Monthly Archives: August 2015

Can Anyone Loan Me A Few Thousand SAU’s (Spousal Approval Units)???

I first came across the term “Spousal Approval Unit” (SAU) on Facebook while triathlon training. The concept is that Triathletes (especially Ironman wannabes like me) have a very expensive and time consuming hobby that can be VERY selfish. This can lead to some marital discord (ie: when I would only show up at home long enough between training sessions to plunder the savings account and sign up for another race). The concept of the SAUs is to understand that you (the athlete) need to engage in some give and take to make a marriage successful. As a triathlete, you are going to be doing a whole bunch of taking and you better start keeping track of how much and make some kind of effort to set up a re-payment plan (both personally and fiscally).

Think of it as a home equity loan from the bank. You better have a financial plan set up to repay the loan before then bank forecloses. Most of us think that we are paying the SAU debt back aggressively while we are just barely making the monthly payments (and then borrowing more).

I thought SAUs were a joke.

Then I did an Ironman.

It is very easy to get very wrapped up in that and get very self centered. Fortunately, I have a very loving and supportive family who encouraged my dreams, and let me be successful.

So, post-Ironamn, I made a promise to myself that I would cut back on the travel and the expenses for the next few years.

Then, the DisneyLand Star Wars Half Marathon came around. I love Disney and I am a total Star Wars geek. I “needed” to run it. I justified it to myself that it would be my one and only big running trip of the year. Everything else would be local. Just like that, I made a big withdrawal on the overdrawn SAU line of credit.

So, of course, Disney just announced a second Star Wars race (this one in Florida) to complement the one in California. Three more races, five more medals (including a special Coast to Coast medal).

Lets be clear, this mental balence sheet that I am tracking is something in my own head. My wife is very loving, generous, and supportive and does NOT keep track of every purchase and race registration. But I keep a mental log to make sure that I am not being overly abusive of that generosity. I just know that there have been a lot of withdrawals over the last few years, and I need to stop making such large and frequent SAU cash advances. I can’t even think of a way to justify this new one (and I am trying hard not too…)

So, if anyone has a few thousand extra SAUs floating around, I could sure use a donation. Alternatively, anyone know a good 12 step program for running or Disney that might help???

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Race Report: Lifetime Maple Grove Sprint Triathlon

August 22, 2015
Maple Grove, MN
Triathlon #15
Event #82

I was passing an aid station 1 mile into the run when it hit me. Swimming season was over. Cycling season was over. And, in a couple of more miles, triathlon season would be over as well.

It seemed kind of anticlimactic…

In 2012, I capped my first triathlon season by earning my first Ironman branded medal (Ironman Steelhead 70.3).

In 2013, after two more 70.3, I successfully complete the insanely hilly Ironman Muskoka 70.3, giving me the confidence to register for Ironman Wisconsin one week later (yes, the climactic ending to that season was sitting in front of a computer screen frantically hitting the refresh button).

In 2014, I ended the year by crossing the line in Madison and hearing Mike Riley announce that I was an Ironman.

This year, I ran 4 sprints and finished the year doing a local sprint.

Is it anticlimactic? Maybe.

Is that a bad thing? I don’t think so…

I completed five 70.3’s and one full IM in the past three years. The training was intense and the races rewarding but brutal. After Ironman Wisconsin, I was burnt out. I had also grown a lot as a person and an athlete. Looking back, there was a clear trajectory to those three seasons. I feel that I have achieved what I needed from the longer events. I resolved some inner demons and insecurities. I  accept that I am a triathlete and that I am part of a community of other athletes. But I no longer feel that everything needs to be Epic. I don’t feel that I have to keep doing things bigger and wilder. I have achieved my goal. I also feel that I have closed the chapter and turned the page. I no longer feel the desire to run more Ironman events.

I am learning to just enjoy the sport again.

The training is more fun and flexible. I can ride or run when I wish. I can skip a workout if I want. I can still be prepared and compete. I can enjoy the interaction with other athletes and push myself to my limit, but without all the stress.

I am at peace.

Anticlimactic? Nah…

The race itself was good. Water temps dropped overnight to 71.4 F. It was cool enough to convince me to put on the sleeveless wetsuit. The winds were fierce and that did make for a significant current. Fortunately, there were no waves to speak of. It was a time trial start and we went off two by two every three seconds or so. Not much else to say. There was some contact, but minimal. I found my stroke and just plodded along until I hit the beach.

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Swim Split – 18:14 (2:15/100 meters)
221/527 overall

The bike was short (11 miles) with some rollers. The winds were crazy with some strong gusts. I can’t think of the last time that I had to work so hard to control my bike. We had a nice stretch of tailwinds, but the headwinds slowed me to a crawl and the cross winds threatened to knock me off of my bike if I was not careful. My bike skills are getting stronger. I am far from elite and bike handling still sucks (I get passed on every turn), but I can mount an attack on most hills (thank you Wisconsin!) and my voice gets hoarse from yelling “on your left” every few seconds (of course, many that I was passing were doing the Olympic course and were pacing themselves more conservatively).

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Bike Split – 35:45 (18.47 mph)
173/527 overall

The run is a 5k around the lake (mostly in residential neighborhoods). I tried to push myself and to reel in as many as I could. But I was getting passed as often as I was passing others. I am finding that my triathlon strategy tends to be attack on the bike and hold on as long as I can on the run.

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Run Split – 26:36 (8:34/mile)
220/527 overall

Final – 1:28:08
200/527

My transition remains my Achilles heel. It slows me down and I give back much of what I fought for. I will need to work on this next year.

But, for now, triathlon season is over. I will rack the bike (although I may get a chance for one or two more rides before the weather ends cycling season for good) and the wetsuit will be stored.

The final running push is upon me. No events in September, but October will bring a 1 mile, 5k, 10k, half marathon, and THREE full marathons before I can hit the off season. Triathlon may have ended pretty low key, but the running season promises to go out with a bang…

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The Final Training Push…

It had been an interesting few months. I had an intense running spring and a busy triathlon summer tailing into an intense running fall. This has resulted in odd training patterns. My last triathlon of the season is tomorrow, but I have not done any recent training swims or rides…opting instead to work on my run (and using one race as training for the next). Yesterday, I did a slow 21 miler. This would seem a little odd and early 6+ weeks out from a marathon, and two days out from a sprint triathlon. But I have 3 marathons in October (nothing in September), including 2 back to back marathons (2 marathons in one weekend).

So, what is the game plan?

Well, for starters, I need to be more careful in setting up my race schedule in the future!

Next, I viewed the triathlons as “fun” events and as an excuse to cross train. I stopped cross training a couple weeks ago when I hit the heart of triathlon season 3 races in 15 days), and focused on running. I figured that yesterday would be a good time for my last long run. Next week, I will shorten the run but will have back to back long runs each week to prepare for the back to back races. I will then stretch out my back to back runs. Next week will be 15 miles/18 miles, then 18/18, then 18/21, then taper.

Twin Cities Marathon will come three weeks later, with a 10k/5k/1 mile combo the day before (so, basically a 10.3 mile/26.2 mile combo). Then another quick taper heading into the dreaded 26.2/26.2 combo. I end the season two weeks later with a half marathon. I am looking forward to the downtime as planning and executing this schedule has been a challenging mess…

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Race Report: HITS-Waconia Sprint Triathlon

August 16, 2015
Waconia, MN
Triathlon #14
Event #81

For a nationwide series, this is a small event. That’s odd considering that it is the only event to have a full distance (aka: Ironman distance) triathlon in the state of Minnesota. There are 5 races over the weekend. Saturday sees the 70.3 and 140.6, Sunday has the sprint, Olympic and super sprint. There were 74 finishers in the sprint, 41 in the Olympic, 98 in the 70.3, and 50 in the 140.6. By comparison, there were 2400 at Ironman Wisconsin.

I won’t get into a huge rundown. The venue was acceptable, but boring. There was nothing spectacular, or awful, with the course. Transition was nice, with stools and bins for each athlete. I had a slow swim and a good bike and run again, finishing 30/74 overall. I was nowhere close to the podium in my age group. But, had I been in the younger AG (where I was last year) I would have been in second place. In fact, I would have been on the podium for any of the younger age groups. Unfortunately, my AG (M45-49) was deep and fast. And, unfortunately, so was M50-54, and M55-59. Bummer. I would like to get an age group award someday…but I am not exactly a podium threat…

A few other points about the race. The shirt and medal were specific to the venue, not the race distance…so the sprinters get the same swag as the Ironman finishers. The number of volunteers were few, the number of spectators was almost zero…

…and the entry fee was a steal. $40 for the sprint, $200 for a 140.6. So, for that price, I can handle a few corners being cut. I have signed up for next year’s race.

Less then a week to go, and swimming, cycling and triathlon seasons are over. Last event of the year is Lifetime Maple Grove sprint triathlon next Saturday. After that, I will have three short weeks to ramp up to three marathons in October…

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When Dreams Die (and When Are They Really Needed?)

A friend and fellow blogger posted about the power of dreams, and of dreaming big. He also wrote eloquently about having the courage to chase your dreams. He correctly argues that we should not fear failure in our decision to peruse our biggest dreams and to take a chance. Dreams can be empowering and can motivate us towards greatness. He then wished me luck in finding a new dream to peruse and success in perusing it.

I had to think about that one.

Rod an I are friends on blogs, on Facebook, and in life. We have similar backgrounds (obese and sedentary, finding fitness and running in our early forties). We both developed a passion for running. We both strived to improve our skills as we moved forward. We both found, at some point, a lofty goal (or dream) to compell us to push past our perceived limits.

Last year, I completed my dream of finishing an Ironman Triathlon. Rod is still striving to achieve his dream of qualifying for the Boston Marathon.

Both dreams were huge for two former couch potatoes. Both dreams were possible but had a significant risk of failure (for the record, I have no doubt that Rod will be successful. He has the genetics, the vision, the drive and the work ethic). This risk of failure pushes us harder and further…but only if the dream is fully alive in our hearts and minds.

At some point, dreams die.

They can die because of loss of interest, or due to other priorities, or from simple failure.

Dreams also die because of success.

i can think of no faster and more complete death then a runner crossing the finish line. Even when summit ink Everest, you have to get back down first. As soon as you break the tape (first marathon, first Ironman, first Boston or Kona finish, first 5k, etc.) the dream is over. Once accomplished, the dream is no longer a dream. It is a reality.

Dreams take up a LOT of room in your psyche. You may plan your day or week around it. You dream success, you dread failure, and you plan your life around the journey. When you succeed, all of that ends instantaneously. It is replaced (temporarily) by joy and elation which fades, and is replaced by a fact. That fact may help define who you are (marathon finisher, Boston Qualifier, Gold Medal champion, World Record Holder, etc) but takes up very little amount of space in your psyche. There is suddenly a lot of free room and empty space. There is a sense of loss and a “now what?”

Often, people simply try to accomplish that same dream again, or to be even more successful at it. They try to capture lightning in a bottle…again. I don’t think that way. I enjoy running marathons. But I have completed several and they have all blended together. It is no longer a dream. It is a reality. I can still enjoy the challenge, but it is different somehow.

That seemed to be my problem. I didn’t have a goal or dream. Without that, I lacked motivation, passion, identity.

I thought that I had a foolproof post IM strategy. I was tired of all the swimming and cycling, so I threw myself at my first love…running. It didn’t click. I kept dreaming up new goals. Cross country skiing, faster marathon finish time, 50 marathons in 50 states, ultramarathon. Nothing worked. I was going through the motions and hating every minute of it.

There are two sides to the dream coin. One side has the vision and the drive to accomplish something extraordinary. But on the flip side, it implies a dissatisfaction with the status quo. The “now” isn’t good enough, so we must vie for something better.

There are times that this is true, and that these challenges are worth the sacrifice. But, at some point, we are living the dream that we sought to find, and we blur past it looking for a new “better”.

My original dream was better health and fitness. I was never an athlete and struggled to accept that image of myself. I accept that now. Others will seek out my advice and preface it with the comment “You’re a runner”. I am at an ideal body weight, in good shape, and exercise regularly. Those are all things that I wanted to say but couldn’t four years ago. I have achieved my dreams. I have also achieved my dreams of a loving family, financial independence, an enjoyable career, and the respect of my colleagues and clients.

Why do I need to create a new dream to chase instead of simply enjoying the “now”? Why do I need a reason to run farther or faster, instead of just enjoying the simple act of running. Creating those artificial dreams and chasing them made me miserable.

I don’t need a new dream to chase at all times.

Dreams are organic. They germinate and grow slowly into a passion that you must pursue. It is best if you await their arrival. They tend to surprise you when they arrive. Those are the dreams will spark your imagination and push you to greater heights…

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Race Report: Graniteman-Big Lake Sprint Triathlon

August 8, 2015
Big Lake, MN
Triathlon #13
Event #80

I have never participated in a small town triathlon before. All of my events have been Ironman or Lifetime series events. I honestly had no idea what to expect. To say that everything was a little more relaxed would be an understatement. Same day packet pickup…cool! But you did not need ID to check in (they just read my name off the waiver I had signed). There was no numbering on the bike, and nobody checking you out of transition (and I don’t think transition ever closed). There were very few buoys on the swim course (with small and hard to see turn buoys). But I bumped into a few athletes I know and they had some very nice door prizes.

Let’s just say that this was not a USAT sanctioned event…

Water temp was “around 80” and wasn’t even announced at the athlete briefing. There was no discussion about wetsuit legal, people just wore what they liked.

I went without a wetsuit (haven’t even tried the damn thing on this year).

The weather would be cool to start then warm up. The atmosphere was a little unstable. It would get windy at times. Pop-up showers were possible.

The Olympic athletes went first, then the sprinters. It was a beach wave start.

The Swim:
Mostly uneventful. The waves were smallish, but there was contact. I zigzagged a bit since the buoys were small. The 1/3 mile course was really about 1/2 mile long.
Swim Time – 15:08 (1:55/100 yards).
170/299

T1:
Uneventful, but slow.
T1 Time – 3:46.

The Bike:
Pancake flat course with nice wide shoulders. There were rumble strips most of the times, so passing could get tricky. That slowed be down occasionally. The course passed within a mile of my front door. Pretty cool!
Bike Time – 46:08 (18.8 mph)
120/299

T2: Uneventful.
T2 Time – 2:04.

The Run:
It was getting warmer and muggier by this time, and I was starting to feel it. The course was a basic out and back along the lake. This too was pancake flat. There was a short section on grass at the beginning and end of the course. Otherwise, it was all on sidewalks.
Run Time – 27:42 (8:57/mile)
145/299

Overall Time – 1:34:47.
157/299

Overall, I was pretty happy with my splits (transitions were sluggish). Post race food was promised, but it was limited to fruit and cookies. Hamburgers and hot dogs were awailable for a fee. The t-shirt and medals were serviceable, but nothing special. I didn’t win a door prize (there were some nice ones…like a bike, race wheels, and a Garmin).

Overall, it was fun. The 5 minute commute from home was great. But the lack of supervision of our gear in transition is the deal breaker. Bikes are just too big of an investment to allow hundreds of them to just be sitting in an empty field.

Pleasantly surprised to see my bike split becoming my strongest discipline…

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…and Triathlon Season Just Got Shorter.

Just got an e-mail last night about the upcoming Minneapolis Duathlon. It just got postponed…until August 2016.

Cause of the postponement? Road construction.

Of course, they knew about this all year. There was a post on their FB page that the transition area was a construction site MONTHS AGO. They never responded…until now.

Things like this always seem to happen at Team Ortho events. It is almost expected (Minneapolis Marathon canceled due to sprinkles, Monster Dash timing mats not working so we e-mailed them our “official time”, “if you don’t want to run all the way to the turnaround, then turn back anytime…we won’t check” at the polar dash, etc.

This is why I had decided not to participate in any Team Ortho events after this season.

So, this leaves me with a decision. Do I run it next year (I had little motivation to do it this year, but was running it to complete the season race series…not an issue anymore), or do I just take the refund? I have already picked up my packet, and it includes a pretty damn awesome cycling jacket. I have the option of keeping it (partial refund) or returning it (full refund). Details about how partial the partial refund would be will be announced next week. There is also a series jacket that I am supposed to get which may be in jeopardy if I take the refund (details coming next week). So I may end up running it next year after all…

Yeah, I think I am done with Team Ortho…

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Let The Triathlon Frenzy Begin…

My multisport mini-season starts tomorrow. Four events (3 sprint triathlons and one sprint duathlon) in just 16 days. Living up north, triathlon season is short. Almost every event is in July and August (when it is warm enough to swim in the lakes), and if I want to participate in more then a couple of events, then they will stack up in a very compact amount of time.

It should be a fun (but hectic) couple of weeks. And then, before I know it, swimming and cycling season will be over.

I won’t have much time to rest however. I have no races scheduled for September, but with 3 marathons in October (plus a Half Marathon, 10k, 5k, and 1 miler), I will have a short window to ramp up my run game during the final big push of the season.

I should be a fun ride…

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Back To Back Long Runs: Round 2

With two marathons in one weekend (the I-35 Challenge: Kansas City Marathon October 17 and Des Moines Marathon October 18). I need to get some back to back long runs (and increase weekly mileage and running frequency…I know!) Last week was a disaster. I hated every moment. It felt like a chore. I cut the second run short and I went so far as to post that an injury would be a blessing so I could get out of running those races.

Well, Karma has a way…

Two days later I strained my back quite badly. I could work, but barely. I needed help tying my shoelaces. Yesterday, I almost took a DNS at the Minnesota Half Marathon due to the pain. However, the pain had improved enough that I took a chance and it paid off. I completed the Half (and got a new “personal worst” in the process). However, running helped the pain. I was almost pain free by the finish line.

This morning, I was a little stiff, but better then the last several days. The schedule called for a slow 18 miler. I decided to try. Unlike last week, I was enjoying it. I was slow, but I was having fun again. By the end of the run, I was pain free!

This has taught me a valuable lesson. Don’t take for granted the things you love. Whether they are skills, hobbies, work, pets, health, friends, or family. Sometimes we take things for granted, and don’t realize how fortunate we are until these gifts are gone or threatened.

With the turning of the calendar page, a new urgency has come upon me. I have 4 triathlons in the next 3 weekends. Back to back long runs will not be possible. I should have time for a single long run each of those weeks, but not two. After that, I will have three weeks of training available to me before the taper start for the Twin Cities Marathon/10k/5k/1 mile weekend, and that will be my last long run before the I-35 Challenge two weeks later. Time is getting short. But with back to back 13.1 miles and 18 miles, I should be able to ramp up the miles by race day…

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Race Report: Minnesota Half Marathon

August 1, 2015
St. Paul, MN
Half Marathon #23
Event #79

I made a prediction yesterday about the outcome of today’s race. “DNS (Did Not Start), DNF (Did Not Finish), or PW (Personal Worst)”.

My prediction was correct.

I strained my low back a couple of weeks ago. There was one day of serious pain, then lingering soreness. It was barely noticible when I re-injured it on Tuesday.

It was way worse the second time around. I could work, but barely. I got no sleep. Walking was a Herculean effort. Advil, muscle relaxers, stretching, scaldingly hot showers were the routine. By Friday, I could get it to relax after about four hours. I had done no exercise of any kind over the last four days. Things were not looking good for this morning’s event.

It only took me 30-45 seconds to get out of bed this morning…a definite improvement. I grabbed some Advil and a hot shower, then a heating wrap that I would wear until the start of the race.

Before leaving home, I slowly jogged down my long driveway and back. It hurt. Not a lot, but I didn’t run far either. This wasn’t a good sign.

I got there early, got my bib and just slowly walked around.

Walking hurt. Hills were not fun. Neither were stairs.

I did a little more stretching and a little more walking. Muscles were loosening up a little more. Back was tight, but not exactly painful. But I knew that one wrong move would drop me to my knees.

That’s when I did the “one wrong move”.

I didn’t see the curb. It was a short one, maybe two inches in height. But when my foot hit the concrete, a jolt went through my spine…but it didn’t drop me (it was close). I held on to a nearby pole, tried to slow my breathing and tried to relax. The spasm subsided. Only a little bit more sore.

That’s when I started to realize how colossally stupid I was being. One wrong foot-fall, and I would set myself back a week or more. This was a throwaway half marathon. My core triathlon season starts next weekend (4 races in 16 days). This could risk all of those events.

I almost left…but I couldn’t. I could not swallow the DNS. It might end up being a half-mile instead of a half-marathon, but I would try. I would go slowly. I would be cautious and conservative. I would walk if I had to. I would stop if I were making matters worse.

I lined up at the starting line. I joined the 2:30 pace group (My personal worst is 2:24), as 2:30 was the slowest pace group available. When I lined up, someone else in the group told me that I was in the wrong coral. I looked “too fast to be back here!” I was flattered but explained that this was my first run after an injury. I honestly didn’t think that I could finish, and that I would be walking a great deal. She wished me luck and told me to be careful. I honestly didn’t think I could hang for the whole race at that pace. I was serious about the walking. The race started with an out and back. I could easily bail after 5 miles. Of course, if my back did what it already did to me twice, I would be laying on the ground waiting for a sag wagon.

This was really stupid.

The gun went off and we eventually crossed the starting line.

There would be no DNS today.

The first half mile were proving to be a mistake. With every step, the back was tightening a little more. This might be a short event…

After that, the back stabilized. It was neither getting better or worse.

That’s when the next jolt hit.

It didn’t drop me, but it reminded me about how precarious my state of health was at that moment.

I continued at an 11:30 minute/mile pace (I was deliberately going as slow as I could) and the jolts continued…about 1-2 jolts/mile (for such minor transgressions as looking to the side, or a footfall on uneven pavement).

This continued for the first 4-5 miles. Then the spasms stopped. I have no idea why. The soreness was still there, but no worse the when I started. The slow plodding continued.

The sun was coming down on us and the shade was retreating (and I had forgotten to apply sunscreen). It was not oppressively hot, but it was getting unpleasantly warm. I started to wear the water at aid stations and drinking the Gatorade.

By mile 10, I had pulled away from my pace group. I was walking through the aid stations, but running the rest. It was at that point that I noticed something. My back wasn’t bugging me. My feet, ankles, calves, thighs, hips, knees, and neck were all in more discomfort then my low back.

I thought about speeding up, then thought better of it. I carried on, looking at my Garmin and doing some mental math. It would be close, but it would be a personal worst.

It was, but not by much.

There was no DNF today.

Finish Time – 2:25:33 (old PW – 2:24:54).

I correctly predicted the PW, but still very pleased with the results. It was a recovery run, and the back feels great.

Sometimes, in this sport, we have to re-evaluate the definition of victory. This was not a traditional victory for me, but it was a victory…

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