Thursday, August 31, 2006
Having joined the TBC late this year, and completing my first sprint distance race in June, my plans and goals have been all over the board. A huge goal was met upon completion of my first Olympic distance race. The 3/4 mile swim (a bit short, I know) was the first major open water swim I've accomplished. Upon surviving that race, I started thinking about an Ironman in 2007.
Then, I saw the cost. For a marathoner, $450 is a huge entry fee. And with two small mouths to feed, thoughts turned to a half Ironman. The IM race could wait. Enter Roman, with a fairly sizable wrench to toss into the works. Though competing in the two blog favorites THIS year was out of the question, joining the Race Athlete team for IM Wisconsin in 2007 is restricted only by the question of entry fees. The foundation is there. The desire to train for IM distance is there. The time to complete a training program is there. And living in the Fox Valley of Wisconsin, I'm almost in Madison, already.
So, the ever shifting plans of Iron Pol are in flux, once again. Is this just the push needed to EARN the title? Is it time to dig deep into the pockets and find a way to get in line on September 11th and sign up for a race 12 months away? Is it time to toe the line and participate in the ENTIRE journey?
Here is the entire story generating these questions. A question that really only has one answer. As I've always said, the biggest motivation for any race is a paid registration fee.
Here's some more details about Team raceAthlete and Ironman Wisconsin:
September 1, 2006BOULDER, COLO. -- Imagine being able to train and compete like a professional. Starting now, eight ordinary people will get extraordinary training, equipment and coaching to compete like the professional triathlete.
RaceAthlete.com is proud to announce the formation of Team RaceAthlete in conjunction with CycleOps Power, Zipp Speed Weaponry, BMC Bicycles, D3 Multisport and Descente Athletic Apparel. Eight lucky age-group athletes will showcase the improvements that can be achieved through world-class equipment and training resources. This will give select age groupers the opportunity to compete like seasoned professional triathletes.
The chosen athletes will get state-of-the-art PowerTap SL's by CycleOps Power to help them train and monitor their progress with ultimate power and efficiency.
Swiss-based BMC bicycles will provide them with proven bicycle technology - the same TTO2 Time Machine ridden at the Tour de France.
Zipp Speed Weaponry will provide world-class speed and aerodynamic wheels and components. These are the same wheels ridden by champion triathletes like Peter Reid.
D3 Multisport will provide comprehensive coaching and training plans for the athletes to help them with expert advice and today's most cutting edge training tools for peak performance.
Descente Athletic apparel will provide state of the art training and racing apparel to help propel the athletes to the winner's circle.
Members of Team raceAthlete will compete in triathlon events all around the globe. Athletes will chronicle their journey from "ordinary to extraordinary" as they progress towards the ultimate Ironman distance race! You can follow their progress on raceAthlete.com, as well as the athlete's own popular endurance blogs and podcasts.
RaceAthlete.com is a one-stop source that spotlights top endurance sports writers, bloggers, and podcasters -- all in a networked community for aspiring race athletes!
CycleOps Powertaps are provided by the Wisconsin-based Saris Cycling Group. The Saris Cycling Group is Saris Cycle Racks and CycleOps Power.(www.cycleops.com)
Swiss-based BMC (www.bmc-cycling.com) builds bikes with style, passion and precision. Innovative design features, rigorous testing, and a long history of working with the World's best athletes have resulted in truly unique bicycles. BMC sets new standards and continues to push the design and performance envelope year after year.
Zipp (www.zipp.com) produces world class wheels that are tops in speed and aerodynamics. Zipp also provides unsurpassed component technology always on the cutting edge. Zipp builds the fastest wheels in the world as tested in Tour magazine, they were the first company to manufacture carbon cranks and the new vuka Aero bar already has a patent pending.
D3 Multisport (www.d3multisport.com) utilizes the most current research and training techniques and combines them with race proven strategies to create the best possible training programs for any athletes.
Axcent Sports (www.descenteathletic.com) was formed to license and distribute Descente Athletic apparel in the United States for the sports categories of Cycle, Run and Fitness, among others.
For further information on "Be a Race Athlete in 2007," including sponsorship opportunities, please visit raceAthlete.com or contact Roman Mica (303) 415-2586.
The columnist arguing against the use of what he calls "EPO Tents" claims that this practice is no different than using EPO, a banned substance. However, he is forced to acknowledge that anyone living at higher altitudes experiences the same benefits, naturally. So, manufacturing a low oxygen environment is merely simulating a natural and legal condition. To get around that argument, the author takes the approach that these tents are an unfair advantage due to their cost.
Did I hear that right? The cost of a training tool should lead to its being banned? I will be sending a note to the author care of Triathlete Magazine, as his is the most ridiculous argument I've ever heard.
Let's consider this for just a moment. He claims that altitude training tents, which can run anywhere from $15,000 to (insert sky-high price here), offer an unfair advantage to those able to afford them. Now, as one of the less affluent triathletes of the world, I will certainly agree with the big-picture assessment. Having tons of money certainly offers the chance to "unlevel" the playing field. The question is whether the World Anti-Doping Agency should (or legitimately can) regulate items of this nature.
Money impacts a whole lot more areas that just altitude training tents. How about we start with the swim and work our way through the disciplines?
While far less of a cash-hog than the bike, the swim can be greatly affected by an individual's access to money. Those with little to no disposable income, swims are done as close to au naturale as possible. In other words, they are in swimsuits or tri-shorts. Those who are slightly better off are able to use wetsuits, though they may be very basic models. Those with plenty of extra cash swim in the latest and greatest high tech wetsuits. I'm sure some even have wetsuits custom fitted and made just for them. The same can also be said of coaching. The least affluent learn from any free resource out there. The wealthiest pay for the best coaching money can buy.
Moving through T1, we come to the bike. Oh, the bike. Is there any doubt that money has a serious impact on the bike leg? If so, please compare Natasha Badmann's bike with mine. Now, I love The Pol-R Express. It's a great bike. It is not, however, a $15,000 carbon fiber bike with $3,000 wheels and many thousands of dollars in other components. And while I might not become an elite with such a bike, odds are I'd be much better than I am, today. It is also interesting to note that many of the bikes being used by the top triathletes in the world cost more than the so called EPO Tent.
On to the run, which is sort of the "pristine" event. Short of the type of shoes worn, money will have minimal impact on the run leg. Allowing, of course, for the coaching issue mentioned above.
And then, there's the big picture aspect. Triathletes train long and hard for their races. Some work what training they can into their work or other schedules. They fit training in where they can. And they are limited in the time they can dedicate to that training. Many train in less than ideal conditions. Swim training is often the most difficult, particularly if you are unable to afford a membership to whatever organization has the pool. Others train in perfect conditions (including the lower oxygen conditions of high altitude locations). And the luckiest (and/or best) triathletes train when and where they want. They are either independently wealthy or sponsored professionals. Money plays no role in their decisions.
Is there anyone who wishes to support the notion that having all day, every day to train as needed WON'T make someone a better athlete? That's an argument I won't make. I know I'd be able to improve vastly if my main task in life was to train and get better.
So, while the use of altitude training tents may be controversial, the financial argument is ridiculous. Those of us who are back of the pack age groupers could probably care less about the use of such training aids. Those of us who are truly competitive are probably willing to make the investment if it will help us get that much better. Money plays a huge factor in all areas of triathlon. Those with it aren't guaranteed victory over the less affluent, but they can certainly make the downpayment on a better finish.
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
The Tri Blog Community is proving itself to be the exact opposite. Instead of allowing people to hide in the seclusion of their homes, it is bringing people together. Very frequently, those people are complete strangers. They share a common love of a demanding sport. And they share their experiences, successes, and challenges. Oddly enough, an "individual" sport brings people from a broad range of backgrounds and helps them to build bonds as strong as the iron that represents their passion.
A wanderer through the Tri Blog Community can find anything that is needed. We have our resident author and part time funny man Roman Mica. For a humorous (possibly neurotic?) look at the challenges facing female triathletes, one need only stop by the sites of Nytro or Little Miss Runner Pants. For parents trying to balance families with training, check with Tri-Daddy or TriMama. Fundraising athletes might stop by TriBoomer's site and see how he is doing in his effort to complete an entire season of triathlons, complete with two half and a full Ironman. And to borrow the term from Roman, there are lots of "Everyman" triathletes out there. Nancy Toby juggles work, twins, and Ironman training. TriGeek Kahuna and Iron Wil share their love of triathlon through their podcasts and their Triathlon Scholarship program. And for the perspective of a "Canadian in America," just swing by Bolder's site.
And that is only a sampling of the sites listed in the sidebar of this blog. The others, and a great many that have yet to be visited, form the TBC. Like any community in the world, there are well known sites, and less familiar places that everyone should visit. And like any GOOD community in the world, the TBC brings people together and makes them better.
I had the opportunity to meet and race with Veeg, and am better for it. Though our paths crossed quickly, and mostly on the race course, we already had a bond as members of the TBC. Many others have shared their experiences meeting TBC friends. TriGreyhound will travel from Texas to Wisconsin to support Iron Wil and others at the Ironman Wisconsin race. And on November 4th, a huge contingent of the TriGeek Nation will converge on Panama City Beach, Florida to compete (or cheer) in the Ironman Florida race.
So, if you're new to the Tri Blog Community, welcome. Stick around a while and see what there is to offer. You can laugh, learn, be inspired, win prizes, and just be a part of the fun.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
1. My wife and I met on October 9th, got engaged on October 10th, and married October 11th
2. I was shot by a good friend when I was 17 years old.
3. A young Michael Jackson zipped up my brother's pants while on an airplane travelling from Georgia to California.
There you go. A bit more challenging than Greyhound's, as the internet is unlikely to provide much assistance. You'll have to work this one out on your own (or know me).
Friday, August 25, 2006
Monty Python has a different way of stating the same thing. Their version is, "Always look on the bright side of life..." (Now, sing it with me...).
These are two philosophies that work well in all of life, and are particularly handy for triathletes. They are meant to be used during long and/or difficult periods in life, and the challenges faced during training and racing certainly fall into those categories. So, we should remember them.
Though the race season is winding down and many of us are preparing for our "A" races, we know that those races are only the culmination of THIS year's training. Once the races are over, we go into our off season, ready to begin training focused on improving our weaknesses and maintaining our aerobic base. And early in the new year, we will begin training for a new season. We must break each year into "bite sized" chunks (training periods), and always keep an eye on the light at the end of the tunnel. That beacon is different for each person. For some, it is their first ever triathlon. For others it is a longer race. And for a percentage of us, it is an Ironman race that is nearly a year away for which the entry fee has already been paid.
Keeping an eye on that goal allows us to overcome the challenges of rough spots in the journey. Perhaps it is a bad training session (or week). It might be difficulties balancing training with the rest of life. It could even be an injury that calls for a break in training. Most of these issues can be overcome when we keep our eyes on the target.
And when things get really tough, we can "Always look on the bright side of life." (Really, sing it with me). Tough training results in many benefits beyond race day success. Flexibility in scheduling can allow you to sleep beyond the common 4:30 wake up time. Missed training sessions mean more time to spend with family. For every "negative" we face, there are bright sides to be seen.
Last night, the catalyst to this post, was a perfect example. With Mrs. Pol heading to a retreat, today, our schedules called for me to take a half day vacation from work. Given the time off, I was juggling a morning run, an early afternoon bike, or both. I decided to skip the morning run, and plan a bike ride for after noon. That said, I reset my alarm for 6 a.m. and spent a bit of time working on my half-Ironman training plan and still got to sleep shortly after 10 p.m. I stayed up late, and still had 8 hours to sleep.
B-Boy had other plans. It seems he has a bit of a cold, and has some serious "Pol Family" sinus issues going. That made sleeping very uncomfortable for him. He woke up just before midnight, the start of a long night of poor sleep (for him, Mrs. Pol, or myself. Monster Girl was mostly oblivious, though she did wake up a time or two). B-Boy wound up crashing in my recliner, with me on the floor beside him. A less than perfect bed for a less than perfect night of "sleep."
But, there's always a bright side. B-Boy's timing was perfect. This bad night's sleep came on the day where the alarm had been set for an hour and a half later than normal. So, the only real loss was in "extra" sleep. I basically broke even. The "down" side was offset by the "bright" side.
Keep these things in mind as you train. They are just as valid today as they were those many years back. The light at the end of the tunnel that ensures there is always a bright side to life. That will get many a triathlete through rough patches in life.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
However, a recent e-mail from my sister is just too interesting to ignore. Since I am unaware of any specific screen names of theirs, they will be known as "my sister," "AM Girl," and "Fire Girl." For the record, AM Girl is the older of my sister's daughters, and Fire Girl is the younger. Both are several years older than B-Boy and Monster Girl.
My sister and her family live in the Chicago area, and school is just getting started. She sent a note about a policy adopted for the new year, a policy which just begs for people to mock it. In order to combat childhood obesity, the school has enacted a policy that their morning snack can be no more than 200 calories. Anything over that is to be confiscated. In addition, the only drink allowed is water.
As an example, my sister sent AM Girl to school with a pack of Nature Valley crunchy granola bars and some sugar free applesauce as a dip. That is 230 calories. To ensure AM Girl was drinking, my sister also gave her a Crystal Light To Go mixer for her water bottle. The teacher, obviously clueless about Crystal Light, demanded AM Girl produce a wrapper to prove it was sugar free.
To keep things in perspective, AM Girl eats breakfast at 6:30 a.m. and lunch is at 12:25. So, for six hours, presumably including at least a recess, she is allowed a staggering 200 calories. While she isn't running any marathons, that low a caloric intake would result in a deficit in all but the most inactive of children. You know, the ones who have to be reminded to swallow. And blink. And breathe.
It is, however, a good thing that this school system is keeping an eye on AM girl. Her height places her in the 95th percentile for her age. Her weight, 5th percentile. Without the school keeping an eye on her, she might balloon up to, oh, say, below average weight. School boards attempting to raise children are missing huge chunks of information, such as medical conditions that might make their sweeping generalizations more harmful than helpful.
Fire Girl lives under a simpler program. Her snacks are to be fruits or veggies. That makes a bit more sense. Apparently younger children can eat more without gaining weight. I wonder how that is? It must certainly be a metabolism thing, as the schools seem to believe caloric intake is the only factor affecting obesity.
This is why the government, which includes school boards and school systems, should not raise children. While there are a great many teachers I might welcome to ASSIST in the rearing of my children, legislators are missing the key component to effective parenting, contact with the child. And, at least in the Glen Grove school district in Chicago, they lack any foundation of scientific or physiologic knowledge.
Until they are capable of understanding the relationship between calories consumed and calories burned, they will be unable to have a reasonable impact on childrens' health. Perhaps they should pass a policy mandating the schools hire personal coaches to evaluate the needs of each individual child. They might find that some of the children should be consuming 2000 calorie snacks instead of a measley 200.
I guess that's enough political ranting. It's time for me to go consume my 400 calorie snack. Like my niece, a 200 calorie snack will only help assure I lose too much weight.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
So it goes for triathletes unable to afford the expense of hiring a full time coach. Even the cheapest of plans for half-Ironman and Ironman training can cost hundreds of dollars. Like The A-Team, thrifty triathletes must piece together a program from what is available for free. Luckily, the Internet minimizes the challenges associated with gathering information for building such a plan.
I've been busy digging up various training programs. Once collected, they will be reviewed for common threads, taken apart, and put back together in a manner that will best suit my needs over the next several months. Like Colonel Smith, I love it when a plan comes together.
The two things I have noted, thus far, is that plans seem to vary considerably on overall schedule and the official program from start to race day will run from 4-5 months. I will likely use a 20-week program as the base, keep Monday as a rest day, and use several four week micro-sessions I've come across for the winter months. It also seems that most of the programs DON'T have strength training included. So, I will continue to sift through available plans and find some that do.
As I start building this, I will be calling upon those of you with half and Ironman experience for your input. And if anyone has a basic plan that worked for them, it would be greatly appreciated if you shared whatever is available. I do, however, acknowledge that such plans tend to be highly personalized. For this first time out, I will personalize my own plan.
Given the goal of finishing, most drills in any discipline will focus on form and endurance. I will incorporate speedwork into the last six to eight weeks, and also into some of the winter micro-sessions. If the journey is half the fun, creating the road map should make things even more interesting.
And if this plan works, I will be able to look at all the money saved and justify using some of it to pay for an IM distance race in 2008. Well, in my head, at least.
Monday, August 21, 2006
Sometimes, the same can be said for an aspiring endurance athlete. When the individual beginning the journey is inactive, 50-60 pounds overweight, and leading a generally unhealthy lifestyle, an extreme triathlete makeover is needed (since this is, after all, a triathlon blog). And like Extreme Home Makeover, the best way to start is to tear down the existing structure before starting the real work.
That's how I feel, lately. Marathon training resulted in a loss of nearly 30 pounds in several years, and my general health went from poor to better than most. Both my endurance and my speed increased. The introduction of triathlon training to the mix has led to additional, and much faster, gains. I've dropped another 25 pounds in 6 months, and will soon fall under the 170 lb. mark. It is entirely likely that I will hit a point (165 lbs) where I have to consider increasing my dietary intake to maintain that weight.
The existing structure has been torn down, and a larger, stronger foundation is in place. It is now time for the design team to step in and get busy rebuilding. Like the cast of Extreme Home Makeover, I am faced with many tasks, all vital to the new and improved athlete. And like the television show, it will take a great deal of work to accomplish these tasks and achieve my goals.
So, here is the "sketch" of what must be built.
First, the foundation must be strengthened. This will take some serious effort with weights. I've never been a fan of the weight room, but all things point to the importance of strength training. So, a key focus for this off-season will be adding at least one weekly strength training session, two if possible.
The foundation must also be expanded. I'm approaching limits of my ability to increase speed, so I'll be going back to the heart rate monitor. I will spend the winter working on improving my aerobic capacity through targeted heart rate training, with a limited period of speed work leading up to a mid-winter 15K race. That will be used to evaluate my progress and identify any needed changes.
Finally, the end result needs to be more of an amphibious vehicle than a permanent structure. So I will be digging around for some serious swim drills. Total Immersion will come back into the picture as I pursue comfort with bilateral breathing. I will also work to better vary the pace of my swimming, in an effort to improve speed in the water. In other words, swimming is going to be my friend. Or I'll hate it. But either way, I will be faster come spring time.
I've experienced a lot of personal change in the past few years, and even more dramatic changes in the past six months. Most of that change has been of the "accidental" nature. I trained, and changes occurred. With a few, limited exceptions, these changes have been unplanned and uncoordinated. Now, like the designers of Extreme Home Makeover, it is time to start making changes with a specific outcome in mind. It is time to build the best endurance athelete possible with the available materials. Stay tuned. New seasons always promise new and exciting storylines.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
Swim - 23m27s, 299/349, 10:40 (2m40s/100 yds, compared to 2m42s/100 last week). That's not too bad considering how wiped I felt in the swim.
T1 - 3m46s, including a long, uphill run to get there.
Bike - 59m33s, 111/349, (20.15 mph compared to 18.6 mph last week). Given the double time trial training Friday, I'll take it.
T2 - 1m3s, with most of the improvement from actually remembering how my shoes work.
Run - 30m12s, 294/349, (9m45s/mile compared to 7m51s last week). Given my co-workers GI distress, I think he maintained a good pace.
I'm not sure how I forgot this in the original post:
Overall - 1h58m0s, 238/349 (the "349" represents total males. There were 229 females, 72 finishing before me. That would make me something like 309 of 578 total. Leaving me still struggling to break the upper half.
Update on co-worker: He called to thank me again, last night. He mentioned that his stomach still felt like he'd spent the day as a punching bag. Anyone with any ideas beyond it being a result of his stomach rebelling over the use of gels, please let me know.
BTW, he's obviously hooked. He spent most of our call going over the race, and detailing how he could do better, next time. He was excited that, though weak on the swim, he was able to make up so much ground on the bike. He was also distressed to have lost so much on the run. His focus is already on next year, and what races he will want to do.
Saturday, August 19, 2006
As I searched, the first local race I found was the Waupaca Area Triathlon. Only 45 minutes from home, this was a good possibility. The 20 mile bike, no problem. A run under 5K, piece of cake. Half-mile swim. Without even being sure exactly how far 1/2 mile is, that was sure to be the problem. And a bit of quick math proved my fears. 880 yards. That's a bit long for someone who can't swim 100 yards without dying. Surely there is a shorter triathlon.
After some more digging, I came across the Trinity Triathlon. With a 220 yard swim, that was just what the doctor ordered. Even if I had to dog paddle, I was certain I could complete that distance. History proved me right, though the race certainly had it's share of other excitment. And somewhere along the way of training for Trinity, I found myself hooked by the idea of being a triathlete.
Enter Veeg, and the Oshkosh Area Olympic Distance challenge. Bloggers, it seems, are a bit like my Brigaders. I seem to have an abundance of friends ready to challenge me to grow and improve. Not only did I survive this second race, it was an incredible opportunity for me to see exactly what I can accomplish.
Which brings us to this day. In previous posts, it was mentioned that a co-worker was running the Waupaca race, and that I would be there to support him. At 7:30 last night, he called to let me know that he had switched his girlfriend's registration to my name. That led to a flurry of activities to get me ready for an early departure in the morning.
First, there was a transition bag to be packed. Too bad that was at my office (more on that in a bit). No biggie, that duffle bag is getting worn, I'll just buy a new one when I go to get dishwashing detergent. My wife was quick to point out that I should also pick up new goggles, a swim cap, ear plugs, and anything else that might be in the bag. Ouch, you have to hate it when someone is that right.
So, plans continued to change, and I headed back to the office, which is 28 miles away (remember that, as it will be important, later). An hour and a half later, I was back at home with all my gear (and laundry detergent). I quickly packed my bag, double checked everything, left notes for things to be done in the morning, and got back to work on my sermon for Sunday.
I went to bed in time to get six hours of sleep, knowing that I probably wouldn't sleep all that well, anyway. I was wrong. For once, I slept like a rock the night before a race.
We had another beautiful day for a triathlon. There was a hint of rain (which only amounted to a few minutes of light sprinkles), and the temperature was about 70F with little to no wind.
The swim was an out and back with plenty of lifeguard support. The water was the clearest of any open water swim I've had this year, meaning I could see all the way to my hand. That gave me the ability to actually see bodies and legs BEFORE slamming into them, and even avoid some of them. It went about the same as the Oshkosh race, though I spent more time in the breaststroke. The events of the past 24 hours had left me a bit drained (more on that in a bit). The official results aren't out, yet, and my swim was something like 22 minutes. Add another 1/4 mile and you wind up pretty close to the pace I had during last week's race.
I headed into T1 and chatted with my co-worker. Despite his voiced concerns about the swim, he had done well, beating me out of the water by a minute or two. His form was a bit ragged, but he made up for that with determination and sheer force.
The lessons learned in the past two races helped me get out of T1 a bit more quickly. I used my new race belt, which helped. I took off running, hoping to catch up to my co-worker before he got too far down the road.
The bike course was a pleasant surprise. Much of this race goes over the course of the Trinity Triathlon. It was a nice to see the route from the bike, instead of on foot. The events that left me sapped during the swim had, oddly enough, had less impact on the bike. I finished the (just over) 20 mile route in just under an hour. My computer shows an average pace of 20.6 mph. We'll see what the official results show, when they're available.
I hit T2 in time to see my co-worker, again. I had been chasing him hard on the bike. It appears he understated his abilities on the bike as much as he had on the swim. He headed out almost as soon as I racked my bike. I got out of the helmet, switched shoes, threw on my hat, and headed out for the run. Please note the time saving process of not actually removing my cycling gloves. At least it was only the gloves. My helmet wouldn't have fit in my jersey pockets so nicely.
I caught up with my co-worker after about a quarter mile. While I'm certainly a faster runner, that surprised me. He had dogged me so badly in the swim and bike that I figured I'd spend most the run trying to get past him. As I pulled up beside him, complimenting his progress to that point, he indicated that he was in some fairly severe GI distress (my words, he just said it hurt like hell). His face better conveyed his discomfort.
It seems he had broke one of the rules of racing. Around mile five on the bike, he had used his first ever sports gel. Chased with a bunch of Gatorade, which was also new. Now, on the run, he was learning the lesson of WHY we train the way we race. Rather than continue on, I adjusted my pace and stayed with him on the run.
He was hoping for a quick fix, and the best I could tell him was to get some water at an aid station, and see if that would help. He just wanted to get sick. The water didn't help much, and he never got sick.
Even so, we maintained close to 8:30 miles, and he handled the GI distress to the end. We crossed the finish line just under 2 hours after we started. We were in the same swim wave, and I let him go ahead just at the end. So, in his first race, my co-worker will be able to say he beat me by about one second. He will also be honest enough to point out that the real victory was in his finish. He proved that with training, he can become competitive in his age group. Mostly, he proved that he can also do more than he thought himself capable of.
Oh yeah, I promised some "more on that later." Here's a recipe for turning a shorter race into a real challenge. The day prior to race day, complete not one, but two 28 mile time trials. My co-workers were interested in seeing The Pol-R Express, and, by all appearances, my racing seemed a long shot. So, I bike the 28 miles to work, starting at 5 a.m. I maintained just under 20 mph average, and then worked until 4 p.m. Then, I headed back the same route, hoping to "negative split" the day, bumping the pace closer to 21 mph.
It was this biking that resulted in my gear being at the office. My clothes, toiletries, and nutrition had to be waiting for me, and left there Friday. The 56 miles on the bike, 90 minutes chasing down gear, and relatively late night left me less than 100% for the day. In the end, it wound up being exactly what was needed, as my co-worker was on his own for the swim and bike, and I was there to help him when he most needed it. All in all, a great day at the races.
Friday, August 18, 2006
Looking back on weekends before getting involved in endurance sports, I'm amazed at how little was accomplished. And oddly enough, it always seemed there weren't enough hours in the weekend to do everything that needed doing. You know, sitting on the couch watching t.v. Going out to eat and catch a movie. Laying around recovering from sleeping in and watching cartoons.
Now, I'm usually attempting to get home from a 2000 yard swim and 40 mile bike ride in time to play with B-Boy while he watches Lazytown (go Sporticus). Or complete a 20 mile run before the kids get up for church. Or waking up at 3:30 in order to have a pre-race breakfast before heading out so I can be at the starting line at least an hour prior to race start.
We still do the important things. We go to church, we play outside with the kids, we have get togethers with our friends, and we try to catch up on some sleep (okay, this never happens, but we pretend). It's amazing how much can be accomplished when "sitting around doing nothing" is removed from the equation.
How many people do you know who claim they would exercise, but there just isn't time? When I sold securities, we used to ask people how many times in a month they had pizza (or other favorite junk food). We would then point out that cutting a pizza or two out of the mix frees up enough money to invest. Imagine putting a similar question to those without the time to exercise. How many shows did you watch, this week? How much time did you waste on the computer (remembering that time spent reading these blogs isn't wasted)? How much time could be freed up if some of this wasted time was put to good use?
I no longer look at weekends as "downtime." They are more "me time." There is work to be done, and it will tire me out. But it's a good tired. The tired that comes from pushing yourself to do things others consider impossible. Pushing yourself to go further, faster, or longer. The kind of tired that doesn't seem so bad when people start to see your accomplishments.
So, I go into this weekend knowing the 20 miler on Sunday will wipe me out. And Saturday's training (whether racing or running), will also be tiring. But I also know that I'll be better for it, come Monday.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
The answer to that question tells a lot about the person providing the answer.
A co-worker is preparing to race his first sprint distance triathlon. In an odd twist of reality, I would now refer to the race as "short." Half mile swim, 20 mile bike, 5K run. No big deal. The challenge will be the swim. And not because the swim is challenging for everyone, but because of the answer to the above question. Hobby, or way of life?
Twice this week, I showed up at the pool ready to help him with his swim. I had intentionally scheduled shorter swims to allow time to offer what meager guidance I have at my disposal. Twice this week, I completed significantly longer swims because there was nobody to train. Twice this week, my answer was "way of life" while his was "hobby."
His failure to make it to the pool doesn't concern me, too much. I was there to swim, regardless. And if the swim beats him on Saturday, it will be his lesson and his DNF. If he looks at training and racing as something that can be skipped, that's fine, as well.
Each of us must make the decision. Hobby, or way of life? By the way, the answer is best judged by actions, not words. What happens when the alarm goes off at 4:30 a.m. for a 5 o'clock morning swim session? Is it a jump out of bed to silence the alarm and get out of the house without waking anyone? Or is it a roll to hit the snooze button? What about when life gets complicated and finding time to train becomes challenging? Is it one more session that gets skipped, or one more situation where creativity allows the training to happen?
And here's a little secret. Either answer is okay. Some people planning a lifetime of triathlons will find that triathlons aren't really their thing. Others thinking about one small race will soon find themselves scraping together the $450 for an Ironman race. All are participating in a challenging sport, doing more than the average American ever considers.
And I'll be there, Saturday, supporting my co-worker as he races his first triathlon. And if the outcome is less than he hopes for, I'll be there afterward to offer suggestions for improvement. Because even if this is a hobby for him, it has quickly become a way of life, for me.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Even so, in typical Pol fashion, my focus is already on the 2007 season. Several races are given. There will be a Valentine's Day (or close) 15K race in February. Relatively new, this race is a wonderful test of how the winter training programs are progressing. The Green Bay Marathon is generally in May, and it is quite likely I will run the full marathon again, next year. And then, triathlons will be starting up, again. I will leave behind the newbie status I carried, this year. While still learning, the experiences of these first few races will serve me well.
Those experiences will be called upon as the plans are already being laid for at least one half-Ironman in 2007. There is also the Chicago Accenture Olympic distance, which may have a huge draw from the TBC. If TriGreyhound can make it from Texas, there is little reason why I can't drive the 3 hours to get there.
One thing that will stay the same is the level and intensity of training. Though I will take some time off after the marathon, October will find me developing a winter training program aimed at improving my swimming (including bilateral breathing and speedwork), building upon my aerobic base, and integrating strength training into the mix. The gains of the summer and successes of the first triathlon season will be capitalized upon, and I will go into 2007 ready to better every PR set in 2006.
Monday, August 14, 2006
A new picture for the profile. See a common thread?
Sunday, August 13, 2006
This weekend of big events began on Friday. Our local triathlon club, the Tri Foxes, played host to Sarah Reinertsen, as she came into town for the Olympic distance triathlon. Sarah, like so many other well known triathletes, was super cool. She did a fun run with us on Friday, posing for all the pictures people wanted and signing autographs. One guy even had his Griffen triathlon bike autographed. I managed to suppress the urge to outdo him by having my firstborn autographed. We did, however, get some pictures.
Sarah also took the time to participate in the Transition Olympics being held by Kahuna. You will be able to stop by his place and see my submission in that contest. Oddly enough, that was the only time I saw her, as she apparently crushed me in the race.
This was also race weekend. The Oshkosh Area Olympic triathlon was my first attempt at that distance, and a chance to redeem myself after the brutal circumstances in my first ever triathlon. So, here's the race report (sort of):
The weather was beautiful. It was about 70F, with little to no wind. The sun was out and it stayed that way the entire race. We couldn't have asked for better conditions.
Somehow, I managed to be an early bird in the registration process and found myself in wave two (of about 12). The one absolute blessing is that they changed the direction of the swim. It was planned as a counter-clockwise out and back. Putting the bouys on my left side is an open invitation to my swimming out to sea. The change put the bouys on the right, offering just enough protection against that happening. And, for the most part, it worked like a champ. I did run into a few bouys, and only wound up WAY off course once. That time, I nearly wound up crossing the outbound swimmers and going into the sprint swim lanes. I'm fairly certain I swam an extra 1/4 mile.
Since race organizers hadn't gone through the effort of importing crystal clear waters from the Caribbean or Hawaii, we had visibility of about 8 inches. I could see my bubbles, but not my hands. Knowing this was a challenge, I spent time visualizing the pool. I pretended I could see the lane lines at the pool, and imagined it was just a weekend training swim. It didn't help much at all, but every good coach will tell you to visualize. The good note is that I managed to maintain my crawl stroke for 80+% of the swim. Only when other swimmers dragged me under or when sighting did I break form. This was a huge accomplishment, and probably had a major impact on my time. I forgot to start my watch, but I came in right at 36 minutes. Given 2 minutes delay between waves, it was roughly 34 minutes swim time for an average of almost exactly 2:30/100 yards. Since that's about what I average in the pool, I'm happy with it.
T1 went fairly well. Lessons learned from reading blogs and my one other race helped a lot. I had a bucket with water to rinse my feet, and had everything laid out well. One minor mistake is that I forgot to put my bottles into the cages on the bikee. I freaked out at first, then remembered they were in my bag. This was actually a good thing, as the bottles were still cold. Time in T1 - 4:29. I have pictures, but as has seemingly become the norm for Blogger, it will only allow me to upload on picture per post. I'll post others at a later time.
The bike went very well. By "very well," I mean there were no busted chains, flat tires, or other mechanical failures. The winds, non-existent during the swim, did rear their ugly heads partyway through the bike. The course was well laid out, and I managed to maintain an average pace of just over 18 mph. That was enough to help me make up a lot of the ground I lost in the swim. The course did seem a bit longish. And by "longish" I mean that the 28 mile course seems to have actually been 29 miles. I measured that, and Mrs. Pol indicated that at least one other racer commented on that during transition.
T2 was seamless, as it is just a change out of bike shoes into running shoes. I had some difficulty getting out of my cycling shoes, though that may have had something to do with my momentary loss of brain function that led me to keep ratcheting them tighter, all while wondering why I couldn't release the strap. After remembering how my shoes work, I headed out, stopping by to get a high five from B-Boy and pose for a few pictures. Time in T2 - 2:27
The run was an out and back, allowing us to see all of the runners, and how far ahead they were. There was, however, on extremely long, straight stretch that allowed me to see lots of targets to pick off. I decided that each person in front of me MUST be passed, and that helped me keep up a good pace. As with the bike, I made up a lot of ground, and was only passed by one person. My 10K time was only 30 sec/mile slower than my personal best, and I finished the run in about 48:05 for an average pace of 7:45/mile.
My overall time, by the official clock was 3:02 and some seconds. Given the 2 minutes between waves, my time would have been just over three hours. Not bad for a first attempt.
George Schweitzer's recommendation for the race was to leave it all out on the course. So, I thought about a few things during the race. For the swim, I thought about Iron Wil doing her 4K swims. I thought about all the dolphins out there, and tried to pass at least a few people in the water. I gave everything I could in the open water. On the bike, I kept Bolder in mind, and gave my all, because "It's all about the bike." I didn't have much bike left in me, at the end of the ride. And on the run, I pushed as hard as I could to break my 10K PR. I missed by a few minutes, but didn't have much left in the tank at the end of the race. Just enough to pick up B-Boy and smile for the camera.
And then, we waited to get a picture of Veeg as she finished. This was also her first Olympic triathlon, and we wanted to make sure we got a picture of her finish. Like Sarah Reinertsen, Veeg was awesome. She went through the effort of finding me at the race, no small feat as there were more than 500 racers. We were in the same wave, and she blew me away on the swim. She was just heading out on the bike when I was coming into T1. And she fought through some serious leg cramps on the bike to finish well under her goal time of four hours. I think she came in pretty close to 3:25. So stop by and congratulate her. She did awesome.
So, it was a HUGE weekend, racing with the stars. And how did I do where goals are concerned. Well, let's review.
1. Avoid drowning while doing forward crawl most of the swim - check
2. Have fun - big check
3. Finish under 3 hours - Missed it by THAT much
4. Not finish dead last as the result of mechanical or other failures - check
Thursday, August 10, 2006
It's something that never seems to go away. Oh, we can do things to try and take our minds off of the approaching test. We throw ourselves at our work, and find ourselves distracted by the need to take another look at the course layout. We play with our kids, but soon find our attention focusing on the race expo events. And late at night, when we should be sleeping, thoughts about gear preparation sneak into our minds and keep us awake. The waiting is the hardest part.
Months out, our focus is on training. We register for that big race, and then put our all into getting prepared, making sure we are ready to bring our A Game to our A Race. We test nutrition plans, purchase new gear and gadgets, and barely consider the race itself. Weeks out, we shift our attention to tapers and reduced training. But that focus is not all consuming. Days out, just like other life changing events, our attention becomes more and more focused away from everyday events and onto that big race. The waiting is the hardest part.
Gremlins start to pop up everywhere they see weakness. Am I ready for the open water swim? Are those mechanical problems from the bike going to crop up, again? Has the training been sufficient for the task at hand? The little buggers pick the last days before the race to begin an earnest attack on self-confidence. The waiting is the hardest part.
But race day will come, as it always does. And the waiting will end. The gun will sound, the gremlins will be left in the wake of swimming bodies, and we will see that the training was sufficient. It will be challenging, just as the training was. But the race won't be the biggest challenge. The waiting is the hardest part.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
It's time to correct that. While my wife will continue to go by the Pol name, or by the very honored title of Iron Sherpa, our children have their own identities and should have their own names.
My son, whose name begins with B, has a great love of anything that involves a ball. Baseball, basketball, soccer, or throwing things he thinks are balls. So, in honor of the B theme, Toddler Pol will henceforth be referred to as B-Boy. At such time as he becomes truly aware of this blog and/or wants to give his own nickname, we'll change it, again.
My daughter is another story. Her name begins with M, and she has a tendency to growl. We're not quite sure where it comes from, but when she's really happy, she'll sit and growl at you. The frequency with which she does that led my wife to inadvertently provide her new name. Baby Pol will now be known as Monster Girl.
When time avails itself, I'll post some pictures of both of them so faces can be put with names.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
To be fair, he is a weight lifter. So his "big" is more a function of being built like a tank than a Weeble. And on his doctor's advice, he is trying to move from just weight training into aerobic type activities. He walks on the track, and has recently been hitting the pool.
He truly struggles in his attempts at swimming. He acknowledges that he is "not a swimmer" and feels like he is fighting just to survive. I've been trying to do two things for him. First, give him some pointers, including suggesting possible reading material. Second, I've been trying to convince him that we've all been there. When he looks at others in the pool, all he sees are people swimming with apparent ease. He doesn't see all of the hours spent in the pool getting there.
If there is one thing I've noticed about the Tri Blog Community is our ability to see our weaknesses, and to laugh at ourselves. You can visit just about any site and fine some example of a "rookie mistake," and the person who made that mistake sharing it with the world. That attitude is vital when beginning training. Except for some very gifted people who have natural abilities in all three disciplines, we all have to go through the learning process. And that's a process that can be quite humorous.
A good example is my first half-marathon. In training, I ran 13.5 miles to get ready for a 13.1 mile race. More experienced runners found that hilariously funny. When they stopped laughing, they gave me some pointers. I ran that race without socks, wearing a plain cotton t-shirt. A few people commented on both, and gave me some feedback about technical apparel. Looking back now, I see why it seemed so funny, and can laugh at myself.
Swimming was another area where I couldn't take myself too seriously. If pride had been an issue, there is no way I could have hopped into a pool full of dolphins and taken up a lane to do my back-float, skate, and other TI drills. And in the end, I learned that nobody else was laughing. They, too, had been there. They were willing to share the lane because they knew it would only be a short time before they would have another distance swimmer in their midst. (Okay, a slow distance swimmer, but a swimmer nonetheless)
We've all had those moments when we just have to sit and laugh. It's either that, or cry. In his first Ironman attempt, Roman Mica flatted out 8 times. Though extremely frustrated, he finished the race. Norman Stadler flatted twice in Kona. He threw his bike around, waited for the support vehicle, then quit the course. He forgot to laugh at himself.
In her first Olympic race, Nytro got stung by a bee on the bike course. She could have called it quits, as bee stings can be quite serious. She took in typical Nytro fashion, and found the humor in it. Even if the humor was her reaction. (Because I'd pay money to see Nytro on the road cursing at a bee)
In our pursuit of personal excellence, we have to remember that this is supposed to be fun. Yes, it's hard. Yes, it is sometimes physically painful. And yes, sometimes we miss our goals. If we can't step back and laugh at ourselves, or at least at the situation, then we will lose mentally. And at the end of many races, mental is all you have left to give.
So remember to laugh out loud. Let the race, others around you, and the world know that you are having fun. And maybe, just maybe, if you laugh maniacally enough, you'll scare a few people around you and move up a few spots.
Monday, August 07, 2006
She completed her first Olympic distance triathlon. The swim report has been posted, and if her bike and run went anywhere near as well as the swim, she did awesome. Her swim time was great for an admitted beginner in the sport. She should be proud, and I know that Iron Benny is proud of her. Stop by and congratulate her on the awesome performance.
In other triathlon news, both Buttercup (NancyToby's) and The Pol-R Express experienced flats on their rear tires, this weekend. Nancy had hers during the Steelhead half-IM race. Mine came during my 75 mile brick training. Oddly, it appears that both happened around the 40 mile point of the ride. Even more conspiratorial is that we both ride the same make and model of bike. Hmmmm! Congratulations to Nancy on the solid finish in her race. Make sure you stop by and give her the kudos she deserves, as well.
The stage is set for Sarah Reinertsen to do a training run with the Fox Cities Triathlon Club on Friday. She will be in town for the Oshkosh Area Triathlon on Sunday. Veeg and I will be in that race, and it will be cool to race with a triathlete with the drive and determination she exhibits. She is a role model of what makes this sport attract so many.
Finally, though the Tracy Chapman song is awesome, I came across this Cake tune, and found it so fitting it just had to be posted. It warrants a bit of research to see what was going through their minds when they wrote it. While it could be symbolic of a great many things, it screams "triathlete."
Less than six days until redemption day arrives. The Pol-R Express will receive a thorough inspection, this week. The run should pose no serious issues. And I've done all I can to prepare myself for the swim. This weekend, Nytro achieved Olympic triathlete status. Next weekend, Veeg and I will join her.
Friday, August 04, 2006
1. Vacation Bible School, which caused extremely late nights (in Iron Pol terms) since Sunday.
2. Sunday's run through the rain in an effort to avoid the lightning (and what turned out to be a tornado) injured my back.
3. It was really dark, and Iron Wil's adventures biking in the dark are best avoided.
4. It certainly had to be raining.
I went so far as to go check out the front window. Nope, no rain. The back, though sore, probably wouldn't suffer from a 20 mile bike ride. And the sun was sure to come up before I left.
So, Iron-in-Training-Self told Whiny-Excuse-Seeking-Self to get his hiney in gear and get out the door. After all, everything was already laid out and ready for the training day.
Most of my friends and co-workers think I'm wacked out. They have enough difficulty understanding why I would get up at 4:30 a.m. ANY day to train. And when I comment that I'm quite tired because of the training in conjunction with the rest of the week, they just shake their heads. It seems they don't get it.
Then again, despite my relative loathing of swimming and running, any other path is out of the question, for me. The kids I lead have placed the challenge before me. As a role model for both these kids and my children, the challenge has been accepted.
And along the way, I have changed. Training schedules that the average person thinks is insane is now just a part of who I am. Waking up a 4:30 in the morning, though difficult on some mornings, is now routine. Swimming 2000 yards before work on Tuesday, or biking 75 miles before cartoons start on Saturday, or running 15 miles before the sun comes up on Sunday now defines me.
They say that anyone who finishes an Ironman can accomplish anything. Many believe that is because it is an amazing task to complete a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run in one race. And it is amazing. More amazing, though, is what it takes the average person to even get to the starting line.
Anyone who can juggle work, family, and training to complete an Ironman can, in fact, accomplish anything. And anyone who completes the journey will be a far different person than the one who started the journey.
Go get some sleep. Because the morning is coming, and with it, the training and racing that is a part of our lives.
Thursday, August 03, 2006
Today, I got over another one of those little hurdles. And it was a hurdle in my weakest area. The swim.
While I have completed several long distance swims (over 1 mile) at this point, they have all involved what could be called "rest swimming." Every several hundred yards, the need for air forces me to go to a side position to catch my breath. That, obviously, results in significant lost time. Breathing, however, is more important than time.
This morning, with a 2000 yard swim scheduled, I was determined to make headway in this area. The goal was to go no less than 500 yards before going to my side for those breaths. I am extremely happy as I was able to complete the total distance without a single break. The entire session was "four strokes and breathe."
This is a big boost in confidence. My greatest weakness has always been poor breathing technique. While there is a lot of room for improvement, including bilateral breathing, it is a huge stride to hit the half-Ironman swim distance without having to break out of form just to catch my breath. There's hope for the flounder, yet.
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Flatman seemed distressed that the promised bike porn wasn't posted, so I've abandoned the hope of adding the pictures to the original post. So, without further ado, a couple pics of The Pol-R Express. As mentioned previously, Mrs. Pol was watching Baby Pol. So Kewl Nitrox will have to continue to wait for pictures of the bike with a rider. Perhaps we'll be able to get those during the upcoming Olympic triathlon.
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
Training for triathlons while working full time (including helping lead a team implementing a new business system, which is essentially another job), raising two children, and making time for the wife (either together, or so she can have some time to herself), requires even greater flexibility. If nothing else, the past six months of triathlon training have proven that, should I ever go back to only running marathons, training will be much easier to schedule. Mrs. Pol and I have survived this stretch by becoming even more flexible in all we do.
And this week is proving to be the fire in which Iron Daddies are forged. How so many items culminated in one week is beyond me. At work, we are running a pilot for our new software. It requires extended hours at work, none of which are dedicated to my primary responsibilities. At church, it is Vacation Bible School week. This runs from 6-8:15 p.m., leaving me just enough time to run from work to church, and little time for dinner. It is, however, for the children, so being there is vital. And it is the last week of solid training prior to the Olympic distance triathlon on August 13th. Though I won't be tapering (since I'm also training for a full marathon in September), this is the longest week of training I've scheduled.
So, after working from 6:30-5:00, I fly to the church and help run VBS. After shutting down for the night, we head home and work at getting babies to bed. Once that is done, and everything is laid out for the next day, it's off to bed, hopefully before 10 p.m. The alarm goes off at 4:30 a.m. for the day's training, and everything starts, again.
Ironmen are slowforged. It takes a long time to develop the proper temper and strength. Race day, on which we become Ironmen, is only the final step in a long journey. It is a tough journey, and requires dedication. But for those who believe they can't do it, follow any of the blog links on this page. You'll find lots of other people leading busy, challenging lives. Each is pursuing something great. And each will achieve their goals, whether sprint distance or Ironman, only after doing that which is required to achieve the goal.