Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Passing of Greatness

On Tuesday, President Gerald Ford passed away at the age of 93. And regardless of personal ideology or views on affairs of the past, the passing of a president is a sorrowful event. In United States history, there have still been fewer than 50 presidents, and each is a national treasure. Though only a person, they are people Americans placed into a position of great responsibility and power.

With the exception of Gerald Ford.

Ford has the distinction of being the only person to serve in the nation's highest office without having ever won a national election. Most people are aware he became president when Richard Nixon left the office after the Watergate scandal. Less well known is that he became vice president when Nixon's elected vice president, Spiro Agnew, left office amidst his own scandals. Ford was nominated and confirmed to the position of vice president in accordance with the US Constitution. Though never elected to the White House, and serving there for less than three years, President Ford did much to heal the country during his term.

President Ford guided the country through the end of the Viet Nam war. He was a welcome change from the secretive and conspiratorial presidency of Richard Nixon. And in a highly controversial move, he started the healing process by pardoning the disgraced former president for the crimes he had committed.

And he was the oldest former president in US history. His unassuming nature carried over to his "former president" status as he supported current presidents regardless of the actions they took. He believed in the office of president, and knew more than most that the president's job is to serve the American people to the best of his ability.

The nation should and will mourn the passing of President Ford. He embodied much about what makes the United States great. He proved that the peaceful transition of power can occur under the worst of circumstances. And he showed that healing and progress are possible when a nation comes together.

Friday, December 22, 2006


Well, the Christmas break is almost here, and there are a few housekeeping items to handle before a few days off.

First and foremost, have a wonderful holiday season. While Nancy and I may debate the reality of a "war on Christmas," I have no problem saying, "Happy Holidays!" The blogosphere is a pretty big place, and I'm sure (hope, at least) you, the readers, represent a fairly diverse set of beliefs. Whatever your beliefs are, enjoy the time with your friends and family, get some rest, and re-energize yourself for the coming year.

As the new year approaches, swing by raceAthlete and see what's new. The newest fully sponsored member of the team going to IM MOO '07 will be selected and announced in the very near future, and you never know when a favorite blogger might be a featured writer. And remember that members can join the raceAthlete forum. It is a wonderful source of information from professional triathletes, age groupers, mechanics, and coaches.

If you are interested in tracking the sponsored raceAthlete team, CycleOps has put up a wonderful page complete with bios, tentative race schedules, and other information.

Finally, remember to get some rest over this break. As triathletes and endurance athletes, we sometimes push ourselves pretty hard. Like a good taper, a bit of rest will go a long way when the serious training starts. And that's as soon as January for some of us.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, joyous everything else, and Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Eeet's Aliiiiive!

Look! Look what I have made!

Sometimes, creating monsters is fun. Where I work, I was lonely as an endurance athlete. Sure, there is the manager who is also an Ironman. He has completed several iron distance races during his triathlon career. But work constraints have severely limited his ability to race at this time.

Another co-worker is married to a 9-time (and elite) marathoner. Injuries have put her distance running on hold. They both compete in the Birkebiner cross-country ski race, but not in other endurance events.

Then, last year, some hope bubbled to the surface. A co-worker who previously balked at a 10K race mentioned that he was signed up for a sprint triathlon (which we both wound up racing). He then continued his training and completed his first half-marathon. His race schedule for 2007 mirrors mine, culminating in his longest race yet, the Spirit of Racine half-IM race. We will run the Green Bay Marathon (his first full) and the High Cliff sprint triathlon, as well.

We are also encouraging two other co-workers to race at least the GB half-marathon with us, if not the sprint tri, too. That resulted in an interesting exchange, this morning, beginning with one of them giving the other a Christmas gift in the form of a half-marathon training program. Then, an e-mail exchange that went something like this: (Names changed to protect the not yet registered)

Happy Holidays.........

Bellin Chick, not to put any more pressure on you then what already is, but I am not signing up for this race until you are. So your decision is going to affect two people now.
13 plus miles can we do it??

Merry Christmas...........

That resulted in a reply from my training partner:

Me too, I'm not signing up until you sign up. (Editor's note - "you" being Bellin Chick)

Ahhh, the fun. Like I said, I've created a monster. And hopefully, with more of us involved, we'll be able to bring more people into the fold. There's just something cool about having more and more known faces at events.

Update - The Saga Continues

It appears that the brief exchange above wasn't sufficient. This is betting better than a Greyhound-Nytro exchange.

Bellin Chick felt obligated to fire back by upping the challenge:

K.C. (and the Sunshine Band?)

I know you can do the FULL Marathon. Save yourself $5.00 and sign up before 12/31.

Bellin Chick

To which he responded:

Hey Hey lets not got pushy over there Mrs. I just ran 5 miles on Sunday. I haven't worked out in over a month so I am going to stick to the Half, you on the other hand should take a look at the FULL, you could run with Iron Pol then instead of me.............?

Things could get interesting in January, which is when Bellin Chick has promised a decision.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Okay, SkiRough left a comment complaining about the need for a new song. Well, maybe it was a gentle reminder that a song of the day might get played out after a week or two. And perhaps she made a comment about how appropriate the song was given my prior post. That's somehow less antagonistic and post-worthy.

So, it was off to get a new video for Christmas. Of course, that's also a good opportunity to visit a few of the daily-read type blogs. A short click away and I find, to my horror, that my song of choice is already on another blog. That blog's owner threatened me with bodily harm if I were to copy her by using Christmas Canon by Trans-Siberian Orchestra. And we all know that you don't mess with this Athena. Or call her an Amazon. Oh yeah, the bodily harm part might be a bit of an exaggeration. She may have said something more along the lines of, "Hey, it's a free song, go ahead and use it, too." I can't remember, exactly, and reading the e-mail would take WAY too much effort. I know, because I had to read it to get a feel for what she did say.

That left me little recourse but to pull out a recent favorite. I know how annoying it can be to switch from one radio station to the next only to hear the exact same song.

Hopefully, this will earn me the good graces of both Ski and Nytro. It's not good to go into the Christmas season with people trying to convince Santa you are evil and shouldn't even rate a lump of coal. Nytro might be inclined to hand out lumps, but they don't come from a hole in the ground.

Blowin' in the Wind

Well, it's hardly the ides of March, but the only thing I can think is "Et tu, Brute?"

Change is coming, and it is unwelcome by many. First, there was Blogger Beta. They tempted us with "Would you like to switch" links. The benefits of the new version of Blogger were touted. And many took the bait. They switched, only to find out that some beta versions aren't all they're cracked up to be.

Many stood on the sidelines and heeded the warnings cast by those caught in the net thrown by Blogger. The frustrations were easy to see. But the field continues to grow. Those on the sidelines have found themselves caught up in more of the challenges associated with the interaction of the old version and the new version.

Then Blogger made a grandiose announcement. Despite all the known issues, many of which are in the realm of complete mess, the beta testing was being closed down, and the beta was launched as the official Blogger version. And this can mean only one thing. The days of Blogger as we know it are numbered. Soon, those resisting the change, those understandably edgy about converting to a consistently flawed version will have few options. The day is coming when assimilation will begin. To quote the Borg, "Resistance is futile."

The only hope is that Blogger manages to address all of these known issues prior to forcing the change. However, their decision to end beta testing before resolving the known bugs does little to raise those hopes. In fact, much like Microsoft, it appears we will make the switch and attempt to fix things after the fact.

Only time will tell. Change is in the wind, that much we know.

Monday, December 18, 2006

World's Easiest Winners

Um, wait, that didn't come out right...

Okay, in true super-geek fashion, I have identified the winners of the World's Easiest Contest. The Pol family left it up to random chance (in other words, they're all out, with Mrs. Pol wrapping presents for charity and the little ones literally zonked out). So, we went with the random number generator, first to three hits wins.

In first place, proving you don't have to know exactly what's happening to win, is Iron Benny. Benny is the proud new owner of a pair of Fox Cities Triathlon Club sox, a Fuel Belt running visor, and a Gu gel.

In second place, proving that complimenting the contest sponsor just might get the fates on your side, is Comm's. He will also receive a pair of Tri Fox socks and Gu, as well as a Tri Fox water bottle.

Congratulations to the winners. Stay tuned for future contests. It's hard to tell when I might come across things that are suitable for contest prizes (that I'm willing to give up). And with that, Monster Girl woke up screaming, so it's time to play dad, some more.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Baby Blogger

B-Boy here, with a lot of help from daddy, who you know as Iron Pol. I saw daddy working on some pictures of me, and realized they had never been posted on his blog. How can he expect everyone to know how cute I am if he doesn't post pictures. So, I asked him to let you see them.

These are all pictures from the kids' run at the Bellin races in July. Daddy only had a few pictures. They took six pictures of me. Obviously, because I'm cuter. If you look closely, you'll see that I am wearing daddy's Green Bay marathon hat. I may not have completed the marathon, but it sure makes me look good. I wear it because it's cool looking. Daddy wears it to cover up his bald head (ooops, did I say that out loud?).

Friday, December 15, 2006

Some Mornings

Monster Girl was fussy around 3 a.m. Apparently, it was all about the bottle. Like the plant in "Little Shop of Horrors." "Feed me, Seymour." Only the plant is a 12-month old baby girl. And it seems I would be Seymour.

Just for kicks, B-Boy decided to wake up at about the same time, and had a strong need for daddy to stay with him for a bit. He also picked that time to be THE time he actually wanted to use the blanket we have sitting next to his bed for just those moments. So he was nice and toasty. Me, less so.

Needless to say, a night like that was not conducive to getting up at 4:30 a.m. for training. The call of the bed and warm blankets was strong.

Then again, this is Ironman training. Not the day spa. Some mornings, gremlins come in the shape of a warm bed and soft pillow. Just like any other gremlins, you have to kick them in the head and encourage them to find other stomping grounds. I got up and headed to the YMCA.

I did, however, offer myself a peace token for going against my desire to skip training. Since Monday is a day off and will become my long swim day, I mixed things up a bit, today. After a short swim, I hit the track for a 5K run. The 1000 yards in the pool was Iron Pol slow, but the run was pretty speedy. All the base building through swimming is helping out. I completed the 3.1 mile run in 21m 4s. Just don't tell Coach Mike, as I'm sure this training took my heart rate a bit higher than it should be for IM training.

Then again, some mornings just call for training variety.

Remember to sign up for The World's Easiest Contest by commenting on that post. Only a few days left until the drawing for awesome and, more importantly, free schwag.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Super Short

Anyone with family spread all over the country knows that certain occassions are wonderful opportunities to catch up with those family members. For us, the recent birthday party held for B-Boy and Monster Girl was one such chance. My sister made the trip from the Chicago area with her daughters, despite that day being her wedding anniversary. It means a lot that she went so far out of her way for the few short hours she could spend with us.

One of our discussions during the party led to this post. And the first order of business is to provide an appropriate name for my sister (at least until she has a blog and screen name of her own). Henceforth, she is to be known as Super Short. Now, that isn't because she's short, which she is. Or because she is some kind of superhero, which she is (she is a super mom and super wife, just ask her family).

No, she gets this name because of her views on training and racing. Short. In both training and racing. She is an amazing mom and wife, and training takes a backseat to family. In addition to these vital roles, she is active in the school system her children attend, and works from the home during her "spare" time. She epitomizes the philosophy shared by many (hopefully all) members of raceAthlete in the way she participates in endurance sports.

Super Short is a runner. She runs for general health and to help maintain her weight (and pant's size) where she wants it. And she participates in the occassional 5K race. The way she put it several years ago was, "A 5K doesn't take too much training, their cheap to run, and you're done in half an hour. And you still get a cool t-shirt." She has no desire to run a marathon and sums up my desire to do continue running them with a roll of the eyes. And she figures I'm a bit off my rocker for pursuing Ironman (I believe the exact definition was obsessive).

And she fits in perfectly with the community we are developing at raceAthlete. She is an endurance athlete performing at a level that meets her needs. And while she may not understand it, she accepts my desire to complete at longer distances. Distance doesn't define an athlete, it only provides a means for sorting the races.

If you are a short distance specialist, keep this in mind the next time someone tries to belittle your love of 5K races or sprint triathlons. And if longer races are your game, keep this in mind the next time you are tempted to mock the person who has no desire to attempt your favored distance. We all have our own reasons for what we do, and we are the best judge of what is right for us.

BTW, don't forget to visit the previous post if you haven't already left a comment. There's the opportunity to win free schwag courtesy of Iron Pol and the Fox Cities Triathlon Club.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

World's Easiest

Without distracting from my artful rant about Blogger (see previous post), I want to announce what will certainly be the world's easiest contest, taking place right here at Iron Pol.

There won't be any mind boggling triathlon trivia for which Roman is so well known. You won't be required to figure out insanely personal information reminiscent of Trigreyhound (because I don't want you all cyberstalking me). And there is no requirement that you challenge an Athena (not Amazon) to a feat of strength or financial doom.

Nope, all you have to do is leave a comment. If your e-mail address isn't available through your post, drop me a note. I will have to be able to contact the luck winner(s). The total number of winners will be determined by the number of comments received between now and next Monday. I guarantee at least a first place prize, and will add prize packages as comments increase in groups of 20. The first twenty have one prize. The second group of 20 (or portion thereof) guarantees a second prize package. The third group (or similar portion) generates a third package. I reserve the right to limit the total number of packages to three, or come up with additional prizes as I see fit. Winners will be determined by random drawing performed by the accounting firm of Mrs. Pol and Kids, LLC (not to be confused with a real company).

Some potential prizes include, but are not limited to: A Fuel Belt running visor, Fox Cities Triathlon Club socks complete with the world famous fox, a FCTC water bottle, and Gu gels. All prizes include shipping within the continental US.

Good luck! And remind your friends to play, so there will be more prize packages.

Blogger Beta (New and IMPROVED?) Sucks

Okay, just a bit of a rant here. And an FYI for those of you who have switched to the new and "improved" version of blogger.

Those who are leery of switching to unproven and seemingly unimproved beta launches seem unable to log in and comment on your sites. I can comment on any site that has remained beta free. Those who have switched, I get nice loop where it won't let me log in, won't accept an "Other" comment, and won't even take an anonymous comment.

Very nice. What they're essentially saying is that Blogger no longer talks to Blogger. Genius. It's almost as if the programmers have Microsoft experience.

Grrrrrrr! Sheer genius.

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Bar

Triathletes are known for their competitive nature and Type-A personalities. While broad strokes rarely do everyone justice, we must admit that many of us fit the bill. The goal is finding a balance.

While I am keenly aware it is unlikely I'll win any races, I do like to collect data for comparison with future performances. My training log includes times for every training session, and I pay attention to how my performance is tracking. I know what my personal bests are before I step to the starting line of any race.

On the other hand, I am rarely worried about a single "bad" performance. Off days are a factor of life, and it takes more than a slow pace to ruin my day. Just as you won't have a PR every time you enter a race, you won't have a PW (personal worst) every time, either. In any race, find the lessons there are to be learned, and find out how to improve for the next race.

Today, I set one of those bars. As of this morning, I have a rough idea of what I am capable of in an Ironman swim. The initial placement of the bar is at 1 hour 41 minutes. It's not a high bar, so there is plenty of room for improvement. It is, however, far enough off the floor (of 2 hours 20 minutes) that there is also room for a bad day.

And there are a great many factors that must be considered. First, this mornings swim was actually 4400 yards, or 2.5 miles. It was easier than figuring out the laps for 2.4 miles. So, that's 1:41 with an extra 176 yards (about 4 minutes for me). This was done in a pool, and included 179 turns. That will definitely be missing in Louisville. I should also be going with the current in the Ironman, and wearing a wetsuit. I will, however, be in open water with a few thousand others. Those factors might tend to slow me down.

My co-worker has asked several times if I believed I could complete the entire 2.4 mile swim. The response, in the past, has always been, "I think I can." The "think" has been turned into a "know." Of course, as I've also told him, completing the swim is really only a minor detail. Much more important is how easily I can jump on a bike after the swim.

This morning, that would have been VERY difficult. Fortunately, it's December. I guarantee that will change in the next several months.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Start of a Journey

We all know the addage. Every journey begins with the first step. For me, that first step came many years ago. It was the first step out of the doctor's office after finding out there were unexplained shadows in my lungs.

The first leg of the journey took me from a generalist to a pulmonary specialist. After x-rays, upper CT scans, and abdominal CT scans they started throwing around words like non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, surgery, and RIGHT NOW. When doctors start putting those things together, it tends to ruin your weekend.

After surgery to collect samples for biopsies, we had the answer to the question that had been causing sleepless nights for weeks. I had sarcoidosis instead of cancer. And having a friend who was dying from a lifetime of battling sarcoid had little impact on our sense of relief. At least the "here and now" threat was gone.

The next step of the journey started when the pulmonologist asked that I complete 1.5 mile runs a couple times each week to monitor lung function. If it got harder and harder to breathe, we would know there was a problem. What he failed to contemplate was the other problem. Type-A personalities and instructions to run. Four marathons later, we know how that journey is going.

Another step in the journey was taken at the beginning of the year, when I started training for a sprint distance triathlon. Actually, "step" is a bit of a misnomer. "Stroke" is more appropriate as most of the focus of this year has been on swimming. Many of you have been along for every step of this portion of the journey as I went from sprint to Olympic to Ironman aspirations.

Today, it feels like the journey to Iron has officially started. Oh, the training of the past few months has been part of the overall journey, but it just didn't have the feel of being part of the IRONMAN journey. The journey that leads from here and now to Louisville in August. That changed this morning.

It happened somewhere during my swim. And it was a long swim. 3520 yards, to be exact. Two miles. Somehow, the 520 extra yards symbolized a change. This is no longer about being a better swimmer. It isn't about doing well in the Spirit of Racine half Ironman. It's ALL about Ironman Louisville. Whatever the difference, TODAY marks the shift from training to Ironman training. Something tells me that nothing between now and August will be quite the same as it was only yesterday.

So, let the journey truly begin. Let the changes that are needed begin now. Let the gremlins bring what they will. I know they're coming, so I welcome them. Each one that is overcome makes me stronger. And in about 260 days, I'll start one more leg of the journey. And understand, they truly are two journeys. One gets you to Ironman. One makes you Ironman.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Team raceAthlete in Mad-Town

September 7-10, 2007 promises to be filled with huge events. First and foremost among them is the Ford Ironman Wisconsin race. As most know, this is the premier event for Team raceAthlete in 2007. It is also the pinnacle event for the sponsored members of the team to showcase the results of the "Train Like a Professional" program.

It also offers an opportunity to show the Team raceAthlete Support Crew in action. Who is on the Team raceAthlete Support Crew, you ask? Why, everyone, of course. All raceAthlete members will provide support in their own way. And those able to get to Madison on race weekend will be able to help directly.

a.maria and I will be putting together details in the next several months. Key among those details will be a listing of who will be there and those capacities they may best be able to fill. Whether volunteers on the course, video/picture crews documenting the race, or any of a list of roles, the support crew will be as much a part of the Team raceAthlete experience as those in the race.

In addition to coordinating race day activities, we will work together to plan "meet and greet" type events. This could include meals, training, or other social events.

If you will be in Madison, whether as a participant or support crew, let either a.maria or me know via e-mail. That will allow us to compile an e-mail list of those interested in planning. We will strive to provide at least one "key" event and several other options for those with tight schedules.

Let's prove that Team raceAthlete provides the best opportunities and the best support in town.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Race Schedule

I need to get a sidebar table set up, but for the time being, here is my almost completely confirmed race schedule for 2007.

May 20 - Green Bay Marathon (half or full?) - "C" or lower race. Running this as a bandit to support co-workers. One is running his first marathon, another (maybe two) running first half-marathon. This is basically a supported training run and the pace will be set by my co-workers.

June 9 - Bellin Run 10K - "A" race for running. Goal is to break 41 minutes and qualify for elite status in 2008.

June 24 - High Cliff Sprint Triathlon - "C" race. Focus on transitions and nutrition.

July 22 - Spirit of Racine Triathlon Half Ironman - "B" race. Improve transitions, finalize nutrition, run IM pace in preparation for Louisville.

August 26 - Ford Ironman Louisville - "A" race. Finish. Under 15 hours is great. Under 13 hours is nothing short of amazing.

This is just about the same number of races completed last year. Obviously, the distances have been ramped up a bit. So, it will be a busy year.

Breaking Three

Yesterday was a momentous occassion in the Pol household. Three years ago, we were blessed with the birth of our son, and we celebrated his birthday with a trip to his favorite restaurant, Red Robin. He had an awesome time, and only opening gifts at home overshadowed dinner.

And apparently we could have gotten away with only one gift, the first one. After opening the tool box set his mom and grandparents took care of, he seemed to forget there were other gifts to open. Luckily, we pushed the issue, because his second gift was a pair of firefighter pajamas, complete with slippers that look like fire trucks. B-Boy went to sleep on the floor next to his bed, with the tool box and slippers prominently displayed on the bed.

This morning, three seemed like a good number, and a good training session was in order after a VERY long night. Monster Girl has taken a dislike to milk, and we spent until the early hours of the morning (1:30 a.m.) trying to get her to eat something that wasn't formula. Tired and moving slowly, I hit the pool with a goal in mind. Three thousand yards in honor of B-Boy's third birthday.

One hour and eleven minutes later, I had 3000 yards under my belt for the first time. It's a major accomplishment for me, and the final thousand yards were promising. Most of those final 100 yards splits were sub 2m20s. Considering that 2m30s was average a few short weeks ago, staying in the 2:20 range for the FINAL 1000 yards of a long swim is encouraging.

It seems there just might be a glimmer of hope for me finishing 2.4 miles in under two hours. And that, my friends, is a true confidence builder.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Odd Places

Sometimes, inspiration can be found in the oddest of spots. The new song is a shining example of that. Poison is far from a favorite of mine, though I will admit that where sappy rock ballads are concerned, they know what they are doing. And this song was used on our tri club's "year in review" video.

Just consider the first lines:

Hearts of fire
Streets of stone
Modern warriors
Saddle iron horses of chrome

Or the last:

Of all the truths and lies
And stories of riders in the sky
They say only the bravest try
Where eagles and angels dare to fly

And for those who raced IM Wisconsin 2006:

Stories told
Two old friends
Of battle scars and lonely bars
And nights the rain wouldn't end

Perhaps there's room for a bit of poison in the pursuit of iron.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Youth Step Up

When the idea of raising funds to sponsor youth in endurance events started taking shape, we hoped to have ten to fifteen 7th-12th graders participate. As we began presenting to the youth organization with whom we launched the program, the response was such that we thought we might have to raise a few hundred dollars extra to fully fund all the youth.

Now, the outcome has far exceeded our wildest dreams. After completing presentations to all grades, we have nearly 50 young ladies and gentlemen signed up. Of course, we assume some of them will be weeded out as the first meetings are held. Even so, with these numbers, if only a third follow through, we will have to find more resources. That we have gone from having this big cash reserve to being strapped for sufficient funding is truly awesome. And having the opportunity to introduce more than a dozen youth to endurance sports is exciting.

The future potential for this program is limited only by our creativity and drive. Over time, the goal is to be able to help youth who might never be able to participate in triathlon and develop in them a lifelong passion for the sport. This could mean nothing more than providing guidance and motivation. For others, it might mean providing coaching, equipment, and entry fees. A program that bridges the gap between cultures, both social and economic, is a perfect fit for triathlon.

Stay tuned for future updates on this amazing grass roots effort. We will form the team and commence training in early 2007. The kids will start racing in May and should have a triathlon under their belts by July. By the end of summer, we'll know how many we have hooked for life.