours if I have to. You see if I won't.

Yeah, it's a hundred yard sprint. Yeah, it doesn't get a lot of mileage talking about Ironman distances. But I can't tell you what it means to my confidence to have that kind of crushing of the old P.R. this close to Ironman. 11 seconds. Are you kidding me?

On February 7th, precisely on half year ago and still surrounded by ghosts, I said this.

Not. Any. More.


Crisis averted. Returning to Defcon 5.

(...but I'm still going to bed early from here on out!)

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Perhaps a diagnosis...

Well I woke up around 2:30am with a really scratchy throat and that sort of...thickness you feel somewhere behind your nose when a headcold is coming on. Know what I'm talking about? So I took some herbal stuff - I've come to hate medicine in pretty much any kind - and went back to bed. I woke up at 8:00 and forced myself back to sleep until about 10:00. I've cancelled all plans for the day (including a 6 mile run) and have been doing nothing. Resting. Period. I took an hour nap. I do have some work to do, so I'm behind the computer for that. I'm happy to report that presently I think my head feels better than it did at 2:30 last night. Which hopefully is a good thing and indicates that either I'm not coming down with anything at all, or that I was strong enough to generally wipe it out before it really took hold. I used to be kind of a sickly person. At least twice a year I could count on a drag out, knock down, freakshow kind of illness that would shut me up for at least a week. I haven't had that since 2004...since I started triathlon. That relationship isn't lost on me.

I'll force myself into a really early night, and we'll see what tomorrow is like. I'm officially under two weeks left in fitness training. Every workout - including the missed one today - is important. Illness is not on the schedule. I'll be most interested, even if I feel pretty well in the coming days, that my energy is back on my workouts. Yesterday's ride was no good.

So there you go. No crisis...but systems have been upgraded to Defcon 3. I'll know more in the coming days.


Saturday, August 05, 2006


Today is the first day I've been tired. I've been fatigued, worn out, lazy, just plain beat. But always those things have been incidental.

Hell, I'm too tired to write this right now.

I haven't slept past 6:30am on a Saturday for...geez, I don't know how long. Sometime in March, maybe. There have beent times, for excitement or nervousness or I don't know what, when I've barely slept the Friday night before, but I'm still up, even if a shade groggy, and out the door with the sunrise and on the bike. And even if it's not a great ride, even if it's a struggle, it's usually been a useful struggle - some nutrition thing needing addressing, or some pacing issue revealing itself. Today wasn't like that. Today I was tired.

I had about a 2500 yard swim this morning, and had the alarm set for 6:30 to get in the water, then a 4 hour ride (short, actually, compared to my usual 5 1/2 to 6 hours...). The alarm went off this morning and I could hardly function. I prompty shut it off and went back to sleep. This wasn't laziness rearing its head, something where if I just got up off my ass I'd get in gear. I mean I was tired. I've been busy at work, and have had some late nights...but this was some crazy tired. So I woke up again at 7:30. Nope. 8:30? No, back to bed. Finally up at 9:00, and took my sweet time getting out the door before I was finally in the water by 9:45 or something. The swim workout actually wasn't that bad, but I expected it to revive me, to be one of those moments where it sucks to get out the door, but once you're out there it falls into place. But I was never quite myself. I don't meander around getting out the door. I don't take 3 trips upstairs because I forgot 3 different things. I was out of focus.

4 hours then on the bike off the swim, and with a tailwind on the way out I had some false speed. I stopped at about 3 hours to visit a friend, and just standing there I felt weary like I did early in the season after 5 hour rides. Used to be I'd come home from a ride and go ride to bed. I haven't required that for a long, long time. But I felt like that with still an hour to go. My nutrition wasn't weird...I had no particular drama...just really friggin' tired. The last hour home was into a vicious headwind, so I was naturally slowed, but I was constantly coasting, stopping my pedal, regrouping. The numbers wouldn't say it - something like a 17.8 or 17.2 or something mph average - but it wasn't a great ride.

So I don't know what that's all about. But it sucks, and I'm trying not to get all OCD about it and contemplate if I'm overtrained, or coming down with something, or have Malaria, or was abducted by aliens and now have a displeasing implant like Cartman. Maybe I just need to sleep in tomorrow.

And so I shall. G'night.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Last Long Run

Well, there you go then. With zero fanfare, the last long run is over. 16.15 miles yesterday. I was scheduled for 15, but that additional mile seemed somehow important. It went exceedingly well. I am officially dialing in, my friends. I am abandoning ghost after ghost. Nutritional issues, pacing issues, heat issues, strength issues - all are coming together, in all disciplines, and I can actually feel myself tuning up. Refining. Sharpening. This kicks ass.

The data - I approached the run precisely how I hope to approach the marathon - stupid easy the first 15 miles. Somewhere between a 10:00 and 10:30 pace - broad like that so I have latitude to see how I'm feeling and shift if I want to. Not out to impress anybody, but wanting always to be running. All these miles, they're just a warmup. I'm trying to have the discipline to treat them that way, so I have juice in the tank come mile 15. I'm not training this damn hard and long only to walk the friggin' marathon.

Unlike the last time I ran 15 miles (and granted the heat was a greater issue that day - but it was still pretty damn hot on the asphalt last night until it cooled down some), where I really struggled the last 3 miles even at such an "easy" pace, I found myself having to really hold back the reins the last 3 miles. I was consistently wanting to run faster than my alloted pace. Good news: the horses were ready to race, even after 12 miles or so.

There is, in any point in a long distance run, this surreal moment, this instant, where it hurts. Where before that instant you're thinking "Huh. Not so bad at all." And after that moment, your body begins a revolt. Your muscles begin to scream at you, and the engine room starts sending all kinds of Code Red shit to the mind and body. It's not generally any one thing, and it's not injury or anything - just...everything hurts. Your legs feel thick. You can start to literally feel the strands of your muscles as they each fatigue. You stop having a sense for intentionally putting one leg in front of the other; you've been doing it so long today that the response is automatic. When you see people at races with that grimace on their face, or when they're shuffling along, they've reached that threshold. It's why saying things like "You're almost there!" to a runner at mile 20 of a marathon gets no mileage - because you're not almost there. You're not even close. 6 miles is a friggin' eternity away. I think in order to do more than just survive the marathon, you have to become acquainted with this threshold. Set up shop. Move right in. So that it doesn't freak you out. So that you're not surprised.

For me it seems to be right around mile 14. That's about where I experienced it at the Twin Cities marathon last fall, and in my long runs. Before that, I reach the artificial milestone of the half-marathon feeling pretty good, and the mind dumbly says "wheeeee! Halfway there! This is easy breezy!" Then suddenly in 5 strides you're doing battle. That's why I decided to tack on that extra mile yesterday. At mile 14 my legs began their revolt, and it's there that you have to pull it out of you. It's there that your body will not be bullshitted. You either have what it takes to keep going, or you do not, and your body is uninterested in your simple prodding and pushing. Step one is the fitness - are you physically capable of it? If you are, then on to the greater battle with the mind. You have to have a reason - something deep down in your heart, in your gut, to go that next quarter mile. Half mile. Then finally mile. Then do it again. It's why it's said that the first 140 miles of an Ironman are run with your body. The last six are run with your heart.

So at mile 14 the revolt begins. It becomes more difficult to maintain the same pace. Your energy output feels like you should be running much faster, but you check your watch and you're going the same pace you were earlier, when it was easy like 2nd grade. There's no crises - that kind of pain is much, much different; nutritional, injury, etc, and does require the smart runner to stop, and right now. I've been there too, and that's a whole different thing. No, this kind comes when you're doing everything right, believe it or not. So I decided in the middle of mile 14 that we were going to get through to mile 15, as planned, and then crank this up a bit. Mind over body. Just as planned at Ironman. Nothing absurd - no sudden two-minute-faster pace. Just a shade more. To teach the body that it can, in fact, do it. To shut the engine room up. And for the mind to learn all about this pain. For me it likes to start in my upper hamstrings and move its way down to my calves. So I memorized it. Every pulsing, pushing shred of it. How my legs felt like granite (Iron) with each footfall. How I knew that if, for some reason, I stopped running right now "just to walk for a minute", that that would be it - I'd struggle with a dead man's shuffle the rest of the way home. It becomes surreal and ethereal. You're doped up on endorphins and adrenaline and lactate. You reach this weird place of a sort of meditative zen. You find yourself concentrating on everything, totally in tune with your body, no time or energy anymore to look around, or wave at the passers-by. You even pray the light turns green by the time you get there because stopping is not an option. There becomes nothing but the run.

And once comfortably numb then, I sped up. It's a mind trick. Your body shrieks that it can't go any faster. So you tell your body hush now, s'okay, of course we're not going to go any faster. But if you can get just a single kick, just a tiny push, it'll acclimate to your new, faster pace without knowing it. Without exaggerating its fatigue. Now you're overcoming the threshold. Breaking through the famed wall, as it were - because a wall is really what it is. You can't be foolish here - an all out sprint isn't in the cards, and push even a bit too hard and you will inevitably crumble. It's a razor's edge now, this. If you find the sweet spot, you'll maintain a higher pace. Stay under too far, and you'll start to slow more and more. Go over and you'll be done within a mile. Small steps. Only a bit faster. It has to be sustainable. Just a tiny increase. But that tiny increase can bear some momentum, and pretty soon you're regaining some kind of control over the revolt.

15 miles at 10:07 pace.
1.15 miles at 9:27 pace.

Of course I'm not done running - by no means. I'm not tapering or downshifting or anything like that yet. But the next time I run that far; when I see 16.16 miles tick by on my watch, it'll be - Godwilling - in the early evening in Madison.

No drama. No blisters, no strained calves, no wow-that-hurts chafing. Ironman uniform battle tested - check. Drinking every 12 minutes - check. Gel every 40-50 minutes - check. And that's that. Final deposit into the Ironman running account - check.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Frankie Says...


Remember those t-shirts? From the 80's? Frankie Goes To Hollywood? Anybody? Ah, nevermind.

So I was thinking about this crucial piece of becoming Ironman a lot this last week: relax. It's valuable from many perspectives.

This thing is such a head game. It's such a physically grueling, draining, exhaustive thing - the race, of course, but the training certainly - but it's much more important to have your head in the game. I think if you're making smart decisions, using your brain, and approaching whatever's coming at you with a relaxed, panic free, methodical and detached perspective, you can probably punch your way out of the bag. You can have the physical training down, but if you don't have your head on, you're screwed. The same is not true of the reverse. I think you can go into Ironman physically less capable than that guy over there, but the smarter of the two of you will have the better day.

I remember my first open water swim, in 2004. I was totally, utterly unprepared for the boiling water - and it was just a small sprint race! I had the training down - at least, to that point - and so I was certainly physically capable of the distance. But when the washing machine began, I was so unprepared for the clamoring of bodies, the punches and kicks and flailing, that it very nearly sent me into a serious panic attack - and I've never been one to panic or have attacks from it. My whole system froze up. I nearly called for a lifeguard then and there. The week after the race, in fact, my body experienced a freezing fight or flight response when I got back into the pool - it didn't want to swim. I'd become afraid. It was crazy.

Now, I relax. I expect and absorb the inevitable blows. I do what's practical to protect my face early - tucking my head in when it's down, breathing quickly - but I don't freak out anymore. When a body crawls over my legs, when my arm strikes the dude next to me. Just part of the deal. Relax and stay in the flow. Last summer when I'd hit or feel a body, I'd immediately stop and change position. Ooops, sorry I was in your way there. Ack, didn't mean to hit you buddy. Not anymore. It is what it is. The more I try to avoid it the uglier it would get; you don't slam on the brakes and stop when traffic is heavy - you adjust your speed to the cars around you and go. Just stay the course and relax. Don't let it into your head. Don't let it affect your heartrate. Just swim.

I was cruising west on Highway 2 last week with a 25mph wind at my back, down long stretches of mostly flat and sometimes slightly descending highway. It was a 4-lane road, but still pretty busy. The shoulders were in pretty good shape, but there was the incidental crack or road debris. I was flying at 27, 28, 30, 31 mph on the road. Not for a little while on a short descent, but for 10 miles. I have to tell you, since the weird wheel wobble at 40mph in Wisconsin, I have not been the same descending. It got into my my head. I've found myself justifying reasons to lay on the brakes a bit on any serious descents. And on this road, I could feel myself getting faster and faster even when not descending. Not for that short 5 or 10 seconds of exhilaration, but over the course of long minutes. The bike felt fine. No drama at all. But fear still started creeping in. I'd glance down and see my speed, and suddenly concoct all kinds of scenarios for how it could go wrong right now. I know, I know - that's useless. And is so not my M.O. at all, in life or triathlon. I wanted to tap the brakes. Just a bit. Just slow down some, I'd feel a little more in control then.

But then I thought: no. I won't be motivated by fear here. I won't let it overcome me. So, I relax. Start with the face. Move to the shoulders, then the upper arms. Now the forearms in the aero bars. Finally the hands and fingers - no need for a death grip here. Relax, let the bike do its thing, and ride the wind. S'okay.

Was I glad to finally turn north and not be at the whim of gust and gale anymore? Sure. But it was well done, and another ghost was evicted. There are two kinds of peopel in the world; those that ride the wind, and those that let the wind ride them. I choose Windrider.

Be cool when the world is tense.
Be loose when the hold is tight
And with the wind in your hair singing 'Sweet Baby James'
You know, life can be alright.

Shout out... my wife Amy, who (for some reason) married me 8 years ago today!

Will you stay with me
Will you be my love
Among the fields of barley

We'll forget the sun
In his jealous sky
As we lie in fields of gold