Saturday, November 24, 2012

Ironman Florida: Part 3 - The Meltdown and The Recovery

...continued from Part 2. 

To read from the VERY beginning click here.

The Run – Goal – 4:00-4:30

Coming into this run, despite all the pain on the bike, and despite what my body was telling me about its hydration levels, the plan remained the same. Training had convinced me that I should be able to average somewhere between 9:00/mile and 10:30/mile on this marathon. So coming out of the gate, I decided to give my legs a test to see exactly where they'd put me on that spectrum of paces.

As I've said before, a plan is just a list of things that probably aren't going to happen.

I stormed onto the run course with a fierceness. I had cast aside all doubts about what the bike and the heat had done to me, choosing only to believe that I had the legs to start laying down some fast miles. The legs, as expected, felt numb and confused by the conversion to running, but they were turning over a good cadence. I was moving quickly and getting a lot of positive heat from the spectators lining the course. Lots of people were telling me how great I looked and that I was running strong. I began to genuinely believe that this pace was here to stay. The first mile clocked in around 8:30.

The second mile felt similar. Legs still reeling, but without a doubt they were functioning exactly as I expected them to be capable of. This was going to happen. My Fantasy Dream PR. A reality.

And then reality struck.

As the second mile concluded, my Garmin chirped at me and told me how much time had elapsed. And it wasn't altogether reassuring. Just under 10 minutes. maybe the Fantasy Dream PR wasn't going to happen, but at this pace I was still definitely going to break 12 hours.

And then the wheels fell off in spectacular fashion.

I can remember only one time in my athletic career when hitting the wall has happened so suddenly and unexpectedly. The last 2 miles of my second 50k. One moment cruising towards an almost certain sub-7 finish, and the next moment stumbling around like a drunk man lost in the woods.

This wasn't nearly so dramatic, but it was exactly as sudden. Here I was preparing myself to settle in and maintain my 9:00-10:00 minute per mile pace, and then somebody pulled the parking brake. Everything I had planned, everything I expected....EVERYTHING. It all came to a screeching halt in a single moment in time as I realized some things.

It was really hot. I was hurting. I was likely dehydrated. And I was suddenly walking. Something was definitely wrong, and I would discover exactly what that was in a few miles, but we're not there yet. The next several miles were made up of sporadic attempts at maintaining my target pace, interspersed with dejection, deflation, and walking. Aid stations were particularly time consuming. It seemed like I needed everything they had. Ice...cold sponge...water...some fruit...SOMETHING had to make me feel better. Additionally, my stomach was pretty upset, so I definitely was getting lazy on the fluid intake.

And the walking became more and more frequent. Each time I walked, I tried to limit how long I let myself rest....only 10 seconds this time....Ok, we'll go to that mailbox....but everybody up in my brain knew that I was in trouble. Nobody had yet come to a consensus on why everything was falling apart, but we were pretty sure it was happening.

Things were kinda rough until I reached the turnaround point for the first lap. It was at this point that things got REALLY rough. I had to pee, and since the course was mostly in neighborhoods, relieving myself in the bushes wasn't really an appropriate option. I finally got to a portajohn and went to do my business. The problem was that I was so dehydrated that I was only able to manage a few drops. And what's worse...the urge remained. I don't want to go into too much detail, but I'll just say that it was incredibly uncomfortable, and I suspect I'll know this feeling again when I'm in my 50's and start to develop an enlarged prostate and urinary retention.

The face of "Hurt"
The next 4-5 miles were very likely the low point of my race. Since I was basically unable to urinate, I realized exactly how screwed I was. I began trying to take on more fluid, despite my upset stomach, but I feared that it was too late to fix the problem and salvage a graceful finish. Between agonizing trips to the portajohn and frequent walking, my day was rapidly turning into an epic blowup. I wasn't even sure if I'd be able to PR, even though I had an hour and a half of extra time budgeted to accomplish this.

Around mile 10, I ended up finding a stranger to run with. We both were moving about the same pace, so we started the small talk and formed a temporary running co-op. I warned him about my urinary difficulties and frequent lavatory stops, but he didn't seem to mind. I think my legs were in a little better shape than his, but he kept me moving just as much as I kept him moving. He and I stayed together through the halfway point of the race, but he got a little bit ahead of me during special needs(which, for the record, I have almost no recollection of). I ended up catching him within a mile, only to discover that he had started having GI problems. At this point, I still hadn't peed, but the painful urge had left me, and I was actually able to hold a steady pace consistently. So when I caught up to him, completely stopped at the side of the road and unable to continue for the moment, I made the tough call, wished him well, and continued on my way. I didn't see him again for the rest of the race. I think his name was Jason.

Almost halfway...feeling a little better!
The only high points of my first lap were when I saw the rest of my friends. Delaware passed me coming the other way. Then Adam passed. And for the first time since I left the beach that morning, I saw Alan. Or rather...first I heard him. In his typical good ol' boy Texas accent, he yelled, "Hey Danno! Kill the bear!" I was so excited that he was still in the fight that I let out a celebratory yell and a fist pump! His story ...where he started and how far he has come to be here today is a really inspirational and uplifting one. I am proud to say that after training for a year and losing 60 pounds, he is now also an Ironman. And I can't think of a person who deserves it more.

Now that I had rehydrated enough to where I didn't feel like I was constantly passing a kidney stone, I actually felt quite comfortable comparatively. I knew that I was a long way from being properly hydrated, but it was good enough for now. I found that I was able to maintain about a 12 minute per mile pace for exactly 12 minutes, at which point I'd allow myself to walk the aid station, recover some strength, catch my breath, and then do it again. One reason this was possible is because it was finally starting to cool down, with the sun sinking low on the horizon.

As I neared the turnaround on the 2nd lap, I noticed that I had been yo-yoing back and forth with the same girl. I'd pass her, then she'd pass me, etc etc. Around mile 18, I decided to say hello. She was a local and this was her 7th time doing this race. Her PR was like 11 hours or something ridiculous, but she'd been having IT band pain today, which is why she was moving my speed. This was kinda humbling, but I was grateful for some company. We started chatting and I noticed that our pace was actually pretty good. We were managing sub-11 miles, which for me on that particular day was impressive. She was definitely the one keeping me moving though. She'd mercifully allow us to walk the aid stations, but as soon as we were through, I'd hear “Come on Danny, let's get moving.” She was certainly the stronger runner, but she pulled me through miles 20-24 under 11 minutes apiece. The plan was to stick together and shoot for a 12:45 finish. Again with the whole “plan” thing...

At mile 24, I was hurting. Bad. She was doing everything she could to motivate me, to pump me up, to remind me to get my breathing under control, to insist how disappointed I'd be afterwards if I let up now...but it just wasn't enough. For the last time she said “Come on Danny, you've got this.” 

But I didn't. 

The gap between us slowly increased, she disappeared into the darkness, and once again I was a man alone. With two of the most painful and teeth-gnashing miles left between me and the finish line of my second Ironman. I could've just chilled and walked it in. That would have been easy. But there was no way in hell I was going to let that happen willingly. I wanted 12:45...for whatever reason. We had only chosen that time arbitrarily, since it seemed attainable...but now it seemed like it meant everything. So I pushed...

The last 2 miles felt exactly like THIS.
After she dropped me, my pace fell but I was still moving. The effort level required to run, even barely trotting, felt like I was dragging a dumptruck. I was dead set on running the remainder of the race, but my body would still give out on me from time to time. I was yelling at myself. I was grunting. I was cursing. 

"No Danny...not now...we're almost've got this...NO"

And I'd continue the struggle.

There was now one mile remaining and I was desperately flinging my body forward towards the finish line. I'm sure I looked like a total train wreck. Slumped form, pale as a ghost, eyes glazed over, muttering incoherent things to myself, running form occasionally breaking as if I might collapse, only to start shambling along once again.

It had been a day of ups and downs, and a particularly ugly marathon, but I finally rounded the last corner and entered the finishing chute. In the darkness, the lights were blinding. I saw good friends who had been out cheering for us all day, I high-fived spectators on both sides, and I charged towards the line. Once again, emotion, relief, and pain all combined into a single victory yell as I crossed the finish line.

Final run time: 5:05:46 – My slowest marathon to date, at an average pace of 11:40 min/mile.

Overall time: 12:46:26 (Previous PR was 13:29)

It's funny what we can make our bodies do...and then moments later what we absolutely are incapable of making our bodies do. I remained upright through 26.2 excruciating miles, yet the moment after finishing all of this, with a volunteer standing there ready to help, my ability to hold my own weight left me. To say he “helped me to a chair” would not be giving him enough credit. Let's just say that without his support, I would have been on the ground rather quickly.

Thinking back to my Coeur d'Alene finish and remembering the whirl of thoughts and emotions that overcame me in the minutes following that race, it is sad to think that I was so dehydrated and delirious after Ironman Florida that I lacked the capacity to contemplate anything deeper than answering the volunteer's questions concerning how I felt and whether I needed to go to the med tent. In retrospect, I'm pretty sure that anybody who saw me finish probably knew I needed to go. I still hadn't peed, so I knew I needed fluid. My hands were tingling, so I knew I needed electrolytes. I couldn't walk on my own yet, so I knew I needed...something...

The good news about my med tent visit? I was out of breath, but not because of my asthma. I didn't need my inhaler or any type of breathing treatment afterwards, so I officially validated the effectiveness of my once-a-day Singular tablet and the preventative use of my inhaler. Hooray!

In the med tent I drank fluids, got a few Tums to replenish my calcium, and snacked on a banana and pretzels. Not sure how long I stayed there, but eventually I was finally able to stand and I walked out under my own power. My mother was waiting for me and together we continued on to the post-race area where I proceeded to stuff my face with pizza and finally...FINALLY....I was able to pee.
Finisher photo AFTER my med-tent recovery.

We collected bags, gear, and my bicycle and walked back to our hotel. At this point I still hadn't really contemplated anything that had happened that day. Some things had gone well, but many things had not. I missed my target time by 45 minutes, but I had a new PR by almost 45 minutes. I sat in bed and tried to watch the online video stream of the finish line, but it was clear I would not be able to remain awake for much longer. With a lingering sense of accomplishment and vague satisfaction, I drifted off to sleep and didn't wake up for about 12 hours.

This concludes the race report. Just like after Coeur d'Alene, I'm soon going to write about my impressions and thoughts after the race as well as talk about “What's Next?” for me in the coming year. I want to thank everyone for all of your support before, during, and after this race. Knowing how many of you were following along during my race was a HUGE motivator for me, and at several points during day, this knowledge was very likely the only thing keeping me moving. Whether you followed on Facebook, Twitter, or the event website updates, if you left me a comment after I finished, or if you congratulated me in person when I got home, I want you to know how much your support means to me. Thank you so much!

Danny Loental
Bear Killer Extraordinaire

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Ironman Florida: Part 2 - Makin' Circles and Ninja Headwinds

Not sure what's up with my face. Seriously.
 The Bike – Goal – 6:00

I exited transition with the cloud of Jake's disappointing DNF and worries about my friends hanging over my head. I was still intent on enjoying my day and racing smartly so I immediately set to the task of taking in some nutrition. I had prepared some peanut butter and Nutella tortilla wraps for the beginning and halfway point of the bike. I pulled them out and hung the bag from my aerobar for easy snacking. I spun easy as I worked the legs out of the shock of switching from swim to bike, and I reached into the bag. I had not predicted how messy my food would be. That is...incredibly messy. Should've kept them chilled somehow. My fingers were COVERED in chocolatey-hazelnutty mess. It was a small ordeal getting these down, but I managed and was soon focused on the task of setting an aggressive but maintainable pace.

This wasn't quite as straightforward as I thought it might be though. I was effortlessly cruising at 19-20 mph, so I decided to stick with that effort level. Ten miles out came the “only climb on the course” or so I had read. A bridge over the bay constituted the highest point on the entire race course. Once that was behind me, I settled back into modest effort spinning. My average pace steadily rose from 19(above target pace) topping out at 19.5. This all felt like easy effort so I decided to see how high I could get my average without "spending too many pennies" as they say.
15-20 miles in. Straight up crushing.
I had heard and read stories about this race being notorious for blatant and shameless drafting(which is illegal in most triathlons, including this one). Race reports told of drafting mobs numbering in 20-30 riders at a time. Since I had come out of the water at 1:15, I was on the very tail end of the pack of athletes who would conceivably be competing for age group awards, though I had no intention of riding or running fast enough to do so. Therefore I was only witness to one of these mobs. Sure enough, about 15-20 miles into my day, a pack of about 25 riders came blazing by, all tucked right behind one another...not even PRETENDING like they were there by accident. I guess the time gained from drafting for several hours is worth the possible 4 minute penalty they'd serve if they were caught doing so.

Still not my style...I let them pass and joked with a few other racers who looked on in disgust. In my opinion, if you need the PR that badly, I'll let you worry about sleeping soundly at night knowing how you got it.

The ride went pretty smoothly...literally...until about the halfway point. We hit the first of two out-and-back portions of the ride, and then the road quality turned from “well-maintained” to “OW....SHIT.....OW....FUCK......DAMN IT.... OWWWWW!” This road was in such a shoddy state of disrepair that it shook you to your bones with large, uniform cracks across the asphalt...roughly every 10 feet. This resulted in a very rhythmic “Kathunk....Kathunk” which lasted for the next 10 miles. It was utterly miserable and really brought the slowly growing fatigue in my body into sharp focus. Each rut in the road punished my back, which had been tucked in aero position for the past 3 hours. So I began to sit up. And the speed dropped. There was no getting around it. The cracks went all the way across the road, and we had to ride each and every one of them....TWICE!(remember...out-and-back) This was the point in my day when I really began to hurt like you're supposed to hurt in an Ironman.

The special needs drop point was on this out-and-back stretch, and I was getting hungry. I was still hanging on to a decent average speed, so I was hoping for a quick in-and-out stop here. I remembered how efficient and helpful the special needs volunteers were in Coeur d'Alene, so I was severely disappointed when I rolled in and nobody had my bag ready for me. Nobody was even looking for it. 

Don't get me wrong...they were all busting their asses helping SOMEbody. But not me. I stopped my bike and stared back at the numbered station where my bag would be. It was several seconds before somebody noticed me standing there, wondering if I should just get off the bike and go get it myself. That person immediately ran over, dug through the box, retrieved bag #1385 and handed it to me. He then went off to help somebody else. I guess my disappointment stemmed from the fact that in CDA, one volunteer had your bag ready when you arrived. They got your gear out of it for you. They held your bike if you wanted to stop and eat or use the bathroom, and they were basically your slave for whatever amount of time you spent there. Here in Florida, once they handed you your bag, you were on your own. I guess I was spoiled last time.

I took a few puffs from my inhaler to prevent the airways from tightening up, grabbed my 2nd bag of melty peanut butter and Nutella tortillas, and rolled over to the porta-potty. After doing my business, I got back on the crappy road and continued.

Here are some nitty gritty details concerning hydration: I was hoping to pee by mile 40. I didn't pee until nearly mile 60...and it wasn't very clear or voluminous. This should have been a HUGE red flag, but for some reason I didn't worry about it too much. I figured I'd catch up on the fluids by the end of the ride, but since I'm mentioning it now, with my history of epic dehydrated blow-ups, you just KNOW that this is foreshadowing of some kind.

We finally got off the crappy road and hit a section of small to medium sized rolling hills. Wait! I thought this course was FLAT! Meh, I ride in KS/MO, I can handle this. Now that the roads were smooth again, I assumed I'd be able to pick the pace back up and make up the time I spent in special needs. Only I couldn't. The rolling hills were enough to hold me just under my target speed. And it felt like we had a headwind. No worries, once we turn, that'll disappear lickety-split. Only it didn't. The course turned, and once again....a headwind? for real...the NEXT time we turn, I'll DEFINITELY have a tailwind and I'll rip up the rest of this ride. Only I didn't. The course turned again....headwind?

I'm not sure what direction the wind was blowing, or if it was shifting, or if it was just my tired legs convincing my brain it wasn't their fault and that there was actually no wind. Whatever the case, my pace slowly dropped and I couldn't ride faster than 17-18 for any decent stretch. And my body was really beginning to feel the punishment. I couldn't stay properly tucked for long periods of time, even on smooth roads, and I sat up more and more. I clearly just hadn't spent enough hours in the saddle training my body to maintain this strenuous position.

Nearly 100 miles in, and feeling it.
I began to lose steam for the last 20 miles of the ride, and my morale was beginning to suffer as well. I did end up seeing Delaware on one of the out-and-back sections, so I at least knew one of my friends had made it out of the water successfully. I still worried about Alan and Adam though. I worried that I had once again torched my legs and that I was in for a miserable marathon. I worried about my nutrition strategies. 

I worried about everything as I ground the gears back towards the beach...this time into a very real and very persistent headwind. I turned onto the home stretch that took us back towards transition and was grateful for the high-rise condos lining the road that provided shelter from the wind. The pace picked back up and my mood began to improve. I lightheartedly joked with some other racers. One of them asked if I was looking forward to finally getting off the bike, to which I replied, “Yes, but not as much as I'm looking forward to my post-race massage, peel-and-eat shrimp, and snow crab legs.”

Final Bike Time – 6:09:29. A bike split PR of almost 50 minutes, but almost 10 minutes shy of my goal.

I rolled into transition and immediately needed to change my attitude. I wasn't going to defeat myself by believing that I had overexerted on the bike, and I began quietly chanting to myself, “Legs for days. Legs for days. You've got legs for fucking days......DAYS!” I changed into my running gear, hit a porta-potty(disappointing output, once again) and charged out onto the run course.

Ironman Florida: Part 1 - Business As Usual, And Swimming Like A Mofo

This race is definitely a tough one to really sum up in a few words. There were so many things that went wrong and so many disappointments, yet the results were surprisingly uplifting.


My morning routine for this race was nothing special. Compared to my first Ironman, where my entire morning was this slow, surreal, and foreboding march towards destiny, this particular morning seemed almost like business as usual. Wake up early, have a snack, double check transition bags, pound a Gatorade...etc etc...blah blah you know the drill.

My first disappointment of the day hit really hard. This race was going to be nowhere remotely as meaningful as my first time around. I'd been here before and more or less knew I'd finish, barring something incredibly unexpected or an unfixable mechanical issue on the bike. There would be no astounding discoveries concerning my ability to conquer the unknown, nor would I learn anything new about myself. Would I? More on that later...

All the fellas
We all really wanted to meet up before the race for photos and some mutual pep talk, but we hadn't really made a plan to assure that this would happen, so it seemed almost serendipitous how easily we found one another in the mob of neoprene and swim cap clad athletes milling around the beach. Families took pictures, last hugs and well-wishes were given, and then we all crossed the timing mat to let the race computers know that we were present and accounted for.

I let everyone know how proud I was of them for being here and before we knew it, it was about that time. Somebody sang the national anthem and then the cannon fired.

The Swim – Goal – 1:10

Oh yeah...the water. Every morning leading up to this one, I had looked out at the ocean and seen calm waters, minimal waves, mild currents, and gentle swells. Our practice swim the previous day had been uneventful and encouraging. The swim was going to be a good one. 

Or so I thought...

For some reason, fate saw it fit to give us something else on this particular morning. The waves were sizable(at least for the Gulf coast). The swells looked intimidating. The current was reportedly strong. We were advised to swim well to the right of the buoys, lest we get pushed into “No Man's Land”, aka the inside of the counter-clockwise rectangular swim course.

Despite these unwelcoming conditions, I calmly strode into the water. This swim start wasn't nearly as violent or frightening as the mass start in Coeur d'Alene, perhaps because of experience, and perhaps because the water stayed shallow for quite a while before it was deep enough to swim. Mostly though, it was because swimmers were very tenuously addressing the matter of getting past the surfline. I estimate that it was nearly 2 minutes before I got past the waves and into deep enough water to begin swimming. Once I did, however, it was game on.

I still can't quite explain why my swim went so well. I felt so strong out there in the water. I owned my space in the water and fought off all others who attempted to invade my turf. The swells tossed us about, but I appreciated the crest of each one as it afforded me an excellent opportunity to sight for the next buoy. It made no sense to me at the time, but I knew I was moving through the water like a MFing badass. Occasional watch checks told me I was right in feeling this way. In just over 35 minutes, my fingers hit sand and I had finished my first loop. Just like that. I took on some water at the aid station, scanned the crowd for friends/family, and turned back towards the water.

On the second loop, the excellent swimming continued. The only problem I seemed to be having was that my wetsuit was rubbing on my neck and it was starting to hurt. To solve this, I did what any normal triathlete would do for the first time in a race. I changed my breathing pattern.

Wait...normal triathletes don't do that. Do they?

Done! Rocked it!
Nope. I was so exceedingly comfortable swimming in these awful conditions that I started fucking with MY STROKE in order to reduce the number of times I would have to turn my head to the right side and irritate the raw spot on my neck. I breathed on the left...I breathed every 3rd stroke...every 4th stroke. Just tried to keep switching it up. Because breathing wasn't my concern. It was chafing?
<Author shrugs shoulders>

I did slow down somewhat on the 2nd loop, probably a combination of worsening conditions and fatigue, but I still PR'd the swim split by over a minute and was only 6 minutes shy of my target time.

Final swim time: 1:16:07

I transitioned fairly efficiently and was in and out within my budgeted 10 minutes. The first big disappointment of the day hit me there. While running into transition, I saw Jake. At first I thought he had beat me in the swim, but when I went to congratulate him, he informed me that he had missed the cutoff. I didn't immediately grasp the concept. I seriously thought he was joking. He then reiterated that he had missed the time cutoff for finishing the first loop. My heart sank. I couldn't understand how such a strong all-around athlete like him could have had such trouble. I later found out that he had been pretty badly clobbered by some passing swimmers and had never been able to regain his rhythm. Thinking about him being out of the race, and furthermore, worrying about who else had possibly not made it out of the swim, definitely affected my mood for the majority of the bike leg which was next.

To Be Continued...

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Ironman Florida: Pre-Race Thoughts And Assorted Hopes/Expectations

T-Minus 1 day, 8 hours as I begin to compose this.

I sit in my hotel bed in Panama City, Florida. I look out the window and half a mile down the beach, I see where I'll be standing in that exact amount of time when the cannon blasts to signal the beginning of my 2nd Ironman.

The past few days have been a constant exercise in compare and contrast. I think back to June 2010 when I did my first Ironman in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. I think of how well I trained for that race and how well I've trained for this one. How many miles that time, how many miles this time. The bike I rode, the bike I have now. That course, this course. Lessons learned then, lessons hopefully to capitalize on this time. Confidence levels then, confidence levels now. Physical state of my body, then and now.

All I can say is that every comparison I could possibly make to what I consider the best race of my entire life...every single one leads to me being ridiculously excited and hopeful to find out what I'm capable of this weekend. All of it makes me believe I am capable of doing something amazing on Saturday.

The fellas
And to top it all off, I have the distinct pleasure of sharing the race course with several really great friends. My roommates, Jake and Adam, are both diving in headfirst by doing an Ironman as their first triathlon(and most likely last according to Jake). My good buddy Alan has shed a whopping 60 pounds on an amazing journey of self-improvement, self-discovery, and weight loss in his preparation for this race. And last but not least, Delaware...the first Ironman among our group of friends and my inspiration for becoming one too. This will be his 3rd Ironman, and I'm stoked as hell to have him here.

To say that I'm confident in the training I've put in this year would be a slight understatement. I have never felt more prepared for a race than I do for this one...hands down. The long hours riding and running circles around the downtown KC airport, usually keeping WELL above my intended race pace give me a lot of peace of mind. I even swam a decent amount this year. My two 70.3 triathlons, Kansas and Boulder, were both learning experiences...solid lessons in hydration, heat management, remembering why I race, and why I should never forget to relax and have fun.

Somehow I have managed to arrive at this race injury-free, unlike Coeur d'Alene. I give credit to several things for being so fortunate. Firstly, last winter my roommates devised the Kill The Bear fitness method, essentially cross-fit on crack-cocaine, complete with heavy ropes, burpees, weighted sled-drags, and the yelling of quotes from "The Edge". These workouts gave me an unprecedented level of all-around fitness which has reaped many benefits...more speed, more power, and being less prone to injury once I started really grinding the cycling and running gears. Additionally, I look back on this year and see how intelligently I trained. I seldom raced unprepared for the distance. I built mileage and tapered appropriately. When I was physically or mentally beaten up, I rested. Finally, a big reason I'm pain-free going into Saturday is that the majority of my running miles this year have been on trails, which are easier on the joints and provide a more diverse spectrum of muscle usage. And they're WAY more fun.

Until this year, I can honestly say that I had never had a brick workout(running immediately after cycling) that I felt had "gone well" or "felt good in any way shape or form". For a long time, I was convinced that running off the bike was simply supposed to be miserable. Then I had my very first good one. Not only did I not hate every moment of it...but I actually enjoyed it, and even more...I was FAST! Whereas previously my bricks were exercises in survival, now I actually was able to push the pace. These successful workouts continued and my confidence grew. I began to contemplate what I believed my body was capable of, and I was encouraged.

The nuts and bolts of it all? This year I have run just over 600 miles, cycled over 1300 miles, and swam about 22 miles. Those represent new personal yearly records across all disciplines, and I haven't ever DONE the race yet!


I firmly believe that I have a really good chance at finishing this race in 12 hours, which was the goal I set for myself almost a year ago. General Mojo's Well-Laid Plan includes a 1:10 swim, which is doable. Also a 6 hour bike on a flat and fast course with light winds...doable. Finally a 4:30 marathon on a flat course at 10:17 min/mile, only slightly faster than my run in hilly Coeur d'Alene....doable. Throw in 20 minutes wiggle room for both transitions and anything else the race could throw at me, and I'm crossing the finish line at 7 pm, folks. Of course, regardless of what happens timewise, I'm still dead set on enjoying the day. If 12 hours doesn't go, I've still got 90 more minutes to hit a PR, and beyond that, I will high-five every spectator jangling a cowbell and every tiny kid cheering just because mom is cheering. I will yell "Kill The Bear!" at my racing compatriots every time I see them and probably slap them on the ass for good measure. Make no mistake...Saturday will be a fun and memorable day, no matter what my legs decide to give me.

I also firmly believe that everyone I know that came here to race will finish. Adam is an absolute beast on the run, and his swim is really solid as well. His X-Factor will be the bike. Jake has a very relaxed attitude to this race and only worries about the swim. Although he doesn't keep track of his mileage, he has most likely trained more than I have this year. Faster than me on the bike AND the run, I'm fairly certain he has never been bad at anything he has ever attempted. This race will not be an exception. Alan has trained like a bat out of hell, lost a huge hunk of weight, and is now a machine. He had a DNF this year because of a swim mishap, but I think once he hits the water and finds his rhythm there will be no stopping him. Delaware unfortunately didn't get to put in much training this year due to time restrictions placed on him by work, but being the seasoned veteran, I still expect him to have a solid race.

The most exciting thing about my group of friends is this. If I had to put money on which of us would finish first, I would have no idea who to pick. We've all got our strengths and our weaknesses and I'm looking forward to seeing everybody out on the course and seeing how our days all play out.

So those are my expectations. These things will probably happen.

Now I ask myself..."What MIGHT happen?"

I have a Best Case Scenario/Monster Legs/Super-Happy-Fantasy-Land finishing time in mind. It seems outrageous, but it seems within the realm of possibility if I race to my absolute potential both physically and mentally, and with a little bit of luck. I'm not going to publicly state this time just yet, but if it happens, you'll be damn sure I'm gonna write about it.

I need to thank all the usual people. Mom, Dad, Chris and Mike. Jake, Del, Alan, and Adam. Alli. Jess. All of my Trail Nerd/Mudbabe friends. All the people who inspire me like Deanna, ultramarathon badass. Jeff, below-the-knee amputee and the most inspiring story to come out of Kona this year. Katie, who ran a trail half marathon only 5 months after undergoing open-heart surgery to replace a failing valve. All the people who pump me up when I've had a bad race, or who cheer me on when I've had a good race. All the people who find inspiration in what I do and go on to achieve their own greatness. All of your support and great attitudes help keep me motivated to be my best and to kill all of the bears in my life. Thank you all so much for who you are and what you do!

Saturday is going to be epic, and I hope you all tune in to follow us along as we tackle this challenge.

Our twitter feed is which our family and friends will hopefully be filling with race updates, athlete sightings, progress reports, and pictures. Officialy race splits and live-streaming video of the finish line will be at


(Update: The race happened! Read about it here!)