Category Archives: Random Musings

Anything that doesn’t really fit anywhere else.

COVID-19 v-2.0

What a difference another week makes.

My gym and pool have been shut down. This will officially last another week. It will certainly be extended.

Ironman’s post about it’s COVID-19 contingency plans have been updated with dozens of postponements.

Ironman Des Moines 70.3 and Ironman Wisconsin 70.3 aren’t affected…yet. I expect the official word to come down in a week or two. My hunch is that Des Moines (North American Championship) will be rescheduled and Wisconsin will end up cancelled. The season up here in the north is short, and there are only so many weekends available before it gets too cold. IM can only stage so many races at a time.

I have been busy getting ready for a prolonged shutdown. Freezer and pantry are full. Yes, I have toilet paper. No, I don’t have hand sanitizer.

I am a primary care physician. I will be on the front lines for the foreseeable future (unless/until I get sick). I need to care for my neighbors and my community while keeping my family safe. That will be tough to do when Personal protective Equipment (PPE) are already in short supply. Running, biking, and swimming are my escape, my time to decompress, my time for me.

That won’t be happening. Not for a long time. It would be selfish to even try.

My 2020 racing season ends now. I have a bigger fight to face, and it will take everything I have.

I won’t be signing up for Wisconsin. I’ll take the deferral to 2021 for Des Moines. Lifetime Triathlon Minneapolis might get pushed back. If life has settled down by then, I might just do the sprint (signed up for the Olympic, but I don’t think that will be realistic this year). Twin Cities Loony Challenge (5k, 10 k, 10 mile) is scheduled for October. That will hopefully be unaffected. Maybe I’ll actually get some run training in for that one…maybe.

Exercise will occur when I can fit it in (or when my sanity needs it). I can run on the treadmill or outside. I can bike on the trainer. Maybe, I’ll be able to bike outside at some point…but I doubt that maintaining the paved bike trails at my favorite park will be a priority and will likely remain closed. Maybe I’ll do some weight training. No swimming anytime soon.

Hopefully, this won’t be as bad as I expect it to be. Eventually, we will get to a “new normal”. With luck, it may look a lot like the normal we used to know.

Stay safe. Be kind. Take care of each other. Hug your loved ones. Appreciate all that you hold dear. Together, we will get thru this…

Leave a comment

Filed under Random Musings, Training

Inching My Way Out Of Long Course “Retirement”…Part 2

Since my last post 8 months ago, I have been trying to keep up the momentum and returning to longer events in 2020.

Its been rough.

Since my post, I participated in my first Tour de Tonka bike ride since 2014. It was also the first time that I didn’t do the 100 mile century ride. I opted instead for the 57 mile route to mimic my upcoming Half Ironman.

I was a struggle. It was slow. It was painful. I have work to do…

I was then signed up for the Twin Cites looney challenge. This is a 10k/5k combo run on Saturday and a 10 miler on Sunday.

The Saturday Events were canceled due to lightning. The 10 miler was beautiful and I felt good (but quite slow…where did all of my speed go???)

A couple of weeks later, I did the Detroit Marathon Motor City Challenge (1 mile/5k Saturday, Half Marathon Sunday). This was an absolute mess.

It turned out that my College Reunion was that same weekend. It was a 3 hour drive from Detroit. It was also a semi formal dress event. No problem, I can do it all…

I showed up for the 1 mile, and the weather was cold but beautiful. I decided to go all out. I sprinted the race start to finish. I thought I was gonna die when I crossed the finish line (damn cold/exercise induced asthma).

Finish Time: 8:05.

Not what I wanted to see. My PR is 6:43. I once did a Half Marathon at an average pace of 7:57/mile. Again, very disappointed with my lack of speed.

The 5k started shortly after that. I just did a slow recovery run knowing I had a HM the next day. Even so, I struggled since my asthma was still flaring up.

After that, I went home and changed into my class reunion suit and new dress shoes (didn’t fit very well…huge mistake) and drove the 3 hours to my old alma mater. When I got there, I had a walking tour of campus (damn shoes were killing me) then a couple of receptions where I was mostly standing around.

I left the reunion around 1am. I could barely walk back to my car since my feet were hurting so bad. I then did the three hour drive to the starting line in Detroit. Along the way, I did a quick change of gear and drank a few gallons of coffee. By the time the race started, I had been up 28 straight hours, had blistered feet, and had to run to the bathroom every five minutes.

As you can guess, it didn’t go well.

I finished in just under three hours (PR: 1:44). But about 45 minutes of that time was spent in porta potty lines.

And, with that train wreck, my season ended.

So, I have a Half Ironman in June. I haven’t been to a pool in over 2 years, a 57 mile bike ride took me several hours (and almost killed me), and a HM took about 3 hours (and almost killed me).

I had a lot of work to do…

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Race Reports, Random Musings, Training

2018 Year In Review

Minneapolis/St. Paul, Maple Grove MN
Event #116-122
Triathlon #22-23

Changes in life happen. They are needed. There are times in life that you recognize that the current state of affairs cannot continue and that a change is inevitable…even if one has no idea what that change will look like.

I have been struggling with that since 2014 when I crossed the finish line at Ironman Wisconsin. Nothing kills a dream faster then accomplishing it…and the fastest way to do that is by crossing a “finish line”.

That dream motivated me and pushed me farther then I dreamed possible…and it was gone in a heartbeat. Of course, I pretended it was still there as I bounced around looking for something to take its place (another Ironman, more marathons, ultramarathons, cross country skiing) but nothing stuck. I was going thru the motions and not having any fun. I pulled back a couple of years ago and even further last year…but it was still a struggle. I decided to hang up the running shoes completely after last year’s final race.

I decided I would stop racing since my heart was not in it anymore…but I would remain physically active to maintain health and fitness without a schedule to worry about. That was the plan with my last blog entry over a year ago. How did that plan worked out?

In short…it didn’t.

I spent the next 4 months parked on the couch binging on Netflix. I never had any intention of running in the snow this winter, but I intended to get to the pool regularly (never happened), run on the treadmill (nope), do some weight training (nada), and get on the elliptical regularly (6 times…maybe). So, this wasn’t working, but it did give me a chance to heal up from the overuse injuries and the mental exhaustion that I had been dealing with. It also resulted in a complete loss of base fitness and provided me with extra “insulation “. Sigh…

I received an e-mail announcing the opening of registration for a few local events. For the first time since 2012, I had nothing to train towards, and it resulted in no training. So, I took the plunge and started looking at upcoming events.

There were a few things I knew with certainty:
1. No extreme or ultra-events. Short and fun events only. I would avoid everything with the words “Marathon”, “ultra” or “Ironman” in the title.
2. No traveling. It takes too much time, money, and planing.
3. No massive racing schedule. Just a few events that have always been highlights on my calendar that I would enjoy doing.

I ended up deciding that I wanted one running event and one triathlon. The choice for each event were obvious decisions. The best local tri is Lifetime Minneapolis (beautiful urban course which is completely closed to traffic), and the best local running event is Twin Cities Marathon Weekend (I again signed up for the Loony Challenge which gets me guaranteed entry in the Twin Cities 10 Mile as well at the TC 5k and TC 10k the day before).

That might be just enough to get me going.

It wasn’t. At least not right away. Winter was not going away…and I still had no treadmill motivation. We were well into May before I went out for my first run. I almost made it to the mailbox before stopping to catch my breath. Yeah…base fitness is a real thing. I slowly got back to running a little farther. The city put up some new paved trails last year and I started to explore them. It was a 5k run around the neighborhood and an 8 Mile run around the lake. That became my weekly running goal…one short and one long run per week (8 Mile being the new “long run” replacing the 15 Mile weekly long run that I did for years).

As the weather warmed up a bit further, I pulled the bike out and returned to Elm Creek. I used to do 4 laps during my IM training. This year, I planned on just doing one lap (32 Miles) weekly. I had a love/hate relationship with this park in the past, but I really did miss it. It is a beautiful urban oasis and a fun/safe place to ride. This got added to the weekly schedule.

I also made my way back to the pool. 1 Mile weekly swim. So, I had gradually made my way back to regular physical activity 4 days a week. I wasn’t pushing myself hard at any of this…just getting out there and re-engaging a healthier lifestyle.

The events were doing what I wanted them do to…get me active again. But another thing was becoming clear…I had no interest in aggressively competing at these events. That drive was gone. This was a hobby. What I was doing before was like a job. I never had a DNS or DNF in the past 6 years…but now, I was ok with that possibility. If I was sick or injured (or if the weather was dreadful) I felt fine staying home. I would feel just fine with finishing last…and I would still have a sense of accomplishment for finishing. I would place the medal on the wall with the others, toss the shirt on the pile and likely never wear it again, and still keep the bib and finish time printout in a binder with the others. I would not buy extra swag, or photos, or hoard all the stuff that came with the race (swim cap and wristbands for example). And I would not write extensive blog posts detailing in excruciating detail the training or race I had just completed. This was a hobby. This was for fun and fitness. And it got me on a regular (if not very intense) training schedule.

Once I saw my training was back on track, I signed up for another triathlon (Maple Grove Tri). This was usually a good event, although it’s a boring course. It is a late season triathlon that would keep me in my training routine for an extra six weeks, it is close to home, and my employer was sponsoring the event meaning that I would get perks and discounts.

With a commitment to a second triathlon, I took the plunge and bought a new wetsuit. The old one was…old. It also had a bunch of holes and was way too tight when I bought it 6 years ago (when I was at my absolute thinnest). A small would not fit. Looking at the size chart, I was right in between a S/M and a Medium. I decided to size up, and it was the most comfortable I have felt in a wetsuit ever. I could move. I could breath. I could put it on in under five minutes. It wasn’t cutting off circulation to my feet. I could not wait to try it out at my first triathlon of the year…which turned out to be a non-wetsuit event.

Eventually, race day came Lifetime Minneapolis Sprint Triathlon. It was a beautiful (but hot) day. It had been over nine months since my last event. For the first time in a few years, I was excited as I arrived. I even felt a few butterflies in my stomach. As I arrived, I saw that the water temp was 79.1F so it would be a no-wetsuit event. I expected this, and had left my wetsuit in the car. Got my transition spot ready and had to wait a couple of hours before my wave would start. While waiting, officials announced a yellow flag warning due to high heat and humidity. I kept jumping back into the lake to cool off.

I finally made my way to the start line. The swim was perfect, warm, calm, without much bumping with other racers. T1 went smoothly and it was a gorgeous day to be cycling. Despite my light training volume, I was keeping a decent pace and passing more people then were passing me. The run, on the other hand, was brutal. The course was red flagged by this time. It was hot, humid, with no breeze or shade. Dumping water over your head had little impact since it was so humid. But, I was still able to run the whole way to the finish line.

 

9AFE71CB-7AF6-42E7-B42F-C220EDF54B27

FFE53C10-9159-450B-AFB6-9A33F82E1D24

77D953B6-FBBD-42A1-A54F-24677CF8435A

5102AAF1-D7CC-4A4F-B0C1-F58CAB485B7B

After I left the race venue, I realized that I never bothered to look at my results. It just didn’t matter to me anymore. This was a victory for me since I always fretted about finish time and position, then micro-analyzed what I could have done better. This time, I didn’t even think of checking (or looking at my Garmin for that matter). Eventually, I did pull up the results. I was slower then average but I wasn’t back of the pack either. This is typically where I finish in triathlon events and I was please to see that I did so well considering my “non-training” training this year. I also picked up a few race photos since they were free.

The training mostly continued until the Maple Grove Triathlon (except swimming never really got off the ground). The weather was cooler, but dreary. The swim was wetsuit legal (my first wetsuit swim in two years). The perks were nice (especially the special section in transition with personalized nameplates). I wasn’t as excited for this event as Lifetime Minneapolis. I had to wait around awhile for my swim start, and everything went ok. My knee had been bugging me for the last few weeks (resulting in no long training runs) and it was giving me grief here. Other then that, it was an uneventful end to my Triathlon season. I again left without bothering to check my finish time (again…middle to back of the pack).

With Triathlon season behind me, I had to work on my run since Twin Cities Marathon Weekend was coming up…and this would include two consecutive days of 10 Miles of running (10k, 5k, and 1 Mile on Saturday, 10 Miles on Sunday). If had not run more then 8 Miles in one day in almost a year (with no back-to-back long runs). Minor injuries plagued me that last month. I strained a rib muscle and that completely sidelined me for three weeks. I ended up running only two times in September (and never over 5k). The weather was particularly bleak and rainy heading into marathon weekend. Fortunately, the rib improved and the rain stopped just in time for race weekend.

As usual, I had signed up for the Loony Challenge. This is a 10k/5k combo on Saturday and the 10 Mile on Sunday. For the Saturday races, they start the morning with the longest race (10k) starting at the marathon finish line. We run on the Marathon course for 5k, then turn around and come back. They then use the same course for the 5k, Family 1 Mile, kids 1/2 Mile by just bringing the turnaround point closer. It’s rather efficient, if a little repetitive. I got there early, got my bibs and shirts, and went to the corporate team tent.

One of the challenges I always face at this event is weather…and layering. I am acclimated to warm weather throughout the summer and this is usually one of my first cool weather runs in months. I pull out all of the cold weather running gear and try to figure out what to wear. I usually end up overdressed. This year would be no different. Temps were in the low 40’s (I would have preferred low 50’s with a light wind. It would be overcast but minimal chance of rain. I ended up going with a long sleeved thermal top with a light zippered windbreaker and long tights. When I got to the start coral, it was windier then I anticipated and I instantly wished I had grabbed some gloves and a head beanie to cover the ears…but it was too late to go back for them.

The races were familiar. I was cold the first mile or two, but warmed up adequately. My hands still got cold when we got a bit of wind. My rib was behaving but my knees and ankles were both stiff and achy. I fell into my normal pace (middle to back of the pack). When I crossed the finish line, I had just enough time to grab a snack, stuff my finishers medal into my zippered coat pocket and get to the 5k start coral. Repeated this again for the family fun 1 Mile Run (always feel weird about this one since it’s a kids race, but I can’t leave bling behind…especially since I run so few races now).

Speaking of bling, I’ll bring up my biggest pet peeve for the weekend…bling. Medals has never been a strength of the Twin Cities Marathon…but they have been getting better. They used to use the same medals and finishers shirts for the 10k and 5k. When they started the challenges, they started creating unique (but very similar) medals for the two races. Well, they went back to using the same medal for the two events. This is fine for smaller events and organizations, but it just comes off as cheap and lazy here. It is especially inappropriate here when a challenge event signs you up for both races. And the medal design was so plain. There was the race name on a plain background with a small emblem on the lower left of the medal (that I have no idea what it is supposed to be). C’mon TCM, you charge a lot for these events! Don’t be so lazy and cheap with these….

Since I’m venting, I’ll mention my other pet peeve for the weekend. The free race photos. In theory, this sounds great. But they had no photographers. They just had high speed cameras taking wide angle photos every second or so. The result is a big group photo with most runners hard to identify. The photos were linked with runners based on a nearby timing mat. There was an issue with that calibration since most of the pics didn’t have me in them. There was only one photo station on the whole course and another at the finish line. No post race photos either. For me, this wasn’t that big of a deal since I have thousands of race photos and most of these start to look alike after awhile. But I felt bad for the first time marathon runners who were denied the option of getting good race photos.

Anyways, I got my gear, walked a half mile back to the car then headed across the street to the expo. I always love this Expo! For the first time, we had to go thru security and a metal detector before entering (sign of the times I guess). The expo was mostly similar to what I was accustomed to…but it seemed smaller then before. It was in the same hall, but official merchandise, TCM booth, Medtronic Booth (title sponsor), and transportation info booth all had much bigger footprints with a lot of wasted floor space. Despite this, some booths were unrented and they set up a bean bag toss or hoopla hoops just to fill the empty spaces. I got the feeling that the the decline of interest in running events that has been occurring over the past few years was starting to be felt here as well. I checked the race numbers and Marathon finishers was down by a couple of thousand people from a few years ago…but 10 Mile participation was up by the same amount and the short events had stable participation numbers. Still, the expo seemed somewhat smaller. The absence of Cariboo Coffee was the most glaring omission (as the free coffee was always a bonus at the expo). Anyways, I got my bib and shirt, and went on my way back home to rest up for day two.

I was up again in the middle of the night the next day. I was really feeling stiff and sore from Saturday’s events. This was going to be a painful run. The weather was the same, so I used similar gear (but added gloves and a beanie). The marathon and 10 Mile start in downtown Minneapolis (near the new US Bank Stadium-home of the MN Vikings) and finish at the state Capitol in St Paul. It starts an hour earlier than the marathon and is a straight line between the two points. The marathon takes a much more scenic tour of Minneapolis before heading into St Paul. The two races share the same final 7 Miles. The race was fine overall. I struggled with the aches and pains that I earned yesterday by competing without enough training. The course was familiar. The support was amazing, especially since we were coming thru about 3 hours ahead of the marathoners and it was not ideal spectating weather. The course was, as always, beautiful. The rain held off and the wind was pretty light. It wasn’t long before my short season came to an end.

37335711-E425-4BC4-842E-B2ED003A87B9

41B38928-2181-476C-B332-AA3A33A44497So, looking back, was it a successful season? Yes and no. The events were spaced out more and I looked forward to them again…so that was a victory. It did motivate me to stay active, but not as consistently as I would have liked. Now that it is over, my motivation is gone and I will need to figure out a way to stay fit during the off-season. These events are some of the best events in the region and I can’t imaging sitting out the Lifetime Minneapolis Triathlon or Twin Cities Marathon Weekend as long as I am even casually involved in running and triathlon. So, yes, I will be back for more next year. I already registered for Lifetime Minneapolis and waiting for early registration to start for another Loony Challenge.

Who knows, I may blog about it too…

 

 

Addendum

The week after the TC Marathon Weekend, I participated in a 5k charity run in support of a friend whose family has been affected by brain cancer. It was a 5k run/walk and I was the only one in my group that decided to run.

That was a mistake.

You see, I had a massive tree fall in our backyard the week before. As always, when I pull out the chainsaw, my wife tells me that I should hire someone to do it. It’s like she thinks I don’t know what I’m doing.

She’s right.

Fortunately, I still have all my body parts but I hurt almost every muscle in my body 2 days before the event. Mostly, I strained a bunch of rib and back muscles. It took me 5 minutes to crawl out of bed the morning of the event. Getting out of the car at the race venue was another significant accomplishment.

Waiting around at the starting area with our team, it felt like I was loosening up. I was registered to run, but I could have just tossed the bib and entered the walking coral.

But, I’m stubborn.

Less then a 1/4 Mile into the run, my back just knotted up completely. Somehow, I kept running, but it was not a pretty sight. Very happy that there were no race photos for this one. I finished in just under 35 minutes…not bad under the circumstances.

This event was a nice way to end the season…supporting others and helping raise money for a good cause.

Now, if you will excuse me, I need to get load up on ibuprofen and warm up my heating pad…

Leave a comment

Filed under Race Reports, Random Musings

Views From The Finish Line…A Final Look Back.

There is never a true “beginning” to any story, nor is there ever a true “ending”. There is always a “before” and there will always be an “after” to absolutely everything.

There are, however, convenient starting and ending points for a narrative. A story arc always just feels more complete when there is a clear beginning to that tale, and a clear and concise point where that arc comes to its conclusion.

After a five year journey, which started with a vague decision to “lose a few pounds” and to “run a 5k”, I believe that this narrative has come to an end at the finish line of this week’s Twin Cities 10 Mile.

This does not mean that I will stop running, but this blog was intended to document my journey “from couch to Ironman”. That journey ended 2 years ago. It changed as I tried to find a new calling, a new passion. I dabbled in Ultramarathon and tried the 50 states marathon club. I even tried cross-country skiing. None of these endeavors excited me and those pursuits were abandoned. Finally, I decided that I just needed balence and to make running a PART of my life and a PART of my identity…not it’s sole defining feature. I decided upon this months ago…after signing up for most of this year’s events…and I made it to the end of that schedule. In the process, I tied up some loose ends and found peace in this new harmony.

Ultimately, this passion is something that will be more organic, more subdued, more balenced. It is changing my approach to running.

Events will be for fun and to motivate me to stay healthy. I have not been competative in awhile (except for the surprising results in Waconia) and I have mostly let go of that pressure. As such, the nature of these events will change as well. They will no longer be selected to push my body, and my boundaries, to the brink. They will not be extreme. They will also not be the basis of my yearly life schedule. Traveling for events will occur very rarely (if at all). I won’t bother with race swag or photos (unless included with registration fees) as the swag never gets used and all the race photos look the same after awhile.

My blog will also go dormant. This document was mostly for my own benefit. It was to keep me accountable and to track my journey. It has been successful in that regard…and I am stunned that so many others have followed this journey. But my future in the sport will be more mundane and I am finding that I have less and less to say. It is time to bring this to a close as well.

Despite these promised changes, I am not saying “never again”. I may compete in another marathon at some point. The one thing that I feel that I am missing is a World Marathon Major. There are three of these in the United States…Boston, New York, and Chicago. Chicago would be the easiest race logistically…and is the least inspiring for me. New York sounds amazing and is the biggest marathon in the world. Both races are lottery registrations. Boston is a bucket list race for almost any runner. I will NEVER qualify for this race, but I could do a charity registration. I would just need to find a charity that I believe in that would accept me. Maybe this will be a 50th birthday present to myself. Time will tell…

As for triathlons, I will do one or two local sprints every year just to keep me cycling and swimming. I will never do another full distance Ironman, but a 70.3 may be in my future. It is not a priority, but I’m not ruling it out either. It just feels increasingly unlikely. Despite two new Ironman 70.3’s being launched mithin driving distance, I have no current interest in signing up for either event. Time will tell…

USAT Age Group Nationals was an unexpected wild card. I qualified by winning my Age Group at the HITS Sprint Triathlon in Waconia. This opportunity will be too good to pass up and I know that I would regret passing on this race. I have been invited for the Olympic Distance Age Group National Championship in Omaha next year and I will also compete in the Sprint Age Group National Championship (no qualification needed) the next day. This will be the big travel event of 2017. The rest of the year’s schedule looks quite minimalist by my standards:

-Hot Chocolate 15k (Minneapolis) – April
-Lifetime Tri Minneapolis (Sprint Distance) – July
-USAT Nationals (Olympic and Sprint) – August
-Twin Cities Loony Challenge (10k, 5k, 10 mile) – October.

If I ever do a big race again (Boston, Ironman 70.3, or any full marathon), I will likely post a race report here. I can almost guarantee a few blog posts for Nationals. But my days of regular blogging has come to an end. To my readers, thank you for following me and for the encouragement and inspiration along the way. You have made this journey easier, and more enjoyable as well.

Before I sign off for the last time, I wanted to take a final look back at my five year journey…the medals, the 50 States Marathon map, and the views from the finish lines…

img_6200

img_6204

img_6214

img_6211

Slide1

imageimage image imageimageimageimageimageimageimage img_2824

img_2821

8 Comments

Filed under Random Musings

Qualifying For Nationals

image

Although I was pretty sure that I had qualified for USA Triathlon National Age Group Championship at HITS Waconia, it was nice to get official confirmation this morning. USAT Olympic Age Group National Championship is the only (non-Ironman) qualification only race in the United States, and is the first time that I have successfully qualified for a race. Sure, I was able to bypass the lottery and get guaranteed entry once in Houston, and I have received prefered coral placement as well, but the only way into this race is to qualify. It may not be quite as prestigious as Boston Marathon or Ironman Kona, but this is still very special and exciting for me. I never would have thought this would be possible and it exceeds all of my hopes and expectations. Omaha may not be Kona or Boston, but Omaha will be MY Kona and Boston combined. It is a validation that I have truly am a triathlete. It is validation that I belong…

1 Comment

Filed under Random Musings

Another exciting triathlon weekend…

…as a spectator.

As many fans gear up for the first NFL game of the season, I have been glued to my iPad watching real time results of so many friends across the country tackling their last big races of the year.

So many stories. So much inspiration.

Yesterday, two of my friends did their second ever triathlon…and their first Olympic distance and first race with an OWS. They ended up first and second in their age group.

Today, another friend is competing at Cedar Point Rev3 70.3 triathlon. She has completed several 70.3’s and this is her last one before she can register for her first full distance Ironman (IM Florida 2017…on her birthday).

But, the main event has to be Ironman Wisconsin…the same race I completed 2 years ago. So many friends are there that it is hard to keep track of them all. Many are veterans looking at setting a new PR. Some are first timers who are just hoping to finish.

Three of them have unfinished business.

The first is an outstanding athlete who I competed with 2 years ago. I met at a century ride a couple of months earlier. She got a stress fracture in her hip the week before the race. Her orthopedist grudgingly gave her the green light to swim and bike, but firmly told her not to run. She crushed the first two legs of the race but made the decision to put flip flops instead of running shoes in her T2 transition bag. I remember feeling like death coming out of T2 wondering how I could ever finish (I could barely stand up or walk), and I heard her cheering me on from the sidelines. Her day was done. I still had a chance. That gave me the mental push I needed to keep going. She has taken a break to recover, and is there to finish what she started.

The second is a middle of the pack Ironman who keeps going back despite having to concur panic attacks on the swim every single race. Last year, he got a DNS since he needed urgent spine surgery. He was told that one wrong move could paralyze him. Now he is back to race again.

The third athlete reminds me of me…but with a lot more heart and courage. He lost 100 pounds and lined up at the start with me in 2014. He fell a little short and got swept at mile 15 on the run. He was first in line to sign up for 2015. That year, he had a very rough bike race and his legs kept cramping up. He reached T2  but missed the cutoff by less than 30 seconds. His legs were so badly cramped that he could not unclip as he came to a stop that he crashed his bike. Since this was the bike in at T2, it was being streamed lived as we all watched in horror as the ambulance arrived. He was ok, and again 1st in line to register the next day. If Ironman was measured in the size of someone’s heart and determination instead of finish time and distance, he would be the IM Wisconsin Champion. I have followed his progress this year…and he is ready. His swim split was 11 minutes faster than last year and 19 minutes faster than2014.

I will be glued to the live streams all of these champions cross the finish line in Madison.

Is this inspiring me to sign up for another Ironman? Nope…not a chance. I am thrilled by that race, but have no desire to do it again.

But it is inspiring me to try and do more than just show up at nationals next year. I know I won’t be competitive, but I can give it my best effort. It is also making me wonder about a return to the 70.3 distance. It has been two years since I have done anything but a sprint. Ironman launched a new 70.3 in Ohio this year and will be launching a new Ironman 70.3 in Madison Wisconsin next year.

Maybe I can build up to those as my “A” races of 2018 and 2019.

Time will tell…

 

UPDATE: Everyone successfully finished their events. The three athletes profiled above are all Ironmans now.  Another friend (that I didn’t know was racing) finished first in her age group and qualified for Nationals. It was a great weekend. Now the long  hard triathlon off season begins. Of course, that also brings the fall running season. I completed back-to-back 10 milers this weekend in preparation for the Twin Cities Marathon Weekend next month. Not used to running more then 5k anymore…

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Random Musings

The Journey Towards “Life Fitness”

“I always try to explain to people that peak performance and life fitness are really different worlds. When you are trying to maximize everything you can out of your body, you’re also getting that much closer to getting an injury, getting burnt out, or paying a price that you may never get back. Life fitness is about figuring out: ‘What can I do every day so I feel better today and tomorrow and I can still go and do something and do it next year and the year after that until I’m 98?’ That’s kind of what my athletic quest is now.”

Mark Allen – Six Time Ironman World Champion

 

I found the above quote in the 2016 Fargo Marathon Results Magazine. Mark was the keynote speaker at the Fargo Marathon Expo and did a throwaway Q+A article for the magazine.

It nicely summarizes my journey for the past two years.

When I started running, it was new and exciting. I was in awe of what I could do and kept setting bigger and bigger goals for myself until I crossed the finish line in Madison. For the next two years, I struggled with motivation and burnout. I felt that the new goals (Ultramarathon, 50 marathon states, back to back marathons, etc) should be motivating but it was burning me out. I realized that my path was not sustainable. I have been radically cutting back on training and events trying to find something that I could enjoy, maintain, and that would be worth maintaining. So, this quote resonated with me.

Interestingly, in the past few weeks, I think that I may have found that balence. I have been on a regular and consistent training schedule…and I have been enjoying it. It is a far cry from my Ironman days, but more then most middle aged adults do routinely, and it should help me maintain some degree of “Life Fitness”.

Here’s the current schedule:

Monday + Tuesday: rest (work schedule does not allow for a regular workout)
Wednesday: 1 mile swim
Thursday: 32 mile bike/5k run
Friday, Saturday, Sunday: 10k run

The whole thing averages about 1 hour/day. I am not trying to break any speed records, nor do I have any complex drills. It is just “me” time. With the exception of Thursday, the whole workout is done before anyone else is out of bed. It does not take away from family time.

This feels right. It feels sustainable. It is also something I can use as a springboard for future training if the desire ever returns…

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Random Musings

Triathlon Training Season Begins…

…of course, I am starting a little late this year. First triathlon is in 1 month.

Whoops…

Fortunately, I am just participating for fun this year…and to give me a reason to get to the pool and bike trail.

Once the Fargo Marathon was behind me, I got to work setting up a regular running schedule and building up good habits again. But, with a Half Marathon and 3 sprint triathlons coming up soon, I need to ramp up running mileage AND get the cross training going. Two days ago, I hit the pool for the first time since January. Swam a mile and it felt good. Yesterday, I hit the bike trail and completed 32 miles followed by a 5k run. Today, a 15k run completed at the crack of dawn before it got too hot and muggy outside.

Sure, this pales by comparison to previous seasons, but great to know that I can still do this much….

…and I was having fun again! How cool is that?

1 Comment

Filed under Random Musings

A Degree of “Extreme”…

A common conversation among Ironman Finishers is which Ironman race is the hardest.

This happens A LOT.

It generally starts with a newbie asking which races are easier or beginner friendly. Then the standard disclaimers start up. “There is no such thing as an easy Ironman”, “They are all 140.6 miles”. Everyone agrees that there is no “easier” Ironman. Then people start expressing that some races are “more hard”. Of course, the “more hard” races are always the events that the speaker has participated in. Funny how that works out….

Level of difficulty will always be subjective in these conversations. Much of it has to do with the participants own strengths and weaknesses. Are they technically strong cyclists? Can you run in the heat or cold? Wetsuit legal vs warm swim? I would, of course, play up IM Wisconsin’s very technical bike course with the big elevation gain and the mass swim start whenever I would wade into these pissing matches…assuming that there would never be a true winner in these debates…until now.

LAVA Magazine (official publication of Ironman) has endorsed IronIndex.com as the official ranking of all Ironman races (this ranking also includes all Challenge/Rev3 races worldwide). A total of 50 of the biggest and most well known Iron Distance races are ranked in terms of their overall level of difficulty. They are then branded as “Standard”, “Difficult”, “Intense”, and “Extreme”. To put it in perspective, the Ironman World Championship is 9th on the list and ranked as “Intense” (only eight races worldwide are listed as “Extreme”).

Imagine my surprise to find that the race I completed (Ironman Wisconsin) listed as the 6th toughest race…in the world (and considered an “Extreme” event)!

image image

Mind Blown.

It is listed as a tougher race then Malasia. Malasia! That race has a “monkey zone” on the bike course. Participants are warned not to eat or drink anything in the monkey zone since the monkeys are aggressive, not afraid of humans, and will attack you on your bike. The course guide advises that participants should carry a big stick when riding and a tutorial on how to use that stick if attacked. Somehow, that race is considered easier then Wisconsin.

Of course, there are a lot of disclaimers for such a list. It only considers current Ironman and Challenge events. Discontinued events (Ironman Tahoe and Ironman Muskoka are both off the list), other series (HITS), non-Iron Distance (X-Terra), and independent events (Alaska-Man, Norse-Man) are conveniently excluded. The list also assumes “average” weather conditions. Ironman has been cursed with some bad weather of late (108F at Coeur D’Alene, hypothermia conditions in Florida, forest fires in Tahoe, modified swim due to poor water quality/shortened bike due to flooding and construction/suspended run due to lightning in IM Texas this year. Variables like these would dramatically affect the course’s level of difficulty on any given day (I was fortunate to have ideal weather for my race day).

So, does the “extreme” ranking matter? It shouldn’t, but to me, it does (at least a little bit).

Had I seen this rating before registering, I may have reconsidered my decision to participate…so I am glad that I never saw this beforehand. But it reaffirms to me that my training was no joke. It reaffirms that crossing the finish line wasn’t beginners luck. That victory was earned, and I did something remarkable that day. I may not be able to repeat the achievement, but it emphasizes that I am capable of completing something that is (almost) impossible.

But I still think that mutant monkeys would be harder…

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Random Musings

A Return To Running “Naked”…

February 2012

I had just purchased my first pair of running shoes and had laced up for my very first run…ever. The course was pretty basic (same loop I run today). A residential road branches off the county highway. It comes to an intersection leading to three cul-de-sacs. There are no outlets (except for the highway which has no shoulders for pedestrians). If I run in my neighborhood, I run to the highway (hitting all of the cul-de-sacs) before returning home. Walking out my door, I knew that it was the only running option I had. I had no idea how long this loop was…or if I could travel the whole distance.

At the last minute, I put on a digital watch. I knew I had one with a stopwatch, but the battery had died. This one was as primitive as they got…hours and minute…that’s it.

I wrote down the start time when I left home. I wrote down the finish time when I got home. I then got in the car and drove around the neighborhood with my trip odometer set to zero. When I got home, it read 2.9 miles. I calculated my minutes/mile…and had no idea what it meant. Was I fast, or slow, or average? I had no idea.

A new love, a new obsession was born.

Shortly thereafter, the existence of GPS watches became known to me…something call a “Garmin”. It was my next purchase.

Between that moment and the end of 2014, the fixation was on speed and distance. How far and how fast became the driving concerns. It was all about the numbers..the experience was secondary. Anyone who followed this blog during my 2014 will nod in agreement if they remember my weekly workout summaries…how many minutes spent swimming, how many miles on the bike, the % increase in running distance from the previous week, and the % increase in overall workout time from the prior week. It was a whole damn spreadsheet of data that I would mine for insight and revelation. I still have it all (hell, I published it all as an appendix to a shutterfly photo book with all of my Ironman race photos). I still flip through those pages to remember the journey. In looking back, I recall just how insane it all was…

After that season, the big dream was gone. I don’t know if that was the reason, but I started getting slower…a lot slower. I maintained some decent mileage (nothing like 2014) but that was slowly dwindling as well.

My number crunching became more and more depressing…and my hobby became less and less enjoyable. I wonder if that is because my hobby was the numbers, not the running experience.

Running became a chore without a payoff and my training for Fargo was a joke. I planned to step away from racing after that event and to reconnect with running.

This weekend was the first step in that journey. Over the three day weekend, I went for three runs…the first time I have strung together that many consecutive runs since last October. I also did something unheard of…I left the Garmin behind. I would be running “naked”…free of the pace, heart rate, and split times. I ran two laps each time…likely a little over an hour and likely a little under six miles. I’ll never know for sure. I also left the iPod behind. We had lovely weather all three days. For once, my focus was the experience…and nothing else. Yes, my knees and ankles were sore, and this was hard work, but I was trying to set up good habits…once that can become a routine with long term health benefits and something I can sustain and enjoy.

I am also, I realize, connecting with the activity of running, and not the statistics of the sport. It was a different experience.

These were also three of the most enjoyable runs I have had in a long time…

1 Comment

Filed under Random Musings