It seemed like this week was a little bit of a hilly ride, with ups and downs aplenty. So I thought I would recap the happenings.
HIGHS: Rest day, baby! Eclipse day! LOWS: I ran 3 miles on my off day. Bummer.
HIGHS: A swim and a 8.5 mile run. LOWS: None that I can remember. Except maybe the swim. Yeah, I hate swimming.
HIGHS: My favorite workout of the week – the short bike/run brick. LOWS: The wife isn’t feeling well.
HIGHS: The weather this week has been GREAT!!! LOWS: Thursday workouts are the worst – a swim, a bike, a run. Makes for a long afternoon.
HIGHS: My mother-in-law Darla hit 70! Happy Birthday! And I got to greet my friend Rollie on the bike trail. LOWS: Missed the first home football game in which my daughter’s full competitive band performed.
HIGHS: Absolutely none. Well, that’s not true. I got to see the competitive marching band do their thing in exhibition after a 88 mile bike/run day. The ride went well in spite of the fact I wanted to kill people on the bike trail and clueless drivers on the road. LOWS: Idiots on the bike trail. Clueless drivers on the road. And I got pretty sick about training on that long ride. I got to the point where I just wanted it to be over. Happens every year.
HIGHS: I beat the rain (which looked like trouble, but never did rain) and got in a strong 13.25 mile run and a 45 minute spin. And I got a second chance to greet my friend Rollie on the bike trail! LOWS: Not being able to join my buddies in Chicago for the Chicago Triathlon. Next year for sure.
So, in all it was a roller coaster ride of emotion throughout training this week. I was ready to say I was done with it. But by the end of Sunday’s long run and bike, I realized that I had performed pretty well. A good recovery from last week. I’m pretty lucky that I can do this activity. I don’t take that for granted.
2 Swims – 4200 yards this week / 79150 yards total
This week was a taper week that was leading to a half-iron distance race on Sunday in the training plan. The week went really well with no issues, and I chose to do the 70.3 at home on Saturday instead of Sunday for a couple of reasons, first being my daughter Ashley was leaving for her sophomore year at school on Sunday and I needed to be around on Sunday. Secondly, Saturday was looking to be a nicer day temperature-wise than Sunday.
So Saturday came and I got an early start to my half-Ironman day. The swim was great. It took me 40 minutes and I felt really strong. Before leaving on the bike I ate a Clif Bar and drank a glass of water.
The bike was awesome. I headed south toward Elwood and hit 23 miles when I turned around at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery. I went back east until I got to the little forest preserve entrance and went in for a bathroom break. Knowing that I had turned around at 23 miles, I would need an additional 10 miles for a total of 56 for the ride, so I headed back west for 5 and turned around.
With about 2 miles to go, I felt a stinging sensation on my foot. Some sort of wasp/bee/hornet thing had lodged itself in the opening of my shoe and stung me. It hurt like heck for about 10 minutes. But it was just the beginning of my suffering.
Once home I noticed that I had a great split on the bike ride. Averaged just over 19 mph, which was faster than my Ironman Muncie 70.3 time from 2014. I was pretty happy with that.
I jumped in the pool for a quick cool down, and then changed into some running clothes. I took a look at my stung foot and didn’t notice any swelling, but it was a little sore to the touch. I put on fresh socks, refilled my Gatorade bottles and hit the trail.
My plan was to do two loops of my normal route, which would be very close to 13 miles. At about 5 miles into it I ran out of Gatorade and stopped at the water pump to top off my bottle with water. That got me back to my trail entrance spot at 6.6 miles and I grabbed a new bottle of Gatorade that I had stashed in the tall grass and refilled my bottle. But at this point the heat of the day was getting to me, and I knew I was starting to cook. I started heading back up the path for another loop and made it to the other parking lot where I used the bathroom and realized I was starting to have heat exhaustion. I went to the water fountain and ran cold water over my head and proceeded to the intersection to keep going on the loop. But as I pushed the crosswalk button and stood there I realized there was no way I would make it through the remaining 5 miles in one piece. So at 8 miles into my planned 13 miler, I turned around and started walking for home. A walk that would basically turn out to be an Ironman shuffle for 2.5 miles.
My head was down, my arms were heavy and it felt like just breathing was an effort. I felt like that train I had seen earlier was barreling over me. I kept licking at the last gel I had along with some Base salt and started to at least have enough energy to power my brain and move at a slightly faster pace. I ran/walked another mile for a total of 9, four shy of my goal.
I have never DNF’d (did not finish) a race before, and honestly I can’t even remember a time in which I didn’t finish a training run that I had set out to do. But today I realized that I was defeated. It beat me. I made it home and recovered with plenty of fluids, some salt, and some rest.
So what happened? I’m guessing I was dehydrated. I had taken a salt capsule every hour on the ride, but I was sweating heavily. I had eaten well, taking a gel every half hour. I never felt sloshy or had dry mouth. I weighed myself after a shower and found I weighed 160 pounds. I had probably lost about 7 pounds of water weight on that journey. Lesson learned. I need to drink more. The trouble is, there really isn’t any place to refill on that route. I will need to figure something out for the next time. And maybe I needed more fuel. One gel every 30 minutes has always been my nutrition plan. I may need to up it a little.
2 Swims – 5600 yards this week / 74950 yards total
I have trained for three Ironman races and I get to the point somewhere around Week 20 or so when I declare myself ready. All it took for me to understand that I wasn’t was the Saturday long ride and run workout.
It started out okay, and it was a beautiful day – low 70’s, mostly sunny, light breeze if any. My only option for doing a long ride and not want to murder people on the bike trail is to head south from where I live to the more rural farmland of the far south Chicago suburbs. I live right on the cuff of urban and rural living. Harlem Avenue near where I live is a six lane motorway. South of Monee, it is two lanes with barely any shoulder or traffic. So I headed south with a plan to turn around at 2 hours and head back to complete the scheduled 4 hour ride.
I have a terrible sense of wind direction when I ride for some reason, but I was keeping an eye on the corn and plants and they weren’t moving at all. So I felt strong and kept pushing. I had built up an average pace of 18.6 mph before I turned around. Then I felt the wind. It was from the north, and I knew I was in trouble because 90% of the ride back would be back into the wind. So I ended up battling my way back home, watching my average ride pace slowly tick back down to a more realistic level for me. I pushed pretty hard, but it still took me an additional 11 minutes on the return trip. I ended with an average of 17.9 mph. Not only was I now super tired from the effort back, but I also had dropped below 18 mph average.
I ended the ride with a 5 mile run at a pretty good pace. But I could tell that I was spent. I showered up and went to Panera for some soup. Between the Southwest Chicken Tortilla Soup bowl (super salty and full of chicken/protein), and about a half dozen refills of sugary Lipton Brisk Raspberry Tea, I was able to turn myself around and feel good again. But after that 5 hour, 80 mile training day, I knew that I surely do need these remaining few weeks of training to be ready.
On Sunday, I ran the scheduled 1 hour 45 minute run not knowing what to expect. Turned out I felt pretty good. Ended the run covering 12 total miles. Maybe I am ready!
2 Swims – 5600 yards this week / 70050 yards total
I read a recent article in Triathlete magazine that covered the subject of mental preparedness in Ironman. I have always thought that training your mind to handle the effort in training and the races was almost as vital as the physical aspect of getting your body ready to spend the more than half a day swimming, biking and running. Some of it can be very mind numbing for sure.
I find the swimming to be the most boring of the three. You are either looking at a black line at the bottom of a swimming pool, the dark murkiness of a lake, or in my case a bunch of dead bugs lying at the bottom of my pool, a constant reminder that I also need to devote time to take care of things that get neglected during training.
Running can also be boring, but you can bring music if you are so inclined. I don’t, but I do let the beauty of the area in which I run to keep me distracted from any suffering that may be going on. I jogged behind a deer on Wednesday for about a minute until it finally took notice and bounded into the woods.
I find that I don’t have the luxury of being unfocused on the bike. It’s the one discipline of triathlon in which you are required to focus. You have to constantly monitor your surroundings, your effort level, and make sure that you don’t crash. Certainly there are times when I can zone out, but something always quickly renews your focus on the bike – a bump on the road, a bug to the face, a gust of wind, etc.
Often times when someone asks about the Ironman, they only think in terms of how long it is – 140.6 miles – and are impressed that the distance can be covered under your own power. But I find that your mind easily adapts to the distance if you break it down into manageable segments. My training is 30 weeks long. That’s a long time. But when it is broken into its individual weeks, and then into each day, it is much easier to mentally handle the task. The woman who inquired about my training this week asked me about the training, and I said for Wednesday’s workout I did 45 minutes on the bike followed by a 30 minute run. A total of 75 minutes of exercise. Lots of people can do that. Break it up and it is much more manageable.
At Ironman Wisconsin in 2013, I found that I couldn’t bear to look out at the water where the swim course was being held prior to race day. It looked enormous! But on race day morning, I got in the water for the start and broke the swim up into small segments. My plan was to swim from one orange buoy to the next. On the bike it was all about riding to the next aid station where I could refill my water bottle and take on some more nutrition, then it was on to the next one. Same thing with the run – one mile at a time, one aid station to the next.
So I guess the physical training for the race is the most important aspect of completing an Ironman. But if you can train your brain to manage the race, it can make the physical portion of it much less of a burden.
Swimming in Lake Minocqua.
I volunteered as a chaperone at this past couple of weeks at band camp. Fortunately for me I was able to take the 3-6pm slot, and was still able to get my workouts done midday. The weekend was spent in Minocqua with the family. I felt the need to be with the family and spend quality time that is no longer a given. My son has his own job and is living out of state. And my middle daughter will begin her sophomore year at college soon. So to have everyone together for two short days was a luxury that I couldn’t pass up. So I skipped the scheduled four hour bike ride. But I was able to get an open water lake swim in as well as the two hour Sunday run. That run nearly wiped me out physically and mentally. I’ve got some work to do in the next ten weeks.
2 Swims – 4400 yards this week / 64450 yards total
I’ve always been somewhat self-conscious about my body. As a kid my mom would take me to the “husky” section of Sears to buy my clothes. I always swam in a t-shirt to hide my chubbiness. Maybe it wouldn’t have been so noticeable for me if my two best buddies didn’t have bodies that would be suitable for modeling. (They still have those bodies.) Even in my high school and young adult years, I would always buy a shirt that was a size larger than I need.
I started running like most people do – to lose a few pounds. I did lose a few pounds, but my body shape stayed the same. Not sure why after almost 28 years of running that I would not be rail thin like most marathoners, but it never happened to me. I am a slightly slimmer version of the same body that I have had since I can remember.
But when I started triathlon, things changed. First of all, one of the reasons I stayed away from triathlon was that I didn’t think that I could wear that skin tight clothing and be comfortable with how I felt and looked. Especially in the early days when they wore bikini style shorts. I can remember buying my first tri suit at Endure It! in the western suburbs of Chicago. I tried a two piece and remember thinking I looked like the Michelin Man. After that I tried a one piece suit and thought that it wasn’t too bad. Often times I would throw a t-shirt over it just to make me feel a little better about myself. But after getting a few races under my belt, I looked around and realized that it wasn’t all that bad. I saw all shapes and sizes of people squeezed into Lycra, and in reality I wasn’t the shape that my mind imagined myself to be. Triathlon seems to be giving me more than I had bargained for. I’m getting less conscious about my image.
This weekend I did a sprint triathlon. I was thinking about how I looked in comparison to others at the event. Not sure why, but I did. I was admiring this one guy who looked like he was a former pro. Fortunately for me he was in the 55-59 age group and I didn’t have to worry about losing an age group spot to him (He finished 3rd overall). He had the look that I wanted but somehow can’t achieve. As somewhat of a car buff, I envisioned myself much like a souped up beater – a car that looks rough on the outside, but is all pro-stock under the hood. The term “sleeper” also comes to mind – a car that is so tame looking, but packs a wallop.
I took my time in the water, but once I got to the bike I let it rip. I ended up surprising myself with a 21.8 mph average over the 11 mile course. When I got to the run, I played my strategy right. I allowed myself to settle in and not go crazy that first mile. I ended up running a 20:46 5K, nearly matching my personal best for road raced 5K’s this year. That was surprising as well.
The biggest surprise was when I saw the results on the screen at the finish line – 1st place in the M50-54 age group, and 9th place overall. I wasn’t expecting that. But I guess nobody expects the beater to have a supercharged big block under the hood. Sometimes not even me.
3 Swims – 3300 yards this week / 60050 yards total
Distance: Sprint: 400 yard Swim, 11 mile Bike, 3.1 mile Run
Results: 1:02:40 – 9th overall, 1st place M50-54
I expected to be underwhelmed with this race a little. There wasn’t much information to be found online as I looked into this race. The club that hosted it doesn’t really have a website or Facebook page that I could find, the host location (Manteno Sportsman’s Club) had just one post on their FB page, and the sign-up website didn’t list the race distances or provide a course map at all. I was kind of in the dark about it all. I ended up emailing the listed contact on the registration site and asked for info. A day later I was emailed the athlete guide. At least I now knew when packet pick-up was and when transition opened. When I did sign up for the race I asked my wife Kari if she would be interested in doing the duathlon. She committed and we joined the field.
I set my alarm for 4:30 am, but had a really restless night of sleep. I got up and got ready, while Kari groaned. We hit the road around 5:30 am and drove the 25 miles or so to Manteno, Illinois.
After arriving, we picked up our packets and walked our junk to transition. It was a rack it where you like transition, so I chose an end rack location not far from a large tree for ease of finding the bike.
Our bikes racked side by side
Kari, aka bundle of nerves
I decided to burn off some race anxiety and ran a couple loops of the run out course. After that, Kari and I walked around trying to stay warm on a somewhat cool 63 degree summer morning.
Race day water temp was 80 degrees, so no wetsuit. I did see one guy with one on, but he also had a white swim cap and I remembered hearing that a guy with a white cap would be in the water helping the unsure beginners in the water.
There were four swim waves – Men 39 and Under / Men 40 and Over / Ladies 39 and Under / Ladies 40 and Over. I was in the second wave and sized up my competition. I didn’t really see anyone in the M50-54 age group, but I knew there had to be a few. There was a guy in transition who was a first timer and I answered a few of his questions in transition. He approached me on the beach and asked more questions. I was glad I could offer him some advice. He was a little nervous. I hope he did okay. I didn’t see him at the finish.
SWIM:400 Yards, 9:07, Average pace 2:17, 3rd in A/G, 58th Overall
The horn blew and I waded into the water as others ran. The water was perfect. Smooth and a comfortable temp. We got to the one turn buoy in fairly good time, and I was feeling pretty good. There was some bunching up, and some minor contact, but it settled down and we all began swimming straight back into a blinding morning sun. I felt like I had a great swim, but was surprised to see my time in the results. I guess that includes the run to T1, but I know I swim faster than that. I got to T1 and spent 1:16 getting ready for the ride.
BIKE: 11 Miles, 30:14, Average speed 21.8 mph, 2nd in A/G, 10th Overall
I got to T1 and decided to go without socks. I got ready as fast as I could and took off running out to Bike Out. Once on the bike I took off. I hit 27 mph leading out of the event site and was amazed how easy it felt. A few turns later I was out of the town and in cornfields, passing numerous first wave starters and most of the duathlon competitors. I got passed by one guy on the bike, right around the 0.5 mile mark. He and I left transition together, but he mounted his bike before the bike mount line and the referee told him to dismount and mount after the line. I wonder if he got a 2 minute penalty. But he blew by me, and I was still doing 25 mph at that point. He must have been ticked.
The course had two hairpin turnarounds, which weren’t that big of a deal. I had to slow for a slower rider at the second one, but I ramped it back up quickly. The day had started to become slightly windy, but there were enough turns where you weren’t dealing with a headwind for a long stretch of time. There was a cop standing at the bottom of the hill with a radar gun. I went by him at 27 mph. Later on at the awards ceremony, they crowned the faster rider at 35 mph I think. They gave him an award.
I hustled back to T2 and made the quick change to running in 1:14.
RUN:3.1 miles, 20:46, 6:42 per mile pace ave., 1st in A/G, 8th Overall
I started running and immediately wondered if my heart was going to explode. It didn’t and I quickly settled into race pace. I passed a guy about 1/2 mile into the run and he said I was crushing it. He probably thought I was crazy, because I certainly did. But I just started going and picking off runners one by one. It wasn’t until about the 2 mile mark that I saw two guys running together in my age group. They said I should join their old man group and run with them, but I gracefully declined. I kept my pace going and they didn’t try to match it. I’m glad they didn’t, because the results showed that I beat them both by 19 seconds.
FINISH TIME: 1:02:40, 1st in A/G, 9th Overall
After finishing, I recovered with some water and walking around. I found friend Brian Swift, a para-triathlete who had done the swim portion of the relay, while his kids did the bike and run. Very inspiring to watch him do the swim.
Not long after that I grabbed my camera out of transition and went to watch Kari finish the race. We cooled down and had great conversation with a few others we knew and some new triathlete friends we met.
After getting some pizza and a banana, I decided to check the results and was shocked to see that I had finished 1st in the age group. At the awards ceremony, I took my place on the highest podium, a first for me, and received my award, a drinking glass etched with 1st place on it.
Even with my questions about how well run the race would be, it turned out to be a great day. The venue was more than adequate, the lake was very nice, and the bike and run course was all on pavement that was in great shape. And Kari confided in me later that she actually had fun! I would definitely do this one again.
A couple of twists to this week of training. First, I looked at the training for Week 18 and saw that it was to be somewhat of an easy week ending in an Olympic distance triathlon. Usually I just do the Oly distances of the swim/bike/run at home on the weekend and skip the racing, as racing can sometimes pose the risk of injury (i.e. bike crash, drowning, etc.) that you can avoid by just doing the day at home. But I had my eye on a local sprint distance race in the area which occurs next weekend, and I wanted to give it a try. So I swapped Week 18 with Week 19. Hopefully I won’t gun it too hard next weekend.
The second aspect of this week occurred to me on my long bike ride on Saturday, as most of my thinking and the ideas for this weekly wrap up happen. The family and I decided to head to the Northwoods of Wisconsin to our lake home to enjoy the weekend, as school activities are starting to heat up and it may be a while before we get a chance to get up there again.
As I was riding I began to assess where I was fitness-wise, and started to think about creating a race day strategy for Ironman Louisville. I was feeling pretty good on the ride and I hoped to translate that into a harder effort for the race itself. The ride was a 4 hour scheduled out and back, and I had hit 30 miles when I turned around. I was riding my hybrid bike and riding on a crushed granite trail, but I was still pretty pleased with my effort to that point.
I turned around to head for home and found that my Camelback was getting low on water. I had seen a building off of a local road and decided to see if I could find some water. No one was around, but I did find a spigot with a hose attached to it. Just as I was getting ready to fill it, a truck pulls up and inquires as to what I was doing. Fortunately the guy was pretty cool, and didn’t mind that I filled up.
Then about 3 hours into the ride I started to bonk a little bit. I had plenty of nutrition and I was eating it up, but for some reason I was just not quite as energetic as usual. I made it home in 4 hours and 10 minutes, so the trip back took me a little longer than going out did. I was almost ready to skip the post-ride brick run, but I decided to down a couple glasses of sugary tea/lemonade drink and at least get my mile in for the day (thanks, stupid running streak). But as I headed out, my legs came back and I put in a solid 3.5 miles in 30 minutes. It should have been a 45 minute run, but I knew Kari was worried about me, and I didn’t want to push my luck. The rest of the afternoon I could tell that I was drained.
One thing I can learn from this ride was that I’m not ready to be thinking about gunning for a personal best at 140.6 miles. The other thing is I’m glad I knew when I had had enough for the day.
Lastly, the Sunday run went really well, as did the rest of the week of training. Very glad that I got up north and had an adventure to mix things up. Next week will be much easier volume-wise, and I will have to balance training with being a volunteer chaperone at band camp. Looking forward to an easier week and a race on the weekend.
2 Swims – 4200 yards this week / 56750 yards total