Monday, June 28, 2010

Ironman 2: The Sequel

OK, I did it. I registered for next year's Ironman Coeur D'Alene. I was waffling the last few days. Do I want to train at the Ironman level again? It didn't help that tri-friend and temptor Miranda & I failed to meet up for our Saturday bike ride. She is in training for IM Cananda in August and planned to ride 80 miles. I'm getting ready for Vineman 70.3 and was planning on 60, but would up it to 80 for Miranda's training schedule. She was running late and I took off after a 5 minute grace period. I ended up doing my needed 60 miles. In the text exchange that followed, she indicated that she rode 112. I'm not sure if that was in miles or kilometers. But it got me remembering getting off the bike after 112 miles in Tempe, AZ and thinking I've got 26 miles to run. Signing up for these events is no light undertaking.

That being said, I ended up registering. I feel slightly light headed and giddy. Like a kid that just opened a new toy at Christmas. I'll calm down in a day or so. I'm sure the reality of the training I've just signed up for will also sink in over the next week or so. But I've got at least two local training buddies also registered and another friend who signed up for IM Germany in early July, 2011. So there will be others to train with for this event. I think that was what was the deciding factor. It always helps to have others share in your training burdens. Miranda, Jerry, and Maria: I look forward to many training sessions out on the road, in the pool and in the ocean. Anyone else want in?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Suck Zone

"The Suck Zone". It's the point basically when the twister... sucks you up. That's not the technical term for it, obviously.

- Quot by the character Dusty from the movie "Twister"

At mile 10 of my 13 mile long run this morning, I came across friends Tony, Miranda and Michael having coffee at the St. Bart's sidewalk cafe along A1a. They had been doing bike hill repeat on the 17th Street bridge, our only real hill in flat as a pancake Fort Lauderdale. It was only polite to stop, talk and have a cup of Joe. After we talked about Miranda and Michael's trip to Paris and our respective upcoming tri events, talk turned to upcoming registrations. As most of you know, Ironman events sell out fast and you have to consider signing up a year in advance. You pretty much have to do so the day after the current year's event, which is when registration opens for the following year.

Miranda is signed up for IM Canada in August. Miranda is a strong 30 something triathlete in her prime. She had tried to get me to sign up for IM Cananda for this year, but registration had closed out. Like me, Miranda likes to get a group going to athletic events to make a good time even more fun. So the conversation turned to IM Coeur d'Alene. Registration opens on Monday, July 28th. Miranda and another IM friend Jerry had pitched Coeur d'Alene previously at a Memorial Day BBQ at Tony's. As we left the cafe, we wished each other good luck on our respective events. Miranda and Michael are doing the Vancouver Half IM on July 4th. I mentioned that I love Vancouver and would like to do another event in that city. Miranda then tries to sweeten the IM Coeur d'Alene registration pot by saying: "You know, Coeur d'Alene is not far from the Canadian boarder. We could make a side trip." Man, is she good.

Another friend, Maria had pitched signing up for IM Frankfurt, which takes place in early July. This all just got me looking at the IM events calender on the IM website. IM Switerland in late July has always caught my eye. I mentioned both Maria's plans and IM Switerland as counter proposals to Miranda. I explained that I like the idea of an event in Europe. I've done several marathons in Europe and find combining an athletic event with touring to be fun.

Later at work, I get an e-mail from our friend Carrie, who recently relocated to Austin, TX. Turns out the IM organization just announced IM Texas, a new IM event just outside of Houston, TX in an area called "The Woodlands" set for next May 21st. Registration opens tomorrow. Great. Even more options to consider.

Perhaps I can do some horse trading and get some of my friends to consider signing up for the JFK 50 miler in November and the October 2nd Rock Creek Stump Jump 50K I'm considering doing as a run up to the 50 miler.

In any event, I'm feeling the pull of my friends various registration plans. I'm in the "Suck Zone" and will most likely be pulled into registering for another full IM in the next couple of weeks. I don't know whether I should try to run away from these forces, or just let the winds take me. The pull is just too strong.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Time Loses Meaning

On Saturday, I volunteered at the Paralympic National Championships in Miramar, Florida as part of my "pay it back/pay it forward" philosophy. My ultra running friend, Mandy had gotten several of us together to help out in the games. To see these athletes with various forms of disabilities compete in the most effective ways they are able, made me realize that their times and distances didn't mean as much as the fact that they were giving it their all. Time and distance lost its meaning to me. These athletes were all worthy Olympiads in my mind, regardless of where in the race they finished. I was glad I was able to help out.

The next morning, I was going out for my long ride. Having had a fairly demanding workout schedule the prior week, my legs felt tired and a little sluggish. Moreover, it had rained hard Saturday night and I was going out solo for 60 miles. It took about 10 miles before I really warmed up. Once warmed up, however, I let my mind drift and the miles melted away. I was in the zone, keeping it hard and steady. Time kind of slipped away, and before I knew it, I was at my turn around point at mile 30.

On my return trip, I thought about it being Father's Day. The prior afternoon, my wife and kids asked me what I wanted to do for Father's Day. I told them that after my morning ride, I'd like to go to church with them and go to lunch afterward. My older son, John was home from summer college for the week, so we all talked about summer vacation plans. It was just nice to have him home around us again.

As I rode back home, my thoughts turned to my father, who is in a rehabilitation facility after being in the hospital for a couple of weeks with various health issues. I thought about various memories I had of doing things with my father, that I now do with my own sons. Again, time lost meaning as my mind drifted both backward and forward between the times I had with my father and those with my own sons. It was a good feeling and a good ride.

We went to church and later went to Sweat Tomatoes for lunch (my young son Alex's healthy choice). In the afternoon, I called my Dad to wish him a Happy Father's Day. I put each of my sons on the phone with him so they could catch him up on what is going on in their lives. At night, we played a family game of Scrabble. All in all, a lovely day. I hope all of you had a good Father's Day either touching base with your father or remembering the good times you had together.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Learning to Crawl

I came to triathlon from a running background. Like most things that I've gotten myself into, my wife, Salome has often been the instigator to a new activity. She was the one several years ago who, while doing her Saturday morning long run, came across the Fort Lauderdale Sprint Triathlon in progress and said, "I bet we could do that." Like a lot of things that she initiates, I went much more hardcore into the sport.

One of the things we noted early on was that we were not in the top half of the swimming results. I always considered myself an OK swimmer, but Salome was consistently near the back of her start wave. She eventually contacted a local swim coach Gary Fahey, who goes by the moniker of "The Stroke Doctor." Unfortunately, Salome started her lessons in the dead of winter. She went to a couple of lessons, but didn't practice much due to the cold weather. She eventually postponed the remaining lessons she had paid for until after winter.

After coming in dead last out of the water in last weekend's Miami Nice sprint triathlon, Salome called Gary and arranged to have him meet us at a pool this morning. While I knew that my technique probably needed some tweaking, I had no idea that I was swimming wrong for the last 43 some odd years. Turns out I was doing a sort of balanced windmill action with my arms instead of proper arm rotation. Thus, I'm learning to crawl all over again at age 51. My only regret is that I didn't suck enough to get help sooner.

Yesterday, I rode 65 miles along A1a. It's funny how we can continue to screw ourselves on the outbound ride. How is it that we keep forgetting that an easy fast pace on the outbound probably means we are getting a wind assist that we have to pay for on the ride home. Oh, yeah, and that it gets hotter as the morning wears on.

Friday, June 11, 2010


As I swam in the Atlantic Ocean off Fort Lauderdale this morning, I noted the clear and clean the water. It was so clear that it reminded me of growing up in my hometown of Clearwater, Florida on the Gulf Coast near Tampa. You may know Clearwater as the setting for the annual Half Ironman National Championship.

It was in the Gulf waters off the white sandy beaches of Clearwater that I swam my first mile swim at about age 8 in order to complete the 10th level of the American Red Cross Swim Course. It was my memory of doing that mile swim in the Gulf that let me know that I could swim the long open water swim portions of HIMs and the full Ironman.

The Gulf Coast Beaches are beautiful beaches. They draw thousands of tourists throughout the year for swimming and sunning on their shores. The Gulf waters draw additional tourist to its waters for sports fishing and Scuba diving. This doesn't begin to address the large numbers of people that make their living from commercial fishing from the Gulf waters.

I was never one of those people who chanted "Drill baby drill." I wasn't a protester against Gulf drilling either. I felt that we need to pursue all avenues of energy development to reduce our dependency on oil. If that included some additional nuclear power plants and drilling, so be it. However, I don't think we, the American public, were let in on the lack of safety regulation and contingency plans for a Gulf Oil rig accident. I think we all kind of assumed that oil rig engineers were smart people that knew what they were doing and didn't take stupid risks with our commonly owned natural resources. Who knew that BP had no plan for dealing with this kind of contingency? Who knew we were taking these kind of risk?

It kills me to think of the damage that is occurring to our sea life, from the fish and reefs to the birds and sea turtles. The economic devastation to those working in the commercial and sports fishing industry is almost incalculable. To think that these giant clouds of underwater oil can drift along the Northern and Western Gulf shores down into the Florida Keys and up the East Coast of Florida and beyond is just mind boggling. Clearly, the calculus of the risks and costs were not accurately figured. Yes, BP will pay a big price for its mistakes, but it won't restore our beaches and wildlife. I wonder if the Clearwater Half Ironman Championship and IMFL in Pensacola are at risk for this year and maybe beyond. As I swam my open water mile this morning, I wondered: Will this too be at risk in the next several months? Will swimming and diving in the Keys and off Fort Lauderdale be ruined by this mess.

As I ran back along the sand to my starting point, I came across a guy pulling a dead sea turtle away from the surf. It's doubtful that this turtle was impacted by the spill, but will I be seeing this more often in the future? Will the oil still be spewing out of this hole in the Gulf six months from now? A year? Have we killed the Gulf or is it a wound that can heal? Will history judge us as foolish to allow the possibility of what has come to pass? We, as a people, may have a lot to answer for to future generations.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Miami Nice Triathlon

Yesterday, my wife Salome & I did the Miami Nice Triathlon. Salome was signed up to do the sprint and I was registered for the Olympic distance. On our way south on I-95 from Fort Lauderdale to Miami at 5:00 AM, we came across the strange sight of a car doing a U-turn on the interstate. Since the highway is separated from Northbound traffic by a concrete barrier, we knew something was amiss. I was in the second lane from the left most lane, which turned out to be a lucky thing. About 100 yards further up the road was an SUV facing our direction about to make a U-turn right into our lane. Worse yet, there was a car in that left most lane heading toward the SUV. Our hearts jumped into our throats, I swerved slightly to the right and avoided the SUV. The car in the left lane hit it's brakes and was able to avoid a collision.

Once our hearts stopped racing and we could speak, I told my wife that this is the risk of early morning triathlon starts. We end up on the road at the same time that the most drunk Saturday night drivers are heading home. I figure the first car and the SUV entered the wrong way on the highway, realized their mistake, and were trying to turn around to get off the Interstate. Fortunately, no one was hurt. "It's a successful day no matter how we do in the triathlon," I say. "We survived the drunks on the way to the event."

As we are setting up our transition areas, we meet up with several friends. We are surprised to find our friend Ellen bringing her bike into transition as we didn't know she was racing. Turns out she had just got a new bike and decided last minute on Saturday to see if there were any slots open. Given that her new bike had a different gearing system, we talked her into using her old bike which she also had with her. As we help her with her set up and I inflate her tires, she mentions that the strangest thing happened to her on the drive down. It turns out she was the other vehicle heading towards the wrong-facing SUV. Wow, talk about a scary coincidence.

As we await the start of our waves, I run into a buddy, Eric, who had just completed his first Ironman event last month in St. George. As we are talking about his experience, I look at my watch and realize my heat is about to go off. I hustle through the gate area, cross the mate and the gun goes off. No time to get nervous, I run into the water and dive in. With all that rush to get to the start, I amazingly calm. I guess after the adrenaline dump of the almost car pile up, a late start isn't going to phase me.

I do my usual middle of the road swim, and exit the water in 38 minutes. I'm pretty efficient getting through transition and am out on Rickenbacker Causeway and climbing the Powell Bridge before I know it. While I expect a hot day, the self generated breeze of the bike keep things relatively good. While this course is my favorite tri course, there are a lot of newbies in the field that don't seem to know to get out of the left part of the road after a pass. I hate to sound like a course official or a know it all, but if I pass a biker on the right, we can both get penalties. I politely ask riders to pull right.

About 10 miles into the 25 mile ride, I find another example of bad riding. A rider is laying on the road next to a police car. As I ride by, I realize it's my friend Eric that I was talking with just before the start. Apparently, another rider cut too close in front of him and took him out. As I come back on the road after a turn around, I shout out his name as I pass back by. Eric, who is now sitting up turns his head on hearing his name. I then know he is mostly OK. On my second loop of the bike course, he and the police car are gone, so I know he is being given assistance.

As I drop the bike and head out for the run out of T2, I start to notice the heat. Not too bad, but I'm noticing that it's pretty toasty. Fortunately, the run course around Miami Marine Stadium is mostly a tree covered trail run, but there is about a 400 yard space that is uncovered. As I do my first of two 5K loops, I see our friend Tracey and then wife Salome on the run leg of their sprint tri. I also see another friend, Mandy, who is doing the Olympic distance. Knowing the heat index is supposed to be over 100 degrees, I take 2 cups of water at each water stop. One to drink and one to pour over my head to keep from overheating.

By the second lap, I'm really feeling the heat. On the return portion of the out and back leg, the water stations run out of cups. The volunteers allow us to pour water over our head and into our mouths directly from water jugs. As I make my way towards the finish, I think that it's a good thing this isn't a HIM. A hundred yards from the finish, Salome, Tracey and other friends are sitting under a shade tree and give me cheer. I do my best to give them a wave and a fist pump, but I really just want to get over that finish line. I cross an agonizing 10 seconds over 3 hours. Oh well, the heat had it's impact.

After crossing the finish line, I sit in the message tent and a volunteer pours a cup of water over my head. As I thank her, she asks if I'd like a massage. Normally, I wouldn't wait around for a massage as there is usually a long line waiting their turn. However, my angle of a volunteer directs me over to an open massage table and a minute later I'm getting a leg massage. Sweet end to a hot run. I thank both the masseur and the volunteer before leaving the tent.

After I meet up with Salome, we find out that our friend Ellen won 1st in her age division in the sprint. We stick around to watch Ellen get her award and cheer her as she walks to the podium for her award. Later that afternoon, I read on Facebook that buddy Eric is OK, except for some road rash. He posts that more importantly, his bike is OK. Thus, it was a hot and strange morning, but not one got too hurt. Congratulations to Ellen on her award. Eric, I hope your road rash heals quickly and you get back on the road soon.

Friend Ellen Itzler getting her 1st in age group award

Congratulations also go out to young Hannah Crayton, who participated in her first triathlon this Sunday in Anchorage Alaska as the swim leg of a relay team. Her friend Will had to do both the bike and run portions of the relay as the third member of the team had to bow out due to a soccer playoff. It looks like there might be another "Iron Will" in the making. Way to go Will!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Memorial Day BBQ

Last evening at a Memorial Day BBQ, I was asked by my buddy John whether I was signed up for the JFK 50 Mile Run that I had talked about doing in November. I explained that entry into JFK was by a lottery that opens in early July. "Well, what are you signed up for?" he asked. "At this point, after this weekend's Miami Nice Olympic tri and Vineman 70.3 in July, the only event I'm signed up for is Miami 70.3 in November."

The BBQ was in part a going away party for our friend Carrie, who is relocating back to Austin. I expressed how I like Austin and that our gang would have to come and do the Austin Marathon or Longhorn 70.3.

Later in the evening, Ironman friends Jerry and Miranda started pitching getting ready to sign up for Ironman Coeur d'Alene in June 2011. As most of you know, Ironman events open up registration for the following year the day after the event is held and they fill up fast. You need to be ready to pull the trigger on registration a whole year ahead of time. Jerry and Miranda were doing their best to get a group of us to commit to 2011. An idea I liked a lot.

A cyclist I spoke with told me about her bicycle trip through Spain last month. I've always wanted to do some bike touring and was fascinated by the details of how she and a friend toured for 3 weeks through the mountains and valleys of northern Spain.

Finally, I spoke with my ultra running friend Mandy. In asking her what she had scheduled, she mentioned that she was going to do the Lean Horse 100 Mile Run in South Dakota in late August. She also mentioned that they have a 50 mile run as part of that weekend. Why not see Mount Rushmore and give a 50 miler a go several months earlier than I had planned? Another very tempting offer.

As I lay in bed last night, my head was spinning. What were my options, and what had I committed to do? That night I dreamt that I was in the middle of running a 50 mile race. I somehow got sidetracked around mile 28 and was trying to get some food and water and get running again. I awoke realizing it was an anxiety dream like the ones where you are in school and realize you forgot to study for an exam. I've been hit with a tidal wave of options for future events. They all sounded like fun; however, with so many options, it started to feel like being pulled out to sea by a strong tide that will drown me.

Thus, I decided to take a step back and chill out. I'll defer on committing to future events and focus on those I've already registered to do. Other than that, I'm going to try to slow it down a little and enjoy life. I'll continue to work out, but I'm going to try to space the events out a bit.