Rocky Raccoon 100 the 2016 version was not supposed to happen and what did happen was not supposed to happen. Thoroughly confused? Good, I will clear it up along the way from the start of the weekend through the final step across the finish line.

For those of you that may not know I registered for Coldwater Rumble 100 in Goodyear, Arizona without reading all of the words on their site. I wound up overlooking the fact that the race is not a Western States 100 qualifier and my long-term goal is to race the Western States 100. To do that I have to either win a qualifying 100 mile race OR keep racing qualifiers to gather lottery tickets along the way. After realizing that Coldwater was not a qualifier I had 3 choices:

  1. Race Bandera 100k two weeks prior to Coldwater and finish in under 16 hours. Bandera is one of only a few 100k races that are a Western States qualifier. Why?  Because it is freaking hard. Last year (2015 Race Report) I raced it and finished in under 13 hours so under 16 was feasible
  2. Pace Jeff at Rocky Raccoon 100 and give up this year's chance at a ticket and be the safety runner for Jeff if his lottery ticket were to be picked.
  3. Race Rocky Raccoon 100 two weeks after Coldwater and just finish.

When Bandera registration neared its close I realized I was in no mental shape to race that course or book a room, or drive to Bandera or anything to do with Bandera. Down to two choices and I presented them to Jeff allowing him to pick and hoping that he would choose option 2. Of course he chose option 3 without any hesitation and here I was pressing the register button on Rocky Raccoon 100 2016.

When I finished Coldwater my feel were blown up and I was so scared that I would DNF at Rocky Raccoon because the turn around time was so short and there would not be anytime to recover.

Pre Rocky Raccoon 100 2016

Here is the race report:

Loop 1 - Are We Going Too Fast?

Jeff, Greg and I lined up about 20 rows behind the starting line. I was very nervous about how my legs would hold up and beyond that how my mind would be able to sustain the concentration and positive mindset for another 100 miles. 100 mile races make me nervous despite this being my 4th attempt because there is so much uncertainty to them. Weather changes, body adjustments, blisters and everything else that can happen over the course of this long day.

We started out slow as the course is packed and is difficult to maneuver and in my mind I was thrilled with what was happening. When we hit the first aid station my confidence started to pick up but it really exploded when the next aid station was now only 2 miles away rather than 4-5 miles the way it previously was. Covering 5 miles and hitting two aid stations allowed me to break this race down into easier bits. The next aid station after was 7 miles and is typically the toughest 7 miles on the course but this year my mindset changed because I knew the aid stations were 3.5, 2, 7, 3.1 and 4.4 miles apart. Huge opportunity to break the race down.

In addition to that unfolding I realized that with the changes in the course it was much more runnable than it was the year prior. I found us doing a lot of running and would feel a twinge in my left ITB which had me worried about how it would hold up the entire race. At some points I could feel Jeff and Greg pulling away but a well timed hill forced them to walk and for me to catch up.

When we left the Park Road aid station I realized that we were only 4 miles away from completing loop 1 and this gave me a confidence boost plus knowing that there were at least 4 hills we had to walk and I could allow my barking ITB to quiet down. As we rounded the corner and headed down the path to the start/finish area I could see we were finishing in 3:34 and felt that was fast for what I had anticpated finishing that first loop and my mind turned to worry.

Finishing Loop 1 At Rocky Raccoon 100 2016

Loop 2 - Finishing On My Own

At the bag drop Karen helped me refill my hydration pack and asked me how I was doing. I told her my ITB was flaring up and was bothering me. I finished speaking to her, grabbed my FlapJacked Waffles and started walking. I told Greg and Jeff to catch me because I knew they were running strong and would have no problem getting up to me. Once they reached me we started running.

This time getting to the first aid station was more work as my left leg was acting up and tiring. I asked a volunteer for ibuprofen and when he poured out 4 then started to put two back in the bottle I stopped him and grabbed all 4. I took 2 and put the other 2 into my vest. Some hydration and we were off.

The running started to bother Greg's knees and we were walking a bit more than I expected. I shifted to a higher cadence as that seemed to help me get past the ITB issues. The next two miles went by fast and my spirits picked up (or was it the ibuprofen?) and I was feeling the ability to run again. The 7 mile stretch was tough but not impossible and before I knew it we were heading down a straight jeep road to the Park Road aid station.

When we got there I saw my wife, Karen, and my mile 80-100 pacer, Greg, and it was awesome. Jeff and Greg were stopping and I told them I was going to go on ahead and they would catch me. As it turns out I was able to run quite a bit here but not as much as I had thought I would be able to. I was being conservative with my leg and also knew that I was going to be finishing in under 4 hours. Having two loops done in under 4 hours coming off Coldwater two weeks earlier was a tremendous boost for me.

End Of Loop 2 - Rocky Raccoon 100

Loop 3- I Can Run

While I was finishing Loop 2 I realized that I had run out of liquid and was not smart enough to have filled up my pack at the last aid station. This meant that the transition time between loop 2 and 3 was going to be longer than normal as I wanted to put my two hydration bottles in my pack and then would need to top off with Tailwind from the aid station.

Once I was done getting all my liquids squared away along with eating Oreos and Pringles, I was headed back out for Loop 3 and I saw Jeff and Greg coming in.  I was shocked to see them this soon as I had expected them to catch me but when they did not expected to have a bigger lead on them. As we passed I said I would see them on the course. Having just run 60 miles by myself in Arizona I was mentally ready to tackle 20 on my own and off I went.

My legs started to feel much better and I found myself running all of the flats, descending aggressively and power walking up the hills. I took the other two ibuprofen just after I left the DamNation aid station the first time (you hit it twice per loop.) From there you are able to run a majority of the 3 miles before the timing mat. I was in shock how much I was able to run and not feel the tightness in my ITB. I did a mental body check and nothing was bothering me at this point.

It was just past the timing mat that I saw Jeff and Greg on the descending portion and expected to see them running next to me in a few minutes but that never materialized. I felt like a man on a mission and was running aggressively. Hit the DamNation aid station the second time around and picked up it on the way to Park Road. After Park Road I knew I had just 4 miles to get there and all of the sudden the 4 walking hills became three as I became possessed with finishing this loop and picking up Greg (Ninja) for my safety runner on Miles 60-80.

It's Ninja Time At Rocky Raccoon 100 2016

Loop 4- Let's Go Ninja

I asked Ninja to pace me AGAIN for miles 60-80 (he paced me last year) because I think that a 100 mile race on a 5 loop course is broken down as follows:

  • Loop 1 - Run hard but not so hard that you damage the rest of your race. Bank as much time as possible to provide ample time on loop 5.
  • Loop 2 - Stay aggressive but smart. Be cognizant of hydration and nutrition.
  • Loop 3 - Make Or Break against other racers. Others will kill themselves but by being passively aggressive you will pass them on Loop 4/5.
  • Loop 4 - Make Or Break for 24 Hours. If you have run the first three loop wisely, this loop can be another feather in your cap to sub-24.
  • Loop 5 - Relax. The end is near and sub-24 is on the horizon BUT be smart to not lose focus on finishing pace

When Ninja and I started he asked me what my goal was and I told him sub-24. I thought that having two sub-24 hour races two weeks apart was the accomplishment of a lifetime. He asked if there was a secret agenda and there was not. Let's just run and see what unfolds. Ninja is a great pacer because he knows the trails of Huntsville very well, is a Texas State Champion Trail Runner and knows how to direct. When we need to run he tells me, when we need to walk he tells me. He will run ahead of me and grab the liquids and foods I need.

As we neared the DamNation aid station the first time I told him to get me ibuprofen as a preventative measure. As he took off it lit a fire in my a$$ and I started running to. He got to the aid station and I was on his tail to the point that he had to wait to get the ibuprofen while I was eating. He opened the pack and there were 8 pills. I took 4 of them and he held the other 4. It was time to run but at this poitn the temperatures were dropping.

When you near the timing mat you are right on the lake and it is a very cold section. Greg happened to have a jacket wrapped around his waist that I put on and when my core temp heated up we were off and running. We ran so hard and so fast that we negative split Miles 70-80 in comparison to Miles 60-70. It was liberating to be running this hard and finishing the loop as strong as we did. The finish time of this loop was 4:14 while Loop 3 was 4:04. Yes, we were running.

Ninja Is Ready, But Am I?

Loop 5 - Do We Take It Easy?

As we entered the aid station Greg ran into the tent to grab me grilled cheese and quesadillas while I went to have Karen fill up my hydration pack and put the jacket on and have the hydration pack on the outside. I did some quick math and realized that I could finish in 22 hours with a decent Loop 5. My goal during Loop 4 switched from under 24 to beating CWR and now it was to be at 22.

Greg Brink, my Mile 80 - 100 safety runner, was ready to go and off we power walked the first hill and started running. I told him that I wanted to be smart and convservative here because I knew that sub-24 was in the bag even with a horrible Loop 5. We were chatting and laughing and having a good time. At the Nature Center aid station I asked him to remind me to take the other 4 ibuprofen pills that Ninja stuck in the pocket of his jacket at DamNation. We grabbed some TailWind and some Oreos/Pringles and took off. Running when we could and walking when we had to.

We hit the DamNation aid station and I went into the 'Med Tent' to switch out batteries in my headlamp and saw what could have been an episode of The Walking Dead. The temps had dropped to the mid-low 30s and people were freezing plus the fact that it was a 100 mile race. I had to get out of the tent as quickly as possible so as not to get caught up in the pain. I saw Greg and off we went for the last 7 mile stretch. After about 1 mile he reminded me about the ibuprofen and I told him that would happen at the aid station the next time and it was time to keep running.

We passed one of Greg's friends and then we passed another friend of mine and my confidence started soaring. I was having a damn great race and I told Greg we were going to just keep running and at certain points we were holding sub-10 minute paces. We were working and getting this race done. When we hit the DamNation aid station for the last time I took the last 4 ibuprofen and washed them down with a 1/4 cup of coffee because when you leave these tents the temperature feels like it drops 30 degrees.

After the coffee we were off and running. We were passing athletes left and right. I have never yelled on your left more in a race than I did in the last half of this race. I was pushing the pace and without a watch to rely on was just running on guts and feel and it felt GREAT.

The last aid station was an awesome sight. I grabbed some Tailwind and 1/2 a grilled cheese and we were gone. Again, the 4 hills that I walked on loops 1 and 2 and 3 became 3 as we were flying around the course. When we hit the bridge section I knew we only had one mile to go and that the last hill would be walked and then we were gone. I told Greg to text Karen that we were .75 mi out and by the time he finished sending that text we were 0.25 miles out and I started hauling ass. We make the left turn toward the finish line and Greg says to me: I have never finished a 5k this hard let alone running with a guy on Mile 199 of 200 in two week.

That finish line was glorious and I jumped over it and into the arms of my wife. I hugged her so hard that I nearly squeezed all the air out of her. I looked over to the finish time and saw 20:23. HOLY SH*T. I not only finished a second 100 mile race but did it in 3 hours less PLUS was only off my 2015 Rocky Raccoon time by 1 hour.

Greg Brink And I At The Finish Of Rocky Raccoon 100

It has taken about a week for this to set in and I still have a hard time understanding how I managed to pull this off. Of course, the blisters on my feet are reminding me but of all the athletic accomplishments I have achieved this ranks up there as one of the best. My ticket to the Western States 100 Lottery has been earned.

UNTIL NEXT YEAR ROCKY RACCOON 100 (UNLESS I GET INTO WS100)

Rocky Raccoon 100 - DONE

Published in Race Reports
Monday, 02 February 2015 13:36

Rocky Raccoon 100 – 2015 Race Report

Rocky Raccoon 100 will be a race I will not forget for a very long time. It might be because everything is tired, or hurts, or is sore, or is chafed, or is achy. If it is none of those things then it is not a part of my body. I am beat up from head to toe but simultaneously I am elated. When I put together my training plan for Rocky Raccoon 100 I had an idea of what I wanted to do to prepare my body and my mind. As with any type of training plan you have to adjust along the way and I did that to my training plan as well as to my goals until the day came when I had to execute. This race report will give you an idea of the day I had while covering 100 miles and will be broken down into how the race plays out and this is with 5 loops. Each loop has an adjective to describe it and that is the layout we will use. 16 weeks prior to the event I looked at my training plan and put a goal of running sub-24 hours into my head. In order to accomplish this type of goal you have to believe it and from day 1 I was going to believe that I had the ability to break 24 hours at the 100 mile distance. Getting to this number was going to take hard work and hard work was going to be what I put into it. As weeks went by I began to believe that I could run faster than 24 hours, then it became faster than 23 hours, then 22 hours and I finally settled on 20.5 hours as my goal. After finishing Bandera 100k in fewer than 13 hours I thought I could run the 100 miles in 19:30 but told nobody except for my wife. This was the number I implanted into my head and even went into my Google Docs to calculate what those paces would be. After calculating the paces I un-did all the numbers and left the document to show 20:25. When Jeff and I lined up at 5:55am on January 31st we had no idea how the day would unfold but with each passing step we could tell that we were on our way to doing something extraordinary. I will tell you the story of Rocky Raccoon 100 2015 from my point of view but feel free to ask questions and I will be happy to answer them for you. Rocky Raccoon 100 – 2015 Race Strategy A race of 100 miles requires multiple strategies. There has to be a running strategy, an aid station strategy and a transition area strategy. In addition to those there has to be the ability to change on the fly because no race is executed flawlessly and changes are a must.

Published in Race Reports
Friday, 06 February 2015 12:13

RR100 Cast Of Characters

RR100 was a tremendously successful race for me, read the race report here, but it never unfolds the way it did without a tremendous amount of support from some key figures. This cast of characters was either on-site or very instrumental in helping me reach the finish line in 19:22 or was there during my training and pushing me to get better as each session passed. There are many people to thank so let's get this cast of characters post (poached from Old Stude) started.

rr100 - rocky raccoon - race - ultra trail

Lead Actress: Pit Crew Chief aka Karen What can I say about Karen that I have not already said? She is the rock to my insanity. PERIOD. For those of you that do not know Karen came into my life as I was getting divorced. It was a hard time in my life as everything seemed to be crashing down all around me, but as Karen is apt to do on a daily basis she puts items and life into perspective. For the past 8 years she has been able to get me to see the forest for the trees and for that I am eternally grateful. On race day Karen's job was to make sure that my crew was ready to go when their time was called but to also make sure that I had everything I needed at the transition area to make sure that I did not spend unnecessary minutes looking for things. Each time I came around to finish a loop she would yell what do you need? Hydration vest fill-up, pancake, shirts, shoes, new watch. It did not matter as she was ready and kept me moving. Karen would send text messages to my pacers on Loops 4 and 5 to find out where I was and how I was doing so she could prepare the transition area for exactly that and nothing more. Of course, after I acted like the Tasmanian Devil in the area she would have to clean it back up and get it squared away for the next loop but she never complained about it.

rr100 - rocky raccoon - ultra - trail - race

Oh, just a little run through the woods of Huntsville State Park with Jeff[/caption] Lead Actor: Carrot aka Jeff Irvin I 'met' Jeff nearly 6 years ago and we were both getting our feet wet in endurance sports. At the time he was writing a blog as was I and we commented back and forth and from there our friendship took off. Since then I friendship has continued to grow and if it weren't for Jeff I do not think I would be running these long races. Jeff was the person who said: We should run a 100 mile race. I told him he is nuts but I would do the 50 with him. Before I knew it I was signing up for Lake Martin 100 and cursing him ever since but that never stopped me from signing up for RR100 this year or agreeing to race Bandera 100k three weeks prior or come up with ideas of running Coldwater Rumble 100 in January of 2016. We have even discussed running across the Gobi Desert together. Yeah, he ain't right. All of that being said I rely on Jeff for his analytical ability when it comes to gear, especially when it comes to the bike. I am impatient and do not want to review anything so I let him do the research and then just buy whatever he recommends. He got me running in Hokas and come early March I will be riding with power from the Garmin Vector pedals thanks to him. His friendship has been unwavering and invaluable.

rr100 - rocky raccoon - trail - ultra - race - run

A-Train and the misfit triathletes (Carrot, Baha, D-Rog) at IMTX 2013[/caption] Supporting Actress: A-Train aka Annie Annie is Jeff's Leading Actress (wife) and is my second sister. I cannot count the number of times that Annie and I have laughed at all the stupid stuff that her husband gets me into and how I never seem to say no to him at the same time. Simultaneously, Annie has asked me to look after Jeff at the races we do together since he seems to always end up in the Medical Tent or send me text messages when I am not at the race to ask me questions about Jeff. Her ability to laugh at our stupidity while supporting us is amazing and I thank her for allowing me to be a part of these adventures. If you want a glimpse into Annie's mindset about our friendship I will tell you a quick story about the first time we met. Jeff was racing IMTX in 2011 and I volunteered for the race and Jeff decided, without talking to Annie, to offer me his house to stay at in exchange for watching their pugs. When I showed up at their hotel room to get the garage code/key to the house the following conversation took place: Jeff: Hey Annie, can you give Jason the key and garage code to the house. Annie: This makes total sense. I am handing over my house to a guy my husband met on the internet. Jason: Not only that but he is from New York and is Puerto Rican. Jeff: And he has pugs so it is totally fine. To this day we laugh about that conversation and everything that has taken place since then. Supporting Actors:

rr100 - rocky raccoon - ultra - trail - race - run

Ninja and I before the start of the IDB Trail Run[/caption] Ninja aka Greg: If you read my race report then you know that Greg is a veteran of the RR100 race having finished it himself 3 years ago and then pacing every year since then. Ninja is one of the first people I ever ran a trail with. I met up with him at Cedar Ridge Preserve along with Sherrif as I was preparing for RR50 and LM100. When we were running you could tell he had an easy time on the trails as if he was born to run on them. Since that time until today I have found him to be one of the nicest people I have had the fortune to cross paths with. When I asked for pacers he was the first to respond that he was in and then took the impetus to ask if we all needed to sit down for dinner to discuss strategy. His confidence was very reassuring in the days leading up to the race and then when we were out on the course. The fact that he was open to a Bro Hug after the race was over was just icing on the cake.

rr100 - rocky raccoon - ultra - trail - run - race

 

Gorilla aka Jeff Bennett: This dude is my kind of crazy. There is not a challenge that has been presented to him that he has run away from. A Marine and a Kona qualifier how has ridden bike on the Tour De France course, run the Boston Marathon in a Gorilla suit, canoed for 61 hours straight and won the Burro race multiple times proves that statement to be true. Jeff was the first person I texted when Lake Martin 100 was over as we were heading back to Texas from Alabama. My message to him was: Consider this your first recruitment letter for RR100. Having paced our friend Raul at Leadville 100 and all of his experience in endurance sports plus his good-natured wit I knew I needed him on the team for the 1st part of Loop 5. It was going to get dark mentally at this point and having him draw stories from all his exploits would be the panacea to this mental downturns. It turned out to be true when Korean Charmin became the topic of choice after the Nature Center Aid Station. More on Korean Charmin in the Outtakes Post that is coming out next week.

rr100 - rocky raccoon - ultra - trail race

Sherrif, Old Stude aka John: I met John through the Wade 70%'ers group I started hanging out and training with in preparation for Ironman Arizona. Since that point, I would say that Sherrif has become one of my biggest inspirations and a person I respect immensely. His nickname Old Stude is not unwarranted as the dude is old but he does not let that stop him from getting better at these events. I look up to John as he does not allow anything to get in the way of him reaching his goals. Being tough regardless of circumstance is something I admire in people and Sherrif has that, but he is also the first person to lend a hand, slap you on the back and congratulate you. He is also not somebody who ACTS tough as evidenced by his finish at Ironman Chattanooga and the look of disbelief that came through his tears. John's ability to push himself inspires me to push myself and I cannot thank him enough for that. The Extras: There are so many other people who were involved in the training of this event that this would go on forever but here are a few: Lee who was willing to run the trails with me every chance he got and I appreciate him for joining me on those early weekend runs through the North Shore Trails of Lake Grapevine. Dog Bait - John was not around a lot but that is because he is retired and can go gallivant around but his message just before the race was beyond supportive and I replayed it over in my mind as the race went on.

rr100 - rocky raccoon - ultra - trail - race

Drum - Michelle is a fierce of a competitor as you will find but would not know it because there is always a smile on her face.  Through Strava and text messages she sent enormous amounts of support and confidence building encouragement.

rr100 - rocky raccoon - ultra - trail - run

Goat - Jeff has never met a stranger and is always prepared with a positive word(s) to help you through anything.  His ability to tell me that I am crazy but say it in a good way gave me one good laugh after another not to mention the Peanut M&Ms as fuel before Loop 5.

rr100 - rocky raccoon - ultra - trail - run - race

 

Train Wreck - Marc travels a long ways to come and hang out with our group for training rides and races.  He is willing to help anybody out and when I finally went to run with him in his neck of the woods he returned that by buying me breakfast.  Just the kind of guy that he is.

]rr100 - rocky raccoon - ultra - trail - race - run 

 

The RR100 Cast of Characters That Helped Me Reach 19:22

Thank You.

   

Published in Race
Wednesday, 03 December 2014 12:56

How Do You Do It? A Question I Get Quite Often

This simple question was asked of me twice in the past week and I answered quite simply as well: Because I love it. Truth be told it is far more complicated than that but in reality it is also that simple. I do the things I do because I love them. I do not have the time or patience to do things just because. When I put my training plan together I do so with a purpose. Each run during ultra training has a meaning whether that is recovery, tempo, trail or just long. Every swim, bike and run session during Ironman training has a reason. The idea of junk miles just bothers me and so I study and analyze the training and figure out what worked and what didn't.  If it worked I keep it in the plan but if I felt that it was nothing more than filler I drop it and fill that space with something I think will work. Obviously I do not just pull training sessions out of thin air so that means that I spend time reading.  Lots of reading.  Reading about training, recovery, nutrition and more all plays a part in how I do it.  I make every attempt to leave nothing to chance but also know that I cannot control everything from beginning to end and somethings will just happen regardless of how well I have planned. Back to the question that was asked and the answer I gave initially became a long conversation about my training and how they could not do it and that there was a difference.  The next question was:  I see your training and I see you working hard but what are you doing when you are not out here training with us?  That was sort of the key question to the getting to the answer of How Do You Do It? Here is the answer I gave him and maybe it can help you tackle your next training cycle for an upcoming race:

  • Understand the goals that you have laid out in front of you. This means that you must make an honest evaluation of yourself and your capabilities.  When I started racing Ironman I thought that I could be fast enough to qualify for Kona.  After the first race I was certain that I could get there because I just finished in 12 hours.  Two more races with finishes around the 12 hour mark proved to me that getting to Kona was not going to be as easy as just showing up.  For Ironman Chattanooga I wanted to PR and if that meant that I finished in 11:52 then so be it but it would be a PR.  This made a huge difference as the stress of having to go fast was removed.  I punished myself during 13 weeks of training and when I crossed the finish line in 11:00:50 in complete shock I realized that the work I put in was setup to establish the realistic goal of setting an Ironman PR.
  • Train properly according to your schedule. We all look at our schedule and see the upcoming session and get ready then head out the door.  The plan may call for an easy 5 miles but you start running and before you know it you are dropping paces only seen during a 5k race.  You are thrilled and you let everybody know by posting your Garmin watch to ALL of your social media platforms.  The next morning you go out for that 10 mile run that includes 4x1 Mile repeats and it feels as if you are running in quick sand.  The problem?  Your easy day was too hard and now that the key hard day is here you cannot perform.  Remember that easy days are easy and hard days are hard.  Stick to that and you can get through the training plan with little to no issue.
  • Proper Nutrition AND Rest AND Sleep.  I cannot stress this enough but this is just as important as nailing that track workout on your schedule. Two quotes that have stuck with me over the years are:
    1. Stress Is Stress.  This comes from my previous coach Maria Simone of No Limits Endurance.  When Maria and I would have our weekly chats in the lead-up to Ironman Texas 2013 I would scoff at this notion but the statement stuck with me and when I feel the stress coming on I focus even harder on eating properly as opposed to turning to Twix and Oreos.  I also will go to sleep at 8pm because I know that my personality is becoming more abrasive than normal and if I am not going to sleep early I am sitting on the couch without electronic devices and just staying in the here and now.
    2. Can You Fill A Car With Half The Amount Of Energy Needed To Travel A Certain Distance And Still Expect To Get There?  Essentially what this question is asking is do you expect to perform at the top of your game if your body is not filled with the energy it needs to get there.  If you do not sleep enough you will not have the energy.  If you do not properly fuel and hydrate your body you will not have the energy.  I am not saying that you cannot have a slice of chocolate cake but I am saying that you cannot have the whole cake and expect to perform at your best.
  • Pay attention to your gear. Your gear will experience wear and tear over time and will not perform in the way it was intended.  What typically happens from there is that we adjust ourselves, rather than our gear, and before long there is a twinge in your calf or a pinch in your hip.  Start by checking your shoes for wear and tear or go for a bike fit.  A millimeter here or a millimeter there can make all the difference.  I use Strava as well as Google Docs to keep track of the miles on my running shoes.  If I feel anything in my legs as I am running I immediately look at the shoe as well as the data on how many miles I have in them.  If the bottom of the shoe looks good then I pull out the insoles and replace it because that will degrade over time faster than the outsole of the shoe.

As you can see it is a bit more than the original answer of I Love It, but each of these pieces and parts allow me to love it.  By paying attention to the little things I can go out and accomplish the big things like Ironman and 100 Mile Ultra Trail runs.

Do You Have Any Tips And Tricks To How You Do It?

Published in Train
Monday, 01 September 2014 14:14

Racing versus Doing An Ironman Or Any Event

Racing Kona This October.....not DOING Kona this October.
Racing.  Just the word alone gets my adrenaline rushing.  I hear the word racing and I think about the work that goes into a successful race and I get excited.  I want to create a plan, execute the plan, push my mind, body and soul past its pre-set limitations so that when race day comes I am ready.  This year I will be racing only twice, which sounds odd, but it is where I have decided to focus my attention.  I already raced the Lake Martin 100 and in four weeks will be racing Ironman Chattanooga. Why am I only racing twice this year?  It is because of what I pointed out in the first paragraph.  I am pushing my mind, body and soul past the limitations that I have set upon myself.  I want to test my physical as well as mental parameters.  I want to know that I can reach those expectations and then blow by them.  How am I doing that?  By focusing purely on racing and not doing. A few weeks ago I was listening to ESPN Radio with Cris Carter talking about his entrance into the NFL Hall of Fame.  His co-host asked him how he got into the Hall of Fame and his response hit me and stuck with me.  He said that he was willing to do what others weren't.  Stay after practice and catch 100 balls.  Stay after practice and work on getting his feet in bounds.  Wake up early before practice and run hills and stadium steps.  Wake up early before practice and study his playbook.  Studying the playbook from other positions in case he needed to help a teammate out or line up in that position due to injury and he wanted to know what to do.  The extra step.  The ability to take what he was given and push himself past that limitation to create a new bar for him to reach for. I have always said that I may not be the fastest or the strongest but there is nobody out there who is going to out work me.  I will push my body until it wants to give up and then I tell it to shut up and keep moving.  I will pack up all my gear the night before so I am ready to go when the alarm sounds and do not hit snooze.  I have a car full of gear so when a friend asks if I want to ride I do not have to think about getting ready as I already am.  When I am out on the road or in the lake  I am thinking to myself that nobody else is up and doing what I am doing.  Nobody else will have something come up in their personal life and adjust their training to get it in but rather they would just blow it off.  Those last two statements aren't 100% true but I would guess that more than 50% of the people training for an Ironman or a 100 Mile Ultra-Trail Marathon would not.  I am willing to go beyond my limitations to achieve MY greatness. This leads me to the question of racing versus doing an Ironman.  When I am asked what is next on my calendar, I respond with:  I am RACING Ironman Chattanooga at the end of September.  The next question is typically: What's after that?  My response?  I am racing Rocky Raccoon 100.  I am not DOING an Ironman.  I think when you have that answer you strip away any chance you have at achieving your greatness.  You are already setting yourself up to just get by. You are going to be the person that skips a workout or doesn't pay attention to proper rest and recovery because your goal is to just do an Ironman.  For me, that is unacceptable.  I am going to pay attention to my sleep patterns, to what/how/when I eat.  I am going to focus on how my training plan is strung together so that I am going to be able to race when the canon goes off.  There are going to be plenty of opportunities on race day to not achieve those goals, but being unprepared is not going to be one of them. I understand that not everybody wants to race and that some will want to check off a bucket list item and I do not hold that against them.  What I think they are doing though is cheating themselves.  What if they went into the event with the idea of racing it?  Maybe they would love it more than the stress of wondering if they are going to make the cut-offs?  Maybe it would have more meaning to them than just saying I did an Ironman.  I know I want to see what greatness I am capable of.  Of course, that greatness is defined by me and not by anybody else. For example, the three levels of greatness I am looking to achieve in the next two races are:

  1. 11:30 finish time at Ironman Chattanooga (PR --> 11:53)
  2. sub-4 Hour Marathon at Ironman Chattanooga (PR --> 4:06)
  3. Sub-24 Hour finish at Rocky Raccoon 100 (PR --> 27:53)

This is how I am determining my greatness and why I will be racing those two events and not merely doing them.  Can you define your greatness by crossing the finish line of these events?  Sure.  The questions you have to ask yourself though is:  did I push myself to get there?  Did I face my fears and chase them down?  Did I do everything in my power to get my toes close to the edge?  I never want to finish a race and think:  I could have done more.  Has that happened?  Yes it has and it has left a sour taste in my mouth.  For example, at LM100 the last 7 miles I completely walked.  Yes my body was tattered and my mind was nothing more than a jumbled mess but sitting here today and for the past few months I reflect on those 7 miles.  I could have run more and finished close to 27 hours.  I could have pushed my body and my mind just a bit more to finish stronger than I did.  That same scenario will not unfold at RR100 at the end of January, especially if I am to hit that sub-24 hour goal. Some will think that I am questioning their goals and that is not my intention.  My question is are you merely going to the starting line to do the race or are you toeing the starting line fully prepared for racing the event?  Pushing yourself so that you have to ask if what you are doing is insane.  I do not care if it is a 5k or an Ironman because we all have different agendas but regardless of distance or type of event are you doing or racing? Racing an Ironman is what I will be doing when I get to Chattanooga but I will not be just doing an Ironman.  My body will ask me to quit and my mind will tell it to shut up.  My mind will question its own sanity when the pain in my legs rockets through to my back, arms and neck but the body will continue to push forward.  Through 11 weeks of training I have fully prepared myself to suffer, but when I am done racing I fully expect to have achieved my own level of greatness.

Are you racing or doing?

Published in Train
Friday, 14 March 2014 14:52

Sleep: The Most Valuable Free Item Ever?

[caption id="attachment_9521" align="alignright" width="255"]sleep - endurance sports - training - taper Source: Psyholawlogy.com[/caption] Sleep is so valuable yet so abused.  There seems to be some sort of award for staying up late working and getting up early with few hours of sleep in between.  I was caught up in this rat race until I realized that sleep helps me be a functional human being.  From being able to get my workouts in and not have them feel sluggish to being productive at work.  Of course, all of the things I do (eating right, working out, laughing, sleeping) all go together to create this scenario but sleep is the one item that I overlooked for so long that I didn't realize it had such an impact. For over 6 years I worked from home.  I was able to stop what I was doing and take a mid-day nap.  It was glorious.  The best 30 minutes of my day.  I would wake up refreshed and crush work.  Now that I work at a desk in the middle of an office surrounded by other people and not just Ginga, taking a nap is somewhat frowned upon.  Until I am able to perfect the open-eyed nap at my desk I will have to rely on sleep at night taking care of my body.  At first this process was a tad difficult as I thought I could do it all but as days pressed on I came to the conclusion that getting in bed early meant I was going to sleep early which yielded positive results. A few months ago at the DMN Top 100 Workplaces luncheon the guest speaker mentioned that the optimal amount of sleep is 7 hours and 10 minutes per night.  Ever since that presentation I have set a goal for myself to do exactly that.  I get into bed around 9pm after doing 5-10 minutes of stretching and 5-10 minutes of core work.  I am typically turning the TV off at 9:30pm and waking up at 4:30am.  That is a 7 hour sleep pattern and it has been a noticeable change.  The days (like Wed and Thurs of this week) where I do not get that amount of sleep I can feel it.  I find myself lethargic and looking all over for coffee and sugar.  I yearn for the moment to lean back in my chair and fall asleep for 10 minutes. [caption id="attachment_9520" align="alignright" width="300"]sleep - endurance sports - training - taper Source Gymnordic Tumblr[/caption] In actuality, I hope to be more like my dog.  Every morning she wakes up and heads downstairs with me as I fill her bowl with food.  She will drink some water and than head out the door to go use the outdoor facilities.  Once done she comes back in and does a couple of tours of the kitchen as I prepare my breakfast and then I see her scooting up the stairs.  When I finally head up the stairs she is in her crate and laying down getting ready to go back to bed.  She knows how much time she needs to sleep.  Unfortunately, we as humans do not.  We think we can multi-task and accomplish a lot but the reality is that we are doing a half-assed job at it.  If we were to sleep more and take care of items better and not with one eye on something else then our lives would be more efficient and successful. This week is the first week of taper for the Lake Martin 100 race and probably not the best time to have a lack of sleep.  Yesterday I ran 5 miles and my heart rate started sky-high before eventually coming down to a mid Z1 level.  This morning I went out and put in 4.5 miles and while my heart rate did not start out very high it did climb throughout the run.  All indications that I need more sleep to aid in my recovery.  Tomorrow is a 16 mile trail run that I will start at 7am.  Going to bed around 10am I should get 9 hours but I also plan on getting a nap in mid-day as well.  Sleep will be my best friend this weekend and for the next two weeks after that as the body repairs itself. Yesterday (3/13)
Today (3/14)
Click View Details to see heart rate information.

How Much Sleep Do You Get Per Night?

Published in Uncategorized
As you may know I am racing Rocky Raccoon 50 this coming weekend and that race along with the Rocky Raccoon 100 last weekend made me think about qualifying times for these races.  Really it was about cut-off times which lead to the thoughts about qualifying times.  Anybody who is involved in endurance sports knows that there is a qualifying time for the Boston Marathon and the Ironman World Championships in Kona, but what about having qualifying times for other races.  Would you run in a race that required you to qualify somewhere else?

Bear with me as I explain this and then give me your opinion about qualifying times.

The cut-off time for a 100 mile ultra is typically 30 hours while the time for a 50 is 15 hours.  When you think about these times in a per mile pace they are quite generous as is the 17 hour time limit for an Ironman, which I have written about here.  For example, the per mile pace for a 100 or a 50 with those cut-offs is 18:00.  That does not seem daunting does it?  Seems quite feasible to make it across the finish line at that pace.  Of course, this does not take into effect the terrain, weather or other factors but all things being equal this seems quite doable yet people are not finishing these races in these times and are getting pulled off of courses.  This past weekend the DNF rate for the RR100 was ~57% so I have  been told.  That is high and there are going to be a myriad of reasons why.  Weather certainly played a role but what about the person that is just not ready for this type of event? Would a qualifying times system of races prevent the 57% DNF rate?  I do not know but it couldn't hurt.  It also couldn't hurt to protect people from themselves.  I understand that there is no fail safe built into this idea and not every variable can be addressed but there could be a system that works for people. Let's say a race organization decides it wants to only conduct half-marathon or greater distance events.  In order to register for the half-marathon distance you must have completed a 15k in XX:XX.  I do not know what that is so let's just assume it is 2 hours which is a 12:54 per mile pace.  Now on the course the cut-off for the 13.1 miles is 3 hours which is a pace of 13:44 per mile.  Not impossible by any means but would you do it?  Would you register for this race if you knew that you would be close? Let's take another example.  In order to register for a 50 mile or 100 mile race you had to have done a 50k with a time of 8 hours and 30 minutes or a pace of 16:27 per mile.  If the cut-off for the 50 mile race is 15 hours and you could run the 50k in 8:30 then you should have no problem getting to that finish line in time.  The same can be said for the 100 mile race.  Would this make these races a sort of elite racing organization? [caption id="attachment_9409" align="alignright" width="276"]qualifying times - marathon - triathlon - endurance sports Ironman World Championships - Kona[/caption] The organization would not be built to eliminate anybody from doing it but it would certainly create a system in which the bucket list person, who has no desire to train thoroughly enough, was forced to think twice before registering.  It may also save them from themselves.  If you are on a 100 mile race course for 30 hours that means that you are most likely awake for nearly 32-34 hours straight which just cannot be good for your system.  You are stressing the body in an unsustainable way by not completing the 100 mile race in 30 hours and a system like this may just save that person from long-term harm. I know people are going to say that everybody should have a chance to race and I do agree with that which is why I am saying that it would be one race organization and not every single race.  This would allow anybody who wanted to cross half-marathon off of their list of things to do to be able to do just that, but it would also give those who wanted to race a race that did not have tens of thousands of people who had no desire to push themselves to the limit be standing at the starting line as well.  And before you say that people are pushing themselves remember that a recent article in the Wall Street Journal of half-marathon and marathon times shows that runners are getting slower. I know for me that this would be enticing.  An opportunity to qualify for a race that only allowed a certain few in and those few were the fastest on the day they raced.  I have been at the starting line of the Las Vegas marathon in what seemed like a race only to come across people who had no business to be at the front of the start of the half-marathon be in the way when we merged. By in the way I mean walking before Mile 1 and be in the marathon lane.  It was frustrating and maddening for me when I wanted to run as fast and as hard as I could to have people who seemed more intent on looking at the fountains of the Bellagio than to be racing be in my way.  I worked my ass off for that race and the people sauntering along did not seem to care about their finish time or the race in general and were just happy to be in Las Vegas. Let's also talk about the sense of accomplishment.  If you wanted to race that marathon from XYZ Race Company but knew that you had to finish a half-marathon in 3 hours but kept falling just short wouldn't that sense of accomplishment be amazing when you did cross in 2:59?  The person that is finishing the half-marathon in 3 hours is going to have a hard time qualifying for the Boston Marathon but having qualifying times for a race series may give them that sense of accomplishment.  From the marathon finish they may decide to work just a little bit more to compete in the 50k and then the 50 and 100 mile races. For triathon a similar series of events could take place with athletes having to qualify at the sprint distance in order to race the Olymic distance and then 'graduate' to the Half-Ironman and eventually Ironman.  If they are 'crazy' enough (I use that term lightly) to go for a double or triple Iron distance event then the race director will want to know that they finished an Ironman in 15 hours (making it up!)  The opportunity to continue to grow in the sport just makes too much sense to me.  Maybe because it is my idea…..who knows.

What are your thoughts on qualifying times?

 
Published in Race
Wednesday, 10 July 2013 17:50

A Race Is Over And Done With. Now What?

[caption id="attachment_8530" align="alignright" width="276"]a race - triathlon - training - ironman The Now What Face?!?!
Source: The Frigault Team[/caption] 'A' race is what we train days and weeks and months for.  We sweat and bleed for this A race.  We pour over data from our power meter and Garmin watch.  We watch every last calorie until that late night head in the pantry binge that you discount because you rode the trainer for 2 hours that morning and have a 1 hour run the next day so those calories don't count.  Our whole sense of being is focused on that A race and once we toe the line (do you really toe a line in triathlon?) and the cannon goes off we swim, bike and run as hard as we can.  All of those hours of training are being put to good use right at that moment.  After you cross the finish line you race to the food tent and eat everything in sight.  Three chocolate chip cookies, 2 slices of pizza, a gallon of water, maybe some beer and then you sit around going over war stories with your buddies. You may race to your blog to type your blog post about the race.  You don't want to leave out any detail, like your pinkie toe rubbing against a rock in the 17th mile of the race and having to stop to remove that pesky little rock.  People need to know this stuff don't they?  Your race recap covers a week's worth of posts because you keep thinking of things and keep adding to it.  Finally Race Recap: The War And Peace version is done and the high-fives no longer are coming your way.  You longingly stare at your medal and you can't wait for the race photos to show up.  When they do you pour over them and remember every last moment of the race.  You decide to not spend money on the race pics because none of them makes you look like Chrissie Wellington or Pete Jacobs.  Fortunately for you there will be PLENTY of more opportunities to purchase these photos because you will be reminded monthly for the next two years that it is the last chance you have to buy said photos. When the pomp and circumstance dies down and your training becomes nothing what do you do then?  This is the situation I find myself in right now.  It has been nearly 2 months since I finished my 3rd Ironman and while I have been getting in regular swims, bikes and runs in there is something missing.  That competitive drive to be better today than I was yesterday isn't there because what am I training for?  For example, this week I jumped in the pool with the idea of swimming 1,500 yards with a structured set that included 2x400 negative split swims.  I barely got through the warm-up when I cut the 1,500 to 1,000 and instead of 2x400 it became 300 and 200 negative splits with a 100 yard cool down. I know that there is another Ironman in my future and most likely will be Ironman Texas 2014 but because that is close to a year away the fire that burns is more of a smolder than it is an inferno.  In order to keep that spark going I am literally inventing competitions with myself.  I am talking about stupid things.  Things that nobody in their right mind would think of and all because my A race took place in May and that leaves me the entire Spring, Summer and Fall to think about training in the winter for an early spring race.  Heaven forbid I decide not to race Ironman Texas and instead want to travel to Boulder in August or Florida in November.  My goodness may the world have mercy on Karen if that happens. Anyway, back to these ridiculous contests that I have created over the past month or so.  They are to the point that I am making them up on the fly and creating rules along the way.  Want to see what some of them are?  Here you go:

A Race Substitutions

  1. Run for 30 minutes with heart rate between 127 and 140.  Anytime out of that zone gets added onto the end in the form of walking. GASP! Walking.
  2. Riding my normal route on the weekend and having to get to the typically 30 minute mark in less than 30 minutes or have to plank for the amount of time difference when the ride is done.
  3. This week because we are moving has formed an almost necessary contest:  Breakfast for every meal for the week.  Really?  WTF?
  4. Seeing how many straight hours HGTV can be on the television with the sound on before I lose my mind. I call this mental strength training.
As you can see it is only going to be a matter of time before Karen loses her mind with me and these ridiculous contests but this is what happens when the A race comes and goes and there is an open void on your schedule.  I have plans to race 70.3 Redman and 70.3 Oilman later in the year but I haven't registered for either.  I do have the Hotter N' Hell 100 in late August that I will be riding with Jeff and Bob.  That right now is the fuel for my fire but truth be told it is a 100 mile supported ride that if I get tired or bored I can just stop and refuel with all the chocolate and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches I can stuff in my face.  Now, there is a contest I should start!

Have You Had Your A Race Early In The Season? What Are You Doing To Combat The Open Void Left Behind?

Published in Train
Wednesday, 28 November 2012 14:42

Bikram Yoga -- The Great Equalizer

[caption id="attachment_6798" align="alignright" width="173"]bikramyoga_triathlon_ironman_endurancesports Source: Bikram Yoga Musings[/caption] Bikram yoga has long been on my radar.  For years I was doing yoga at a studio and loved.  My first instructor, Tao, was an 85-year-old woman who could bend like a pretzel and always took time out to use me as a guinea pig for the class to see.  I was never so flexible and then I stopped going.  I had a hankering to get back to the studio and started doing it again with a young instructor who seemed to focus her poses on strength building.  I always walked out of that class feeling as if I just spent and hour lifting weights.  I was much leaner and stronger and then I stopped going. When endurance sports and triathlon entered my life I tried to fit yoga in.  It was a great way to relax and get away from the grind of swimming, biking and running. In addition to that it helped me stay grounded with my surroundings and I needed that since I had just moved 1600 miles to Dallas from New York and knew nobody.  Then triathlon started to take more hours and thus I stopped going to yoga. Now that my first season of 140.6 mile races is over I want to get back to it.  Last week I chose to go to Bikram Yoga (finally!) and was sort of persuaded by Michelle to join her.  Our Twitter conversation went something like this:
  • Me: Hey @ultradrum are you going to yoga tomorrow?
  • Michelle:  Yes.  Are you going?  Does 8:30 or 10:15 work for you?
See what she did there.  She baited the hook with are you going and then dropped the hammer by giving me a time to choose from.  I chose the 8:30a class figuring that I could get a liquid breakfast in and then a decent recovery shake afterwards and have the rest of the day to rest my aching muscles.  I knew it was going to be hot but I was in good shape......I just did an Ironman. I spent all day Thursday drinking water, water and more water.  I was so nervous about dehydrating in that yoga room.  See, Bikram Yoga is done in a room that is above 100* (our room that day was 111*) and I am a person who sweats.  I was also nervous because of the simple fact that I was coming off of an Ironman and my flexibility was limited but I am also competitive so not pushing my poses never dawned on me.  I figured I would go to this class and do all the poses no matter what. Finally Friday morning came and I was headed to the studio more nervous than I have ever been, and that is not stretching the truth.  I was scared about what might happen in this class.  This was a great unknown.  This was an opportunity for me to try something new and doing something new is always stressful.  When I walked into the studio my fears dissipated but only because my sweat started pouring down my face.  I was just standing there......oh boy! Throughout the class I recalled all the poses we were doing.  I was having fun and it was just like riding a bike.  I was not nearly as flexible as I had been with Tao and I was not as strong as I had been in my second go round with yoga but I felt good.  That was until about 45-50 minutes into the class.  The heavy cotton t-shirt I was wearing was a solid grey without a dry spot to be found.  My mat had a pool of sweat in it and the towel I was using looked as if it had just been dropped in the ocean.  There was sweat everywhere and that is when I finally had to stop. I had to sit down and bow out for a pose or two.  As much as I tried to continue my body, and more specifically my light-headedness, wouldn't allow me to continue.  I drank water and I drank an electrolyte filled water bottle but I just could not get going.  Finally the floor poses and I figured I could get back to it and I tried but I was only able to do one of the two pose sets.  I was wiped out.  Bikram Yoga had handed me my ass on a platter and yet I LOVED IT. When class was over I got dressed and went and got a green tea and a recovery shake.  Within a few minutes I felt hydrated and ready to head home but with a new plan of attack for this off-season and upcoming Ironman Texas training cycle.  Bikram Yoga was going to be a part of what I did to get to the finish line in The Woodlands in my already determined goal time.  Yoga will help me get flexible which will help with cadence on the bike and on the run.  Yoga will help me acclimate to the high temps in Texas in May which will help with a strong race.  Yoga will help with clearing my mind and focusing on the goal at hand which will come in handy when I am running the marathon. Like The Sufferfest.......Bikram Yoga kicked my ass that day so that I can kick the race courses ass tomorrow.

Do You Do Bikram Yoga?  Got Any Tips And Tricks.

What Are You Changing To Your Off-Season Workouts To Make 2013 Better Than 2012?

 
Published in Train
Monday, 19 November 2012 20:55

Ironman Arizona 2012 Race Report

Ironman Arizona 2012 is the last triathlon of the season and I went out with a BANG.  This race report came very close to being the shortest race report for an Ironman race but fortunately (or unfortunately for you) I have a lot more to say since there was and ending that I can speak of.  In case you don't want to go through the process of reading every word just jump to the bike section and you can read why this was very close to being a short post.  If you care to read it all than let's jump right in together: Thursday:  On Thursday I flew into Phoenix ahead of Karen because she had to work.  From the airport I drove straight to the expo to go through the athlete check-in and get all of that over with before heading up to Emily's house.  Emily was kind enough to allow Karen and I to stay at her house during this race weekend and I am so grateful to her for doing so.  We picked up dinner and then I headed back to the airport to pick up Karen and prepare for a rather easy Friday. Friday:  Lots of nothing going on.  Did the rounds of the expo for Karen to see and spent the day off of my feet as much as possible.  Friday night is the big dinner night for a race on Sunday and I ate and ate and ate.  Felt good though. Saturday:   Headed down to the transition area early so that Karen could begin her 22 mile run since she has the Dallas Marathon coming up.  At first I was going to go to sleep in the car and then do the practice swim and a quick 30 minute bike and 30 minute run.  I was antsy so I figured I would ride and run then swim.  Thankfully I did as I realized as I was heading to the swim that I did not bring my bike and run gear bags and they had to be checked in that day.  After getting that all done we headed to the tattoo parlor to talk to the artist about sketching out the tattoo (I will be getting it today so stay tuned for pictures.) Sunday:  Race day.  It all starts with a 3:30am wake up followed soon by a cup of coffee, a bowl of granola and toast with peanut butter, banana and honey.  Gather up whatever I need for morning clothes and into the car we went.  Off to the race site at 4:44am (a node to Emily) and we got down to transition after fighting with the GPS for a few minutes.  Walking down to the race site I had a calm come over me.  Maybe it was experience or just that I knew I was ready but either way there were no butterflies. I got all my gear checked over and then put my nutrition on my bike along with pumping up my tires.  Body marked and porto-potty time.  After that I ran into Troy and Michelle and what a terrific sight.  We all stayed with each other until it was time to jump in the lake, and here the race report begins: Swim:  Michelle and I jumped in the lake together with about 7 minutes to go before the cannon.  We found a surfboard and hung onto it.  While handing on I dropped my face into the water several times and kept kicking to keep my body warm.  The water temp was 64* and while I made it much colder in my mind before jumping in the temperatures  still ran a chill down my spine. With about 1 minute to go until the start I told Michelle that we needed to start swimming so that we were moving and would be able to just go without stopping.  As we were swimming the cannon went off and we said our good lucks and went.  The start at IMAZ is not as crazy as I expected.  I sighted on every stroke to start to make sure I wasn't swimming on top of people and to also help me find a line.  After the first 200 meters I found an opening and went.  I was not touched after that, nor did I touch anybody.  That is until the first turn buoy, then second turn buoy which are very close together.  People warned about the sun as you would be swimming into it but I never had any issues on this section of the swim. After the second turn I had smooth sailing and picked up the pace.  I was settling into a groove when the leg cramps started to hit.  My calf muscles would get very cramped and I had to swim while flexing my feet.  It was after the 4th or 5th cramp that I decided to kick just a bit more to keep my legs from tightening up again.  Then before I knew it I saw the last turn buoy and was headed toward the stairs.  When I got to the stairs my legs were a bit fatigued and I almost slipped climbing the stairs and that is when the lady in front of me went down.  Feeling so bad for her I just stepped over her and kept on moving.  Found the wetsuit strippers and off to grab my bag and into the changing tent. T1:  I pride myself on getting through the transition areas quickly, but this time I decided to bake cookies or so it would seem.  A 12 minute transition in T1.  What is this all about?  Well, let me tell you.  Being afraid of being cold I took some toe warmers and hand warmers from Emily that had to be opened.  I changed out of the shorts I swam in and into a dry pair.  I put on a top (swam without one) then applied sunscreen and arm sleeves.  Put on race bib, shoes, gloves and helmet and I finally got out of that tent. Bike: Ironman Arizona is a 3 loop bike course with each loop consisting of 37 or so miles.  I got on my bike at the mount line and started going.  I held back a bit because I wanted to make sure that I could feel my legs and not over exert myself because I was cold.  After finally settling I began my plan to hydrate and get the calories in.  The plan was to drink my prepared drink every 15 minutes, a HoneyStinger every two hours and EFS every 1.5 hours.  In between I would take water off the course from every aid station.  I would drink what I could and chuck the bottle before getting out of the aid station area. At the first aid station, which is about 13 miles into the race, is where the race nearly ended.  I slowed down behind another rider as he reached for a water bottle.  As soon as he grabbed it I grabbed mine.  He dropped his, and then a Gatorade bottle dropped from some place and he went down.  With only one hand on the bike and no place to go I went down over top of him and hit the ground with a huge thud.  I  could feel the air leaving my lungs and then my head smack down hard on the ground and then the sliding began.  I stayed down for a moment and then stood up and a few volunteers helped me. One woman told me I was ok and that I had no swelling and the bike looked ok.  I was gathering my thoughts when I thought of not being able to continue and this so soon into the race.  I thought of the sacrifice that Karen had put in to get me here.  I then started smacking my saddle and cursing.  After feeling bad for myself I did a body check (check) and a head check (check) and then a bike check (check) and started to go.  Before even the first peddle stroke I noticed that while my bike was pointing forward the wheel was pointing to the left.  That is when I really thought my race was over.  I asked the volunteer helping me if there was a bike aid around and he found there was one at the end of the aid station.  I walked my bike down there not knowing what to think.  The mechanic put it up on the bike holder and made some adjustments and told me the bike was perfect that I could keep racing. I got on the bike and with a lot of hesitation and trepidation I began going.  This section is where the 3% grade is but we were also facing a headwind.  With my body still wracked and the elements against me I had the slowest splits of my day at this point.  When I reached the turn around I was pissed and said it was time to ride.  I started hammering and noticed that I was riding at 30 mph (thank you tailwind.)  I got to the turn around to start Loop 2 in about an hour and finished Loop 1 in 2h6m.  My goal was to do a 5:50 bike split and doing the math I knew I would need to kill the 2nd and 3rd laps but I did not want to hurt my run so while I was aggressive I did not blow all my energy.  My left hip was feeling good and other than the cut on my shoulder I thought I was ok.  That was until my right hip started throbbing and the top of my right foot started to hurt. When Lap 3 started I just wanted it over with and pedaled.  This time there were no incidents or issues but I really wanted to be off my bike and running. T2: More like it.  I ran down my row, yelled out my number and as I got there the guy was picking up the bag and I told him to throw it.  I caught it in full stride and ran to the tent.  Just like in Texas I did not go into the tent and sat down on a chair outside and put on my visor, running shoes and grabbed the bottle of EFS.  Off I was in a swift 1:51. Run:  3 loop course but the miles seemed to be further apart than I remember a mile being.  The course is a mixture of cement and gravel.  There are a lot of turns and  I think this caused the miles to be further away than other 3 loop courses I have run or trained on.  When I started running I noticed my pace was down in the 8:00/mi and I wanted to pull back and get my HR under control which I did.  I slowed down and started the hydration plan.  Every aid station I would take water from and every other aid station I would walk for 10 seconds.  I did this through the first two aid stations but I felt great at the 4th aid station and did not stop to walk. I started to feel really full and though I needed to use the toilet.  I went into the bathroom (yes, not the porto as there were bathrooms on the course) and nothing happened so I got out and got ready to get going again.  I managed to make it to Mile 10 before I wanted to walk the aid stations.  At this point my left hip was throbbing and my shoulder hurt so bad I could hardly keep my left arm pumping during the run.  The pain was almost unbearable but I started to do math calculations in my head. When I reached mile 13 my watch was beeping so much that I just turned it off and decided to just run.  I knew that to get in under 12 hours I needed to run a 2 hour half-marathon and that became the goal. With every passing mile I would multiply the remaining miles by 10 minutes (assuming I was running 10:00/mi pace but I really had no clue) and made sure that I was always under 12 hours.  When I hit the 17 mile marker I told myself it was only 15k to do, then again at mile 20 (only 10k to go) and finally at mile 23 before I could get my thoughts out another athlete yelled: only 5k to go until I am an Ironman.  That got me fired up and I picked up the pace.  I was really hurting here but knew that I did not have far to go. As I got closer to the end I could feel the electricity in the air.  As I made the turn toward the finisher's chute Susan Lacke ran up on me and I had no idea who it was but I got pissed because I was thinking:  What a$$hole is going to sprint past me to get to the finisher's line.  When I saw Susan's face I could have cried.  All the pain was now leaving my body and I only had a few hundred yards to go.  I crossed the finish line and could not lift either arm, legs in total shut down mode and my brain completely fried from trying to motivate my body to keep moving forward.  After the catcher held me for a few moments I started walking and found Richard who helped me through the chute and over to Karen. I hugged her and told her I was in so much pain.  More pain then I ever thought I could endure.  My hip was screaming mad, my shoulder was not happy and the soft area on my head started pulsing.  I never noticed the major road rash on my calf or shoulder area, let alone the skin ripped off my elbow until this morning's shower when it all screamed at me. Through it all I never lost sight of my goal.....to honor my father.  I did not hit the 11:18 but I think he would be proud of me for not quitting.  He would be proud of me for proving that anything can be done if you put your mind to it.  He would be proud that when I finished I did not bitch and moan about my time but instead accepted what the day gave me. For that I am the proudest.  I fought the good fight on the course and when it was all said and done I set a PR in the process.  Finishing my second Ironman this year in 11:53 will be remembered for the time but for me it will always be remembered for not quitting even when the going got tough. Thank you to everybody for reading and for your support.  At different times on the course I channeled you and you helped m get to the finish line.  I can never repay for your help. [gallery link="file"]

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