“Well I tried to make it Sunday, but I got so damn depressed, that I set my sights on Monday and I got myself undressed…” – America – Sister Golden Hair
I should be typing a glowing race report for the race I had signed up for today, but I’m not. I find myself typing words of regret, because for the first time in my history of doing races, I failed to start a race I had signed up for. A big fat DNS – Did Not Start.
I had every intention of doing the race. I was genuinely looking forward to doing it. ET Batavia is a sprint distance triathlon held in Batavia, IL. It’s an easy swim in a park district swimming hole, a gently rolling ride through town and outlying farms, and a tree lined run on the Fox River Valley Trail. I really enjoy the course and after racing it four or five times now, I was pretty familiar with it.
I set the alarm for 3:50 am and when it went off I got up with the full intention of getting ready and heading to Batavia. I could hear that it was raining outside, so I pulled up my weather app and saw this:
I dressed, ate and asked a now awake Kari if she still wanted to join me for a morning standing in the rain. Surprisingly she said “yes,” and we hopped in the car to head to the race.
I switched on the local AM radio for the weather and they were saying it was bad, and I new it wasn’t an exaggeration because it was raining hard on us. I got about 5 miles from home when I said “What am I doing?” I turned around and told Kari I’m pulling the plug on this one.
All things considered, as a triathlete I shouldn’t really worry about rain. You get wet in the swim for Pete’s sake. And I have raced two times now in heavy rain. I joked at Leon’s Triathlon the year we did it that it was interesting how the swim portion of the race was the driest part. It poured on us. And the 2018 Boston Marathon was not only rainy, but throw in cold and windy as well – the whole 26.2 miles. I wasn’t afraid of pulling out of the race because of the weather really, it just seemed ridiculous that I was about to drive 45-50 minutes to stand in the rain only to be told what my gut instinct was telling me – the race would be cancelled.
I got home and unpacked and checked Facebook for updates and there it was: “Race start at 7:40!!” REALLY?!?! Now I had regret. Knowing that I decided to pull out when others stayed with it just kills me.
Kari went back to bed. I ate another breakfast and read the newspaper until I fell asleep. Then I moped around the house until the skies stopped raining and I went for an 8 mile run. I ran hard, punishing myself for skipping a race I shouldn’t have. Oh well, I will be back next year – weather permitting.
I think most people will say “good riddance” to 2017, but as far as running and triathlon went for me, it was a pretty good year. As is the custom, I like to wrap it up with a year end summary.
2017 – RUNNING REVIEW
I wrapped up my third straight year of a running streak, managing at least a mile every day. There weren’t too many issues in maintaining my streak. Even the post-Ironman mile was no big deal the day after the race and a 4 hour car ride home from Louisville, Kentucky. I really felt like I could do 2 or even 3 miles that day, but I didn’t push it. Maintaining a streak takes some discipline to know when not to overdo it, and so I played it safe with just a mile.
I finished the year with 1682 total miles, 142 miles less than last year. Even so, it’s still pretty impressive to me. After 29 years of running, this brings my yearly average to 812 miles per year. So I have done approximately double the miles this year than my annual average, which is increasing every year.
One item of note is my average pace this year was 8:35 min/mile, which exceeds last year’s 8:47 min/mile average. Not sure why that is, because it wasn’t intentional, but I will take it. I have learned somewhat through training for Ironman and marathons that long, slow distance with occasional speed work thrown in is probably a better training method for performance than the constant tempo runs at faster paces that used to be my bread and butter.
Speaking of the running streak, last year I mentioned in my wrap-up that I might give up the running streak in 2017, but it didn’t happen. The main reason for stopping the streak at the end of 2016 was injury, mainly to my foot. But I managed to train through it fine. The reason this year for the consideration is basically the same. I’m pretty sore after another long season, and I just don’t think I have anything left to prove with keeping the streak going. At 54 years old, it’s not like I’m going to set a longevity record for streaking. I would have had to have started that in my teens probably. And with two big marathons on the calendar for next year, I think that I might benefit from having some rest days after tough or long workouts. If I do end the streak, I’ll write up a blog about how I felt it affected me. The original goal was to last a year – mission accomplished. I think year two of the streak I saw the benefits, and this past year I’m starting to see some diminishing returns with it.
My biggest accomplishment for 2017 was making the cut for the 2018 Boston Marathon! Of course I actually qualified for the race in 2016, but I had to wait until April to apply and then wait to see where the ax would fall for the cutoff to get in. I had a -4:51 BQ cushion, so I wasn’t really too worried about it even after missing the cut for the 2017 race by 28 seconds. When I got the email I was relieved. So, basically being patient and waiting was my biggest running accomplishment. Funny.
2017 RUNNING STATS
1682 TOTAL MILES – 32 MILES PER WEEK / 140 MILES PER MONTH
365 TOTAL RUNS – 7 RUNS PER WEEK / 30.4 RUNS PER MONTH
240 TOTAL HOURS – 4.6 HOURS PER WEEK / 20 HOURS PER MONTH
LIFETIME RUNNING STATS
23,549 TOTAL MILES – 812 MILES PER YEAR
4340 TOTAL RUNS – 149 RUNS PER YEAR
3124 TOTAL HOURS – 107 HOURS PER YEAR (Nearly 130 days spent running over 29 years!)
2017 TRIATHLON REVIEW
I had a pretty great year with triathlons in 2017. In all, I took on three races, finishing on the podium at Manteno, Illinois and once again qualifying for the USAT Nationals. I think that is my second time qualifying for nationals, and is always a big feather in my cap. The race will be held in Cleveland in 2018, and I will not attend seeing that I am already committed to the Boston Marathon in April, and the Chicago Marathon in October. Some day I hope to attend, especially if it is a little closer to home.
The ET Batavia Triathlon is becoming a favorite for me, and I did well this year, but did not place in my age group. I’ve already signed up for it again.
My big “A” race this year was 2017 Ironman Louisville. I had big expectations for this race and I put in a lot of hard work to achieve my goals. I PR’d every discipline this time around, lowering my Ironman personal record to 11 hours, 46 minutes, 55 seconds. The finish was awesome, but once again pales in comparison to the fun and experiences I had with my buddies training for and racing Ironman Lou. Lots of great memories.
2017 TRIATHLON RELATED STATS
119,174 TOTAL YARDS SWIMMING (67.7 MILES)
3308 TOTAL MILES BIKING
1682 TOTAL MILES RUNNING
I did six total races in 2017 and had fun in them all. Here’s a brief recap with a link to the race reports for each.
I’m looking forward to running my first Boston Marathon. I plan on following a 16 week beginner training plan for it, as I don’t really have any real desire to do this race as fast as possible. I kind of want to take my time and enjoy every step. The plan, although labeled as a beginner plan, has plenty of mileage and work in it for me to do well.
I’m already signed up for the Chicago Marathon in October and the ET Batavia Tri in June. In talking with my Gunner teammates, there’s a strong possibility they will be back at the Chicago Triathlon in August, and I am planning to join them this time. I’ve skipped it the past few years.
I ran two miles on January 1, 2018, so the streak is alive as I wrap this report up. But we will see. If I do decide to let the streak die, I will do so when the marathon training plan has rest days, and I’ll probably throw in some cycling or weight workout on those days.
Be Iron Fit by Don Fink is an amazing guide to self-coaching your way to an Iron distance triathlon finish. The book is filled with inspirational stories, great triathlon training advice, and valuable information about how to conquer 140.6 miles of swim/bike/run. The focal point of the book is the 30-week training plans, broken down into three levels to suit the needs of most triathletes. You can follow the “Just Finish, Intermediate” or the “Competitive” training plans. I have used the Competitive plan for my three Ironman finishes and I was very confident that I was well prepared.
I belong to a handful of Facebook pages for the races I have done and to one awesome page in particular that is devoted to users of the book. We often support our fellow triathletes in their goal of finishing an Ironman using Be Iron Fit, and never hesitate to offer opinions on training and racing, and help when questions arise. Each new season brings in a new crop of first-timers that often have the same experiences and questions about the plan. Here is my advice that I can offer you about using the book in your pursuit of becoming an Ironman. (FULL DISCLOSURE: I am not a coach, a top age grouper, a pro, or anything that makes me evenly remotely qualified to offer advice. I’m just a three-time finisher sharing my thoughts on the training.)
READ THE BOOK – Most of us that hear about the book or are referred to it are looking for a training plan to follow. Be Iron Fit has three plans to fit most peoples needs. But that is just a part of the book. Of course the plans are the main focus, but the book also goes into depth about training and triathlon in general. In the book, the author Don Fink explains most of the reasoning for the method he uses. But newbies will inevitably ask a question that will be a clear indication that they didn’t read the book. The swim training is probably the most confounding to people, myself included. The explanations are in the book, but someone will inevitably ask what “@20sec” means.
ONE SIZE FITS ALL – Be Iron Fit is a one size fits all program. Don Fink doesn’t have the luxury of knowing you were a great high school or collegiate swimmer, or you are a competitive cyclist, or you have qualified for the Boston Marathon. He wrote the book to help the average Joe and Jane balance life and training in attempting long course triathlon. Imagine a line drawn down the middle of all types of abilities. Some of us may be right on that line, some of us may be above it, and some below. Those on the line can do the training without many issues, and those above it may have to drop off some. The below people may need to work harder, but should find success as well. If you are way off the line, you may need to rethink your goals and decide if this book suits your needs.
There was a guy who joined the Facebook page devoted to BIF and had a dilemma: He was a so-so swimmer, a so-so biker, but he humbly claimed he was an above average runner. I looked him up on Athlinks. He was a sub-2:50 marathoner! Yeah, that’s above average for sure. He struggled with the run training because he didn’t want to lose his run conditioning, dropping down from the 50+ miles of high intensity running per week to 15 minute jogs. We suggested a personal coach, someone who could take that into account and create a training plan around that, because BIF can’t change. So yes, Mr. or Mrs. Fastrunner, you have to adjust yourself to the plan or find alternatives. The beauty of the program is that he has given us three levels in hopes to satisfy all athletic abilities and goals.
COACH YOURSELF/HOLD YOURSELF ACCOUNTABLE – Fink gives you three levels of plans to choose from and train for Ironman. Words of wisdom are in the book, and plenty of your questions can be answered by others seeking the same goal. But the book can’t coach you like a real coach. You can’t email it with a question about missing a few days of training and get a response. You can’t have it realign your training if you get injured. You have to do that on your own. You have to follow the plan in order to expect the results that the plan was created for. If you follow the plan you can expect the results you are hoping for. But if you need to rearrange the plan to fit your life, by all means do it. You just need to get the work in, especially the weekend workouts.
TRUST THE PLAN – How did the first couple of weeks go? I’m guessing you have done a few 15 minute runs and have wondered how that is going to get you through a marathon after a 2.4 mile swim and a 112 mile bike ride. Look, this is 30 weeks of training. It is a long time. You will slowly and methodically build to the point that you will be ready. You have to adopt the motto – TRUST THE PLAN!
QUESTIONING FINK – At some point you’ll be asking what is the purpose of doing a specific workout, or you will have an issue with the heart rate training. Or someone will say that they chose to do it differently. It’s okay to have a different approach, but it always amuses me that these first timers think they know more than the guy that wrote the book. He is an accomplished triathlete and well regarded, certified triathlon coach. Stop questioning him, and TRUST THE PLAN!
DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS – Someone on the Facebook page will eventually comment that they are seeing others being able to swim at a much quicker pace than they can, or that others are averaging 18 mph on their bike rides and wonder why they are not doing the same. The truth is there is a wide range of abilities on these forums, from multiple finishers, athletes with finish times in the sub-11 hour category, and those that are at the other end of the spectrum. Don’t compare yourself to the others in the group. You may be in the 40-44 age group and be comparing yourself to comments made by someone in their 20’s. What you should be aware of is the time cutoffs for the race and where you stand against them. For most first timers, you are racing the clock, not the others on the Facebook page.
STAYING IN Z2 – You can’t stay in Z2 on your run, can you? Neither could I when I started and I thought I was a decent runner. Guess what? Maybe you and I aren’t as fit as we thought we were. Maybe the reason is most of us come from competing in shorter distance stuff where the focus is running faster and being quick. Finishing an Ironman marathon means you have to budget your effort to go the distance. Fink uses heart rate monitoring to help you build endurance and keep you from burning out. If you are doing your early training stuff above the recommended HR zone, you risk overtraining and injury. The goal is to be able to finish a marathon not just after swimming and biking in the race, but also after 30 weeks of training. You need to learn to pace yourself.
SPINNING AT 100 RPM/100 BPM – I’m guessing you can’t do this either. This is something that you will be able to accomplish over time, but it will take a while. The point of this workout is to get you to learn to spin your legs on the bike in an efficient manner without taxing your muscles heavily. These spins build cardio, promote good cycling technique, provide butt-in-saddle time to condition your butt, and keep you from overtraining. I relied heavily on the spin during the hillier portion of my three races and watched with some amusement at the others mashing up the hills out of the saddle, only to be completely out of breath at the top of the hill. I would usually pass them easily going up the hill, and would be much less tired at the top while they needed time to recover. Spinning an easy gear is smart training and will also be smart racing when attacking hilly courses. Plus you will be saving your legs for the run.
WHERE IS ZONE 3? – Go grab your book and find a workout that Fink says to do in Z3. I’ll wait. Did you find one? There aren’t any. Why? I wondered that myself, especially when I couldn’t stay in Z2 on my local hilly running route. Here’s my idea on it: I think Fink knows that we will struggle with Z2, and as long as Z3 doesn’t morph into Z4, he’s okay with you being in Z3 occasionally. But he just doesn’t want you training in it all the time. Most of the Iron distance racing pace advice you will find is to stay within Z2 for the race, so training in Z2 is the best way for you to learn the feel of the pace. Plus it keeps you from overtraining and injury. I found for myself that the local hills I run on my usual running route will push me out of Z2, but it is brief and I learned that I will quickly get back to Z2. Conclusion: Z3 is okay, but don’t live there.
THE THINGS I DID DIFFERENTLY – I followed the Competitive plan for my three Ironman races. I felt that I wanted to do the best I possibly could, and I had the time to put into the training that the Competitive plan called for. Plus my training buddies were also following the Competitive plan, and we thought it was best to all be following the same plan. But I have to confess to making some changes.
For my first race at Ironman Wisconsin in 2013, I followed the plan as close as possible in training – until I could no longer stand using the heart rate monitor and staying in Z2 all the time. Early on I was resorting to walking some of my run workouts, and being a long time runner there was just no way I was walking a run workout. Plus, after 25 years of running, I had a pretty good sense of pace and was confident I knew what each zone felt like. So I switched to “perceived effort,” which Fink warns against because he knows most of us can easily be enticed out of the zone he wants us to stay in. But I understood the importance of Z2 and knew as long as I didn’t live in Z3, I would be okay, and I was. I did Ironman Wisconsin very conservatively, finishing in 14:37.
Three years later (2016) I did Ironman Lake Placid and again followed the Competitive plan. For this race I had gotten better at my swim technique and would sometimes skip the Friday swim workout, or just do straight swims in training when it called for a specific workout. I always thought that the swim workouts were much more intensive than the bike or run workouts were, especially during the Base Phase of training. As a matter of fact, I did do swim workouts in the last 10 weeks of training that took me to the 2.4 mile distance, whereas I reached 100 miles on the bike and 20 miles running only once each during training. The other thing I did at Lake Placid was move out of Z2 more. The cycling course there almost forces you to, and I wanted to PR badly. I kicked hard for the last 4 miles of the run and finished strong. I improved my times in all three disciplines, finishing in 12:52.
The most recent finish was 2017 Ironman Louisville, again following the Competitive plan. This time though I said screw the swim workouts and did just two 45 minute swims per week for most of the plan. Occasionally I would do some drills and throw in some tempo/speed workouts, but mostly they were just straight swims. I did add some additional open water swims of longer lengths just to give me confidence. My swim finish at Louisville may have been partly due to the current aided Ohio River course, but I PR’d by about 10 minutes over Lake Placid and 20 minutes faster than Wisconsin. I finished with a PR at Ironman Louisville with a time of 11:46.
Here are some other changes I made:
Fink prescribes two races during training, an olympic and a half-Iron distance race. I couldn’t find a local race close enough or cheap enough to warrant racing, so I did them at home. Luckily for me, I have a pool at home to train in, and I could relax and do them without all the anxiety and cost that comes with racing. Plus, I didn’t want to risk an accident or injury racing. Devoting 30 weeks to a goal is a lot of time to invest, and I didn’t want to jeopardize not getting to my A race in one piece.
I would sometimes skip the Sunday bike spin prior to the long run, or would do it after the run later in the day.
I didn’t do a single weight training workout. Not a single one. I hate lifting weights. No core stuff either. No thanks.
I skipped a week of training to chaperone band camp. I missed all of the swim and bike workouts for the week, plus 4 hour weekend ride and 1.5 hour long run. I worried about missing them, but in the end it didn’t matter.
Although not anything related to the training plan itself, I did buy a tri bike late in the training plan. This was something new I had to adapt to, but it did not take long to adjust to riding an aero bike vs. a roadie.
As if just being an Ironman finisher wasn’t enough, I started a running streak on January 1, 2015. This meant that I ran at least a mile on the Monday rest day, and also on the days where there wasn’t a run planned. It was sometimes very taxing. I was able to handle it, but it probably didn’t add much to my ability to finish an Ironman. The only positive I can feel came from it is that I did a lot of bike/run bricks, and they became no big deal to do.
CONCLUSION – I went from being a doggy paddler afraid of open water to being a fairly confident swimmer. I went from thinking 30 miles was a long way to bike to crossing the century mark for the first time during my first Ironman race. I went from thinking I knew everything about running to learning new techniques. I went from watching the Ironman World Championship on television, wondering how finishing such a race was even possible, to being able to do the distance myself. I went from being only a runner to being a triathlete. I went from questioning myself to having confidence in myself. I went from fear of the unknown to having confidence in myself.
I’m a three time Ironman Finisher thanks to Be Iron Fit. TRUST THE PLAN!
Ironman Louisville – What a day! After 30 weeks of training, straining, and complaining I have finally crossed the Fourth Street Live! finish line! And what a finish line! And to finish my third Ironman with my teammates once again makes it all the sweeter. Here’s the recap of my week leading up to and my experiences and memories of Ironman Louisville 2017! (Brace yourself – Tons of photos and tons of paragraphs ahead!)
INTRODUCTION:My four other Gunner teammates and I felt a little too emboldened after having a great race at Ironman Lake Placid in 2016, so we kidded around and prompted each other to do another in 2017 until we got serious about it. Louisville kept coming up as a strong possibility. I knew Ironman Louisville would fall around the same time of year as the Chicago Marathon, so I had to make a decision – Ironman Louisville or the 40th anniversary of Chicago’s premier event. When the gang decided that Lou was a go, Alex, Dave, Jeff and I all applied and Ironman Louisville was on our calendars. The only Gunner missing was John, who had just welcomed a new baby to his growing family and would have to opt out this time. He was definitely there in spirit!
Once again, I decided to use Don Fink’s Be Iron Fit 30-week competitive training plan with one major change. I decided that the swim plan was too exhaustive for me, with three swims per week that were mostly 2500 yards or more. My swim technique is by no means something to be proud of, but I think it’s about as good as it is going to get. And after swimming 1:18 at IMLP, I felt that I could cut it back and still do well. So I switched to the Just Finish swim plan of the book until I decided that was too much as well! I ended up doing most of my swim training at home in my own pool, two 45 minute swims per week. I focused on good technique during those swims and figured that if I could swim 45 minutes without being drained, swimming another 30 to 45 minutes in a race would be no problem.
With that major change to the swim plan, I also decided that this year I was going to gun a little harder and step out of my comfort zone in other areas too. I had a full aero disc wheel for my bike, but had chickened out using it in Lake Placid and in other races as well. I finally just said screw it, and threw the dumb thing onto my bike and trained with it. I rode that thing all spring, summer and fall and quickly came to the realization that I was way too conservative of a Ironman triathlete. I’m using the disc wheel, dang it. I almost chickened out using it on race day with good reason, but I held my ground.
The call to the gate has been played! Now, off to the race!
WEDNESDAY: The plan was to caravan as a group down to Louisville. Jeff needed a ride, so he took the train to Mokena and I picked him up and we waited until Dave and his gang pulled into town. A quick trip to Mindy’s restaurant for a dinner and off we went to Louisville.
We arrived in the city sometime after 1am and started to check into our hotel, the Embassy Suites Downtown. That’s when we were greeted by one of Louisville’s finest – 30 cents guy. This guy was asking for money, but the strange thing is he was only asking for 30 cents. “It’s ONLY 30 CENTS” was his request, which he made over and over again. Funny thing is I had 30 cents in my pocket, but there was no way I was giving it to him. Pro tip: If you’re going to beg for money, be nice about it. And don’t be weird and request some stupid arbitrary number like 30 cents. What the hell do you buy with 30 cents anyway?
THURSDAY: After breakfast with the gang, I did a quick 3 mile run. We then all walked to the Ironman village to register and pick up our packets. Seeing that my birthday was coming two days after the race, I decided to treat myself to some early birthday gifts. After buying a cycling jersey, tri kit, zippered hoodie, two t-shirts, a hat, a visor, a long sleeve tech shirt, and two coffee mugs, I decided that was plenty for now and to save some for the finisher’s jacket on Monday.
After exiting the Ironman store, we were just in time for the Athlete Briefing, a course talk that they say is mandatory, but it’s not like they take attendance. It pays to go to it though, as each course is different, and there were some changes to the swim start at Ironman Louisville. Not long into it, we encountered weirdo number two. I wish I had taken his picture, but he appeared to be a somewhat inebriated version of Tulio from “The Road to El Dorado” and Dave Navarro.
This weirdo’s M.O. was to stand on the outside of the Athlete Village and stare at us. He later made entry and stood and listened to the course talk as well, like the drafting rule changes were the best advice he had ever heard. Maybe he was considering a last minute entry into the race. Last I saw of him, he was doing chin-ups on a parkway tree.
We did a little course reconnaissance, seeing that the transition area and the Swim Out was nearby. I kind of wish we hadn’t looked at the water because we saw a bunch of floating logs and debris in the water, and of particular note a group of about six or so fish. Yes, I know that there are fish in the water. But these things were insanely HUGE!!! They looked almost prehistoric, and moved their mouths super slow, almost like they were silently telling us that they planned to dine well on Sunday morning.
After a late lunch at an Italian place on Fourth Street Live (I had the spaghetti pie), we decided to drive the bike course. If looking at the water was a mistake, we should have also skipped the bike course drive. It was not what I was expecting. Rolling hills in Illinois must mean something totally different in Kentucky, because these things were relentless and looked horrible. Nothing we could do about it at this point. It was probably a good idea to see what we were dealing with, but it certainly didn’t look like fun.
FRIDAY:I got up and ran a four mile out and back on the run course and thankfully found it to be pleasurable, i.e. no hills. Now it seemed like Louisville was being taken over by Ironman triathletes and their families. It was getting crowded and the excitement was starting to build. We attended the athlete welcoming ceremony on Fourth Street Live and were treated to a pretty decent band and a really inspirational video about some of our fellow Ironman competitors.
Dinner was at TGIFriday’s, and I stayed up and greeted Kari and Ben who arrived late.
SATURDAY: Kari and I got up early and had breakfast with Jeff. He talked me into doing the optional practice swim and I’m glad I did. It was a simple ten to fifteen minute dip, but it always helps me realize that the swim course isn’t anything to worry about. The water temp was mild, free of debris and man eating fish. Upon getting out of the water, I ran a mile with Ben, who had just returned from his own run.
Upon getting back to the hotel, I double checked my gear bags.
After packing up, our group walked to transition to rack our bikes and drop off our bags. About 3/4 of the way there, I realized that Ben was carrying the Bike Gear Bag, and I had thought Kari had the Run Gear bag. She wasn’t carrying it. Oops. Just like that I had my first freakout of the day. Did I leave it in the hotel room? On the elevator? In the lobby? On a street corner? Kari was kind enough to walk back to the hotel, find it in the room and grab it. All was good with the world again. It’s a good thing I am married to one of the greatest sherpa’s of all time.
My gear bags were in a great spot, third row deep and all the way down at the end, thanks to the row ending with my bib number: 2400. That made it super easy to find.
We stopped at a pizza place for dinner and then headed home to get off our feet and chill out for the night. It was race day eve!
SUNDAY RACE DAY!
The alarm went off at 4 am, and I got up and took a shower. I don’t usually do that, but I took Dave’s advice and let it wake me up. I felt pretty good. I got dressed, ate a bagel and some banana and gathered up my Morning Clothes bag and headed down to the lobby to meet up with the crew.
We shuffled our way to transition and checked our gear – added water bottles, checked the tires, made sure our gear bags were still there – then it was off to body marking. I think body marking is somewhat strange and useless. I guess it makes it easier to identify our bodies if we drown, crash off a cliff, or have a major grabber on the run. Oh well, I try to have fun with it and I requested my usual smiley face on the calf. That’s about as close as I will get to getting an Ironman tattoo.
Getting 2400 written on my arm
My age and disposition.
Louisville had somewhat of a unique rolling swim start that underwent a change for 2017. It was still a rolling start, but instead of a first come/first serve method of getting in line, you self-seeded yourself into a grouping based on your predicted swim finish time. I was overthinking this too much, because my swim PR from last year at Lake Placid would have put me in the 1:20 group, but I also knew and expected that the Louisville current aided swim would make me faster, and I should possibly get in with a faster group. That morning Dave opted to go into the faster group and I played it conservative and stuck with the 1:20 to 1:30 group with Jeff. My thinking was that I would rather swim around and pass others than have faster swimmers swim over me.
As we approached the dock where we enter, I could hear Ben yelling for me even with my ear plugs in. I ditched my water shoes and Jeff and I opted to join the line of the swimmers jumping off the closest dock. “Why should I swim an extra 10 yards?” was my thinking. I waved to Ben and Kari and then jumped in and started my journey.
2.4 Miles > 1:09:18 > 78th in M50-54 A/G > 716th Male > 957th Overall
As soon as I was horizontal in the water I felt at ease and in control. The water was slightly cooler than it had been the day before in the practice swim, but it felt perfect. I reminded myself to dial it back for about 10-15 minutes and make sure I don’t get above a perceived Z2 effort. The course has you swimming upstream around Towhead Island and then a little further into the Ohio River until you reach the turn buoy. Just as we passed the island, it seemed like the water temp dropped about 5-10 degrees. I saw another athlete post a similar reaction, so I know I wasn’t misperceiving that. A little after I made my way over to the turn buoy I felt it warm up again. Not sure what was going on with that. There was a little bit of choppiness to the water in the last third of the swim, but I just made sure to rotate in the water a little more and had no issues with it.
After a little contact turning around that first buoy, I began the remaining 2/3’s of the trip back. I’m terrible when it comes to sensing slight changes in the wind and apparently the current as well, but I could tell that I was quickly closing in on the bridges we had to swim under. It was no time until I got past the last bridge and could spot Joe’s Crab Shack, which was near the Swim Out. I started swimming a little harder in that last 10 minutes and was amazed when I saw my watch time of 1:09, a PR by almost 10 minutes.
The Ironman Louisville swim was without a doubt the most painless, cramp-free, quickest and most enjoyable of the three Ironman swims I have done. There were no fish, no logs, no odors, and nothing that was unexpected. It was awesome.
SWIM > BIKE TRANSITION – T1
After getting out of the water I immediately saw Ben and Kari and most of our cheer crew. I jogged up to the wetsuit strippers and let them do the job. Then it was off to T1 and find my Bike Gear bag and my bike for the next part of the race.
112 Miles > 6:12:14 > 78th Place M50-54 A/G > 698th Place Male > 840th Place Overall
Equipment: Specialized Shiv Pro Triathlon Bike > Specialized Trivent Expert Cycling Shoes > FLO aero wheels 30 front/Full back > Louis Garneau Superleggera Aero Helmet > Garmin Edge 500 Bike Computer > Feetures Mini Crew Light Cushion Socks > Homemade Tube Sock Arm Warmers > GU Salted Caramel and Vanilla Bean Energy Gel in Two GU Energy Gel Flasks > Salt Stick Dispenser with Salt Capsules
The bike ride had been on my mind since driving it on Friday. We had seen the hills on the two looped portion and they did not look all that friendly. But the main player of the day would not turn out to be the hills, it was the weather.
We had been keeping an eye on the weather for a couple of weeks, and it was shaping up to be a hot day in the 80’s until the last few days prior to Sunday. The temps were predicted to be much cooler, which was welcome, however that also meant that a cold front was expected midday, bringing gusts of around 30 mph and strong sustained winds for the day, as well as the chance for rain and thunderstorms. The thunderstorms didn’t materialize, but we did have light rain and strong gusts.
I had made the decision much earlier in training that I wasn’t going to wimp out anymore by not using my full disc aero wheel, and I had racked my bike with that full disc wheel for the race. And even though I managed to somehow stay upright in strong crosswinds, it was not easy. I found myself several times leaning very aggressively into the crosswind, hoping not to get blown off my intended line. It was hard.
Heading out of Louisville was amazingly gentle, a fast ride made possible by a flat road and a super strong tailwind. The first ten miles I had averaged about 21 mph and it was easy riding.
I finally got to the turn for the loops and felt the crosswind for the first time. And then the hills started. After riding them a little I realized that they really weren’t all that bad. Compared to Wisconsin and Lake Placid, these were not as bad. The climbs were pretty short in duration, and there were plenty of screaming down hills thrown in as well. My Garmin registered a top speed of 41 mph, and there were several descents in which I hit 30+ mph.
Upon getting to LaGrange, the weather was warming up. I had tossed the arm warmers in the transition in town and could feel myself sweating a little more. My Garmin said the temperature had risen into the low 80’s, but I don’t think it got that warm. I would say mid to upper 70’s. It lasted maybe thirty minutes and then it clouded over, got cooler and started to sprinkle.
The rain was pesky, never really completely wetting the roadway to the point were I felt it was a concern. But now that it was raining slightly, and the temps had dropped, I went from being slightly warm to being uncomfortably cool. It wasn’t unbearable, but I did regret not keeping my arm warmers.
At Mile 45 I found myself riding mostly alone and got a little concerned that I missed the second loop turn. I finally caught up with the next rider, who was standing and pedaling, and I asked him if he was on his first or second loop. He said he was on his first loop and that the turn for the second loop is still ahead. Immediately after asking him the question though, I realized why he was standing – he was urinating. I almost laughed at him while he was responding to me, but I was able to contain myself. Triathlon is weird.
The turn for the second loop finally came and off I went back toward LaGrange. I stopped at the aid station there and found the toilets (I don’t pee myself, although there were times I considered it). Upon exiting I was greeted by a volunteer who had a table of miscellaneous stuff – pretzel sticks, chips, grapes, and other stuff. But it was the Vasoline that caught my eye. I had forgotten to apply some Glide in T1, so I grabbed a stick full of the goo and stuck it in my pants. I rode pretty comfortably after that. The volunteer said the Vasoline was pretty popular. No doubt. I also stopped at the Bike Special Needs and grabbed the little yellow jacket I bought. I thought I might need it again, seeing that I had already seen the temps drop once.
After getting through the second loop and turning back west, I could see that the weather ahead of me looked awful. And it was really windy at this point. Around the 90 mile marker I passed Jeff and said hello. He said hi back, but didn’t appear to be in the mood to talk. We must of rode a similar pace back because he later came out of T2 right after me.
I pushed a pretty hard pace between 90 and 105 miles or so, but then decided to relax a little on the rougher River Road and spin my legs to recover for the run a little bit. I was pretty glad to come back into Louisville and get off the bike. It was a great ride, especially considering the brutal weather and the challenging rollers, but I was glad to be heading in for the run. Had I not stopped in four of the aid stations, I probably would have saved 10 minutes on that ride. In all, the bike course is challenging and technical, but plenty of fun to ride.
BIKE > RUN TRANSITION – T2
I was amazed to once again see Ben yelling for me there at the end of the ride. He really did a great job making sure to be loud and get my attention and cheer me on. Every time seeing him and the others was a big emotional lift.
I dismounted and started the walk into transition, where along the way I handed my pile of money (bike) off to some kid who couldn’t have been more than 10, and continued my post-ride shuffle into the change tent. I could see the amused look on many of the spectators getting a good chuckle at our hunched over and hobbled walk. I was even laughing at some of the others as well.
In my bag I had packed a large baby wipe and used it to towel myself off. Even if it was just for the refreshing smell, it made me feel better. I grabbed my bib belt, shoved my feet into my shoes, and opted for the visor instead of the hat. I kept the rain jacket in my back pocket, and I am very glad I did.
26.2 Miles > 4:05:07 > 24th Place M50-54 A/G > 341st Place Male > 434th Place Overall
Equipment: Boco Visor > Nishiki Weather/Wind Resistant Cycling Jacket > Hoka One One Clifton 3 > Fuel Belt Bib Belt with Pouch
When I came out of the change tent I was surprised to see Jeff. I had passed him on the bike and never saw him pass me back, so he must have been right behind me. He was trying to determine if waiting for a portable toilet to open up was in his best interest, and I saw him jog off to a set further up from Run Out. But he was right there with me, and I knew he was going to be chasing me down soon.
I was barely out of T2 when I saw Dave’s son Maxwell, who was cheering like mad. He was telling me that I only had a little run of 26 miles to go. Funny kid. Kari and Ben saw me again and I advised them that Jeff was right behind me. They took this bit of information somewhat nonchalantly, and it dawned on me they new exactly where everyone was at. “Yeah, we know he’s behind you. Now get going!”
Kari and Ben had discovered that Louisville has a bike share program and decided to hop a couple of bikes and chase me around the first part of the first loop. I would get up the road a little and then out of the blue Ben would yell “GO Papa!” which usually took me by surprise. He even caught me once coming out of the porta-john, at which I just shook my head.
Right after that potty break, I saw that Jeff had caught up with me. It was then he said he had crashed on the bike! No wonder he wasn’t up for small talk out on the bike course when I had seen him earlier. He said that some dope had passed him and then stopped right in front of him, causing him to crash and being tossed over his handlebars. He ended up with a pretty good sized bump on his forehead, but seemed to be doing okay.
Jeff and I jogged together for most of the first four miles of the first loop out, but my desire to walk the aid stations and multiple porta-john breaks caused him to gain a little distance on me. I had been passing some gas quite a bit, a common occurrence which many of the other racers also experienced from the sound of it. The saying in triathlon is “Never Trust a Fart,” and I had already “trusted” about a half dozen of them, so I was playing it safe by continually wasting my time in the toilet. But after awhile, I must have gotten most of the gas out of me and never felt the need to go again other than pee breaks. I was staying hydrated pretty well, and was content with my hydration and nutrition plan on the run. I was hitting the Coke and chicken broth, and eating the pretzels/potato chips and bananas when I felt like it. I kept up the gel intake at every 30 minutes as well. I never ran out of energy on the course.
Jeff knew that one of his former bosses was in the race and they met up on the run course somewhere around the 7 mile mark. I had started to creep back up on Jeff, and when I saw them jogging together and sharing their experiences of the day, I decided to try to sneak by and pass them unnoticed. But Jeff saw me and gave me some well wishes for the rest of the race. It was at that point that I thought he might be struggling a little.
Up next for me was seeing Alex, and I jogged with him for a little while. I came to realize that he was about 5 miles from being a two time Ironman and I was still on my first loop. We didn’t stride together for long, and he was off to finish.
It wasn’t long until I was also near the finish; however, I had to make the turn for my second loop. It’s somewhat of a sickening feeling when the halfway turnaround point is very close to the finish line. I was feeling really good at this point and figured that if I was still doing well with 10K to go, I would probably start my kick. And that’s what I did. I got lots of “great pace, Chris” and “nice run” from the spectators, who could read my name on the front of my bib. I did like the fact that the fans along the course could cheer for you personally. It freaks you out the first time, and then you figure it out.
The turn at the end of the out loop was near the 20 mile mark and it was now go time for me. I felt really good. I picked up my pace and was running just under 8 minute miles and passing a good number of runners. Around the 22 mile mark I drank a little chicken broth and it wasn’t long after that that it seemed like it wasn’t settling so well. I started to get slightly nauseated, and I burped a couple of times, which seemed to alleviate the nausea. When I hit the 24 mile mark, I was now pretty comfortable. I had ran this out and back on Friday, and had done this run back once already in the race. It was time to hit it. I had set a goal for myself pre-race that I wanted to try to break 4 hours in the run. I knew it would be close because my half marathon split was a little over 2 hours. But I knew that I had pushed pretty hard the second half, and was kicking to the end.
As I approached the finish chute I took a look at my watch and noticed that I was clearly going to be under 12 hours, far exceeding my goal of being sub 12:30. The emotions of finishing started to hit me. I can get a little emotional during the race – finishing the swim, and the start of the run both got me a little choked up. But coming in to this finish line was amazing! It was supercharged with excitement, and I was flying high on adrenaline. As I came down Fourth Street Live! to the finish it was almost a blur. I couldn’t hear any music, or even the announcer introducing me and saying the words “YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!” Just as I was crossing I almost got tripped up on the rug and almost did a complete faceplant! But I was able to collect myself and finish the race, even if I was an emotional wreck.
The Ironman Louisville run course couldn’t have been better. Flat and fast and the volunteers were awesome. A four hour and five minute marathon after biking and swimming 114.4 miles seemed impossible to me. 4:05 is quicker than some of the stand alone marathons I have run. Even I’m impressed. Just like the slogan says, “Anything Is Possible.”
140.6 Miles > 11:46:55 > 43rd M50-54 A/G > 479th Male Overall > 600th place Overall Finisher
Equipment: A cot, a blanket, a bottle of water, Base Salt, and an Ironman Louisville Finisher’s Medal
I ended Ironman Lake Placid 2016 in pretty good shape. I was able to walk, talk, and do other stuff without much effort. This time was the complete opposite. I was a blubbering mess. I wanted to keep moving, but the finisher chute was quite short. My finish line catcher was amazing, and stayed with me while I tried to figure out what the heck was going to happen to me. At some point I saw Ben and Kari and walked over to greet them at the fence. I let it out. The catcher asked if this was “normal” – lol. I handed my hat and finisher’s shirt to Kari and tried to collect myself. But I could tell I was starting to get chilled in the low to mid 50 degree temps. I asked the catcher to walk me to the medical tent.
Once inside the medical tent I was directed to a cot, had my blood pressure taken (110/70, 80 bpm) was told to lie down and had a blanket placed over me. I was now in full shiver mode and from my prone position could see that there was IV bags hanging all around. As I laid there wondering when they were going to give me the IV, I came to the conclusion that they probably weren’t. They had provided me a water bottle, and I still had my Base Salt container, so I figured I might as well start getting my electrolytes up on my own. I started licking the salt and trying to absorb it sublingually, and kept pushing the water. I suppose I laid there for thirty minutes and finally sat up. The shivering was over, and I was feeling better. My nurse Stacy walked me to the porta-john and I knew at that point I was doing much better.
I was allowed to keep the blanket and was very thankful for that as it was 50 degrees out and the wind of the day had not subsided at all. As I walked out, I took a look over at the recovery tent where there was more food and drink, but I could see that Ben and Kari were waiting for me on the other side of the fence. The area where the Morning Clothes bags were being held was nearby and I went over and retrieved mine. I met my wife and son and said lets go back to the hotel.
After a shower and a change of clothes, we walked back to the finish area and had dinner at TGIFriday’s. I needed some salty carbs and protein, so I ordered some soup, a steak and fries. I ate what I could and was feeling much better.
Since this race didn’t have a hard finish at midnight, and the fact that it was cold and my left leg was getting super sore, we decided to pack it in and not watch some of the final finishers. I kind of regret not sticking around for what is usually the highlight of the day, but I had no more to give to the day, and my crew was also tired of chasing me around. It was time for bed.
I was anxious to get up and get breakfast so we could get over to the Ironman store in the Athlete Village. I wanted to get that finisher’s jacket that Ironmen seem to covet for some reason. Kari and I flagged down weirdo number 3, a cabbie who was done with his shift for the night, but decided he could drive us to the Great Lawn where the Athlete Village was located. He was a little strange with his conversations about once owning a yachting jacket like the America’s Cup guys use, but at least he could give us a lift.
I expected that there would be a line and wasn’t let down. It was pretty long, and since we had gotten there late I figured all of the jackets were probably sold out by now. But we decided to stick it out, and since the awards ceremony was about to begin, we had something to occupy our time while we stood in line.
Once inside the store, I found my jacket in my size and we bought a couple of t-shirts for the girls and made a beeline out of there. It was time to check out of the hotel and hit the road for home.
POST RACE ANALYSIS
Ironman Louisville was awesome. It produced another personal best for me and a time that I am really proud of. I’m amazed that I went from being in 992nd place overall after the swim, to 840th overall after the bike, to 434th overall after the run. I had moved up hundreds of places after that awesome run. 600th out of 2,273 finishers is also pretty awesome.
I highly recommend Ironman Louisville for anyone looking to find a fast and contact free swim, a challenging but interesting bike course, and a flat and fast run with an awesome finish line like no other.
Alex: 10:14:57 > 5th Place M18-24 A/G PODIUM FINISH > 155th Place Overall > 2 time Ironman Finisher
Dave: 11:40:20 > 41st Place M50-54 A/G > 548th Place Overall > 3 time Ironman Finisher
Jeff: 12:14:27 > 107th Place M45-49 A/G > 802nd Place Overall > 2 time Ironman Finisher
As usual, I have many to thank. My friends at work, who probably regret asking about my training once I start answering. Thanks Lou, Micah, Jeff, Julie, Mary, Tracy, and the others, and especially my Super Fan, Carl! I’m still not getting the tattoo, Carl.
Thanks go to the Mueller’s, who like us had to sacrifice to make sure Jeff could get his training in, especially with moving to Downtown Chicago, and having a recent high school graduate off to college in late August. Jill, Emma and Charlie, thanks for coming to the race and supporting us and chasing us around.
Without Carla securing our hotel needs for every race we do, and doing such a great job at it, we would probably be staying in a dive hotel an hour outside of town. Instead we had wonderful suites in downtown Louisville, right next to the finish line. Carla, you are the best. And to the other DeForest’s, Max and Zach, and Lizzy and Alex’s girlfriend Kennedy, thanks for cheering as loud as you did. Seeing you guys was great.
To my son Ben, it was a great relief having you there. Thanks for chasing me around the course, running with me before the race, and going and retrieving my pile of money (bike) and gear bags, and putting up with such a long day of Gunner racing. I really appreciate it.
And lastly, a huge thanks to my endurance partner in life, my wife Kari. Thanks for keeping me on task during training, allowing me to go do those crazy long rides all the while we were loading our lives with a new home, a recent college graduate, a second year college student, and a busy high schooler in a competitive marching band who was also learning to drive. Thanks for being there for me as always. I love you.
Thanks for reading! On to my next adventure – my first Boston Marathon in 2018!
I typically write my weekly Ironman training wrap-up on Sunday, when all of my workouts have been completed, and share something worthwhile during the week that I find interesting in my journey toward my goal of doing a third Ironman race. Usually the long bike on Saturday or the long run on Sunday will give me something to reflect upon. But I find myself typing this on a Wednesday instead, a couple of days after another mass murder in the world involving gunfire, this time in Las Vegas, Nevada.
I have become somewhat numb to these shootings, and I believe most of the world has as well. They seem to have become routine or expected. I guess most people think that it won’t happen where they live. I also believe that I live in a pretty safe place in the world, the south suburbs of Chicago, a place where if you go a couple miles north you are certainly in the urban life, and if you travel a couple miles south you are definitely looking at cornfields. But I’m not fooling myself with that. At this writing, 58 people lost their lives in Las Vegas. The City of Chicago loses that many people in a month to gunfire. September 2017 alone registered 60 people murdered in Chicago(1). Chicago has a Las Vegas every damn month. Let that sink in.
I’m not anti-gun. I’m for protecting 2nd Amendment rights. But I’m also thinking we need much stricter gun ownership rules. I don’t even know what that entails, really. I just don’t want people to lose their minds and have access to guns and wipe out scores of people because they woke up on the wrong side of the world that day. With all the killings going on in Chicago, I have recently thought about purchasing a small handgun for protection and taking the two day concealed carry licensing course. But I haven’t done that, and may or may not. I don’t like to think about having to have to do that. I don’t want to have to get to the point where if I leave the house I have to carry a gun. I don’t want my pre-ride checklist to include water bottles, gels, a helmet, some spare tubes and a handgun.
My father grew up in Nebraska and was a farm boy, so I’m pretty sure that hunting was a common practice for him. I don’t remember my dad having guns around the house, maybe an old .22 caliber rifle that must have been in his family. Our house was on four wooded acres and my older brother Jon had shotguns and would walk the woods and the adjoining cornfields to shoot at pheasants and rabbits, and occasionally I would tag along. He gave me a gun to carry that I’m guessing he thought was perfect for me. It was an over/under type long gun, with a .22 caliber rifle on top and a .410 gauge shotgun on the bottom. I don’t remember ever shooting the dumb thing, but I do recall that it was heavy.
My friends were very avid hunters, and good at it too. I’m not anti-hunting at all, but I guess my path as a kid was more about playing wiffle ball, riding my mini-bike, and listening to rock and roll than it was about killing rabbits in the back yard. One year Jon must have thought that I was big enough now to carry a .20 gauge, and we traipsed once again through the woods. He saw some ducks swimming in the creek that ran through the property and he yelled “SHOOT THE FUCKING DUCKS!” I pulled the trigger and killed a duck. When we pulled it out of the creek we saw that this duck must have lived the high life, because he was huge. Most likely a duck that was fed pretty well by the neighbor to the north. I most likely had killed someone’s pet wild duck.
We were into taxidermy at the time, so my buddies helped me stuff that damn thing. We hung it from my ceiling like he was flying, which in all likelihood he was too damn fat to do, and likely the reason he was in essence a sitting duck to a kid who couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn from 10 feet away. That hanging duck in my bedroom kind of became my albatross around my neck, just like in the Rime of the Ancient Mariner. I looked at it everyday and eventually came to the conclusion that hunting may not be my thing.
After marriage and becoming a father, I just didn’t want any guns around the house. I have a valid Firearms Owners Identification card, but have never owned a gun. I work in non-sworn position in law enforcement and just maintain it in case I find myself possessing a gun for some reason. I’m a rule follower.
So how does the terrible event in Las Vegas have anything to do with training for another Ironman? Well, my group of buddies and I call our team “The Gunners”.
When we decided to do our second Ironman in 2016 in Lake Placid, New York, I thought that since there were five of us doing the race, we should have a cool team name, along with matching tri kits. But there wasn’t any theme or idea that really resonated with us until my buddy John suggested Gunners. That suggestion was made because the youngest of our group, Alex, had a habit of going full throttle in races, gunning for the win as they say. I had heard the term used in sports many times, especially in auto racing. “HE’S REALLY GUNNING FOR THE LEAD!” and stuff like that. And to be honest, I think the rest of our group was highly competitive as well. We all gun for the win. The name was bad ass. Not only did we want to be bad ass, we wanted to be GUNNERS!
I had trouble coming up with a logo, and thought about using a cannon in the design, kind of like Arsenal FC, a soccer club in London, who also went by the Gunner moniker. But I thought, maybe it should just be about the what we wanted the word to reflect, that we were highly competitive, gunning for the podium. In the end, I asked the company that we used to make our team kits if they could assist with a team logo for us, and they came up with the word Gunners in a fast looking script, with three stars above the name. They also suggested a logo having a handgun sticking out of the end of the “S”, but it looked really stupid, and it wasn’t what we were trying to express. So the Gunners logo with the three stars was our choice.
As we rapidly approach Ironman Louisville on October 15, we typically also make some t-shirts for ourselves and our family and crew of supporters that come along. My wife and I designed some cool looking shirts with the Gunner logo and the IM Louisville fleur-de-lis design similar to what they use, and ordered a few hundred dollars worth of shirts. A couple days later a crazed gunman went full gunner in his own way and mowed down 58 people and wounding scores more. What an asshole. He died too. He just got the order of who to shoot first wrong.
So now the question for me is, do I really want to plaster the word “Gunners” on my chest, and parade through 140.6 miles of Louisville, Kentucky? Not really. But yes, dammit, I do. Can I expect that people will understand the context of the word that we want it to portray, or will they look at it and say WTF? Is being a Gunner still bad ass, or just make me look like an ass? I’m not sure I have the answer to those questions. I feel like this guy stole something from me. But really, can I be upset about that when all those people in Las Vegas had their lives stolen from them? The answer to that is no.
I have a week and a few days to decide as to whether I’m going to represent the team name at Ironman Louisville. I probably will. I’m just bummed about the killings. But I know that I am a Gunner, and my teammates are Gunners, and we will all be gunning it on October 15, whether we are wearing it on our chest or not.
2 Swims – 5500 yards this week / 110250 yards total
4 Bikes – 82.5 miles this week / 10571 miles total
I was anticipating that this week would be pretty good. Week 28 is the first of three taper weeks, and after the heat and workload of the previous week, I knew it would be a lot better. But I wasn’t expecting it to be so dang good!
First of all, the weather got better. Temperatures went from low 90’s back to the mid 60’s and it felt great. On Tuesday, I decided to go back to the high school pool and swim what the plan had called for, about 3500 yards of swimming. But I felt pretty good, and once I got started I decided to test myself and I ended up swimming the full Ironman distance swim of 4200 yards. After swimming only two 45 minute swims a week for the past several, I just needed to prove to myself that I could cover the distance and I did.
But the week really turned awesome on Wednesday, when after waiting very anxiously for a week and a half, I finally got the word that I had made the cut for the Boston Marathon, a first for me. It had been a long time in the making, never really thinking that I would ever reach that goal, but it finally happened. I’m still a little in shock about making it into the field, but expect a blog report from me about being accepted soon.
Getting into Boston for the first time was pretty awesome, but the day wasn’t done delivering good news. I went to pick up Rebecca from marching band practice and although all of the band equipment and props were out on the field, the kids were nowhere in sight. When they came out of the building back to the field I could see that they were each carrying a red rose. I knew it immediately – they were going to Pasadena!!! The Tournament of Roses Parade!!! Now this may not seem like such a big deal, but it’s really like getting into Boston. First you have to meet several qualifications just to get in. And getting in means that this band is pretty darn good. But what really makes it special for me is that I marched in the parade on January 1, 1982, and it’s really cool that Rebecca will get to experience that as well. It was an experience of a lifetime for me. One of those special opportunities that not everyone gets. Pretty cool. Looks like I will be traveling to Pasadena in December/January 2019!
I went back to the pool on Thursday, even though I still have my pool at home open. It’s the end of September, almost October, and I still have the pool open, which is pretty unusual. But I am having some issues with the auto chlorinator, and will probably have to replace it in the spring, along with the pump and possibly the heater as well. It seems like everything is starting to reach the end of its use and getting worn out. I will deal with it in the spring. I began closing it on Sunday.
The Saturday long ride was four hours with a 1/2 hour run and it went really well. What a difference a week makes. Last Saturday was a 7 hour day in mid 90 degree temps. This Saturday started out at 54 degrees and didn’t get much more than 63 or so by the time I was done. I had three layers on for that ride!
Sunday wrapped up the week with another cool morning and a two hour run, and thanks to the cool temps I was able to squeeze in an extra mile and finished comfortably with 14 miles. However the real wrap up of the weekend was a trip to downtown Chicago with my family to see Hamilton. I really had no expectations for the show, and I was really impressed. It was pretty cool.
Here’s to Week 28! Thanks for being so good to me.
2 Swims – 7200 yards this week / 104,750 yards total
dread – /dred/ verb/noun: 1. To anticipate with great fear or apprehension (Google Definition) 2. The word “dead” with an r stuck in it (Chris Definition)
It’s interesting how one little change can cause me to panic over something that I can’t control. For this week it was the weather. The past three weeks we have had pretty good moderate, if not cool temperatures to train in. It has been somewhat enjoyable to bike and run in the day with temps in the upper 60’s and mid 70’s. But on the horizon for this weekend loomed record setting high temperatures in our area, several days bordering or over 90 degrees. And it happened on Week 27 – the dreaded Week 27.
I have followed the Be Iron Fit training plan for three races now and Week 27 is the one that I generally loathe. Sure we have been building up to this week, and truthfully I probably could have done the distance that Week 27 calls for in any of the previous three weekends. But doing it in 90 degree temps?! Yikes. I have gotten through this week before and I was sure I can get through it again. It’s not as tough as the race itself, for Pete’s sake. But the issue at hand was doing a six hour/100 mile bike ride and one hour/7 mile run in the heat. I was really dreading it this time around. Thankfully, my group of Gunner teammates had just the answer – suffer through this together. Here’s the low down on how we conquered the Dreaded Week 27.
The plan was to gather at Dave’s house in Dixon and ride his route, a route that I feel is very similar to what we will expect in Louisville – lots of rolling hills, followed by more rolling hills. The offer to spend the night there on Friday was made so that we could get an early start to our seven hour day, and I gladly accepted. I packed my junk up, double checked that I had all my junk, and had a dinner at a local pizza place with my wife Kari that only made me more anxious. The waitress was terrible and I was starting to believe that I may not make it there on Friday night. Quick pro tip – never tell the waitress that you need just another minute. To them people, just another minute means maybe ten. Whatever. We finally ate and I got on the road.
Upon arriving at Dave’s I was provided a comfortable bed, and the promise of a pre-ride meal in the morning.
I awoke at 5:30 am and got dressed. Upstairs Carla had oatmeal, bagels and bananas waiting for us. Thanks Carla! I probably ate more there than I do on my regular pre-ride meal at home. I certainly left with a full tank. Jeff showed up from Chicago just in time for some breakfast and small talk, and we slathered on some sunscreen and got ready to saddle up.
We hit the road at 6:30 am and it was 64 degrees. I actually felt a little cold and felt a little foolish for worrying about the forecasted heat. But as the sun rose, so did the temperatures. The riding was good, we reminded ourselves to save our legs for later, and slowly paced ourselves out to the first stop to refill our water bottles, a fire station in Lanark, Illinois.
Before we left, Dave had prepared for all of us a plastic bag filled with powdered lemon-lime flavored Gatorade. I joked that it looked like I was carrying a bag of yellow cocaine and almost took a pass on bringing it. I will drink Gatorade on my rides, but after a while all of that warm sugary Gatorade just doesn’t go down very well. I grabbed a bag as insurance, and I am glad I did.
At the first stop, I pulled out the bag and added some to my water bottles, now jokingly calling it “yellow gocaine” but I didn’t add enough. Now I just had dilute Gatorade water. Fortunately, I don’t rely on Gatorade for fuel, hydration or electrolyte replenishment. I always use salt capsules to keep my sodium levels up, and use gels for nutritions/fuel, along with water.
At several turns we were greeted with the possibility of some loose gravel on the turns and we did our best to warn each other. But occasionally we’d forget until after we passed it, but even then we would still shout “GRAVEL!”
I had been riding with Alex a little and he kept telling me about this hill that we would be able to scream down. I kept thinking that we weren’t going to ever get to this hill. But we finally did and it did not disappoint. I hit 45.8 mph going down it and pretty much had spun out my gearing. It was pretty exhilarating, and it ended too soon for me. It then dawned on me that that hill we just enjoyed will be the same one that will kick our butts on the way back. It did.
Our watches hit three hours just before we got to the portion of Dave’s route that included some serious hills to climb. Darn. Oh well. Maybe next time. We stopped for a little chat, a selfie and I ate my banana and some Clif bar.
THE 4 HOUR MARK
We made it back to the fire station in Lanark only to find that all of the doors were closed and it looked empty. That was a problem, as we needed to top off our water bottles with yellow gocaine for the remaining two hour trip back. I checked around back looking for a hose bib with negative results, and Alex knocked on the door of a business on the other side of the street. Turns out it was a realty office and one of the agents was nice enough to allow us use of their bathroom and water fountain. Crisis averted.
GUNNING IT BACK HOME
Dave, who is much better at judging the wind direction than I am (he’s a pilot, so no wonder) and told us that we might have to pick up the pace a little to make it back in six hours. The whole ride out I felt like we were mostly going downhill, and now not only were we climbing somewhat back, we also had a little headwind to deal with. Truthfully the wind was negligible, and the real issue now was that it was hot. We were enjoying ourselves so much that the heat really didn’t seem to matter. Dave manages his hydration much better than I do, and I tried my best to keep pace with his drinking, so I felt pretty good hydration wise. I think I stopped for five or six nature breaks and all were pale yellow, which was very good for me.
As we got closer to home, I could tell we were making a faster split coming back than going out, not just by effort and the fact that I watched our average mph climb from 16.5 to now around 17 mph, but also by the fact that Dave kept taking us on little half mile out and back trips on roads we didn’t ride out on. So I flipped the switch in my mind to forget about being back exactly at 100 miles (we turned around at 50), and just kept an eye on that 6 hour mark.
RIDE OVER – TIME TO RUN
We finished the ride in 6:02, covering 102.2 miles according to my gps watch. I was very pleased. Another 10 miles in that heat would have been doable, but I was glad it was done. The 112 miles will just have to wait until race day.
We seemed to not be in a rush to head out to the run, but we got around to it. I took some time to use the washroom and wash my face and neck off with some cold water. I downed a bottle of cold Gatorade (not the yellow gocaine variety for once!), and we swapped bike shoes for running shoes. The group headed out and paced ourselves fairly conservatively for the first couple of miles. Alex thought he would gun it a little more, but he quickly came to his senses and joined us. Carla came through and met us about 20-25 minutes into our run, offering us water and Gatorade refills which I happily took. Then Jeff hit the gas.
I hadn’t mentioned Jeff much so far in this recap, mainly because he was going along just doing the work. But now I knew that he was ready to rock and roll. He steadily built a lead on us getting a football field length or two ahead of us when we turned around at 30 minutes. Now it was Dave, Alex and I jogging together and thinking that Jeff was forgetting that we have a 3 hour run to do on Sunday. Jeff caught us and passed us easily. Now it was game on. It took me a while but I slowly reeled him in. I passed him with about a half mile or so to go and I got back to Dave’s house before him. But in all reality, he had run farther than me. He was in beast mode on that run. Well done, Jeff.
RECOVERING WITH SPECIAL SAUCE
After getting back, I chose to keep walking around to cool down while the others seemed to prefer to crash. Alex seemed to really be struggling. I keep hinting that he needs to pay more attention to electrolyte replenishment, but you can’t tell a young gun what to do. I hope he remembers what happened at Lake Placid last year, and makes the adjustment to increase his salt intake.
We went inside and showered up and was met with a great lunch spread made by Carla. She had made us all a variety of sandwiches and stuff to go with it and it was delicious. But the thing most interesting about the meal was the special sauce. I immediately got a chuckle out of this thanks to the movie “Step Brothers” where Brennan won’t share his fancy sauce with Dale. I have to admit, I wanted some special sauce on my sandwich. It was good.
After recovering with food, we went out to the garage to admire Dave’s new Corvette, gather our junk, and I threw about a million football passes to Max and Zach, which may have been the highlight of the day. I got in the car and headed home.
Before getting out of Dixon, I stopped at the Culver’s and bought myself a large diet Mountain Dew. I’m glad I did because I probably would have fallen asleep without the caffeine it provided.
As I was driving I got a text alerting me to the fact the the marching band contest that my daughter was competing at in Naperville had been cancelled due to the heat. I later learned that several kids and others were treated by EMT’s there, and the police told the school to shut it down. I chuckled at the fact that we just did seven straight hours and 109 miles of high level endurance activity. I guess we are ready.
4TH PLACE GOES TO…
Me. During the last hour of riding I was finding myself in the sweeper position quite often, trying to play catch-up with the other three. I realized at that point that I would most likely be finishing fourth off the bike ride at Louisville. I guess it’s just my riding style. I prefer to spin, and I am constantly spending large chunks of time in the small chain ring. Dave wouldn’t use that ring unless he absolutely had to. I prefer to save my quads for the run. And unless I gun the run like a madman, I am pretty sure I’m looking at finishing in fourth. But I’m totally cool with that. They are strong riders, and Jeff proved that he may rob me from my marathon crown at this race. It’s kind of cool that we all kind of have a triathlon distance specialty, and each of us have our dominant races. I tend to do well in the short stuff, and Dave is KING at Ironman. Jeff may very well be Dave’s best challenger this time around. Alex, well seeing that he’s the young gun, he’ll toast us all. He’s a lifer. He LOVES this sport! We all do.
THE SUNDAY LONG RUN
I was eager to get to the three hour long run on Sunday, because I didn’t want it to get too hot. The run started with a temperature of 70 degrees but warmed to the mid 80’s by the time I was done. It went really well. I’m surprised at how well I feel on a run the day after doing such a long bike/run brick. I turned around at 10 miles right at 1:30 and headed back home, finishing in 3:01. The only casualty was my left nipple sprung a leak. I was running along and feeling pretty good at about an hour into it when I looked down and saw that my shirt had a huge red bloody stain on it. That explained all the weird looks I was getting from people on the trail. I took the shirt off and rinsed the blood out with some water and made it home. All in all, a pretty good run.
2 Swims – 4200 yards this week / 97550 yards total