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Another Season, Another Training Cycle

I almost had to laugh out loud writing that title…since I have never done anything vaguely resembling a traditional training cycle. So, there is a first time for everything!

The recent off-season was mostly just “off”. I didn’t do much except sit around, train (errr…play with) our two new puppies, and watch movies. I jumped on the elliptical in our basement once every week or two, but I basically lost my entire fitness base.

 

Looking back at last season, I thought I had maintained a generally consistent training schedule…but old blog posts can reveal some painful truths. Last winter was a whole lot of nothing, and I was just faking the training throughout the season. I knew that I was completely untrained for the Fargo Marathon last spring, but I had forgotten about the complete lack of training that went into triathlon season. I showed up at the HITS Waconia sprint on 3 hours of sleep and ZERO cycling or swimming in the previous month. I almost got a DNF on the swim but somehow got my first (and only) podium award by winning my age group (sometimes luck trumps training).

Prior to that, I was a training machine. My regular “not training for anything specific” long weekly run was 15 miles. I was always Half Marathon trained and could ramp up to a Full Marathon on short notice.

For three years, I was in a perpetual training mode (including several winter events) and working my way towards Ironman Wisconsin. I actually did a 30 week training program for that event, Afterwards, I shifted to run only training with a marathon every couple of months. There was an ultramarathon and back to back marathons sprinkled into the season as well. By the end, I was burnt out, and mostly went into hibernation.

This spring, I knew I had to get back into some consistent training. My weight was slowly drifting up, my endurance was drifting down, and my healthy habits had vanished. I also have two Olympic Distance Triathlons on the calendar (July and August). The rest of the schedule is pretty light by my standards, but I have only completed Sprint Triathlons since 2014. I knew I had to do something.

I had a few false starts to my training in March and April. The Hot Chocolate 15k in mid-April was the rude wake-up call that I knew it would be. When I turned the calendar page to May, the alarms went off in my head. It was time to start a training cycle…arguable the first traditional training cycle since I started running in 2012.

I got my bike tuned up and have purchased a 3-month pass for the local community center pool. I have a schedule and I have stuck to it for the last couple of weeks. The schedule is not all that intense or time-consuming, but I am not used to it anymore, and it will take time for this to become a routine. It is not ideal, but it fits into my work schedule.

Monday: Swim (1 mile)
Tuesday: Rest
Wednesday: Swim (1 mile)
Thursday: Brick (32 mile bike, 5-10k run)
Friday: Run 10k (optional depending on work schedule)
Saturday: Run 10k
Sunday: Run 10k

I am slow at everything. Everything hurts. Endurance isn’t there (yet). I have a couple of months to improve fitness enough that I should be able to enjoy my triathlons .

Once those are done, I have the Loony Challenge 6 weeks later at the Twin Cities Marathon Weekend (10k/5k/1 mile on Saturday, 10 mile on Sunday). So, the plan is to keep the run fitness going for the rest of the season.

Then, I need to figure out what sustainable fitness and wellness looks like during the off season.

But, for now, I think that I am back on track…

…and the journey continues.

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Race Report: Minneapolis Hot Chocolate 15K

April 15, 2017
Minneapolis, MN
Event #108

Cobwebs have been spun in the corners. The layer of dust is thick, and mostly undisturbed. There is a faint smell of mold in the air.

Much has been neglected.

Whether I am referring to my blog or my passtime, I leave for you to decide.

The past 6 months were to be my first “off-season” in 5 years. A chance to attend to other neglected parts of my life. A chance to heal some lingering injuries. A chance to recharge the batteries.

The “off-season” have been mostly that…”off”.

I did no running between my last event and early March (and maybe a dozen 5-10k jogs since). I hit the pool once and didn’t touch my bike since August (but I just dropped off the bike at my local shop for its spring tune-up). I averaged an hour per week (well, maybe) on the elliptical cross trainer.

It’s been a lazy 6 months.

Today’s event was an early season “fun-run”. Hell, they serve chocolate fondue at the finish line. I registered for the event almost 2 years ago (I deferred last year as it conflicted with the new Disney World Star Wars Half Marathon). I have never had a “Did Not Start” (or DNF for that matter), so I was committed to this. I had a feeling it would be ugly, but I hoped it would stir me from my slumber and get me training for this upcoming season.

It worked…kindof…if a dozen or so 5k-10k training “runs”…at a 12 min/mile pace. Well…small victories I guess.

But, that came at a cost. I have a few lingering injuries. Knees just ache all of the time. More importantly, I have an inflamed ankle tendon (posterior tibial tendinosis) which can rupture…and for which the only cure is surgery (which never turns out well). Both of these came back almost instantaneously. I had forgotten what it is like to walk down the stairs pain free.

So, my hopes that time would heel all injuries didn’t work. I also learned what it feels like to start running again…and how much everything hurts.

This 2017 running season was always planned as a toned down season. Something fairly low key with only a small handful of races (4 race weekends total…this being the first). There are a few big events lined up, and this would either be a re-boot of my running passion, or an epilogue to a pretty amazing five year run. Looks like it will be the latter. But, I like to share these experiences, and will be dusting off the blog for a few race reports.

So, let’s get on with it.

This is what I was facing this morning…

See the green dot…that’s the starting line. See the big red blob….that’s what was heading right at us.

Lovely.

Fortunately, all the lightning seemed to have disappeared. It was also the warmest morning of the year (60 F) with (mostly) light wind.

I sat in the car for awhile, waiting to hear if the race was a go/no go for launch. It looked like we were doing this. By the time I reached the starting line, I came to realize that my wind resistant/rain resistant jacket was neither.

All that being said, this was a bit of a homecoming. It felt good to be here again for a no-stress event.

The race itself was a familiar course. I have run up and down this road dozens of times in the past five years. It was hillier then I remembered it to be.

We were advised that we could take a left turn at mile 1.5 if we wanted to bail and do the 5k run instead (it was tempting) and that we would be turned around (out and back course) if the storm system started to show some unexpected “energy” (aka: lighting). I was relieved to reach the turnaround without incident.


I had not run more then 10k at a time in the past 6 months. I hoped that the energy and adrenaline of the event would propel me that final 5k. You know, like only doing a 20 mile training run before a marathon. Sometimes it works. Today… not quite. I was taking a lot of unplanned “walk breaks” in the final 5k. Fortunately, the rain had stopped by this time and the temps started to climb a bit. The pace slowed a little more but still did better then expected given the slow training runs I have had in the past month.

Finish Time – 1:39:13
Pace – 10:39/mile


The medal was pretty sweet, as was the chocolate goodie bag. The walk through the muddy field (errr…swamp) wasn’t.

So, a partial success. Farther and faster then I had run all year, but chronic injuries are still there. I am expecting some great experiences during the rest of the season, but I will not be returning to my old schedule and my old running form. This may be an epilogue to this story, but I plan to put an exclamation mark on the final few races.

Now, I must segue to Triathlon. Three months until my next event, and I must become friends again with my bike and the community swimming pool in the near future.

Hopefully, the cobwebs will be cleared up at our next visit.

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Race Report: Twin Cities Loony Challenge

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October 8-9, 2016
Minneapolis/St. Paul MN
Events 104-107

For some odd reason, I consider the Twin Cities Marathon Weekend to the the official ending to the fall running season. I have no idea why I think that. I have scheduled an additional 1 or 2 marathons every single year after TCM (Disney, Detroit, Route 66 and Houston, Kansas City and Des Moines). I also tend to load up on throwaway races (Monster Dash, Turkey Trot, Santa Shuffle, Polar Dash, V-Day 5k, Get Luck 7k, etc) to stretch out the season. The end result is a brief slowdown during the dead of winter, but no real “off-season” break…until now. This was the season finale.

It’s a great way to finish the season. The Twin Cities Marathon is the biggest running event of the year in the Twin Cities, and one of the premiere marathons in the country. There is a whole weekend of activities including a phenomenal expo, multiple shorter events on Saturday, with the marathon and 10 miler capping off the weekend on Sunday.

This year, keeping with my desire to slow down a little, I opted not to run the marathon again (I am a three times finisher). Instead, I would compete in the 10 miler on Sunday, and run the 10k/5k/1 mile combo on Saturday before hitting the expo.

As has become tradition, the weather cooled off just in time for the event. Just two days before my first race, I was still training in shorts and a t-shirt. The cold front rolled in the day before the event with starting line temps expected to be in the high 30’s. This left me scrambling to figure out what to wear as I have not had to use layering in months.

One disappointment about this year’s events is…football. The starting line for the marathon and 10 miler was by the Minnesota Vikings home stadium (Metrodome) and runners were always provided pre-race access to stay warm and use the restrooms. This wasn’t permitted the last couple of years as the Metrodome was being demolished and U.S. Bank Stadium was under construction. We anticipated having access to that facility once construction was complete. However, the Vikings had a noon home game scheduled for marathon Sunday and access for runners was not allowed. Moreover, all of the parking lots near the Stadium/starting line would be charging “event rates” which would run as high as $80! Fortunately, there were other options, including parking by the finish line and taking a free shuttle to the start. Fortunately, a friend was also running the race and her husband offered to drop us off at the start and meet us at the finish. Thanks guys!

 

Saturday Events:

Thirty Four degrees. That was the morning temp…34F. Of course I have raced in much colder weather, but the coolest that I have run in the last 5 months or so was mid-fifties.

So, I over-dressed for the event.

I got down to the race site in plenty of time and parked next to the expo. It was a 1 mile hike to the start/finish line on the Minnesota Capitols front steps. I reached packet pick up and got three bibs and three shirts (10k, 5k, and 1 mile). The longer races were Brooks short sleeved tech shirts, and the 1 mile was a cotton/poly blend. All were good quality and great colors. I then ran around in circles looking for the corporate team tent (they moved it but didn’t update the map). That left me a little tight for time. I got there, got my race gear all set up, dropped my bag, and set off just in time to reach the start. The Saturday events all start/finish at the marathon finish line, and they follow the marathon route as a simple out and back. They start with the 10k using the last 3.1 miles of the marathon course. Then the events gets progressively shorter and shorter…blocking less and less roadway.

I don’t have too much to say about any of these events. It was chilly, it was crowded, and I was slow. After each event, i got some water and a small snack, returned to the corporate tent, swapped bibs, took off layers as the day got warmer, and headed back foe another round.

Finish Times:
10k – 1:03:07
5k – 32:28
1 mile – untimed

10k Finish (more layers)
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5k Finish (fewer layers)
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Once the running was over, I dropped off my gear and headed too the expo. It was the same as ever…great expo and easy to kill an hour or two. For once, I didn’t spend a dime. I got my 10 mile bib and long sleeve Brooks tech shirt (boring gray) and left to go run a few additional errands.

 

Sunday Events:

32F. Another brisk morning. Fortunately, a friend offered me a ride to the event. It saved me a lot of hassle. Got to downtown Minneapolis and the starting line at US Bank Stadium. It was still dark and about 10,000 participants were congregating for the 10 mile start (and another 10,000 runners for the marathon start 1 hour later). The sun started to rise and it was going to be a beautiful clear day. I headed to the coral and the race started. The course quickly got us out of the downtown core and along the Mississippi River. A few miles later, we crossed the river into St. Paul and the the slow 3 mile uphill grind started. Most of the 10 mile course is the same as the last several miles of the marathon…and the 3 mile uphill is pretty easy to manage at mile 4 and pretty brutal at mile 20. Fortunately, the leaves were changing and the fall colors were near peak.

My legs were a little jelly-like after my three race on Saturday, but I was able to run at a steady pace for the whole race (walked the aid stations). The temps started to climb by the end of the race and it turned into a perfect day for a run. Before I knew it, I had reached the St. Paul Cathedral and headed to the finish at the capital building.

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Finish Time – 1:45:53

I got my two medals at the finish (10 mile and multi race Summit Challenge). There was some decent food and a nice post race party. Certainly a good way to finish the season.

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The Strugglers – by Tom Demerly

A link to this editorial popped up in one of my Facebook groups. I had to save it. I know many athletes that will be challenging a full or half distance Ironman in the next few weeks. For some, it will trying to improve on a personal best or trying to qualify for Kona. For most (like me) it was chasing a dream. The hope was just to finish…knowing that failure was a real possibility. This is one of the best tributes I have read to those that dare to try. To all my friends trying to complete their first 140.6 or 70.3 race, you are an inspiration to many. The real victory comes when you cross the starting line. The rest of the day is the celebration of your journey…

 

The Strugglers.
Editorial by Tom Demerly.

Last people in.

The weather report said the sun would go down today at 7:49 pm. And it did.

Now it is dark.

In the street there is a sporadic, somber procession. It is a black and white picture. There is no color, no pageantry, and no grandeur. The grace is gone and now and it is down to gritty reality.

It is the time of The Strugglers. 11:18 pm, Taupo, New Zealand- the 20th Anniversary Bonita Banana Ironman Triathlon.

The Pros are asleep. Their stomachs are full, their muscles are massaged. Their performances are a matter of record now. They are done. Have been for quite some time. They finished in the sunlight in the front of cameras and microphones racing for paychecks and trophies.

It’s easy to understand why they race. They should race. They look like they should. Lithe and toned and buff and tan and serious, the Pros and the other talented athletes reap the generous gift of genetic athletic abundance, meticulous preparation and clear-cut motivation. They are here to kick ass. It doesn’t take a psychologist to decode their motives. They’re athletes, and this is the big show. It’s what they do.

The pros’ time is over. Now it is time for The Strugglers.

There are no levels of performance for The Strugglers. You either are or you aren’t one. If you haven’t finished by now and you’re still out under the lights you are a member of this vaunted fraternity, The Strugglers. Just as the stark street lights leave either harsh illumination or black despair for The Strugglers this is a matter of finish or not finish, victory or defeat, do or die, pride or humiliation, success or failure. It is all the chips on one square, all the cards face up on the table, and all the aces have already been dealt today. The Strugglers play high stakes with a bad hand.

It may never have been pretty for The Strugglers. Most of them may not be athletes in the sense that they spend hours and hours every week training, but they line up nonetheless to do this race. The downtrodden, the meek, the ones with something to prove or something to defeat. Whatever it is they bring it here and beat it into ugly submission over 140.6 miles, each one a full 5,280 feet. The Strugglers earn every inch of every foot of every mile.

In a day so daunting and fearful they line up on the beach as if bravely facing the gallows. A cannon sounds the beginning of their trial and there is little known at the onset about how matters will be resolved, except to say it will be hard and uncomfortable and then downright painful. That may be the most frightening part: The not knowing. Some will find absolution, some will teeter and wobble and fall. There will be polite acknowledgement of their ambition, but ultimately, for The Strugglers the only thing that matters is Finishing. It’s what they’re here for.

So for The Strugglers, this is a huge gamble. Hero or failure. No in between.

And struggle they might, against awful odds and distance and poor conditioning and genetic poverty, but in bravery they are absolutely peerless. Without equal.

The Strugglers know it will not be pretty. They know it is not a sure thing. They do not have the luxury of prediction or past performances or experience. This is not their aptitude. But this is their choice and their bold dream.

Imagine being sent to do something, something beastly difficult. You know in your heart of hearts you are not prepared, maybe not even suited for this. You know the stares of others less brave and more envious fall heavily on your effort. They want The Strugglers to fail. For every Struggler who crosses the finish line it is a failure for those who never dared try. For every Struggler who sadly and reluctantly succumbs to the distance before the finish line and is carried off the course it is a victory for those who never started. They take sick pleasure in that. Shame on them.

Those who never had the courage to try have no right to cast judgment on The Strugglers.

The Pros are comfortable and resting. But the Strugglers have not left their sacred vigil. They soldier on, unswerving in their oath to finish, No Matter What. People marvel at the Pros performance, but I say The Strugglers are the real athletes. Explorers on the terrible frontier of self-doubt, fear and potential embarrassment on a grand scale. They bring less to the start line and they do more. Longer, harder, more painful: It is a different race for The Strugglers.

It is a parade really. A parade of people so brave and tough and fearless that they don’t care if it might not work. They bank on the fact that it could. They don’t back away from the possibility of failure. Imagine their performance as set against the backdrop of the very best in the world and they are not self-conscious about their version of the very same dance. Ask yourself, would you take the stage at the Kennedy Center after Barishnikov or Pavoratti? Are you that brave?

The Strugglers are.

Their performance is tedious and grinding. It is utterly relentless in its duration. The distance, the time, the struggle cannot be compromised. The Strugglers know this, they accept it- embrace it even. And they never succumb. Under the street lights, through the cool air, in filthy clothes streaked with their own discharge of minerals and fluids and sometimes even tears and blood.

The Strugglers do a different kind of race. A harder one. And they are Elite. It takes longer. It is less practiced. It seems to never end, and it does more damage.

Decode their motives if you will. But I decode yours as trying to explain more why you didn’t try than why they are. Instead, I respectfully suggest, salute them. Unless you have walked with The Strugglers until midnight on the Ironman course they stand above you in the athletic arena. Struggle as they may, they mustered the courage to try.

 

http://www.bikesportmichigan.com/editorials/0000063.shtml

 

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I Am Campaign

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

http://www.tran-creative.com/iam/

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What does it take to do an Ironman?

Great post! Inspirational for fellow triathletes…

PushMyLimits

What does it take to cross the finish line of an Ironman?

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  1. Desire…you have to want to do an Ironman. If you lack desire, you will not get to the start line, let alone the finish line.
  2. Determination and Perseverance…there will be times when a workout gets tough, when obstacles get in the way and when life throws you a curve ball. When this happens, hit that ball out of the park!! Don’t quit and give up…instead, fight and push yourself to the next level.
  3. Balance…balancing home, work and triathlon can sometimes be a challenge. It is important to find that balance and maintain it throughout your training.
  4. Communication…it is important to communicate with family and work about what you might need to help you achieve your goals.
  5. Flexibility…sometimes life happens and you are not able to get a workout in as planned. This is when it is important to be flexible.
  6. Discipline…self…

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Wow, 100 followers…

I started this blog as an open diary to myself to help me keep track of my Ironman training and to help keep me accountable. It also gave me the excuse to journal about my journey for my own personal benefit. I never expected (or could imagine) that anyone else would care. I was surprised to see a few followers. I was shocked to get a few replies, and found it fun to read the musings of like minded individuals.

True, one hundred followers is nothing compared to some of the professional blogs that I see and read, but I am still amazed that so many people are interested in what I have to say (many of whom interact with me, inspire me, and keep me accountable).

Once I had completed my Ironman, my blogging dipped considerably, and I expected the followers to dwindle down to nothing, so I was shocked to see triple digits this morning for the first time.

If I have inspired or amused you, then I am humbled. If you have motivated me (and most of you have done so) then I am grateful. Thank you to all who have participated in my journey to better fitness and better health. I am incredible fortunate and I am grateful to you all…

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Madison: Day 5

The most cruel thing about Ironman weekend is having to get up at 5:30 am the day after the race. This is because all of the “Ironman Finisher’s” gear shows up in the Ironman Store when it opens at 7 am. If you want an overpriced Finishers Jacket, then you better be in line by 6 am. I staggered out of bed and made my way to Monona Terrace. It was 6 am and the line already had a few hundred people in it. I joined the herd and spent an hour chatting about our experiences. When I finally entered the store, I lost all self control. Different finishers shirts, hooded sweatshirt, running jacket and the true jacket that everyone wanted.

Right afterwards, I stopped for the complementary post race breakfast, which was actually pretty good. On my way out of Monona Terrace (for the final time), I saw that they did bring back the special needs bags. I didn’t put much of value in there, but I had a few spare tubes and CO2 cartridges so I grabbed them. I looked around, and the finishers chute was gone. It was just another road with a few parked cars. Transition was a parking lot again. The expo was gone as well. Madison had returned to everyday life. It was time for me to do the same. I grabbed my gear, headed back to the hotel and packed for the drive home…

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Defining An Ironman

Another little motivational blurb from Facebook. This nicely puts into word what I have been feeling for awhile. This journey has been about the journey itself…

 

Ironman does not define you. Finishing an Ironman does not define you. A DNF does not define you.

What defines you is your dedication to yourself. Your ability to drag your tired ass out of bed over the last several months defines you. Your push to get back in the water, on the saddle or into the shoes defines you. To take on the challenge of not the event, but the sacrifice that is the training defines you. To do, what others look on at in awe defines you.

Take these coming weeks to really appreciate what you have done, what you have sacrificed and what you have to look forward to post race. We all have a support network out there. For some it may be right at home in their spouse & kids. For others it’s a network of social friends, training mates or even just this Facebook group, but you have support.

Be thankful for everything they have given up to help you get through the training. Whether it’s being a single parent every Saturday and Sunday, or adjusting their schedule so you can join a group ride or understanding why you’re wearing compression sleeves when you join them for dinner out in town.
The tough part is over, seriously… it’s over. These coming 3 weeks will bring on many emotions: fear, anxiety, nervousness, doubt, and even feeling giddy (yes giddy)… make sure one thing you feel is appreciation.

Appreciation for what this past year has meant since the day of our registration. Appreciate the good and the bad that has happened and your ability to keep on moving forward. I know I will.

Ironman does not define you. I believe we define Ironman. We give it whatever meaning, significance and rationale we need, to justify it’s existence in our life.
Treat Ironman Sunday as your own special reward day and bask in the all of the glory for being there.

See you there.

Cheers.

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