Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Feeling Twitterish...

I've tacked on a Twitter feed to the top of the page, just underneath my big chromium head, that I'll update frequently with specific but brief training recaps or whatever (whereas with the blog-at-large I'm pretty general and, uh, not brief). I don't know who will care or find this interesting, but I think I'll enjoy having the record of it, just as I do this blog. If you're reading from an aggregator like Bloglines or something, you'll probably miss it. If you want to add this RSS feed to your own aggregator or whatever, visit my twitter page at: and click the RSS button.

I'll update this from my phone as well when I'm away from the computer and have something to say, but as I mentioned, it'll all be tri-specific, likely training specific, often numbers and immediate impressions. So. Go crazy.

Oh, and just to make this post really worth reading, here's Dakota last night when I brought Vapor in to the house to do some work. She started obsessing immediately. That's my girl.


So, Erin tagged me, and I'm supposed to list "6 quirky things" about me. I feel a little bad about this, because I'm already a tag behind from Teach. But I decided, with Teach's tag, that I was only going to respond to tags from thenceforth with photos. But I'm too lazy, or not creative enough, to do that. So. Here we are.

I'm the least quirky person I know. That sound you hear is the laughter of all my friends.

• I hate lotion. I'm not being pithy, that my taggee (zat a word?) proclaims herself compulsive. I hate it. I hate the greasy, oily, liquidy feel of lotion. It, like, sticks to my hands and stuff. My aversion means that I generally sunburn because I won't wear the stuff. (I use the spray stuff, which is like lacquer, when I'm on my bike). I have zero sense of "dry skin", or anything like that. Probably my skin is miserable, I wouldn't know.

• What's stronger than hate? I'd use that word to describe my feelings for mayonnaise. I'd prefer it not be in the room. Once, in college, I worked at Musicland. Anybody remember Musicland? Anyway, often after word I'd drive through Hardee's. Anybody remember Hardee's? Anyway, they had this really good burger, but it had mayo on it. And time and time and time again I'd order it without mayo, and then they'd slather it on anyway. The worst is when you drive through somewhere, maybe on the interstate or something, and you get your stuff and get back on the road, and then discover they've poisoned your food. Aaaaanyway, after the gillionth time of them putting mayo on my burger, I put it in a box and mailed it to Hardee's World Headquarters, so it would be super nasty and rancid when it got there, with a note that said, "Did you order this? Me neither."

• There are foods that I eat nonetheless that I understand have this poison in it. Ranch dressing. Certain sauces that I like. I'm aware. Probably, if I ever actually saw the stuff going into the recipe when it was made, a big spoonful of misery, I'd not eat it. As it is, it's just understood that this is not to be discussed, and I choose to pretend it isn't so.

• I am, in many things, exacting to the point of inefficiency. A good example of this is my handlebar tape. If it's not perfect - if there's a weird snag, or it's wrapped poorly in a place, or if, say, the winding is spaced differently between the left and right bars, I'll redo the whole damn thing. Because it'll bug me. And I try to say, "Ah, it's fine, who cares", but I know that I'll be out there on my bike and it'll be pissing me off because it's not just right. This applies, of course, elsewhere in my universe. God bless my wife.

• I'm utterly unadventurous when it comes to food and drink. If we go somewhere, I'll order a version of something I've had before. I'm hesitant to try any ethnic food, because I figure "if I'm going to go out to eat, I might as well make it somewhere I enjoy, no?" I prefer Miller Lite in a bottle as my standard beverage. I don't think about food much past just the eating - the experience of it eludes me. That said, I really do enjoy the Food Network, and shows like Iron Chef. People that are that interested in food - as an experience, or ritual, or something to be explored and not just devoured, I find fascinating.

• Sometimes - occasionally at, like, midnight - I'll have sudden, random, sad thoughts about my dog Jack. And sometimes I will literally begin sobbing for those thoughts, and I'll go get him from wherever he is so that he can sleep with me in my bed. He's the size of a small horse, so it makes for an uncomfortable night's sleep. But a happy one.


• This would have been funnier if my wife would have written it. I should have done that.

• I'm hesitant to say this, lest anyone feels bad or something, but another quirk: my superhero name? It's xt4. not Xt4, or XT4. It's okay if that's how you want to roll with it, but just so you know, I don't think of myself capitalized.

• I like the smell of my dog's feet, too.

So let's see. Alili, Kodafit, Iris, Borsch, and RobbyB, you're it. Or, not, however you want to roll.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Back in action

First off, thanks for the mad love everybody in celebrating my Racine race, and in encouraging my mom. What was it Megan said about being part of this bloggitosphere? An honest-to-god honor. True dat.

How I spent my week (well, 5 days anyway) off:

• My exercise consisted of evening walks with Dakota and the dogs. Period.

• I limped around some. Amy said, "why are you limping?" I said, "Because I'm getting old, and nothing heals fast anymore!"

• I indulged in way more Culver's than is appropriate. This included several custardy confections, but also 9/10ths of an entire family order of cheese curds by myself. Steve would be proud. Then again, I didn't eat all of that the night before a race, so he wouldn't be that proud.

• I watched 3 movies. Only one of which is really any good. In case you care, 21 is just meh, Shutter is awful, and In Bruges is much better than the marketing materials suggest.

• Oh, very quickly while I mention movies, if you haven't seen The Dark Knight, do. It's a pretty amazing piece of movie. No superhero geekery required. Just a really excellent film.

• And while we're on the topic, see Wall-E too. Fantastic. Okay, moving on.

• Pizza Pit delivered 2 boxes of french fries, a pound of boneless drummies, and an order or 4 breadsticks to my house. For us to share. Right. Share.

• Ironman woke up. Like, really loudly and suddenly - having this season's A race no longer on my radar, I suddenly became very excited for Ironman '09. Which starts by getting really excited for Ironman '08, even if it means I'm just volunteering. It's like Christmastime or something - a whole season that I just thoroughly love being around. Can't wait for Ironman Village to go up again at the Terrace, to see all the athletes nervously readying, to just feel the energy again. Awesome.

• I took 2 spacers off my headset, to get my cockpit on the bike lower in attempts to develop as aero a position as I can. I'm not sure how much that lowered the cockpit - an inch? Less, I think? - but it required stopping every few minutes on my ride yesterday to adjust the seat position, adjust the aerobars, etc, so it's really a whole new experience on the bike - and I'm not done tweaking yet. I'll ride like this for awhile, see how it goes, then remove a few more spacers to see how low I can go.

• I went for a 5 mile run on Saturday, officially ending my hiatus. It went okay. A little slow. The bike went a little slow too. I chalk it up to a bit of lasting fatigue from the Half Iron.

• I started to get a plan for the rest of my season, and even into next season (because that's how I roll.) The game shifts now for a 10 week intensive focus on marathon training, where, like everything else this season, I hope to race the distance for the first time, and not just survive it. I'd like to go sub 4-hours. I don't know if this is possible, we'll see. We'll see where my training gets me in the next 2 months, and I'll get a clearer picture from that. In the days just after Racine, I thought I'd mostly just focus on running the rest of the summer, but I just love triathlon too much to do that. So I'll be looking for some small local sprint distance races throughout the rest of the summer and early fall, to keep cross training healthy, to have a reason to stay on the bike that I love, and to continue to try and develop that aero position and see where it gets me in races. I'm also signing up for a local 5k or two, and maybe a 10k here and there. As my running fitness improves with marathon training, these shorter running races should be a lot of fun.

• Could somebody clue me in on Chisago Lakes Half Iron? Pharmie or Steve? Anybody? I'm looking for a Half Iron next season, no later than first week of August, with a bike course that's a bit challenging and a run that's not on grass or trails. Anybody have any ideas?

• I ordered some new Newtons. Not the dog. The shoes. They're kind of my secret weapon.

• I got restless, and fired up for the rest of the season. I generally have a sense of fatigue after my A race - not physical, but mental, like I'm ready for a break now. I don't know if it's because I had, like, no season last year for the injury, or if my "train smart, not hard" has kept any kind of burnout at bay, but I'm still very fresh. Ready to attack marathon training, and loving it if I can plug a race here or there into the schedule as desired.

That's all from me - shouting out and sending positive goodness to all my peeps rocking Steelhead this weekend!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

That's what I'm talking about!

She's totally going to kill me, but this is one of those "better to ask forgiveness than permission" kind of deals, because she reads the blog. Sorry mom, but I'm just so damn proud of you right now and these are my peeps, they'll cheer you on -

Here's the email I just got from my mom -

Newsflash, woman gets off her ass. I just put on my tennis shoes which have been sitting in the corner of my office for a year and a half and walked the 2.6 miles around Lake of the Isles. Took me 50 minutes. Back in the day, my walking route in Williston was 3 miles in 40 minutes---but, that was back in the day. Anyway, I started out and thought, ok, that might be far enough, and a whole 4 minutes had gone by, so, on I went, and then you know, you get about half way and its too late to turn around then, and I kept thinking if my kid can do 26, I can sure as heck do 2 ., we will see how long this lasts, although Jay and I have been on a " better eating deal" since vacation, and I have not had a lick of sweets or candy since we came home except skinny cow fudgecicles which are life savers---and watermelon, but, anyway, Maybe ironman 2018???????????????????love you. mom


Monday, July 21, 2008

Spirit of Racine: From the other side...

...that's kind of an ominous title, no?

My cousin Erin - CznE - commented yesterday with her own "race report", and I deleted it so I could make it its own post because I thought it was interesting. CznE is the consummate professional support crew member. It has become family lore how she handled a Hummer H2 - at times offroad - during IMWI '06 to secure the next vantage point on the bike course. She doesn't just show up to watch her cousin goof around for a few hours, she gets really, really into it. Her cheers are the loudest when I cruise by. Even right now as I write this, in my head, I can hear her trademark "Yeah!" while I fly by. I can always see the blue shirts before they see me, and often while others are milling about or chatting, CznE is always eyes-on-the-road, waiting for that glimpse, for my fist in the air, or that signal that I am
picking it up and setting it down. More than that, I can always count on her. She's a logistical jedi. She's about as true and loyal a human being as I've ever known, and that she's my cousin makes it extra cool.

Her friend Jimmy - and by "friend" I mean imagine-me-making-quote-marks-with-my-fingers-and-italicizing-the-word-
friend with-my-voice, was at his first triathlon Sunday - which I'm sure is a little nuts. He also shared his perspective, and it's cool to see what this game is like from the other side of Transition, especially from somebody who's never seen it. Thought you'd enjoy it, too.

Might be a shade confusing with all the Erins present, but you'll catch on, I'm sure.

Oh, and Jimmy - if you thought this was cool, just wait'll Ironman. ;)

CznE: From the Other Side:
So, I'm no a tri- athlete or anything, but I'm one helluva a supporter. Chris invited my friends and I to the OG so I tagged along. Even for me, it was fun to put faces with the Super Hero name. I had met Erin and CoS before, so there were familiar faces. Chris called me on the way there.

Chris: We're like 15 minutes away.
Me: We're like 4 miles.
Chris: Cool- can you just look around for people who look like they might be meeting up with people they don't know? Guys with shaved legs... Will you add the reservation under a few names, I just don't know how people will find me.

So I did- I immediateily found Alili and her husband.

You'd think dinner with a bunch of tri-crazies would be like sitting with a bunch of finance guys talking about hedge funds or something. So not the case. Even the non- tri-athletes with me found the conversation interesting and engaging. Just unable to contribute most of the time. All cool people in this blogsphere.

Thomps had some good tips and suggestions for us spectators, tips and suggestions which all rang true the following morning. My gang left the OG to play Rockband on Wii while drinking some brews.

5am and the alarm goes off. 545 and we're in the car and on the way- perfect according to schedule.

Jimmy Brooks and I found parking easily and had some extra time so decided to drive closer to to the venue. We spotted Alili's hubby crossing the bridge and said good morning, maybe we'd link up later on. Right when we entered the race venue, we saw him again. Chris had just left the area.

We headed out into the fog to find where the athletes entered into the water. Who knew we'd be walking a mile in the sand to get there. But we couldn't tell! We couldn't see through the damn fog. Finally, we see a group of wet suits. After looking around for Chris for a while, I decided to climb up on the rocks. I was wearing the Team Bintliff shirt and I knew Chris would be able to spot the blue. He always does. Not too long after we were up there, sure enough, Chris and Erin see us. Just before that, I'm convinced I saw Megan for a split second but then lost her. I tried to spot her again to link Chris and Erin up with her, but couldn't.

Just as Chris and Erin get into the water to get used to it, Amy, CoS and Mike arrive at the beach. I know the delay sucks for a lot of the competitors, but for these 3, it meant they got to see their loved ones before the big day started. And that's important. Chris could keep an eye on me and my blue shirt. I grabbed D and raised my "international sign for pick it up and set it down." Then I held D in the air so Chris knew they were there. Very cool that Chris could see D before the race.

Ok, they're in the water, so we (Team Bintliff now because we'd grown to what our group would be for the day) started our mile journey back so we could catch Chris start the bike. Our walk back included singing songs for D so she'd have a joyous ride back. And it kept her content, so it worked. (I'll admit- I totally threw a little Baby Got Back in there for her.)

We find our spot right where the bike began. Maybe 15 feet ahead of the red line. Seriously- it's a mess watching all of you get going. Clipping in looks like a bitch. I saw countless people falling as they were trying to get started- which meant their water bottles went rolling away from them, so they were dodging riders. Shoes falling off. Sort of a cluster. Is it always like that? Jimmy Brooks went to watch for Chris coming out of Transition closer to the red line. Chris spotted us right away. Super pumped up. Ready to kick ass and take names. "It's On! The Game Is On! A little earlier, someone said, "Hi Mike!" Thomps recognized Mike so we got to root him on as he got started. We tried really hard to spot Erin, but I missed her. CoS said she went by already.

We trek up the hill trying to figure out what we do next. CoS said he was off for an adventure. "Erin gave me the keys to her car." My eye brows raised. "Want company?" And he did, so CoS, Jimmy Brooks and me were off to spot them on the bikes.

We parked, and I ran up to where the bikers were coming across. This is where it's so fun. It's always a gamble! You never really know if you'll see your tri-athlete. If you were too late or if you'll have to wait for a really long time. I started talking with one of the women there and she said that her son had passed already- he entered the water 12 after. Crap! Deflated, I thought we missed him. But it was ok- we'd wait for Erin to go by. CoS had times for both Chris and Erin down really well.

Suprised, Chris comes by us! We saw him! I turned to Jimmy Brooks. "See- this is why it's so fun! You never know if you'll see them and when you do it's a huge adreneline rush!" Jimmy went down the hill about a hundred feet. The plan was that he'd spot Erin and ring my celly so that I could be ready with the camera and CoS and I would know when she was close. Erin spotted Jimmy first and the idea worked according to plan. Erin passed us with a smile on her face. She's always smiling.

We decide to stay put, they'd be coming by in an hour or so. We pass the time cheering on the riders in front of them. Those pros are ridiculous! "Nice job, speedy!" and "Dang!" would come out of our mouths as they raced by. No smiles on their faces. All serious.

For the other athletes it's a sing songy "Strong and steady! Looking Good! Keep it up! Nice Job, Blue! Nice job, Pink! Team In Training!!!! Go Badgers! En-Er GY" Jimmy Brooks got some smiles out of the bikers with "Happy Faces! Let's see some smiles!" Reactions are mixed. When we'd get a smile we'd all cheer like we'd gotten a point or something. We like reactions from you! We're out there for you and sometimes we just want a little back. Is that selfish?

We see Chris and Erin on the return route. Both looking strong and steady. Both with happy faces. The sun is starting to come out now. Finally.

We were on our way back to watch the run. We missed Chris coming out of Transition. CoS saw Erin. CoS had their times mapped out pretty well, so he helped us know when we could expect to see them next.

First we saw Chris on his way in the first time. I ran across so I could catch him again. He slowed down while he grabbed some water and squeezed the sponge over his head to cool off. He said the race was going really well, asked how D, Amy and Mike were doing and he was off again.

The next time we saw Chris he was on his way to the finish line, busting PRs. F-ing Right!

It took us a while to find him after the race, we need to find a better plan.

Watched Erin come through finish next.

Good job to the two of you! 2 events now where I've been able to cheer on the 2 of you. Strong work. Always a good time.


Jimmy Brooks:

I witnessed one of the most amazing feats of humankind this weekend. On Sunday July 20, 2008 I was invited to attend a triathlon in Racine Wisconsin. The agenda for the day was watch Chris swim, bike and run to complete this race. Upon arriving, I was immediately in awe of the magnificence of the athleticism from these athletes. Chris especially was inspiring with his form, posture and stance toward this event. The night before was entertaining with Chris being the host of other athletes whom will participate in this event. Immediately, I felt welcomed and warm to people who were seemingly strangers. The comrades sat, laughed, joked, feasted and discussed particulars in a jargon unfamiliar to my realm of vocabulary knowledge. The long and short of it is simply this: they enjoyed each other's companionship. However unfamiliar this sport is to me, I grew an appreciation for the followers because of the human-ness I witnessed in their actions, their kindness and their generosity toward one another. Tri-Athletes, at least from my encounter, seem to be some of the most jolly and opportunistic fellows and ladies I have had the pleasure to surround myself with. What a great dinner that was.

Day 2: You know how when you are a kid and Christmas is the next day and you just can't sleep. Well....yeah! That's how I felt. The next morning there was no grumbling, fidgeting, sloshing around. It was zip, zip, to the action. I was excited to see this event for the first time. My confusion about this event was materialized by the fog and haze surrounding the course. Perhaps the fog and haze was an unintended side effect of my thoughts. I really don't have that much power, but the similarity is worth noting. Now, I could go on and on with every single detail surrounding the first few moments, but I'd rather not talk about Erin dragged me through the wet sand 1.2 miles down the beach. Gotta love her for that. Moving on...Chris, joined our presence with others in tow and began discussing particulars, which once clue. I even was allowed to touch the wet suit. Now I know every sport has particular gear, but this was cool stuff. Moving on...once in the water, we trekked back toward the damn something or other spot, oh the transition area, yeah that's it. Witnessing the fellows and ladies mounting their bikes was somewhat eye opening. Knowing the exhaustion from the swim, I couldn't help but notice quivering thighs and shaky, unsteady mounts. I thought to myself, "how hard is it to get on a bike?" Hmmm...but I've never swam over 6000 feet and tried to do it. So that's when I appreciated it more. I moved away from Amy and Erin to be a spotter for Chris. When I noticed him coming out, I almost began tearing up. Aww heck, I'm a real guy, I can cry if I want to. It was so inspirational to see someone so intent upon performing something so difficult to the remainder humans who dare not! With my chin quivering, I shouted to Amy and Erin..."Here he comes, here comes Chris!" I hope they got a good picture. Before I returned to them, I composed my chin, dried my eyes and fell in love again, not with Chris, but with determination. Determination....

Next, the biking. Erin, CoS and I drove to the spot to see the bikers come along. 56 miles, you've got to be kidding me! Erin wore her Bintliff shirt and I just kinda stood there in stripes, longing for Bintliff to materialize. 4 minutes later, boom!! There he was trucking along at breakneck speed. I didn't know someone could look so happy doing this. But, he did. After seeing Chris once more and the other Erin ride past, we ventured back toward the home base.

Running after that....are you serious?
We, Erin and I, arrived back in home base and hurredly wolfed down some food and water. The number one priority was seeing cousin Chris, which is respectable. Hunkered down on the race running course we waited for Bintliff, so we could chant B I N T L I F F! Such a highlight moment. Surprisingly, the first time around he looked amazingly fresh. What an athlete! So, Erin and I hunkered down again and waited for Erin to come through. Amazingly, both racers were all smiles. Well we spent the next hour or so hanging out on the run course for the comrades to finish. Chris came in soon and commented on his time. From what I gather, he did well and was pleased with himself.

Sum of it all....
I've quoted myself here in a short excerpt from a speech I wrote for an athletic banquet to summarize my feelings and experiences on this event.
"Oh, but this year we have grown wise. We've learned to improvise. We sustain, we maintain, we retain, and at the right moment we strain and gain and regain. Despite the snags and drags, we've learned bold lessons, lessons of character, we have learned about ourselves, others and oh how we have changed. Possibilities for your future are broad, your energy is high, your endurance is long and your focus is deep."
From the inspired, hoping to inspire.....
Jimmy Brooks

Becoming Ironman: Spirit of Racine Half Ironman Race Report

The short version: 5:35:04
The long version:

In a fitting bit of karma, Team Erin and my Team joined forces for this race, it making sense for us to carpool together and handle travel logistics, etc. I say "fitting bit of karma" because Erin and I were kind of unintentional training partners these many months leading up to Spirit of Racine, our frequent "hey how was your long ride" emails becoming diagnostics, advice, and analysis of each other's training and strategies going into the race. With my friend Mike coming to town to come offer race support, and throw in one Chief of Stuff, we had a solid contingency making our way Eastward to the shores of Lake Michigan.

The night before The Big Game a bunch of us met at Olive Garden. I can't think of when I've laughed harder or longer in a long time. While Amy stayed back at the hotel with Dakota (both tired, one because she's 9 months old, the other because she'd been rafting in New Mexico for a week and had jumped a plan at 4:30am to meet us in Racine), we had a great group - CznE was there with some friends, my buddy Mike, Erin and Chief of Stuff, Thomps, and some new friends who's blogs I've frequented but had never met - Alili with her husband Jerry, and Megan. These are some of the most lovely, charming, hilarious people I've ever met. My face literally hurt after dinner for all the smiling and laughing. Thomps had to bow out early, but here's the rest of us Racine racers -

Megan - seemingly basking in the light of Jesus; Erin, Alili, me

A solid night's sleep at South Milwaukee's most posh hotel - the Days Inn - and Erin and I were on the way to raceday by 5am the next day.

Were it not for the sight of other human beings with bike pumps obviously moving in the same direction, I think we might have missed the race location altogether, even though it was only a few hundred yards off of the street we were on, for how insanely thick the fog was. While setting up in transition we listened as the announcer told us we'd delay for 15 minutes...then 30...then 45...finally, an hour after the original start times, we were cleared for go. Racine is a point to point swim, so you leave transition and walk 1.2 miles thataway. Erin and I joined the mass exodus and headed down the shore to spend some time acclimating to the water.

At registration the day before, they had a note that water temperature was 56 degrees. I blinked the first time, thinking I'd read it wrong - it must be 66. We've had a weird spring and summer here, and I don't know that any lakes have had a chance to warm up much at all. But 56 degrees??? Official raceday water temp was a balmy 55 degrees. This is colder than the water that comes out of your tap. If you've ever done an ice bath sans ice, and just sat in the tub chattering in the water while your lips turned blue - this is colder than that. With the delays we had 15-20 minutes to spend in the water, and it was painfully cold. No attitude adjustment could change that fact. First your feet throb, then several minutes later they go numb. The wetsuit does wonders, of course, but interestingly getting your hands acclimated is really tough - it just hurts so bad that you instinctively remove them from the water. Finally, after several minutes, you can submerge your neck, and then when you dunk your head - you literally do lose your breath. It was insane. But 10, 15 minutes in, and the body somehow adjusts. I was really glad, though, to had spent that time, because I think if you were just to run in off the shore at the gun, and have to do that adjusting while in the midst of the race, it would really be havoc.

Chief of Stuff heading into the mist. Somewhere down there is the swim start

Erin and I getting ready to rock. We're not really smiling, we just can't feel our faces.

Between the fog and the freezing water, it wasn't the most auspicious start to a day I was hoping to excel. But once lined up with my wave and ready to roll, the calm came over me. I've been here before - subject to elements, to the long list of Things I Can't Control. And I've learned to hold them up, scan them for anything actionable, then simply toss them out of my mental space.

Game on.

I ran into the water with the rest of my wave, positioned to the left so I could go a bit wide around the turn buoy. The water was shallow for awhile, then a bit deeper, then shallow again. I got into my stroke right away, stood up and jogged another short bit, then finally dove in for the long haul. The turn buoy was only 100 yards or so offshore, then we'd turn right and stay parallel to the shore for the 1.2 mile swim before turning again at a final buoy to make our way in.

Sighting was easy - I stayed positioned away from the shore, so I could really just watch all the swimmers further in to gauge my general position. I breathed on every stroke on my right side to avoid the gentle rolling waves of Lake Michigan, and make sure I was getting plenty of oxygen to keep myself warm. I felt great. My stroke felt great. I was right in the thick of everybody - being passed occasionally as usual, but doing a lot more passing than I'm used to as well. I only zigged or zagged to a point of needing correction twice, and otherwise was able to focus on my technique, on a powerful kick, and a smooth stroke. The cold was a non-factor for me - though I passed lots of guys doing a backstroke to avoid having their faces in, or swimming with the heads up. On such a big lake I expected the chop of Lake Monona from Ironman or the swells from Lake Mendota from Capitol View, but the water was mostly still, if a bit rolling. Except for the temperature, conditions were actually quite ideal.

We finally turned the last buoy, and I was physically right on point. I'm hearing rumblings now that the course was a bit short, but it didn't feel like it to me - in any case, I had no sense of time or how long I'd been out there, but I was glad that the cold and distance didn't seem to have put me in a bad place before getting out of the water. As I finally stood up to strip off the top-half of my wetsuit and jog onto the beach, a quick glance at my watched showed me 36:something, which was perfect. I was right on schedule, when I saw Mike and Chief of Stuff as I approached transition I gave them a fist pump. With the hundred yard or so run up the beach to transition, my swim was 37:10, which I was perfectly satisfied with.

My strategy was to be smooth and relaxed in transition - I had pockets to fill up with nutrition, and didn't want to forget anything out on the bike, or hurry along so that I'd be digging through pockets out on the course looking for this gel or those E-caps. I had a long run with Vapor through transition, and was finally out of there in 2:38

I was feeling great when I got on the bike. Very fired up, with fresh legs and feeling strong. CznE snapped this one as I left T1, giving her the universal hand signal for Pick It Up And Set It Down.

Right away I settled into my plan - smooth and stupid easy. I let my cadence get up to 96 or 97rpm before I'd shift. I wanted to feel no stress or strain on my legs at all. Two irritating things happened in the first 5 miles - my pack of chopped up Clif bar fell out of my pocket - I guess in my commitment to not carelessly throw things in my pockets in transition I carelessly threw it in my pocket. And when it went, it apparently took with it my 5 Hour Energy drink, which I take a shot of at around mile 40, when I start to mentally fatigue. I had a PB&J with me that I eat at about mile 42, so I devised to each chunks of that in lieu of the Clif Bar if needed, and would just have to forgo the energy drink. No worries.

So I settled in. Conditions were perfect - overcast, not too warm (yet...), and no wind worth mentioning. I knew if I could put it together and stick to my training, if I could let me ego go and not worry about how fast or how strong, that I was prepared for a great day on the bike.

That first hour was a lot like Ironman - so many people that it's impossible to spread out. Bikers everywhere, and we were all jockeying for position. I'm happy to say that only once or twice did I see what looked like organized, intentional drafting. Otherwise we all just tried to do our best out there. I snagged a few more gels the first aid station, about 15 miles in, and figured my nutritional needs were set.

When training, I have a sort of internal gauge for a pace. Barring anything unexpected or weather influences, I cross 18.5 hours at about the 1 hour mark, give or take a minute or so, and this generally puts me across 56 miles in 3 hours, give or take a few minutes. I then have a brief conversation with myself where I audibly discuss how it's going. I think probably this seems stupid, but it's worked for me since before Ironman - I'm able to take a sort of objective approach to myself, and ask me how's me. Then I reply to me, and together we do any diagnostics and make a plan for me. My cursory glances at my Garmin told me I was making good time, but I wasn't expecting this as I hit the LAP button at 18.5 miles:

Control: are SEVEN MINUTES ahead of schedule.
Me: Oh shit, I see.
Control: How are you?
Me: (scans self) Really good, I guess. A little worried about the Clif bars I lost. My legs feel great. I swear I'm not pushing at all.
Control: Don't worry about food, you've got the extra stuff from the aid stations, and there will be others if you need them. We need to keep an eye on this speed. If your pace is much slower at all at 37 miles, we're changing the plan dramatically. Like, you'll get off your bike for 5 minutes to settle down. Copy?
Me: Let's cross that bridge if we need to. I'll continue to be watch RPE. I'm fresh right now, let's keep going.
Control: Roger that.

So I didn't change a thing. I ate according to plan. Instead of Clif Bars it was a bite or two of banana, or a bit of gel. The course was great. Winding now and then, then straight ahead for awhile. There was a smattering of fun spectators here and there, and they offered up encouragement. The wind was sometimes present, but never an issue. I was having fun. Chatting with other cyclists, looking up to enjoy some scenery. The machine was running smooth as silk. Everything was on point.

At miles 37 I hit LAP again - I'd lost almost exactly one minute off of my first lap's pace. Like NASA Mission Control when something exciting is going on, I sensed the rest of me buzzing in apprehensive excitement.

Control: You are about 13 minutes ahead of schedule. This is unprecedented.
Me: I'm killing this thing. Killing it.
Control: This will be totally pointless if you can't run. Are you SURE you're okay?
Me: I'm sure.
Control: You need to be really disciplined now - don't go chasing some new time goal just because it might be possible. Stay back, stick to the plan.
Me: Copy.
Control: This is it then. Get it done.

At mile 42 I ate my PB&J, sweet nectar of the gods. I tend to take about a 3 mile break at this point, where I stop "working", and just focus on the nutrition. Eating takes a bit, then chase it with some E-caps and a few swigs of Gatorade. By the time I really lifted my head again I only had 10 miles left. I was feeling a little bit fatigued, mentally, but it wasn't anything that I felt deeply concerned about.

Before I knew it, I was on the home stretch, getting out of my shoes at Mile 55, heading into T2. I jumped off my bike with fresh, strong legs. A little warm and mentally a shade blurry, but feeling pretty much great. My bike split was a blistering 2:42:43. My pace was an absurd 20.6mph. Now, full disclosure, if you're going to PR and ride a bike fast, Racine is a great race to do it. It's very flat, the roads are generally in good condition, and the race support - managed intersections, etc. - are great. But still. Nearly 21mph? I didn't even know that was possible in any conditions. In 25 miles, sure, but sustainable over 56 miles? Totally, totally unexpected. And I was consistent - my first lap I averaged 21mph, my second was 20.7 and my last lap was 20.6. And none of that was full effort, or even close. I could not be more surprised, or pleased.

2:09 later I was out of T2 and onto the run course. By now the sun was out in full force, and the heat was getting serious. I just focused on running comfortable. I didn't glance at my watch or obsess over pace - just keep a comfortable stride, keep my body loose, keep my steps light. The course is out-and-back twice, with aid stations at about every mile. I drank at every aid station - water and HEED (by the way, the flavored stuff isn't nearly so objectionable as the unflavored) - and managed the heat very well with sponges; one of the best decisions I made all day. Every other aid station I'd soak two small sponges and tuck them into either side of my tri-top, on my chest. Combine that with water over the head, ice in my hat, and cups of ice to chew on between miles, and I felt pretty good. I was okay walking through aid stations as strategy to collect my nutrition/hydration needs, and then keep on keepin' on.

I finished the first loop at right around my goal 9:00 pace. The run course is mostly flat but for two significant hills at the beginning of the loop and a bit of a descent at the end of the loop. The second hill this time around caused some problems for me - my legs both cramped up really severely. I walked the rest of the way up the hill, then paused for a few seconds to stretch and massage them. Unfortunately, I couldn't shake the cramps the last 5 miles. I chose to walk through some of mile 8 to see if I could get them to relax, and felt good picking the pace back up through mile 9, but was having to constantly restrict my movements, or slow down, or shift the way I normally run just to avoid cramping. I think my heat management was actually adversely affecting my hydration a bit - I was feeling dehydrated, and I was drinking plenty, but I tend to need a lot more than seems reasonable on really hot days. I was dehydrating pretty significantly (I'd discover later), and the cramping was just out of control. Even so I kept on, running at whatever pace my legs would allow, and never felt like I was in survival mode - even though I was slowed, I was still racing, still working hard. I finally came in to the finish chute, cheered on by the Team, and crossed in 5:35:04. I didn't reach my 2-hour goal for the run, going instead at 2:10:25 - at 9:57/mile I was a full minute off my pace. But, it wasn't because I'd sabotaged the run on the bike, and that's a significant success. I would've liked to have handled hydration better, even though I was being diligent, but sometimes, on hot days, that's just the way the race is run. I was still pleased with my run, feeling like I avoided any major meltdown, and if not overcoming, at least not letting the tough circumstances get the best of me.

In the end, I PR'd the race by about 56 minutes. I crushed my goal of 6 hours. I crushed even my top secret goal of 5:45. I PR'd the run by 21 minutes. I had a nearly perfect day, the run being the only place where smarter hydration might've meant a better performance. S'okay - just more to work on and learn from. I couldn't be more satisfied - thrilled, in fact - with the day. And I say that without much intended self-congratulation...though there is some - I take more pleasure in the objective evidence that yes - if you work smart rather than hard, if you train with discipline and intention and purpose, if you let yourself determine your limits instead of whatever outside influences might be found in other racers, or conditions, or myriad Things You Can't Control, it really can all come together. Anything really is possible.

From here? Well, first up is some rest. I drank 4 or 6 17 ounce bottles of water after the race, and still didn't have to stop for a bathroom break on the way back to Madison - and even after all that, my urine was literally the color of rootbeer when I got home. Not good. I felt a little drunk after the race, and a little hazy all afternoon. My dehydration was palpable, and it's definitely an area I'll need to continue to experiment with and perfect in race days to come. My right achilles is quite tight and sore - I've been dealing with some minor issues there for the last 6 weeks or so. My legs generally otherwise feel okay - a little crampish still, but okay. A few of the usual blisters. So, lay low for about a week, then next week start run-specific training for the Twin Cities Marathon in October.

Where does this race performance reside in the archives? Well certainly it doesn't mean I'll be aiming for a sub 12 hour Ironman next year, or anything like that. The important lessons learned, like at the Half Marathon earlier this year where I also obliterated an old Personal Record, is that I can do this. That I can train smart, achieve results, get better. That I can expand my personal limits into what's achievable. As those are the important lessons and benefits from Ironman anyway, these experiences just add to it. This race was a significant deposit in the IM account. For withdrawal next September.

Some bits and pieces:

Congratulations to everybody who toed the line at Racine!

I thought the race organizers did a great job. They were constantly communicating with us about the delays before the race. Everything was top-notch and well organized, things felt safe and well controlled. It was a great venue and I hope to do it again sometime. Maybe somebody could see to it that the water's warmer, though.

I want to send a huge thanks to the Team for being out there and cheering me on. As always, you provide so very much for my race day. I'm so thankful and grateful for your support of this thing in my life that, if perceived one way, could "take" so much away from all of us - our time, cheeseburgers, several beers, late nights - but thank you for perceiving it how I do - that it adds so very much more. I had specific goals I was hoping for in this race, and it's not lip service to say you helped me achieve them. I've said it before, but I mean it anew each time - it's not that I couldn't do this without you. It's that I wouldn't even try.

Despite my best efforts, it's impossible not to wonder/worry about my daughter when I'm out there for 5 and a half hours, knowing she'll be getting restless, or needing a nap, or if she's reaching Defcon One out there and her mother is having to scramble madly to keep some peace. Thanks Mike and CznE - and of course and especially constant Captain Amy for keeping her the priority above all else when she's along to cheer on Dadd.

And on that note, just a quick thanks to Erin and especiallly Chief of Stuff, seen here with with Mike carrying my kid across the beach - his idea - for being so flexible with the whims of a 9 months old during our trek East. The rest of us are kind of used to it, but lesser people could have felt pretty infringed upon, especially in all the race day stuff that's otherwise going on . Thanks for keeping things fun.

Onward! Here's to the pause before the next starting gun!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Saturday dinner at Racine!

Looks like there's a chunk of us headed Racine way this weekend, so if anybody would be up for meeting for dinner on Saturday evening at 5pm, there's a few of us getting together already. You should come too!

We're meeting at the Olive Garden - there's pretty much something for everybody there. If you have other dinner plans and just want to stop by and say hey, that would be awesome too. Or whatever works.

The Olive Garden is at:
6000 Durand Ave.
Racine, WI 53406

It'd be fantastic if you can make it - leave me a comment if you can so I can get some kind of headcount, and I can call them on Friday and give them a heads up. Hope to see you there!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Race Week: Spirit of Racine Half Ironman

I've done the Half Iron distance 3 times. I've never "raced" it - only survived it. My training until '06 was, it's occurring to me now, mostly clueless, and devised strictly to survive the Ironman distance. Which was great - I had a blast and wouldn't change a thing - but there was no experience to influence performance or strategy. There weren't even baselines to determine possibilities or potential. Basically a wide-open space of "what will happen if". So I had no awareness of how, say, my bike performance over 56 miles would affect my run. I felt like the bike was just something to survive, and then there were 13.1 miles after that to survive. How it all went never felt too important.

That is, until I'd actually get on the run course of these races, fantastically flopping about, and ponder why and how this was so. damn. hard. It wasn't until this season that I've not been mostly beating my head against a wall with triathlon.

In '05, my big, giant, goal A race of the year was the Square Lake Half Iron distance race. It was the same day as Ironman Wisconsin, and had the same weather - famously hot and windy.

In '06 I did the Liberty Triathlon Half as part of my training for Ironman later that fall. Conditions, as I remember them, were near perfect, but a volunteer sent me askew on the bike course and I wasted a few miles. I handled that obstacle with brilliant failure, getting all angry and emotional and letting it affect my race.

3 weeks later I scheduled High Cliff Triathlon Half in search of redemption for how badly Liberty went. I didn't know until I got off the bike that it was a 13.1 mile trail run.

Pull up a chair, here come numbers:

1.2 mile swim:
'05 Square Lake swim: 37:29; 1:47/100 yards pace
'06 Liberty Triathlon: 35:44; 1:41/100
'06 High Cliff: 38:48; 1:50/100

'08 Racine: GOAL: I think anywhere within these times is fair to expect - 35-40 minutes. I'm a better swimmer than I was 2 years ago, but I think I've lacked the time in the water this year to effectively demonstrate it come race day. That isn't to say I'm just chalking the swim up to "whatever happens" - I hope to have a great swim, and especially to keep form.

56 mile bike:
'05 Square Lake: 3:06:20; 18.22mph avg.
'06 Liberty Triathlon: 3:17:23; 17.02mph avg (per the go left instead of right volunteer snafu, this was a longer ride than 56 miles...)
'06 High Cliff: 2:57:08; 19mph avg

'08 Racine: GOAL: These times are consistent with what I think I expect at Racine - anywhere hovering around the 3 hour mark (of course, ass-u-me-ing I'm not dealing with torrential rains, 20mph headwinds, 54 degrees, etc. - then all bets are off). The difference - and it's huge - is that I'm a much stronger cyclist than I was 2 years ago. These times were all-out, top effort, blow-the-hell-up times. I should be able to accomplish something similar with much less effort exerted, which is crucial for the run.

13.1 mile run:
Here's where it all goes south.
'05 Square Lake: 2:50:59; 13:04/mi pace
'06 Liberty Triathlon: 2:31:31; 11:34/mi
'06 High Cliff: 2:50:48; 13:02

You have got. To be kidding me.

More revealing: my personal race comments after each race. See if you detect a theme...

Square Lake:
Incredibly difficult race. Hot and windy and LONG. Nutrition didn't go well on the run and I crawled right along. Extremely satisfying to finish, but there is MUCH work to be done before IMWI.

Liberty Triathlon:
Tough day. Was sent 3 miles the wrong way on the bike, and didn't mentally recover - got myself into bad nutritional shape, making the run difficult. A tough day - not as well as I would've hoped.

High Cliff:
Trail run threw everything off, and too high a heart rate on the bike meant for poor nutrition on the run - but I think I have that figured out now. Run time doesn't really matter, for the trail running through mud. Valuable lessons learned in this one -

More revealing still: Here's me running at Square Lake. Don't I look fresh? Isn't my form on point? See how light on my feet I am? Most importantly, how much fun am I obviously having? sheesh.

And here I am celebrating a triumphant finish at Liberty with my buddy Mike at my side. Oh wait, no. That's right, I'm doubled over in exhaustion, always the hallmark of a well-run race.

And again at High Cliff - See how my left foot is totally planted into the ground? No spring in my step at all. Slouched shoulders, head leaning away at the neck because I'm too tired to keep my body aligned. Can you see how my left hip is loose, away from my body? All signs that it's gone to hell.

'08 Racine: GOAL: As we've discussed ad nauseam here all season, the run goes how the bike goes. So first, be smart on the damn bike. The run should take care of itself, then. The training is there for a sub 2-hour half marathon. Excluding all other factors - weather, wind, heat, etc.; and if those things happen then you just revise the plan and deal with it - but excluding them, then it's entirely up to me if that sub 2-hours happens or not.

Finishing Times:
'05 Square Lake: 6:41:15
'06 Libery Triathlon: 6:29:09 (hooray! P.R.! He said facetiously.)
'06 High Cliff: 6:31:15

'08 Racine: GOAL: Sub 6:00. Period. In fact (bring it, fates) the training is there to obliterate even that goal. But I don't want to get hung up on a time goal - I want to execute what I know the training has prepared me for. The swim is the x-factor; I'm not sure what to expect. The bike - let the miles come to me, don't go out crushing my pedals, and stay on point with nutrition and hydration, like I've done in training. The run - have fun. Be fresh, be light on my feet, have a spring in my step - all things that happen when I'm feeling sharp. I've managed it in training, even after a 56 mile ride. Now it's all down to execution. That's really all you can want for come race day - for the training to have prepared you to meet or exceed your goals. For race day to be a simple formula about keeping your head and attitude positive, and then just churning out what your body is already prepared to do.

Let me be clear: I am out to kill this thing. I have hopes to surprise myself. I am not out there to see how it goes, to enjoy the day, to just have fun and give it a go. I'm out there to put it all together. But see, and here's where it's all come together for me this season - when I do put it all together - like at the half marathon earlier this season - then I really, really enjoy the day. Then I have a ton of fun. Sloshing through a nearly 3 hour half-mary in the scorching heat...that makes for interesting drama, but I don't know that I had a ton of fun. So. I do hope - I intend - to enjoy myself. To have a blast. I mean, we run through a friggin' zoo. But those emotions are by-products of a well executed, intelligently run race. And not because - hey look, I'm going fast, isn't this fun - that's not the point; but when you're free of all the drama that goes with a day going south - poor nutrition making you feel like crap, or exhaustion on the run so you're literally makes goals to just get to the next tree, or planning your running around your walking instead of the other way around - well then it's obviously not easy, maybe possible, to have much fun. And if the whole point is to have fun - well then. You can see the intrinsic relationship. In order to have fun one must kick ass. Of course. Why not?

I'm also really, really looking forward to this race. I've given it a lot of focus. It's been the thing on the horizon since last winter, and has already, just in context of the quality of training I've put into it, become an important milestone on the way to Ironman next year. I'm as ready and focused for this race as I've been for any race. I'm excited. Ready to go. Pull the trigger already.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

How I intend to ride Racine

(If you're reading from an aggregator, click in to the real blog so you can watch the video. It's worth it. Oh, and maybe slightly not safe for work for a somewhat distinguishable WTF in an Indian accent. But again, the commentary is half the fun, so do what you can.)

I want to hang with these dudes. They sound like my kind of cats. The guy on the bike...good lord. Fantastic.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Game on.

Okay, well hey. So it's been 10 days or something, and I've been just ridiculously swamped at work - and still am - but I'm still technically on vacation so I finally have a few minutes to sit down and get up to speed. So pretend it's not all old news and lets go back to last weekend.

Friday night I enjoyed a chunk of lasagna the size of my head at Gino's here in Madison, as part of the WIBA festivities. If you want to see photos and read more about Steve and Wil's experiences, visit their blogs and you'll get the idea. I had a great time - saw some old friends and met some new ones. I sat at a table with a few people who were doing IMWI for the first time, and it was so fun to talk with them, hear their questions, recapture some of what I remember feeling in '06. Very, very cool. I want to shout out to Wil and RobbyB and the whole evotri cabal for all the work that went into something like this, which is so useful to so many people for so many reasons. Really great way to spend some time, and totally taps into the energy that I love about triathlon, Ironman, and its community. Thanks guys.

Amy's parents were in town, so I jumped into WIBA when I could - mostly for dinner and Sunday's long run. That meant Saturday's ride was solo, which was to my preference; allowing me to stay consistent to the course I've been training on. It was a pretty crucial workout - 56 miles and an 8 mile run-off. It was dress rehearsal, and after weeks of banging my head against the wall trying to perfect the formula so that I'd be fresh going into the run, I considered it pretty mission critical to get one proven "I can do this" workout in before starting taper.

Consider: The week earlier, I rode an aggressive 56 miles. The numbers (yawn, I know) looked like this:

Lap 1 (18.5 miles): 19.7mph avg
Lap 2 (18.5 miles): 19.1mph avg
Lap 3 (19 miles): 18.1mph avg

Totals: 56 miles in 2:57:32, 18.9mph avg, 137bpm avg. heartrate.

The problems are apparent right away - I gave up nearly 2mph from my first lap to the last, which means I went out too strong, and I felt the wall hit almost immediately after 37 miles; I really struggled through those last 19. So the numbers look good, but they didn't mean anything - I was left with nothing, and sloshed through my 5 mile run-off (after a 15 minute pray-to-Jesus-do-I-really-have-to-do-this transition) in 48:22 for a very uncomfortable 9:41 average.

So the objective of this last long ride was to settle the hell down. I kept my RPE stupid low. If I felt any stress on my legs, especially in the first 37 miles, I backed off. I geared down to silly easy climbing even small hills. I went out aiming to feel like I was doing no work at all - committed to adopting the philosophy that's worked so well for my distance running this year, and paid off with the big P.R. half marathon - don't go chasing miles, let them come to me.

The numbers from this ride:

Lap 1 (18.5 miles): 18.7mph avg
Lap 2 (18.5 miles): 18.7mph avg (that's consistency, baby!)
Lap 3 (19 miles): 18.5mph avg (headwind)

Totals: 56 miles in 3:02:33, 18.4mph avg (that math don't add up to me, but whatever Garmin), 132bpm avg. heartrate

So first of all - yeah, hooray with the consistency. Heart rate was low, no red flags anywhere, and I felt great all day. But the best part of giving up those 5 minutes on the bike was the 8-mile runoff, where I was totally comfortable and relaxed for an 8:22/mi avg. Funny what 5 minutes and just half an mph can do in the grand scheme.

So - I have the evidence I need. I know I can do it - I just need to execute. The goal for Racine is sub 6 hours, which is a full thirty minutes or something faster than I've ever rocked a half Ironman before. The training is there. Things need to go just about perfectly, but if I can have even an okay swim, then put together a sensible bike, I should have what I need to go sub 2 hours in the 13.1. More on this later, when I get specific about race week.

Thus commenced taper. This weekend was 37 miles, still at about 18.5mph avg, and today I ran 8 miles. The humidity today was just obnoxious - I felt like I was swimming through it. It's been plenty hot and humid lately, and I've noticed my times are definitely more sluggish when the temps go up. Something for me to keep an eye on - supposed to get into the 90's this weekend for my last round of significant workouts before Racine.

I've also, as I mentioned, been spending time with family over the 4th-of-July weekend, my vacation due to end after tomorrow. Apparently by "vacation" I also mean "does beer go with cake? Let's find out. Oh, look at that, I finished my cake and beer. Well, somebody get me a beer, I'm getting up for more cake." Highly structured nutrition plan over here, and I think I'm on pace to gain 20 pounds during taper. So I've got that going for me.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Just really quickly

Yes, I had a great workout last weekend. Commence Taper. More to come.

Yes, I had a great time at WIBA. Read Wil or Steve's blog for details, and I'm too swamped even to toss in the hyperlinks, so look for 'em on the right side over there if you want to. More to come.

Yes, I met some really cool new people. I also saw Steve's junk. On James' camera. The list is long of what's wrong with that sentence. (get it Steve? long? ah, nevermind.)

Yes, me and Wil got lost running in Madison. With Amber, who's a newbie and was looking to us for concrete advice and perspective on the run course. I tried to explain I was like a drunken meerkat at Ironman and wouldn't know which way to go if my life depended on it. I expect she'll understand come September. But sorry 'bout that Amber.

Oh, and yes, it was Amber who found our way home. Wil + x = useless.

No, Stu still doesn't know who I am. Yes, he still pretends to. I'm "man" or "guy" or "buddy" or "you". Yes, I remain amused and committed to the ruse.

Yes, I'm friggin' swamped over here, trying to wrap up some work stuff so I can break for the 4th of July. Update coming soon, in case you're holding your breath or anything.

Hope one and all are having a great week!