Monday, March 26, 2007

On The Move

Geez, well, hi there, hello. I know, hardly recognize me, I look so different. Yeah, been, what, 2 weeks? Something like that? Good, good. Yup, just been busy. How's things with you?

So here's the deal. I have a major announcement. We're moving. Amy and I have had in mind since last spring that a move was in order - just...ready for something new and different. We've given this a ton of thought (even though it's the first I'm sharing it here), and New Mexico was high on the list for a long time, but then we got to considering a multitude of other factors, and - you'll dig this, I promise - decided that we would make our new home in...Madison. Home of the Ironman. How dope is that?

Lots of reasons, I won't bore you with all of them, but some of the most important are - we love the area, are familiar with it from years of visits, and we have family there, which is important to us. That there's a great triathlon community is just a huge bonus. That there's an Ironman is just stupid bonus. So.

Not probably Madison specifically, actually - more like Madison-and-the-surrounding-areas. We actually have a community pretty well picked out, but stand by on that until more develops. There are lots and lots of little towns around Madison that, to call them suburbs is inappropriate, because they're old towns themselves, with personality and history and originality, but that happen to be 12 or 20 minutes away from Madison. Anyway, that's where we're looking.

What this means, of course, is that we'll be selling our home. And this is where my two-week absence comes in. We've been cramming 6 years worth of home improvement projects into 2 weeks, and it has been totally insane. Painting, staining, fixing, moving, organizing, storing, replacing, demolishing, building, on and on and on. Our house is beautiful - I mean, before the projects, it's a really great house - but the long list of "little" projects - the stuff that takes 3 hours on a Saturday - was piled pretty high into several days' worth of 3-hour projects. We want to get the house listed soon - as soon as we can (next week?) - so that means hard work now to address the little things that we think will help it sell. Along the way, we've been sending boatloads to Goodwill and sending tons of other stuff to storage, which means we've been really purging the house of years of accumulated clutter and stuff. It feels so good to start to clear one's path of that stuff, you know? Not just because physically there's more space, it's just nice to toss away irrelevance.

Anyway, we're almost there. The list of projects is shorter, and the projects themselves are shorter, and soon it'll be down to cleaning up, and then it'll be ready for showing. Meanwhile, this has had to be top priority in life. My training came to a screeching halt. I've not run in 2 weeks, have ridden my bike once, and not swam at all. Amy says it's making me crazy - and I feel out of sorts, weird, and off-kilter because of it. It's also pushed me back behind schedule for a triathlon in 5 weeks and a marathon is less than 2 months, nevermind moving towards race-weight; meals have mostly had to be what's convenient and when's convenient. But hey - such is life post-Ironman, you know? I gotta steer the ship, lest the ship steer me. Alas, there is more to life than triathlon.

So, it leaves me here: For any training program, I build in two weeks cushion for illness or injury - never thinking I take those two weeks all at once. Well, cushion gone. This means, of course, I can't get injured or ill. I'll have to spend the next couple of weeks regaining lost fitness, when I was just starting to chisel into a machine. Starting today, I'm back to regular schedules, even if I have to tend to some of my projects later in the evening - I think things are far enough along where I can prioritize as such. I'm on my bike this afternoon come hell or high water, and with a high of 75 forecast, it can't come soon enough.

Anyway, that's my story. I'm back now, though, so thanks for waiting. I'll keep you posted on the move - we don't have specific plans yet as far as a timeline - there has to be movement on our house selling, first. We know that by the time school starts in the fall, we want (need) to be moved in. Beyond that - anytime between June and late August could see us moving, depending on how selling the house goes. Crazy times, these. Best managed with bicycle and running shoes close at hand.

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Week That Was(n't)

Well, it's been a mostly-not-great week of training, and that's okay. I've been utterly swamped at work, working hard around the house, and enjoying some family time. The result: Cripes, nary a workout. Tuesday was some 60 degrees (30's and snow yesterday - typical), which saw The Return of Ol' Blue to the roads, which could not have been more awesome. Otherwise...I'll swim/run a bit today, and move my long run to this weekend (Sunday?), before next week getting back to the regular schedule.

But - I was feeling a little run down lately. A shade overwhelmed with some deadlines and workload, and it's those times that I most appreciate a solid workout, but it's also those times when it's sometimes not the best thing in general. So it is, and that's okay. I'm not going to beat myself up about it.

Otherwise - well, let's hope the weather continues to get warmer - we had a solid 5 days of improvement before this cold snap. So sick of winter, I can't even tell you.

Friday, March 09, 2007


Well, for 11 miles yesterday things went brilliantly. I was clipping along, effortlessly, at around a 9:40 pace, with delusions of wrapping up 15 miles well under a 10:00 pace and all the earth would sing my praises. Then I bonked with a magnificent thud, and by the final mile I was struggling in the mid-elevens. Finished with a 10:03 pace - fine, consistent with my other runs and what I'm wanting to achieve, but those last 4 - especially 3 - miles seriously did me in. And I was pretty messed up for the next several hours until I was finally able to get some serious calories and simple sugars in me. So strange, the bonk. So not a good time. I should've had a bigger dinner the night before, a bigger breakfast, and a bigger lunch. Stupid early season mistakes. Yet - 15 miles in the first week of March is a good thing. I'm feeling right back on target for my May marathon, and that this early season long distance running is going to change the game when I'm racing Half Iron this year. Dope.

Anyway, other than that, a pretty decent week of training. My whole "just relax" approach seems to be producing almost etherial results - in the pool, I've really been focusing on my pull, and on "climbing over the barrel" - I realize that my stroke has been too much to my sides, and I think too "S" like. I actually saw an underwater video of Ian Thorpe that really made me realize something I'm still doing wrong after all this time, so I've been focusing on my technique a lot - which means engaging some argumentative muscles, but that's half the fun. Wednesday, I decided to test myself with a fast 100 - my P.R. for a 100 is from last season, well into Ironman training, at 1:24. Wednesday, so not in race ready shape in the pool, I knocked out 1:25. That's pretty insane, and I attribute it to the improvements in form. So, have to feel good about that.

Tuesday I was on Fyr, but it was really cold (our last "really cold" day? I'll believe that when...), and all the mushy melty snowpack had, then, frozen. So riding on it was nuts - super slick and really rough. I'm really improving my bike handling skills riding in this crap - I don't know how much that will translate to the road, but none of it's bad, I suppose. Anyway, I was due for an hour, then a 20 minute run, but I cut the bike short so as to not freeze to death, and ran 30 minutes after riding 30. All's well that end's well.

This weekend I have to fit a 7 mile run in somewhere, and 2 hours on my bike. We'll see. Meantime, hope everybody has a great weekend, with the wind at your back, and may you be bonk free forever and ever, amen.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Becoming Ironman

I remember the thickness, the weight of the climate on my skin. Early, earlier than the rest of the world wakes up. Because we've chosen to remove ourselves from the rest of the world. The earth is dark, and the skies only begin to glow deep blue with cloud cover.

I remember sitting, one of the first few, on a school bus. Transported in those instants back to countless trips across North Dakota for football, or basketball. The feeling of those green vinyl seats. The unique smell of the diesel vapors that is somehow comforting for its familiarity. Here again, an athlete in transit.

I remember the sensation of the carpet as I lay down for a few last moments to meditate. Give thanks. Recall. Begin. I hear the murmers as they travel down the hallway. The energy is electric, like the air in a thunderstorm.

I can feel the water, warmer than the air, as the still brightening skies begin to appear in heavy, dimensional clouds. I am surrounded by heroes. My swim cap, even it has a smell.

My God, how glorious a cannon might thunder and echo forever and ever and ever, the harbinger that nothing will ever be the same.

Pull, glide, pull. I can sense it even here, in my arms. A ready reaction to propel. One among thousands.

I remember - be thoughtful not to trip and fall, or stub a toe on the concrete. Don't try to run too fast up the helix. Try and check the adrenaline. But then I see them, my Army, the Team that has come to guide and push and encourage. I remember erupting helplessly into a grin. This moment could be the polar opposite of sadness.

It's cold out here. And wet. I wonder if the weather will break, I wonder if this shower will let up around mile 20, or 40, or 100. It helps, maybe, to be away from the nucleus that is Madison. Now it's just me and my machine for the rest of the morning. For the rest of the afternoon. For the rest of my life.

The rain, I remember it becoming meaningless. Soaked to where discomfort or prevention are long past ideas. It just is, now. Seven hours is a long time to get acclimated.

It feels surreal to sit down. I'm shaking and the cold is everything, but at least I'm inside, at least I'm warm for a moment. Those dreams, the ones soundtracked with Rocky anthems during July training, they're in the ether now. At present, the spectacle and specter of Ironman is secondary to the biology of an Ironman athlete. Somehow there's a marathon to run. Somehow I have got to stop shaking. The volunteers, they have sandwhiches and warm water. I cup the warm styrofoam between my hands and drink, willing it to warm up my fingers and toes. I so want a sandwhich, but they're slathered in mayo, and I curse. I remember thinking - I can't stay here anymore. I can't get comfortable again. I can't make the rain and cold meaningful once more.

Somewhere time is going by, somewhere the world is revolving, somewhere people are keeping schedules and doing things that require a glance at the clock. I am not. I am just running. As I sit here, I can recall that thickness in my legs, hard and tendril and hot, pounding against cold and concrete. The world fades from gray to purple to black, and the city reflects itself a million times over in the puddles before I crack the image with a solid footfall, sending it into ripples. Still the Team, still the cold, still I run.

Chicken broth. Good and Gracious God, who thought of this? I remember, as I do, requiring restraint - only drinking it in reward for another 2, or 3, or 4th mile.

So tired now. I can recall the mile, 16, when I actually tried to close my eyes and sleep while still running. Thinking if only I had a moment's rest, I could catch my second wind.

"C'mon, let's run up this hill," I can hear her, somebody from Somebody's Team, trying to help, doing what she can to will these athletes into Becoming Ironman. I am not critical of her efforts, but tell her no. I walk up the hill to spend energy sensibly; it's become of rare supply. I have to avoid cramping. But still, I am back in the game now.

Mile 22 is like...mile 90 of a century ride, or mile 8 of a 10 mile run. It's that thing around which the entire universe pivots, before which was uncertainty and strategy, and after which is determination-driven surety. I will finish. It is inevitable. Even if I break a leg now. Even if I have to crawl from here. I will finish.

Even now, here, on this cold Wednesday, tears fall as I write this, just remembering. It was this much to me.

Stupid elation now, just moronic, pure joy. Animal instinct. Under a mile to go, and I will myself to remember. Memorize this. Downtown is emptier now as the crowds are at The Finish Line, but for a few stragglers, one of whom says words I will never, ever forget. Looks like an Ironman to me.

Turn the corner and it's a supernova. The world has exploded in light and color and noise, doubled over by the wet reflections. It is Homecoming. It is being 9 Years Old. It is a thing so pervasive, so amazing, that I feel ill equipped to manage it. So much bigger than me. So much, this thing is.

The miles, the achievement, the stories and even the reflections like this one, none of those are present then. It's just happiness. Happiness to have finished A Race, which took so much more than 14 hours, 53 minutes, and 27 seconds to complete. It's days, maybe weeks before I'll understand. Maybe I still don't. But just then, no understanding is required. Just joy. And I'm not cold anymore, and couldn't tell you if it was still raining or no.

But I blink, and exhale, and it fades away again. It's March now. There are feet of snow on the ground, my tri-bike is shackled to a trainer, and I am just a guy at his computer. But these things, they come back to me like that. Tactile, immersive. In the car. On my lunch break. In a long run. Often unexpected, with a certain song, or the feel of that kind of high tech fabric, or the smell of rain. Sudden and whole and glorious.

Monday, March 05, 2007


Well, as the city dug out from it's second humongous snowstorm in 5 days, I headed out for 14 miles on Saturday - my longest run so far. It was definitely a tough run - not for fitness reasons, but because most of the residential streets had been marginally plowed, so much of it was like running in sand. Tough for pacing a bit, but a great workout for the legs. Finished with a 10:13 pace, which is just fine. It was the kind of tough road conditions where just getting out there for the run was a triumph.

I've really approached my running this season - and I think my season in general - very relaxed. I'm not out there trying to go harder or faster, just consistent. The more miles I spend around 10:00/pace, the more efficient I think I can get - I mean, that's a 4:20 marathon, which would be drastically improved. But it's also helping me to just run for the enjoyment of it - I'm finding it easy to naturally tune into the right pace, without checking all my gadgets and gizmos, and just go. Same with my winter biking - I'm not obsessing about speed or distance at all, but am just happy to be getting out there on my bike with snow on the ground. It's improving my bike fitness, strengthening those muscles to avoid that early-season sore, and giving me just a touch of a leg up so I'm more prepared when I'm finally on my tri bike. All of this is good news, and are lessons I'm taking from the last half of my summer last season, when things started to click. The less I try and do "too much", and the more I just stay within myself, I think I'll see far better results than ever before. I don't think this is the season for me to work on a lot of speed training, or to try and get comfortable doing a marathon under 4 hours, or whatever. I mean, look at my history here:

2005 Twin Cities Marathon
4:56:46 overall

2006 Liberty Triathlon Half Ironman
6:29:09 overall
2:31:31 run

2006 High Cliff Triathlon Half Ironman
6:31:15 overall

2006 Ironman Wisconson
14:53:27 overall
5:42:53 marathon

See? I've never had a "good" long-course race - by which I mean I'm executing racing - particularly the run - in accordance with my training. I've either been unprepared, stupid (like kicking all ass on the bike only to lose half an hour on the run), or not appropriately trained. So this year - easy breezy. The bike, I finally learned last year to stay within myself, to take it as it comes, and to keep fresh fresh fresh legs for the run. So now, if I can just get my long distance running to a place where I'm at all sensible, I really think I'll see some drastic improvements. It's not rocket science - I know it's there, I just haven't been able to put it all together yet, now in my 4th year of racing. May 19th - my first marathon - will be my first true test. Then, my first Half Iron, on June 9th. Then next year, if all goes well, I might be in a better position to spend my offseason improving power on the bike, or going faster on the run, and really getting strategic about that stuff. But this season, I really believe I can toss out some remarkable P.R.s if I can just keep to my strategy.

I had a teacher in college, at the Berklee College of Music, Livingston Taylor - James Taylor's brother. Best teacher ever, totally cool guy, and a legend musician in New Englad that's thought of as highly as brother James. Anyway, in his class, people would get up to perform and, in the heat of that moment, would suddenly start flittering and screaming and just trying to blow the doors off the joint. And he'd say - stop that. Stay within yourself. If you haven't done it in rehearsal, don't try it now when these people have paid good money to hear you. We'll all enjoy the song more if you play to your strengths, instead of trying to sound like whatever you heard on the radio. Anyway, good advice that I long ago incorporated into other parts of my life, and am only now starting to learn how to apply to triathlon.

Oh, and my nutrition has finally locked right on. I'm slightly ahead of schedule, I think, to be at Ironman weight (or within a few pounds, anyway), by my Half Iron in June - last year I wasn't there until the end of August. The long runs and long rides this early in the season are definitely doing their part for that. Good.

Anyway. Allegedly some temps in the 40's and mid 40's in the coming 10 days, which might do well to diminish some of these impressive snow drifts and clean things up a bit for easier training. Perhaps - just perhaps - the days of taking 20 minutes to get dressed just to go running will soon be behind us. Sigh. A guy can dream, can't he?

Friday, March 02, 2007

Just a moment.

In as much as, by nature, a blog is some kind of open journal at least, or forum for conversation at best, I have restrictions on it. I try to keep this a collection of my thoughts and experiences specific to triathlon. Which, because triathlon pervades a lot of the rest of my mind, spirit, soul, and body, does sometimes lend to tangents about how I feel in general. Or what I'm processing. Or something I'm learning. But still, I mean to share with you here only what fits into that context, with the occasional post about my dog or my adventures in getting a haircut notwithstanding. I choose this, because for me it's not important or appropriate to air or share anything else in this space. I think I sufficiently share who I am here, but with intentional boundaries.

I have tuned out of some formerly frequented blogs because they got suddenly weird. And comments would turn into flame wars. And entire conversations would get vague and confusing, the way it might when people start discussing politics at a Super Bowl party. And I'd read and think - wait - why am I reading this again? Didn't I subscribe to this channel because I was interested in the common bonds shared between endurance athletes? Somebody pass the chips.

Which is not to say that anybody's not totally welcome in their sphere to talk about whatever the hell they want. It's their space. Go crazy. Do as you wish. Yet, as often, that reasoning rings hollow for me. It removes from the author any responsibility to demonstrate an awareness of situation. Sure you can talk politics at your Super Bowl party. If you want. It's your house. But I came to watch football. So. Is the dip all gone? Ah. Well then, hello, I must be going.

So, all of that was a very winded preamble to this: I have something I feel like saying out loud. It has nothing to do with triathlon. It may be the only time I do this, because I am not a dramatic person. I only sometimes choose introspection, and in fact I'm not a soapbox person at all. I am a very direct person. I am honest and can be very outspoken. Sometimes opinionated. But not at the expense of anybody else. I am zealous of nothing. I am suspicious of a cause. Which is why when the conversation tends to tilt that way, I find something better to do.

What I'm saying is - nothing like that is happening here. I'm not hijacking Becoming Ironman and its purposes to either of us. I just have this one thing. It'll take two minutes. I feel like telling you about this, and I hope that's okay. Tune out now if you like, I won't be offended at all.

What I have to say is this: I choose now, this day, this moment, to remove myself from making entertainment of people's pain. Secondly, I remove myself from the perpetuation of the meaningless.

Point one: This actually comes from something I said last week, or the week before, in a post that isn't memorable, where I said something about how nobody seems to tell Britney Spears that she can't wear that outside the house. And then later I made a joke about how being her hairstylist is cheap work if you can get it. They were totally incidental quips, just off-hand remarks. But actually - I've been feeling really bad about it in the days since. Because whatever she has or has not been created to be, or chosen to be, or however the machinery of the famousphere has dealt with her, she's a human being. And she seems to be going through something terrible, but with cameras in her face. And I'm not comfortable feeling like I contributed to that. In fact, I'd like to say that I'm sorry. It was wrong of me to make jokes about a situation I do not understand. I don't have that right just because she's a public person.

This became accute, I realize, when I came across some of the same photos I'm sure you've seen, where this woman is having a complete meltdown while surrounded by cameras. It was actually sickening. That nobody said, "can I help you?", but instead just...documented the wreckage. flashflashflashflashflashflashflash. Like a scared, cornered creature in a strobe light. And they with shocked can-you-believe-this grins, and dollar signs in their eyes.

I feel sensitive to this.

Point two: Today I read where the Associated Press made a decision a few weeks ago to, as an experiment, to simply not cover Paris Hilton. Good lord I promise you, words I never thought you'd read in this blog include Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. Anyway, the AP thought - what if, instead of saying, "well, we have to publish it because we see that those guys over there are, what if we just...don't." They didn't, they said, do it out of an assumption that the American readership should or could be focusing on other, perhaps more important or substantial things. They didn't do it as an exercise in criticism or sociology. They just thought - maybe this isn't really news, what happened at the nightclub she was at last night. The result - most people didn't care. People just...didn't notice. And those that did, after it was leaked about the experiment, seemed to applaud it.

Meanwhile, there is the death of Anna Nicole Smith. (Ding! Third collection of syllables never before uttered in this space). The outrageousness of everybody surrounding the situation - and I have not followed this at all, I've simply been unable to escape it - has seemed to sterilize that this was a person. A mother. A person that somebody out there I'm sure cared deeply for as a human being, independent of whatever celebrity status for which she was or was not acclaimed. She died suddenly. Her life, whatever it was, has since been reduced to Her Death. And even that has been reduced to An Event.

I am very uncomfortable with this.

Somewhere, real people out there are mourning, and grieving, and hurting. And I will choose to not be privy to the reduction of those processes to sound bites and controversy and sensationalism.

Celebrity in this country has abducted us. I am inundated with photographs, cell phone video, paparrazi shots, blogs, magazines, opinions, snapshots, television shows, snippets, soundbites, etceteras ad nauseum, about people and situations that are not important to me. That waste my time and resources and energy. Whose economies revolve around the misfortune of others. Meanwhile, the Vice President's Chief of Staff is on trial, there is genocide in Darfur, and my friend is being redeployed to Iraq for a second time. I realize that things in this country have seemingly skewed so that the latter examples are reduced to Page Two. That's a discussion for a forum other than this, but that I think illustrates the abduction I speak of. I will no longer be an accomplice in it. I believe reading it is feeding it.

I love music. There are personalities there that interest me, and people who I am interested in knowing more about as people, to better influence my appreciation for their art. I enjoy certain authors the same way, as well as some scientists and businessmen and businesswomen. But my interest there is not insatiable. I am not saying that the person who subscribes to US Magazine is any better or worse than she that does not. In fact, I make no commentary on anyone in the world here other than me. I am done with it. I'm not clicking the links anymore. I'm picking up Car & Driver in the dentist's office instead of People. I will not press play on the inevitable embedded videos, I will not peruse the photographs. I will leave my computer, I will put down the paper, I will pick up a book instead. I'll go workout, I'll visit your blogs, I'll head to trifuel. I'll check out the latest Apple rumors, I'll await the iPhone, I'll wait for Adobe to go Universal so I can get a new computer. I'll listen to music, I'll visit my favorite artists' websites from time to time to see what's new. I'll still watch Letterman. I'll download Conan when I think of it. But I am drawing my line now. I choose to disengage.

Starting now, I am increasing the signal, and doing away with the noise.

That is all. Thank you for reading. Only time I do this, I promise. Back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Fyr on Ice: Direct to Video

As promised, here's some video of last weekend's ride before the storm. This, while we hunker down for Part 2 today through Friday - another foot or more on the forecast. Good times. Not sure if I'll be able to hit the trails this time. Anyway, enjoy.