Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Swim

1000 yards. That sounds so much cooler than 20 minutes. Or the original 100 yard swims from the initial training days.

Then again, it sounds so short when considering the 2.4 miles in an Ironman swim.

This morning's swim was "new goggles" day. Fed up with the Barracuda goggles purchased at the outset of learning to swim properly, I purchased a pair of Tyr Racetech Reveal goggles. While the Barracuda goggles are supposed to be the slickest thing in the water, I was horribly disappointed with them. Perhaps it is operator error, but I was never able to get them to hold out water effectively. Every 100 yards or so, I would have an annoying amount of water in the eyepieces. They are also very prone to fog up.

In 1000 yards, the new goggles never leaked a bit. The didn't fog up. And they look cooler, too. At less than half the cost of the Barracuda goggles, these seem to be a much better purchase.

I also purchased a swim cap. Nice bright green and blue to give lifeguards a good visual in the triathlon. I want them to have a highly visible target in the event I need their help. Next week, I'll try wearing it, as it is something new.

Today's swim went quite well. Though mostly zipperswitch drills, I did 100 yards of sweet spot drills, and 100 yards of zipperskate. I'm trying to further develop my balance. I need to make the transition to full overhand strokes, and figure out how to add rhythmic breathing. Better balance should help, there.

Getting the breathing down may be the most challenging part of this whole process. I feel pretty comfortable in the face down, swimming position. I feel comfortable going to sweet spot and taking some breaths. The discomfort comes in when considering breathing during a normal stroke.

Here's a question for all the fish out there. Should my stroke continue while breathing, or should there be a slight pause in the stroke? Normally, I've rolled to the side and tried to breathe. That interrupts the stroke and I slow down (and lose balance). This morning, I tried breathing while pulling with the forward arm and bringing the back arm forward. I lost less speed and had better balance, but it seems awkward. That, of course, might be a function of not being used to the motion. Any thoughts or suggestions are appreciated.

Tomorrow, it's a good run. Saturday it's WalkAmerica for the March of Dimes. Sunday is a long run, though I may do a bike/run brick if things work out. 1000 yards. It still sounds cool.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Health and Nutrition

The transformation from three-toed sloth (no disrespect to sloths intended) to marathoner involved little more than the discipline to get out of the house and start running. Some minor changes to diet followed, as the need for energy increased. Even so, all of the changes came about subconciously.

The transformation from marathoner to triathlete may require a bit more active change and planning. While this first sprint triathlon should pose little challenge in the nutrition and energy category, Olympic or half-IM distances will certainly require a bit more thought. The training and race duration are sure to demand improvements in diet.

At the moment, I see two big challenges to address. The first is relatively easy. Calcium. It dawned on me that a big part of the foot issues I've been dealing with may be calcium related. Three-toed Sloth Pol had lots of heartburn from GERD and a hiatal hernia. Tums were a regular part of the diet, and Tums have calcium. Running Pol carries quite a bit less weight, and has stronger stomach and back muscles. The heartburn issue has gone away, and Tums went with it.

Therein lies the problem. I've lost my primary source of calcium. So, I'll be adding some vitamins, for both calcium and niacin. The niacin is supposed to help with some cholesterol issues (despite the decent diet and intense training, my good cholesterol is sort of low).

The second issue is more complicated. It's soda. Three-toed Sloth Pol, you know, the one with GERD and heartburn, drank on the order of a six-pack of soda a day, sometimes more. Over the years, that has been cut back to a couple sodas a day, depending on what we have for dinner. And I know that any transformation into a triathlete tackling any significant distance might require that consumption to be further reduced.

Switching from Doritos to pretzels is a snap. Replacing candy with fruit is a breeze. Adjusting daily intake based on exercise level is already part of what I do. Replacing soda, that's a sticking point. It may take an intervention (insert image of sharks from "Finding Nemo" shouting, "INTERVENTION" when Bruce smells blood in the water).

The question becomes, "What is reasonable?" Or is reasonable based entirely on where I'm at with weight and fitness? My gut tells me that even two sodas a day is too much. What about anyone else's guts?

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Daddy Pol

Well, training got busted up a bit, this weekend. Mrs. Pol had an out-of-town decorative painting conference Friday through Sunday. That left little time to focus on training, and lots of time to focus on the "Big Red Firetrucks" DVD Toddler Pol got for Easter. And feeding Baby Pol.

This is in no way a complaint. Though I have already pointed out to Mrs. Pol that this weekend has to be good for at least 25% of a new tri-bike, spending a weekend being daddy is something I enjoy. That it plays with the training schedule is minor. If this is the worst my schedules get trashed over the next 12 months (or even 2 months), I will consider it a good season. Besides, there is something gained from watching a 5-month old smile as you play "I-can-fly" with her that is missed in an 8-mile interval run.

So, we had fun meals, watched some silly shows, and got some shopping done. And some of that was even fun. We went to Barnes and Noble, and I picked up another "Triathlete" magazine and the book "Triathlon 101." Toddler Pol got two books, one about Buzz Lightyear, the other about Peter Pan. We are both VERY excited about our purchases.

In the "improving Running Pol's diet" category, we hit the store and picked up fruits, vegetables, and other healthy snacks. It's 100% fruit juice over soda, grapes over M&Ms, pretzels over chips. By hook or by crook, I'm getting under 190 (and then under 185) pounds. Some shoe guru was trying to upsell me by about $50 for a pair of shoes that are 4 ounces lighter. First, anything less than 2 hours improvement is basically irrelevant. Second, I can gain a lot more than 4 ounces just by improving my eating habits.

So, it was a wonderful "Daddy" weekend with the children. We used our "single daddy" time to bond and improve ourselves. Mrs. Pol even got home early enough for me to get in a quick 10 mile training run. Now, if I can just convince her that this weekend really IS worth 25% of a new tri-bike, it will be perfect.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Bricks a la Kewl Nitrox

Long before I knew what a "brick" was, they were a key component of my training. When first starting to run, I helped boost my endurance with biking. It was much easier than trying to do everything through running. A common day's training would be 15 miles on the bike followed by a 6.5 mile run. I typically did that three times a week (remember, I was a bit undereducated on training programs).

Since beginning training for the triathlon, it has become readily apparent that doing bricks for every training session is, well, idiotic. I have focused more on individual disciplines, relying on my ears to tell me when a brick is in order.

Today was one such day. Allow me to explain.

I was born with a cleft palate. I was blessed, and didn't have the cleft lip that so commonly occurs with that condition. I did not, however, avoid the other common side effect, a poorly developed aural (ear) system. Put in simple terms, ear infections have been a recurring theme in my life. As a result, my ear drums are perforated with lots of little holes. They are prone to "leaking" and rupturing. To minimize that, I wear ear plugs when swimming.

This morning, my swim training was going well. My ego was boosted the moment I walked onto the pool deck when one of the superstar swimmers asked if I was training for a triathlon. She figured I was because of the training progression I've been following. She is reading a book (Going the Distance) and said my training exactly matched what is described in the book. I was still able to swim, despite the minor swelling in my head.

The first 16 lengths went well. No leaks in the goggles. No pain from my pneumonia shot. Good form. Decent breathing patterns (for me). Then, during the 17th length of the pool, I felt water leaking towards an eardrum (the same one I ruptured a few years back). After the 18th length, I attempted to get a better seal, and almost passed out from what may well be another ruptured ear drum (only time and a night of sleeping with that ear down will tell).

Since swimming was out after only 450 yards, I rushed back to the locker room and switched over to running. I managed to get in a 5K run before having to leave for work. Despite the concerns over the ear, it feels good to have completed a brick that covers the race distances.

Now, all I have to do is figure out how to completely isolate my right ear from contact with the water. Plastic wrap? Fish bowl?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


Transitions. It's a word familiar to anyone with triathlon experience. As I prepare for my first triathlon, which is just over 6 weeks away, transitions have to be my second biggest concern. The swim will remain my biggest concern until after this first race.

But the swim is something for which I can prepare, and over which I have at least some amount of control. Transitions are another story. First, there aren't a lot of opportunities to jump out of a pool and hop onto a bike in very short order. And when that chance does exist, there aren't generally a bunch of other people doing the exact same thing.

The image in my head is based upon aid stations during marathons. Chaotic. And often made more chaotic by first timers without the knowledge of good race etiquette. My goal has always been to find a big opening, and get in and out as quickly as possible. That leaves room for those who want to stand at the tables.

Only this time the beginner will be me. I'll be the guy looking lost and out of place. No amount of professional looking clothes can make up for that. Luckily, the race I've entered seems to be relatively small, with maybe 50 entrants. And there's a good chance a large number of them will be long gone by the time I exit the water.

Even so, the art of exiting the water and hopping on a bike, then switching from bike to run real time will be something to which I will be paying keen attention on June 3. Of course, the one comfort is that every triathlete has a first race, just as every marathoner has a first distance event. And the registration for the Trinity Triathlon included a "rate yourself" question. I selected complete beginner, which should clue them in. Help this guy...

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Running Fast

No, this isn't a post about setting a new PR or a really good speed training session. It's more about poor planning. Mine, to be exact.

Monday was a day off work as I had several doctor appointments. Two were of the "annual physical" nature. One was for bloodwork prior to one of the physicals. Just to answer the question, yes, I had two phsyicals on the same day. One was for the Veterans' Administration and one was with my personal physician.

The tests that were being done required a 12-hour fast prior to having blood drawn. Sunday night, I had my bagels and juice all set, ready to be eaten at 7 p.m. That would help minimize starvation in the morning. I had that snack finished by 7:30 and started my fast.

Around 8:15, Mrs. Pol pulled out her birthday cake. A Boston Cream Pie cake she baked herself. She misunderstood the plans for fasting, and thought I could eat until 8:30. As I stood there mixing my sports drink for Monday's run, I straightened her out.

My plan Monday morning called for a 10 mile run, and I headed out the door at 5:30 a.m. After about 1 1/2 miles, I reached back and pulled out my bottle. I then had one of those, "Doh!" moments. Fasting. Bloodwork at 7:45 a.m. And I'm about to start downing carbohydrate laden sports drink. And the Gu gel in my pouch was probably a bad idea, as well.

Needless to say, it was a long 10 miles. There was one drinking fountain in a park around the 6 mile point. The one saving grace was the temperatures (35F and windy). Sweating is kept to a minimum in cold, windy conditions.

So, my new advice is this. When fasting, just cut out any morning training sessions. Or at least remember to switch from sports drink to water.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Profile Picture

In order to get a picture into the profile without having to open all sorts of new accounts, it's being posted in this entry. So, a bit of the story...

The picture is Toddler Pol and myself after his first ever race. It was only 25 yards, as that was the furthest they would let him run. Sad, as he can easily run anywhere from a quarter to half-mile, depending on the day. Regardless, it was a race, and he had a blast. Of course, daddy was pretty happy, too. And proud.

Saturday, April 15, 2006


If there is a challenge to training for endurance events, it is the art of juggling training, work, family, and the rest of life. Holidays provide one more ball to keep in the air. And if a spouse happens to have a birthday at the same time, wheeeee. FYI, Mrs. Pol's birthday is April 16th.

For the Pol family, the jogging stroller eases the stress of juggling training and family. Now that spring has arrived, Toddler Pol (my two year old son) can join in training runs by riding in his stroller. Though it sometimes requires changing the training plan, it prevents many sessions from being scrapped altogther. Today was one of those days.

Easter breakfast at church required a prep and setup meeting, this morning. Mrs. Pol had errands to run, and church, this evening. So, Toddler Pol joined me in a 5.5 mile run. It was going to be a 6.5 mile run, and the route was changed to stay off a stretch of road that poses to great a risk with the stroller.

Running with Toddler Pol is wonderful. He has to make sure he has a bottle of "sportsdrink," which can be juice or water, though he loves Gatorade and Gu2O. He takes charge of the RoadID, and anything else that might be needed. And he talks up a storm. Pushing the stroller with his weight also makes those sessions without him seem easier.

As this journey towards triathlete continues, I will have to learn to better manage my time. Thankfully, Mrs. Pol is very supportive of the endeavor (we haven't started talking bike prices, yet). Toddler Pol loves to watch me train, and occasionally participate. Baby Pol, my five-month old daughter, will have the same opportunity to go with me, when she can go in the stroller.

For all you with triathlon experience, your suggestions, guidance, and lessons learned are more than welcome. They are something that will be greatly valued. I did the training for my first marathon with no outside help. As I headed into other races, I learned from that mistake. I now look for and accept the assistance of those with more experience.


Twice a year, military members must show they are physically fit to perform their duties. This is accomplished by completing the physical readiness test, or PRT. Based on age, a given number of pushups and situps must be done, and a 1.5 mile run must be completed in a set time. Oddly, PRTs were a huge challenge during my time in the Navy.

In 2000, I was diagnosed with an odd autoimmune disease called sarcoidosis. As that can have a significant impact on lung capacity, a pulmonary doctor asked that I use running as a means of monitoring that area of concern. The near joy of being out of the Navy and NEVER having to complete another PRT vanished. Instead of running twice a year, I was being asked to run twice a month. I let the doctor know that running like that was quite impossible.

But I also suffer from an impaired sense of accomplishment. Simply put, I'm unable to do something (such as run) without a clear goal. The idea of running just to run struck me as idiotic. So, the 1.5 mile jogs twice a month turned into 1.5 mile runs three times a week. That quickly turned into the vague notion of someday running a marathon. Mind you, it was very vague, and "someday" was a long way off.

Then, I opened my big mouth on the first day of a new semester in college. I hinted at this goal of running a marathon. A classmate pointed out that his mom helped run the Fox Cities Marathon in Appleton, Wisconsin. It was about eight weeks away. I could run that marathon. Though still a beginner, I knew that a full marathon was out of the question. What about a half-marathon? The distance concerned me. I was running 6.5 miles three times a week, but could I run 13.1 miles in a race. I was such a beginner, I ran 13.5 miles two weeks before the race to make sure I could finish. That, of course, got big laughs from more experienced runners on race day.

After completing that first half-marathon, the idea of running 26.2 miles seemed less daunting. Someone who pretty much despises running was well on the way to becoming a marathoner. It took two years, two significant injuries, and quite a bit of taunting from a co-worker, but I did complete that Fox Cities Marathon in September of 2004. Since then, I have also completed the Green Bay and Chicago marathons. And 1.5 miles is either a warmup or a short run after 45 minutes swimming.

Six months ago, the idea of completing a triathlon became the new challenge. And it is a big challenge. The bike and run don't particularly concern me, though the idea of putting them into the same race does. The swim is another story entirely. All of my experience with swimming involved avoiding drowning. While fairly skilled at that, my ability to go from point A to point B in the water was fairly limited. Completing a 250 yard swim seemed impossible. Forget 2.4 miles. My mom helped keep my head on straight, pointing out that I didn't run 26.2 miles the first time I put on running shoes.

Though 2.4 miles still scares me, the process of getting there is clear. Lots of practice, and lots of laps at the YMCA. It's 72 laps to the mile, or 173 for 2.4 miles. If I follow the same theory as my first half-marathon, that's 180 to make sure I can complete the race. Of course, I'm a BIT smarter than that, now.

At this point, it is more difficult to see a point where I look back and say, "Why was I so concerned, it was a piece of cake." Marathons are still a huge challenge. Completing my first sprint triathlon seems within reach, but the thought of an olympic distance or half Ironman seems less so. Then again, they are just challenges to be overcome.

Like everything else, I see little point in attempting any triathlon if the Ironman isn't an end goal. And just as I questioned ever running more than one marathon, I admit that one major triathlon may be all there ever is. Then again, what we view as challenging tends to change as we progress in training. And the triathletes I've met tend to confirm Iron Bennie's comments about the romance of triathlons. Completing one seems to be the first step to a lifetime love affair.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Iron Pol is Born

Welcome to the new Iron Pol blog. The purpose of this blog will be to track a man also know as Running Pol through the evolution from marathoner to triathlete. This is a transformation that began in October of 2005 when several eigth graders at a youth organization pointed out that running one more marathon wasn't really all that challenging. So, they challenged me to a triathlon.

The very first training session in a pool highlighted that being a marathoner in no way prepares someone for a triathlon. After 100 yards swimming, the act of raising my arms above my head was a challenge. Even the shortest of triathlons (for anyone over the age of about 5) involves a 220 yard swim.

So, I armed myself for a true training program to meet this challenge. A new pair of goggles and some triathlon shorts allowed me to at least look the part. The most important tool was recommended by a fellow swimmer at the local YMCA. He suggested the book "Total Immersion Swimming." That was the best purchase I could have made, and at this point, I am about four months into the program.

The first attempt at any triathlon is on June 3, 2006. The money is spent, the registration complete. It is a sprint event with a 220-yard swim, 15 mile bike, and 5K run.

So, join me as I begin this journey. Where it will lead, nobody knows. With any amount of luck, we'll see the transformation of Running Pol into Iron Pol.