Monthly Archives: July 2015

DNS, DNF, or Personal Worst?

Looking towards tomorrow’s scheduled Half Marathon, those are the three likely scenarios.

My back is still giving me a lot of grief, but it is getting better. I have not done ANY exercise since Monday. I could barely stand up on Wednesday without assistance.

I figured the race would be my first ever DNS. I hated the thought of getting a DNS.

This morning, I am stiff and moving slowly, but I could likely do the race. I just don’t know if it would be wise. I don’t want to re-injure myself (especially since I have 3 triathlons and one duathlon coming up in the next 3 weeks). But, I think that I could handle a VERY slow recovery run.

If i run it, it will be my personal worst finish time.

The cutoff time is 3:30.

My PR is 1:44:03.

My current PW is 2:24:54 (lingering ankle injury and under-trained).

Unofficial PWs include the run leg of IM 70.3 Steelhead (2:40:32) and WDW Half (2:42:08…including a lot of waiting in line for photo stops).

Tomorrows race will likely dethrone all of the records.

But, tomorrow is not about speed. It’s about recovery. If I suspect that the race will set me back, I will take the DNS. If it is causing injury, I will take the DNF. Otherwise, I will have to see how slow I can go…image

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Be Careful Of What You Wish For…

“I have caught myself thinking that a minor injury would be a blessing in disguise…that it would make the decision for me.”
-Road To Madison – July 26, 2015

Last nights 5k training run was cancelled…because I could not bend forward far enough to tie my own shoelaces. This morning’s swim has also been canceled. I am fairly certain that I can add tomorrow’s bike ride to the list as well.

Saturdays Half Marathon is at risk of becoming my first DNS. Hoping things settle down by then.

Be careful of what you wish for…

The injury is minor. A couple of weeks ago, I was bending forward to pick something up and just felt a very sudden “pop” in my low back that almost dropped me to my knees. I dragged around slowly for the rest of the day and could feel it the next day, but I still got that day’s swim completed with minimal difficulty. The 30 mile bike the following day was no trouble at all, and I just went slowly on my runs. It gradually improved but never fully resolved. I was able to throw down a 23:40 5k the next week, then do a 15 mile and 12 mile training run back-to-back with barely a twinge.

Yesterday morning, there was a torrential downpour. I got to the store and sprinted from the car to the front door, noticed that I had dropped something, sprinted back to pick it up, then sprinted back to the front door (in dress shoes…and I still got completely drenched). As soon as I stopped, I realized that I re-aggravated the low back…and it was a lot worse then the first time.

Every little movement screams at me. Sitting down, getting up, climbing a flight of stairs. I am eating too much Motrin , and the heating pad is my best friend.

This should settle down in a few days. I’ll make the call on the HM on Saturday morning. The race was a last minute addition/throwaway race. The triathlons in the subsequent weeks are much more important to me. If I run it, it will be a very slow recovery run (aiming for a personal worst). But I will take the DNS if I have any concerns.

I doubt this will affect the rest of the season…unless it keeps going out on me. Then it becomes a complete wild card. I know that my core strength is nonexistent…so my risk of recurrence is high.

The other wild card is my osteoporosis. I have the skeleton of a healthy 100 year old man. I broke my rib last year with no trauma of any kind. So, I think I will drop into my local clinic to get an x-ray…just to be sure that I didn’t do anything more stupid then my usual.

So, yeah, be careful of what you wish for…



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Where Has All Of My Motivation Gone?

I was scheduled to run 15 miles yesterday morning. It would be a hot one, so I was up before dawn to beat the heat.

I wasn’t feeling it. Not at all. I wanted to be back in bed. I bailed after 12 miles.

I have three marathons coming up in October (likely my last marathons) including back-to-back marathons in Kansas City and Des Moines (the I-35 Challenge). As I was running, I was questioning why I was doing this. I am not enjoying myself (and haven’t for about 10 months now). I have 12 marathons under my belt. Would three more matter to anyone (especially me).

I thought about downsizing the event to two half-marathons…but I don’t want the time/travel/expense for halfs. I thought about just canceling altogether. Nobody else would care.

In looking back, I had so much enthusiasm heading into Ironman Wisconsin and all that proceeded it. Nothing since has gotten me excited. I was going through the motions in Tulsa, Houston, Pittsburgh, and FANS Ultra. I am going through the motions now.

I am enjoying sprint triathlon (including training, but the commute to the pool and bike trails make it a struggle to get going). I am enjoying the shorter events (but they still have a less painful going through the motions feel).

Part of me wonders if my stubbornness at completing these final three marathons will permanently beat the joy of running out of me. I have caught myself thinking that a minor injury would be a blessing in disguise…that it would make the decision for me. Of course, thoughts like those are just crazy, but it gives you some idea about just how apathetic I am about the whole thing right now.

I remember training for IMOO and reading FB posts about lack of motivation and insufficient training. Posts where people would wonder if they should still run the race, or sell the bib/defer registration. A third of registrants DNS most marathons. I never understood this. Now, I get it. You push yourself too hard for too long and you burnout. I guess I feel like I do at mile 22 of a marathon. I have come so far, but the finish line still seems so far away…it is hard to stay motivated.

Next weekend, I have a half on Saturday (I am fine with that) and will try to back that up with a longer run Sunday. Then, I have 3 weekends of triathlons. I will hope to get one long run each of those weeks. Then, a final short push and ramp up before I taper for the Twin Cities Marathon which will be my last long run before I-35. If I can do the TCM, then KCM two weeks later should not be a problem. DMM will be a sufferfest, but one that I will have seven hours to complete.

I just need to pull my head out of my ass and get it back in the game for one final training cycle. After that, I can park it at Half Marathons and Sprint Triathlons as long as I wish…


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Race Report: Torchlight 5k

July 22, 2015.
Minneapolis, MN
Event #78

This should be one of my fastest 5k of the year. It is the only “stand alone” 5k of the season (every other is linked to a marathon or the run leg of a triathlon). It is also a company sponsored event, so I was running with several co-workers. This always gives me a little extra motivation to do my best.

What it would not be is a PR. I have come to accept that my PR days (with the possible exception of a particularly weak 10 mile PR) are likely behind me. I will never repeat the training volumes of last year. I hoped for sub 23 minutes last year…and got it. This year is more about enjoying the evening and the fellowship.

The race is part of the Minneapolis aquatenial celebration and immediately precedes the aquatenial parade, so a lot of spectators are crowded onto the sidewalk for this event. It was a beautiful night for this event (again) and I carpooled from work with several office mates. They did a wave start, starting with an elite wave then self seeded based on expected finish time. I seeded myself in the front wave (projected pace sub-8:00/mile). I thought that might be pushing it given my slower training pace and lack of speed work…but I figured that I was on the bubble and could likely find some unsuspecting pacers to help push me.

I started at a good pace, about 7:40/mile. At about the 1/2 mile mark, I heard a “Hi Ray!”. I turn to find Evan…the fastest runner in the office. We chat a little, and I try to keep pace with him…knowing this might be a mistake. I keep up with him for the next mile. Then, he starts to pull away (I told him a half mile back to not slow down for me) and I start regretting my early race heroic efforts. I keep pushing but I knew that I had slowed down a little. The final mile was hell. I reached the 3 mile mark and the dreaded cobblestones (very uneven, and I have to slow down or risk injury). I few moments later, I crumple across the finish line.

Finish Time – 23:40 (7:37/mile)
Age Group Standing – 30/158
Overall Standing – 496/4090

There was a lot of stuff at the finish line…including a MASSIVE goodie bag courtesy of Target, Chick-Fil-A sandwiches, and a corporate and catered VIP tent for us. I ran into Evan, who seemed impressed with my performance (he thought I was a lot slower from our office conversations). Gradually, the rest of the crew filed in for food and fellowship.

Was it a PR? Nope. Missed that by about 50 seconds. It wasn’t even my best of the year (I had forgotten that I did well at the Pittsburgh 5k). But, anything in the 7:30 minute/mile makes me pretty happy…

image image

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More Views From My 50k

The race directors surprised me with a few more photos late today. Enjoy…







image image

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Views From My 50k

Over the years, I have seen a lot of race photos. Most of my photos are horrible. But, the law of average wins, and a few good race photos trickle in. I show off the good and ignore the bad. I generally don’t care which events produce the good photos (many of my favs are from throwaway events), as long as I get an occasional pic where I don’t look like I am going to puke or die.

There are occasional events where I really hope for some great photos. Those are my really big events (and Disney races). I would have been very disappointed if my Ironman photos sucked, but the photographers did a great job and I got multiple good shots of me on the swim, bike, run, and finish line.

The other biggie was my Ultramarathon. This event took place six weeks ago and I have been anxiously awaiting a glimpse of the pics. This is not a complaint. FANS is a small race with a small number of individual that pour their hearts into making this a special event. There is only one photographer…and he volunteers his time. He spent most of the day walking the course, taking pics of the athletes as they ran in the other direction. Then, in his free time, he sorted through the 3000+ photos and provided them to the race directors and athletes for free. Bob did a great job. I finally saw the pics and I got a couple of really nice photos. Thanks to the Bob and the rest of the team at FANS for all the hard work, and some special photos to remember the day…



image image image

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I Am Campaign

I came across this on the Ironman Coeur D’Alene FB page. A local graphic design company has been making inspirational posters for athletes, sharing their stories and inspiration. Taken individually, they can be funny, sad, whimsical, or inspiring. They always tell a story. Taken as a whole, they are quite powerful. Everyone that shares the starting line with you has a story to tell. When we see that, we become a stronger community. They just got mine to me yesterday. I encourage others to check out some of the stories. Many are quite powerful. Check it out at the link below, and share your story…



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Return to Triathlon

After a 10 month hiatus, the short Minnesota triathlon season returned. A few images from the event…








The Swim:







The Bike:




The Run:






The Finish:




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Race Report: Lifetime Minneapolis Triathlon (Sprint)

July 11, 2015
Minneapolis, MN
Triathlon #12
Event #77

To say that I was undertrained for this event would be an understatement. Ironman Wisconsin severely burnt me out on triathlon at the end of last season. I needed a break, and the northern winter was happy to accomidate. In an effort to keep myself off the couch, I focused my energy of the one discipline that I could easily carry me into fall and winter…running. The plan was mostly successful. I ran three marathons and a 50k since Madison. My swimming and cycling languished. I got into the pool on occasion and made a few painful rides on the bike trainer. But I really did no “training” until after my 50k…one month ago.

Here are my swimming and cycling stats since Madison (over 10 months ago):

Bike Trainer: 7 sessions
Cycling: 3 times (all in the past month)
Pool Swimming: 11 times (5 times since June, before that…January)
Open Water Swimming: Not Once…

Yep. That is over ten months of training. At least I was running consistently.

To complicate my return to triathlon training, a few open water issues have recently emerged.

The first is Swimmers Itch. For those who are unfamiliar with it, swimmers itch is caused by a parasite that lives in shallow open water. It burrows under the skin and causes an allergic reaction…resulting in a very itchy rash. It pops up yearly as water tempuratures climb. When it shows up in a lake, it generally gets posted. This has been the worst year for swimmers itch in a long time. This killed any motivation of jumping into a local watering hole.

The second concern is much rarer, but potentially deadly. A parasitic amoeba (which has almost never been reported this far north) had infected and killed three otherwise healthy people after swimming. It enters thru the nose and gets into the brain causing swelling and encephalitis. With 10,000+ lakes in MN…most of which are popular with swimmers, the odds are very low. But this has also kept me out of the water.

OWS (open water swims) are also a logistical issue for me. I don’t swim alone, and I don’t have a swim buddy. So, my OWS tend to be at congested beaches with lifeguards present. This is not ideal. But OWS are so much different then pool swimming that they are essential for triathletes.

Well, not this triathlete, not this year.

Suffice to say, I was undertrained. My goal was to make todays event a useful training session for the rest of the season. I also just wanted to enjoy myself. Ironman was wonderful, but I needed a break, and that break needed to end…or I would not return to the sport.

Good thing I only signed up for the sprint (short course)!

I drove to Lake Nokomis the day before the race for the mandatory packet pick-up. These usually annoy me, but I understand the need at triathlons and at larger marathons. It helped me get back into the swing of triathlon. The triathlon rituals are different then running. There are a lot more moving parts. I got my bib and timing chip. I also got my race shirt (60% cotton…I don’t understand this), a truckers hat (for being one of the first 100 registrants) and a bonus tech shirt for participating in two of the three triathlons in this series. I love bonus swag! I then listened to the pre-race course talk. There is always a lot of useful info at these…road conditions, tight turns, aid station locations, rule summary, etc. Water tempurature was 75.8F. Cutoff for wetsuits is 78F…so it would likely be wetsuit legal (but not mandatory). Bikes could be dropped off, but not required (I elected to wait until race morning).

Finally, I checked out the expo. There was one item I wanted…a nose clip. Given the reports of life threatening parasitic encephalitis, this seemed like a reasonable precaution for $5. Never wore one before, and trying something new on race morning is never a good idea, but this seemed like a reasonable exception to the rule.

I returned to Lake Nokomis on race morning with all my gear (which I rechecked at least 5 times…I was out of practice). I got there insanely early. I arrived at 4:30 am. My wave would start at 8:16 am. Part of this timing is out of necessity. We are given a couple of hours or so to get our transition spot “race ready”. Transition “closes” at 6:30 am (15 minutes before the race starts). After that time, only racers transitioning from swim to bike, or bike to run, are allowed in. Transition opens at 4:45am. Parking would be a problem if I didn’t get there right when it opened.

Setting up transition for a sprint is much easier than an Ironman (or any longer distance event). Official water temp was announced as 76.0F. I elected to go without a wetsuit. There was a small area on the lake for warmup swims. I hop in…it was very pleasant without a suit. I put on the nose clip and take a few test strokes. I feel like I can’t breath. I am on the verge of a panic attack. I take it off and try again…no problems.mI try the clip a few more times…no change. I simply don’t have time to get used to this. I weight out the risk of encephalitis vs the risk of drowning if I panic. It’s a no-brainer…I put the clip away.

The weather starts out beautiful-sunny with no wind at all. While waiting for my wave to start, the clouds and the wind start to roll in. The lake was perfectly calm. Now, it was a little choppy. Nothing I can’t handle, but calm waters would have been nice.

I watch the elite start the long course, then all of the long-course age-groupers. Then there is a break in the action as they reset the course to the sprint. The first wave of sprint age-groupers started at around 8am. The other waves started lining up behind them. It was go time…

The Swim:
Our age group gets to the front. It is a time trial start. Two racers start every three seconds. I cross the mat and I am on my way. The goal of this race is to enjoy myself and to use it as a training day. As such, I don’t try to push myself too much in the water. Good thing. About a hundred yards out, I start getting a little anxious. This is normal when I haven’t been in the lake for awhile. There are no lines, nothing to grab on to, the waters are murky, and you make contact with other swimmers. Just knowing that you can’t touch the bottom and that there is nothing to grab hold of is a little intimidating. Getting jostled in my first lake swim in 10 months didn’t help. I could feel my right calf tightening up. I strained it a week or so ago. The wrong move and it sets up a charley house. I never even thought about this until now…and the thought of having a charley horse mid-swim wasn’t a welcome one. I forced myself to relax and to just find my stroke. I got into a groove and the tension melted away. I wasn’t pushing myself and I was ok with that today. I was passing some, and others were flying by me. For the most part, I barely noticed. I just went from one buoy to the next, trying to let my mind go blank. A couple of turns and I was sighting the “Swim Exit” arch. A few more minutes, and I was out of the water.

Swim Split (750 m) – 19:05
Age Group Rank – 25/44
Overall Rank – 388/648

I still wasn’t moving fast. I rarely do in transition. But I didn’t want to be the slowest one there either. I was close…

T1 Split – 5:52
Age Group Rank – 38/44
Overall Rank – 586/648

The Bike:
I get to the mount line and I get on the bike. I do this cautiously (out of practice clipping in). A couple of quick turns and I am on the first straightaway. Someone passes me… but I am passing quite a few. I glance down at my speedometer, and I am easily going 21 mph. I pass a few more people. I start feeing competative and start to hammer the bike. The course is COMPLETELY closed to vehicular traffic, but can get bumpy and narrow at times. It is mostly flat, but the short hills can kill your speed, as can the sharp and narrow turns. But, whenever I can, I push hard. My Garmin chimes at every 5 mile split while cycling. I almost never see a split time of 16:xx. This year, an 18:xx is the best I could do (most splits have been in the 22:xx minute range). So, I am thrilled to see a 16:10 pop up for my first 5 mile split. I keep pushing as hard as I can. My initial “training day” mentality was gone. I was determined to push it the rest of the way. I was rarely passed by anyone, but I was passing others quite frequently. Getting a hoarse voice from yelling “On Your Left” a lot is a good problem to have! My next two 5 mile splits were both 15:xx minutes! I was ecstatic!

Bike Split – 48:55 (18.4 mph)
Age Group Rank – 16/44
Overall Rank – 204/648

Still can’t move fast in transition…

T2 Split – 3:08
Age Group Rank – 34/44
Overall Rank – 486/648

The Run:
I knew that I aced the bike, and I was determined to carry this forward onto the run. The weather was getting a little warmer and I hit the aid station coming out of transition (first of the day). I drank the Gatorade and wore the water. I then found someone that was running faster then I wanted to move, and used them as a pacer. I was pleased to find that my legs were not Jello coming off the bike. The run course should have been straightforward…it was one lap around the lake with one “out and back” to make up the rest of the 5k distance. Only problem…nobody was directing traffic. I would estimate that about half of the runners that I saw missed the out and back. Everyone hitting that intersection had no idea where to go and many cut the course (by about a half mile). I ran the full distance. Many didn’t. I don’t think that anything was done to address the issue…although it is the race organizers that are to blame for this mess. I finished my run knowing that the results were tainted. Despite this, I was pleased with my effort and result.

Run Split – 26:28 (8:32/mile)
Age Group Rank – 19/44
Overall Rank – 227/644

Overall Result – 1:43:27
Age Group Rank – 23/44
Overall Rank – 287/648

Final Thoughts:
I had fun today. It is a beautiful course (it’s my favorite triathlon course) and my third time at this event. I have gained confidence and I have rediscovered my passion for triathlon. I also did much better then I expected given the state of my training. I never would have thought that the bike would be my strongest discipline in an event. This gives me a boost of confidence going into the heart of my triathlon season next month (3 triathlons and one duathlon in 16 days-all events are sprints).


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Race Report: Red, White & Boom Half Marathon

July 4th, 2015
Minneapolis, MN
Half Marathon #22
Event #76

This is one of those events that has become an annual tradition. Every 4th of July starts with an early morning Half Marathon to help justify any indulgences that the rest of the day may bring. It is a fun event. They have a BBQ (well, hot dogs) and ice cream post race. It is well run on a scenic course in north Minneapolis. It offers race day packet pickup (which is a big perk), nice bling, race shirt and pint glass to round out the amenities. It is always a little warm for this race, and this year was no exception. It got to around 70F with no wind and fairly high humidity. It was plesent, but warm enough to banish any thoughts of going for a PR. But that is never the goal with this race. I am usually in triathlon mode when this race rolls around, and I run it just for fun. I can usually complete a Half in just under two hours without too much difficulty and that was the conservative goal today.

Race organizers changed the course this year. Not sure why. It was fine but follows a similar route to almost every other race in north Minneapolis. It felt like Hot Chocolate 15k or Minneapolis Half Marathon…because it was.

I found my zone early and the miles slipped by. I was in my happy place. I wasn’t stressing about PR’s. It was just a beautiful day and great to be outside. I vaguely paid attention to my Garmin and knew that I was on track for a sub 2 hour finish. I inched up the speed in the final mile since I knew I was cutting it close.

Finish Time-1:58:47

Overall, it was a good race, and one I will continue in future years. The race day packet pickup is a big deal for me (1 hour drive time each way is motivating me to avoid races that don’t have this option).

Next weekend, triathlon season starts! Lifetime Minneapolis Triathlon is one of my favorite events on the calendar and has a spectacular course. Can’t wait!


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