Friday, September 29, 2006

Through a Child's Eyes

Last night, my son decided to entertain me while his show (The Emperor's New Groove) was playing. His choice of game for most the evening doesn't really have a name, though it involves lots of running. Basically, he runs from the door into the garage, through the living room, touches a cabinet in the kitchen, and back to the garage door. Repeat. Often.

Many parents would immediately tell any child doing this to stop. And honestly, that was my first instinct. Seeing the sheer glee in his eyes, and listening to the sincere laughter coming from my son, I quashed that instinct. So long as safety is assured, childhood excitement of this nature should never be stopped. In fact, it should be promoted.

Do you remember when you were a child? How the simple act of running, regardless of destination, was a source of joy in and of itself. No times, no age group ranking, no health concerns, no finish lines, no training plans. Just pure, innocent, uncontrollable excitement to be moving.

When do we lose that? When does this pure love of motion turn into work? Probably about the same time we start getting told to stop running around and to sit down. As adults, we stifle the love of running our kids display so freely. It's actually a bit sad.

Imagine how children might turn out if that love of activity was promoted and developed. Perhaps video games and computers would be a diversion from the physical instead of the other way around. Perhaps we would raise a generation of athletes who participate for the love of the sport. Perhaps training would be a hobby instead of something they do because they must.

Many adults try to stop my son from running. I politely ask them to refrain from doing that. After making sure he is safe from injury, I send my son on his way. On his full speed ahead, laughing like a madman, glint in his eye way. Perhaps, if he runs enough, some of his attitude will rub off on me.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Tri-Hubby the Triathlete

Tri-hubby isn't a newcomer to the blog scene. Nor is he a newcomer to the world of triathlon. Let's face it, being married to Trimama has exposed him to the seemy side of triathlons. How many other couples do you know who were stripping right on the shores of Lake Monona during IM WI 2006?

Tri-Hubby has, however, started a new blog. It seems he has officially adopted the name used (assigned?) by Trimama, and is now going by Taconite Boy. This new blog, The Adventures of Taconite Boy, will document his journey from short distance triathlete to Ironman Wisconsin 2007. And next year, Trimama and I have committed to carrying on the tradition and will both strip while Taconite Boy races. It's the least we can do.

And stand by for exciting news from the Tribe and Pol camps. We are working to bring the best in IM MOO training information and opportunities. Details will follow soon after Trimama achieves Iron status in Florida.

Who's to Blame?

Following the general trend of things, today, I refuse to accept responsibility for this morning's training session. I'm quite sure it is either Bolder or Trigreyhound who shoulder the blame.

The plan called for an hour swim to help work the final post-marathon kinks out of my legs. Completing the sub-four hour race had left my legs feeling as they haven't felt in a long time. Tight. Sore. Incapable of handling stairs with any kind of grace. A good swim would help the recovery.

I was up at 4:30 a.m. and ready to go shortly after that. As I got my breakfast, lunch, and snacks together, I looked at the dishwasher and thought of poor Bolder and his ongoing saga of washing dishes by hand. And I thought of my wife, who might appreciate it if some of the clean dishes were put away. I spent a bit more time than planned on that, and headed out the door right at 5 a.m. (which is when I should have been at the YMCA).

I threw my lunch and gear bag in the car, headed to the gym, and got there only to find out I had forgotten one minor item. Okay two items. And not so minor. One would be called pants. The other, we shall name shirt. Which meant I had exactly underwear, two shoes, socks, and a belt to wear to work. Admittedly, the belt would be pointless without the pants.

While the delays in the morning clearly point to Bolder, the clothes issues appears to be the result of Trigreyhound jinxing me by starting this whole situation. Sure, I may have forgotten underwear in the past and wore my running shorts under my pants, instead. But that required no extra travel or missed training. Grey had to "one up" me by forgetting his dress shoes and opt to forego training in order to get said shoes. (It must be admitted that business meetings lose some of their professionalism when wearing Asics Gel Kayano XIs instead of black wingtips). And, obviously out of some deep seeded competitive nature, I made a subconscious effort to one-up him, right back.

So, my nice hour swim became a hurried 25 minute swim. And just to toot Bolder's horn, we'll use his 1000 yard time trial as a comparison. He really does rule the seas, at least any where I am swimming. He did his 1000 yards in 16:40 (for 1:40/100yds). Given the same 25 yard pool with open turns, I completed the same 1000 yards (okay, 1027) in 23:55. That comes out to about 2:20/100yds. So, Bolder, given the same pace over 2.4 miles, you would come out of the water somewhere around 29 minutes ahead of me. And while it may be all about the bike, 29 minutes is one hell of a lead to overcome. Perhaps there is something to be said for improved swim times.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Pssst! Have You Heard

At the risk of being redundant, here is the 411 on Team raceAthlete. The official press release is out, the details have been released, and there is good news for everyone.

First, for those signed up for Ironman Wisconsin 2007, there is the opportunity to Train Like the Pros. The story goes something like this:

You can train and race like a professional in 2007.

Team raceAthlete in conjunction with CycleOps Power, Zipp Speed Weaponry, BMC Bicycles, D3 Multisport, NUUN and 2XU will showcase the improvements that can be achieved through world class equipment and training by sponsoring age-group triathletes.

The chosen triathletes will get state-of-the-art PowerTap SL's by CycleOps Power to help them train and monitor their progress with ultimate power andefficiency.

Swiss-based BMC Bicycles will provide them with proven bicycle technology-the TTO2 Time Machine which is very similar to the bike 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.

2XU apparel will provide state of the art training and racing apparel to help propel the athletes to the winner's circle.

NUUN will provide one year's supply of refreshing portable electrolyte hydration.

For complete details, to join the team and to apply to get sponsored click here.

Please note that if you have already joined Team raceAthlete, or emailed your interest in getting sponsored, you still have to submit a new application by clicking on the link above.

Sponsored triathletes will be chosen by Team raceAthlete and notified by email or phone by October 23, 2006.

We're building a real and virtual team of endurance athletes that will have exclusive access to online coaching, a bike mechanic, product discounts and promotions, and other valuable resources.

An additional bit of valuable information is that sponsorship opportunities are not limited to only those registered for IM MOO '07. While the full sponsorships will go to those individuals, other team members will be selected to receive partial sponsorship. Team raceAthlete is truly aimed at being an inclusive group, with special emphasis on age-group triathletes.

So, sign up to be a part of the team. Whether racing short courses, long courses, other IM races, or the big cheese IM Wisconsin 2007 event, all are welcome and all will benefit.

B-Boy Hijacks Blog

Good morning, it's B-Boy, here. Okay, it's B-Boy with a LOT of help from Iron Daddy. Since I'm not quite three (my birthday is in December), he has to help with things like Internet access, spelling, typing, and things like that. But everything else is from my point of view, because Daddy also has a very vivid imagination.

Saturday was very exciting, because it was race day for me. Daddy's race was Sunday. When I woke up, Daddy made Lego Waffles for breakfast, which I had with orange juice and milk. Daddy says that combination is gross, but I think that's just because he doesn't like milk. As soon as breakfast was done, I wanted to put on my race t-shirt and bib number. I had a big, red number one on mine, just like all the other kids. They say that's because we're all winners.

Then, I spent almost 2 hours running around the house like a madman (Daddy's words, not mine). After what seemed like forever, Mommy, Daddy, and Monster Girl were all ready to go, and we went to the race.

The most exciting thing about getting there early is the firetruck, ambulance, and free stuff they have there. I love the firetruck, but won't go in it, no matter how much Daddy tries. I'm afraid it will start moving. I did get lots of things. They gave me a color changing pencil, a new badge sticker for my helmet, a flashing light thing for running at night (which Daddy won't let me do), a big sports bottle, Snapple, a cookie, and a popscicle (after the race). Running is cool because you get all kinds of swag (Daddy told me to say that, I don't know what swag means).

Pretty soon, it was time for the national anthem, which was sung by lots of kids who were there to race. Because I'm still under three, I did the Toddler Trot. This year was better than last year because they did different waves, just like in Daddy's triathlons. They had small groups of kids run, rather than one big group where it's all a mess. I went in the third group.

Because I'm still in the toddler group, the race was only 25 yards. Daddy had me line up on one side, so Mommy could take pictures. When they started to say my favorite part, "On your mark, get set, GO!," one little kid took off early. When they said go, I started running. Because lots of people were in the way, I ran across to the other side, then headed back towards Mom. I beat everyone, even the kid who went early. It was cool having the whole field in front of me open. I only wish they would let me run more. I ran four laps at a track one time (Dad note: he ran MOST of four laps, I carried him part of one. 440-yard track, BTW). Daddy says that was a mile.

At the finish, they gave me a medal that says "Winner" and has a purple ribbon. Purple is Mommy's favorite color. Last year's was green, my favorite color. After the race, we looked at the fire truck some more, visited with some friends, and went home. It was a great day, and I hope you enjoy my race report. As I get older, I'll do more of it on my own, and hopefully tell you about other races, including triathlons.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Running Down a Dream

To quote a famous, and furry, author, "It was a dark and stormy night..."

The primary alarm went off at 4 a.m. I jumped out of bed and turned off the back up alarm. Neither was really needed, as Monster Girl had woke me up at 3:30, and I hadn't really gotten back to sleep. Staying in bed was really just an act of defiance, and a vain attempt at getting the last few minutes of sleep.

I put on my shirt and shorts and headed to the kitchen, hoping that none of the kid's toys would trip me up in the dark. Breakfast was a bagel with peanut butter and a bottle of Gatorade while checking the weather. The temperatures looked great (55-60F) and the forecast of possible showers was more disturbing. Oh well, Iron Wil (along with a great many others) biked and ran in worse. The weather is what it is.

I threw on my sweats, and went through the gear that needed to get to the starting line. Most important was the timing chip and bib for my co-worker. After stretching and refilling the Gatorade bottle, I headed out the door for the finish line.

I was amazed at how quickly buses were filling up for the ride to the start line. It was barely 6 a.m. and two busses were being loaded. Both were full within a few minutes. The only thing more suprising was the number of runners already at the start line when I arrived. Most were in a pavilion huddled around a fire pit. For those lucky enough to get close to the fire, it was a neat way to spend the hour and a half until the race.

After locating my co-worker and getting him situated, we headed to the start line. Soon enough, it was 8 a.m. and the gun went off. The logistics of this race always leads to a slow start (at least for the main pack), and I just bided my time as things opened up. I missed the first mile marker, and completed the first two miles in 17m18s. That was pretty close to my target pace, so I eased off just a bit, and kept going.

Somewhere around mile four, I ran down the 3:50 pace setter, and fell into the group running with him. This would be my cohort for the next 12 miles. It was a good group. They were all talking about various goals, past races, and other such nonsense. It helped make sure we were all staying aerobic, and passed the time.

At mile 6, there was a Clif Shot gel station, and most everyone was getting Mango. I trained with Gu, so pocketed the gel and used my own. Good call, as the overall reaction to Mango was a resounding, "Bleccchhh!" I mentioned that I had six Gu gels with me, and another six available, so was willing to share. A couple people took me up on that offer.

Mile 9 was a good mile, as a co-worker and my wife were both waiting there. B-Boy wanted to run with me, and was upset when I had to run on without him. After picking up all my gels, I caught back up with the pace team.

Around mile 13, the 48 oz of Gatorade consumed prior to the race became a factor. Normally, that much is needed just to fend off dehydration during a marathon. Today, however, was much cooler than prior races. I'm not sure the temperature ever hit 60F, and there was enough breeze and cloud cover to keep sweating to a minimum. Little sweating with lots of hydration equals one very important potty break. And another race to catch the pace team.

At mile 16, I was faced with an important decision. Stay with the pace team, or pursue my secondary goal of breaking 3:45 to qualify for preferred starting if I run the 2007 Chicago Marathon. George Schweitzer once commented in an e-mail that, in an "A" race, I should leave it all out on the course. So, I picked up the pace, seeking to put an additional 5 minutes between myself and the pace team. It was an "all or nothing" decision.

Miles 16-18 include a monster hill that leaves many walking, both during and after. I managed to keep a good pace during that stretch, and seeing my co-worker, who had moved from mile 9 to mile 19 helped keep me going. Just after mile 22, another co-worker's wife saw was working an aid station. A nine time marathoner, she left the station and ran with me for several hundred yards. She did the math on my pace, and gave some much needed encouragement.

Between mile 22 and 23, I hit the wall. The 3:50 pacer caught and passed me, becoming instead my rabbit. At mile 23, I had to stop and stretch, trying to slow the buildup of lactic acid. I managed to keep running, though my pace was slowly dropping from the 8m 30s pace to just over 10m per mile the last couple miles. My goal was to keep that 3:50 pacer somewhere in my vision, knowing that the 4 hour marathon was a given if I did that.

At mile 24, I knew I had 30 minutes to run 2.2 miles.

At mile 25, I knew I could still run 10 minute miles.

At mile 26, I was passed by Superman and Robin (the Girl Wonder). It felt good to know it took those two superheroes 26 miles to catch and pass me.

At 26.2 miles, I crossed the finish line in a total time of 3 hours, 55 minutes, and 19 seconds (chip time).

And for the first time, I was plainly dazed in the finish chutes. Though physically capable of standing and moving, I was just completely zoned out and barely able to function with the surroundings. A volunteer made sure I got my timing chip returned, received a medal, and got my finisher's bag.

Only time will tell if I have anything better than a 3:55 in me. That was an improvement of nearly 50 minutes over my previous best time. I knew I could break 4 hours. I'm less confident about any major improvements on that. I will, however, wait a few weeks before I make any decisions on training for future marathons. There is a half-IM in the near future, and every training decision from now until July will be focused on that.

Thanks for following along and for all the notes of encouragement. It really does make a difference.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

It Is Done

Four a.m. wakeup - Check

Fourth marathon - In the bag

Sub 4-hour goal - I own it

Net result - I'm beat

Race reports for B-Boy's event and my marathon later.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Four in the Morning

This weekend, four is the magic number.

Sunday will begin at four in the morning, when I wake up to prepare for The Fox Cities Marathon. A bagel with eggs and around 20 ounces of Fierce Grape Gatorade will serve as breakfast. It is exactly what I've had for breakfast prior to every other long race. After stretching and "zoning out" for a bit, I'll head out the door for the finish line.

From the finish line, I'll catch the bus to the start of my fourth full marathon. In 2003, I ran this race as my first marathon. In 2004, I completed the Green Bay Marathon (and set my marathon PR). And in 2005, I ran the Chicago Marathon in honor of a cancer survivor. That race tested my will, as it pitted a 103F fever against completing the race for my friend. My fourth race gives me the opportunity to see how far I've come since that first marathon distance event, which seems so far in the past.

This is also the race where I hope to break the 4-hour mark. This pace, originally targeted in Chicago, was abandoned and replaced with the primary goal of "survive." Once the 4-hour mark is shattered, sights will be set on Boston and shaving an additional 45 minutes off the run.

So, four is the magic number. After a 4 a.m. wakeup, I will run my fourth marathon, in pursuit of a 4-hour PR. This would all be so much easier if six was the magic number.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Taper Enforcement

One of the biggest challenges faced by endurance athletes comes during the last few weeks prior to their big events. Many outside the sport believe the toughest time during training must certainly be those weeks with the longest scheduled sessions. While those weeks are challenging, taper is certainly one of the demons all endurance athletes face.

This is why I must seriously thank my employer, this week. Due to the upcoming launch of the next phase of our new business system, I've been maintaining my normal daily routine without having to worry about overtraining. Instead of getting up at 4:30 in the morning for a swim, bike, or run, I've been up at that time in order to be at work by 5:30. There is little risk of an overtraining injury from sitting at a computer.

While this has cut into the limited training I would have done, there has been no opportunity for me to get overzealous (because let's face it, we're all prone to going farther and harder than we should). And history has shown me that a marathon is still doable after nearly two weeks of no running (something about injuring a hamstring while overtraining during taper, who knew).

To top it all off, the Go Live for our system, scheduled for this weekend, has been pushed back by a week. This is fortunate, as working this weekend was going to interfere with going to B-Boy's race, and force me to show up in the afternoon on Sunday, after running a marathon. While I'll still have to work the weekend, I'll be able to make it just afternoons, and there will be considerably less pressure. Hooray for work!

Three days to go.

Friday, September 15, 2006

The Bubble Bursts

Though the outcome was nearly inevitable, all hope was being held that Active would find something that would get my name added to the IM MOO '07 Team raceAthlete participant list. Today, they responded with the foreseen, "We don't show you as registered" message. While there is certainly room to debate that matter with them, I have generally been pleased with Active's service, and will let it stand at that. So, Plan A has gone back into effect.

Plan A, set in motion prior to Roman's announcements about Team raceAthlete, involved completing one of two local half-Ironman races in 2007, and registering for an IM race in 2008.

Veeg, here is your notice that I am staying true to my motto of "A paid registration is the best motivation to train."

Transaction ID: 11304217934542.023 Order number: 20896
Description: 2007 Spirit of Racine Triathlon HALF

Team raceAthlete, the second part of this Declaration of Intent is that I will now be an integral part of IM WI 2007 as part of the support crew. In addition to being there for moral support, I have already started to enlist the aid of others, hopefully including at least one motorcycle. There is no need to worry that the local support will end just because Stu is in the race. We'll build upon the efforts of him and Wil's husband, and provide the same up to the minute reports and pictures.

So, the bubble holding up my Ironman Wisconsin 2007 hopes has burst. But, just for Trigreyhound, remember to "Always look on the bright side of life..." Plan B falling apart isn't so devestating if you remember there is a perfectly acceptable Plan A.

Who from raceAthlete will toe the line with us (Veeg is almost morally obligated to join in) in Racine? It will be a good opportunity to meet and hammer out plans for Madison in September. And we can show the state what to expect from raceAthlete members.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

10, 9, 8...

Less than 10 days to the Fox Cities Marathon. The typical taper issues are starting to rear their heads. Phantom pain (except some I'm SURE are real), concerns about preparation, and the desire to get in some extra training. Of course, gremlins are my specialty, and I've been dealing with them. The target is four hours or bust, and I'm feeling confident that the goal is achievable, barring any last minute fevers (like last year in Chicago).

The end of the marathon represents many things. It is the official end of my endurance season (assuming I don't buckle and run the Green Bay Marathon with Dean Karnazes). It is the beginning of off season training. It is very close to decision time for the next triathlon, assuming IM MOO '07 ends up completely out of reach. And it will be a gauge on whether I can target a Boston Marathon qualifying time in 2007. Mostly, it is the end of a great year of training, racing, blogging, and making new friends.

As the year starts to wind down, it is okay to take some well deserved down time. Well, a little, anyway. And then, it is time to get focused on the coming year. My motto has always been that a paid registration is the best motivation to train. So, find those races that are within reach, but only JUST. Sign up for the events that will push you and force you to grow.

And new for 2007, try to take people with you. It's easy to sign up and train alone. It's even easier to sign up and train with friends who already share a love of the sport. The exciting and rewarding challenge is to introduce newcomers to endurance sports and get them hooked. Along that lines, I will be working with the Fox Cities Triathlon Club and The Boy's and Girl's Brigade in Neenah, Wisconsin to introduce young people to the sports of running and triathlon. Our goal is to allow these 6th through 12th graders to get an inside glimpse of what we do, and give them the opportunity to train and complete either a short road race or triathlon.

In 2006, it was all about the kids challenging me to complete a triathlon. In 2007, the challenge will be taken back to them. Figure out who you want to challenge, and give them the opportunity to share the joys of pushing themselves to new limits. You just might find their success as exciting and rewarding as your own.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Business Sense

Prior to becoming a marathoner, and long before stepping into the waters of triathlon, I was a student at The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh College of Business Administration. Graduating with a degree in Finance, I like to think I know a little bit about business. And as a strong believer in the capital free market system, supply and demand are always on my mind.

It is interesting how markets sometimes get turned on their heads. This past Monday is a good example of how that can occur. Registering for an Ironman event costs well over $450. After considering items such as dinner and awards banquet tickets, USAT membership, insurance, and additional fees, that total quickly tops $500. And as my co-workers put it, that's $500 we are willing to pay in order to place huge demands on our bodies for anywhere from 9 to 17 hours.

And Ironman Wisconsin 2007 sold out in less than an hour. The demands upon's servers were so severe it was practically impossible to get a stable connection, and it is quite likely that thousands of hopefuls were unable to sign up. That means there are literally hundreds of thousands of dollars in potential registration fees that are lost each race.

Obviously it takes a huge effort to put together an Ironman race. Yet business sense would say that the supply far outstrips the demand. An additional race or two would likely sell out nearly as quickly and still leave many searching for an open race.

Sensible or not, it is obvious that triathlons, especially the Ironman triathlon is a huge success. Tens of thousands of people complete events in the United States, each year. And additional scores of thousands struggle to even find an available slot for those races. Regardless of what outsiders think about the prospect of racing 140.6 miles in three disciplines, all in 17 hours or less, Ironmen and those who would earn the title place a huge demand on an extremely limited resource.

For those who would sign up for an upcoming race, take a hint from Roman, use multiple computers running several registration windows. Anything short of that might leave you in a lurch. Better yet, get to the race site the morning after the event. That will drastically improve your odds of a successful registration.

For those interested in Team raceAthlete that were unable to claw their way into IM MOO 2007, start identifying your key races and share them with the rest of the team. The Main Event might be in Wisconsin on September 9, 2007, but there are hundreds of other opportunities to show your stuff. Let's continue to show there is a huge demand for additional IM events.

Perhaps Bolder can even get his eagerly sought after IM Boulder event.

Monday, September 11, 2006

On the Bubble

I'm in a hold pattern. After spending an hour attempting to register for Ironman Wisconsin 2007, the closest I got to actually completing the process was an error page after clicking "Submit." Half of the registration process was completed, as I received an Ironman ID from the system.

Unfortunately, the important half seems to have failed. There was no confirmation, and IM Wisconsin doesn't appear on my list of events. I sent an e-mail to asking about the situation, but doubt they will have much leeway to help out. After weeks of agonizing over the decision, it is distressing to be shut down by a system error.

If anything changes, I'll let you know.

We Will Not Forget

September 11, 2001 was just another first day of school at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. I went to school that morning for a day of classes. After my first course of the semester, I went to the school store to pick up a few things needed for the next class.

As I looked around the store, I caught a few disjointed pieces of news on the radio playing on the PA system. They struck me as odd, something about a plane hitting the World Trade Center in New York City. The information was so sketchy, I decided to check for additional news online, using my cell phone. That led to further confusion, as the news I found there centered around a plane having crashed into the Pentagon.

The erratic nature of these news articles led me to call my dad. "Hey Dad, I'm at school and there's some really odd news. I was hoping you might have more information. I heard about a plane hitting the World Trade Center, but then another report said it was the Pentagon. What's going on?"

"Well, you know the World Trade Center, right? It's no longer standing. And a different plane flew into the Pentagon."

Stunned silence. "Forget it Dad, this is too crazy, I have to find a television."

I headed to my next class to tell the professor I wasn't dropping the class, but I wouldn't be there, today. His note cancelling class beat me to the room.

I spent the rest of the day sitting in the library watching news about the events of that day. It is a day that will remain forever etched in my memory. It is a day that all Americans should remember.

We should also remember those Americans who serve in our defense. They go where they are ordered and they do what they must. Some make the ultimate sacrifice for honor and country. We must remember these soldiers and those they leave behind. Many are following in the footsteps of those who went before them. This song and video from Phil Driscoll are fitting.

Important times in a country's history are easily identifiable. They are the times when every single person remembers exactly where they were and what they were doing. September 11, 2001 was one of those days.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Wil on Her Way

Iron Wil is well on her way to completing her first Ironman distance triathlon. For updates, you can use the Ironman website, but I seriously recommend stopping by her blog. Simply Stu has been tracking her, taking pictures, and updating her weblog with her status. While the Ironman site might give you an idea of her times, Stu is giving Wil the rock star treatment, and doing a great job. Kudos to him for his awesome coverage.

I was lucky enough to make a road trip to Madison for some of the Saturday festivities. After keeping in touch with Tri Mama via e-mail and phone, it became obvious we might miss each other. She asked me to pass her number along to Iron Wil if I happened to meet up with her. No small feat given the size of both Madison and Ironman Village, the sheer number of people there, and the fact that Iron Wil and I had never met. And we think completing an Ironman is easy.

After taking a break to allow Monster Girl to crawl around, I was looking for a convenient spot to give her a bottle, I came across a young lady talking on the phone. Something about her made me stop and wait for her to finish. "Excuse me, would you happen to be Iron Wil?"

Sure enough, it was. We talked for a bit, and exchanged vital phone numbers. And for someone less than 24 hours away from the start of her first Ironman, she was very calm. In fact, a good portion of our conversation focused on 2007 and Team raceAthelete. We took a picture, and two important ladies needed to eat.

While feeding Monster Girl (and trying to keep B-Boy from getting mowed down in the hallway), I got in contact with TriGreyhound. He made the trip all the way to Madison to volunteer on race day. We met up and spent some time discussing various issues, again focusing quite a bit on IM MOO 2007. I was glad to meet Greyhound, and appreciated the way he immediately started watching out for my kids (yes, I was there with two kids and no wife). Ironically, his response to seeing me on my own with both the infant and the toddler matched Tri Mama's, "You must be brave." We shall see. Monday will be the true test of fortitude.

The trip was worth the effort. It was about four hours round trip, for about the same amount of time in Madison. In that time, I met Iron Wil and TriGreyhound. I came pretty close to making my decision about 2007 (thanks to a few not so subtle nudges). And TriMama and I had some initial discussions for future projects, including training ideas and possible podcasts.

Who would have thought that one day in Madison could generate so much energy for an event that is still a year away? It did. Wil, Trisaratops, Trigreyhound, TriMama, SimplyStu, and myself are all jazzed, and that happened before the cannon for today's race even sounded.

Do what you can to sign up for IM MOO 2007. It promises to be a wild ride.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Into the Fire

Iron. A relatively useless item until it has been forged. Fire and iron? That's a different story. Think of the image of the United States Marines forging men of iron from raw recruits. Tested by fire, women of exceptional strength emerge from the Crucible that signals the end of basic training. Imagine a sword, forged from seemingly useless raw materials. Or a naval ship, tons of iron and steel, formed into a massive symbol of strength.

This weekend, many friends will go through the final steps of the forging process. They've been in the fire, many for a year or longer, to reach this point. They have been strengthened along the way. They have been changed from what they were to men and women of iron. And in just over two days, after 140.6 miles, they will become Ironmen. The fires of the forge are something they will carry with them. They will need that fire over the course of their 2.4 mile swim. The fire will continue to forge them into Ironmen, even in the water. They will need that fire during the 112 mile bike ride. The wind of the bike course can't extinguish the flames that will continue the transformation into Ironmen. And the fire must burn strongly during the 26.2 mile marathon. The flames of the forge will light up the night as our friends take the final steps to the finish line and hear the words they've longed to hear for so long. "You are an IRONMAN."

Iron Wil, who has been an example to many member of the TBC, will complete this stage of her journey. Keep her in your thoughts, this weekend, just as she has kept many others in her thoughts when they had their races. Get to Madison and support her, if possible. Watch the race if you can't get there. And track her online if you can't watch it live.

Many others will run their own races. Eighteen members of my triathlon club, The Fox Cities Triathlon Club, will be there. Some for their first time, others on return trips. And a great many others will be there to support their teammates. This is their time. Show your support, and they will be their when it is our time.

And as they complete their journey, determine where you are on your journey. Just as Iron Wil has less than two days to start her Ironman race, we have just under three days to make our Ironman decisions. Are you ready to commit to IM MOO 2007? Just remember, one of the hardest parts of any race is signing up. Once done, 365 days from now, it could be you that others are cheering along.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Secret is Out

It was something she had to figure out, eventually. The time spent away from the house was the first clue. The extra money going out of the bank account was hard to hide. And yes, like Greyhound has mentioned in the past, the change in appearance and other habits are just too blatant to be overlooked.

Mrs. Pol has known about blogs for some time. She has also known about triathlons for nearly a year. Even after reading about "the other woman" from another triathlon wife, she allowed me to flirt with this mistress. The knowing smiles, the support for "the little indiscretions" that come in the form of short flings. Those are usually over in a few hours, and they don't require too much attention during the weeks and months leading up to the rendezvous.

Now, she is aware of the longing for a more demanding mistress. That became apparent, last night, when she made a comment clearly indicating she has been reading this blog. Sure, my mom reads it as a good source of information about day to day events and race schedules. My sister has read it, and even provided good blog material. But Mrs. Pol? Apparently, she reads it more than just when I ask her to read what I believe to be a particularly witty post.

Some caught in this situation resort to denial. Others try to come up with convoluted and confusing excuses or stories. These rarely work. And the straightforward confession is just too boring. Another approach is to invite Mrs. Pol to join the party. Both in training and in blogging. She is sure to be able to figure out how to break into this blog and leave her mark. Like training, she can take baby steps into blogging.

Since we know she's looking, leave Mrs. Pol some comment love, and show her your support. Both in her training, and in your desire to see what SHE'S thinking.

Honey, just in case, click the Comments link to read or leave comments.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Mixed Messages

Anyone spending time in the locker room of a local health facility tends to catch bits and pieces of various conversations. Generally, they are mundane and quickly forgotten. Every now and then, something will catch your attention and raise some interesting questions.

This morning's thought provoking discussion involved the scale and fantasy football. Completely unrelated, you say? Perhaps. Or maybe there IS a connection.

My attention was caught when someone commented that the scale was malfunctioning. My ears perked up, as I tend to use that scale three times a week, and didn't want to hear that it was providing bogus numbers. Was it possible that the weight loss was all in my head? No, it wasn't that. There was a hint of sarcasm in that voice, and his ongoing discussion confirmed the point. He was upset that he wasn't losing weight. That is something I can understand. Years of training for and running marathons had resulted in some personal weight loss, but less than desired.

It was the next part of the conversation that really caught my attention. The same gentleman who was complaining about the lack of weight loss began to regale those in the locker room with his fantasy football endeavors. Monday night was spent at one bar for the draft of a work league. Tuesday night was a scheduled draft at yet another bar. Wednesday night was a third league (though possibly not at a bar). And during Thursday night's game, he would be doing the draft for his fourth league, yes, at a bar.

I don't know a lot about fantasy football. And I don't know this guy from Adam. What I do know is that four nights at four drafts (three known to be in bars) for fantasy football is unlikely to burn considerable calories and result in any type of weight loss.

Perhaps the guy was joking about the weight loss. It might be that he doesn't care, or doesn't need to lose weight. While I don't recognize him as a regular at the YMCA, he may exercise on his own or at another location. Perhaps he is a vegan health nut who manages to complete all his training with plenty of time to run several fantasy football teams. He might be independently wealthy and do all his workouts during the day, leaving the night free for other activities.

But the mixed message is far too common. People around the country wonder at their expanding waistlines as they continue to increase their dietary intake while maintaining a near zero-activity exercise regime. Outsiders (meaning those with much better diets and exercise programs) can only stand by and shake their heads in wonder at the confusing signals.

There are a great many options available when it comes to personal health. Some take it to fanatical extremes. Members of the TBC are those who tend to push themselves to test the limits of their endurance. It is an extreme, even in the world of endurance sports. There is, however, another extreme. The result of that extreme is standing on a scale wondering why the newest fad pill hasn't generated the promised weight loss and has, in fact, resulted in weight gain. Whether pushing the extremes of training or the extremes of poor habits, choices are made. And we must each live the with consequences of those choices.

Make sure you are willing to live with the choices you are making.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Taper Time

It was dark. It was cool. It was calm and foggy. And it was the same wake up time as on a normal training day. This day was different. This day was the final 20 mile run before the marathon. This was the final hurdle before taper.

Runs that start at 4:45 a.m. and are planned for nearly 3 hours always pose one serious question. Glasses or sunglasses? I went with sunglasses, which was a good call.

The first mile out, I knew my pace needed some moderation. Just about 7m 45s to the DQ which marks mile one. Way too fast for a 20 miler. I backed off a bit to what I hoped was closer to 8m 30s or slower (I really only know a few mile markers, so mostly I go by feel).

Overall, the run was outstanding. The temps stayed down, and I was able to make a few decisions. My last 20 miler was in my Asics Gel Kayano XIs. This one was in my Mizuno Wave Alchemys. Due to a foot cramp around mile 18 and some heel pain post run, the Alchemys will sit this run out and I will go with the old faithful Kayanos. Given the improved pace, I only needed two Gu gels for the run, and will probably carry only four on marathon day (three for the race, one "just in case"). And I am well set for a sub-four hour marathon. I completed today's run right around 2 hours 50 minutes, pretty much an 8m30s per mile pace. That included two pit stops (one for refueling, which definitely won't happen in the race). If I can maintain that pace on race day, I could walk the last 6 miles and probably make 4 hours.

I also spent a lot of time running through scenarios about IM MOO '07 in my head. Mrs. Pol has said she is ready to support the program, which is huge. Now, there's just the minor issue of paying for the race. I have a few tricks up my sleeve, and may just pull it off. With the crew that is planning to be there, missing it would be nearly a crime. Luckily, the TBC lawyer is facing the same decisions, so I'm not worried about finding representation.

Keep Iron Wil and all the others running IM WI 2006 in mind, this week. They are in the final stretch, and many will be travelling before the weekend gets here. They can all use our support as they face their own IM races.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

And My Arms Are Killing Me!

In 2000, when diagnosed with sarcoidosis, my pulmonary doctor wanted me to start running so we could evaluate my lung function in a natural environment. Those first runs of a mile to a mile and a half were daunting and painful. Over time, as my health improved, the runs became easier as the distance increased. It's amazing what a bit of healthy activity can accomplish.

As weight came off, my times improved, as well. The longer, easier runs were also taking less time. And the distances continued to increase. Even so, it took better than a year before I felt up to a full marathon.

In January, when this crazy pursuit of triathlons began, the I encountered the same situation with swimming. Completing a 200 yard swim was nearly impossible, and the idea of doing anything more than that was frightening.

Still, the pool continued to beckon, and various resources allowed me to improve my swimming abilities. Again, swimming longer and longer distances became the norm. First, it was 500 yards. Than 1000. Than a mile. Likewise, my pace improved (though only slightly). Today, roughly 7 months after starting serious swim training, another hurdle has been overcome.

I hit the pool with a purpose, today. Swim longer than any previous swim, and do it as a straight swim. Sort of a "see what can be done" session. I figured maybe 3000, but definitely more than 2500 yards. When I hit 3000, I decided to keep going. I did, and didn't quit until I hit 144 lengths of the pool, or 2 miles. It took just under 1:30 to complete that distance, another personal record (the longest time spent swimming).

Clearing this hurdle is huge for two reasons. First, it's just a major distance to swim. Second, the time to go the distance leaves another 50 minutes to complete the remaining 0.4 miles in an Ironman event. That's a pace even a determined turtle can achieve. It's a huge boost to morale to know that the 2.4 mile swim of an IM race isn't a roadblock.

Of course, my 22 mile bike after the swim was supposed to be 40, but I was too tired. Twelve months. That's what remains to resolve THAT issue.

Friday, September 01, 2006

A Simple Irony

The change in music to Greenday's "Time of Your Life" was done as a tribute to Iron Wil and all the others preparing for Ironman Wisconsin. As they come into the final days before their race, the "time of their lives" is in transition. Much like a triathlete going from swim to bike, they are going from "train" to "race." Most have probably already had the time of their life just meeting the demands of Ironman training. And they will experience another hightlight when they cross the finish line on September 10th.

Who knew that it would also become an anthem for myself (and probably others) when Roman put up his challenge to join together for Ironman Wisconsin in 2007. For us, it is a different type of tribute. And it is the first line of the song that speaks to us.

"Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road. Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go."

For many, the choice is easy. Some are certain they will be cheerleaders on this journey. They will be with us on the trip, but won't make the final leg in Madison. Others are "all in." They are fully committed, waiting with cash in hand. Then there are those literally standing at the fork in the road, trying to decide which way to turn. One path leads to points unknown. It might lead to future Ironman races. It might lead to other things. We just don't know. The other path has a destination, a light at the end of the tunnel. That light is Madison, Wisconsin in mid-September, 2007.

For some, the key factor will be financial. Registering for an Ironman race is an expensive proposition, and doing it on short notice can strain budgets. For others, there are factors such as training time, family, work, and a variety of other obligations and responsibilities. Some have just come off an Ironman season and planned on an easy 2007.

So, there's a fork in the road. And in this case, time won't have time to grab anyone by the wrist. It's flying by too quickly. This situation will require action by each of us. Every training session for the next week promises to be spent in serious reflection about what will happen on September 11, 2006. Will it be spent fighting to secure a spot on Team raceAthlete? Or will it pass by, forcing us onto another path?