Category Archives: Flashback

A look back at my journey so far.

Flashback Fridays 28: Full Circle

February 10, 2014-Started 30 week Ironman training program.

February 14, 2014-Started “Road To Madison” blog.

This was my first time following a formal training program. I was inspired to blog about it by a fellow runner. I had no delusions that anyone would actually read it, but this was mostly a training log to help keep me accountable. It was probably the best thing I ever did. So many times, I considered skipping a workout or taking the easy way out. But, knowing that I would have to be accountable for that on this blog, I crawled out of bed and trained. Looking back at my posts reminds me of my journey and how far I have come. The whole thing just helped to keep me motivated and moving forward.

Flashback Fridays was a nice trip down memory lane, and it also helped remind me of all of the changes that I have made. But, the backstory has been fully told. From obese couch potato to Ironman hopeful, Flashback Friday has been my tale up to the start of this blog, and the rest of the entries tell the rest of the story. Flashback Fridays will now be retired, since there is nothing more to tell. There is only one more chapter…and it has not yet been written. Next week, I will be in Madison making final preparations and blogging all about it.

For those who have followed my journey, I thank you for your interest and your feedback. Whatever happens next week, this journey has been worth it. And the end is in sight. I am measuring success by crossing the starting like. Everything after that will be a celebration of my journey. Every stroke, every step, every stride will be my victory. And, if all goes well, I will be an Ironman…

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Flashback Fridays 27: Winter Training

October 2013-February 2014.

My main events for 2013 were complete. I had one race left…the Monster Dash Half Marathon. This would be 6 days after the Detroit Marathon, and my first race as a Marathon Maniac. I was doing this since it is the last race of a local series that I participate in. I would be a sort of victory lap for me.

Legs were tired for that one, and it was cold. The day was otherwise beautiful. The expo was tiny, but I signed up for the entire series again for 2014. Left the expo with a bag full of swag (Team Ortho races are a mess, but they always have the best gear). The race was nothing special. They had too many runners, too many races on the same course at the same time, the timing company had technical problems so many did not receive an official chip time (we e-mailed them, and they basically gave us any time we submitted). Another typical Team Ortho train wreck. But, it was still a fun race.

Finish Time: 2:00:58.

Monster Dash

Weather was holding out. No snow yet. I did one late season add on race…the Turkey Trot 10k. This was part of another series. They have great medals and I was one race shy of getting the series jacket. Otherwise, nothing special. Just another race pushing my running as deep into the season as possible.

Finish Time: 56:59.

Then, it started to snow, and got very cold.

My formal Ironman Training program would start in February, but I needed to maintain fitness until then. I did take a week off of all training. I got a pair of Yak Tracks, but rarely used them. I injured my ankle running in snow and uneven footing the previous winter. I wasn’t going to do it again. So, I got a membership at the local community center and started to use their (small) indoor track for my longer runs, and my treadmill for shorter runs. I kept swimming once a week until the training program started and I bumped myself up to twice weekly. I did a couple of really long swims and got some severe abdominal pain afterwards. I was swallowing a lot of air when I was breathing. Over time, this corrected itself. I put my bike on an indoor trainer and started spinning. I watched a lot of movies that winter, but would only let myself watch if I was spinning too.

My first race of 2014 was the January 1st Polar Dash (Team Ortho series race). This was the second year in a row of brutally cold temps (wind chill in the -30 range both years). I was doing the 14 miler (14 miles in 2014 theme). Having a race every couple of months during the off-season helps to keep me motivated. It was sunny and horribly cold. They did a good job of getting rid of most of the snow and ice (we had a snowstorm the day before the race). The heating tent didn’t really work. They announced that runners can and should turn around at anytime and they would still award you a finishers medal. I did the full 14 miles (I didn’t want a medal I didn’t earn). It hurt, but the bragging rights are eternal.

Finish Time: 2:34:51.

Once that was done, I reviewed the book “Be Iron Fit” by Don Fink. This would be my training bible for 2014. It would start in February (right around my 2 year “Runniversary”). Until then, I would have early mornings full of spinning, swimming, track and treadmill. I had about 6 weeks of maintenance training before the formal plan kicked in. Then, I started the plan, and I started this blog…

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Flashback Fridays 26: Detroit Marathon

October 20, 2013.

Welcome home.

Yep, my hometown race. Coming from Windsor, this was exciting. I could combine this race with a visit with family and friends. I would cross the border twice (Ambassador Bridge going into Canada, and the Windsor-Detroit tunnel coming back to the states). Neither is usually open to pedestrians, so this would be a treat.

The visit home was nice, but brief. I decided to spend the night before the race in a hotel in the states…crossing the border race morning could be a big traffic jam that I wanted to avoid.

So, I packed up and said goodbye and went to the expo. It was your typical big marathon expo. Lots of vendors and tantalizing gear. One thing I needed was something to carry my ID. All of our registration information was review by Canadian Customs and Homeland Security and we were pre-approved to enter and leave the country. However, we could be pulled aside at the border and we MUST have ID. I did pick up a new running belt for this purpose. They also had previous years finishers shirts (long sleeved) for a few bucks. I picked up a couple (my rule for finishers shirts is that I only wear finishers shirts that I earned at events, but can wear finishers shirts from any year when I train…as long as I actually completed that event at some point).

Picking up the bib, you had to show ID that you could use at the border (ie: passports, but not drivers licenses) and you had to pick it up in person. Some bibs had a slip attached indicating that you needed to talk to an immigration officer before getting your bib…but this was rare. I got my bib and was done in about 10 seconds.

A friend and fellow runner joined my at the expo. It was great catching up and swapping stories. She had fractured her heal and tore her plantar fascia during a recent race in Africa. She hobbled on a broken foot for the last 10 miles and finished the race. She didn’t even know that the foot was broken until she got home and saw her doctor. Damn, she’s a tough one! After saying goodbye, I headed to the Olive Garden for carbs and back to the hotel.

I was up early the next morning. The hotel granted me a late checkout so I would have time to come back and shower after the race. I headed downtown early and found my way to event parking (many had trouble finding parking and a lot of unofficial lots were charging a ton of money to park). I was one of the first at Cobo Hall (site of the expo) and the building was open to runners pre-race. It was a cold morning, so I appreciated the opportunity to stay warm. Finally, I headed out to the start corals.

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It was still dark when the race started. That is deliberate. One of the highlights of the race is a couple of miles later when we cross the Ambassador Bridge at sunrise. It was a bottleneck and it was one tough hill. But the view is one of the best I have experienced, and is worth running the race for this alone.

The stretch in Canada was great. We ran along the riverfront and the crowd support was wonderful. A quick loop through downtown and we entered the “underwater mile” in the Windsor-Detroit tunnel. It was great to run it but was quite warm in there. Everyone was unzipping jackets and taking off hats and gloves, which went right back on as we came close to the exit.

Crossing the border each way was interesting. Some security officers were cheering and giving high-fives. Most had their hands on their guns and scanning the crowd intensely. It was a very unique part of the race.

We then toured a little bit of Downtown Detroit. We went through some well known neighborhoods and the route kept us out of the blight. I can count on one hand the number of boarded up buildings that I saw. The organizers did a good job of showing off their city.

We approached the halfway point. Since there are three races combined together (full marathon, and 2 half marathons), there was a split at the 13 mile mark. My legs were tired from my recent Twin Cities Marathon, and I longed to just head for the finish. But I still had a long way to go. We passed the split and reached the starting line for the “U.S. Only” half marathon. Those runners had already started. The next few miles were the “miles for the sake of miles” part of the course. It was a straight line down a wide road. No blight, but nothing special. We then did a loop through “Indian Village” which is a very nice neighborhood. The run got interesting again as we got to the waterfront. Detroit has done a great job in beautifying this stretch. It was a wonderful stretch with amazing views of Windsor. We then crossed the bridge to Belle Isle. I had never been there before, but it was lovely parkland.

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By this point, my legs were cramping up bad. We were at mile 20 and I lost my pace group again. I was stretching at every rest stop. We left Belle Isle and headed back downtown. Crowd support was great. Volunteers were awesome. My legs…not so great. But, I kept it together and got my second slow marathon finish time in two weeks.

Finish Time 4:49:42

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The post race food was adequate. The medal is awesome. I didn’t linger as I needed to get back to the hotel and to the airport.

…and, I had just qualified to be a Marathon Maniac!

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Flashback Fridays 25: Twin Cities Marathon

October 6, 2013.

I wasn’t planning on running this. My fall marathon would be Detroit in 2 weeks. However, I had recently qualified for the Half Fanatics. That made me want to become a Marathon Maniac as well. To qualify, I had to run 2 marathons within 16 days, or 3 marathons within 90 days. TC marathon was 15 days away from Detroit. Being my hometown marathon, it added no travel expenses…just more physical pain and suffering. It was the only opportunity if could see of completing this within the next year.

I had already run the TC marathon last year, and it’s a beautiful race. But it has a big hill at the end, making it not PR friendly. That wasn’t my goal. Yesterday, I ran fast, and smashed my 5k PR. Today was about running far.

The expo was nice as always. Packet pick up was smooth. The whole weekend was cold and rainy.

A friend and coworker was running the 10 miler. Her husband and a couple of mutual friends were coming down to cheer her on. They offered to drive me even though she would be done hours before me.

We headed down to the Metrodome. It’s open to runners pre-race to get organized and stay warm. We were both on the corporate team and went down for our group photos.

She went to her start line. I would start an hour later.

The weather had not improved by the time I started. I went over to my coral and picked a pace team. The group I chose was a little bit overly optimistic.

The first part of the race was great. It really is a beautiful urban course. We wound thru the Minneapolis urban jungle before emerging at the chain of lakes. By this time, my overzealous coffee consumption was catching up with me. No porta potties but plenty of bushes where other runners had the same idea. I ran into the bushes, and managed to run right thru a huge clump of burrs. When I emerged, I noticed that I had thousands of them all over me. Man, do those things cause some serious chafing! The next 15 miles, I was focused on plucking them off of me…

Around mile 10, we hit a bottleneck, and we got packed in pretty tight. We were so tightly packed that the runner behind me clipped the back of my foot pulling my shoe right off my foot! I had to circle back, find it, wade thru the oncoming runners, retrieve the shoe, and get it back on. That was the last I saw of my pace group.

By mile 17, my legs were cramping and the rain had started. I stored my ipod in a ziplock bag and kept going.

Mile 21, the long hill. This killed my remaining energy. It was a death march from that point on. A mile later, I saw my friends and stopped for a couple of minutes to chat. That gave me a little boost. It didn’t last long. My legs were in rough shape. I was stopping to stretch every mile or so. Finally, the finish line was in sight.

Finish Time-4:42:56

I grab my medal, shirt and food. Got better food in the corporate tent. Retrieved my drop bag and met up with my friends for the ride home.

Step one of my Marathon Maniac quest was complete…

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Flashback Fridays 24: Twin Cities 5K

October 5, 2013.

It was a cool fall morning. Looked like rain.

I didn’t care.

Ever since Disneyland, I had been haunted by the 5k.

It was a PR, and a big one.

And, it was an untimed fun run. I forgot to look at the clock. I forgot to click my Garmin. I had no idea what my PR was. Low 24 minute range was my best guess.

I signed up for this event for only one reason…redemption. I needed to get an official PR. I would sprint the whole thing, or fall over trying.

Weather was perfect. I had access to to the Corporate Team Challenge tent. Sweet. Private bag check, food, coffee, porta-potties.

I got ready, and posed for the team photo. Lined up as close to the start as I could, and flew out of the gates.

I was passing a lot of runners. I kept looking at the Garmin and telling myself that it wasn’t fast enough. I would look ahead and find someone a little faster then me, and force myself to keep up.

The rain started. I barely noticed.

It was an out and back run. At the turnaround, I was finally able to see those behind me. There were a lot of people. I could not believe what I was accomplishing. But the race was only half done. I tried to push myself a little harder. I can finally see the finish line.

A co-worker had come out to cheer me on and to take a photo at the finish. Her camera was still in her purse. She had not expected me so soon. I wave but don’t slow down.

I cross the finish line a few seconds later, finally understanding what it is like to completely leave everything you have on the course.

Finish Time: 23:29

Age Group Place: 10/79

Overall Place: 149/2447

Allina Corporate Team Place: 1/45

I spent the rest of the day amazed with the result. I had always viewed myself as a slow runner. This changed my opinion. I was getting better at the short course. I was getting faster…

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Flashback Fridays 23: Committing to Ironman Wisconsin

September 16, 2013.

Click.

Refresh.

11:58 am.

Click.

Refresh.

“Opening Soon”

Click.

A week had passed since Ironman 70.3 Muskoka.

Click.

For two years, I had been undecided about whether or not I should do this…or could do this.

“Opening Soon”

I had dreamed about it. I have had nightmares too. Lots of uncertainty and doubt…

11:59am

This last year had been a test. Four marathon, two century rides, multi-day endurance events…

Click.

…and three Ironman 70.3.

Refresh.

Kansas proved I could take the heat. Racine proved that I could take the waves. And Muskoka proved that I could handle the toughest bike course.

“Opening Soon”

I had passed every challenge. But, here I am, at my computer, hoping that I have the chance to register and still wondering if this such a good idea.

12:00

Will I be able to stick to the training?

Click.

Am I really an athlete now? Or am I kidding myself?

Refresh.

Why am I doing this?

“Ironman Wisconsin-Registration Open-Click Here”

I can’t think about this anymore. Time to make a choice…

.

..

…click.

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Flashback Fridays 22: Ironman 70.3 Muskoka

September 7, 2013

This was my last triathlon of the year. It would also be the hardest.

It was a 2 day drive just to get there. The only reason I could justify it was that I could combine it with a trip home to see the family.

I was the hilliest course of the year…by far. Official bike elevation 2660 feet. Garmin bike elevation was over 4000 feet. On a 56 mile course. This would be a brutal challenge!

It would also be my biggest test. Registration for the 2014 Ironman Wisconsin was scheduled to open the next day. If I could handle this bike course, then it would likely be ready for Wisconsin the next year.

The race was held at the Deerhurst Resort in Muskoka. Transition was in their front parking lot. I was able to stay at the resort which made life really easy. I arrived, parked, checked into the hotel, crossed the hall and checked in for the triathlon, went a couple doors down for the Ironman Store and the orientation talk. The optional pre-race buffet was right there too. Hopped on to the elevator and went to my room.

The next day, I racked the bike in the front parking lot and drove the bike course. It was very hilly…and amazingly beautiful! It was your basic lollipop course. Ride the stick out, do a loop (in this instance, the loop was a lap around the lake of bays) and then ride the stick back.

I checked out the swim and run as well. The lake was pristine and crystal clear. There wasn’t a ripple on the surface of the water. Water was cool, but a sleeveless wetsuit would do the job. The run was a little dull. A 4 mile run down a highway into town and then 4 miles back. The rest of the course was through Huntsville and was quite lovely.

Weather was forecasted to be practically ideal. I little cool for the bike, perfect for the run. Sunny. No wind. After all the weather issues this year, this was a nice change of pace.

Race morning arrived. Weather was as promised. I went out the front door, walked 20 yards and was in transition. I got my area set and went back to my room. I had some breakfast while getting on my wetsuit and watching TV. I could get used to this!

When the race start was approaching, I took the 5 minute walk to swim start. It was another in-water wave start. Again, it was a little cool, even with the wetsuit, but I would warm up quickly enough.

The horn went off and I found my rhythm. It was so nice to be able to see the bottom of the lake and not feel like you were in a washing machine! The last leg of the swim went into the marina and there was the smell of gas and oil. Otherwise, a beautiful swim…

Swim Split: 44:10

Yay! Wetsuit strippers! (Boo! They punched a hole in my wetsuit!). Then, there was a long run to T1. Ashphalt path, gravel, uphill. That took awhile. Once I got there, took a little extra time since I needed to get some warmer gear.

T1 Split: 14:28

I feared the bike. This was the make or break leg for me and I knew it would be grueling! But, it was also just so beautiful that it made it rather serene. The birds were out and singing. The sun was bright. I hated seeing the lake…it meant that I had gone as far downhill as I could go and it was time to climb again. Many of those climbs were grueling. I was frequently standing while peddling in granny gear (had not done that all season…even on the “dam(n)” hill in Kansas!) It was also quite technical. Many downhills ended at a turn, so you had to slow down for the turn then grind your was up the next hill. The course was also 2.5 miles too long (extra time was allowed for this). It doesn’t seem like much, but after 56 hilly miles, 2.5 extra hilly miles are not easy. I was relieved to see that I survived the bike…

Bike Split: 3:42:27

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Uneventful transition.

T2 Split: 7:58

The run was a mile out of the resort, 4 miles highway (was getting a little warm to run…especially with bright sunlight and no shade) before doing a scenic 3 mile loop through downtown Huntsville and heading back. The run was not as hilly as the bike, but was far from flat. Overall, it was a good run considering the bike ride I just survived.

Run Split: 2:24:52

Final Result: 7:14:05

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Post race meal was amazing. So much great food, I could barely finish!

Afterwards, I headed to the room and had a shower. I met a online friend for the first time. We were virtually introduced by my cousin about a year and a half earlier. We have a lot in common. We have both overcome significant weight issues and have changed from sedentary and gluttonous lifestyle to one that is very fit and active. He is a real runner…he has an amazing level of dedication and training. He also has phenomenal finish times at all distances and has evolved into an Ultramarathoner as well. He has been my inspiration and a huge source of support over the past year and a half…especially during my injury and recovery. I finally got a chance to meet Rod and his partner in person as they came up from Toronto to meet me post race.

A great night of good food and fellowship followed as we swapped war stories well into the evening.

Rod

With this finish, I became a rated ironman athlete. 1574/4310 in my age group (U.S.) and 4541/10105 worldwide.

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Overall, this was a great way to end the triathlon season and give me a good shot of confidence heading into 2014.

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Flashback Fridays 21: Dumbo Double Dare

August 31-September 1, 2013

Back to Disney.

Disneyland this time.

I don’t typically travel for Half-Marathons. But I am bling motivated and a sucker for marketing. The new D3 at Disneyland gives 3 medals for 2 races. If i do it the same calendar year as Goofy Challenge in Florida, I also get the Coast to Coast Challenge medal (aka, the “we challenge you to spend more of your money at our parks this year” challenge). There is also a 5k to bring the medal haul up to 5. I was signed up before I completed my first race at WDW.

There was a problem with how they had decided to schedule the races. They made no effort to allow people to run all 3 races. The 10k started 45 minutes after the 5k. So, we had to run the 5k, get through the finish area, loop back to the 10k start and get into the right coral before the 10k started 45 minutes later. We had no idea if the 10k start and 5k finish would be anywhere near each other. I signed up first (it all sold out within a day) and then, I hoped for the best. A Facebook group formed of like minded runners trying to share intel and plot strategy.

The expo was cramped. This was a much smaller venue then WDW. Lots of endless standing in line and waiting. They had toughened the coral placements qualifying times from WDW. I had a 1:59:43 HM time which got me coral A at WDW, and coral B at DL. Fortunately, I had improved my time and was able to upgrade again.

I checked out the start/finish area and it looked pretty close and straightforward to go from the 5k to the 10k. Good. There would be no time to spare. I then spent the day at Disney California Adventure.

I head down to the start on race morning #1 (5k/10k). I get there early and check out the lay of the land. I meet up with the FB group and we start to head to the starting area. There are no corals. Simple concept…get as close to the starting line as we can. Lots of weaving but we get within 3-4 people from the start. This was an untimed fun run, and I would have to sprint it. How ironic.

Gun went off and I took off at a flat-out sprint pace. Goal was to get ahead of everybody except those who truly belonged ahead of me. It didn’t take long to leave almost everyone behind. There were character photo stops that I ignored. I got lost once in the parks since there was nobody around me. So this is how it felt to be a front-runner. Wow!

I get to the finish. There is no official time. There is a clock at the finish. I forget to look up. I forget to click the stop button on my Garmin. I don’t slow down…I had a 10k to get to. I grab the medal and stop for a finish line photo. I grab post race food on the fly.

It was my fastest 5k ever…and I can’t even guess what my finish time was. That would come back to haunt me…

I head towards the start corals. It is a sea of people and no one is moving. I walk around but can’t get to where I need to be. I start to panic. A few minutes later, I realize that we are penned up and they haven’t even opened the gates to get to the corals. That was a bit of a relief.

I finally get to where I need to be. I am wearing the 5k medal since I have nowhere to stash it. I notice a few others doing the same. We are getting some funny looks! The 10k is a lot less chaotic. I stop at the photo stops. I take it easy. I enjoy the sights that I didn’t even notice the first time around. Weather is great, and I start to enjoy myself after the pressure of the back-to-back races is lifted.

Finish Time: 1:03:32

I get my medal, food, head back to the hotel, shower and change before heading back to the parks (DisneyLand this time).

Race Day 2-Disneyland Half Marathon

This day was a little more normal. Definitely a big race vibe. Huge number of people, huge corals. Got a few pre-race group photos and hopped into coral A. It would be a slow run. I was stopping at every photo stop…all were in the parks and in the first four miles. Then there would also be a lap through Angels Stadium, and about 8.5 miles of…not much.

And it would be a hot one!

Start of the race was much like the last two. Lots of photo stops, including my favorite ever race photo…being captured be Stormtroopers. The pic in Cars Land is another favorite. Often, there was barely 100 yards between photos.

Then, the parks ended. They did the best they could. There were two miles of classic cars on display. Running through Anaheim Stadium was a treat. But, otherwise, pretty boring, pretty hot and pretty sticky. I made no effort to pick up the pace. This was a long slow run and nothing more. The previous long day and the heat had drained the speed out of me.

The finish was a welcomed sight. I got my HM medal. I had collected two wristbands over the last 24 hours. The first confirmed that I completed the 10k. It was clipped off and I received the Dumbo Double Dare medal. The other proved that I ran in WDW earlier in the year. That was clipped for the C2C challenge medal.

Finish Time 2:25:53

Got my food and hung out a little. My last stand at Disney. First time I have been here since I was twelve. It was a nice merger of my childhood love of Disney and Star Wars, and my current passion for running. But, it was time to move on. I grabbed my gear and headed back to the hotel and then for the airport and home.

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Flashback Fridays 20: Ironman 70.3 Racine

July 21, 2013

Background:
This looked like a fun event. Swim was in Lake Michigan which can be interesting. But I did another Ironman 70.3 in Lake Michigan last year and the swim was wonderful. The bike course is flat and one of the easiest in all of Ironman. The run was flat too. The big variables were Lake Michigan, and weather (tempurature can be very hot and we were riding a heat wave going into this weekend).

Pre-Race (Friday):
I left Minneapolis on Friday for the drive to Racine. I knew I would be passing through Madison (home of the full Ironman Wisconsin) and wanted to drive the 112 mile bike course just in case I ever decide do to an event that crazy. I left early and the drive was fine. Got into Madison and parked the car. Noticed I did a bad parallel parking job, so I jumped back in, turned the key, and…nothing. Battery was dead. Called AAA, waited over an hour, got jump started, got the battery tested, and it wasn’t holding a charge (it’s 7 years old, so that wasn’t a surprise). Got it swapped out. Over 2 hour delay, but finally made it to the bike course. It’s a brutal two loop course. My Garmin got an elevation gain of just over 5000 ft (side note-I don’t trust the elevation gain data anywhere…everyone get’s different data. Ironman reports about 3000 ft gain. I find I get about double of what race directors report, but my Garmin and other people’s Garmin’s tend to give similar data. Anyways, any elevation gains reported here will be my unofficial data). By comparison, Kansas was 3000 ft gain (for half the distance). So, on paper, Kansas is just as hard or harder (except that you have to do Wisconsin twice). I did Kansas last month and got a good time, but it kicked my butt, and I don’t think I could have done it twice. From there, I made my way to Racine.

Pre-race (Saturday):
I got up early, and drove the bike course. Nice flat course (1100 foot elevation gain). Roads were in fair condition…and very bumpy. Afterwards, I went to the expo, got the bib, chip, shirt, and I buy a couple things. I went to transition and checked-in the bike. The heat wave had broken and temps were supposed to be in the mid 70’s on race day. The lake temp bottomed out though. it was mid 70’s the last few days, but the water “turned over” and the temp dropped to 59-61 degrees. I bought some neoprene boodies and headgear just in case. In bed early.

 

Racine Swim

Race Day (Sunday)-Pre-Race:
Got up at 1:30. Got ready and left. Wanted to get there early due to limited street parking and parking ramps were a couple of miles away. Got there an hour early and had time to re-check my gear. Got in when transition opened and got all set up and started the 1 mile walk down the beach to the start. The swim course was straightforward. Swim a couple hundred yards out, then swim parallel to the shore for a little more then a mile and swim back to shore. The water had warmed up a little (66.5 degrees) but the surf was pretty intense. Lots of crashing waves. We were reassured that the water was actually pretty smooth farther out where we would be swimming. They lied.

Race Day-The Swim From Hell (or The Swim Through Hell):
I was in wave 15, plenty of time to watch others starting. You could actually walk past the waves before it got too deep, so that helped. My turn came, and I lined up at the back. Walked past the sandbar and dove in. There was one buoy before the turn buoy. By that first one, I knew this would be hard. The waves and current was strong. I was gulping water every time I tried to breath. Getting anywhere took a lot more work then it usually would. I had to grab hole of the turn buoy to catch a breather (note: you can stop and rest anytime you want and hang on to anything…as long as you don’t use it to make forward progress). I thought that it would get easier since I would be going parallel to the shore instead of into the waves. I was wrong. Made it halfway to the next buoy and had to grab a kayak. The lifeguard was very friendly and supportive. I talked about quitting, but she reassured me that it was perfectly OK to just go from buoy to buoy and kayak to kayak. I could stop for a break at each one if needed (I have done multiple triathlons, swimming is a strength and have never grabbed a buoy or kayak…this was very new for me). She noted this was hard water to kayak in, and was the second worst she had seen the lake this year. Great. So I caught my breath, tried to relax, slowed down my breathing, spotted to next buoy and moved on. I stopped at every single buoy and kayak. Some were farther then others. A couple of times, the water calmed down just enough that I could get into a rhythm, but it never lasted for long. I got to one buoy and panicked when I found there were no handholds. They were actually at the top and I spent way too much energy trying to flip it. I was in real trouble if I couldn’t. I was finally able to flip it and grab hold. I was about a quarter of the way at this point. I always had a lot of company at these rest stops. Kayakers were great. By the half way point I noticed that I was wheezing. I have exercise induced asthma, but it never bothered me on the swim before. That was a game changer. It wasn’t of full out attack, but I knew that it could happen at any time. My arms were pure lead by this point, and all forward progress was painful. I was coming up to a kayak and really needed the break. Someone else was already hanging on. As I came within a couple of feet, the swimmer freaked and said her leg was cramping up. She tried to get on the kayak (bad idea) and flipped the kayaker. I watched in horror as he was trapped underwater. It looked like he was stuck about 20 seconds before he could wiggle out. Other boats came to help, but there was nothing for me to grab on to. While I was treading water, my right calf started to cramp up. I tried to relax it and it settle down. The next buoy wasn’t that far, but I didn’t think I could make it. But I had no choice. It wasn’t about racing anymore. I was in full blown survival mode. Somewhere, I got an extra bit of energy (adrenaline I guess) and was able to keep the panic at bay. I grabbed the handhold and knew I was safe. Decision time. Do I just wait and get someone to pull me out, or do I finish what I started. Took about 5 minutes. My breathing wasn’t getting any worse and I was able to slow it down, and I was able to calm down. Leg cramp had disappeared and I was 3/4 of the way. I spotted the next buoy and carried on. I grabbed a kayaker just before the final turn buoy. He told me the tough part was done. After the buoy, I would be just riding the waves into T1 (he lied). I swam to the turn buoy and it was very contested. Got punched and kicked a lot. Finally started towards shore. The waves were crashing into me and I could feel a bit of an undertow. I had to work so hard just to stay above water. Grabbed the next buoy and held on for my life. Asthma was really kicking in at this point. I could see the swim exit arch…so close but so far. Made my way to the final buoy and grabbed on like my life depended on it. About 20 yards away, swimmers could stand up. Let go and breast stroked the rest of the way. The waves were crashing over my head during this last stretch, then I could suddenly feel the sand under my feet.

Swim Split 1:05:52 (my usual is 40-45 minutes).

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T1:
I walked out of Lake Michigan completely spent and exhausted. I had to run a few hundred feet to a paved trail into transition (transition timer started as soon as you left the water). No way I could run it. I was barely standing at that point. The wetsuit felt so claustrophobic, so I was at least able to get it off to my waist. I got to the paved path and they had wetsuit strippers (thank you to volunteers since they decided to do this on their own…70.3 don’t usually have wetsuit strippers). I stagger into T1 and grab my inhaler. I could breath again. And I just sat there for about 5 minutes. The thought of doing something, anything, was overwhelming. I could just leave. My car was a block away. But, the hard part was done, and I worked way to hard to walk away without finishing. I gulped down some Gatorade, and slowly got my stuff together. I mentally regrouped. Put on cycling shorts, socks, shoes, gloves, sunglasses, sunscreen, helmet, bike. And I walked to bike out.

T1 split 13:02

Bike:
This was the fun part. Weather was perfect. Course was flat and I was getting good speed. Course was pretty and scenic. Spent most of the first half of the bike re-living the swim. The fatigue from the swim (which never bothers me) was catching up with me. I slowed down and actually came to a full stop at the last 2 aid station and just ate bananas, bonk busters, and drinking water. Still my best ironman bike split.

 

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Bike Split: 3:25:35

T2:
Uneventful, but slow.
T2 split 5:36

Run:
The run was an out and back 2 loop course. So, I did the same 3.3 miles 4 times. The sun was out, it was getting warm, and there was no breeze for the 1st leg. This sapped what little energy I had left. The clouds rolled in, tempuratures dropped, and a breeze started. It was quite nice, but I was tired out. Goal was just to finish. Chatted with someone for about 5 miles. Volunteers were great and I made it to the finish.

 

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Run split 2:32:03

Final time 7:22:03

Final thoughts: I was hoping to go sub 7 hours here, but the swim killed those goals. I had swum Lake Michigan once before (last year, my first Ironman 70.3 was Steelhead, also in Lake Michigan). The lake was calm that morning and the swim was great. After this event, I will pay attention to the swim leg before I sign up for one of these. Waters can be treacherous and I don’t ever want to find myself in a similar situation. If I hadn’t done Steelhead already, I would not do it in the future. I have one more Ironman event this year…Muskoka. Small lake with a brutal bike…and I am OK with that…

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Flashback Fridays 19: MPLS Triathlon 2013

July 13, 2013

This was my first triathlon last year, and it was a great event. I wasn’t going to run this one again, but it was so much fun that I elected to add the sprint at the last minute.

Funny how some of these throwaway races end up being the most memorable. It was a wild day.

The expo was on site this year, and wasn’t bad (But I preferred it at the convention center the previous year). It was a hot day, but the talk was of the storms coming overnight. This was becoming a pattern this year…

Got my bib and shirt and headed home. I woke up to thunder and torrential storms. Great.

I looked at the weather report and it was supposed to be clearing out so I  got my gear and headed downtown.

It wasn’t clearing out. They were updating FB noting that the race was delayed and transition was closed. We were told to stay in our cars if we were already at the event site.

I hung out in the car for a couple of hours before heading towards transition. The worse seemed to be over, but the rain was still hit and miss. Transition was open. Volunteers had no idea what was happening with the race, but we got periodic updates. The race was still on, but we needed 20 minutes without lightning before starting. We got thunder every 10 minutes or so, which was resetting the 20 minute timer.

But there were bigger issues. The small tranquil lake had a pretty strong current…and whitecaps! I have never seen that on Nokomis! The run out and bike in sections of transition were flooded. So was most of the second half of the Olympic bike course. While we were waiting, they had to create a whole new course.

Fortunately, my company was an event sponsor and I could hang out in the VIP tent…staying nice and warm (and fed) while all the chaos was going on.

In the end, the race went off…but not as scheduled. Everyone did the revised sprint course (partially because the Olympic bike course was flooded, partially because the organizers only had permits for a certain period of time, and the clock was ticking). The time trial start was revised to 2 people starting every 3 seconds instead of one. This made for a more congested swim course…with a strong current and choppy waves. I am a confident swimmer, and I was nervous hitting the water. Fortunately, there was a wall of lifeguards. You could have walked the course going from kayak to kayak.

Swim Split: 10:02

Uneventful transition.

T1 Split: 4:33

Bike was great! I felt like I was flying. It is such a pretty course, and the sun was out at this point. The roads are quite bumpy for this ride, and you had to be very careful. The course was long since we had to do an extra lap around Nokomis to get to transition (the original route was flooded). Favorite moment: flying down a hill with a speed limit sign of 30 mph and a radar gun showing your speed. The cop at the intersection was urging riders to go faster and break the speed limit (I did). How cool is that?

Bike Split: 53:06

Another uneventful transition.

T2 Split: 2:42

The run was a simple 5k run around the lake. Everything had dried out and it was a beautiful flat run.

Run Split: 27:07

Finish Time: 1:37:31

Overall, I was quite pleased. I am gaining speed and confidence on the short course, and it turned into a great event! The organizers did a fantastic job recreating the course at the last minute and of keeping us posted on developments!

The trend of storms overnight and a rough swim was getting frustrating…and it was an ominous prelude to what I would encounter in Racine!

 

 

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