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
  [caption id="attachment_8789" align="alignright" width="225"]hard knocks - triathlon - lessons - lifestyle Enjoying The Sport Means Sharing Those Moments With Family And Friends[/caption] Hard Knocks is a show on HBO that covers the training camp of a National Football League (NFL) team every year.  I haven't had HBO in a very long time but with the new house and lowered bills we were able to fit it into our budget (partly because we chose Verizon over DirecTV and thus no NFL package.)  The show Hard Knocks started last week and I had set the DVR to record it.  While eating my lunch I decided to put it on and I watched it for the hour that it was on and I noticed a handful of instances in which the show paralleled the triathlon, and really endurance sport, lifestyle. When you decide to open your eyes it is amazing what you can see.  Yesterday I wrote about the sounds of triathlon and the harmonious music it makes.  I may be in my off-season and that may be why I am noticing all these things around me as opposed to falling asleep on the couch at 7:30pm after a long brick workout.  Either way these examples of life that I am noticing are helping to recharge my batteries for the 2014 season.  I spent an hour yesterday in a Google+ Hangout with Maria discussing which Ironman race I would be registering for and while a decision has yet to be made it has been narrowed down from four to three. So let's get back to how Hard Knocks made its way into my triathlon lifestyle:

Hard Knocks: Lesson #1

This year the program is covering the Cincinnati Bengals.  If you follow the NFL you know that this has been an organization that has been run poorly and when you expect them to be good they disappoint their fans and their owners.  When I thought about how this related to my endurance lifestyle I thought about the work that I put in during training cycles to set myself up for success.  Through training I expect a certain result and when it doesn't happen there is a piece of me that is disappointed.  Yes, you cannot compare yourself to others and I don't but I do compare myself to myself.  I look at my training and previous results and expect to get better with each race.  The problem is in defining better.  We live and die by numbers in triathlon.  140.6, 70.3, 1.2, 2.4, 56, 112, 13,1, 26.2 are all numbers you recognize.  You will also be able to spit out your personal bests at any distance without thinking so the definition of better is typically going faster.  It is also something that I look at from race to race instead of season to season and building on the previous efforts.  This mindset is changing though. I am looking at Ironman races for next year for a few different reasons.  Do I want a new experience or do I want to go back to a race I've already done and challenge myself to go faster than before?  The Cincinnati Bengals can do the same thing and think about building a team that wins year in and year out and not one that wins today and has no clue about tomorrow.

Hard Knocks: Lesson #2

The Bengals signed James Harrison who had formerly played for their rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers.  What did I learn while watching the segment regarding Mr Harrison?  Here is how I paralleled that story to my triathlon lifestyle.  James Harrison is an intense player who practices like he plays in the game.  When it comes to training I put in the effort but when I look back at my efforts in the race they weren't as strong as the training efforts.  At Ironman Texas I had a horrible swim, which I have discussed previously, and what I am doing to get better at it so that isn't where I am focusing.  What I am looking at is the bike.  I rode the 112 miles in just under 6 hours but I know that I can get down to 5:45 just by pushing a little bit harder.  As with anybody the idea that the run is still to comes causes us to potentially take it a bit easer than we had been training and so this coming training cycle I will focus on riding hard (when training calls for it) and repeating a mantra to myself that I can then repeat when the race comes.  Getting my cycling to be faster means that I will have to look to James Harrison and focus and train like I plan on playing on game day.

Hard Knocks: Lesson #3

[caption id="attachment_8792" align="alignright" width="225"]hard knocks - friends - ironman - triathlon Friends You Can Laugh With While Racing And Training For Ironman Are Invaluable[/caption] In the episode that I watched there was the intense life of football and even a drill called the Oklahoma drill where the intensity is sky-high and fights are bound to break out.  How does this play into triathlon for me?  With that intensity came good-hearted laughter.  Guys making fun of each other and laughing with each other. They put in the work but when the work was over they did not carry that with them to the dining room or to their hotel room and family life.  When I saw that I thought about how the previous 18 months unfolded for me and how I would tend to take one bad workout into the next instead of letting it go and laughing.  We all have bad workouts but not allowing them to ruin the next one is key to getting better.  Focusing on that workout and then letting it go and having fun with your family and friends.  Laughing about how horrible the session went instead of pouting about it.  This off-season I have been doing what I want when I want but still getting in 3-4 workouts of each sport and having a great time. I have laughed with friends via text, while riding, while swimming and while running.  I have goofed off with Karen and this is something that I am going to carry forward.  Not being so rigid in my chosen lifestyle that I forget to laugh and enjoy everything else around me. As you can see we can learn a lot from the things and people around us but we have to be open to them.  We cannot be so closed-minded and thinking that only we know best that we ignore the lessons that are around us.  Find inspiration and motivation in everything around you.
Published in Race
Mental fitness or physical fitness was a conversation I had with myself as I ran the trails on Sunday morning.  It was cold and windy out.  I was facing the last long run of the weekend and the end of week one of taper for Lake Martin 100.  I began by going through the routine of whether or not I was ready for this race.  As the first mile ticked off I began to lose myself in the race strategy as well as what the pain would be like at mile 78 of the race.  Why mile 78?  No clue, it is just what popped into my head. [caption id="attachment_9525" align="alignright" width="300"]mental fitness - trail running - endurance sports Ego was bruised but mentally I got stronger after the fall.[/caption] Not long after that I was making a right turn on the trail and planted my foot.  Before I knew it I was falling to the ground with a thud and a gasp.  I got up gingerly and looked at my right leg now coated in mud and bleeding.  My right arm was covered in dirt as were my gloves.  I took inventory and other than the small cut on my right knee everything seemed to be in working order.  I walked for a few steps and then started to run again.  Every step became more and more focused and that is when my left ITB, reacting to the fall, began to ache.  I was going to run 10 miles but after 2.5 miles I knew I would just turn around and make it back to my car for a total of 5.  I was not going to take any chances on this muddy trail with the race two weeks away. As I progressed back toward the car I realized how important these 2.5 miles were.  2.5 miles over the course of the training to date which has totaled near 1000 miles would seem to be nothing.  A small percentage of the overall total but they might have been the most important to this point.  My left ITB was tender.  My right hip was sore and my right knee was achy from the cut.  I was not running fast but I was running.  I put myself onto the race course and realized that if push came to shove I would finish that 100 mile race even if it took me the full 30 hours.  There is no way that I will not get to the finish line and it was then that I started doing the math. Dave, Jeff and I will represent 3 out of 39 competitors at Lake Martin.  Statistics tell us that 50% will not finish that race for a myriad of reasons.  With those numbers there will be approximately 19 finishers.  Of those 19 we WILL represent 3 or approximately 15%.  That is an amazing feat.  I will not let either of them quit unless there is an injury so traumatic that it will not allow them to continue.  This is where the mental fitness means more than the physical fitness to me.  Being able to survive a race that does not unfold as we envision is how one displays the courage and the mental stamina to keep on moving. If I were blessed with the ability to complete a 100 mile race in 18 hours or an Ironman in 10 but did not because I just did not have the ability to coax my mind to push my body to that level I would consider it a failure.  There are plenty of great athletes out there that cannot endure because they do not have the ability to push through the pain and hurt.  I do not consider myself a great athlete, but rather average at best, but I do know that nobody will work harder and get the most out of their ability.  Each and every morning I wake up and put my Hoka's on and head out the door.  It is not a blazing fast workout or impossibly hard but I am getting out the door day in and day out.  The body has its limits but the mind does not and when the mind says we can do this the body keeps going. I have a goal for Lake Martin 100 and I have shared it with Dave and Jeff.  I would consider us fortunate if we hit that goal, but I also know that regardless of achieving our set out times we will finish.  We will find away when others take to the 'crying chairs' and decide to throw in the towel because they cannot go another step.  We will dig deep and push each other along the way.  We will tell jokes and stories and make the other person forget about the pain that is ravaging their feet, ankle, knees and hips.  We will keep each other in line when it comes to hydration and eating so that when night falls there is little chance of delirium setting in because we were not prepared.  We will cross the finish line with arms raised high knowing that we got the most out of our physical ability but relishing the fact that our minds would not allow us to quit despite the many obstacles we will come across. Endurance sports are by definition the ability to endure while performing an athletic feat.  During Ironman Arizona in 2012 I crashed around mile 10 of the 112 mile bike course, but unless there was something wrong with my bike I was going to finish that race.  As a matter of fact that race was my fastest Ironman finish.  During Ironman Texas 2013 I had a panic attack during the swim and had the worst swim of any Ironman race to date.  I got out of the water with a determination to finish as best I could.  That determination and mental strength led me to the 15th fastest marathon time of my age group despite temperatures reaching 110* that day.  These events will be ready to be pulled on when the going gets tough, and it will, at the Lake Martin 100 but I have zero doubt that this daunting and unbelievable race will be finished and finished with a smile.

Is Mental Or Physical Strength More Important To You?

Published in Train
Friday, 14 December 2012 14:00

Experience.....It Helps

[caption id="attachment_6895" align="alignright" width="275"]experience_ironman_triathlon Source: Ventiq[/caption] Yesterday a handful of items came across my laptop that got me to thinking about experience in this sport and how it helps.  The first item I saw was in a LinkedIn group discussing the Ironman swim, the second came from Beth's blog about picking out a 70.3 and the last was in a conversation with Maria regarding Ironman Texas and racing. In life we go through our daily activities and once we get accustomed to doing them a certain way it becomes easier to do them, but the first time it is somewhat frightening.  Think about the first time you took the training wheels off of your bike.  You were beyond scared, and so were your parents, that you would fall and hurt yourself.  With experience in riding the bike and figuring out the balancing, braking and turning you got pretty good at riding a bike and now some of you are racing 56 or 112 miles. It's that first time that really freaks us out and then we grow and mature.  We become experienced.  The LinkedIn Group topic referred to the swim and how Ian Thorpe was quoted as saying he felt like he was going to die just before a race.  When we jump into the water at the start of the Ironman that same feeling overcomes a lot of us.  I remember being in the water at The Woodlands thinking:  HOLY SHIT I AM ABOUT TO SWIM 2.4 MILES IN AN IRONMAN.  I was beyond nervous and the only thing that calmed me down was the guy next to me who shouted exactly what I was thinking.  It made me at peace with the swim because I wasn't the only one feeling that way. When Ironman Arizona came around I didn't have any nerves about the swim and was more focused on getting into a rhythm and achieving my goal time.  Michelle said to me that I must have seen the panic on her face and told her to stay with me until the cannon went off.  I don't recall Michelle looking nervous but it must have been there and because of my experience at Texas I was not as nervous as she.  Experience paid off as I just swam and I know when I get into Lake Woodlands in May I will edge closer to the front than I was in my two previous Ironman races. It is the previous experience at Texas that I am banking on helping me get as close to 11 hours as I possibly can and it is also what got me to thinking about Beth's response to my email.  She had posted about doing a 70.3 in 2013 but wasn't sure which one.  I posted that if it made a difference I was going to most likely be racing 70.3 Augusta in September.  She replied to me and said she didn't want to have done the same course twice prior to going all in on the 140.6 distance.  I can respect that as getting experience at a different course will help plenty but for me racing Texas again is about having already been on the course.  When I get to the Woodlands I will know exactly where the hills rise and descend.  I will know where the turns are and how to either push my limits or take it slow.  All of this experience will allow me to race this course as opposed to wanting to finish. When I spoke to Maria yesterday about this topic she whole-heartedly agreed.  Her experience at Lake Placid two years ago is going to benefit her tremendously as she vies for a Kona slot at that same venue in 2013.  Not only will Maria have the experience of having raced there before she trains there a lot and knows the roads inside and out.  This is going to be a tremendous advantage to her in comparison to the other ladies in her age group who have never been there before.  I am going to take this same approach and head down to the Irvin's a few times in the new year so that I can ride the course repeatedly.  Gaining that experience and knowledge is going to be a feather in my cap when that cannon goes off in May. The saying is something about getting wiser as we get older.  In this case getting wiser means gaining more experience.  Getting more experience means going from wanting to finish to racing.  The view I have of the sport is changing in this regard and it is because of the number of Half-Ironman and Ironman distance races I have done.  With each cannon more and more knowledge of my body and of my ability is being gained.  Putting all of this to good use is one way I have learned to avoid the pitfalls of the early morning butterflies and as each races occurs those butterflies will diminish more and more.  

Do You Race The Same Venues Repeatedly?  How Does This Help You?

   
Published in Train
Monday, 03 December 2012 15:50

Ironman Lessons Learned: The Cliche' Version

[caption id="attachment_6821" align="alignright" width="268"]ironman_triathlon_discipline_training_finishline Source: Power Creative[/caption] Ironman isn't just a race, it's a lifestyle.  So much goes into that one day that to think you can just wake up and do it is insane.  Along the journey you are going to find out A LOT about yourself and your friends, family, co-workers and the sport.  It is amazing the things that I learned going down this path.  There were so many lessons that I could write post after post after post about the lessons learned but I won't.  I know you are all a busy group with all the swimming, biking, running, stretching, strength training, core work, eating, sleeping, work, meeting friends, reading to your kids, etc that you do so I boiled it down to 5 simple clichés. Your road to Ironman will be bumpy, just accept it.  Not everything will go as planned, just accept it.  One day you will be able to swim 1:30/100y and the next day be struggling just to finish the set, just accept it.  One Monday you will be on top of the world, but by Friday you will feel like death.....just accept it.  This is how it goes, but if the following five lessons I learned can help you then it was worth every moment of putting my body and mind through it. 1- Don't Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

I learned this because I will have raced a total of 12 races this year.  I started with a 15k in January, then a 1/2 mary, 1/2 IM and it kept going.  All the while training has to be fit in along with trying to be a husband, step-dad, partner in my business, etc.  It was more than I should have done.  When the peak training for Ironman Arizona hit I was frustrated, crabby, mad and HUNGRY.  It had all come to a crescendo during those 4 weeks and as much as I love racing I don't think this schedule is smart.  Our bodies and minds need rest, so take it.  Step back from the game.  For the past two weeks I have done what I want and when I want.  This has been the best recovery ever and I am loving it.  Sleeping in, making breakfast, talking to my wife past 8:30p......it is all awesome and very much welcomed.  Be mindful of what you are going to put your body through and don't bite off more than you can chew.

2- Treat Others As You Would Want To Be Treated

The paragraph above talks about my frustrations and my crankiness and that spilled over into my home life.  I was not the best husband I could be because I was tired.  Just plain tired.  I wanted to sleep, I wanted to eat, I wanted to train and all on my time.  I tried my best to not put myself at the top of the heap but there were times when I did even when I didn't have to.  I like to get my workouts over with early in the morning so I can spend time with my family.  The problem with that is there were days where I was just too tired to do anything and yet I pushed forward to do them.  Sometimes it worked out but other times I was just a crabby asshole.  Your family and friends deserve to be treated better and so if you are tired then bow out of the event and let them have fun rather than being the thorn in the side.  If your training calls for a 4 hour bike ride but you want to be with your family then do a 3 hour bike ride and be fresh for them.  Treat them the way you want to be treated.

3- Just Say No

Did you read that last paragraph where I say to just bow out?  It is so important to know and understand your limitations.  There are only 24 hours in the day so you need to respect that.  You are training for 3 hours, you need to work for 10 hours, you need to sleep for 8 hours and that totals out to 21 hours.  You have three hours remaining so make sure you take advantage of them and don't try to do too much.  If somebody asks you to help them out think about it long and hard before you commit to it.  They may be upset that you say no but it could help save the friendship in the long run because you end up being a no-show since you fell asleep on the couch.  I know that as IMAZ training continued on I started to post less on the blog.  I stopped posting on the weekends unless there was something very compelling I wanted to say.  I have also cut back on the number of blogs that I read as I just didn't have the time and more importantly I wanted to read it and understand it.  If my eyes are glazed over then I am not really comprehending what I am looking at and this is a disservice to the writer.

4- Listen To Your Body

I cannot tell you how important this is to having a successful training cycle.  I know when I went through the first cycle for Texas that if the schedule said 4 hour bike ride well damn it I am riding for four hours no matter how tired I was.  In the cycle for Arizona if the schedule said 4 hour bike ride and I finished the loop in 3 hours and 39 minutes I got off my bike and did my run.  I got home 20 minutes faster than I expected and that was a good thing.  I didn't push it because nothing was going to be gained in that 20 minutes of riding.  When I needed a nap I took it.  If I needed to have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich I did.  Your body will give you the answer to all your questions so listen to it.

5- Eat All Your Veggies

This is not a ploy to convert everybody to vegetarianism but more of a reminder to treat your body like a temple.  You cannot possibly go out and ride your bike for 4 hours and do a 30 minute run and then stuff your face with Oreo's right after.  Make sure that you are recovering properly with the proper nutrients.  Get all the macronutrients that you need into your system (carbs, protein, fats) as well as your micro-nutrients.  Be smart about what you eat and when you eat it.  It is important to get that recovery shake or meal into your body within 30 minutes but after that listen for your hunger queues.  Your body will tell you when it is hungry so pay attention and then make sure you are eating something that is going to help you recover and get out the door the next day for training.  That is not to say that you shouldn't have pizza if you want it.  Go for it and enjoy the hell out of it.  You earned it and it is what your body is craving at the time but remember that you need fuel for that next workout and making wise food choices will help make that workout a bit easier.

My journey to Ironman Texas 2013 begins one week from today and I am excited.  This week is my last unstructured week and I am taking advantage of it.  I am swimming a little, riding the trainer a bit and running for however long (not how far) I want to.  I added in Bikram Yoga as well as using the rowing machine (that machine is now affectionately known as the Machine Of Death.)  I have gone to a wheat-free (not gluten-free) diet and it all feels right.  My body is telling me that it feels good and I like to hear that.  When the clock strikes on the 10th I will be rested and ready to get into the workouts again, but I also know that if something doesn't feel right I am going to back down. I have 6 months until this next Ironman and I want to get there in one piece and that starts by following the lessons I have learned in 2012.

What Lessons Have You Learned From 2012?

 
Published in Train
Wednesday, 17 October 2012 15:49

What's Your Motivation?

[caption id="attachment_6629" align="alignright" width="271"]triathlon_motivation_inspiration_ironman Source: CK-MultiSport Coaching[/caption] Motivation is a word that gets thrown around quite a bit?  I am motivated to run.  I am not motivated to run.  Where did my motivation go?  I am a very self-motivated person and a lot of that comes from my competitiveness.  I am always trying to improve my standing against myself.  Last month I had 5 sales this month I want 6.  It is almost never-ending regardless of what I am talking about.  I know it drives my wife crazy and it is also how I can relate to a guy like Roger Clemens (competitor not drug user) when reports are that he brushed his wife back in a wiffle ball game.  I get it....I may not do it but I get it. Right now I am in the midst of peak training for Ironman Arizona and getting up in the morning is getting harder and harder.  The workouts are getting harder and they are getting longer.  The mental push to sustain this lifestyle through peak training can be hard.  Who am I kidding?  It is downright crazy someday.  There are days when that alarm goes off and all I want to do is say F U World I am laying here, but then one of two things happens.  Karen finally gets angry that I have hit the snooze button for the 10th time and tells me to get up or I turned the alarm off and she pushes me out of the bed and tells me to get going. At that point I am walking around the bedroom and the bathroom like a drunk on Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras.  I have no clue what time it is or where I am at but I know some form of exercise is coming.  As I get on the trainer for the 3rd time this week (this is true) or I pack my swim bag for 4000+ yards of swimming I start talking to myself about what I am going to do.  For example, today's workout was 1:30 on the trainer with 8x5min at Anaerobic Threshold with 1 min Recovery followed by 30 minutes of running at a steady anaerobic threshold.  HOLY SHIT!  Uhh.....Coach I'd like to make it to Arizona ALIVE! Once I got on the bike I started pedaling and my legs felt alright but I was just warming up and after 20 minutes I would start my sets.  I got engrossed in a terrible movie and when the sets started I hardly noticed the pain in my legs, that is until the last 3 sets.  It was at that point that I could have punched babies and started thinking about the run.  30 minutes anaerobic threshold just means run really fast for as long as you can, but wait it says steady.  Ok, so pull back a bit so that you stay steady but wait that wouldn't be AT.  My motivation for this run was starting to slip. At first I wanted to tie my record for running 4 miles off the bike in 30 minutes that I had set over two years ago and had not matched until yesterday when I ran 4.14 miles off the bike (yesterday's set was a steady 1 hour at Half-Ironman pace or 20+ mph).  I had my motivation for this run but then my legs started to really hurt.  Combination of a year-long of Ironman training, 5am start and just the volume from last week (23 hours of training.)  I was done and if I ran a 9 minute per mile pace I would know that it would hurt and that it would be pushing it at that point. Thing is I had sent a text to my coach a few weeks ago when she asked me how I was feeling.  I told her that I felt good (not great) and that I came to a realization.  It was going to hurt no matter what pace I went at and this was for swim, bike or run.  So why not just do it as fast as you can and the pain would go away faster.  Logical wouldn't you say? So when I started running I decided I was going to run not only hard but run a harder course than I ran yesterday.  I was going to prove I had a lot left in my tank to not only do the interval set, but also capture the 4 mile flag.  I was determined and I was going to do it.  All the sudden, Mr Motivation was back and all it took was a memory.  A memory lit my competitive fire inside me and off I went.  I hit that first mile at 7:26 and I thought that this was going to be a close call since I know that 7:30/mile would equal 4 miles in 30 minutes.  Second mile was 7:27 and I actually felt good even though I was breathing so heavy.  I was pumping my arms and legs going up every hill I could find.  This was not going to be a 4 mile run around a track.  My thought at this point was that if the training was extremely hard than the race would be cake. When I saw the 30:00 on the Garmin and I hit stop I could not remember if I had heard 4 beeps from the tell all machine.  I looked down and the number was 3.93 miles.  I fell just shy of hitting that 4 mile mark on a much harder course.  I was not happy and when I went into the garage to gather all my gear from the trainer ride I had the following thought:

Dad - I am sorry that I could not get to 4 miles today but rest assured that on November 18 I will run as hard as I possibly can to make you proud.

The motivation to get up every morning stopped being about me.  It stopped being about getting to 4 miles in 30 minutes.  It stopped about being a 2x Ironman in the same year.  It was now bigger than anything I could imagine.  I have about 30 days until the cannon goes off in Tempe, Arizona and I now know what will not just get me to the starting line but to the finish line.

The motivation will change between today and that day but in the end when I reflect on Ironman Arizona I will know what the underlying motivation truly was.

I also want to say Thank You to my wife, Karen, for putting up with peak training AGAIN.  I know it is not easy on you or the family but I want you to know I appreciate your ability to allow me to get out every morning to do what I do.  Without you this doesn't happen (and some mornings that is a literal statement.)

What Is Your Motivation?

Published in Train
Wednesday, 12 September 2012 14:52

I Love Carbs

 I love carbs and I will not lie.  Carbs give me the energy I need to power through these workouts.  I hear athletes talking about avoiding carbs and it surprises me because I just don't know where they are going to get their energy from if they don't take in carbs.  A solid diet of 60%-65% Carbs, ~15% Protein and 20%-25% Fat is ideal for an endurance athlete. A couple of days ago I came across an article on Active.com talking about the 5 best carbs for athletes and it made me smile.  I didn't care what the carbs where I just loved the fact that it was saying that there were great carbs for us athletes.  I could list out the carbs for you and tell you why they are good for you, but rather than do that I am going to give you a recipe based on the 5 carbs.  Here are the carbs first:

  1. Sweet Potato
  2. Oats
  3. Wild Rice
  4. Banana
  5. Chickpeas

The recipe I am going to provide for you will be for a sweet potato burger with a side of rice and chickpeas.  Very easy to make and very good for you too. Ingredients: 1/2c Lundberg Black Japonica Rice, 1/4c Dry Chickpeas, 100g Sweet Potato, 100g Banana, 1/2cc Rolled Oats Nutritional Breakdown: 740 calories, 156g Carbohydrates, 8g Fat, 21g Protein Servings: 1   [caption id="attachment_6482" align="alignright" width="275"]cabohydrates_athletes_diet Source: Path For Life Food[/caption] Directions:

  1. Soak chickpeas in water overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 405*
  3. When ready to cook pour chickpeas and soaking water into pot and add another 1c of water and bring to a boil.  After water boils lower heat to low and allow to simmer.  Should take about 40-45 minutes for chickpeas to become soft.
  4. While chickpeas are boiling bake sweet potato for 30-40 minutes or until soft.
  5. Remove potato from oven and scoop out flesh.  Smash the meat of the potato with the banana and combine with oats.
  6. Form 2 patties with the mixture and place on plate and refrigerate to allow to set up.
  7. While the patties are setting up cook rice in a rice cooker according to manufacturer's directions.
  8. Remove patties from refrigerator and place in a smoking hot pan (cast iron preferably) and allow burgers to cook for 3-5 minutes on each side.
  9. Plate the rice topped with chickpeas and then sweet potato burgers on the side.
  10. Top with mustard and lettuce, red onion, avocado and spinach.

Enjoy!

What would you make with these 5 great carb ingredients?

Published in Lunch Recipes
Wednesday, 29 August 2012 12:57

Embrace The Suck

I reviewed Chris McCormack's book I'm Here To Win previously and on the way home from Rev3 Maine I read an article by him in the September issue of Triathlete magazine titled It's All In your Head. Having just come off of racing a 70.3 where I had mechanical issues and two other worldly blisters this article spoke volumes to me. If you can recall, it was just about a month ago that I gave you a recap of the triathlon training camp with Jeff Irvin.  During that weekend we discussed how neither of us has really pushed ourselves to the point of breaking.  There was always the thought that after the swim was a bike ride, then after the bike ride came a run.  We talked about how we needed to compartmentalized the events to race that event without worrying what was next.  How this was how the line of demarcation was drawn between the elite age groupers and us.  While Jeff and I are no slouches there is a lot of time difference between us and the top 10% of our age groups.  If you read Kevin and Jon's posts about Ironman Mont-Tremblant you can see that it is there as well.  Mind you that both of these guys are fast.  MattyO raced Maine as well and finished in 5:21 which is fast and still came up short of the podium.  Could he have pushed himself harder to get there?  I bet you he says yes. All of this is to say that if I want to get to that next level which at this point is a Top 20% finish in my age-group at Ironman Arizona then I have to 'Embrace The Suck'. I can no longer think to myself that this Ironman is about pacing myself because it is not.  It is about pushing past the pain when it shows up time and time again. Believe me the pain will be there at every corner if I allow it.  Keep in mind that the pain is not always physical, but can be mental.  For example, saying things to yourself like: this bike ride is soooo long and I can't wait to get off the bike.  You are hurting yourself because you are ready to give into the pain of your butt in the saddle, or pain in your quads, or boredom of being out on the course.  You are not special in thinking that, but maybe you can be special in pushing past it while other athletes are giving into it. When I was faced with a broken spoke I could have given up and nobody would have blamed me.  It was a mechanical failure and not much that you can do about that.  Had this been an injury I would have pulled out because this particular race was not the A race of the 2nd half of the season.  Instead I lifted my bike over my head and walked up the hill talking to myself.  I gathered my thoughts and told myself that it was all about the run if I could get there.  I tinkered with the bike and was able to ride, knowing full well that I was not going to have the ride of my life.  Instead of giving into that I yelled at myself that the race started at the dismount line.  I gave it my all and got there and flipped the switch.  I was ready to embrace the suck. I started running with determination.  I knew that it was going to hurt but I had a goal and I was not going to question myself at the finish line.  I thought back to swim like a swimmer, bike like a cyclist and run like a runner from that training camp.  I ran and when the blisters decided to show up I decided to ignore them.  When the quads were yelling at me to slow down, I yelled back to them to MAN THE FUCK UP! When my Achilles chose that it was his turn to aggravate me, my only response was you get to rest when I do. There was no secret sauce being poured over me to push me this far.  It was my desire and will to be the best triathlete I could be on that given day.  I was fueled by anger of the bike, but also a passion to prove that when the going gets tough quitting is not an option.  Taking the road less traveled is not easy, but it is rewarding. Crossing the finish line with a run split of 1:45 has me excited because my goal for Ironman Arizona is to run a sub-4 hour marathon.  Thought 13.1 miles I felt strong and can say I could have embraced that suck for another 13.1 miles.  I would have continued picking competitors off the course and hunting them down and not felt satisfied until I got there and then made the pass with authority.  This is something Matt and I discussed aft the race.  When you pass, no matter how much it hurts you do it with authority and don't give that competitor a chance to stay with you.  You want to hear the air come out of their lungs, their legs wither, and know that their brain just said to them: we can't keep up with that so slow down. I am a competitor.  I am fueled by my successes and failures.  I am learning to embrace the suck more and more.  The edge of the table to which I push my envelope has no end. I will push myself to reach my dreams and goals.

Can you say the same thing?

Published in Train
Wednesday, 02 May 2012 12:27

An Open Letter To Ironman Competitors

This open letter was not written by me but I found it on a Facebook page that I belong to regarding Ironman Texas.  A fellow participant posted it there and it was so well written and struck so close to home that I wanted to repost it here and on the Cook Train Eat Race Facebook Page as well.  There are plenty of friends and strangers racing Ironman Saint George this weekend that this applies to as well as those racing Ironman Texas.  As a matter of fact it is not just for first timers but for those that have been in the sport for some time.  No matter where you are in your Ironman career this is worth the five minutes it takes to read. Enjoy the read:
SUMMARY OF IRONMAN So without further adieu, to those of you heading to Ironman - to the IM-Virgins, the veterans, and everyone in-between...  Right now you've entered the taper. Perhaps you've been at this a few months, perhaps you've been at this a few years. For some of you this is your first IM, for others, a long-overdue welcome back to a race that few can match.  You've been following your schedule to the letter. You've been piling on the mileage, piling up the laundry, and getting a set of tan lines that will take months or more to erase. Long rides were followed by long runs, which both were preceded by long swims, all of which were followed by recovery naps that may have been longer than you slept for any given night during college.  You swam in the cold. You rode in the rain. You ran in the heat. You went out when others stayed home. You rode the trainer when others pulled the covers over their heads.  You have survived the Darwinian progression that is Ironman training, and now the hardest days are behind you. Like a climber in the Tour de France coming over the summit of the penultimate climb on an alpine stage, you've already covered so much ground...there's just one more climb to go. You shift up, you take a drink, you zip up the jersey; the descent lays before you...and it will be a fast one.
Time that used to be filled with never-ending training will now be filling with silent muscles, taking their final, well-earned rest. While this taper is something your body desperately needs, your mind, cast off to the background for so very long, will start to speak to you.  It won't be pretty.  It will bring up thoughts of doubt, pain, hunger, thirst, failure, and loss. It will give you reasons why you aren't ready. It will try and make one last stand to stop you, because your brain doesn't know what the body already does. Your body knows the truth:  you are ready.  Your brain won't believe it. It will use the taper to convince you that this is foolish - that there is too much that can go wrong.  You are ready.  Finishing an Ironman is never an accident. It's the result of dedication, focus, hard work, and belief that all the long runs in January, long rides in April, and long swims every $#%& week will be worth it. It comes from getting on the bike, day in, day out. It comes from long, solo runs. From that first long run where you wondered, "How will I ever be ready?" to the last long run where you smiled to yourself with one mile to go...knowing that you'd found the answer.  It is worth it. Now that you're at the taper, you know it will be worth it. The workload becomes less. The body winds up and prepares, and you just need to quiet your worried mind. It is not easy, but you can do it.  You are ready.
You will walk into the water with 2000 other wide-open sets of eyes. You will look upon the sea of humanity, and know that you belong. You'll feel the chill of the water crawl against your skin, and shiver like everyone else, but smile because the day you have waited for, for so VERY long, is finally here.  You will tear up in your goggles. The helicopter will roar overhead. The splashing will surround you.  You'll stop thinking about Ironman, because you're now racing one.  The swim will be long - it's long for everyone, but you'll make it. You'll watch as the final shoreline grows and grows, and soon you'll hear the end. You'll come up to the edge and head for the ladder. You may have to wait for someone to get off that sucker before you, but you will get your turn.
You’ll find your transition bag—don’t worry about the sea of bags the same color, someone is there to help you--and run off to prepare for the bike (don’t forget the sunscreen, pick a volunteer near the end!). You may not always realize just what is happening but you won't wipe the smile off your face for anything and you'll settle down to your race. The crowds will spread out on the road. You'll be on the bike, eating your food on your schedule, controlling your Ironman. The site of a seemingly unlimited line of bikes before you and behind you is a site to behold. You'll start to feel that morning sun turn to afternoon sun. It's warmer now. Maybe it's hot—there’s shade in the tree cover at times. Maybe you're not feeling so good now. You'll keep riding. You'll keep drinking. You'll keep moving. After all, this is just a long training day with valet parking and catering, right? Your training got you this far—TRUST IT NOW! You'll put on your game face, fighting the urge to slow down as you ride for what seems like hours, well it is for hours but you’ve practiced this many times in training. You reach Special Needs, maybe you’ll stop a bit to fuel up, and head out again.   By now it'll be hot and you'll be tired. Doubts will fight for your focus. Everyone struggles here. You've been on that bike for a few hours, and stopping would be nice, but you won't - not here, not today. You'll grind the false flats to the climbs. You'll know you're almost there. You'll fight for every inch of road. The occasion cheer will come back to you help you here and there. Let their energy push you. Let them see your eyes. Smile when they cheer for you - your body will get just that little bit lighter. Grind. Fight. Suffer. Persevere. You'll plunge down the road, swooping from corner to corner, chaining together the turns, tucking on the straights, letting your legs recover for the run to come - soon! You'll roll back - you'll see people running. You'll think to yourself, "Wasn't I just here?" The noise will grow. The chalk dust will hang in the air - you're almost back, with only the 26.2 mile run to go. You'll relax a little bit, knowing that even if you get a flat tire or something breaks here, you can run the damn bike into T2.
You'll roll into transition and volunteers will fight for your bike. You'll give it up and not look back. You'll have your transition bag handed to you, and into the tent you'll go. You'll change and load up your pockets, and open the door to the last long run of your Ironman season – this is the one that counts.  You'll take that first step of a thousand...and you'll smile. You'll know that the bike won't let you down now - the race is down to your own two feet. The same crowd that cheered for you in the shadows of the morning will cheer for you in the brilliant sunshine of a hot Saturday. High-five people on the way out. Smile. Enjoy it. This is what you've worked for all year-long.  That first mile will feel great. So will the second. By mile 3, you probably won't feel so good. That's okay. You knew it couldn't all be that easy. You'll settle down just like you did on the bike, and get down to your pace. You may see leaders passing you on their own way through. Some will look great - some won't. You might feel great, you might not. No matter how you feel, don't panic - this is the part of the day where whatever you're feeling, you can be sure it won't last. You'll keep moving. You'll keep drinking. You'll keep eating. Maybe you'll be right on plan - maybe you won't. If you're ahead of schedule, don't worry - believe. If you're behind, don't panic - roll with it. Everyone comes up with a brilliant race plan for Ironman, and then everyone has to deal with the reality that planning for something like Ironman is like trying to land a man on the moon….by remote control….blindfolded. Expect things to go wrong and then just deal with it. How you react to the changes in your plan will dictate your day. Don't waste energy worrying about things - just do what you have to when you have to, and keep moving. Keep eating. Keep drinking. Just don't stop and don't EVER sit down. You'll make it through the first loop. You'll load up on special needs if you need. Some of what you packed will look good, some won't. Eat what looks good, toss the rest, you’ll be back here again anyway. Keep moving and start looking for people you know and cheer for people you don't. You're headed forward, some of them won’t be. They want to be where you are, just like you wanted to be when you saw all those fast people heading out faster than you earlier. Share some energy - you'll get it right back.  Run if you can. Walk if you have to. Just keep moving.  The miles will drag on. The brilliant sunshine will yawn. You'll be coming up to those aid stations fully alive with people, music, and chicken soup. Keep moving. You'll soon only have a mere lap to go. You'll start to believe that you're going to make it. You'll start to imagine how good it's going to feel when you get there. Let those feelings drive you on. When your legs just don't want to move anymore, think about what it's going to be like when someone catches you...puts a medal over your head......all you have to do is get there.  You'll start to hear the call of the Waterway. People you can't see in the twilight will cheer for you. They'll call out your name. Smile and thank them, or just wave a bit—they’ll understand what you mean. They were there when you left on the bike, and when you came back, when you left on the run, and now when you've come back. You'll be running along the water for a while for the last time. You'll start to realize that the day is almost over. You'll be exhausted, wiped out, barely able to run a “decent”pace (if you're lucky), but you'll ask yourself, "Where did the whole day go?" You'll be standing on the edge of two feelings - the desire to finally stop, and the desire to take these last moments and make them last as long as possible. You'll hit mile 25. Your Ironman will have 1.2 miles - just 2KM left in it. You'll run.
You'll find your legs. You won't know how, but you will run. You will feel like you’re flying at the end. The lights will grow brighter, brighter, and brighter. Soon you'll be able to hear the music again. This time, it'll be for keeps. Soon they'll see you. Soon, everyone will see you. You'll run towards the lights, between the fences, and into the night sun made just for you. Remember to take a moment to make this the finishing memory of a lifetime. They'll call your name. You'll keep running. You won’t feel the pain. The moment will be yours - for one moment, the entire world will be looking at you and only you. You'll cross the mat. The flash will go off, well actually many flashes were already going off. You'll stop. You'll finally stop. Your legs will wobble their last, and suddenly be capable of nothing more.  Someone will catch you. You'll lean into them. It will suddenly hit you…
You are an Ironman.
** Thank you to Richard at Running Into Life
If that wasn't enough I got this picture from my step-son yesterday:
[caption id="attachment_5836" align="aligncenter" width="269" caption="Inspiration For Sure"]ironman_race_texas_triathlon_motivation[/caption]
Published in Race
Saturday, 14 April 2012 11:14

Double Ironman....

[caption id="attachment_5758" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Could This Happen?"]ultratriathlon_ironman[/caption] A double Ironman is typically known as 281.2 miles over the course of two days.  The time limit is 48 hours so you do have the opportunity to sit back and take a nap, but even that just sounds bananas.  Of course, when I registered for Ironman Texas I had no clue that I would be doing my version of a double Ironman.  No I won't be doing them within 48 hours or even 4-8 weeks of each other but instead I am doing them almost exactly 5 months apart. I registered for Ironman Texas in June of 2011, but my goal race was always Ironman Arizona.  Not sure why I wanted to race IMAZ so bad (maybe to meet Emz?) but it was the one race I HAD to do.  After volunteering for IMTX last year, I got the feeling that I would register for the event and that through a little bit of a monkey wrench into the IMAZ plan. After speaking with my wife and my coach it was decided that doing a second Ironman in the same calendar year was feasible.  I would already have a base from IMTX and Ironman Arizona was far enough away to recover, train and taper.  The financial piece to this puzzle was taken care of when I picked up a sponsor to pay for the travel and races.  Along the lines I have picked up other sponsors that are helping with just about everything else from recovery products (Arctic Ease) to fueling (Boundless Nutrition and CorePower) to my passion of cooking (Grapevine Grains.)  Without these sponsors I don't know that I would be able to accomplish this task financially. The next question to answer was Why?  Why do this?  I think the answer lies somewhere between multiple answers.  As I said I had wanted to race IMAZ since I got into the sport.  It was a must and so I wanted it to be my first.  The other reason was in the form of a question:  Why Not?  I don't back down from challenges.  I think it would be a gratifying feather in my cap to have accomplished two Ironman races in the same year.  Of course with that can come the dreaded burn-out.  The I HATE this stuff and don't want to do it again. I will not lie, but that is a very real concern of mine.  I love pushing my body over and over.  I love seeing the progress that I am making.  I love dialing in my diet and nutrition.  All these things fuel me, but what if I have a horror of a time at the race?  What if I am so drained that I just don't want to race again.  My answer to that has been:  If you hate it that much it wouldn't matter if the next race was in 5 months or 5 years. The one question that hung in the air for me was whether or not to race 70.3 Austin again this year.  After reading this article I am leaning toward not participating in this event.  I am already racing Rev3 OOB in August as well as the US Open Championships in October.  Adding the additional Half-Ironman will probably not help me as that means entering the race with no taper and then having to recover.  That will just be too much, or at least that is what I'm telling myself right now.  Yes, that may change in a week when I ask the question:  WHY NOT?

HAVE YOU RACED TWO IRONMAN RACES IN THE SAME CALENDAR YEAR?

DO YOU CHALLENGE YOURSELF WITH THE WHY NOT QUESTION?

Published in Train
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