My Brain on Ironman

IRONMAN LOUISVILLE 2017 TRAINING

WEEK 20 – July 31 > August 6

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.

THIS WEEK

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. 

TOTALS:

2 Swims – 4400 yards this week / 64450 yards total

2 Bikes – 41 miles this week / 9467 miles total

7 Runs – 40 miles this week / 605 miles total

Week 20 complete. Bring on the Peak Phase!

Sprinting in the Beater

IRONMAN LOUISVILLE 2017 TRAINING

WEEK 19 – July 24 > July 30

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.

TOTALS:

3 Swims – 3300 yards this week / 60050 yards total

3 Bikes – 33 miles this week / 9426 miles total

7 Runs – 30 miles this week / 565 miles total

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Standing tall on the top step.
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Nice race week break.  Back to work in Week 20

 

2017 Manteno Sprint Triathlon Race Report

When:  07/29/2017, 8:00am

Where:  Manteno, Illinois

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.

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.

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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.

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I’ve won 1st place in my age group before, but never got to stand on the top tier of the finisher’s podium!

CONCLUSION:  

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.

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Two happy campers ready to head home.

RACE RESULTS:  http://results.itsracetime.com/results.aspx?CId=17095&RId=276

 

Throwing Caution to the Wind

IRONMAN LOUISVILLE 2017 TRAINING

WEEK 12 – June 5 > June 11

I first dipped my toe into the triathlon waters in 2012.  I really had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I certainly was a newbie to the sport.  And I had some trepidation about it all, especially the swim.

As each season passed I gained a lot more knowledge and confidence.  Finishing Ironman Wisconsin in 2013 certainly did wonders for my confidence, both in the water and on the bike, taking me distances I had never covered in either discipline.

But I sometimes still have some things holding me back somewhat.  I’m prone to having to use my wetsuit in open water, as it eases my anxiety a little.  It’s sort of a security blanket for me.  In addition to the wetsuit, I have also played it safe with using my full disc aero cycling wheel.

As you start out in triathlon, you tend to make do with what you have or invest in the entry level stuff, with the thought that if you don’t want to continue doing the sport you haven’t invested your life savings into it.  But as I grew to love the sport I eventually graduated from my road bike to a tri bike, a regular road helmet to an aero helmet, an off the rack tri kit to a full custom kit, and from standard cycling wheels to aero wheels.  And then I bought a full disc aero wheel.

The full disc wheel goes on the rear of the bike and thanks to some aerodynamics that are beyond my scope, is supposed to make you faster. I certainly did notice a difference, finding myself hitting speeds easier than when I used my normal set up.  I also found out on the first few rides that any sort of wind made for an adventure for me.  One windy day I was nearly blown off the trail with it.

I recently read some posts online regarding using the full disc wheel on the Ironman Louisville course that I will be doing in October.  A guy advised that there was absolutely no reason not to use it.  I saw some other comments saying that it was less about the full disc and more about the front wheel when it came to feeling the wind, mainly due to the rider weight distribution.  After thinking about it a little, I decided I should ride with it more often and this week seemed like as good a time as any.

I rode with it on Wednesday for a short 45 minutes and a Thursday ride of an hour, both with a little bit of wind but nothing to difficult.  Then came Saturday.  It was windy.  I was a little concerned because my route is mainly open farm roads with very little wind buffer.  But I figured this would be a good test.  So I did it.  And it wasn’t too bad.  I found myself leaning into the crosswind a little more than usual, but I never felt like was jockeying around too much.  So I decided to race with it on Sunday in a sprint triathlon.  That went really well, helping me to hit a 21.5 mph average over the 14.7 mile course.

So there you go.  I have now graduated from being over-conscience about using the full disc.  I’ll be training with that sucker as much as I can leading up to IM Lou.

I also graduated from having to use the wetsuit for every open water swim, doing without it at the ET Batavia Sprint triathlon.  It’s a short 400 yards in a man-made sandy bottom swimming hole, but the water is usually too cold for me.  Today’s race day water temperature was 73 degrees, so I decided to do a swim warm up and test out my tolerance for swimming without it.  I acclimated quickly and found myself swimming comfortably.

I’m starting to feel good about testing my limits.  We’ll see where that takes me in this crazy sport.

You can read my ET Batavia Triathlon race report here:  2017 ET Batavia Triathlon Race Report

TOTALS:

3 Swims – 4600 yards this week / 30800 yards total

4 Bikes – 89 miles this week / 859 miles total

7 Runs – 23.5 miles this week / 337 miles total

Gunners-2-1
Feeling stronger every day

 

 

 

Week 9 Wrap-up

IRONMAN LOUISVILLE 2017 TRAINING

WEEK 9 – May 15 > May 21

This week flew by and I barely remember much of it.  Here are some of the highlights:

We had temperatures very much consistent with summer, upper 80’s, sunshine, etc.  Then the bottom fell out.  On Wednesday I ran in shorts and a t-shirt.  Friday I ran in pants, jacket, gloves, and a beanie.  The temperatures are supposed to rebound, so I’m not panicking.

My pool was driving me crazy!  Every year when I open it, it is something new to deal with.  Last year it was a torn liner.  This year the auto-chlorinator wouldn’t work.  And that means my pool was going without chlorine – a situation that would not be ideal.  In my usual fashion, I started throwing parts at it.  First it was this dumb little microphone that is attached to the pump and is supposed to signal the computer that controls the chlorinator that the pump is on.  It has been the issue in the past, so I ordered a new one. Nope.  Wasn’t the problem.  Next up for me was deciding to keep throwing more money at other parts, or say goodbye to a system that is nearly 13 years old.  I decided to buy the water flow sensor just to see if it was the problem.  BINGO!  That was it!  Thankfully, I dodged having to spring for a new $2000+ auto-chorinator.

I have been continually dealing with my high hamstring tendonitis, and to add to that I think I am starting to have plantar fasciitis as well.  Yay me!  I think I can handle the two issues, but I can’t neglect stretching.  I should also probably part ways with my dumb running streak.  I’m into year three, but if running everyday is going to affect whether or not I can tackle Ironman Louisville, well I just may have to give it up.  My 53 year old muscles need to recover, and I’m not allowing them to do so.

Saturday I had the joy of watching my son Ben graduate college.  The day of the graduation was miserable, and I was only able to get in about 3 miles of running, instead of the 1.25 hours that the plan had called for.

Since I couldn’t ride on Saturday, I did the 2:45 ride after the long car ride back from Dubuque, Iowa on Sunday.  I thought I would pay for that idea with soreness, but it wasn’t too bad.  Maybe it was the nasty cold and wind that took my mind off of it!  It turned out to be a decent ride, averaging 17.1 mph over 46.5 miles.  My heart rate monitor would disagree with me, seeing that it was alarming me to being out of my prescribed zone, but I felt good.

So the week went well, all things considered.  I got in two swims, did my rides and runs (with an abbreviated weekend long run), and got to see my son graduate college!  I can’t complain.

TOTALS:

2 Swim – 2600 yards this week / 17900 yards total

3 Bikes – 76.5 miles this week / 593 miles total

7 Runs – 25 miles this week / 241 miles total

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Congrats Ben!  Best son ever!

 

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Week 9 Flew By!!!

Happy Mother’s Day

IRONMAN LOUISVILLE 2017 TRAINING

WEEK 8 – May 8 > May 14

I type this on a beautiful Mother’s Day.  I’m glad that it was such a gorgeous day.  A very nice finish to a week.  It looks like spring is turning to summer finally.

I attempted to open my pool this week and things are looking good.  I have one issue with a part that senses when the pump is on to signal the auto-chlorinator to turn on that isn’t working.  Seems like I replace this part every year.  A minor inconvenience in order to have the luxury of swimming at home.  I only got one swim in this week at the high school due to testing that was going on.  All the more the reason to swim at home.  The plan called for 1700 yard straight swim but I ended up doing 2100 yards, about the distance of a half Ironman swim.  I felt great and kept clicking off the laps.

Biking and running went well.  I got in a 2 hour Saturday ride with my riding buddy Todd.  Glad we got it done in the morning because the afternoon was pretty windy.  The Sunday run I did after choosing to spend some time with my wife and daughter, then doing some yard work.  By the time I got around to running it was noon and pretty warm.  It was just an hour long run, but I pushed pretty hard and overdid it.  This was supposed to be a recovery week, but as usual I blew it.  I hope to ease into next week.  I’m pretty wiped out.

TOTALS:

1 Swim – 2100 yards this week / 15300 yards total

3 Bikes – 64 miles this week / 417 miles total

7 Runs – 31 miles this week / 216 miles total

Gunners-2-1
Happy Mother’s Day

Great Finish to Week 7

IRONMAN LOUISVILLE 2017 TRAINING

WEEK 7 – May 1 > May 7

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Senior Recognition Day at Loras College with Kari, Ben and I.

Training for Week 7 went pretty much as expected.  I noticed that some extra time was added to both the bike and run at the end of the week, but 15 minutes isn’t so bad, I guess. The hard stuff is coming, so I should be happy that I’m still in the Base Phase of the training.  I missed one swim due to me deciding I didn’t want to do it.  (lol)  That happens sometimes, but I know my ability pretty well.  I am experiencing a little swimmer’s elbow tendinitis, possibly from trying to pull too hard in a bent elbow angle. When I keep my arm straight, I hardly experience any discomfort.

The best part of the week was the weekend.  On Friday, my wife, in-laws and I went to Loras College in Dubuque to watch my son Ben run his final home meet.  He usually runs the Steeplechase in track, but conference is coming up, and coach had him running the 1500 and a 4×400 relay.  He did well and made us proud.  He has steadily improved throughout his four years of running cross country and track, and I am sure he has some great running experiences ahead of him.

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My son winning his heat in the 1500M run.

 

After watching him run two events, my father-in-law Gary and I made the trip up to Minocqua, WI to bring up some of the stuff we have been buying for our new lake home. Gary grew up in the area and was anxious to see our new place.  This meant I got the chance to do my weekend training in the Northwoods.  I really love it up there.

I brought up my hybrid bike, a Trek 7700FX, to ride on the crushed rock Bearskin Trail.  It has a little wider tire, and was a good choice for riding that trail.  I left it up there for future rides on the trail, but I will probably also try to ride my tri bike on the roads up there as well in training for IM Lou.

Not long after starting my ride I noticed my butt was hurting.  I took an assessment and realized my seat had slipped down about 1.5 inches.  I stopped and adjusted it and found immediate relief for my butt pain.  But the dumb thing wouldn’t stay up.  I must have stopped a dozen times trying to get it to stay.  I pulled it out and noticed that it had a little grease on it.  Not sure that was something I did, but I tried wiping it off with an old cut up hat that had been run over by a mower that I found trailside.  That didn’t work.  I rubbed sandy dirt on it, stuck a sticker on the seat post, tightened the quick release lever several times, all to no avail.  I finally rubbed the post on some concrete, scratching it up somewhat in order to provide some grip.  That seemed to work the best, although it wasn’t permanent.  It’s amazing how a little adjustment can make a huge difference in comfort and preventing injuries.

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Hard to enjoy the beautiful scenery when you are dealing with a bike mechanical.

 

I was met on the trail by a guy running his dog who stopped to see if I was doing okay. Turns out his name is Blaine and he is a local race director who organizes the local marathon called the “No Frills Marathon.”  It’s an out and back on the same trail I was riding.  I will have to run it someday.  He was also wearing a Boston Marathon shirt and I picked his brain about the race for 10 minutes or so.  It was nice to meet him.  I forgot to bring any sort of nutrition with me, and only had water to drink.  Sometimes in training you make mistakes, and that was mine for the day.  By the time I got home and added a quick post-ride brick run, I was approaching “bonk” status.  Gary and I headed out to lunch after I showered and I quickly bounced back.

I also got in a 8.5 mile run on Sunday before packing up and heading home.  It was chilly, but it was a beautiful sunny day.

All in all, a great way to finish a training week.

TOTALS:

1 Swim – 1600 yards this week / 13200 yards total

3 Bikes – 65miles this week / 353 miles total

7 Runs – 32 miles this week / 185 miles total

 

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Did Week 7 in Northwoods Heaven!