Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Ready as I will be

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

Race Week: Twin Cities Marathon. Into the Unknown.

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

3.1 + 10 - 2

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

Volunteer Report: Ironman Wisconsin 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


I am - officially - Becoming Ironman. Again.

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

Ironman Returned

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.