The participant list for Ironman Lake Placid came out this week, and of course I had to ensure my name was on it. For many triathletes, in particular newbies, seeing their name listed as a participant is a moment that drives home the point that you are committed to the race – a life just got real moment.
For me, after checking that my name and the names of my buddies were indeed there, seeing the number 53 in the age column was the real eye opener. When did I get old? USA Triathlon sets the rules for most triathlons in the US, and one of the age group rules is that you participate at the age you will be at the end of the year. So that makes this 52 year old already 53 before my fall birthday!
Turning 40 wasn’t that bad, and last year just a week before turning 52, I set a personal best in the marathon, running a 3:28 at Chicago. So I never really thought I was getting old. But seeing that 53 gave me some pause. And with all the recent celebrity deaths at ages in their 60’s, I have become more aware of mortality.
But as I peruse the above list, I can see that I am not alone in vintage. Plenty of company in the over 50 group. The 50-54 age group alone has 428 athletes. I guess it isn’t too surprising that the over 40 crowd makes up a big chunk of the race. Announcer Mike Reilly always jokes that it’s the biggest group because we have disposable income. True.
So I guess I should just live in the age I am and make the most out of it, and do the same in 10 or 20 years. But 53, I am coming for you.
Swim – I had a sort of revelation in regard to my swim this week. Someone on one of the Ironman Facebook pages I follow posted a response to a post about trying to improve but was getting nowhere. I am in the same boat. I just can’t seem to get that swim speed down. But the response was a suggestion for a drill that I had not heard mentioned before, the vertical kick/deep water drill. After Googling the drill, I found a really interesting video: Sea Hiker Swimming
In the video, I could really see for the first time how to move my legs in the water. It will take some time to learn it well, but I could see an improvement in my 2500 yard straight swim. My splits went from an average of 2:18 per 100 yards to under 2:10 consistently. I hope to continue to improve on the kick aspect. In reality, I may save 5 minutes on the 2.4 mile swim, so it may not be worth it as getting faster may tire me out more for the latter parts of the race. I will see how training goes.
Bike – The bike went well this week, with my long Saturday ride outside for a change! Illinois weather sucked much less this week than usual and I took my road bike out for a turn. Riding outside is so much more enjoyable, even if it is only 46 degrees out.
Run – I am still feeling a little sore in the high hamstring area, and need to implement some more stretching. But overall, my tempo has been good, and feeling happy about the trail being ice-free so I can get out and run on the trail.
This week seemed a little lighter in intensity, and it came when I really needed it. I finished the end of last week with the feeling that I was catching a cold. Usually I ignore cold symptoms and hope it doesn’t manifest into anything. Sometimes it works in my favor, and sometimes it doesn’t. This week it was pretty clear that I had a classic head cold.
Since I was constantly stuffed up, I felt the need to move my swim on Tuesday. I hate rearranging my workout plan, but we are still pretty early in the 30 week plan, so missing a day of swimming, biking or running won’t have a drastic effect on the end result. Interestingly, I missed an entire training week of cycling in my first Ironman attempt in 2013. I had committed to being a chaperone at my daughter’s high school band camp, and couldn’t bring my bike with. That week included a 4 hour weekend ride, which I was really kind of looking forward to because I had just bought my new triathlon bike, a Specialized Shiv Pro. Fortunately for me, I met up with my training buddies for a combined vacation at their lake home the following week and got an intense introduction to the bike.
The move to Wednesday worked out, and instead of moving Thursday to Friday, I just fell back into the routine.
Biking was all trainer this week, although I thought we might get lucky with the weather and get a moderate 40 degree weekend day. It didn’t get that warm, and the previous snow on the trail would have been a hassle. Luckily, the Chicago area dodged that big East Coast snow storm.
I did get outside for two runs this week, a five miler and a 7.5 miler. After being on the treadmill, I could tell how the hills that I run affect my Achilles tendons differently. No big deal, but I noticed it. Matter of fact, I noticed a lot of little aches while running outside. I will need to start working on stretching and training smart.
Being indoors at the start of a training plan is always a drag for me. In 2013, when I started training for Ironman Wisconsin, I started in late February, which meant I was a little bit closer to spring, and being outside. This time I am sure that I am looking at a solid three months indoors with our crazy Chicagoland weather.
Being inside isn’t really a bad thing. Many triathletes do the majority of their training indoors, winter, spring, summer or fall. I don’t know how their brains allow them to do that, because the boredom would kill me.
But this week I kind of turned the corner. I would dread looking at each bike workout, knowing that I was looking at sitting on that hard saddle for 1.5 hours or more. This week I seemed to have motivation and get it done mentality. I hope it lasts until spring.
The swim work out this week called for a straight 2500 yard swim, with no drills or workouts thrown in on Tuesday. That is a little of a mental break, because having to remember all of the drill and the lap I am on while swimming is a challenge for me. (I am starting to think that I need to mentally suck it up!) Thursday’s swim was another workout, but easier to follow as it had 12 X 100 yard repeats. I did well with them, keeping my splits somewhere around 2 minutes per 100. I know, that’s not very fast, but that’s all I got. Plus, I am not doing kick turns. I never saw the need to learn them because you won’t need them in the lake.
The bike and run workouts were basically the same, but got a bump up in time by about 15 minutes. Slowly easing my way out of the first phase of training.
I wanted a set of electronic drums. Not sure why, as I already had a nice acoustic drum set that I loved to play. Maybe it was to appease the family, and keep the so-called “noise” to a minimum. Maybe it is that I’m hitting that stage in life often referred to as the “middle age crisis.” Maybe it was because it was winter and I wanted something to do. Basically, all of the above. The following is the rabbit hole that I went down in my effort to obtain a set of electronic drums.
(Note: I did this build in 2011, and I am now writing about it in 2016 – I didn’t have a blog then! Therefore, I may not have included every little detail as five years has passed, and at my age, I can’t remember what I had for breakfast.)
Since nicer quality electronic drum sets cost in excess of $2000, I looked into alternatives and found much info on do-it-yourself edrum projects. There are Remo drum practice pad conversions, acoustic drum set to electric conversions, as well as building your own design wood and rubber pad sets. I Googled anything related to electronic drums. As I studied the info, I decided that doing a project from scratch, with newer materials was my preferred option. I wanted the edrums to sort of look like drums, so I settled on using new wood drum shells instead of converting and cutting an old acoustic set because they were cheap. Finding a good, used acoustic set was running into $300 and above, and I wanted to keep the cost low, as well as keep the size of my edrum kit small.
FINDING THE MATERIALS
Now on to ordering the materials. I needed everything! Shells for the drums, hardware, electronics, etc. I decided to look online for suppliers and found a company called drumMaker.net. This opened up a ton of possibilities for me, as they had all sorts of drum making materials. But it was for the acoustic drum set builder. I found the shells they had on their site to be interesting, but way too costly. So I ended up searching for drum shells and found a company called Keller. They supply many drum makers with shells. I ended up on their eBay store and found some items that I thought would work. I ordered (2) 14” and (4) 12” – 5 ply Keller Maple drum shells from Keller that I found listed as overstock for $160. This included shipping and cutting the 24” X 12” wood shell into 4 pieces. I plan on using the 14” drums for snare and kick, and the other four 12” drums for toms.
When I received the shells I got three surprises. The first – 5 ply shells are not very thick! I was starting to think that I might have trouble with a shell that thin. But in the end the shell thickness turned out not to be an issue. Thicker ply would have meant a much heavier drum. And since I was using a mesh head, I didn’t feel like the tension would be as high as a normal drum head would have to be.
The second surprise was I had requested that they cut the larger shell into four shells. This would give me four 6″ depth shells. However, when they came one of the shells was about 5″ in depth. After finishing the drums and mounting them, it is hardly noticeable. I use it for the first mounted tom.
Lastly, surprise number three was that they accidentally included another large shell that I hadn’t ordered! So now I had four 12″ toms, a 14″ snare, and the original 14″ shell that was planned to be my kick drum became a floor tom of sorts. The extra larger shell became my kick/bass drum.
I found another supplier, Drum Factory Direct that was somewhat cheaper for the hardware: the hoops, lugs, lug screws and bolts, and other mounting accessories. I decided to keep costs down I would use 8 hole hoops for the two 14” drums, and 6 hole hoops for the four 12” drums. Since I’m putting a non-functioning resonant head on the kick to hide the internal stuff, I’ll need three hoops and 24 (3 X 8) lugs and 24 tension rods. For the 12” toms, I’ll need four hoops and 24 (4 X 6) lugs and 24 tension rods. So, 48 lugs and 48 tension rods total need to be ordered. Each lug will require two lug screws to hold it to the drum shell, for a total of 96. This is getting expensive!
For the piezo triggers, I found a seller from Germany on eBay that not only sold the piezos, but also the foam contact cones as well. Big time score on that, because I wasn’t sure how to find the foam and get it into a cone shape that is typically used in these projects. I don’t think it has to be coned shaped, but if Roland engineered theirs to be that way, I think that is why most people are trying to copy the design. The kit has 5 pre-attached cone piezos for the toms/kick, one more sensitive cone/piezo for the snare, and 5 additional piezos for dual or rim triggering.
For the drumheads, I wasn’t convinced that DIY mesh heads were going to be strong enough to withstand even my weak drumming, so I invested in Pearl mesh heads. The Pearl heads were designed to be quiet, and hopefully they will hold up.
Deciding on mounting hardware meant also considering what to mount them to. After looking at the cost of Gibraltar and Pearl mounts, even the used stuff, I decided to go a different route. I found that Musician’s Friend had a two for one deal on Sound Percussion cymbal stands. Several reviews indicated that the stands were quality and sturdy. I had the bright idea to use a DW drum mount and attach it to the stand. This will give me two drums mounted to a cymbal stand. But a trip to the Home Depot got me thinking about making my own mounts, and I finally found something that I believe will work in lieu of using an expensive tom mount bracket. I really saved a lot by going that route.
BUILDING AND ASSEMBLING
Sometimes a picture tells a thousand words. So, here is the majority of the build with explanations.
I needed to know where to drill the holes for the hardware, so I used my Pearl acoustic drums as a guide (Photo 1).
I measured one of my Pearl tension rods to get an idea of their length (Photo 2). I then ordered rods with a length of 2 inches.
Trying to figure out a way to make a template to use to mark the shells to drill the holes led me to lay a hoop on a piece of cardboard (Photo 3) and mark the holes and the inner circle of the hoop. I then would lay the wooden shell on the circle and mark with a pencil where the lines indicated (Photo 4).
The next move was to lay the hoop on the drum (Photo 5) and get a feel for how far down to drill the holes for the hardware (Photo 6). You can see I elevated the lug bolt up a little in an effort to gauge how far it would screw into the tension mount. In essence, about 1/2″.
After getting an idea for where to drill the holes for the tension mounts, I made a template out of a piece of cardboard box (Photo 7), marked the spot on the template where to drill the holes, and then lined them up with the marks I made on the shell. This kept all of the markings uniform on all of the drums.
Drilling was done with a handheld cordless screwdriver (Photo 8). I took time to drill slowly.
In the above (Photo 9) you can see the markings on the shell and how the back side of the tom mount hardware looked. I measured a halfway point between two tension mounts and placed the center of the tom mount in the middle of the shell.
Once all of the holes were drilled in all of the shells, I hand sanded them with sandpaper until they were smooth. I made sure to remove any pencil markings. The shells were then stained and coated with a stain/sealer mix (Photo 10) for a one-step process and allowed to dry.
After making sure they shells had dried fully, the tension lug mounting hardware was added. My hardware also came with a black plastic washer that may not be necessary, but I chose to use them anyway (Photo 11).
I realized that the bottom of the shell would need to be protected. Through my internet searches, I found another DIYer had used automotive door trim to finish off the bottom of his shells. I went to the local auto parts store and found the product in silver and black, and silver was chosen for my project to match the hardware (Photo 12).
Here are the heads that I used: Pearl Muffle Heads, sizes 12″ and 14″ (Photo 13). They have sort of a screen door feel to them, but are top quality.
Here is one of the finished drums, with hardware and head attached (Photo 14).
The stand is a Sound Percussion snare drum stand, loosely tightened to hold the drum (Photo 15).
Now began the method of mounting and fabricating some hardware for the electronics to attach to. I took my tension lug mount to the hardware store and found these corner brackets (Photo 16). Two of these will be mounted with the tension lug mounts directly across from each other.
For the mount for the drum trigger (piezo), I chose to use a straight piece of aluminum, which you can buy in most big box home improvement stores. I purchased the four feet long, 1″ X 1/8″ flat aluminum section, and cut the pieces into three 10 3/4″ sections (Photo 17).
The flat pieces were then placed inside the drum on the mounting brackets and the holes were marked for drilling, so they could be later mounted to the drum. Once marked, each piece was drilled. I grouped four of them together, and bolted them together to hold them tight. The group of four was them placed into the vise, and a 1/4″ hole was drilled directly in the middle. I then tapped the hole with tapper (Photo 18) to create the threads for the hole. If you don’t have a tap and die set, you can buy individual taps cheaply. Or you can just drill a hole, and use locking washers or nuts to secure your trigger pedestal.
I used an elevator bolt for my trigger to rest upon (Photo 19). This would allow me to manually adjust the height of the trigger without much effort. That is why I tapped the threads into the mounting bracket.
Here is how the screw looks as it was threaded into the mount (Photo 20).
In this picture (Photo 21) you can see how the corner braces were mounted using the mounting screws of the tension lug. I mounted them with a plastic spacer and a couple of little rubber washers to provide some height, and to decrease the chance of other vibration causing the sensitive drum trigger to pick it up. Turning the corner brace over would have placed the aluminum bracket too close to the drum head, so I had to go this route.
Next up was mounting my drum trigger cone that I bought to the mount. I placed a flat piece of aluminum across the drum to show where the top of the shell/bottom of the drum head would be, and then adjusted the elevator screw down to the right height. In this picture (Photo 22) you can see that I added a spring to provide some tension on the bolt so that it wouldn’t unscrew itself from the vibrations from drumming. You will have to set the height for all of these prior to soldering the wires or gluing the trigger down, or else the attached wires will not let you turn the screw.
Now we needed to attach the triggers to the drum, and connect them to a jack (Photo 23) so that they can be plugged into your drum machine/brain/interface. I chose to make my drums dual triggered, meaning that I would have a trigger for the drum head, as well as add a trigger to the side of the drum with double sticky-sided foam tape to pick up any hits to the rim of the drum. The top cone will be the drum head trigger mounted on the elevator screw, and the bottom trigger will be stuck directly to the inside of the drum.
The above photo also shows one of the issues I encountered that I hadn’t thought of. I’m not an electronics guy, but some of the piezos and some of the additional wiring I bought were of different gauges. I think this may have contributed to some electrical resistance issues, where when I went to set the sensitivity with the trigger and the module, some I had to really increase the sensitivity level. I would try to stick with the same type of wiring throughout the set next time.
Here is how the dual, 1/4″ jack (the same kind that you would use for a guitar, or an old set of stereo headphones) were wired to the triggers (Photo 24). The wires were attached, and then soldered into place. The longer tab was for the main drum trigger, the shorter tab was for the side/dual trigger, and both triggers were attached to the ground.
Here is the brand of stereo jack that I purchased for the project (Photo 25).
I needed a way to mount the stereo jack to the drum, so I purchased these 1/2″ Zinc clamps at the hardware store (Photo 26). I liked that they were rubber lined. I suppose a plastic clamp would work as well.
The jack was mounted pointing down using the screws for the tension rod mounts (Photo 27). I pointed them down so that the wire could be easily brought in under the drum and inserted into the jack. You could also drill a hole and mount them directly to the drum, but I didn’t want to have the cord sticking straight out of the drum. Nor did I want to drill another hole into the shell.
Here are both triggers and attached jack mounted to the drum (Photo 28).
Now to mount the toms to the stand. For the stands I used Sound Percussion brand cymbal stands. My first attempt at mounting the toms was to use a piece of zinc plated angle iron with holes, and bolted to the stand with a U-bolt. U-bolts were bought to mount the drums to the stand (Photo 29). This created a problem. They were too low, and the drums were flat and not at an angle. They also moved (pivoted) too much and bounced. This wasn’t acceptable. So I came up with a more sturdier option.
I went to the home improvement store and bought a piece of 1/8″ X 1″ angled aluminum, 4 feet in length. I cut them down to 20 1/2″ and marked the middle with black marker. I then drilled two holes for the U-bolt to mount to the cymbal stand (Photo 30), and two more holes for the bolts I would use to mount the drums.
For the drum mounting bolts, I chose 3/8″ X 12″ threaded rods (Photo 31). I bought two locking type nuts for each mounting rod. In the above photo, I placed two nuts facing each other to mark the halfway way point, then I used a saw and cut them into two pieces (Photo 32).
(Damn, this is turning into quite a post!)
Once I had my four mounting bolts, I decided to bend them slightly to allow the drums to be angled down like most traditional drum mounts. I accomplished the bend by using a piece of two foot long 1/2″ pipe, and just applying slight pressure until I bent the bolt.
To make sure they were all at the same angle, I placed the bolt up against the piece of angled aluminum, and measured the height (Photo 34).
Here are the four bent bolts with the locking nuts (Photo 35).
This shows the angled piece of aluminum mounted to the stand, and the bolts attached to the mount, with the drums mounted to the bolts (Photo 36). What is nice about the Sound Percussion cymbal stand is that there is a little ledge where the mount can rest, and won’t allow for the drums to slide down the stand. The drum on the right is the one I mentioned earlier that was 1″ inch smaller than the other three. You didn’t really notice, did you?
Another view of the bolts as they sit on the stand with the drums attached (Photo 37).
A view from the top side (Photo 38).
This would be the basic set-up for the drums (Photo 39). The “floor” tom is the same size as the snare drum, and also on a Sound Percussion snare stand.
You are probably wondering what the heck this is. Well, after getting the drums mounted with my new mount I found that they still bounced way too much for my liking. So I had to come up with another way to secure the tom mounting bracket to the stand. This picture (Photo 40) shows that I went and got some more flat aluminum to help brace the bottom of the mounting brace to the cymbal stand.
After measuring the bracket and drilling the holes, I bent them to the shape I needed (Photo 41).
I now had four bracing brackets of similar shape and length (Photo 42).
Back to the hardware store to buy a bigger version of the clamps, this time 1″ zinc and rubber clamps (Photo 43). These were needed to secure the bottom of the brace to the cymbal stand.
This is the final mounts bolted in place (Photo 44). The thing was rock steady.
Now, let’s talk the kick drum! Hooray! Since the drum was bigger, and would be facing outward, I didn’t want the internal stuff to be seen. So I purchased double the lug mounts and added them all around for a total of 8 for each side. The trigger mounts were done in the same way that the other drums were done. The difference would be that the cable jack would be mounted directly through the shell, as you can’t run a wire through the head. The above photo (Photo 45) shows how the legs were made. I once again made a trip to the home improvement store and bought some 4 foot zinc coated rods. The rods were easily bent in the vise, and at such an angle in which they would still run through the mounts attached to the side of the drum. I also ran over to the shelf section and bought some little white rubber end caps for the ends of the rods, so they would stay in place and not scratch the floor.
Another issue about this kick drum was how to attach the kick pedal to it. Normally the kick pedal attaches to the drum as it sits on the floor, but this drum is elevated. In the end, seeing that the drum set was on carpet, I let the pedal just sit on the carpeted floor. The kick pedal I have has some spikes on the bottom to dig in and keep it from moving with each step on the pedal. It works for now. May have to come up with something else in the future.
Here’s the cable jack, which I located on the lower portion of the kick drum (Photo 46).
Since I didn’t know I was getting an extra shell, I hadn’t ordered enough of the cones. But the company that I bought the cones and piezos from also threw in some of this cone foam material, so I used it to fabricate a trigger. I basically stuck a piezo on one of the blocks with the double-sided sticky foam tape, and then cut extra foam tape for the corners to attach the other piece (Photo 47).
Here’s an interior look at the trigger and cable jack (Photo 48).
I mounted a black Pearl resonant head on the outward facing side of the kick drum, and guess what? It resonated. Even with the mesh head on the other side, it was making an audible sound. So I added some adhesive foam that is used to help seal windows and doors to deaden the sound (Photo 49). I also mount this stuff on my acoustic drums as well.
After stepping back and taking a look at the mounted drums, I decided I didn’t like the look of the threaded posts, so I went back to the home improvement store and found some black plastic hose to hide the posts and give it a finished look (Photo 50).
Here is pretty much the finished set (Photo 51). Lots of things I left out that I need to fill you in on. After the lengthy drum build, I was to the point where I just wanted to be done and play the damn thing. So, instead of fabricating cymbals, I went and bought some Pintech electronic cymbals. They are pretty much plug and play, with dual trigger features as well (dome and ride, and crash and choke). The hi-hat are Pintech as well, mounted on a Sound Percussion hi-hat stand. Pintech supplied a sort of rheostat/potentiometer kind of a deal, that is supposed to mimic the hi-hat open closed sound as you open and close the pedal. It is not the best operating piece of the equipment. I may in the future replace it with just a foot pedal style switch instead.
The above is a few other things I purchased for the set. Sound Percussion was so cheap and easy to get that I stayed with that brand, and I found them to be pretty good entry-level stuff. I bought most of the non-fabricated stuff at my local Guitar Center.
The drum module that I used was the Alesis DM10. The jury is still out on this. I chose it because it seemed to be what most DIYer’s used, but it is a little hard for me to program it the way I want. Most people think that it is pretty much plug stuff in and start pounding away. In reality, with electronic drums there is a lot of tweaking involved.
I really enjoyed the build process of planning and creating my own set of electronic drums. Are they perfect? No. I have a cross-talk issue with a couple of drums (if you hit one of the drums you can hear a faint cymbal sound as well).
And was it cheaper? You would think so, right? Yes and no. The brain/module was still close to $900, and all of the hardware, parts and equipment add up real quick. If you are really into DIY, or really desire to design something unique, then it might be worth it to you. If not, you would probably be better off getting a factory made kit from Yamaha, Alesis, Roland, etc.
I really learned a lot from other builders who shared their projects. I hope that maybe someone else heading down the path I took, can look at the above and gets some ideas to incorporate into their own builds. Have fun!
LIST OF PURCHASED ITEMS
Okay, so it might be lacking a few things, but here are some of the major things I bought for the build.
(2) 14” and (4) 12” – 5 ply Keller Maple drum shells from Keller that I found listed as overstock on eBay for $160.
4) 12” Pearl Mesh Silent heads, (2) 14” Pearl Mesh Silent heads, (1) 14” Remo Ambassador Black head.
(1) set of piezo triggers, with foam cones from eBay seller power impulse. The set includes 5 piezo triggers with attached cones, 1 snare designed pro-sensing piezo with cone, and 5 singular piezos for secondary sensing.
(3) 14” chrome hoops, (4) 12” chrome hoops, (48) chrome lugs, (48) 2” tension rods, and (6) 10.5 mm chrome tom mounting brackets from drumfactorydirect.com
Purchased hardware at Home Depot to for the piezo mounts and to mount the drums.
Purchased hardware at Home Depot to for the piezo mounts and to mount the drums.
Purchased the Sound Percussion two boom cymbal stand deal and a S/P snare stand from Guitar Center due to a large online back order of the boom stands. GC had them in stock.
Purchased (10) additional 35 mm Piezos from UFO Drums on eBay. Needed extra triggers for the extra drum and cymbals(?).
Purchased several hardware items to be used as mounts for the triggers. Included are elevator bolts, which have a flat base to which the cone trigger can be mounted. Nuts and rubber washers were also purchased.
Purchased the Alesis DM10 Module and also another 14” mesh head, and a Sound Percussion snare stand from Musicians’ Friend.
TOTAL COSTS (IN 2011 PRICES)
$160 – (6) Keller 5 ply Maple drum shells, includes requested cuts and shipping
$74 – (7) Drum heads from Musician’s Friend
$88 – (11) piezos with cones from eBay power impulse (includes overseas shipping)
Wrapping up Week 2 with a positive feeling. I missed swimming in Week 1 due to the high schools being closed for winter break, so two swims were looming large this week. I say looming because I had not swam since last September, and I knew that Fink’s Be Iron Fit program is somewhat swim heavy at the start. For a plan that includes 30 minute easy bikes and 15 minute runs early in the plan, to start off with 2500 yards of swimming seems like a lot of swimming to me.
I did get a little surprise when I got to the high school. I parked in the back by the aquatic center like I had done in the past, and found the doors locked with a note saying all swimmers have to enter through the main school doors, which are on the other side of the building. New security measures I assumed, but I think in reality it is a cost saving move, as the secretary position no longer exists at the pool. As I walked in and gave my name, the office lady asked if I knew how to get to the pool. I admitted that I was from the Class of 1982, but we didn’t have a pool or field house when I went here! I said I think I can find it, but what I wasn’t ready for was the hoard of students about to hit the hallways during a passing hour. I felt like a dinosaur wandering the halls to the pool.
The first swim was tough, but I got through it. My shoulders were definitely trying to figure out what the heck I was trying to pull, and by the end of the evening I wasn’t sure if I could lift my arms over my head. On Thursday, I followed up with another 2500 yard effort, but this one had some 300, and 200 yard workouts, instead of the 25 yard repeats from Tuesday. I tried a new drill, the Fists drill, in which you swim with closed fists to ensure that you are using your arms to help pull water. I feel like I was moving through the water pretty efficiently.
Running and cycling were pretty typical, and I’m still doing at least a couple of miles running even if the plan doesn’t have a run scheduled. I’m still on a running streak, and so far I haven’t had a significant reason to stop or insert a full day of rest from running.
Saturday called for 1.5 hours of riding. Doing that much on the trainer is an effort for me, as I despise both the “drainer” and the “dreadmill.” However, I am glad that I am fortunate to have those two options. But we had a slight warm up in temps this week, and by Saturday the snow had melted and it was wet, but warm enough for me to ride outside. I donned a pair of socks, with another calf-length sock over it, some tri shorts, my running tights over that, a tri top, two more long sleeve layers, some arm warmers, a jacket, a neck warmer, a stocking cap, a thin glove covered with my thick gloves, and some booties over my shoes and I was set. Seems like a lot, but it really was all thin layered tech gear. I was plenty warm. Glad I rode outside, because that evening it snowed about an inch and the temps dropped to the low teens. Might be the last outdoor ride for a while.
My training buddies kept me laughing throughout the week with numerous texts. We didn’t communicate all that much last time, so I am really finding it to be fun and encouraging this time around. We are so competitive that it seems like we are all trying to be the first done with the workout. It sure is keeping the training fun.
Training for an Ironman race can be a long distance event by its very nature. 30 weeks of training is hard to wrap your head around somewhat. But if you take it day by day, or even weekly, the weeks will pass by very quickly. That’s the plan – put in the daily work and reap the benefits come race day.
Birth of the Gunners
One of the ways to make the training seem to fly by, is to have some good training buddies. For my second attempt at Ironman, I am very lucky to once again be joined by my life long friends, brothers Dave and John. We went down this journey once before, and I am thrilled to be creating memories and sharing experiences with them once again. This time around we are leaving the rolling hills of Madison,Wisconsin for the long steady climbs of Lake Placid, New York. Like IMWI, Lake Placid has a reputation as being one of the harder Ironman courses. But we conquered IMWI, we shall reign at IMLP!
Dave and John are bike beasts, and both will lead us old guys out of the water every race. Dave is our planner and probably the most knowledgeable of the sport. John is our instigator (he dragged me into this crazy sport, kicking and screaming) and our free spirit.
This time around we are joined by Dave’s son, Alex, an almost 21 year old with an accomplished triathlon pedigree. Alex is part of the University of Iowa Hawkeyes Tri-Hawks triathlon team, and is very fast. He keeps us on our toes. This will be Alex’s first time doing Ironman.
Also joining us is Jeff, another longtime family friend, and although not a total newbie to triathlon, he’s totally an Ironman newbie just like we were in 2013. Jeff separates himself from the rest of us, because I don’t believe he has reached his full potential yet. His biking and running ability is killer. But he’s got a ton of room to improve, and I fully expect to be chasing him from Lake Placid to Keene, and all around the IMLP course on race day.
Myself, I am the worrier and doubter, but these guys make me a believer. Believe in the training, believe in the goal, believe in yourself. We proved it once, and we will be Ironman finishers again!
So we had the team, it just lacked a name. John had been referring to Alex as a “gunner,” and then it just started getting bantered around to any and all of us. It was pretty clear that the name “GUNNERS” would be very fitting for our group. Now we just need to finalize a logo, get some shirts and a custom tri kit, and we’ll look like pros! That’s my hope at least.
Workouts for Week 1
We are following Don Fink’s Be Iron Fit book, and the Competitive Program training plan. Week 1 is the first of 10 Base Phase weeks, and an fairly easy entry into training. Monday is a rest day, however I have been enjoying a year long running streak that I am toying around with continuing. It’s not super important to me, but I will maintain the streak as long as it doesn’t jeopardize the Ironman training. Tuesdays are a swim and run. Wednesday a bike/run brick. Thursdays are a swim and bike. Fridays will be a run. The weekends are filled with a Saturday long ride, with Sunday being a long run. In the beginning, all of the efforts are short, but will build to the point where I will be gone on the weekends.
The training plan started the week of Christmas break for the schools, so swimming for me was not possible. That scares me a little, because I haven’t swam since September, and Fink’s swim plan is tough from the start in my opinion. But experience has told me that I can get there and not be penalized for missing the first week.
Here’s to a trouble free 30 weeks, and good times along the way! We are off to a great start.
WEEK 1 TOTALS:
Bikes: 3 total, 2 hours, approx. 28 miles
Runs: 7 total, 5 hours, approx. 36 miles (The totals higher than what the plan calls for due to the silly run streak that I am doing.)
Every year on December 31, I like to look back on my running year and add up the miles, crunch some numbers, look at the stats and jot down some notes about the experiences that running gave me.
Also every year I seem to proclaim that it was the best year ever for me. 2015 is no exception.
I set an unintentional goal at the start of 2015. I say it was unintentional because I decided to run on January 1, 2015. A short and easy three mile treadmill run. It was uneventful, really. But I had purposely avoided running on January 1 in previous years to avoid trying to start a running streak. Well, I ran again on January 2, and then again on the 3rd, 4th, 5th, etc. The running streak was on!
I really just wanted to see how long I could do it, knowing from my past that I would probably need a day off to heal from overdoing it, or just a mental break from the running routine. Life gets in the way – vacations, sickness, bad weather, family responsibilities, etc. – all could have derailed a year long running streak. But I was finding routine in this streak. I came home from work at noon and went for a run. Wake up the next day and repeat. The goal of making it 365 days in a row seemed doable. I decided that while most “streakers” attempt at least one daily mile, I would try to do at least two. Because I am a gunner.
A couple of threats to completing the streak popped up. I tried to slalom water ski while on summer vacation in Minocqua, Wisconsin.
I tried to get up on one ski and pulled the upper right quad slightly. Shook it off and then decided that I would just drop a ski instead. Well, that trick ended with a pulled left hamstring. Fortunately, I had already run that day, but the following day it was sore. I attempted a really slow jog down the Bearskin Trail and started feeling pretty good. My marathon training plan had me running 12 miles, but I decided that would be too ambitious, since we were packing up and heading home that morning. After about a mile, I made one longer than average stride to miss a bad spot on the trail, and it was then I felt it go south. I turned around and started to limp back home. I was able to shuffle after about 5 minutes of walking and was happy to finish with a 2 mile run. The following day was a long car ride back home from vacation, and after getting home I was able to shuffle through a 3 miler. It took a little longer to no longer feel the hamstring pull, but after about two weeks it was feeling pretty good.
The other threat was catching a stomach bug late October. Although I wasn’t vomiting, I did have spells of nausea, and lots of the other stuff. I started feeling mobile around late afternoon and decided to attempt a couple miles on the treadmill. I got through one mile in 10:50, and just did not have any energy left. One of the hardest miles I can ever remember running. I went upstairs and took a 30 minute, hot and steamy shower. So the illness didn’t end the streak, but my goal of at least two miles a day would be dashed.
The last possible unknown in attempting the streak was lurking after the Chicago Marathon. In the past, I usually took off about 3 days from running post-marathon, mainly to heal, but also because I was sore and it usually hurt just to move. This year that would not be an option. I ran the marathon, made sure I ate a lot of protein post-race, and did some muscle massaging with my roller, and hit the trail for two miles on Monday afternoon. Surprisingly, although very stiff, I wasn’t doing too bad. Until I got to the small little hills – downhills in particular were brutal! But I got my two miles in, with three the next day, and I was back to the 7 miles and more by Wednesday.
After the marathon, I didn’t really see anything in my way of completing the streak through December 31. I just kept putting in end of year taper mileage and having fun. But another aspect popped up – I could see that my annual mileage total might hit the 2,000 mark. That was
unbelievable to me. 2,000 in one year had been unthinkable. I guess all those two milers I ran instead of taking an off day added up and made a difference. So now the goal was 2K! And I hit it in late November. Now, with a month to go, I had 2,100 miles in my sights! In the last couple of weeks, I could see that it would take some 8 and 10 mile runs to get there, but it wasn’t a problem. December had been an unusually warm and running friendly month weather-wise, and I felt pretty good for running all year long. In the last week, the RUSH fan in me took over and I planned my runs to hit that magical number of 2112. With a four mile run on December 31, I held the Red Star proudly high in hand.
With all of the focus on the streak, and then the final year-end tally, I can’t forget how awesome of a running year this was. I kept thinking that the streak might have an adverse effect on performance. Boy, was I wrong! Distance-wise, the streak paid off. I set a marathon personal record, as well as a PR in the half-marathon. Not by a little, but I really smashed those marks – the half by about 3 minutes and the marathon by a whopping 10 minutes.
CHICAGO MARATHON RACE RECAP
Other than the streak, my “A” race was once again the Chicago Marathon and the focus for most of the summer. This time I decided to mix it up and get serious and find a decent training plan. I found one that really interested me from the race site itself, a 16-week training plan by Nike+. It was a good mix of training – tempo, speed-work, distance and recovery weeks. I had my son, who is a NCAA DIII XC runner at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa look it over, and he made some nice alterations and a plan of his own based on it. I took his advice under consideration and away I went. The big difference from this plan and my previous training attempts was that it had lots of longer distance long runs. Mostly 12, 14, 16, 18, and 20 mile runs. It became apparent that it was serious about logging long miles. I think that was a vital aspect to my performance in the race.
The race was predicted to be a warm one, with some wind. Although I opted to run in a singlet, I kept it tucked in and donned some arm warmers for the early morning start and tossed them later into the race.
The plan was simple, run 8 minute per mile splits until I hit the halfway point, and then pick it up ever so slowly with negative splits for the back half. I would hit the aid stations for water, and I took a salt tablet before the race and every hour into the run. I also had a belt full of GU, downing a packet every ½ hour.
The plan was going very well, and when I got to the 13.1mile mark, I decided not to push the pace until about mile 16 or so. It was starting to warm up. When I got to 16, I still felt as good as I did at mile 6, but I decided to extend that negative split push until mile 20 to hopefully avoid the dreaded wall. At 20, I made the decision to start picking it up. But what seemed like I was going faster, was just me thinking the effort was increasing my pace. It wasn’t. It was just taking more effort to maintain the 8 minute miles! I got to mile 23, and with a 5K to go, I GU’d again and started the straight line march back to the finish line. Somewhere with less than 2 to go, I saw my wife and the kids and shook my head. I was hitting the wall. Really the wall was hitting me. The wind that had been forecasted all day was now a headwind making my effort of finishing strong extremely hard! But somehow I found the determination to just keep passing people and get to the end.
I had been checking my watch pretty closely those last three miles. When I got to mile 25, I figured my sub-3:30 marathon, Boston Qualifier was on pretty solid ground. The emotions hit me hard when I crossed the line in 3 hours, 28 minutes and 19 seconds. A BQ by 1 minute 41 seconds, and a personal record by 10 minutes! I was very thankful for the streak, the plan, and the ability to finally get that Boston Marathon qualifying time and have a race of a lifetime. I honestly believe that with a better weather day, I could have been 3:25 or even 3:23.
Outside of running, my triathlon buddies once again had another great year. I could finish dead last and still have a great time, because triathlon has become more of a gift of spending time with my friends enjoying pushing ourselves.
– LEON’S WORLDS FASTEST TRIATHLON
Dave, John, Alex and I took on Leon’s Worlds Fastest Triathlon in Hammond, IN in early June. It seemed like a good idea at the time. The race had been a USA Triathlon national qualifier, and we were kind of hoping for the same this year. But they hosted the military championships instead. The race was interesting! We arrived to see that the forecast for the day was strong thunderstorms. As we waited to get in the water, the promised storms hit, and the race was delayed. After they rolled through, we were told that the race was now a shortened sprint. We were told that the road used for the Olympic bike course was underwater, but we had the feeling that the delay of the race start was pushing up against turning the roads back over to the City of Hammond. I for one was happy. The swim was okay, but I really didn’t put in much swim training leading up to the race. I kind of paid for that mistake. The bike and run were interesting. A complete downpour throughout both made for a crazy ride and run. Heading east on the bike I was easily hitting 25 mph, but heading back it was more like 15 mph! Dave and John had built a big lead over me in the swim and bike, but I made an effort to chase them down. I caught John about a mile into the run and I could see Dave ahead of me after about 2.5 miles into the 5K. I pushed hard, and I was really at the Z4 redline when I had just about 200 yards to go. He turned and saw me, then he beat me down with a kick that I no longer had. I finished a couple of seconds behind him, but I still had to hand it to him. Great job racing.
– LIFETIME TRI CHICAGO
This year, good friends Jeff and Jill joined us at Chicago. We all did the Olympic distance and had a great day. I ended up besting everyone except Alex, of course. But it was very good to see Jill giving triathlon a try, and especially Jeff overcoming some anxiety about the swim to essentially become a very good triathlete.
– ITU CHICAGO WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS & OPEN AGE GROUP TRI
September came and Dave, John, Jeff and I did the ITU in Chicago. It was a repeat of last year, and we really enjoyed it the year before. This year was the World ITU Championships and I expected it to be crazy. In reality, it didn’t seem as well run as the year before. Race morning was weather affected and they shortened the swim to essentially a sprint distance. The rest of the race went off as planned. Good racing by all four of us, but this time I came out on top. It was on the last lap of the 10K run that I caught Dave and beat him to the finish. I may have an edge at the Olympic distance, but it’s just a matter of time before those guys catch up with me.
SCHAUMBURG TURKEY TROT HALF MARATHON
I finished the year with a great half marathon in Schaumburg after Thanksgiving. I have done this race before, and like the forest preserve setting and the generally flat and fast course. I felt emboldened by my marathon PR, so I decided that I might set out on a 7:15 minute/mile pace. There was a pace group at that split time, so I thought I would hang with them, but it took me 6:40 and 6:50 minute miles for the first two miles to catch up! I ran with them for about two miles when I realized that I felt stronger than 7:15’s and slowly pushed ahead. I ended the day with 7:04 pace average and a PR of 1:32:36. I’m starting to like the half marathon distance.
So, that pretty much sums up the year. Started with a streak as a goal, ended up setting personal bests in number of runs/hours/miles in a calendar year, and set two PR’s in the half and full marathon distance. 2015 was a GREAT year!
Goals for 2016? Well, the “A” race has already been set. Team Dave, John, Chris, Alex and Jeff, now known as the “GUNNERS” will head to Lake Placid, New York for Ironman Lake Placid in late July. I am really looking forward to the fun times training and racing with my fellow Gunners in 2016!
RACES IN 2105
5/4 – St. Mary’s School Titan Dash 5K – 20:48 – 6:41 ave. pace – 5th Overall!
5/7 – Leon’s Triathlon – 1:04:57 – Dave outkicked me at the end
6/17 – Short Run on a Long Day – 20:43 – 2nd in A/G, 22nd O/A