Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's post

My annual New Year's rant contains some athletic stuff, but mostly personal life stuff, so it exists over on my "normal folks blog". You can read it here.

Happy New Year, everyone! I always liked this commercial...even more so since I became a runner!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Lately, The Road To 12 Hours, and What's Next?

So yes, it's been quite a while since I wrote anything. When I last checked in here, I was slowly coming out of a bit of an athletic funk involving a lack of both motivation and physical health. Some nagging injuries and a VERY bad race left me kinda directionless athletically. I had been planning to do my first 50 mile ultra this fall, and that definitely was never even close to being a healthy option for me.

Fall Fell 2011...loving the water crossing!
So I hit reset. And boy am I glad I did.

My 30 day yoga binge set me in the right direction. Doing "Kill The Bear" workouts with my roommates got me motivated, added strength and speed, and gave me that fire, that spark, that THING I'd been missing for several months. I was ready to crush again.

I certainly didn't rush back into be sure, my mileage has been WAY down compared to this time last year(but last year was a whole different situation). I basically ran when it was convenient to me, and I only ran at a level that was comfortable. And my "comfortable" level began to be faster. And faster. To be honest, right now I'm about as fast as I've ever been in my life, as evidenced by getting 4th overall in my first trail half marathon, and running quite respectably in some other smaller races. I probably could have written about that race, but there really wasn't much to tell. I was shooting for 2 hours flat, came up a bit short, and made a funny face when the race director told me "Congrats, 4th place." It was a tough-ass course too.

Anyways, blah blah blah...been running fast and having NO pain whatsoever.

The BIG Novemeber, during the 15 minute window before it filled up, I was able to secure a spot in Ironman Florida 2012! And not only that, but BOTH of my roommates, two of my best friends, another good training pal, and a KTB workout buddy also signed up for this race. In addition,  my brother is still toying with shelling out the dough for one of the Ironman Foundation slots which cost double(Come on....doooooo it!) Regardless, I couldn't be happier about the fact that several people I know will become an Ironman next November.

The other BIG news is that this time, I'm going balls out. For my first Ironman, my goal was to finish. And I did that with quite a respectable 13:29. Thinking about my next one, I knew I was going to want to improve on that time...but how much? 13:00 seemed reasonable, but when Delaware threw out 12 hours, I called him crazy and then decided that was the magic number.

12 hour Ironman...what will THAT entail? Well...seeing as how I have yet to manage a sub-6 hour HALF Ironman, it would seem that perhaps this isn't quite a reasonable goal...

...but when has THAT ever stopped me before? To hell with's what it will take.

1:10 swim...totally doable, gain a little speed in the water and I'm there.
6 hour bike(18.6 mph average) - The Crux...but with a pancake flat course and hopefully an assload of bike training(and maybe even a proper tri bike)'s doable.
4:30 marathon... totally doable, considering I breezed to a sub-5 marathon in Coeur d'Alene, which is hilly.
Throw in transitions no longer than 10 minutes apiece, and holy shit...why does that seem like no big deal?

Well, now that I'm out of school and working full time at my first nursing job, I believe I'll have the time necessary to get in that training I'll need to crush this race. And you'll hear about all of it right here, so stay tuned(or subscribed...since this isn't a television or radio station).

Some other goals I hope to achieve in the near future:
Run a sub-6 minute mile
New Half Marathon PR...thinking 1:35 to keep my bro off my back for a bit...his PR is 1:40.
MAYBE a new marathon PR...3:50 would reclaim the "Fastest Loental Marathon" title from my brother as well, but I think I could go 3:45...."Hear that, fucker? I've got your number!"

Oh yeah...and I suppose a sub-6 hour Half Ironman would seem appropriate...5:30 would be more reassuring though.

Not much else to say right now, however I would like to recognize an amazing friend's achievement. In May of 2010, I did a weekend bike ride called the Cottonwood 200. It was a beautiful ride through the Flinthills of Kansas, and I definitely needed the mileage heading into my first Ironman, but more important than that, I met a very amazing friend that weekend. Initially our friendship entailed sharing training and racing stories, and we even rode together a few times, but she now lives in Oklahoma and we occasionally chat when she's not too busy being Super Mom. Well anyways...last month she raced her first ever Ironman in Arizona. In front of her family and friends, she finished in an absolutely blazing 12:28. This is my blog shoutout to my amazing friend CC...I am so proud of you, and congratulations! You deserve it!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Because I haven't written about training in a while...

When I last checked in here, I was injured and lacking motivation. It's hard to definitively say that my situation has improved, but it is definitely different. With the exception of Warrior Dash, which was a total cluster on the part of the race planners(people died), I hadn't done any kind of race until yesterday. I'll tell you a little about that in a second.

Basically, after Wyco, I decided to rest and heal my body. I attempted to do this by taking on a yoga challenge. I succeeded in doing yoga every day for 30 straight days. It helped to calm my mind during a very uncertain time in my life. I was finishing up nursing school(yay!) and preparing to enter the real world, though this "real world" thing still hasn't technically happened as I'm still searching for employment as a nurse. If nothing else, I definitely increased my flexibility in a bunch of very very good ways, and strengthened the crap out of my core and hips. These are good things for anyone, especially somebody who wishes to consider themselves an athlete.

I also moved in with one of my best friends, one of the small group of people who can always keep me motivated and dreaming big. We devised a plan to keep us in shape and gnarly during our time living together. A weekly workout, consisting of any number of manly all-around exercises. Big tractor tires? Heavy ropes? Crossfit? Hill sprints? Ridiculous made-up exercises involving full-body complex movements? Hell yes.

So this is what I've been doing for the past few weeks, and though I don't necessarily notice a difference in my own appearance, others have claimed they see a difference. I am noticing an overall improvement in strength however.

So....the bad. I fucked up my back moving a keg at work. It's been a few weeks and it's not quite back to normal. I am still having random ankle/achilles/shin pain, so I'm not quite ready to dive back into running, which is kinda sad because I finally have all the free time in the world, and all I really want to do is just tear up some trails for a few hours every day.

I told myself I'd focus more on cycling while I was resting my running gears, but that never happened. I've MAYBE ridden 5 times in the last 2 months. I'm riding 180 miles this weekend. Could be interesting.

Anyways, blah blah blah...did a small triathlon yesterday. It was a charming grassroots effort for a group called SWAT(Supporting Weatherby's Adopted Troops) that sends care packages to their friends and family who are deployed overseas. It was also a solemn occasion commemorating one of their soldiers killed in action recently, Jeremy Katzenberger. He left behind a wife and a newborn. His father was on-hand before the race to thank us all for coming. He was also at the finish line handing out participation ribbons and thanking us individually "for racing and for honoring his son". There was not a single thing I disliked about this race. Weatherby Lake and the surrounding neighborhood is absolutely beautiful and the type of place I would love to retire to. The race cost $35 to enter and was delightfully bare bones compared to an Ironman event. As we arrived we were informed to "park where you can" and that transition was "find a good tree near the swim exit over here". There were no bibs, only body marking. The race director gave a quick explanation of the course before hopping in the water to race the long course with the rest of us.

As for how I did...not bad. I hadn't swam in months, so I went ahead and wore the wetsuit to give myself a little help. Arms got tired quickly and I was slow, but I never struggled. Good to know my stroke is still pretty solid. The water was refreshingly cool and clear. This event was not timed, so we relied on our own devices to keep track. I finished 1200 yards in around 20 minutes. I hopped on the bike and rode a very hilly 11 mile course in 38 minutes and change. I then hit the 3.1 mile run course, also very hilly and getting pretty hot by this point in the day, and finished the race after a ~25 minute 5k. Total time was just around 90 minutes. I felt good the whole day with a few aches here and there, but definitely felt like things were getting back to normal in my body and in my mind. It was a good day, and as I told a fellow racer who had tipped me off about this hidden treasure of a race, "I'd rather spend the 10 year anniversary of 9/11 doing something that makes me feel alive and appreciate what I have rather than sitting on my ass and getting bombarded by overly sentimental retrospectives from all the major news networks." She agreed.

Anyways...figured I'd check in and let my 5 readers know I'm still alive and still trying to kill the bear, just in different ways lately.

Congratulations to my high school friend Jeff Schmidt and KC friend Dustin Johnson for succeeding at their respective Ironman races. I'm so proud to know such inspiring and inspired people.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Psycho WyCo 20 miler: Losing My Mojo

Sigh...I've been putting this off for a while. A large part of me wants to forget that this day ever happened, but I know deep down that this race was significant for me as an athlete. I know there are some solid truths to be unearthed from my 5 1/2 hour slog through hell last weekend. I began writing these blogs mainly to tell stories, and to have a good solid memory of the events I've done, and minimally to entertain/inspire if possible. I have found another incredible effect of rethinking and retelling my races...I tend to learn a lot about myself and about racing in the process. I'm really hoping that over the course of what I'm about to write, I figure some things out, because this race really bothered me in a bunch of ways and I have no idea why. This may not be enjoyable in any way, so I apologize in advance. See you on the other side, brave readers.

Thanks to Matty Mullins for the poster!
So...where to begin. My brother has been getting more and more into running and racing, and when he informed me that he had signed up for the 20 mile race for Psycho Psummer, I was thrilled! I knew it would be a great chance for us to finally race each other. I've been racing for a few years longer than him, but we're both still relatively new to it all. I was excited for him to see some of "my turf" so to speak, and to see how "flat Kansas" compares to the trails he runs out in California. I was so excited for this race that I even convinced a buddy of mine to design some promotional posters to hype up the Brother v Brother match and to get the competitive juices flowing between us.

Originally, I felt I was the better athlete and that I'd smoke him. Then I began seeing some of his recent race results. He was training consistently("What's that?", I said.) He was getting faster. In his 2nd half marathon, he almost beat my PR without TRYING. More and more of these results convinced me that it might perhaps be a closer race than I thought. I kept going back and forth between thinking that I'd destroy him, he'd destroy me, or it'd be an exceptionally good race and the finish would see us sprinting it out for honor, glory, and Favorite Son status with my mother. I began to weigh the variables that would decide this contest For The Ages. His advantages were his consistent training and the fact that he is probably naturally faster than me. My advantages were that I was familiar with the course and accustomed to the heat and humidity of Kansas in July. And honestly, the home court advantage was, in my mind, my ace in the hole...because nobody is ever prepared for Wyco their first time.

Time passed and the race approached. Being in nursing school, as usual, limited my running to once or twice a week. My half ironman went particularly well and I felt pretty confident in my fitness, so I didn't attempt to push mileage in the 3 weeks between that race and Wyco. I ran modestly and rested to try and get some of my nagging aches and pains to subside before raceday. This was mostly unsuccessful, as I was still somewhat gimpy in my right ankle when that day came.

Loental v Loental for great justice!
My brother arrived in town and my parents decided at the last minute to come up and watch us race. This was very cool of them, as they cancelled a trip to see friends and attend a wedding to do so. Or maybe they were just too lazy to do a bunch of driving. Or maybe they really do love us. Who knows? Anyways, the day finally came and there we were, lined up and ready to run off into the forest at Wyandotte Country Park.

In contrast to my last race where I had done absolutely everything wrong the day before(got sunburn, didn't eat dinner, didn't get enough sleep, didn't eat breakfast, etc), for this race I had done everything right. I ate wonderfully the day before, I drank plenty of water and was ridiculously hydrated, and I got plenty of sleep the night before. I even planned my raceday nutrition. I was quite certain that I would not bonk this time, especially since I was ONLY doing 20 miles.  

I had no particular strategy for this race, but I had a rough time goal of 2 hour splits for each 10 mile lap. As far as my plan for beating my brother, I figured that I would just run my race and hope that he either would be unable to match my pace, or would go out too fast too early and blow up, allowing me to pass him before the end and steal all the glory for myself.

Sometimes, a plan is just a funny list of things that ain't gonna happen.

Ben's typical pre-race speech went as expected and as the clock struck 8:00 am, Ben sounded the horn and we ran off into oblivion. It was hot for sure, but not any hotter than I remember it being the previous year. I picked a pace that felt modest, but bordered on aggressive. I wasn't overly winded to begin, but I was definitely working. I wanted to see what kind of legs my brother had. For a couple miles I ran and he matched my pace stride for stride(although he did almost lose a shoe in the place where I warned him he might lose a shoe). We got through the ridiculously muddy sections and were still cooking along. After a few miles, he made a pass and I responded and matched his pace for a short while. I felt uncomfortable with him in the lead and wanted to give his legs another test, so I gave a slight acceleration, passed him, and waited to see if he came along. He did. Shortly after that, he passed me again, this time on a hill. I let this move go, but I kept him in my sights. I chuckled to myself that he had no idea what was in store for him and that he would likely regret going out this hard so early. I kept him in my sights for a while, but eventually lost contact.

I would not see him for another 5 hours. What follows is the real story.

Wouldn't even look at the cameraman
The race was effectively over. I didn't know it exactly then, but within a few miles I was pretty certain he would beat me. Shortly after he dropped me, I stopped to pee. When I started again, I immediately became aware of how sluggish my legs felt. How little energy I had. How much I really, in all truth, just didn't want to be running at that moment. I was still keeping a decent pace, but I didn't feel good. I was only a few miles in and my running form was already sagging. I was walking small hills that I should have been running. Then I was walking slight inclines. Then I was walking imaginary inclines(otherwise known as flat terrain). I kept wondering what the hell was wrong with me. Why wasn't I able to pick up my damn feet? I passed the 2nd aid station, which claimed to be mile marker 5.5 and my watch read just over an hour. I breathed a sigh of relief that maybe everything I was feeling was all in my head, because I was still technically on-pace for 2 hour splits. My spirits lifted temporarily and I absolutely stormed back onto the trail and blazed down Fall Down Hill. I then hit the dam. This is maybe a quarter mile across a grassy field with no protection from the sun whatsoever. It felt like I was walking through hell. If I could just get back into the damn shade, I'd be ok. Then the nasty hike up the hill, still in the sun, across the road and YES, back onto the trail and in the shade. I felt like my race might be salvaged and started to at least pretend to believe that I was finding a rhythm. These few miles after the dam were the only truly enjoyable portions of my race, with one exception, but I'll get to that later.

My footwork was getting really sloppy and my ankles felt really wobbly and unstable. I was beginning to have to walk the downhills as well because I was pretty sure that I'd roll an ankle or break something if I kept running them. My bad ankle was also really beginning to make itself known, and my already sagging running form developed a slight limp. I arrived at the enormous hills that come in the last mile or so before you finish the 10 mile lap. As usual they were steep, rocky, and incredibly muddy. In the midst of this, I began to get passed by the really fast 10 milers, but I also started really taking stock of how I felt. I was barely running at all and felt dizzy and drunk. This felt all too familiar, especially given the location. Five months ago, I stumbled through the end of my 50k in this exact place and felt this exact way. The only differences being that today was much hotter, there was no snow, and this was mile 10 as opposed to mile 31. This was when I knew beyond a doubt that the rest of my day was going to suck.
1st lap done...not happy.

I struggled through the final hills of the 1st lap and trudged into the main aid station at roughly 2 hours, 15 minutes. My parents greeted me and informed me that I was about 15 minutes behind my brother. At that point they asked if I was ok and I simply told them, "I don't feel good." I didn't really feel much like talking about it, so I went about the business of grabbing snacks, refilling my bottle, and slamming an S-cap. I thought about quitting. I wanted to be done. I wasn't having fun.

But I've never quit a race before...why would I start now? Running isn't always supposed to be enjoyable is it? Aren't there times when we're supposed to grit our teeth and tough it out? I've always prided myself on my stubborn "finish at whatever cost" attitude and always endured through the pain and suffering. Why do I want to quit now? Does this race actually mean anything to me?


I began the 2nd lap with these thoughts on my mind. The telling of The Race is more or less over. I am quite certain that I walked more than 80% of the 2nd lap. The physical struggle was mostly over for the day, and I settled in for 3+ hours of mental torture as I examined, discarded, and re-examined everything I know about myself, why I run, why I race, and why I supposedly love running and racing.

I momentarily wondered if I was really just sore over the fact that I was getting trounced by my brother, but I knew that wasn't true because I have been nothing but 100% stoked over the fact that he has become a badass athlete. The fact that he was up the trail somewhere kicking ass was one of the only things that made me smile all day. The other thing that made me smile was getting to the really muddy sections on the 2nd lap. I approached the bogs, saw other racers gingerly and carefully stepping around them, and somebody in my brain said "Aw, f*ck it" as I charged straight through the middle...the deepest, stickiest, nastiest part...making a point to splatter as much mud as possible onto myself. My legs plunged calf deep in some places and I stomped and stomped and stomped as I hooted and hollered. For the next 10 minutes I was happy, and then the disappointment and conflicting thoughts regained their foothold in my mind.

Over the next 3 hours, I contemplated why the hell everything had gone so wrong today. I walked. And I walked. And I kept walking. There was no inner pep talk, no voice of courage urging me to pick up the pace, no "Kill the bear, Daniel!". In fact, I was completely content to simply trudge along in misery without a single motivating thought. This was perhaps the most I have ever despised running in my athletic career. I watched as slower runners than myself passed me. And then slower ones. And a couple hikers even passed me while I was sitting on a log. I felt embarrassed to even be wearing a race bib. Some of my Mudbabe friends passed and asked me if I was ok, and I informed them that I wasn't, but assured them I'd be fine. They're all such great people, and I felt guilty being so short with them when they were simply trying to look out for me.

My ankle really started to get pissy over the course of the 2nd lap. My slight limp was now quite pronounced and even WALKING the technical sections was becoming increasingly difficult. I stumbled often. My legs nearly buckled on more than a dozen occasions. I looked at my watch occasionally and tried to project how long I'd have to suffer through this humiliation of hiking it in to the finish line. If I had been able to move any faster, my only motivation would have been the fact that my parents would be more and more worried about me with each passing minute, and I didn't want them to have to stand out there in the sweltering heat for too long. At this point, I felt like a burden. My brother had likely finished an hour ago, and I was out here pathetically trying to prove something to myself. (My brother did have an amazing finish time of 4:12...go Chris!)

Well, the miles passed slower than molasses and I stumbled and struggled through the final hills. I knew I'd be able to run the last stretch to the finish line, but I really didn't want to. I didn't even want to be seen. I wanted to walk across the finish line unnoticed...I didn't want a finisher's medal. I just wanted to let my parents know I was alive and go home.

I finally saw the finish line, and rather than give the impression I had been running, I walked...just as I had been doing for the majority of the previous 5 1/2 hours. I walked towards the finish line and across it. Ben was the first to see me. He saw my face. And he instantly knew. He has been running for much much longer than I, and if anybody else there would understand, it was him. No explanation was needed, because I'm sure he's been there countless times. He offered a simple consolation and handed me a medal without another word.

A bad race. I knew they happened. This was my first. Sometimes you can do all the planning, training, and preparing in the world, and there's still nothing more you can do to prevent it. Maybe it was the heat. Maybe it was a matter of motivation. Maybe I was burned out on running Maybe this race didn't really mean anything to me aside from the novelty of hosting and racing my brother. Once the race was a done deal, what was left besides my tired body aimlessly trudging through the mud?

In those 5+ hours of solitude I considered many things. Just like a year ago, my body needed a break. Maybe my mind needed a break from running. Maybe I needed to really figure out what I wanted to achieve as an athlete and set my heart and soul to that purpose like I had done with the Ironman. I have run once since that day, and I am no closer to having answers...all I know is that the 4.5 miles I did yesterday at Shawnee Mission Park were just as miserable as the 20 I did at Wyco. I need to let my ankle heal and this god-awful heat needs to calm the f*ck down. I'm not sure how I feel about my original plan to do a 50 miler this fall. I'm not really sure what I want to do with myself for the rest of the year. I know I need to get back to riding my bicycle and training/fundraising for the MS Ride in September, but aside from that I'm clueless.

That's it. I'm done writing and I haven't really figured much out. If you read this whole mess, I can only hope you didn't have other important things you should have been doing. I may be currently experiencing a complete lack of motivation, but that will not stop me from giving props to several of my friends who are training and racing. Ellie and David are two friends of mine who have, within the last week, completed their first triathlons. Dustin, another friend of mine, is doing his first full Ironman next month. To them, as always, I say this....Kill The Bear.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Ironman Kansas 70.3

I completed this race a week ago and I am now going to attempt to retell the story of that weekend. Coming into the last taper week, I felt that I had done a pretty decent job of preparing myself for this race and felt decently confident in my ability to finally break 6 hours in a half ironman(I had tried twice, once at this very race two years ago, and once the previous April in Galveston. And we all know how that turned out.)
It was the day before the race and I went out to the lake to do a little pre-race swim and bike with my good friend CC who was in town to race. She was nervous about her swim, and I needed to get in a few miles on the wheels I was demoing from Sunflower Outdoors(Ultegras!). The swim and bike went fine, but maybe a little longer than we expected. I only planned to be out for roughly half an hour, so sunblock didn't seem necessary. We then go to check our bikes into T1, and I realized I had left my bike stickers at home and they wouldn't let me check it. Curses! Blah blah blah, etc etc, long story short I ended up being out in the sun for over 3 hours without any sunblock applied. Result? Duh...nasty sunburn and bad attitude going into the race. What a horrible way to sabotage myself and set myself up for failure. And it gets better. I ended up taking it easy for the remainder of the evening, hanging out with my old roommate and playing videogames to stay off my feet. What then? I look at the clock and it's almost midnight. And I had not eaten dinner yet. SNAKES! I realized there really wasn't much I could throw together in the way of a legit meal, so I had some quick snacks and hit the sack. I woke up a little late the following morning, threw everything into a bag, and headed out the door without breakfast.

To sum up everything I did horribly wrong...I got a sunburn the day before my race, I didn't eat dinner, and I didn't have breakfast the morning of my race. Overall, I'd say this was the absolute worst pre-race planning I have ever done. And that's saying a LOT!

Waiting for my wave to line up
I arrived just in time to set up my transitions and get body-marked, all the while some guy is nagging all of us stragglers, "THIS is why we get body-marked the day before!" Thanks, you're the same jerk who wouldn't let me into transition yesterday because of a missing sticker. Jerk. After that it was "hurry up and wait". I had to rush to get my transitions set up before they closed them for the 6:30 pro start, but then I got to sit around for the next 45 minutes waiting for MY wave to start. Men 30-35 L-Z. The very LAST wave to hit the water at 7:30 am. The benefit to this was that I would not have to worry about fast swimmers behind me clobbering me. The drawback would be that my finish would be an hour later into the day, an hour later into the hot blazing sun...that and the obvious ego-deflating experience of coming into a T1 that is utterly devoid of other bikes. I had opted to swim without a wetsuit because my swim has become strong enough that I felt I no longer needed it, because the water was exceptionally warm, and because I felt proud to swim without the aid.

THE SWIM - 1.2 miles - Target time: 35-40 mins AKA "Rough the way your mother likes it"

Our wave finally hit the water and swam over to the start line. I felt comfortable and was not nervous. The horn sounded and we went. I immediately found a good rhythm, even breathing, and some space to swim in. I felt I was working hard, but wasn't experiencing any shortness of breath, which was really exciting. It was hard to gauge time, but I felt like I was keeping pace to hit my goal. I finally reached the first turn buoy and checked my watch...20 minutes. Oh crap. I guess I must really be dogging it, or maybe the wetsuit really makes that much of a difference. Oh well, nothing to do now but keep swimming.

As I turned to the east in the water, I noticed for the first time how choppy the water was. VERY! The swells were actually rather large and I felt like I was being thrown around quite a bit. I fought through and kept eyeballing the 2nd turn buoy signaling us to turn back towards the shore. It was coming closer, but not very fast. I was barely overcoming the current pushing me backwards. I finally made the turn and sighted for the line of buoys back to shore to complete the rectangular swim course. Without realizing it, I somehow ended up swimming back along the original buoy line I had followed out, as the current took no time at all to push me back that far. After one buoy, I saw where I was supposed to be and corrected course.
Not as happy as I look.

This whole time I occasionally checked my watch and slowly realized that I wasn't going to break 40 minutes, and what's more, I was definitely going to have my slowest swim split EVER, including that of my first triathlon where I doggy-paddled and gasped for air the entire time. I finally hit the shore at 46:16, over 4 minutes slower than my first triathlon here 2 years ago. To put it bluntly, I was pissed. Should've worn that damn wetsuit...I may as well have not even trained for the swim. Such an idiot.

I was 10+ minutes behind schedule to break 6 hours, and my morale was demolished after that swim, which I expected to be my strongest leg of the day. On a positive note, my first transition was the fastest T1 I've ever had. I didn't dilly-dally and remained fairly focused despite getting tossed around like a ragdoll during the swim. In contradiction to what the race packet indicated, and much to my dismay, there was NOT a sunscreen station at the exit of T1, so I silently cursed the fact that my sunburn would absolutely get worse.

THE BIKE - 56 miles - Target time: 3 hours 20 minutes...AKA "Bet It All On Red"

Throwing my plan out the window
I mounted my bike after a fast and efficient T1 and began rolling. I took a quick gel(my first nutrition of the day), a salt cap, and slammed a bunch of water. My failures in previous attempts at 70.3 had been related to dehydration, so a primary goal for the rest of my day was to drink a lot of water and keep my electrolytes in check. This was the only aspect of my race plan that I didn't throw out the window in a fit of despair after my swim. I originally intended to have a fast swim, a conservative bike, and still have time for a 2 hour half marathon to hit my goal.

Once on the bike, and realizing I was already behind schedule, I said Sucks to the plan and began hammering once I hit open road. And I was hauling ass too! I glanced down to see I was cruising at 20 mph with little exertion. I had a new plan. I was going for broke on the bike. I was betting everything on red...which is appropriate since my bike(Lucille) is red. That was my quiet mantra for the remainder of the bike course...Everything On Red! One thing I noticed once the tailwind abandoned us was that the Ultegras I was demoing were amazing! They climbed like bats out of hell! I was definitely riding way faster than I should have been and felt guilty that I was mildly cheating to do so.

After a FAST bike split!
I had an embarrassing moment near halfway. For some reason, my brain decided that 23 miles was half of 56 miles, and upon looking at my watch, was thrilled to discover I was on pace to have a 2:30 bike split. A few miles later I realized what an idiot my brain is, corrected my math and revisited reality. At one point, however, I was legitimately convinced I might break 3 hours, which would also be a first. As it turned out, however, the hills and the shifting winds kept me somewhat in check and I rolled into T2 in a very respectable 3:07:33, averaging almost 18 mph. Not my fastest 70.3 bike split, but considering how little riding I've done this year, I was thrilled with it!

I arrived at my transition rack in T2, racked Lucille, and rapidly began prepping for my run. As I grabbed my running shoes, I had one final reminder of how poorly I had planned for this race. It was a small thing, but it still screamed, "You're an idiot, Danny!" My shoelaces were still tied in double knots. In comparison with responsible triathletes, many of whom invest in speed laces that just cinch up in a few seconds...I hadn't even had the forethought to untie my stupid shoes knowing full well that I'd be wanting to put them on quickly. I sat on the ground and fumbled with the laces, finally getting them loose, inserting my feet, retying them, and finally running out of transition. Still overall, I had quick transitions this year...T1 was 3:45 and T2 was 2:25.

THE RUN - 13.1 miles - Target time: 2 hours or less AKA "KILL THE F*CKING BEAR!"

Leaving transition, feeling good!
As I exited transition and hit pavement of the run course I had one thought on my mind. How much time do I have left? I looked at my watch and saw that the total time elapsed so far was EXACTLY 4 hours. What are the odds? I had exactly 2 hours to run 13.1 miles. Something I had always thought I could do, but had twice failed to do in a half ironman. This time I had one advantage. I was well hydrated. I even had to pee, which we all know is a GOOD thing!

I felt strong, had good legs, and immediately set out at what felt like a 9:00 min/mile pace. I was extremely lucky that the clouds were still keeping it cool and there was a light breeze. I hit the first mile on pace and then hit the portapotty, losing a little time. I used the old "ice in the hat" trick to keep cool and tried to alternate water and gatorade in my handheld bottle, as well as grabbing solid food occasionally, usually a banana or orange slice.

A few miles in, I saw a girl up the road who was running in a pink tutu and holding a wand(dressed loosely as the good witch from Wizard of Oz). I was almost certain this was the same girl I had run behind two years ago at this same race. I remember trying to catch her last time, and slowly realizing that she was dropping me. This time I caught up with her, confirmed that she had been the same person, and then POWERED past her without a second thought. That felt good to realize how much I had improved in 2 years...especially after having no such realization during my swim.

The miles passed and I still felt strong. At no point was I more than a minute behind pace, and I was confident that if I could stay within striking distance that I'd be able to burn up my last few miles if I had to. I passed the halfway point at EXACTLY 1 hour and felt great! The second lap loomed ominously as the sun began to peek out from behind the clouds. I could feel my form drooping slightly and my pace was sagging too. The juice was leaving me and I began to lose faith in the time split calculations I was doing in my head. For one thing, I am almost certain that whoever placed those mile-marker signs had not done so accurately. One mile I was exactly on pace, and the next mile I was 45 seconds slow. Then I was back on pace. Puzzling.

I was beginning to suffer, but still felt I had some punch left. I powered up the BIG hill for the last time that day, passed 10 miles and looked at my watch. 5:35 elapsed...I had 25 minutes to run an incredibly painful 5K. For those of you keeping track at home, that's roughly an 8:00/mile pace. I began to coach myself. Quietly chanting mantras to myself to keep the legs turning over...Kill the bear...kill the bear....kill the bear....Come on....kill the bear. It had worked so beautifully in Coeur d'Alene almost a year ago, it could work now. I didn't have a direct way of knowing my exact pace, but I had a sinking feeling it wasn't enough. I kept hoping to see the next mile marker around each corner, but it was never there.

I finally passed 11 miles with about 14 minutes left, and realizing that there was no possible way I could run a sub-7:00/mile pace to the finish line, my heart broke, my confidence checked out, and my spirit wet its pants. I had come SO god-damned close, and 6 hours would YET AGAIN have to wait for another day. I felt pitiful and pathetic for the next mile, trudging along in defeat, and finally with a mile to go I let go of my disappointment and set my sights on what would certainly be a smashing new PR! I was in a lot of pain and by this time quite certainly low on fluids and electrolytes since it had warmed up. I rounded the final corner, hit the final stretch, sprinted for all I had and crossed the finish line with a 2:05:30 half marathon. Final time for Kansas 70.3 - 6:05:29...a PR by over 11 minutes!
Finishing strong and in pain

Chrissie Wellington might actually be a robot.
I was immediately pleased to see 3-time Women's Ironman World Champion Chrissie Wellington once again hanging out at the finish line and handing out medals to racers. She placed my medal around my neck as I told her that she had given me my first triathlon medal here 2 years ago, and then I thanked her. She smiled, said something delightful and British, and then hugged me. It was really a great way to end my race!(Also, for anyone curious, I did cry a little bit when I finished, couldn't control it)

After I left the finisher's chute, I spotted Allison, who had been taking some pictures. She asked me what I needed, to which I replied, "I need to be on the ground for a bit." So I stumbled around until I found some shade and happily collapsed on the ground and laid there hyperventilating for what felt like 20 minutes. We eventually agreed that the med tent might be a decent idea, so I headed over and got checked out. My main concern was that my face and hands were tingling like crazy, so I figured it was dehydration. I then noticed the wicked sausage fingers and realized there was also some electrolyte deficiency as well. Blood pressure was fine, pulse was fine, and lungs were clear, but O2 saturation was only 92%. They didn't start an IV just yet, but really just wanted me to sit there and drink some gatorade and see if I could get my O2 up to 95% at least. Sure enough, they checked again in 10 minutes, I was up to 99%. The last thing I did in med-tent land was a nice ice bath to help my legs recover and reduce swelling and inflammation that tends to come with 70.3 miles of high-level exertion.

Looking back on this race, and on my brief triathlon career as a whole, I've begun to notice subtle differences between the various distances of triathlon. The sprint triathlon is a fun distance because you can really kill yourself going fast and bounce back in a day. The Olympic distance is twice as long, but it's not quite so long that you still can't crush a fast pace and hurt for more than a few days. The full Ironman hurts no matter which way you slice it, but having done only one, I raced to finish, not for time. When you race to finish, you do so conservatively and you choose paces that are comfortable and are maintainable. Then there's the half-ironman. It's not so long that I'm worried about not finishing, so the next thing to try is doing it fast. And it's not so short that doing it fast doesn't beat you the hell up. Every half-ironman I've done has left me battered, broken, and often crying for one reason or another. It is such a cruel and unforgiving race. I can't wait for my next one! 6 hours WILL be mine.

Bonus pictures!
Posing with my finisher's medal and Gerold, the turtle I found on the way back to the car.

Tuckered out after a long day. Fell asleep damn near cuddling with my medal!
 As always, thanks so much for reading and supporting me!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Kindness of Strangers...

I was on the home stretch of a tough 50 miler in the brutal Midwest heat...over 100 degrees at times, according to my bike computer. It was cooling off a bit and I was rolling through the really nice part of Leawood, and then it happened.


The car full of teenagers(at least that's my best guess as to their age) sped by after the kid riding shotgun uttered those words. By the time I could react, there's no way they could have heard anything I might have yelled as a comeback, so I merely smiled and threw up the ol' V-For-Victory/Peace Sign.

I kinda wished that I might have had a chance to talk with those boys, and thought that if I were lucky, a well-timed stoplight would put me in conversational range to have some questions answered. Alas, it was not to be, and I spent the remainder of my ride thinking of awesomely clever things I might have said to them if they had given me the chance to respond, which later transitioned into me contemplating what sort of things led to the entire encounter in the first place.

Things I might have yelled back:
1. Hey, that's great...enjoy dying of heart disease in 20-30 years!(Nah, too harsh. And I can't know for certain that they don't exercise)
2. Ah...the old Skaters vs Bikers feud! Good memories.....of 4th grade.(Kind of a longshot, to assume they were skaters)
3. Boys, I appreciate your enthusiasm, but I hate to inform you but in 10 years you're probably going to look back on yourselves now and be ashamed at what douchebags you were. That is, unless you fail to grow out of your current douchebag phase. I believe in you though!

Honestly, I really could only laugh. I am a pretty happy person, but I can remember a time when an encounter like this might have bothered me. A man less sure of himself, that I once was, might have felt belittled or insulted...maybe even ashamed. But I think of all the amazing places this bicycle has taken me. Where this body has taken me. It's nice to know that I've outlived the need for approval from the assholes of this world. Anytime I can get a reminder of that fact, I'm a happy guy.

I'd be curious to know what they had in mind...what their ultimate "I got you GOOD, you F*CKER" result would have been. In their wildest dreams, how would I have reacted to their cruel taunt? Would I have stopped riding, threw my bike into the ditch, and begun violently weeping at the side of the road?

I hold no grudge against these boys, honestly. I feel sorry for them actually. Whatever their upbringing has been, they are missing something amazing. The self-confidence to be able to feel good about themselves without having to resort to insulting people who seem different. Insecurity manifests in several ways...either by tearing others down, or by tearing oneself down. In my adolescence, I chose the latter, and I spent many years thinking I was worthless as a result. I imagine those boys in that SUV face a long struggle in the coming decade coming to terms with their insecurities.

Or maybe they just wanted me to get off the road or something.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Training Update Part Dos

It's been a while since I posted last, and I've been feeling a little restless anyways so I'm gonna write some things about stuff.

I spent memorial day weekend in Boulder, CO doing a miniature Camp Delaware. The term Camp Delaware originally referred to the week I spent in Colorado over spring break, which basically consisted of Delaware kicking my ass up and down mountains and high altitude trails. I must say he's a hell of a training partner and really starting to become a beast. My "Best Ironman Finish Among My Friends" record will most certainly fall in November 2012 when we race Ironman Florida(In other news, we all want to race Ironman Florida...maybe I'll write about that at some point).

We drove out Friday and started the craziness Saturday morning with a 7 mile trail run above 6000 ft. We then lunched and later did a 40 mile bike ride called Super Jim. You see, the local riders have clever names for their regular routes. Riding to Jamestown, CO is referred to as the "Jim" ride. Riding another 4 miles past Jamestown is called the "Super Jim" ride. If you check out the elevation profile on that link, you'll see why. I can honestly say I've never ridden my bicycle up a steeper hill in my life, and I might even hesitate to call what I did "riding". Some stretches of those last 4 miles were 14% grade. The entire route is considered a Category 1 climb, for any of you who watch pro cycling. I was in my smallest possible gear and I was still moving no faster than 2-3 mph, and occasionally came to a complete standstill and at risk of tipping over due to lack of forward momentum. This is where the hardasses become hardasses. The entire climb gained over 3500 ft in elevation...and then we turned around.

The ride down was something else entirely. I realized immediately that I was uncomfortable pointing my bicycle down a hill this steep and winding. I became freaked out really really quickly by the huge gains in speed that I was having in a very short amount of time. I began to ride the brakes to try and control my speed and not become a smear on the pavement of some god-forsaken mountain road, but after a few minutes of this I could SMELL my brake pads. My hands were numb and beginning to cramp up and I was getting more and more freaked out by the fact that I could barely control my acceleration. So after suffering up that humongous hill without having to walk my bike was the trip back down that got me out of the saddle. I pathetically began walking my bike down a hill that I was too chicken sh*t to ride down. It was humiliating and I began to temporarily hate cycling because I felt like a laughing stock. Delaware had waited at the top for our friend Alan so I had a few minutes head start coming down. When he flew by me on his way down, I wondered what he thought of me cowardly inching my way down this hill. I made it back down to Jamestown by alternating walking and riding to let the brakes sporadically cool off. The road from Jamestown to the bottom of the mountain was a much friendlier grade, and on another day I might have been comfortable going fast, but my nerves were already fried today and I took it slow. Overall this was a really great ride, despite the suffering and the wussy descent.

Sunday involved Del and I hitting a local outdoor pool that was 50 meters long. It was my first time in a pool that long, and the altitude definitely made me its bitch. At home I can do 500 meters without stopping for a breather(and a short one, at that). At this altitude, I could do 100 meters and then I'd need a 5 minute break. Del and I rocked out 2100 meters before calling it quits and heading downtown to pick up my BolderBoulder race packet and meet up with friends for lunch.

Much less sketchy on toprope!
After lunch, Del and I went climbing in Boulder Canyon with a friend of his from school. Delaware lead a 5.8 crack climb that was conveniently bolted. I followed and was surprised to find out I still know how to do hand jams, though my technique is nearly nonexistent. I attempted to lead a 5.7 slab, but only got 3-4 bolts in before a tricky friction move made me realize that not only did I no longer have the nerves for this, but that I really didn't feel like taking a cheese-grater lead fall on this particular day. Not worth it. Del finished the lead and I was able to do the move on toprope without too much difficulty. 

That night we had an enormous pasta dinner and then all hit the sack for our early wakeup call for the BolderBoulder 10k. My goal for this race was to run 7:30 splits. I had qualified for a pretty baller wave by running 7:30 splits at a 4 mile race in KC, and for some reason it seemed reasonable that I'd be able to repeat such a performance in a 10k at 5000+ feet elevation. Sometimes I'm not sure what the hell goes on in my brain. I did realistically project that I'd at least be able to PR. My goal was sub-47:00, and at the least a sub-48:00 would give me a PR. Long story short, I got nothing. I ran a decent race coming in at 50:20, but I did not feel good, never really settled in, and couldn't even manage an 8:00 min/mile pace. Oh well...some days you kill the bear, other days....well....
Pre-race photo-op!

After the race we all unwound a bit before packing to head home. Due to CERTAIN EVENTS that HAPPENED, we were required to make a stop in Denver before heading home. All was going according to plan. Del was driving his car, with the bikes on top, and I was in the car following him. I remember admiring my pretty bike...Lucille...she looked so good proudly mounted on Del's roof rack. I even commented on how good she looked up there, and that's when I failed to notice that Del was driving towards, and into,  a parking garage. The low-clearance bar was a fairly thick metal tube hanging from chains...a warning that tall vehicles would not fit in this parking garage.


I watched in slow motion as our bikes SLAMMED into the low clearance bar. My heart momentarily leaped out of my body via my throat, grew tiny arms and legs, slapped me in the face, kicked me in the balls, and then jumped back inside and resumed its job of pumping blood to various places in my body.

The impact knocked both bikes sideways, snapped one of his bike trays in half, and ripped the rack clamps from their perches above the doors. All I could tell from an immediate inspection was that the shifters looked broken, but I feared the worst...another cracked frame that would likely not be covered under warranty. The extra problem this added was that we would have a difficult time transporting two bikes back to Kansas with a broken bike rack. Del opted to leave his bike in Colorado for the week, and we disassembled mine and crammed it into the car as best we could. After taking care of the business that needed to be taken care of in Denver, we finally hit the road, and aside from incredibly strong winds and a freak dust storm that was MILES in diameter, we arrived home safely.

The bike has since been examined by my bike shop guy, and to my delight, the damage to the shifters was only superficial(i.e. they still work) and my frame is intact! Hooray!

In other news, school is still kicking my ass with pointless busy work, but I'm still managing decent mileage. The heat really kicked it up a few notches in the past few weeks and today I did an open-water swim followed immediately by a trail run...whew. Hot, sticky, and dehydrated is no way to go through life, son. I'm planning to ride tomorrow, but we're down to a little over a week until KS 70.3. I can't say that I'm terribly confident about breaking 6 hours, but I still think it's possible.

I suppose we'll just see if everything falls into place.

KTB, folks!
Bonus pic: Jesus races the Devil in Wave-A at BB10k!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Heritage Park Sprint Triathlon

I have heard that weekends are supposed to be for relaxing and recovering from your busy and stressful week.

How about that?

My weekend consisted of the following: FRIDAY - indoor trainer ride, bar shift until 3:30 am, two hours of sleep, SATURDAY - volunteering at the Perry Lake trail race from 7 am-1pm, an hour long nap(which was made possible by a friend picking up my packet for the next day's race), getting all spiffed up to attend Matt Sterling's wedding, having to leave RIGHT before they served dinner in order to make it to another wedding at which my band was performing until midnight, drive home, 3ish hours of sleep, SUNDAY - wake up, triathlon, become temporarily deceased.

I need to plan my weekends better.

This was only a sprint triathlon, so I wasn't too worried about the racing aspect, but I really just wanted to get a good rehearsal on my tri systems in general. When I got home from the gig Saturday night, I took a look at my packet for the first time. They had forgotten to put a wave-identifying swim cap in with the rest of my stuff, so I made a note to show up a tad early to grab one. I then started looking at the rest of the materials...a waiver I had to sign....a sheet listing ranges of bib numbers and the events they corresponded to(there was also a duathlon and team relay that day). I noticed that for some reason, my bib number corresponded to the duathlon, which was run-bike-run(no swim). I became more curious and decided to double check and make sure I was signed up for the correct event. I looked at my registration confirmation and found, to my surprise, that I had either accidentally signed up for the wrong event, or the website screwed up and PUT me in the wrong event. In either case, I was really pissed.

I began to obsess over what I was going to do in order to make sure I got to swim. I contemplated just casually asking for a green swim cap so I could start with my wave and not have unnecessary questions be asked of me. I didn't particularly care if my chip times were way out of whack. Keep in mind that at this point, it is 1:00 am and I haven't even laid out my race gear yet. Whatever...I pack everything, including a checkbook in the event a bribe was needed, and planned to race the triathlon by whatever means necessary.
<Fast forward 3-4 hours>
I woke up feeling shitty, to no surprise as I had gotten almost 7 hours of sleep in the past 48+ hours.  I loaded up the car and drove to the race site, rehearsing and obsessing over my plan to expertly haggle my way into the correct event. I walk up to a tent that appears to contain people who look like they know what's going on. I walk up to a table and very plainly state that I somehow ended up in the wrong event and was wondering if there was anything that could be done. They very quickly pointed to a lady sitting next to a bunch of boxes and paperwork and registrationy-looking things. In a matter of minutes, she had taken down my information and assigned me a new bib number for the triathlon. sure am glad I spent all that time obsessing over this interaction. As it turned out, she had spent a good chunk of her morning switching people from the triathlon TO the duathlon, because of the chilly water temps(62 degrees), and was somewhat amused that I was switching the other way.

I then proceeded to head over to the transition areas and began to set up my stuff. This is where my morning got all odd and coincidental. I knew one other person who was racing that day, my good buddy and Bike MS pal, Alan Gore. Turns out he had already set up his transition area in the slot directly to my right. And what's more, the girl who set up in the slot directly to my left HAD MY OLD BIKE! Well....not MY bike, but she had the exact same yellow Specialized Allez that I used to have until the frame cracked and got replaced under warranty.
My old bike!!! Ah, memories.
I next went over to body marking, where I realized that a good number of these volunteers had likely never worked a triathlon before. The girl who offered to mark me appeared to be in high school and when I very casually dropped trou right in front of her, she giggled momentarily before marking me. Don't worry, I had a tri-suit on underneath my pants.

The Actual Race

Yes, I was eventually going to get to the racing part, but my morning was quite interesting and I couldn't resist sharing.

The Swim

I wasn't worried about the swim, and was actually looking forward to testing out my speed on a short course. I had been training in the pool quite a bit and had gotten my 1.2 mile split down to 40 minutes, so I figured I might be able to really scorch a 600 yard swim. I was also not concerned about the 62 degree water, as I had swam 2.4 miles in 60 degree water the previous summer. What I wasn't prepared for was the cold air. It turns out that the air temperature is what really makes you cold if you have a full wetsuit on. It is also the case that my mild exercise-induced asthma does not like cold air. Even before the horn sounded, I was shivering and breathing hard, so once the swim began it only got worse. I couldn't catch my breath for the entire swim, and I couldn't keep my face in the water for more than 3-4 strokes. I ended up doing a whole lot of breaststroke and gasping. About halfway through the swim, I became convinced that I was having the 2nd asthma attack of my entire life(the first being in 8th grade during football practice, after which I received the original diagnosis). I was actually wheezing and having a lot of trouble breathing. Luckily for me, it didn't get any worse and I was able to struggle my way through and reach the end of the swim. Overall, I have to say this was my worst triathlon swim EVER. I was out of the water and crossed the timing mat at 10:13.

My first transition was awkward, fumbling, and disorganized...which is pretty much how my T1's tend to be. I've never rehearsed a transition before so I can't really be surprised. I did finally decide that from now on, I'm just going to SIT DOWN to put on socks rather than wobble around on one leg while I repeatedly fail to put a sock onto a wet foot. T1 time - 5:12

The Bike

I finally got geared up, rolled my bike past the timing mat, mounted up, and took off. I was still wet, and the wind was COLD. My entire body still felt somewhat in shock from my swim debacle, but I slowly began to settle down and establish a rhythm through rolling hills and chilly breezes. About a mile into the bike portion, with no warning, my left foot came unclipped coming through the top of its stroke and violently kicked forward. I didn't lose control of the bike, luckily, but I reclipped it and began to wonder what was up. I tentatively pulled straight up on the left pedal and wouldn't you know it, it came unclipped again. Later upon examination, I found that my left cleat had cracked and broken. Ah, SNAKES! The remainder of the bike went smoothly, aside from the occasional unintentional unclip, and was somewhat hindered by the fact that I had to pedal very tentatively with the left leg and could not really crank with it. Final bike time: 11.5 miles in 38:10...roughly 18 mph pace.

The Run

My 2nd transition went smoothly enough(1:47) and I was off and running...literally. As expected, the legs were all catty-whompus at first. And my toes were numb from the cold still. So basically I could not feel anything below my waist. I felt like I was barely moving, but my Garmin informed me that I was moving at a sub-8:00 pace. Fine by me. I saw Alan on the first out-and-back stretch and we high-fived. I knew I would eventually catch him if it were a longer race, but this was only a 3 mile run. He was quite a few minutes in front of me due to his wave starting before mine, and the fact that he is much faster on a bike than I am. I concentrated on running my race and maybe attempting to catch him before the finish line. By mile 2, everything was warming back up and I was pleased to notice that my legs still had some oomph left. My first mile came in around 8:00, and each subsequent mile was faster. My 2nd mile was a 7:30, and my final mile was just under 7:00. My final run time was 22:20, an average pace of 7:27! The run was my best and favorite portion of the race.

Final time for the entire race - 1:17:41

For a little perspective, my swim split from Ironman Coeur d'Alene was 1:17:23.  Funny how things work out like that.

Alan and I at the finish...I almost caught him!
This was my first sprint distance triathlon ever, and it was interesting how different the preparation for it was. I was more focused on speed than any tri I've ever attempted, and aside from my swim, I was incredibly satisfied by how fast I was.

This is the part in my race report where I usually get all sentimental, wordy, and "big picture" about what the race "meant to me" and I reveal deep, dark things about myself in the process. If you came for enlightenment, I apologize. This was just another race. Happy trails to you all and thanks for reading!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Training Update

After my brother completed his first half-ironman at Wildflower this weekend, I went ahead and made the commitment and signed up for the Kansas 70.3. It will be interesting to revisit my first triathlon. I'm debating whether or not I am capable of a sub-6 hour finish, especially considering my nursing school time constraints. Yeah, I'm tired of hearing about those too.

So brother has officially become a sick, twisted endurance sport addict just like me! And as proof, he has even started his own blog to write about his races. Can you believe that? It's funny, because he was asking me for advice on what to name his blog. Out of brotherly competition, I first suggested "I Want To Be Like Danny", but in all seriousness asked him if he had any good training mantras that he'd been using. As it turns out he found a title that fulfilled BOTH suggestions. His blog is entitled, "Well, Shit, if Danny can do it..." He has admitted to finding inspiration in some of the things I've done, but I'm more proud of him than anything for flipping a 180 on his formerly sedentary, smoking, and unhealthy eating lifestyle. All I did was start from "kinda in shape" and work my way up to "I haven't figured out exactly how far I can run, but it's at least 40 miles".

So, back to my stuff. I'm pretty confident that my run is in pretty decent shape, and I'm not concerned about it for the upcoming triathlon. My swim needs a little work. I did my first official training swim of the season today. I completed the entire race distance in a pool and it took me about 50 minutes, including breaks every 500 meters. Not too shabby for a baseline. I'm hoping to shoot for a 35 minute split on the 1.2 mile swim leg. The big concern for me is the bike. I have ridden TWICE since last September. In past half-iron distance races, I have had a goal of a 3 hour bike split, but I seriously don't think that is realistic, considering how little I've ridden, and how little time I'll have to ride in the next month. I'd be pretty thrilled with a 3:10-3:20 time(16-17 mph average) for the 56 mile bike portion. I'm assuming I'll be able to manage a sub 2-hour half marathon(9:00 min/mile pace).

So let's do some math. Assuming I meet my most modest projections...2 hour run+3:20 bike+35 minute swim=5:55. So I either will need to save a few minutes on either the bike(less likely) or the run(more likely), or I'll have to have lightning fast transitions. This is actually possibly a reality, considering I may choose not to wear a wetsuit for the swim.

Anyways, hopefully over the next few weeks I'll have some encouraging things to write about my training progress. As always, kill the f*cking bear ever day.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Can YOU do a triathlon without arms?

This guy can.

Now...with that in mind, think about your own limitations. And now forget them forever.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

40 Miles: AKA "JUST the 40"

"If you can do 31 miles at WyCo, then you can do 40 miles at Clinton Lake."

That is pretty much the reason I did this. Because Sophie said I could. Whether that logic was appropriate or even rational is no longer the point. As with pretty much every other crazy new thing I've attempted, all it took was for that seed of belief to be planted in my head and I took care of the rest.

I honestly don't even remember when this conversation took place, or if it was before or after the 50k in February. Yes, the same 50k where I nearly passed out from hypoglycemia in the last mile. Regardless of how that race went, or more importantly how it felt, I decided...with some encouragement...that it was time once again to push the distance a little further for my next race. 40....that's only 9 more than 31. And it is true that Clinton Lake trails are nothing like the teeth-gnashing nightmare that you find at WyCo.

And so it was...

I had signed up for the marathon, but since I knew both race directors and was pretty certain I'd be 'voluntold' to help at packet pickup, I figured I'd probably be able to make the switcheroo to the 40 miler without too much difficulty. Sophie tried twice to convince me to bump up to the 100k race(61 miles). The first time was 3 weeks beforehand, during Brew 2 Brew, and the other I'll mention later. It didn't bother her that I would be exactly doubling the longest run of my life, nor that I wouldn't have time to put in the distance for it. When I finally mentioned my nagging achilles tendon issues, she relented(the first time).

Preparing for this race has been an entirely unique experience for me. In the past, I have always approached new distances with a great amount of apprehension and self-doubt. Not so this time around. Ultrarunners have a very laid back way of making huge physical undertakings seem like they're really not that big of a deal. Lately I've been sort of questioning whether or not I respect that philosophy or not. Especially considering I have seen bumper stickers that read "You did a marathon? How cute."

Personally, I love love LOVE seeing others getting active and exercising. My dad just ran his first half marathon, for example, and I couldn't be more proud. In my opinion, there is no distance too small for me to be proud of somebody for completing. If you did your first 5k, I'm thrilled. Two of my good friends just did their first marathons, and I am ecstatic for them. Coming into this race, aside from my non-runner friends who were all predictably slack-jawed at the prospect of what I was choosing to do, most of my runner friends pretty much had the attitude of "Cool. You'll do fine."

Not a big deal. Ok.

Packet pickup, which I helped out with, was a very similar experience for me.
"What race are you doing tomorrow?"
"Oh, JUST the 40 miler" or "Oh, JUST the marathon."

I'm not sure if it's a conscious thing, but the language that ultrarunners use can either be interpreted as very laid-back and supportive, or extremely pompous and elitist. I was having a hard time deciding which one it was, and thinking about it was leaving a bad taste in my mouth. More on that later...

The week of the race, I ended up getting sick...even had to miss a day of clinical, which is not necessarily a good thing. Questions started to arise about whether or not I'd be running, or if I'd just bump down a distance, or if I'd give it my all and if it came to a DNF, so be it. I realized I'd just have to see how I felt on raceday.

So to briefly summarize, I came into my first attempt at 40 miles realizing that it really wasn't a big deal, and fully prepared to fail if I had to. No pressure...literally. Perhaps that's why it went so well.

My last 50k had ended so poorly that I wanted to make sure that I stacked the odds in my favor as much as I could. I was bringing my big camelbak, plenty of food, and I even remembered sunscreen! I never remember sunscreen. The hydration lessons I learned from my triathlons last year would prove to be helpful, and I wanted to make sure and eat a LOT every chance I got. 

When I woke up on race morning, my nose and upper airways were full of gunk. I was coughing and sniffling, and I more or less felt miserable. I snoozed once and was about to call it quits, but I decided to get up and see if I could just get things rolling by being up and moving around. I hadn't actually decided if I was racing or not,  and I was still coughing up wads of stuff, but I went ahead and started gearing up to race. I lubed up my toes, heels, armpits, and thighs. I put on socks and compression, jersey w/ pre-pinned race bib, grabbed my drop bag, and headed out the door. Now that I think about it, I never actually decided "I'm racing today"...I just kinda got ready and went with the normal routine.

It was a beautiful morning. There was a slight chill in the air, no wind, and partial cloud cover. I arrived, checked in, and began stretching and doing the normal pre-race nervous thing. Except I wasn't really nervous. I really had nothing to lose except for maybe setting my recovery back a few days on my cold. I lined up with the other 100kers and the "just 40 mile"ers in an arbitrarily chosen spot that represented the starting line. Ben once again gave a very casual welcome speech with pre-race instructions, looked at his watch, and then said "go". So we went...down the hill on a gravel road and then a hairpin turn onto the trails.

I chose not to bring my Garmin for this race. I knew it would be inaccurate, it would crap out after 6 hours(and I'm not that fast), and I really had no interest in knowing how slow I was moving. So I ran the majority of the race with little idea of how far I had come except for a few obvious milestones along the way. A few miles in, I found myself in the middle of a decent sized "conga line" of runners, which is fairly uncommon in long trail races. Usually the pack spreads out pretty uniformly, but we had about 20-30 runners all strung along. At a certain point I realized that I was due for a salt-capsule and after deciding I really shouldn't put it off any longer, I exited the conga line and stepped to the side to access my camelbak. The group ran ahead and I never saw any of them again. That probably means they were going too fast for me anyways.

There were a few other runners that I would yo-yo back and forth with, but for the most part, I ran the next 5-6 miles in complete solitude. It was peaceful and calming to just tick off the miles one by one, with only the sounds of the forest to accompany me. I saw the occasional racer pass by going the opposite way, including one who shouted some very encouraging words to me..clearly a much slower runner than he was...and who I eventually recognized again when he later won the 100k race. Whatever ill thoughts I had about the ultrarunning community vanished into thin air as I once again was reminded why trail runners are the friendliest and toughest athletes out there. In an ultramarathon, it doesn't matter how fast you are...everybody suffers.

I had run on these trails numerous times, yet they seemed so foreign on this day in such a different setting. Occasionally I'd catch a hint of familiarity in a tree branch I remembered having to duck, or a particularly rocky section that I had to walk. I had been running or biking on these trails for a decade, but it all seemed new today. The Land's End aid station came and went. The Corps of Engineering building aid station came and went(I ate a lot of food). An insidious worry became solid after about 3.5 hours of running and roughly 17-18 miles. I hadn't peed yet. I realized that I was getting behind on hydration, or my kidneys were shutting down. I immediately thought of all the cold medicine I was on, trying to remember which ones were metabolized in the liver as opposed to the kidneys. I stopped to pee, just to see if anything came out. A little bit, but it was not encouraging. Very small volume, and darker than I hoped for. I made a note to keep drinking....and MORE!

I finished the first 20 mile lap in just under 4 hours, reapplied sunblock, took some ibuprofen, grabbed some more gels and a powerbar, then headed back out to the sounds of cheering from my friends. I ended up leaving the aid station with another guy named Joe and we ran quite a few miles together, exchanging stories and small talk. I talked about school and life in the midwest, and he talked about his grandkids and Texas humidity. He was doing the 100k, and as it turns out he was a race director in Austin. I dropped him a few times, and he caught up a few times, eventually passing me for good when I stopped to try and pee again. Still very little, and very dark. I was really REALLY starting to worry now. I felt ok for the moment, but I knew if I didn't start peeing soon, my day was going to go downhill very soon.

In nursing school, there are certain things they really hammer into your head. Therapeutic levels of certain key drugs, ideal ranges for sodium and potassium levels, of those things is the absolute minimum hourly urinary output. 30 milliliters per hour. That's basically a shot glass of pee every hour, otherwise medical folks start to get nervous. I had been running for about 5 hours, and I was pretty sure I hadn't peed 150 ml in that time. And the sun was coming out. As I rolled into the Land's End aid station for the 2nd time, I was concerned. I announced that, in addition to having my camelbak filled up, I needed to drink a LOT of fluid and fast. The aid station volunteers hopped to it and in no time I had downed 5-6 cups of water, eaten some fruit snacks, a banana, and some other munchies.

One lady at the aid station thought she recognized me. I started naming off things I do which she might recognize me asked if I ever did Dog Days....yeah a few you know Melissa Sigler? Oh yeah......then a thought occurred to me....have you heard of a band called Sellout? .....Yes....YES! You're that guy!..... I'm that guy....most of the other volunteers immediately also made the connection. One of them even said, "If you're in Sellout and somebody thinks they recognize you, why wouldn't you just say that first?".....I guess we're kinda popular or something? Who knew?

Satisfied that I had just given myself a sufficient bolus of fluid, I thanked the volunteers for their help and headed back down the trail. I was still very worried about my hydration, but 15 minutes later I stopped to relieve myself and was extremely relieved(durrr) at the clarity and volume of the fluid I voided. And for the rest of the day, it only got better. I was empowered by the fact that I had encountered and overcome such a threatening raceday situation. I got behind on fluid and was able to intelligently deal with it and catch back up. For great justice!!!

When I rolled into the Corps of Engineering building aid station, out of curiosity I asked how many miles were left. They informed me that it was 9 miles back to the main aid station. I had run 31 miles. 50 kilometers. Each additional step would constitute the furthest I had ever run. I glanced at my watch and it read just under 7 hours...if they had stopped timing right then, I would have a new PR for the 50k. I stuffed my face with food, thanked everyone, and set off towards the finish.

At this point, I began to make calculations in my mind. My goal was to finish in 10-11 hours. My brain's calculations were telling me I could do it in 9. I told my brain to shut up because this wasn't about time. My brain came back with "Come on.....9 know you want it." I told my brain we would continue our current pace and reassess the situation at Land's End, which was 3 miles from the finish. I knew I had some kick left, but I didn't want to blow up early. So I continued. The legs were definitely getting heavy and of the 5-6 times I almost fell during this race, they were all in this last 9 mile stretch. The solitude was stunning. I knew there were tons of other runners out here, but I was having 45-60 minute stretches where I saw not a soul during my second lap.

I kept checking my watch, because my brain had more or less convinced me that we should finish in under 9 hours, and I knew Land's End was oh-so-close. I knew I was fine on fluids, so I wouldn't have to refill the camelbak. I downed one last gel and a salt cap for good measure and I finally arrived. A few other runners were there, including a young buck who looked fast and was doing the 100k. I grabbed a handful of chips and another banana, and we left the aid station together. I recognized him from packet pickup. His name was Alec. This was his first ever trail run....and people think I'M crazy. He admitted to me that he had bitten off more than he could chew, and had decided to finish 40 miles and call it a day. This trail running stuff is HARD, as it turns out. I asked him how he felt about finishing sub-9, and let him know that if we ran the last 3 miles faster than 15 minutes apiece, we'd make it. He didn't quite have any speed left in his legs, but he wished me well and I punched it.

It was the same as I felt nearing the end of the winter 50k, except this time I knew I had the calories to back it up. For some reason, when you know you're almost done, your body can do amazing things for you...assuming you have fed it properly. I burned up the last 3 miles in 34 minutes climbed the last hill up to the main aid station and crossed the finish line with a huge dorky grin on my face.

Final time: 8:48:37

I felt great. I felt amazing! My awful cold had been a complete non-factor for the entire day, and I'm pretty sure I coughed less when I was running than I would have had I not been running. I realized that at no point during the entire day had I ever been in distress of any kind, aside from being slightly low on fluids for awhile. If this was how 40 miles felt, I wonder how much more I could do? Remember when I said that Sophie had tried TWICE to convince me to do the 100k. The 2nd attempt happened at this exact moment. She told me that I should do another loop. She told me that conditions would never be better than they were right then. She told me somebody could pace me, it would be great, and I'd get a belt buckle(100k finishers get belt buckles instead of medals).

The crazy thing is that I actually considered it. Very briefly, but it didn't seem like the stupidest idea ever, and that amazes me. I realized that I really could have kept running, but my mind was already made up. I prepared myself to be done now, and I was done now. I know I was probably physically capable of grinding out another 20 miles, but that's not how I would have wanted it. It would have gotten ugly. And besides, I have thoroughly enjoyed the process of slowly and methodically challenging my knowledge of myself. Half-marathon? Sure. Marathon? Sure. 70.3...140.6? Yep. 50k? You got it......40 miles? Abso-freaking-lutely! Is a 50 next on my plate? Or maybe I try for some new PR's on old distances? Who knows?

I am currently not registered for a single race and that is somewhat liberating. There are a few races which I have mentally committed to, but aside from that, the remainder of my athletic season will be exactly what I make of it.

I saw a sign during my first ultramarathon that read, "It hurts more and more, and then it stops hurting more." Or as 100k finisher Joe put it, "It always never gets worse." This is what makes me believe in 50 makes me believe in 100 miles. Sure there is a lot more that goes into those distances, but from everything I've heard and experienced, the pain of an ultra builds up to a certain point, and then plateaus. The difference between 40 and 50 is simply the willingness to suffer through that pain for another 10 miles. Knowing this...someday I will run 100 miles.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Rock the Parkway Half Marathon

On Saturday, I ran the half marathon at Rock the Parkway in Kansas City. It was my slowest half marathon ever, and that includes my 13.1 times from both half-ironmans. I suspect it was slower than my 13.1 splits from the marathon in my full Ironman. I was not attempting to PR, but I was nervous for this distance for the first time since my first 13.1 in 2007. Having said all that, I still believe that this was my most meaningful half marathon ever. That is because this race wasn't for me.

This past weekend, my father, age 64, ran his first half marathon with me at his side.

To rewind a bit, this all started Thanksgiving 2009. I think I was doing a training run while I was home visiting and I somehow convinced my father to come along. He and I ran through Emerald Hills, up Soest Rd into town and turned around at Rolla Middle School. It was 6.2 miles...a 10k...a nice round number. It occurred to me that he had maintained a pretty decent pace and didn't seem too physically distressed afterwards, so I suggested to him that he could probably finish a half marathon with a little training. He tossed the idea around, and with the occasional prodding from me, he agreed that he would do it.

Well, he didn't really train much, or at all, and the following Spring he entered to run the 10k at Rock the Parkway, a distance he was familiar with and confident he could finish. Needless to say, with no training it was a bit physically taxing for him. Additionally, the weather was absolutely miserable. He ran that one by himself because I was busy PRing my half marathon at sub-1:40.

I can't say that I should have been surprised when he told me after the fact that he didn't think running was for him. I begrudgingly accepted that he had given it a fair shot, but that unfortunately I had not succeeded in converting my father into a runner. At the same time, in the back of my mind, I knew I owed it to him to try again someday. There was still hope.

The following summer, my brother completed his first half marathon and his first triathlon later that Fall. At some point over the course of watching me finish an Ironman and watching my brother do his first races, I suppose my father's brain started revisiting the idea of running. He mentioned to me at one point that he might decide to try a half marathon after all. That was all I needed...the blood was in the water and I was a shark.

I may have brought it up to him every time I spoke to him, but maybe not. All I know is that he signed up for his first half marathon early this year. He began to train...not just sporadically run...but he had a PLAN. Between my advice and online training plans, he pieced together an outline for how to build up to 13.1 miles.

He was initially very faithful to his plan, but I could tell that he was occasionally falling off the wagon. He was having pain. Sometimes during the runs, sometimes after, and sometimes lasting quite a while. I began to have concerns for my father. As much as I wanted to be an inspirational force in his life, I didn't want to injure him with my hair-brained schemes to make him a runner. I didn't want him to break something that perhaps wouldn't heal. I believe his longest run took him up to 9.2 miles, after which he took a break due to the pain he was experiencing. His intention was to rely on only short runs for the next month until raceday. As it turns out, he did almost no training for the last month before the race.

I was concerned that he might decide not to race. I was concerned that he might race and injure himself. I was concerned that he might race, not finish, and experience disappointment, both in himself, and for letting me down. I know that I'd have been proud of him either way, but he may not have seen it that way.

The plan was for me to pace him. We were going to shoot for 2:30, but race realistically if that didn't seem attainable. I simply planned to stick with the pace group if he was able to keep up. I gave him an idea of how the race would go, the overall pacing strategy, and some nutritional advice, but I decided that as his pacer, I would make sure all of these things happened so he could just focus on running and enjoying his day.

Race day rolled around and there we were, standing in a crowd of hopeful runners. I could tell that his nervousness was already beginning to fade, ever so slightly, with all of the positive energy flowing around at the event. We couldn't hear anything that was being said at the start line because we were so far back, but apparently there was a national anthem sung, and then the race started. I wouldn't have known except for the fact that they usually sing the national anthem, and I also observed that all the heads from way up front were beginning to bob up and down. That meant they were running now.

The wave of head bobbing slowly but surely swept through the field of runners until it got to us. So we followed suit and began slowly trotting forwards. It was several minutes before we actually arrived at the starting line, and I heard all the watches chirp as everybody began keeping track of their official times. The target pace was 11:26/mile, and the plan was to start around 12:00 for the first few miles. The pace group left us behind a little bit, but they were always within sight.

It was a cold morning, but it was clear and the sky was blue. I knew it was going to be a beautiful day once the sun came up. He wore my gloves for awhile, and once his hands warmed up, he gave them back to me so I could wear them. The first few miles were kinda quiet. I believe we were both deep in thought, but I was honestly a little uncomfortable. This was my father, and I was his son, his friend, his pacer, and his "distraction from the pain in his legs". I couldn't think of anything to talk about. This has never been a problem before, but suddenly my father was in my world...sharing it with me for the first time. I think those first few quiet miles I was simply reveling in the fact that this was happening! We eventually began talking about things, but I couldn't tell you what they were. It was just nice to have a chance for some man to man conversation.

After a few miles, our bodies were warmed up, and our muscles had begun utilizing glucose more efficiently, so we raised our pace ever so slightly and rejoined the pace group. I think my father had never done a training run where he started slowly, and he was surprised at how easy his target pace felt after having actually warmed up properly. The pace group leader opted to have the group walk some of the hills to conserve energy, so we followed suit. I will point out that at no point did my father walk out of necessity. I am confident he could have run the entire way without needing to stop and walk.

Miles and time passed and we continued running comfortably. I occasionally asked him how he was doing. Pain in one or both ankles came and went, but overall he at least claimed he was doing ok. I took him at his word and we continued running comfortably. Using my GPS device, I pointed out when we passed 9.2 miles...his longest run ever. I also pointed out when we passed his longest time running, but I forget what that mark was. We continued running comfortably.

The last few miles were gently downhill, which was a big mental hurdle out of the way for my father. With how good he felt, our current pace being quite a bit faster than his target, and having actually left the pace group behind, my father at some point Knew that he would finish. The rest was just style points, which I know was important for him. He wanted to finish strong, and a sprint to the finish line seemed just the way to do that. With just over a mile remaining, he dropped the hammer and I proceeded to be astounded to see how much speed this 64 year old man still had in the tank after 12 miles. He ran mile 13 in 9:17.

My father and I came within sight of the finish line and we made a break for it. I was happy to see several of my friends along the finish line who were cheering for my dad. We also passed my mother who was cheering as a proud mother and a loving wife. We crossed the finish line at 2:25:49. More than 4 minutes faster than my father's goal. 45 minutes slower than my PR from the same race a year ago, but this was so much more satisfying to me. I got to enjoy inspiring somebody, my own father, to visualize a goal, to believe it possible, and to achieve beyond their expectations. My father got to have a taste of that thing which I have come to crave. Not a legitimate chemical runner's high, but something much more common. Finish lines. What they represent to me, and to many runners, is proof positive that you have accomplished something great. Not to say that my father isn't an accomplished man...far from it. But I'd be willing to bet that a few years ago, he would have never seen himself standing breathless and exhilarated and admiring his ginormous new finisher's medal for a half marathon. I am fairly certain that he learned something new about himself through this entire process, and I'm just glad to have played a small part in his journey.

I am absolutely convinced that this man can finish a full marathon, but I'll leave that up to him...not to say I won't casually mention it from time to time. :-)

Congratulations, Dad!