It usually happens at about precisely this time, no mystery that it coincides with the gluttony of Thanksgiving, where the following weekend or so I'm craving a run. And not just for the sake of it, but I crave the organization and structure and discipline of regular training again. I think the last two years I started something structured on about December 1st. I've been doing some casual stuff for a few weeks, but wasn't really feeling it - still content to rest, gain weight, hibernate. Yesterday I required a run, and it felt good and intentional, and this week I'm back into something regular, albeit not intense at all, and I'm excited about that.
Nothing's healed, though. My left IT band is still haywire - sore after about 2.5 miles yesterday. My left arch - I think plantar fasciitis - is still painful. My right achilles really feels no differently than it did the day after the marathon. This is disappointing after 8 weeks off. I guess I'll have to visit the doctor. Alas.
In other news, yesterday I was lazily flipping channels when I stumbled upon IMWI '08 on VS.! Sweet!!!! Can I just say again what a beautiful day for a race that was. What a blast. Got me in the mood.
Also, I joined Facebook. I've tied this blog into Facebook so that when I post here it's imported into my "notes". Between Twitter, Facebook, and here, and tying them all into one another one way or another, I'm kind of creating an informational feedback loop. Not sure about it. We'll see.
Finally, it snowed for the first time. Yesterday morning, knowing it was forecasted, I said to Jack on our run, "This is the last time we'll see this green lawns until April, buddy." And a couple of hours later, they were gone. The good news is that for a time we were forecast for something silly like 6-10 inches, but it only amounted to 2-3 or so. It's a good sign, after last horrible winter, if the big storm passed us by for once.
That's what's new with me. What's up whichu?
Monday, December 01, 2008
It usually happens at about precisely this time, no mystery that it coincides with the gluttony of Thanksgiving, where the following weekend or so I'm craving a run. And not just for the sake of it, but I crave the organization and structure and discipline of regular training again. I think the last two years I started something structured on about December 1st. I've been doing some casual stuff for a few weeks, but wasn't really feeling it - still content to rest, gain weight, hibernate. Yesterday I required a run, and it felt good and intentional, and this week I'm back into something regular, albeit not intense at all, and I'm excited about that.
Monday, November 17, 2008
In addition, I've begun an offseason thing called CrossFit. Coincidentally Steve just wrote about some of his experiences with CrossFit. If you don't know what CrossFit is, it's - and I'm a total newbie here so if there's some CrossFit Jedi out there who would take exception with my ordinary explanation, forgive me - short duration, high intensity workouts. The workouts generally require little sophistication in the way of equipment or gadgets - use of the body's weight (squats, pushups, etc.) and natural resistance are paramount. I first heard about it from a client of mine who directed me to the website - he's been doing it for several months now, and I had a hard time picturing it when he told me how some workouts "less than 15 minutes total for the day" were changing his world.
Well as I type this, my very first CrossFit workout just behind me and totaling less than 10 (!) minutes, my arms are all a-quiver for the workout they just had. On paper it doesn't even look that crazy - 21 "swings" with a Kettle Ball. I don't have a Kettle Ball, so I used 20 pound barbells in each hand. By 17 or so I was thinking, "huh, y'know, this really does suck." Then 12 pullups. I can't remember the last time I did a pullup - it was a requirement of some sort, probably in high school.
I did 2.
I don't think of myself as some kind of weakling, either. But holy shit with the pullups. I faked my way through 6, giving myself a little bit of help with my legs (but only a little bit). Then I headed out the door for a .25 mile sprint (which I extended, as planned, to .5).
The object, and quality, of the workout is there's zero rest. So you go from the Kettle Ball swing straight into the pullups straight into the sprint. I felt a little like puking when I finished my half mile sprint and checked my watch. I was shocked to see it at 9-something. I feel a little guilty, actually. Does it even count, even if it was hard - a workout lasting less than 10 minutes? CrossFit is, by nature, variable - some workouts are much more involved, and will last longer - though none more than an hour, I think, including the cardio. So today's was, I think, supposed to be short but intense. The object is a sort of immediate ass kicking. I'll have to find some zen in that to mesh with my "doesn't count 'less I was out there for 3 hours" triathlete mindset. Which will in itself be good for me. But the brief but intense philosophy, combined with more natural "use the body" resistance is right up my offseason alley.
To this point, upon which I Began, I've done just about nothing at all since October 4th. As noted by my absence from class. I've required rest, and I've been requiring of myself the discipline to do it. I cheated once, when it was 70 degrees in November. Then I went for a 5 mile run. Today it wasn't 70 degrees. Today it was 30-something, and we got a furious dusting of snow that stuck to the lawns and made the sidewalks wet. And here's what I was thinking just after 6:30 in darkness, the first advances of winter having breached the line and me running through the seasons once more:
This weekend, my wife and her mother went to an art show. At the Monona Terrace. What? They use that place for something other than Ironman? Hardly seems reasonable. Tonight, I'm running down this street, my endurance shot and my lungs scorching into my skull, the air cold so the back of my head hurts on inhaling it. It's approaching Thanksgiving, and the edges of the lakes are frozen when I drive by.
This is when it happens, I thought. This is when it counts: now, when nobody else cares. When everybody's heads are buzzing with fall-approaching-holiday thoughts, and nature's tendency to wind down another year seems to wind down all of its creatures as well; when one would just as much prefer to sit inside and hibernate all winter and would I like another? Why sure, don't mind if I do, what is that, chocolate chips you say? Brilliant. These days when none of us are thinking of triathlon, when summertime doesn't just seem like another time but another distance entirely away, an epoch ago or to come, when the hallowed ground of Ironman is host to craft shows and the like. When spring comes and it all seems inevitable, then it's easy - when evening shadows cast long as we peddle or push away, and the sun is reluctant to retire and the days feel meant for as much as we can do with it, and we in turn feel guilty if we haven't squeezed every last ounce of daylight to our respective missions. These are not those days. These are dormant days, when the world seems so often grey behind the skeletal trees and empty limbs, when the sun seems bored with having to make even the briefest of appearances before scuttling away as quickly as it can to go spend time in Australia or wherever in space it goes nowadays.
Yet, I appreciate the elegance of synchronicity, the yin and yang of it all, that it is because one is out now - even for just .5 miles, if they mean something, those miles - that those same footfalls, soon to be atop snow and ice, will at some point take him to the corner of Forever and Huge Gatorade Bottle, and turning that corner on a warm or humid or raining or cold early autumn night, the Whole World will await, like he does now, to see if he can become everything he imagines he can.
Hereupon I toss the first coals, in order to stoke the fires once more. The forging begins. It's good to be back.
Monday, October 20, 2008
I realize I haven't posted since the marathon report, and that's mostly because I've been in a pleasant kind of pseudo-hibernation, and even the subsequent posts I had been working on - recapping the season, thinking of next year, random thoughts here and there - were eventually relegated to the meh, I think I'll go see what D's up to pile of abandoned blog posts. So this one doesn't really count in the grand scheme, because I still have those other thoughts to get to.
Today I received an email from YouTube telling me that the video for The Run (part 1) of the Becoming Ironman video (I'd link to it, but it doesn't matter) has been frozen, because of a copyright issue. Because the video uses a song called Chances Are by Sheryl Crow.
First, how'd they find it? Is there some dude at the record company doing YouTube searches for Sheryl Crow songs so he can tell on me?
Second, how stupid. I get it - I get that you have to have rules and keep them for everybody and you can't have exceptions and blah blah blah, except you can and you should. It's like - one of my favorite television shows is Mad Men. Awhile ago fans of the show started keeping Twitter accounts as characters of the show. So, for instance, Don Draper has a Twitter account somewhere out there. At first AMC, who owns Mad Men, made Twitter pull them down. Then AMC's sensible ad agency said - yeah, no actually don't. Those people are called Brand Advocates and they're doing for you what you cannot do for yourselves, better than you'd be able to anyway.
The facts are that hundreds of thousands of people have watched the Becoming Ironman video series. Hundreds of those have commented to me throughout, and of those hundreds not an insignificant number are wondering who does the song for this or that part of the video - including inquiries about Chances Are. So it's likely that people have even purchased this song just because of the free commercial time I gave it. On the one hand - I'm all about the rules. Really. And I made that video for my friends and family who were part of Ironman with me, then put it on YouTube specifically so I could share it with you here on this blog. Whatever life it may have at YouTube was just an unintentional consequence - one I'm of course responsible for, but I'm saying I wasn't out to make any money or infringe on anybody's anything - it's tantamount to somebody slapping It's a Wonderful World on their publicly viewed wedding slideshow video. If somebody put a song of mine on a private video of theirs in the same context with which I use Chances Are, I'd have no problem at all with it. Hell, I think I'd find it pretty cool.
On the other hand, newsflash to the record company with whom I'm actually taking exception (Sheryl Crow does not own or administer the copyright to the song, so my beef isn't really with her), the old model is friggin' dead. Get your shit together already. With all the video, photo slideshow, social media, etc. resources out there that could potentially be using your music, you'd be wise to revise your "absolutely not" policy on things. This is the world you live in now. Give me a friggin' break on throwing the hammer down on me and my tiny little video.
So, there you go, Monday morning rant for you. I have no idea what, if anything, I'll do about this. Sometime I guess I'll out and put new music to the video - as though I didn't specifically choose that one - and repost it so that the experience isn't interrupted like it is now. I wonder if I'll start getting more letters from assholes who don't like that I'm using their music. Who has time for this?
I'm disappointed. Irritated. A little sad.
That is all. We return to regularly scheduled programming soon. Carry on.
Sunday, October 05, 2008
I don't know if I've ever approached a major race - maybe any race - with the kind of week I had last week as prelude. Besides the now-routine constant attention to the Achilles and intentional rest from running - which didn't suit my OCD very well - I had a magnificently stressful week at work, in a week when one wants for low stress, and - of course - Thursday woke up with the cold that Amy and Dakota had been fighting. It was a Murphy's Law kind of week, and it wasn't until I jumped in the car Thursday afternoon for 5 solo hours from Madison to Minneapolis that I was able to start getting my head straight and my attitude keyed in the right direction.
My cold ratcheted up all day Friday, and that afternoon I called my buddy Steve to send my regrets to him and Pharmie that I wouldn't be able to make dinner at their place. It made me sad to do it - I hate breaking plans of any kind, and I looked forward to spending the evening with them and our other friends. But with a head full of styrofoam I needed to rest and figure out a way to deal with this cold and get some sleep for the night.
So, I went into race morning with an unusual lack of clarity or sense of focus, feeling strangely at the whims of more factors out of my control than I'm used to, or accustomed to, or comfortable with.
The excitement of race day tends to wash away the superfluous sometimes, though, and by the time I lined up between the 3:50 and 4-hour pace groups for the start of the race, doped up on Dayquil, I was energetic but relaxed, with my head on straight, and ready to see what the day would bring.
Some important information to get out of the way right now: My Achilles was not an issue, and nor was the head cold. My leg hurts like hell now, of course, and my brains are back to being full of foam, but I didn't have any issues with either during the race. The Achilles especially is remarkable. I don't know if it was the magic socks or what, but it was stiff all week, even this morning, but for whatever reason it was, for the first time in months, a non-issue. Maybe Jesus listens to distance runners, I don't know. Since I'm dealing with a head-cold and not something in my chest, I didn't expect too much drama in that way, but even that I didn't feel constant sinus pressure all day was a good thing. So anyway - that's pretty great. Especially the Achilles - after all the drama, and talk, and contingencies, I was glad to have it be a non-factor.
So, I settled in to a comfortable but intentional pace, anywhere between 8:30 and 9:00. Faster or slower than that, and I'd adjust. Lining up with similar paced athletes obviously made for the mad-scrabble of wheeling around trying to jockey for position much less of an event, so it was fun to just gear up right away and find my zone. My plan was to stay consistent under 9:00/miles for 20 miles, and then throw down whatever I had left to the finish.
The first half of the marathon was spooky for its familiarity - constant drizzle, with occasional hard downpour. Windy, cool, dark. Conditions were almost exactly like Ironman 2006 - some of the Team that came to support me were even wearing the same raincoats. Totally surreal. With the exceptions of having to be really intentional about puddle jumping and flood-dodging, I actually really enjoyed the rain. It felt a little epic out there, especially when it got to raining hard. I was never too cold or uncomfortable, and appreciated very much those spectators that braved the day to come out and cheer us all on.
I didn't obsess about pace, tapping the lap button on my watch every 3rd mile to see if I was under 27:00 for that interval. I felt great. Everything felt easy, I was having fun, I was having no issues. I had that bounce in my step that tells me things are under control. In the first 3 miles I was able to high-five my mother ("There's my Ironman!" She yelled.) who stepped away from her church (she's a Lutheran pastor) for just a few minutes, clerical collar and all, to see if she could see me pass by. A few miles after that I shared a high-five and a fist-in-the-air with some of the Team that came to cheer me and my buddy Sam on (more on him later), and my man T.Zilla ran through the crowd parallel to me cheering me on, screaming me down the road. It was happy and fun and I really, really enjoyed it.
I passed the halfway mark at around 1:55, right on schedule for my goal of going sub 4-hours. Nutrition was on point, hydration was uneventful. My crazy-ass socks were comfortable - in fact, my feet were maybe as comfortable as they've ever been on a long run, staying blister free even through the wet and water (though my shoes did get heavy for awhile). After the halfway mark the rain mostly came to a stop, and it was dry the rest of the way.
I'd walked for 1 minute at the 6 mile mark for a gel, and then again at 13 miles, and planned to again at 19 miles. I clocked through to 15 miles, still comfortably under my 9:00/mile pace, and had one last glance at my watch at 17 miles before it happily crapped out. I could see water bubbles forming inside the face since the Tsunami I'd ran through earlier in the day, and cursed audibly as my proverbial dashboard went kaput for the day (or forever - it remains to be seen). I don't ever run blind, and it was a weird thing to suddenly start doing now. I didn't find it entirely unenjoyable (I did have another watch, just a chronometer, on my other arm, so kept a basic eye on mile splits when I'd pass the mile markers), but the lack of constant feedback was a little foreign to me. So, with a focus on just staying with what felt like a comfortable and consistent pace and stride, I passed through 18 miles. I was surprised how strong I felt. My legs were getting a little tight, but that was to be expected. I was happy to have overcome the distractions of the week, excited for my ankle to feel strong after all, really encouraged about how the day was going after all the training I'd put in - if the worst I faced all day was a dead Garmin, it'd be a successful day. I wasn't thinking about that 4-hour goal at all, just confident that if I could stay under 9:00/miles, things would work out.
The day changed at mile 19.
I downed a gel and grabbed a PowerAde to wash it down, slowing to a power-walk for my usual 1 minute interval. I took large, exaggerated strides to stretch my legs, which were feeling a little tight, but not in a way that concerned me at all. When my minute was up I tossed my cup aside and started back into my run, when out of nowhere I had such an extraordinary pain on the outside of my left knee, and I couldn't bear weight on it. What the hell is this? I slowed to a walk right away - it felt better - so I started up again, only to have it nearly buckle underneath me. This made no sense. I hadn't tweaked anything, I hadn't felt anything, and I've never in my life had any issues with the outside of my left knee. It was totally out of nowhere. I walked over to a tree for leverage and tried to stretch it out, but to do that I needed to first assess just what needed stretching. I did some half-ass general leg stretches and just kind of scratched my head. Tried running again. Same results - it wasn't just the pain, which was intense, but the weird sensation of my leg just kind of collapsing underneath me that made me suddenly wonder, Is this it? Did my day seriously just end out of left field like this? Back to the side of the road, back to some curious stretching. An EMT approached me, pointing - "Do you need the medical tent?" "No I do not," I replied before thinking any further about it. Finally I just walked, then tried moving into a power walk - to be greeted with great pain - and then into a slow jog. When the pain came I ignored it, and when the buckling came I just forced my leg to bear my weight, even straightening it like a plank for a few strides to just get it going underneath me. Eventually it cooperated, and I found my rhythm again, even built back up to a pace that felt like it might be my goal pace. Still, that left knee was suddenly present. I'd sense it disagreeing when I'd try to pick up pace, or having an opinion when climbing or descending.
At mile 20, I threw down with whatever was left - but if I had a watch, I think it would have shown that I was slowing down. My legs were feeling increasingly heavy through 20 and 22 miles, and the objections from my newest antagonist (seriously with the lower extremities lately) were becoming more pronounced. Glances at the mile splits told me I was clocking in the mid-9:00's now, and it was officially time to dig deep. I kept my head down and my mind focused, and just tried to keep my form and stride consistent. I don't want to credit the weird left leg for much here - it was mostly just the natural stress that comes from running a long damn ways that was wearing on me, and I was pushing hard to stay on point.
At mile 24 I finally checked the potential of things - I was at right around 3:40, and it looked like sub-4:00 was definitely attainable. I knew I'd been slowing, maybe to mid to upper 9:00's, I'm not sure, but I felt pretty confident I could stay under 10:00/miles for 2.2 miles. At the same time - like a racecar driver who knows he needs new tires before that last push, I needed a drink. Just before mile 25 I stopped to briefly walk for one last quick drink.
I'd been afraid to stop since mile 19, worried that the same weird thing would happen - and unfortunately it did. As soon as I tried to start running again my leg buckled, and the pain was extraordinary. A mile away! One mile! I thought of my dogs, and how walking them one mile is a total non-event, but how right now a mile seemed so long. I had to again go through a kind of warm-up routine with a bit of stretching, then power-walking, then jogging and bearing through the pain until finally my legs took off from underneath me again. But a glance at my watch - 3:53 - and I knew I probably wouldn't be suddenly ticking of a 7 minute 1.2 miles, even if it was mostly downhill. I ran as hard as I could, as fast as I could, with my legs protesting every step of the way, feeling thick and stiff as tree trunks now after 25 miles.
I crossed the finish line in 4:02:51.
Well first to the obvious - I missed my goal by 2:52. In the list of disappointments in my life, that'll fall pretty far down the list. The 4 hour goal was kind of arbitrary - Is that even possible? And the answer, I think, is yes - it is. It just wasn't today. And that's okay. The whole what-if stuff - What if I hadn't had to stop twice for a few minutes and deal with my weird knee - has no end; what if it hadn't rained so my legs hadn't been heavy? What if there'd been no headwind? What if I hadn't bummed up my Achilles two months ago? What I was born Kenyan? No point to that - every race day presents its own playing field for that day's game, and today's game was played under the conditions it was. Thats the beauty of it. Part of that meant I had some unexpected detours to deal with an unexpected physical event, and that's part of it too. I'm extremely pleased with my day. I executed my race day plan to perfection, and handled the unforeseen as well as I could. I overcame some personal obstacles of stress and injury and illness to pull out a solid day. I had a blast. Mostly - I busted my ass. I left every ounce of myself out there today; I was shredded when I came into the finish chute. I couldn't have asked for a more fun, challenging, worthwhile experience today, and I have no unfinished business with those 2 minutes and 52 seconds. This was the best I had, and I'm proud of it. It's also a PR of about 54 minutes.
Tonight I have the usual soreness throughout my legs, but that left knee is stiff and painful. No idea what this is from whence it came, and I haven't spent much time thinking about it. For now, it doesn't really matter - I get to rest. The Achilles, the left arch pain, the left knee - just let them all rest now. I'll hit my bike and/or trainer in the coming months, but no running. Really, really looking forward to that.
All in all, a fantastic finish to a fantastic season, and I'll have more thoughts to share about that later. I couldn't have asked for a better 2008.
Bits & Pieces:
Saw Steve in a Speedo in his chicken outfit a few times, along with his posse of farm animals. Pretty awesome. I was also able to catch up with Pharmie quickly after the race -she was looking good, and I think enjoyed her day. I'll look forward to her race report.
Robby B, I hope you had a great day, too -
My buddy Sam ran his first marathon today, training using the Nike+ system with his ipod, planning for something around a 3:50 finish. Dude rocked somewhere in the neighborhood of 3:35. AWESOME. Sam is in the same group of friends as a lot of the Team, so it was fun that they could all be out there supporting Sam first. I'm stupid proud of him, and thrilled for what a great day he had.
I'm a believer in the magic socks. I was worried that they'd soak up a bunch of water when it started pouring, but they were great. My calves were never an issue all day, and neither were my feet, and I'm willing to attribute at least some of how well the Achilles held up today to the magic socks, they being the only new ingredient from all the other runs I've had lately where the ankle has still been an issue.
I had a business meeting on Friday with a guy from a popular national gym. He mentioned that last year he ran the Twin Cities marathon - his first - with his iPod, which is against the rules (but it is as most races, and I can't think of when I've ever seen it much enforced). 2 weeks after finishing, collecting his medal, etc. etc., he got a letter in the mail that he had been disqualified for wearing headphones. Wow. He was banned from this year, and if he does it again, he's banned for life. A bunch of people around him got DQ'd too. Wow.
I saw a few dudes wearing headphones today. I hope their ruse wasn't discovered...
I got chicked by a woman wearing Crocs. Right. Purple ones. Running in them. Crocs. It's not that I got chicked - that happens quite a lot. Chicks are fast, after all. But the Crocs, that's a new one.
Too many people wearing your basic 8-for-$8 tube socks. Man, my feet would be hamburger. Also, cargo shorts? Really? Like, do people not consider these things in the meantime between signing up for a marathon and running it? Do they train in this stuff? Why on earth.
I passed a dude in the first mile or two that had an age-group number tacked to the back of his shirt of 80. And he wore a sign on his shirt that said "300th marathon". Even if you're 80, think about that. Think about how many marathons you have to run every year, for umpteen years, to hit 300 marathons. That's nuts. I hope he finished strong.
No food at the aid stations. What's up with that? Thank you to the people with bananas and oranges out there, I appreciated that. Also, thanks to the lady at mile 3 with a boombox taped to her bike blaring Billie Jean. You rule.
I'm not generally interested in making sweeping statements of permanence, because I like to go a bit where life takes me, but there's been a pretty consistent theme, reinforced of late and especially today, that it's possible this vehicle just wasn't meant for this kind of mileage. Ironman 2009 is the focus, and I won't be giving much thought at all beyond that and all things required to accomplish it next year, but after Ironman...well, we'll see. I might be a 13.1 and under kind of guy for awhile.
Thanks to everybody who came out today - Mother, Mike, Susan, Todd, Patrick, and Sara (cheering on her brother Sam) and her family, along with Sam's wife Laura and her family, who greeted me (albeit a bit accidentally) in the finish line but then came together with us all on the Capitol grounds. Thanks for trapsing around (again) with sodden jeans and soaked shoes and raincoats and umbrellas. I deeply, deeply appreciate it, and it gets me down the road to know you're out there with me. I don't know what to tell you about the weather. I'll do my best next September for something different!
Thus concludes the 2008 race season. More to come as I organize my thoughts on that, and start to slowly chart my course, in earnest towards Becoming Ironman Again.
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
Apropos of nothing:
I guess there's something...I dunno...adorable about a Dad walking around a grocery store on a Wednesday morning with his daughter happily tossing her legs in the front little baby-chair part of the cart as he hands her small boxes of this and that to keep her amused and feeling part of the adventure. I sure get a lot of tender, knowing smiles from - seriously - every woman I nearly bump into with my cart as I turn the corner. I'm pretty sure if I were single, I could pick up chicks this way. Well, chicks that are, like, over 50.
But closed circuit to old ladies who are relying on their carts for ease of transport as one might a walker: Could you not touch the kid? I'm not trying to be mean or anything, and I appreciate your sweetness, but she's a person, y'know. A little respect of space is all I'm saying. To all, like, thirteen of you who tried to accost us this morning. Thaaaaaanks.
Also, who the hell knew the grocery store in the morning was Tha Place Ta Be for the over-sixty set?
Finally, closed circuit to the damn lady in front of us in the checkout line, she of the massive gee-I-really-could-have-used-a-whole-'nother-cart shopping spree, dropping easily at least two Benjamins on the outing - really with the argument about your friggin' coupon and the honest-to-god two frickin' dollars you felt you were promised in savings? Reeeeaaaallllly? You suck, and Dakota says so too.
Here's a shot from the grocery store - not from this morning, but last week, when I threw some Halloween kitty ears on her for my personal amusement. She, clearly, is confused.
We now return to your regularly scheduled marathon-week OCD.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Thanks for the love everybody - I appreciate deeply the advice, insights, and encouragement. As you all probably know in your own experiences, it gets a brotha down the road to know he can share his realities through his computer screen and get the informed thoughts of his esteemed brother(sister)hood. So - thanks.
Yesterday, after a couple solid days of stretching and ice, I headed out for a "long" run of just 4.5 miles. I didn't really care how far I was going, though - 4, 6, 8...I just wanted to get into a rhythm and hold it, feel comfortable, and find my stride naturally and without pain. I stopped at 4.5 because there's no point this week going 5, and no point stretching to 6. So when I felt good at 4.5, I pulled up and called it good. It was the best run I've had in weeks. Ticked along effortlessly at 8:17/mile - which tells me my fitness is still there - and was mostly, though not entirely, pain free. Was the the confidence run I needed? I'm not sure, but it felt good to get the miles under me, and I'm encouraged. I'll remain strict about ice and stretching the rest of the week.
Okay! So, as of today race day looks like 58 degrees (so, likely quite cooler at the gun) with "few showers" - 30% chance or so. Humidity in the low 70%, maybe a bit breezy. Sounds just about perfect.
If you want to track me on race day, you can do so at http://www.mtcmarathon.org/ - my number is 3979 (richvans, you'd asked for my number - I hope to see you around mile 23!), and I'll try to have some of my peeps update my twitter feed (up there at the top of the blog) with general live progress updates - we'll see.
For those of you in Minneapolis, I think I'm wearing a red shirt, red hat, black shorts. I'm also (drumroll please...) rocking these:
(I thought a humongous picture would really tell the story of these things best, no?) I'm thinking - hoping - they'll help; and I want to thank my peeps for the advice and feedback they've had rocking the goofy socks. So yeah - I'm that guy. Don't make me wear my aero helmet out there, because I will dammit.
Other than that - just wanting to get through the week. Looking forward to spending time with friends and family this weekend, and getting my head absorbed in the game. I love race week, and I especially love big race weeks. These are the days to celebrate what it's all about, says I. Can't wait for Sunday.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Well, it's upon us - finally. One week to gametime. The last time I ran a marathon (that wasn't part of Ironman) was in 2005. That was my first marathon, and the goal was just to finish - to develop some psychology for Ironman that yes, I can do go this distance. I finished in something just under 5 hours, limping into the finish line, my feet feeling like they'd exploded around mile 23. I lost 3 toenails the following week.
A lot has changed since then, of course, and this race is to be my other A race of the year, after July's Half Ironman. Instead of "can I finish", the theme of this entire season has changed to, "what's really possible?" I've had an extraordinary season. I've surpassed almost every expectation I've had of myself. I've trained smart, busted my ass, been consistent, and had a ton of fun.
But, here we are a week away, and this time I am limping to the starting gun. It's said that the most important part of race day is arriving healthy, and I agree. But facts are facts, and that's just not the case this time out.
I've struggled since August with Achilles tendinitis. It was bad for several weeks, requiring some significant changes to training. Then I got things to a workable level for several weeks, and had some critical long runs go really well, demonstrating that the training is there to go 4 hours or possibly under - my goal for this race, which is, for me, very ambitious. But in the last 10-14 days or so, the Achilles has flared back up. I don't know what exacerbates it, except probably speed workouts. In any case, I haven't had a decent run since I started taper. I've cut short almost every long run to lay off my leg, and my tempo and interval runs have felt slow and sluggish.
This has had a compounding effect. First, my confidence is crap. I feel like if I can get just one good run - it doesn't need to be fast, just consistent and most of all relatively pain free - it would go a long way for me mentally. But the last two times I've set out precisely for that last good run, I've walked home. While on my run, then, I'm spending too much mental energy on the damn ankle. Wondering if after 3 miles I'll still feel good at 4. Then 5. And so on. It's too long, and too hard a race, to spend precious energy - mental or physical - on anything other than just going the distance.
I can hardly walk in the mornings, when I wake up. I haven't mentioned it because it just adds to the drama, but my left foot isn't doing so great either. I have significant pain right in the arch - I don't know what that means, maybe plantar fasciitis? But I have to wear shoes constantly - at least flip flops. If I go barefoot, with no arch support, I can honestly hardly walk on either leg. My feet are making me feel like I'm 80 years old. It'd be no great wonder if the pain in the left foot is due to compensating for the weakness in the right ankle, careful as I've been to try not to do that. I admit that I'm excited to cross that finish line maybe foremost because it means I can heal.
Super funtime post so far, eh?
Much as it sounds like it, I promise I'm not over here feeling somehow sorry for myself. I'm just stating, honestly I think for my own evaluation, what is the reality going into this race. The lay of the land, as it were. I'm not 100%. I'm not even 85%. No attitude adjustment can change that. It is what it is. I think laying that truth out there, facing it and acknowledging it, allows me to then set it aside. This is that exercise. Exorcise.
So: To business. I will do everything required of me this week to go into the weekend healthy. I haven't run since Thursday, and shifted today's 8 miler to tomorrow, which I'll cut to 6. No tempo runs this week - after tomorrow, maybe one or two more 2-3 mile runs. I can't be sure if I've lost any fitness in taper for my abbreviated runs - I'm notoriously miserable during taper in any state - but I can't do anything about it at this point anyway. So I won't worry about those things I can't control.
I will race as hard as I'm able. I will start with my sub 4 hour goal as the objective, and I think I'll know in the first 6-8 miles how the ankle will hold up - that's usually the case. If my goals need to shift mid-course, so be it, but again - I'm not going to make plans for that, or worry about it. I'll stretch and ice this week, and I'll eat right and hydrate, and I will line up at the Metrodome in Minneapolis fully prepared to pick it up and set it down.
There is something important, and valuable, about facing myself like this. It is one thing to learn to face the monumental mental challenges these long-distance events present. I, at least, am continually trying to master that. But it is a whole other dragon to face when, physically, one is feeling affected. It is useful to Becoming Ironman - which is ever only a vessel for Becoming a Better Me, to have to learn to succeed with hindrance. To define success under such conditions. So is it in life, no? Sometimes there is a price to pay for what we do, and it's just part of the game. It's inevitable that we will, sometimes, approach The Moment at less than 100%, despite how hard we've worked. Sometimes, then, you just have to let it play itself out. Sometimes you ride the wind, sometimes the wind rides you.
So: Bring it, fates. If I'm required to personify this bum right wheel into some mind of antagonist in order to persevere, I will. Because I'm coming for you. I have busted my ass to get here this year. I won't be deterred. I won't be turned away. Sometimes it hurts. Well, no shit, did you think it wouldn't? That's what I signed up for, isn't it?
Game is on. Bring on 26.2.
Monday, September 22, 2008
It was a solid last weekend of "hard" training as I kept up the intensity a bit during taper for October 5th's marathon. Saturday I headed over to St. Anne's Catholic church, just a few blocks away and right off my regular running route. My grandparents attend there, and Grandpa had given me a registration form for the race a few weeks ago. The race route took me through familiar neighborhoods just behind my house, and being so close by, felt like a fun thing to sign up for and tune up some speed work once more before the marathon.
It's one of those great, tiny 5k walk/runs, with maybe 60 or so participants, with kids bopping around in race t-shirts and toddlers in strollers. We all lined up behind a marker in the church parking lot, and when the gun went off 4 of us jumped right away to the front. There was a younger dude, maybe in college and clearly a runner, who was joined by a guy maybe 10 years older than me or so. They were just behind a younger kid in big chunky shoes and big loose basketball shorts with a cotton t-shirt. I was behind the 3 of them, sure that the kid in the floppy basketball shorts would come back at some point. I tried to just run hard, using the "race" only as motivation to keep a hard pace, always pursuing that elusive sub-7:00/mile over 3.1 miles.
The first mile, which ultimately takes us on a street just behind my house, was pretty much all uphill, with 2 small especially short but intense climbs. By the end of that first mile I was just shy of 7 minutes, right on pace. The 3 leaders had opened up on me, including the goofball in baggy shorts, and I figured by mile 2 he'd probably come back. I was wrong, though - by the end of mile 2, where I was still right around my 7:00/mile goal, he'd fallen behind the other two, but collectively the 3 had continued to open up on me and I knew I wasn't going to catch them on my speed alone. I started to fatigue pretty hard in mile 3, no doubt thanks to charging up that hilly first mile and my complete lack of strategy when it comes to 5k - I basically just run hard until I fall down. I was kind of slogging my way up a final tough little hill when I saw its crest and realized that's where the finish line was - in my mind I still had several more blocks. A last push and I cross in 4th place overall with a pace of 7:11/mile. Still chasing that sub-7, but it was a tough workout, and was just what I was looking for for the day's run.
I was waiting around a bit afterwards as my grandparents had planned to come to the finish line, when a woman approached and asked, "Are you xt4?" Turns out she's G, Robert's wife and fellow triathlete. Robert's rocking IMWI next year, joining me and Brazo in the hometown constituency. Represent!
Anyway, G and I had a lovely chat about our faire little burg, about tornados, about running injuries and crazy, crazy Ironman. Hopefully she and Robert can join the JLT next time we all get together!
My grandparents arrived just as the awards presentation began, and I hadn't considered that there was a "youth" division (the winner of which handed my ass to me a full two minutes before I crossed the finish line - ah, to be young and fast...or even old and fast. There were no age groups or anything in this race, just top 3 men, top 3 women, and top 3 youth. I ended up taking 3rd place in the men's division - awesome!
And here's my Grandma and me celebrating the big finish.
Sunday, then, I had 10 miles on tap, abbreviated from my scheduled 13 to accommodate the previous day's 5k. Because I tend to operate in terms of balance and equilibrium, I used this last long run of the season to revisit my early season's half-marathon training route, which I haven't used since May, switching to a different route for my Half IM and marathon training. It was good to hit the old mile markers, and bittersweet, as always, to note that leaves were just budding on trees when I last ran by some of them, where now some are already changing colors. My ankle started to become an issue by about mile 6 or so, and I decided by mile 7 to shortcut home and make it an 8 mile total run - not the distance I wanted, but my ankle was hurting enough to change my stride and slow me down, and at this point I figured it was better to forgo 2 more miles that would be junk than risk further aggravation. I finished up with an easy 8:57/mi pace. With the right precautions in place (notice the sweet brace on my right ankle in the picture above...) I've had several pretty consistent weeks of solid training, where the ankle has been "present but not painful", but two of my last 3 workouts have left me limping (though it felt great at the 5k, so go figure). I stretched and iced when I got home, but it was pretty sore. I'll evaluate it pretty closely this week and abbreviate workouts if I need to to continue to feel strong - nothing more important now than just arriving to the starting gun as healthy as I can be on October 5th.
So - that was the weekend of me. How was yours?
Sunday, September 14, 2008
I headed out this morning for 22 miles in a steady rain. Last week I stayed consistently around 9:00/mi. for 16 miles, then tried to open it up a bit for 4 miles to finish up with 20, but ended up slowing considerably. I decided to revise that strategy a bit and go slower for longer - sticking to around 9:00/mi or under for 18 miles, and then open it up - figuring I might have a better opportunity for net gain, there, than in fading at mile 21 or 22 if I try to open it up at 16 miles.
The goals of the day then were twofold, and important: First, practice this strategy in hopes I can deploy it on race day. But second, and most importantly, know that this run would be the litmus test for just what, exactly, I can say my training has prepared me for come race day - the goal being a marathon time of 3:59:59 or better.
My running of those 22 miles today totally exceeded my expectations, and I feel like now the objective evidence is there to say the training is there to go under 4 hours. Maybe several minute under. I ran 22 miles in an 8:46/mi pace, a huge improvement from just last weekend - and I fought hard for last weekend's 8:58/mi average, but didn't have to fight so hard today. I still slowed when I tried to open it up - I finished my last 4 miles in 8:56/mi - but it's worthwhile to note that that pace, too, if faster than the 4 miles I ran at the end last week, and that today those miles came after 18 miles instead of just 16. I flew up hills today, having no problem at all and keeping pace where just a few weeks ago some of those hills knocked me to around 10 minute miles. I felt fresh and strong mostly all day, and really only felt serious fatigue after mile 20. Today, 20 miles didn't feel like such a long damn ways. But perhaps most encouraging, is that conditions today were crap. There was a steady drizzle of water coming off the brim of my cap all day. By those last 4 miles, where I slowed, my feet were so water-logged that it was like hauling hammers underneath me. God knows the conditions could be crap on race day - been there, done that - so I'm encouraged that I can force out a solid gameplan even if that's the case. If the weather is half-way decent...well, it might just be game on. If I can lurk around 8:50-9:00/mi through 18, and then have anything left to push where I can maintain that pace, or even juice it up a bit to the finish line, well hell. I feel like I'm in that sweet spot that I love to be in, the place that only hard work and discipline and determination and mile after mile after mile get you - where your training has you ready to accomplish your goals, leaving it just to execution. That's some sweet music right there.
Regardless of what happens race day, I felt really positive just about going those 22 miles with a sub 8:50 pace today. Without intending for any self-congratulation, I'm objectively a little stunned that it's become possible. I've said before - I have very little natural ability here with any of this. I'm not saying I'm some useless hack or something, but other people, God bless 'em, are built the right way, or have the right genes, or weigh 155 pounds with a sick power-to-weight ratio, or swam in high school, or can clock out sub 6:00 miles in a 5k. I am not that guy, I never have been. Every inch of improvement I get is because I had to bust my ass to get it, and that's the one thing I suppose I can feel some self-assurance of - I am willing to bust my ass. I am willing to be sick determined, to be fiercely disciplined to at least try, to at least push the limits of what I may be capable of. I'm not saying sub 9:00/mi is very fast, but a few years ago if I cracked a 10 minute mile at any distance over 13 miles it was jubilation (my 2005 Twin Cities marathon pace was 11:38/mi). For me, to have been able to consistently this season exceed my own reasonable expectations, to have actually become faster, and consistently so, to have actually redefined some of what my future expectations will be...well I have to say, that feels pretty good. To approach marathon distance with sub 4 hours realistically in sight would have, not long ago, not seemed at all possible. Wouldn't have even been part of the conversation at all.
Okay, that was a shade self-congratulatory. So be it. But let's hold off on the marching bands and confetti just yet, there's a marathon to shred in a few weeks.
So - commence taper. I'm racing a tiny local 5k next weekend for a speed workout, I think, and then I'll rock 13 easy miles next Sunday. Still a serious tempo run this week, and I'm not on cruise control or anything. But I'll start to shift gears now as Oct. 5th approaches. Good to have that last long run behind me. Good even that it was in tough conditions today. All of this, no microcosm - these miles are part of the further forging. It is, after all, only 364 more shopping days until game time.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Two nearly perfect weather years in a row (fingers crossed for just one more...) meant that volunteering for Sunday's race was a perfect way to spend a beautiful fall day. We had a whole gaggle of us at the State Street aid station - Brazo and his wife and kids were there, Erin and Chief of Stuff, and Megan and Cheese, along with myself and Amy. It was a huge aid station though, with tons of people, so we all just kind of found our way into the mix. Here's a shot of Team Brazo and Amy doing their thing (if you can pick them out amongst the sea of red shirts).
I hung towards the very back of the aid station with a collection of water and Gatorade, because I always appreciate one more option before the end of the aid station. I'd stand there and yell "Watuuuur! Gatoraaaaaaade!" and get into a kind of Wally the Beerman (well known beer vendor at Twins games, for those that don't know) cadence. Sometimes I'd throw in a "Buttscratcher!" just to keep it lively.
It was a ton of fun to just be among the athletes, to enjoy State Street in the sunshine, to be among Ironman. When my friends TriAl and Thomps came by, I'd run along with them and cheer my face off for them, so happy to see them out there, hanging tough and getting it done. Al said he couldn't feel his feet the first time around - the second time he said he couldn't feel his ankles. Ack. But, he got it done out there and finished in just over 13 hours. Thomps wondered the first time around if he'd blown it all on the bike, but the second time around he was looking really strong and said he got his second wind. He finished in just under 13 hours - a great day and huge congratulations out to both of them.
When our shift ended Amy went home to put D to bed, and Erin, CoS and I headed to the finish line to cheer on the finishers. The site of the IMWI finish line, with the Capitol in the backdrop - it's always pretty amazing.
All in all, a fantastic day and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
A few bits & pieces:
• Closed circuit to athlete walking through the aid station on his cell phone. Really? WTF indeed.
• You always kind of catch the latest gear that everybody's excited about. Last year was the first year I saw tons of aero-helmets on the course. This year there were LOTS of those knee-high compression socks on the run course. I wonder what the report on those are - they're supposed to minimize fatigue, etc. by compressing the muscles. Anybody tried them? Do they work? Cuz...they sure look goofy. As opposed to the rest of the wardrobe for this game which looks totally natural.
• Surreal moment of the day - some athlete passed by me, grabbing a Gatorade, then I hear from behind me, "Hey, are you Becoming Ironman?" I turn and this dude, in the middle of his Ironman, has turned all the way around to ask me that. I don't know if he recognized me from this blog or the video or what, but I say, a little stunned, "Yes I am." And he raises his fist - I cna't be sure but he may have given the universal sign for picking it up and setting it down and shouts, "Fuck Yeah!" Well that got me pretty fired up so I ran after him and chased him for awhile and shouted at him, "YOU WILL FINISH THIS RACE!" And he got a solid look of ass-kickery on his face and went charging onward. That was some kind of crazy.
• You know what's weird? State Street when it isn't dark by 5:00 and raining. I had no sense at all of where this aid station was in relationship to my own Ironman experience, even mentioning to Brazo when we got there that I had no clue where we were. I mentioned that to Amy when I was escorting her back to the parking garage at the end of the day, and she said, "This is where you said you were back in the game." (in the video, at about 4:45)
All I remembered from my frozen stupor was running down some hill, getting a Gatorade, then stumbling upon the team. In my mind it was kind of an empty part of the course, kind of wide-open - I think because there seemed like there were hardly any people out there at all (which, there were hardly any people out there at all, what with the monsoon and all). She pointed to the entrance to some little store, "this is where we all huddled together to keep warm." WEIRD. Weird, what one perceives vs. what's real, y'know? Especially in Ironman, where perception is pretty much what is real, if that makes sense. Anyway, the last two years this same lonely stretch has been bright and summery and just full of people, their shouts and noises bouncing off the buildings lining the narrow street to make everything loud and cheerful. It would be fun to experience that kind of energy as an athlete.
• The Ironman store at the village is sure getting elaborate - in a good way. This year, instead of the usual Ironman faire and smattering of triathlon goods it was really split into 2 different sections, one full of Ironman regalia, and the other a pretty fully-featured tri-store with Zoot, 2xU, Blue Seventy, TYR, the whole shebang. Shoes, wetsuits, trisuits, everything you could want for. Made perusing a ton of fun.
• I got in line Monday morning to register for IMWI '09. Crazy. I worried that this would be the first year that it wouldn't get to online registration at all, and that they'd have to turn away some that were physically in line. It all turned out fine - there were about 800 people in the volunteer line, I heard a NA Sport rep say at the volunteer's dinner Monday night, and about 1500 or so in the regular line. I was in the first third or so of the Volunteer's line, and it went pretty smoothly. Still - either Ironman participation interest is going to start to plateau a bit, or we'll inevitably start to some kind of lottery system just for regular races. It's just crazy that people are lining up at 4:00am.
• I heard some other interesting things by eavesdropping on this NA Sports rep who was chatting with a long-time volunteer captain at my table. He said that in '05 it was so hot, and in '06 it was so cold, that they really spent the entire race-day in constant "emergency" mode. Always tackling really big issues on the course and relative to the race in general. Also, he noted, athletes, volunteers, and spectators alike tend to rally together in those really tough years even moreso than usual, so that small things that could be improved tend to get put aside or overlooked altogether. He said that the last 2 years of great weather have really allowed them to perfect the small details - which, he accurately pointed out - in it's 7th or 8th year should be what they're doing with Ironman Wisconsin. Things like distributing ice and sponges in the most sanitary fashion, for instance. I appreciated this, and thought it spoke well of NA Sports and how they handle all things Ironman, which especially on race day hurts my head with how complicated the whole thing must be. Good on you, all.
• I get that it's fun and worthwhile to kind of "brand" each race to its geography - like, Brazo's medal for IMKY was shaped like a horseshoe. Cuz it's Kentucky. Get it? But it's kind of boring for me that everything IMWI appears to be about cows. This year there were these cartoony cows on the t-shirts, which was all well and good, but then the Finisher's medals were also shaped like a cartoony cow. I'm not saying it shouldn't and wouldn't be cherished for what it is - but can't we doe something classier for a Finisher's medal than a cartoony cow? Must cows be involved at all? If it's between that or some god-forsaken wedge-of-cheese shape, then I guess I'll take the cow, but I dunno. Seems to me we could keep these things simple and classy instead of cute and goofy. Just saying.
• I enjoyed the volunteering and all - but my heart, and my soul, and my guts are ready to be on the other side of that cup of Gatorade.
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Two things that made me audibly react to my computer yesterday:
1. Lance is back. Google it for details. Finally the Tour will be compelling again.
2. World Triathlon Corporation, owners of all things Ironman, sold to a group in Rhode Island. Slowtwitch reports it here. WTC has owned Ironman for really the entire modern era - everything we know and love about Ironman goes back to how the family-run WTC has chosen to maintain and grow the brand. This is an interesting business development for Ironman, and I don't know what - if any - changes might come. The addition of the 70.3 series in the last couple of years has, I think, really enriched the Ironman brand. This private equity group is in the business of buying - then maturing, then selling. So it stands to reason to their objective will be to, of course, create even more value in the brand so they can sell it in a few years. Will this mean more Ironman races? More Kona slots or flexibility? Increased race fees? Licensing deals where I can go buy an Ironman toothbrush at Wal-Mart? Do nothing at all and let it mature on its current course? Who knows. For now, those are details that are interesting for the businessman in me to think about, but otherwise I think I'll just let it be behind the curtain. It will have no bearing on my life for IMWI 2009, and I'm not interested in getting so into the machinery of Ironman that my experiences as an athlete are in any way influenced by what happens around a board table. Still, interesting times.
I've got a whole general post I'll be writing all about the volunteer experience this year, so stay tuned for regularly scheduled programming soon.
Monday, September 08, 2008
Saturday, September 06, 2008
Hit the road for a 20-miler this morning, hoping to see how everything held up and discern just what might seem realistic for me going 26.2 My plan was to go 16 and hover just under 9:00/mi, and then at 16 hopefully have enough to step up the pace into the mid-low 8:00's, emulating my race day plan.
The first part of the plan went pretty flawlessly - 8:56/mi easy through 16, and feeling pretty good. I slowed, though, when I wanted to increase speed, finishing my last 4 miles at a 9:02 pace. Good for an overall of 8:58/mi - that's a 4 hour marathon pace, which is the ideal goal...but I couldn't have sustained that for another 6 miles. Probably would have gone between 4:05 and 4:10 if it were race day.
My legs felt like friggin' tree trunks afterwards, and I promptly hit the jacuzzi bathtub full of cold water and fired up the jets. Felt great, minus the shivering and, y'know, parts that don't feel great.
I'm pretty satisfied with this run - it gives me my first indication of what might be possible. My nutrition was on point, and I executed my plan about as well as I could have - I might try to slow even a shade more the first 16, maybe on the plus side of 9:00/mi to save some in the tank the last 10 miles. Not sure yet how to assess where I can improve, or if another run of 22 miles next week, after hopefully a solid week of training this week, will just leave me better prepared to execute a 4 hour marathon. I think most of my questions won't have an answer until race day, and I'll just have to do the best I can in training until then.
My hard hill work last week paid off - the 5 or 6 ass-kicking hills on my route, which 2 weeks ago left me gasping, were nothing insurmountable today at all. Encouraging.
And lastly, filed under "obvious" - 20 miles is a long damn way, holy shit.
Thursday, September 04, 2008
Hey, see if this sound familiar: mid-50's, windy, rain all day. Deja vu all over again as I headed over to Ironman Village this morning to partake in the electricity. The line for athlete registration was super long, and the village itself was a shade quiet - it had only opened maybe an hour or so before, and with the weather as it is people aren't really hanging out outside today. Inside the Terrace the place was buzzing, though. They've revamped the Ironman store with a ton more stuff - not just the M-Dot stuff, but lots of 2XU gear (including a jacket that I covet and may find myself requiring over the next day or so that I didn't pick up today), wetsuits, general tri-gear. Lots of Zoot stuff, too. Kind of your basic kickass triathlon store side by side with a solid drenching of M-Dot. Pretty much fantastic.
I did my best to stimulate the economy, dropping far more than is appropriate, but hey - it comes once a year. I said it was like Christmas, right?
Favorite random item with the logo slapped on it this year: Retractable dog leash. Sweet!
Today's the only ugly day in the forecast, really - chance of rain throughout the weekend, but otherwise sun and low 70's - great race weather. I'm excited for volunteering, and I'll see if I can't blog "live" from Ironman with a few photos or something cool while we're out there.
Go Thomps! Go TriAl! Who else?!?! Whoohoooooo!
Monday, September 01, 2008
Well I've had a solid but hard week of training. The schedule called to "lighten up" this week, a "rest" from the long mileage. 4 workouts of 6 miles each. I chose to run them on a hilly route - 2 stupid serious climbs, out and back course - 4 stupid serious hills total. I also chose to run in the heat. I needed this kind of conditioning - it kicked my ass, it relegated me to walking more than once, it made me gasp and wheez and swear. If you happened to drive by and saw a dude dripping from the tip of his nose with his hands on his hips - yeah, that was me.
But, I'm better for it.
I needed to stoke the fire a little bit. I've been feeling plateaued, even complacent a bit. I'm bored with my running route after this long season. I'm sick of my iPod and every shred of music on it. I usually look for something external to change it up, but this week I decided to dig deeper into me and push some. I chose the heat and hills. I don't know what payoff - if any - might come from it, but it was an interesting experiment that, in just 4 "short" runs (ha, felt like they took forever) kind of tore me down before building me up. I feel a bit energized going into this first of 3 critical final weeks of long mileage.
This week I go back to a couple of shorter easier runs, a day of hard speed work, and then an 18-20 miler on Saturday. 18 minimum - I'd like to go 20 if I'm feeling it. This long run should give me my first real indication of just what's possible come the marathon on October 5th. I'll follow it up with 22 next week, and another 22 miler the week after that.
I'm getting healthier. I wonder if I won't wish I had just one more week, but my gut tells me that I'm on point to peak at just the right time. Don't know yet what that "peak" will consist of - 9:00 or 9:30 or 8:50 minute miles or what - this is the unknown that I hope to start resolving a bit more this week. But I realize that this is the first time in about 5 weeks when I've felt in charge of me, and not slave to my right ankle. This is encouraging.
And I think some of my positive energy is being influenced by no small thing - it's Ironman week here in Wisconsin. This is, without question, my favorite time of year. It's my personal 8-years-old-can't-sleep-tonight Christmastime. I love this week. I love the aura and electricity of Ironman energy that pervades the scene. I love that I think about it at work, mention it while feeding my daughter, let it drive my workouts. I'll visit the Village on Thursday. Volunteering on Sunday. Cheering on my man Thomps and all the other athletes out there, back among my heroes, back among legend. Ironman is an extremely special thing to me. It represents something deeper and bigger than a race, or an M-Dot. It's bigger than a celebration of triathlon, but that's part of its fantastic joy for me - triathlon itself so much a metaphor to me for What Could Be. Ironman is being among the best of the triumphant, relentless human spirit. For one day, you are surrounded by, often very literally, the very best people have to offer. You are sharing in the hard work and celebrating the discipline of 2500 other people. Being around that, it makes you want to be better. A better person, even, and I don't care if that sounds corny. It makes cliches real. It makes corporate taglines, Anything Is Possible truly meaningful. It makes quiet, solitary spectators stop and look and watch and wonder - deep in their private hearts - Could I do that? - and in my experience, almost every great thing in life begins with that simple question.
For one week, and especially 4 days, and especially 1 day, I revel in that, even if I've only just discovered it intimately 3 years ago. I celebrate it, and swim in its awesomeness, and take pride in the efforts of total strangers and feel passionate hope for those I'm lucky enough to call friends. I don't know about you, but I don't get a similar opportunity very often.
I know I'm not alone. We all around here wait for the first banners to fly downtown, the first signs of Ironman coming again. It's more than a Sunday race that makes us crane our necks for a closer look to see if the buoys are in the water yet. We can't wait to see it's true is the thing. That it's really here. If you know what I'm talking about, then you know what I'm talking about.
This year is made even a cooler, knowing that next year, I get to play again. My God. Man, that is some sweet, sweet music.
Big congratulations to my man Brazo, who knows exactly what I'm talking about, having finished his second IM in Kentucky this weekend in 15:48:51, fighting a civil war against himself. He came out the winner. Ironman often do.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
I had a mostly-solid-really-ugly-last-2-miles 15 mile run last weekend. My ankle felt better than I expected it would (more on that in a minute), but I still stopped 3 times just to stretch. It wasn't the leg that made me crash the last 2 miles, but rather just a classic bonk - I'd been drinking Gatorade okay, but had just a single gel. I also subscribed to the same strategy I'd worked for the half marathon - just run comfortable. This 15 miler was, I think, as far as I've run since Ironman in 2006. And I remembered that - hello - you kind of need to strategize about that kind of distance. You have to eat now for later. You have to go slow now to maintain pace later. Somehow I'd just sort of not taken that part seriously until the bonk painfully reminded me of it. Sounds like a pretty rookie thing to do, but really, this is the first marathon I'm intentional about. The first marathon I ran, in 2005, was to psychologically prove to myself that I could go the distance for Ironman in '06. The marathon at Ironman is a whole other thing in itself. So this is kind of my first real approach to the race to not just try, or see if I can, but really execute something. It's hard work.
Today I had a 6 mile easy run with a goal pace of 8:47/mile. I covered it in 8:21/mi, and felt stronger than I have in many weeks. I'm wearing a brace on my right ankle called an AirHeel, made by AirCast. I wore it for my long run last weekend, too, and I think it's offering some of the stability that I mentioned in the last post I was lacking - how I just don't have the strength to push off. It's actually pretty ingenious - there are two air bladders, one that's immediately under your arch, and the other that wraps around the back of your ankle, precisely around the Achilles tendon. When you put your foot down, the air in the bottom chamber pushes towards the back chamber, offering support and stability and compression to the Achilles - where I need it most during the foot strike. When I lift my leg, the air returns from the Achilles area back to bottom of my foot, offering an instant of stability and cushioning to the arch when I strike, before sending the air back to the Achilles. I wondered if it would feel awkward or annoy me, but it doesn't - it's present, but not distracting. Today's run was as good as I've felt in a long time - I didn't have to stop and stretch, I didn't have any of the sharp pains that race up my calf, and I was able to keep a bit higher pace, with better consistency, than I've been able to in a long time. This was all extremely encouraging. I have a light load this week - a series of 6-milers, including my long run, before I go 18 for my long run next weekend. I hate to say it too loudly, but it could be that my concoction of treatments and contingencies around the Achilles could be seeing some progress.
However, an intriguing thing happened near the end of today's run. I was thinking, just generally, of what might happen at the marathon - I have several long training runs yet before I'll have an understanding of what feels like a realistic race goal with all this Achilles drama for the last month. I was wondering if my original goal of sub 4:00 was still possible - and I still don't know if it is - or what else maybe would be more realistic. When I got home I saw my buddy RobbyB's last Twitter post, where he said about his last long run, "Long run: schd 15mi @8:20. Actual: 15 @8:25. Hurt me good. Long day of travel & dehydration. Need mental toughness & less excuses." (hope it's okay I'm sharing your world at my blog, RB). And it got me thinking - I've kind of developed an attitude of hey, I'm a little bit hurt, I won't push myself, I'll just get through it. And to an extent I kind of have to go with what I'm capable of, and if that's a bit diminished from the norm, then I have to work with it. But that's a physical challenge. I've been allowing that to influence me mentally. I think I've been settling for "well that wasn't too bad" lately. I wonder if I've allowed this stupid Achilles thing to be an excuse of some kind. Because it's hard. And sometimes I suffer. And that's just part of the game I signed up for.
So hey - no more talk about the Achilles, except where mentioning it clarifies the situation. This isn't going to be a "yeah, but that was the year I was hurt" kind of marathon. This isn't going to be a "if only I wasn't hobbled" kind of race. I've fallen into a shade of funk over here with it, and I'm calling an official end to that. I'm going to do my best. No excuses. Time to pick it up and set it down. This is, after all, Becoming Ironman.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Well I mentioned a few posts ago how this race was closed when I got around to registering for it - I'm happy to report that I got an email back from the race directors on Friday afternoon telling me they could make room for me. Awesome! So, a whirlwind commenced - I was, like, 15 minutes from heading out the door for a 16 miler when I got the email, so I quickly changed plans (moving the long run to tomorrow morning) and spent the evening giving Vapor some love (still a fine layer of Dakota Dust all over the thing) and getting my gear ready to rock.
I had no big plans or ideas for this race - I kind of only stumbled onto it a few weeks ago, and was really just looking to get out there and enjoy it. No big goals, no hopeful times or speed ideas - I've had such craptacular runs lately that I was mostly just hoping to get out and go fast, see how the Achilles held up, and also get a feel for what changes the tweaks I've been making to my bike fit might mean. So when I arrived at transition, it was with an open mind and just a happiness at being at another race day - in fact, as I was walking my bike from parking down to transition, and crested the hill where I could suddenly see all the blue fencing, tent tops, athletes rummaging around, loudspeakers blaring, I had that familiar bit of butterflies, that sudden lump in my throat. God I love race day.
The course was a .25 mile swim, 16 mile bike, and 5k (3.1 mile) run. I hit the water with the rest of my wave - all 30-39 year old males - and gave as much as I got through the initial washing machine. I redlined right away, pushing hard the first 100 or so to really get some position and make the first turn buoy, where I could turn right and get into my rhythm.
I didn't feel great on the swim - I mean, I felt healthy just fine, but didn't feel like I was moving very fast, and I knew I wasn't swimming as fast as I'm capable. About 3/4ths of the way through I tried to really focus on my technique, and realized that my head had been way too high up in the water, likely from consistently trying to sight and have a sense for my position. With crap technique will come pretty slow times, and as soon as I made some adjustments I felt a lot more hydrodynamic. I was in the middle of a pack for the final 100, and pushed hard to gain some ground before getting out of the water. I was surprised to find myself out of the water in 7:48, apparently beating my PR for open-water, 1/4 mile swim (previously 8:12, last season at Devil's Challenge Triathlon). That said, I think it's hard to think much about personal bests in the water from one race to another - sometimes the timing mats are a long run up the beach, for instance, and I'm always a little suspicious that they're measured correctly at all. At any rate, my time puts me at a pace of about 1:46/100 yards, which certainly isn't as fast as I'm capable of swimming. But, whatever! I'll take it! Next time I'll remember to keep my technique on point from the gun.
A run around the entire transition area then finally put me at my machine, where I quickly got organized and on the road. Out the door in 1:21.
Besides wanting to get a feel for my aero-position in a race scenario, I also wanted to experiment a bit with pushing at a lower cadence - I usually ride very intentionally around 90rpm, and I decided to push closer to 85rpm, to see if A: there'd be any noticeable fatigue in my legs on the run, B: or if I'd in fact be using my quads a bit more efficiently and have fresher legs on the run, and C: If I could get a little more speed out of the bike in a sprint situation. The course was very pleasant - mostly smooth, clean roads, gently rolling with one or two more difficult climbs. I passed a ton of people - this is a very "beginner-friendly" event, so there were lots of mountain bikes and commuters out on the road, but I also did my share of passing the rocket ships. I was passed only twice, both by dudes at least 9 feet tall with 5-feet-long legs and on very, very serious rocket ships. I love riding sprint distance - I take the little gear bag off my bike, which usually has various tubes, CO2 cartridges, etc. (so, if I ever flat during a sprint distance, I'm screwed...), and my bike feels especially light and fast. I enjoy not thinking and just going fast. I rolled into T2 covering 16 miles in 44:06, good for a 21.8mph - another PR, nudging out my previous (13 miles at 21.59 at Chain of Lakes triathlon in '07, with a serious tailwind, chasing my man TZilla - no tailwind today). It's good to go fast. Vapor is a killer machine.
I was out of T2 in 36 seconds, and right away faced a hill on the run course. My Achilles felt pretty good all day, except when I had to run up a hill at all, or on any unsteady ground. I slowed and took the hill a little easy, and was irritated to find that the "crest" wasn't a crest at all, but just a false-flat, where it gradually inclined for another quarter mile or so - all of which put stress on the bum wheel. Finally reaching the top and turning right, I was able to make up a bit of ground with a steep decline (again, not great on the Achilles). The course went like this - a bit up, a bit down - for the first mile or so, before angling onto the Portage airport grounds, where we spent another mile on grass. Not my ideal terrain, and as I mentioned, I had a stab or two in the Achilles whenever my ankle would twist unsteadily, but at least it was flat. The course was out and back, so I was able to take advantage of those early inclines becoming descents as I threw it all toward the finish line. I finished in 23:45, good for a 7:39 pace. About two minutes off my personal best time (21:55 at Devil's Challenge last year), but I was glad to have a pretty decent speed workout and to feel generally consistent after the crap mileage I've been putting up lately.
All tolled, I finished in 1:17:33, good for 10/45 in my age group, and 25/321 overall. Like I mentioned, there were a lot of newbies at this race, so I'll keep that in perspective with those placements, but hey - a top 10 finish is a top 10 finish, and finishing in the top 10% overall ain't too shabby either. More than anything else, I just had a lot of fun and couldn't have been happier spending my Saturday morning any other way.
Some bits & pieces:
Except for a bit of registration disorganization, the race was very well organized, well run, and safe. There was lots of the usual fruits and carbs afterwards, but also free burgers, which was fun. I'll be sure to do this race again.
I love you, newbies. With your big fat tires, your commuter bikes with aero-bars (!), your humongous satchels hanging off your frames, your 4 water bottles for 16 miles (I did that too, in my first race!) I love your huge squishy seats and bikes on kickstands in transition. I loved watching you come in off the bike, get your run gear on and breathlessly make your way out on the run, where a lot of you maybe just walked up that first hill, but you were moving forward. I don't know if this was your very first time, or if you just enjoy this on weekends sometimes, or maybe this very race is a tradition for you, but you and your family and kids with glittery signs saying "Go mom!" make me smile, and are what this game is all about.
Highlight number one: Dude wearing a plaid, long-sleeve, button-up shirt, in his 60's or so, with rear-view mirror attachments on his bike, riding next to his wife, both casually cruising along on the bike course. Extra special was that his out-in-the-garden shirt was tucked into his spandex cycling shorts.
Highlight number two: Really old dude, walking along the side of the road with his cane, clearly enjoying his morning routine. That his walking route happened to also be the running route for this race didn't faze him at all, and he'd just teeter on at his usual pace, waving his cane after us once in awhile and shouting "I'll get you next year!"
My cockpit isn't comfortable at all. Even for all the tinkering I've been doing, even a 40 mile ride a few weeks ago, as soon as I got on my bike I felt like I was on somebody else's machine. I need a shorter stem, I think, and generally just a lot more work. I don't think the position is generally bad, but I have to get the front end worked out. Whatever I finally decide, a professional, let's-spend-a-few-hours-on-it fitting is in order late next spring.
I'm managing the Achilles okay. I was really happy that it was, except for places I'd expect it to be, mostly a non-issue today. Still, I realized today that I just couldn't get the leg turnover that I wanted, which accounted for some serious speed compromise. I just don't have the strength to push off with my right foot with the tendon in the shape it is. The situation is: I'm kind of hobbling to the proverbial finish line this season. I'm being cautious - I'm not making it worse, per se, but I know in a perfect world I'd just stop and let it heal for a few months - I'm aware that I'm certainly not making it better. This marathon is important to me, though, and I'm committed to not using the Achilles as any kind of excuse. I'm going to train the very best I can, and hope to execute at the Twin Cities Marathon whatever that training has prepared me for - whatever that is. It is what it is.
My experimenting with the bike - I think I did have more speed, and I didn't feel any fatigue, pushing 85rpm instead of 90. I'll plan to train like that on the indoor trainer a bit this winter - obviously a 16 mile sprint triathlon is a whole other thing than going long distance. I'll have to see if that's something I can apply next year as I'm in Ironman training without blowing up.
Just a related sidenote - I feel like, as a triathlete, I'm fine-tuning. Like, the major lessons for me are mostly learned. Now it's experimenting about how to get the most out of myself, rather than teaching myself how to get anything out at all. That's kind of cool. Kind of a fun place to be in. Again - not a sense of "I know it all now", but just that I have some experience and education after these years that's serving me well. Still so much to learn, of course. Always.
Good Karma once again to Mike and Heather, the race directors, for letting a schmuck like me in to race today. I really had a blast.
Finally, this kickass email I got from my man Thomps today:
Just got this info from the 2008 IM Moo Athlete Guide. Priority Registration for 2009 goes to 2008 volunteers.
2008 volunteers will have priority in being first in line to go through the registration process starting at 9:00AM on Monday. Volunteers must have their shirt and/or wristband attached to be in the volunteer line for registration as well as photo ID. Otherwise, individuals will be asked go in the general line. No exceptions! Once volunteers are through, we take all others. 2008 Athletes will be able register Saturday, September 6, 2008 from 9:00AM - 11:00Am.
Great news, as I'll be on State Street with Amy, Kritta, Erin and Chief of Stuff at the aid station from 3:00-8:30. Fantastic bonus that registering for '09 is made available to volunteers like that! Really exciting.
And on that note, sending positive mojo to Thomps and my new WIBA friends, who are in taper for IMWI, and my man Brazo (#1638) who's rocking IMKY next weekend. Can't wait to cheer you all on, in person or online.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Well, Ironman Wisconsin is a mere 17 days away, and if all goes as planned in 18 days I'll be officially registered for IMWI '09. Registering for Ironman has in itself become an endurance sport these days, so I suppose one can't take anything for granted. That said, I'll be there at the Terrace on the 8th, in line early in the morning, ready to get my slot.
So it's a little departed from my modus operandi to be open about my strategies before I'm even officially in for '09 - cart before horse, that whole thing - but I think it'll be a useful exercise to get these thoughts down and organized, and doing so now gives me some time to fine tune or make further considerations. So, for your perusal...
The two biggest challenges facing me for IM '09 are staying healthy, and working Ironman training into a lifestyle that involves, first and foremost, an ever-evolving little person called Dakota. Whereas with Ironman One I could kind of lose myself in an endless training weekend or obsess 24/7 about every angle regarding how the hell am I going to finish this race, this time around I prefer to keep a better balance - I don't want to lose entire weekends to Ironman training, awesome as that is for me at the time. For this to be the experience I want it to be, and that my family deserves for it to be, it all needs to work together.
Regarding injury, it's becoming apparent to me that this vehicle o' mine appears to have limited mileage. Last summer's knee injury and now this Achilles thing (I honestly thought I'd make it through this whole season injury free...) remind me that I'm more susceptible to injury, that it's harder for me to recover, that it takes longer to heal. And those are just the big ones - I've been nagged by one thing or another for the last 3 years. I need to be smarter about what I'm putting my body through, and how, so that I arrive at the Terrace next September healthy and ready to go.
Speaking of being smarter, I also want to apply more of what's worked so successfully for me this season - train smarter, not harder. Last time I did Ironman, like most first-timers, it was all about the mileage. Countless hours on the bike and run, endless hours in the pool, just to develop confidence (and physical ability) that, yes, I really could do this. But the training lacked any real intensity - I was prepared just to finish the distance, but not necessarily to race the distance. The goal will remain the same - just reach the finish line. But I think I can be smarter about developing some intensity that will also accomplish the goal of developing the right fitness to go the distance.
So, I have several ideas that, if all executed well, should work together to satisfy all of my potential obstacles. It goes a lil' sumpin' like this:
• First, I won't start training until around April 1st. By "training" I mean organized, goal-related running, biking, and swimming. I usually start training in January or February. This will be a little hard for me I think, because I'll probably be raring to go. But I think my body will last longer if I have a longer break this winter, and 6 serious months of training, instead of 8 or 9.
• That said, I'll be developing a base, albeit kind of loosely, all winter - I don't intend to just show up April 1st totally out of shape or something. But to that point, I'm going to trust more in my existing base - you don't do long distance triathlon for this long and not develop some fitness that can sustain even extended time off. I don't need to reinvent the wheel every season.
• That said, I need to be disciplined about two things this winter: Not gaining weight, which is one of my joys of the offseason, and being serious about strength and conditioning. I really want to focus on developing some strength and flexibility this winter, which can only help me stay loose and healthy and fit all year 'round. I plan to bike on the trainer weekly, run weekly, and hopefully even practice pilates a bit. I've also really always wanted to take a karate class, so maybe I can do that, too. Plus, just fun stuff - staying active all winter long, in a non-obsessed, free-of-OCD kind of way. So that when it's time to get serious, I've actually spent the winter getting stronger and more ready, instead of less-so.
• Getting into serious training, I'm going to decrease the time, and up the intensity. I haven't figured it out yet, but I'm not going to look to ride 6 hours every time I'm on my bike each weekend. Instead, I'll cut it to 4, 4.5 hours, and up the intensity so that I'm really working out there, instead of just getting the miles in. When I do ride really long - 100 miles or more - it will be with purpose. Right now I don't foresee going 100+ miles more than 3 times before race day next year - we'll see how the strategy is working when I get into it. Anyway, this should achieve lots of things - developing speed, decreasing time/opportunity for injury, and keeping my schedule more sensible so that an entire Saturday isn't shot everytime I get on the bike.
• Same with the run - I'm going to be thoughtful about what, and why, I am running. I likely don't need more than 18, 20 miles as a max-distance workout before Ironman. I'll spend my time developing some speed and intensity over a 13-16 mile run more frequently than just getting out to "manage" a 22 mile run. The run is where I seem especially susceptible to injury, so I'm going to be really intentional about spending only quality, purposeful time on the road.
• Swimming - I'm going to spend less time in the pool, and more time in open water. I'll admit something right now - I'm not a huge believer in spending tons of time in the water. It's my least favorite discipline for starters, so that's something, but once you develop a technique that works, once you develop muscle memory that works...for me, I just don't see huge benefits in spending hours in the pool. I'm never going to be a great swimmer, and even if I bust my ass I'll at most knock off - what, a few minutes. So killing myself with lap after lap after lap - it just doesn't have a sensible payoff. But, I REALLY would like to get better at sighting, and open water swimming, and managing open water intensity. So, I'm going to spend some time in the pool, but I'll really try and spend more time in open water. Which leads me to my next point:
• Race more. I love racing, of all distances. But next season, I'm going to use it more strategically. I'm going to race the Aquathon series around here as often as I can, for the open water, race-intensity workouts. I'm going to race triathlon often as my main source of brick workouts - I think practicing with the unique intensity that only race-day can provide will be more useful to me than my constantly tacking 3-8 miles on after every long ride just to get a feel for it. Learning to pace my nutrition on the bike for success on the run - and especially managing that run with hydration when it's hot outside - is intelligence that I can probably best develop in a race-intense environment, rather than with constant experimentation over here with Gatorade bottles.
So if I put all this together, I should be training harder, but less long, and maybe intentionally less often, getting as much or more out of 2 intense runs, 2 bikes, and one serious swim a week than I would out of two-a-days that take a long time but develop only as much, or even less, fitness. Keeping frequent races on the horizon should give me ample opportunity to rehearse instead of just practice, which I think is what will be more beneficial to me this time around. Finally, being really disciplined, especially this offseason, of staying in shape but especially focusing on flexibility (HUGE limiter for me) and strength is an ingredient I've never diligently put into my mix, and it's overdue.
Darra Torres, the 41-year-old Olympic swimmer this year, makes a great case study for all of these theories. She swims much less often than her younger counterparts, and spends a great deal of time stretching and strength training, knowing that she "knows what she needs to know", but has to keep her body healthy to execute it. I'm no Darra Torres, but I think her philosophies have some definite traction for the middle-o-the-pack thirty (or forty, or fifty)-something Ironman triathlete. Less can be more. It ain't rocket science. That kind of thing.
So, that's where I'm coming from as of now. Anybody have two cents to toss in? I'm listening -
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Well I don't know what to say about this stupid Achilles. The intense stretching is certainly helping - I'm less sore during the day, and except for yesterday's run, it's been much better when actually working out. That said, today it's really stiff, almost like a sprained ankle. Bah. Whatever - it appears with stretches, etc. that I can exert some influence over it, so that makes me feel like I'm okay to keep running on it. I haven't, in the last several runs, felt anything that makes me think I should pull over right this second. Nor do I feel anything after my run that makes me think I'm exacerbating the issue or making it worse. It seems I just have an injury, period. One I can deal with, but which may slow me down a bit - if not physically, per se, then for all the mental energy I'm spending on thinking about my damn right foot whenever it hits the ground. Anyway, I said to Amy today, "I just need to get through the marathon, then I can rest", and she laughed and asked me if I was aware of how stupid that sounded - "just need to get through a marathon", like it's an inconvenient afternoon meeting before I head to vacation or something.
I love the Olympics. Also, it's killing my sleep.
ITU, ie draft legal, ie Olympic triathlon, is kinda boring. What's the point of the 25 mile bike peloton? It lacks the distance where the peleton is part of the chess match, like it is in pro cycling. So basically dudes jump on the bike to just ride around for awhile before the real race starts on the run. Meh.
Hunter Kemper, what happened, dude?
What Alili said about Bolt. This guy is - what - 21? 22? It shows. First rule of winning: act like you've been here before. Punk.
I hate that I read online somewhere recently the words "J.Lo" and "triathlon" in the same sentence. Google it if you're that curious.
I read also that they're already seeing a significant increase in swimming interest since Phelps. This is cool and all - it's like the spike in cycling that went on around Lance's chase for the TDF legacy. It won't last long, I'm sure, but hopefully there will be some that get started and really find something cool in it to stick around. My question is, wouldn't it be natural for some of those people to find their way to triathlon, since it's a sensible competitive venue for people (read: hacks like me) who would otherwise have no business competing in a swim race?
Speaking of which, I was going to race this weekend, but by the time I got around to registering today (I had held off until today to make sure of the Achilles from the last few workouts), it's full. I am full-on disappointed. Let's see if my groveling email to the race directors makes a difference.
That's what's new with me, what's new whichu?