Friday, September 21, 2007

Everything Must Go!

It's sort of like a store closing, everything must go, fire sale. Except it's much easier to pack.

While I'll still be keeping the details up to date, you'll find the day to day excitement has moved.

You can now find me...

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Call of the Wild

When I was in elementary school, I read "The Call of the Wild" by Jack London. It's a wonderful novel for young readers, and it led me to many other works by the same author. But what I remember most from the book is the London's biographical information. Jack London held a lot of jobs prior to becoming an author.
Among a variety of hard labor jobs, London's resume included oyster pirate, seaman on a sealing ship, hobo (though I doubt this made his resume), and "law enforcement" on a patrol boat to capture poachers. He pursued writing as a means to escape a life of hard labor in the factories. In his autobiographical writings, he treats his work history like any other topic, adding his literary flourish. In other words, he makes it sound even worse than it may have been.
At the time, I couldn't believe that one man held so many different jobs. When you consider that London was only 40 years old when he passed away, it was even more remarkable. My point of reference was my father, who spent 21 years in the Navy and then worked for a civilian company until he retired.
And now, I look back at my own life. Using myself as the "standard," London doesn't look so odd. Not yet 40, I've held a similarly long list of jobs. Before college, I was a camp counselor for two summers. When I first went to college, I worked as a mover with a furniture company. When college funds ran out, I moved home and gained employment as a nursing assistant in a nursing home. After a year or so of that, I enlisted in the Navy for ten years, traveling around the country as orders dictated. Upon leaving the Navy, I completed the circle and gained employment with a "big box" furniture sales store, where I also put my prior experience to use by helping out as the delivery driver. Then, with a degree in Finance, I moved into an accounting position, where I have been for the past several years.
I have the same kind of history when it comes to extracurricular activities. Early in my life, I played baseball. When we moved to Wisconsin, soccer somehow became the main summer sport. I also played junior-high and high school football, and dabbled in archery and riflery. I spent four years on the debate team, did a year of forensics, and acted in at least two plays every year. Though I only excelled at a few things, I gained experience in many things.
Fast forward 20 years, and I find myself right in the middle of a sport that is perfect for just such a person. In addition to welcoming people of varying abilities, it is well suited for the disciplined person with "middle of the road" skills in the different disciplines. Swim specialists tend to get passed on the bike. Bike specialists often have too much ground to make up on the swim, or find themselves unable to hold onto a lead once they start running. And though run specialists can make up a lot of time, it is often insufficient to garner victory.
Individuals with the ability to improve in all three areas and the discipline to pursue those improvements have the potential to excel in triathlon. At the extreme is Chris Sweet, who qualified for the Ironman World Championships through amazing dedication to improving both the physical and mental aspects of his race. At the other extreme is the first time Ironman who sees opportunity for improving their overall time.
My journey through careers is likely incomplete. I enjoy my job, and work for an amazing company. But, like Jack London, there is probably at least one more job out there, for me. If I ever find the "perfect job," I'll let you know.
On the other hand, I believe my wanderings through various active lifestyles (or not-so-active lifestyles) have ended. Triathlon offers the variety and opportunity that nothing else does. From the vast number of race options to the ability to interact with top-level triathletes to the opportunity to continually improve in all three disciplines, triathlon is the "perfect" sport. While I will continue to explore other endurance type events, triathlon is the one that will remain a fixture in my race season. Whether sprint, intermediate, or Ironman distance, swim/bike/run has rapidly become a way of life.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Geeking Out!

With the limited exception of running with Iron Wil on part of the IMWI marathon course, I've been taking the "off season" following my own Ironman pretty seriously. My wetsuit and The Pol-R Express have remained at the house, and my running shoes are sitting under the bed. I've been enjoying some of the foods that I passed on during the height of training. And I've been trying to tackle a few tasks that have been sitting and waiting for "the right time."

Today, I resolved a couple of big hitters, and they fall squarely into the "geek" category. And that got me thinking. And I figured it was high time I had a post that was unrelated to triathlon. It's good for the soul (and the sole). So, here are a few sure signs you are an uber-computer geek.

1. You happen to know exactly what a Dell PowerEdge Server does. Bonus points if you are sitting anywhere within 10 feet of one or more.

2. The term RAID array means something besides an arsenal of bug spray.

3. Scuzzy (SCSI) isn't used to refer to a person.

4. Your friends call you to fix their computer after three years of not updating it. Bonus points if you consider that a "boring" day.

5. You can rattle off the IP addresses of computers and/or servers in your home, as well as your friends' homes.

6. You actually have a server in your home (see item 1).

7. Any piece of computer equipment in your possession has a "hot-swappable" anything.

8. You have more than one computer sitting in your garage because it's "obsolete" but you figure it might come in handy, some day.

9. Challenging new software (say Adobe Photoshop and ImageReady) is a weekend learning opportunity.

10. You have more than two office suites on your computer. Bonus points if you have the trifecta (all three major suites, Corel, Microsoft Office, and Lotus).

11. You have more servers/storage capacity at home than at work.

12. You consider it a reasonable swap to give up phone service (or small children) to pay for ultra high speed Internet service.

13. Your storage devices come in terabytes.

I spent most the day getting one of my servers back on-line. Yes, I said ONE of my servers. The other is at my feet just begging for the same attention. I have to get it straightened out quickly, as Mrs. Pol has a paper to write, and she will be less accomodating than I to the rather large computer sitting in front of our desk.

I also need to get them all running as it is almost time for training to come back on line. I figure October will be dedicated to fairly light training to get back into the swing of things. November, like last year, will be a swim focused month, and I will once again focus my efforts on daily swims. That turned out so well for this season that it is worth another shot.

I also have some major blog related irons in the fire, and there will be some huge announcements coming in the near future. In the hopes of major traffic numbers in the next few weeks, I'll leave it at that.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Congratulations!

Yesterday was an amazing day for raceAthlete and other bloggers at Ironman Wisconsin. Throughout the day, we tracked more than 25 different athletes. There were even several people is raceAthlete gear with whom I was completely unfamiliar. Regardless, they all received the same cheering and we got pictures of everyone we could. I'll post those, later.

In no particular order, CONGRATULATIONS to the following:

TriBoomer - 14:40 - He looked awesome in his raceAthlete tri-suit.

George Schweitzer - 10:36 - Amazing job, 126th overall.

Andy Sweet - 11:34 - Proving that Chris isn't the only fast one in the family.

Brent Buckner - 14:18 - I saw a lot of Orca outfits, one of them was probably him.

Walchka - 14:56 - I didn't get to meet him, but look at that awesome time.

Tri Dummy - 14:38 - I saw Jay on the swim, and he proved he's no dummy on this course.

Taconite Boy - 13:59 - Our blog hero rocked the course, and always had a smile on his face.

Rural Girl - 12:33 - Our paths crossed several times as she rocked the course, and beat my IMKY time by nearly 45 minutes.

Jetpack - 13:08 - Jetpack proved his strength on the run with a 4 1/2 hour marathon after the tough hills on the bike.

Roland - 15:04 - Try as I did, I never found the USCG outfit, and failed to get any pictures of Roland as he ran what I believe was an IM PR.

Micampers - 13:16 - Another one I missed all day long. He did an awesome job on that bike course.

Gavnunns - 10:22 - I don't know if this made the Kona qualifier time, but it was good enough for 88th overall, and he looked great doing it.

Iron Dave - Another I was unable to locate in person, Dave crossed the finish in 14:47.

Running2Far - 13:18 - I believe I saw Running2Far and didn't even know it. Looking back at the day, I kept seeing Hayes, which I figured was a last name. I'm betting it was him.

Chris Sweet - I spent the whole day going, "Hey, I think that was... Too late, he's gone," whenever Chris was anywhere near me. Chris lit the course on fire, finishing in 9:55. I truly hope that qualifies him for Kona, because he was awesome out there.

Simply Stu - 12:47 - Stu did an awesome job, and looked to be taking the day in and enjoying it as HIS day.

Roman - 13:47 - Roman balanced racing with time with friends with ensuring everyone had what they needed (including your's truly and everyone in blogland, as he made sure raceAthlete would get updated). In the process, he ran an awesome race, and every time I saw him he was thanking volunteers on the course.

Bold - 12:56 - I saw Bold on his way to T1, and a couple of times on the run. On his way to a great finish, it was confirmed that Wisconsin hills can, in fact, be a challenge. He never let them stand in his way.

Texafornia - 12:59 - Using all his zen tricks, Texafornia squeaked out a victory in his competition with Jetpack (it should be noted that Jetpack carved Texafornia's one hour lead off the bike to 9 minutes by the finish). There were signs all over the run course taunting Jetpack (in good fun).

TriGreyhound - 14:42 - Grey proved his triathlon/blogger fame as people on the run course called out to him. By his blog name! He made a plan and stuck to it. And he looked very stylish with his blinky lights.

Iron Wil - 16:20 - Title earned. Dragons slain. Wil came out of the water after a tough swim day with a smile on her face. She came off the bike after a long ride with a smile on her face. And she ran a marathon. She wasn't ALWAYS smiling there, but she kept plugging along. She took joy in little things, like crossing timing mats, walk breaks, and passing the final cut-off way ahead of the time limits.

And it would be remiss to leave out the people I didn't even know were on the course (mostly because I didn't even know them).

Chris - 12:54 - I kept seeing a raceAthlete jersey attaced to bib 954. Each time, I would take a picture and check my list. Though Chris wasn't on that list, we got some good photos and it was great to see him supporting the team.

John - 14:47 - Somewhere around mile 15 of the run, I saw a raceAthlete jersey and bib 1922. Another I hadn't seen prior to that. I snapped a picture, cheered him on, and later checked on John.

Finally, IM-Able ran into some issues on the swim. I'm unsure if she was injured or faced other challenges. She has a swim time of 1:44, and nothing for T1. She toed the line and put in a good effort on the swim. As more information becomes available, we'll see what she chooses as her next steps.

*Update - IM-Able DID finish the swim (another great job, Athlete Tracker). She made it through transition in about 13 minutes. Stomach issues forced her off the bike somewhere during the second half of the bike. And anyone who might want to question her "iron" level, she apparently got physically sick DURING the swim, and still finished. Me, I'd have drowned on the spot.

There you have it. Twenty-four team mates all pursuing their Ironman dreams. And I'm sure I've missed a few others. If you know of a blogger missing from the list, please let me know. They deserve all the recognition they can get.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

IM MOO Tracking

Alright, as we head into IM Wisconsin weekend, here are a few details that might assist in tracking everyone.

First, we will have not one, but two websites dedicated to tracking everyone out on the course. One will be fairly rough, and is open to quite a few individuals for posting. That site is IMMOO07. Keep an eye out here for race updates, pictures, etc.

The second site to watch is raceAthlete itself. We will have plenty of editorial staff on site keeping the raceAthlete blog up to date with appropriate posts. We hope to have at least one editor stationed at the finish with the ability to upload times and pictures in near real time as team members cross the finish line.

So, between IronmanLive, raceAthlete, and IMMOO07, there should be plenty to keep everyone busy and up to date on the status of the dozens of bloggers on the course.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

A Little Help

Okay, I'm looking for one or more Widget gurus who can help me sort out the XML on this page. Namely, I'm trying to figure out how to add links to my "Training Partners" graphics. The Blogger Widgets are fine for adding a link list OR a picture. So far, I've been unable to figure out how to add a link TO the picture.

So, anyone who has a bit more knowledge and skill than I, your help would be appreciated. Oddly enough, I have the custom Widget for the raceAthlete sponsors, which happen to be linked graphics, but the HTML page on blogger doesn't show the details of how it is structured.

I will greatly appreciate any help that can be provided.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

IMKY Swim

August 25th, the night prior to IM Louisville was interesting. In order for my family to attend church, dinner was scheduled a bit later than I might have preferred. To compensate for that, they took the kids with them, allowing me to catch a short nap.

Other than noticing every blue band in the building, dinner was fairly normal. By "normal" I mean that one of my kids blew a fuse and I had to spend a good deal of time outside the restaurant trying to calm Monster Girl down. Luckily, she calmed down when food entered the picture, and we were able to eat without too many challenges.

When we got back to the hotel, the kids went right to the grandparent's room, where they would spend the night. My father-in-law would stay in our room, and my wife would stay with the kids. We figured this set-up would provide the best opportunity for me to catch some sleep before the race. As I went to bed around nine, I was only slightly anxious, mostly about how well I would sleep. Other things were outside my control, so I was unconcerned.

Oddly enough, sleep wasn't an issue. Whatever it is that keeps others awake ignored me. I fell asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow, and I slept straight through until my alarm went off at 3:30 a.m. When I got up, I experienced none of the nerves I've heard people discuss. I went through my normal routine of a bagel with peanut butter and a bottle of Gatorade. I had a bit of time until my father-in-law wanted his wake up, so I read my book.

After waking him, I got dressed and ready to go. Business as usual. This was just another race day. In fact, I started wondering when the nerves would hit causing me to freak out. It wasn't during the ride over, and it wasn't when I got to transition.

As we walked toward transition, we discussed where I might be at given times in the day, and when I might be at the finish line. It was pretty relaxed, and remained "just another day." Once we arrived at transition, I headed straight to my bike to set up my nutrition for the day and inflate my tires. A couple other racers were there, and we discussed the empty spots on the rack as my pump made the rounds, saving several people the trip to the bike support tent. We spread our bikes out, and after ensuring my bike was set, I took the excess gear to my wife.

After kissing her and telling her I'd see her after the swim, I hit body marking and ran into a few members from the team of a bike shop in my home area. That helped support my feeling this was "just another race." Nothing more than a bunch of local triathletes hanging out before a race. And don't worry about all those professional camera crews. Their probably just doing some "feel good" news story.

After dropping off my special needs bags, it was time to head to the swim start. The walk took about 15 minutes, and I hit the porta-johns after dropping off my morning gear bag. Then, it was the long walk to the end of the swim start line. That definitely didn't do anything to raise my anxiety level, because Ironman races don't start with a big line of people waiting to jump into the water. It was surreal sitting there when the cannon sounded just before 7 a.m. We all joked about how anti-climactic the whole thing was.

About 10 minutes later, we heard the cannon sound, again. Shortly after that, everyone stood up. And then stood around. It took several minutes before we actually started moving, and a few minutes after that we were really moving along. Soon enough, about 25 minutes after the race start, we found ourselves on the docks leading to the actual swim start point.

As I made the turn onto the pier from which we would jump into the water, I actually felt a bit of anxiety. I think it was mostly from the fact that we were doing a jumping start, and I was concerned about losing either my goggles or ear plugs.

I crossed the timing mat and had little time to worry about either. And it would have been wasted worry, as neither my goggles nor my ear plugs were lost. I jumped into the channel and started swimming to get out of the next person's way. It was just after that when I remembered I was wearing a watch designed to track my time. I hit the start button and started swimming in earnest. Chalk one time trial start up for my triathlon career.

The first part of the swim was in a channel between an island and the mainland. About 50 yards wide, this was quite similar to swimming in a pool, sans the lane lines. They were exchanged for the distinct smell and flavor of gasoline. With the trees overhead, sighting was a breeze, and I was able to concentrate on swimming.

The huge benefit of the time trial start was the notable lack of physical contact. I didn't receive a single punch or kick to the head. Nobody attempted to make headway by grabbing my feet. My goggles were safe from flailing arms. We swam. We avoided the need to wrestle. I simply went from bouy to bouy, and felt I was making reasonable time. At least the shoreline was changing.

Soon enough, we left the protection of the channel, and hit the one section where the current was distinct and noticeable. Though we only had perhaps 500 yards, the current made this the toughest part of the race. It took quite a bit of work to get to the police boat that marked the turn around. As I swam by this section, I wondered where the Ford bouys were located. I had looked forward to swimming by them. At least the police boat was cool.

As we made the turn, we headed downriver toward the finish. This was the longest stretch of the swim, but it was either out of the current, or slightly with it. A couple of stops for sighting confirmed that it was primarily calm. While we weren't fighting the current, we weren't being carried downriver by it, either. Which meant we actually had to swim.

Still, I think the first portion of the swim, roughly 0.8 miles, took about 35 minutes. If I saw my watch right, that means the other 1.6 miles took about 55 minutes. So I was getting something back from the river.

More quickly than I might have expected, I passed by the bottom of the island and started heading toward the bouys leading to the swim finish. It was really cool swimming under the various bridges, and sighting was very easy despite having the bouys on the wrong side for my breathing pattern.

As I approached finish, a quick time check confirmed I was coming in right around 90 minutes. When I hit the ladder out of the water, a volunteer grabbed my hand and helped me up the steps. They were awesome given the lack of a need to strip wetsuits. I hit my lap counter as I crossed the timing mat, and grabbed a cup of water as I headed toward transition.

I saw my wife and father-in-law snapping away with the cameras. I stopped to give my wife a kiss, told her everything was going great, and reminded her to call Tri-Daddy with an update.

I did take a few things away from the swim. First, just because the swim course gets changed, don't rely on an "easy" swim. It's still 2.4 miles. And the race directors obviously put a lot of thought into just HOW to change the course so it would still be challenging. It was far easier than the original course would have been. Of course, the original route would have left at least half the field unable to finish the swim.

Second, swimming in the Ohio River is nasty, though for different reasons than I normally experience. Were I to ever do this race again, I would leave my wetsuit at home. My goggles are trash. My swim cap, garbage. My tri shorts barely survived the ordeal. Everything came out of the water smelling like gasoline. After a great deal of rinsing, my goggles still smell that way. There is no way I would put my wetsuit in that water, now.

Finally, dedicating a great deal of training to improving the swim CAN achieve the desired result of getting out of the water feeling strong. When I completed the swim, I didn't feel as though I had just gone 4224 yards. I felt more like I'd done 1000 yards in the pool. Coach Mike later told me that was his goal all along. He had told me before that speed was not his primary concern, he just wanted me fresh after the swim. All I can say is that his plans worked like a charm. If you struggle with energy on the bike and run, evaluate how you feel coming out of the water. A little extra attention to the swim might pay huge dividends later in the day.

Are People Still Finishing?

On Sunday, August 26th, I crossed the finish line of Ironman Louisville in 754th place, according to a neighbor. He was monitoring my progress that Sunday, and checked on Monday morning to see how I finished.

When I checked after the official results were posted, I was listed as 756th. That didn't seem too out of whack, as I know that people might have questioned results or provided some kind of evidence one way or the other.

At the end of the day, my exact finishing place is fairly irrelevant. I didn't win the race. Even within my division I was pretty far down the finisher's list. I do, however, have to question what I'm seeing.

This morning, I stopped by the Ironman site to see if they have finish line videos posted. They don't. But I noted that I have somehow slid all the way to 760th place.

I'm just wondering how this is happening. Are there people still running the race that are somehow finishing ahead of me? Was their tracking so out of whack that it's taken a week and a half and the "official" results are still unofficial?

I'm just wondering, because I'm losing ground quickly. If I'm going to slide to DFL, I'd like to know why...

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Thanksgiving

It's fairly common knowledge that nobody completes an Ironman race on their own. Though designed to be completed by the individual, a great many others are affected by training, racing, and recovery. Those people deserve as much recognition as the person who covers the 140.6 mile race.

For me, I must first and foremost thank my family. My wife assumed more than her fair share of the parenting responsibility during my 10 months of training. And she assumed an even greater share during the final eight weeks. While I did everything possible to ease the burden, anyone with kids knows that an hour here and a week-end there only go so far when there are 15+ training hours each week. This journey would have been absolutely impossible without the approval, acceptance, and support of my wife.

Along with my wife, my kids put up with long hours with their dad away from home. Though they are younger and have less say, they were definitely affected. And the greatest joy I get is seeing my kids excited about races. And having my son want to run "the whole race" with me tugged at my heart strings. I'm truly blessed to have a family as supportive as I have.

Goofy as it might sound, there is one thank you that spans the course of several years. Kewl Nitrox was an avid reader of my original blog. When the idea of me completing my first triathlon came up, he was right there with helpful advice, always offered with a true servant attitude. His constant encouragement helped keep me thinking about what was possible.

I'm unsure if the next comment falls into the "thanks" category, or the blame category. In September of 2006, my plan was to complete a second year of triathlon in 2007, including one half-IM race. Then, Roman Mica wrote a post about the opportunity to "Train Like a Professional." The first step was to register for IM Wisconsin 2007. At that exact moment, I decided that it would be awesome to race with everyone from raceAthlete, regardless of whether I became a sponsored member of the team. So, I took my shot. And found myself extremely disappointed when the race closed out before I was registered. Never had I been more disappointed at being unable to do something I didn't intend on doing in the first place.

Even so, taking a shot at registering for the Madison race provided the impetus to try again when Louisville was announced. And to do more than try again. I would dedicate more resources to the attempt and ensure I succeeded.

Shortly after registering for IM Louisville, Coach Mike Ricci agreed to be my coach. I had already benefitted from Mike's input as he provided guidance aimed at improving my swim skills. Though demanding, his suggestions paid off immediately, and given the opportunity to have him provide the training program for my first Ironman, I jumped at the chance. Mike deserves a lot of credit for his abilities as a coach, and I would strongly suggest anyone looking for a personal coach consider talking with him. His style was an excellent fit for my needs, and he was a huge factor in the success I had in my first Ironman.

Another group of people that must be mentioned falls into the category of training partners. These are the bloggers with whom I trained and raced during this season. One of these is George Schweitzer. I originally found The George's (inside joke) website and appreciated his detailed race reports. Over time, I learned quite a bit from visiting his site. And when he stayed with us during the High Cliff Ironman, I was absolutely amazed. He shared as much as he could from his experiences, and I learned an awful lot in those few short days. And as we've gotten to know each other, George has been a major source of moral support. His presence, both on-line and at races, has been a huge benefit.

Two others who raced High Cliff and became important pieces of the Ironman journey are Rural Girl and Iron Wil. Rural Girl is one of raceAthlete's greatest cheerleaders. I believe that one trait that she and I share is that watching others succeed is just as, if not more important than our own accomplishments. It will be an absolute thrill to watch her achieve her Ironman goals, and I'll be cheering extra loud for her in Madison.

Iron Wil, in the midst of her own training, went so far above and beyond the call of "team" when she put together the 2007 Wisconsin Ironman Brick Adventure. She deserves an immense amount of credit and thanks for her efforts, as do all those who worked with her on the project. Many of us will or already have experienced greater success because of the opportunities that training event presented.

Finally, I have to thank everyone who came along on this journey. I have tried to respond to comments when I have an e-mail address. Please know two things. First, just because a name isn't mentioned specifically in this post doesn't mean a lack of gratitude. It is mostly an attempt to keep this post somewhere less than twice as long as a typical and ridiculously long Academy Award acceptance speech. Second, I appreciate each and every visitor and value all of the comments you have left. Every comment ever received via e-mail is in a folder because each has a value of its own. In time, I will get back to each and every one of you, whether it's through e-mail or blog comments.

Finishing this Ironman is not the end of a journey. It is simply the start of another journey. A layover between different portions of this adventure called life. I thank you for your support and look forward to continuing the journey with all of you.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Voice from the Past

I received the following in an E-mail, today:

As you journey towards accomplishing an Ironman triathlon, there have been a great many steps along the way. Some good, some disappointing.

The start of the journey has been full of excitement and fun. Learning the ropes, meeting members of the TBC, and trying to register for IM MOO 2007 (missed it by THAT much). The idea of registering for a race a year away seemed odd, but you took the shot, anyway.

As the 2007 IM race in Madison approaches, you should be in full swing to participate as crew for Team raceAthlete. You will have the opportunity to join in the excitement. Make sure you are ready to sign up for 2008, and remember to write a new note for that race.

It takes a lot of work to forge iron. Don't lose track of where you started, where you are going, and how far you've already come.

I wrote this note last year after I was unable to register for IM Wisconsin, BEFORE learning about IM Louisville. I had it delivered by FutureMe as a reminder of what I was thinking that day and had already forgotten about it by the time I signed up for what became my first Ironman.

It's amazing how a few short days can change the perspective with which we view both the past and future.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

IM Louisville Race Report

Pre-race

As most already know, the days prior to Ironman Louisville were full of change and uncertainty. Before we even arrived in the area, it was already determined that both the swim course and the swim start would be changed. In addition, it was questionable whether wetsuits would be allowed. With fast currents in the river and water temps ranging from 83F to 87F, we faced uncertain swim conditions.

I took the days prior to the race to do all those things participants must do, rest, meet with other bloggers, and get in some practice swims. Those practice swims have been pretty well covered, and it’s sufficient to say they were challenging. On Saturday’s swim, I covered the out portion of the swim, about 750 yards, in about 20 minutes. The return took about 3 minutes. That was a common story as people completed their swims.

Between Gatorade swims and Friday’s dinner, I met up with Duane, Dying Water Buffalo, Go Mom Go, Mary Sunshine, Geek Girl and her Sweet Baboo, and Waddler 26.2. Everyone was truly awesome and it was great to see the support that everyone gave each other.
By Saturday night, we knew that wetsuits would be prohibited. We also knew we would have to hike about three-quarters of a mile upriver to reach the new swim start. After a slightly later than planned dinner, we got the kids into Grandma and Grandpa’s hotel room, and I went to bed around 9 p.m. I slept well and was up at 3:30 a.m. on Sunday ready to face the day.

After a quick breakfast, I made sure my wife and father-in-law were awake and ready, and we headed for transition around 4:45. Once there, I checked tires, taped gels onto the bike, loaded bottles, and got body marked. I dropped a few items off with my wife, turned in special needed, and chatted with Waddler and Go Mom Go. Soon enough, it was 6:30 and time to head for the swim start.

The Swim

I arrived at swim start to find there was already a long line for the time trial start. Event staff figured they would average one swimmer in the water every second, meaning it would still be roughly 30 minutes before the final swimmer hit the water. It was fairly calm in line as we waited for the race to begin. Just before 7 a.m. we heard the cannon sound for the pro start (the 30 or so professionals had a mass start). A short while later we heard the cannon sound for the age group start. Soon enough, the line began moving, and we quickly found ourselves on the pier where we would start the race.

A few minutes before hitting that point, the full realization of what was coming hit me, and I felt the first twinge of real nerves. I focused on my goggles, swim cap, and earplugs, and simply entered the water the way I entered the race in the first place. Feet first.

I quickly found a rhythm and drew upon the benefits from past races. Sighting was easy enough, and I was unconcerned with water clarity. I focused my attention on long smooth strokes, the bubbles from exhaling, and the trees I could see when breathing. I took the swim buoy by buoy and soon found myself moving past the head of the island. After that, it was a bit more challenging until I saw the police (or fire) boat that was at the turn-around point. After the turn, I focused on exaggerated strokes until I realized the current was less pronounced as close as we were to the island. Shifting back to a standard stroke, I turned my attention to swimming as straight a line as possible toward the swim finish.

Just over 90 minutes later, I exited the water and headed toward transition. I found my wife and father-in-law on the 150 yard run, reminded her to call Tri Daddy, and let her know the swim went as well as I could have hoped. After a quick change to cycling gear, I grabbed my back and headed out for the ride.

The Bike

I hit the bike with the initial goal of getting my heart rate under control. It was at this point that the true effectiveness of Coach Mike’s swim focus became apparent. After 2.4 miles in the river, much of it upstream, it took only a couple minutes to get into zone two. After 15 minutes, I started my nutrition and hydration plan, and settled in for the long ride.

Soon enough, it became apparent that “slightly rolling hills” and “easier than IM Wisconsin’s course” might have been slight understatements. We experienced some significant hills as we headed toward the out and back spur that came before the LaGrange loop. On that out and back stretch, we rode down and then out of two valleys. On the first, I hit 44 miles per hour and kept thinking, “I have to bike back up that hill.” After reaching the bottom, we headed back up, only to see riders coming the other way who were easily doing 35 mph. We would do that a second time, as we descended into and climbed out of another valley. At the top of the second big climb, we hit an aid station and then the turn-around point.

After going through those valleys a second time, it was time to make the two circuits of the LaGrange Loop. This part of the course was indeed beautiful, and we passed through a couple areas that were packed with spectators. The city of LaGrange turned out a wonderful group that lined the streets cheering on the riders. And the aid stations were staffed by wonderful volunteers who obviously paid attention in the briefings as they went above and beyond to assist the racers.

The biggest challenge of the two loop course was the relentless nature of the hills. While thousand-yard, 12% grades were absent, the hills were non-stop. We spent the entire 112 miles of the course going up one hill and down another. There were few chances to take on nutrition on a flat section. And even the downhill stretches quickly turned back into uphill sections. Finding a rhythm was nearly impossible.

Still, I made it through the entire course with few issues. I didn’t flat out at all, I made it through most of my nutrition plan, and the four pit stops to relieve my bladder proved I was staying hydrated. A short 6 hours and 20 minutes later, I hopped off the bike and headed into T2. After another quick change, I loaded up my Amphipod bottles with Gatorade and water and headed out for a few loops up and down Louisville’s Third Street.

The Run

The biggest guidance Coach Mike had for the run was to really focus on going out slow. After spending hours on the bike, it is too easy to take off on the run and click off a bunch of fast miles, only to blow up a short way into the marathon. After a 9 minute first mile, I reigned in the pace even more, and fell into a fairly steady rhythm of 10 minute miles. That kept my heart rate in the 140 range, right where I wanted it.

At every aid station I grabbed cups of water for cooling. Most of my hydration came from the bottles I carried. When they were empty, I would fill them up at the next aid station. I noticed, however, that my stomach was a bit bloated, and I knew that the hills on the bike had seriously limited my body’s ability to process the calories I was taking in. Around mile 5, I ate what would be my only Gu of the marathon.

I kept putting the miles behind me, and was feeling good until mile 14. That was where things unraveled for a bit. Unable to really take in more food or drink, I was running low of energy, and I wanted to avoid a serious bonk. I eased off the pace and started walking for what would end up being five miles. That was also where I saw my wife, kids, and in-laws. Getting to see my kids provided a good boost, and I managed to run a bit with B-Boy. He wanted to run the rest of the race with me, and it took some time to convince him that 12 miles might be a bit much for him.

Just into that stretch of walking, participant number 1641, Rebecca Roan of Effingham, Illinois caught up with me. She started talking to me, and we walked and talked, motivating each other to continue toward the end. That time allowed my body to clear some of the food stuck in my gut, as well as a bit more I managed to eat. The conversation also took my mind off the condition of my body and focused it on more important issues such as my family, how well I was doing, and what strength I did have left.

At mile 19, I thanked Rebecca for pushing me along and headed out on my own. I figured that if I could find a way to get back somewhere near those 10-minute miles, I could finish with a pretty good marathon time and get pretty close to 13 hours for the race.

I continued to take on what fluids I could, balancing Gatorade with water. As the sun went down, I found myself heading back into town with only a few miles left. I started thinking about all the people who had given their support and everyone who was watching my progress, both on the course and on the computer.

Shortly (though nowhere near soon enough), I made the turn that signaled the end was very near. Up one block and a right turn onto Fourth Street and I would be an Ironman. As I made the final turn, I saw the split that had been so hard to take the first time around. This time, I knew I would get to take the “Finish” path and enter the finisher’s chute. I barely heard anything. If music was playing, I couldn’t hear it. I know they announced my name, but only because others told me they did. All my attention was focused on the finish arch, looking for my family, and somehow staying upright. I didn’t see the family I knew was there, and crossed the finish line with my arms in the air, just the way I teach my kids to triumph in personal victories. That was five hours and two minutes after I started running.

Two catchers grabbed my arms, congratulated me, and started guiding me through the finish line process. They kept asking if I was alright, and I kept assuring them I was fine. After seeing a picture my father-in-law took, I realized why they kept asking. My understanding of their question was “Do you need medical attention?” I saw no need for an IV or other medical assistance, so told them I was okay. I think their question was more on the lines of “If we were to let go of you, right now, would you fall on your face?” And the answer to that would have been a resounding “Yes.” That much is obvious from the pictures we have. And after 13 hours and 12 minutes, I guess exhausted is a reasonable state in which to be.

Soon enough, though, I regained a bit of balance and was able to move along on my own. After rejoining my wife and father-in-law, I remembered to stop my watch. I grabbed a phone to make a few important phone calls, though most of it was a fog. I let Tri Daddy know I was finished so he could make the final post. I called my mom who let me know that she watched me finish on Ironman Live. And I called Coach Mike to tell him how well things went.

Believe it or not, this is the short version of the race report. There is so much to cover that there will be other posts coming. I’ll try to cover some of the more detailed points of each leg of the race, including a few humorous post-race details. Those posts will also give me a chance to reflect on a few of the more philosophical moments of the race. Or maybe they’ll just give me a chance to be even more long-winded about the course.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Honey Do List

I want to thank everyone for the positive thoughts while I was on the IMKY course, and for all the awesome comments throughout the day. It really helped, and there must have been some prayers to help a tired runner, because shortly after I started walking at mile 14, Rebecca Roan (#1641) of Effingham, Illinois came up alongside me. She was on her first lap, and started walking at mile 3. We walked to mile 16 (four for her), and she said she was "walking one, running one," and I joined her. That "run one" was bit short, and we kept on going. At mile 19, our conversation had taken my mind off the condition of my body, and I decided to see what I could manage by way of a run. She really salvaged my marathon, so all of you who were throwing up prayers, know they were answered.

It's late after a long day getting home, and I have work in the morning. So, here's my "to do" list for the next few days.

First is an "Executive Summary" of the race. That will be the short version of how the day went with some of the "need to know" details. After that, expect a rather lengthy "thanks to" post. That will be something like the Academy Awards speeches where you wonder why rotten vegetables aren't more plentiful. After that will come the full blown race reports in all their glory. There is a lot to get straight in my head before I can get it all on paper.

In the video of the 2006 Ironman World Championships, Faris al Sultan comments that he doesn't really remember crossing the finish line in 2005 when he won the race. Hearing that in the week prior to Louisville, I didn't understand. Now, I do (and have the pictures to prove it's probably true). Sure, I remember the lights and general setting. But there's no song running through my head. I only vaguely recall them saying my name. I just remember the finish line, and really wanting to be on the other side of it. I remember the long tunnel of darkness with a bright light at the end. Fitting that the end of a race that leaves you filling dead looks like that.

So, give me a couple days of less detailed posts, and then I'll give you more details of the Iron Pol perspective of Ironman Louisville than you ever wanted to know.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

It's Official!!!

I just spoke with IronPol who was feeling great!!

He forgot to stop his watch (don't we all!) at the finish but ran somewhere close to a 5:02 marathon for a rocking unofficial time of 13 hours and 12 minutes!!!

It was a great race as IronPol held his pace right up until mile 15, when he ran out steam a bit. He found someone to walk with for a few miles before pulling it together for the final 6 miles with an awesome pace to the finish.

Congratulations IronPol! You are truly "Iron" Pol tonight. Now, IronPol is off for some food and well-deserved recovery time with the Pol family.

Ironman!

I heard a quick call out to IronPol about 13:46 but couldn't make him out on the live feed.

Unofficially IronPol. IS. AN. IRONMAN!!!!

Update from Mrs. Pol!

Mrs. Pol. saw IronPol with about 6 miles to go and he was looking strong. If he keeps his pace he should be crossing the line in about 30 minutes. Mrs. Pol is making her way to the finish with B-Boy and Monster Girl as we speak. It's only a matter of time!

A 10K to Go!

Only a 10K separates IronPol from his first Ironman finish! Time to turn on the live video and wait for his finish. Go IronPol go!

16 Miles Down!

IronPol is a the 16 mile mark and is maintaining a strong pace. 16 miles down... keep it up IronPol!!

Rockin' the Course!

IronPol just finished the bike with a 6:20 split! About ten minutes faster than his best prediction! The temperature has been in the mid 80's but hopefully it will start to cool down a bit as he tackles the run... the strongest part of his game. Go IronPol!

Stay tuned for an update from Mrs. Pol!

Update from Mrs. IronPol!

Mrs. Pol says IronPol was looking great coming out of the water. Given his swim background he should be happy to be on the bike and start that nutrition plan to help him make it through the course with today's expected high temperatures.

The grandparents are in town to help watch B-Boy and Monster Girl so Iron Pol and Mrs. Pol have some great support to help them with their long day.

Stay tuned for more updates!

Speedy Transition

IronPol is out on the bike course with a speedy sub 7 minute transition!

Out of the Water!!

All those hours and yards in the pool really paid off for IronPol!! He is out of the water with a solid swim time of 1:31:01. Keep it up Buddy!

Ready, Set, Go!

Good morning everyone! Tarheeltri here...

The race is slated to start in a few minutes. For those not following along on the official Ironman site, there's a big change to announce. Because of high rainfall upstream, resulting in faster currents, the swim course has been modified. IronPol will now start the swim in a time trial start, swimming upstream for a short distance in a channel protected from the major current, then turn back downstream where he'll swim with the current for the remainder of the swim. It looks like it will work to his advantage and allow for a faster swim time.

Our thoughts are with you IronPol and family! Good luck!

Stay tuned for more updates as the race progresses!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Twas the Night Before Ironman...

The last I spoke with IronPol he was parking his car somewhere in Louisville. As a father of two small children myself, I knew it was time to wrap things up so he could attend to his kids. It reminded me of my last conversation with the Kahuna after I became an Ironman in Panama City Beach. I wanted to talk more with the Kahuna, but as big as becoming an Ironman is, there were two more important things needing my attention in the back seats of our minivan: my children Claudia and Carson.

Tomorrow, IronPol will take on one of the, if not the biggest athletic challenges of his life. Accompanying this accountant and former Navy man on his journey will be his wife and two small children, strikingly familar to a former accountant and Marine who set out in the Gulf of Mexico last November seeking the same prize: an Ironman Title.

During the course of his training, the posts that resonated loudest with me were not about his yards, miles, or minutes, but about his trying to get a child to sleep at 3 am the morning of a big workout, or dealing with his children's colds while trying not to catch one himself. I don't know IronPol well enough to say we are similar, but the circumstances in which we trained certainly are, and based on the support of his wife and love of his children and his dedication to them as well as his training, I know that sometime tomorrow evening, IronPol and I will share another similarity...

So, tune in tomorrow or later this morning to follow my updates on the last leg of IronPol's journey to Ironman!

Timing

Have you ever experienced something where the only thing you can say is, "Wow! That's REALLY bad timing."

A classic example is discovering a pimple right in the middle of your forehead the morning of prom (or any other major life event).

The good news is I don't have a pimple. And somehow, at nearly 39 years old, it is bizarre that there is even a need to address pimples. That, however, is another post.

The "something" that I'm dealing with is a ruptured ear drum. Either I've encountered a fluke of reality, or the rumored hazards associated with water in the Ohio River are true. Yesterday's Gatorade Swim resulted in a bit more than increased comfort with the swim course.

Luckily, ruptured ear drums are nothing new, to me. Because of a cleft palate as a child, ear infections are just a fact of life. The constant use of drainage tubes as a child and young adult left my ear drums perforated and weak. Between water skiing, scuba diving (which I'm now medically disqualified from doing), and diving at the pool, I've ruptured my ear drums numerous times. I'll just have to pay a visit to my ENT after the race. He can determine which part of my patchwork ears have been destroyed, now.

In the end, it will be a bit of an inconvenience and perhaps somewhat annoying. Nowhere near as devestating as a zit in the middle of your forehead the day of prom.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Endless Pool

I don't have the ability to post the video, but trust me when I say that today's Gatorade Swim in the Ohio River was interesting. The comment heard most often when describing the swim was "Endless Pool." And for the upstream portions, that's exactly what it was.

It was incredible watching the swimmers trying to make headway and getting nowhere. And watching people going downstream at an incredible clip without taking a single stroke. At our blogger dinner, the concensus was that the swim change was the right choice.

After checking in, we hit the expo for a short bit, and I managed to walk about about $150 lighter, the proud owner of some sharp looking IM Louisville attire.

And now, since my daughter is taking her clothes and dancing, I have to sign off.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Amazingly, this race has already warranted a post detailing the situations that fall into the good, bad, and ugly categories.

In the good AND bad category, they have determined the current is likely to be too strong for the original swim course to be used. Heavy rainfall is predicted to increase water flow even further. So, there will be a few changes.

First, the "upstream" portion of the swim will be in a more protected portion of the stream. And the downstream portion will be a larger percentage of the total swim. It will, however, now be a counterclockwise swim. Bad news for those of us who breathe to the right.

Second, they have been measuring water temperatures, and current temps are about 87F. For those unfamiliar with USAT rules, wetsuits are prohibited in water temps over 84F. I've done 5000 yard swims without a wetsuit. It appears I may get to do my first Ironman the same way. The final determination will be made Sunday morning. Fun.

Finally, due to the nature of the area where the swim will start, we will be starting a bit differently than your normal Ironman. To minimize congestion, this race will be a time trial start. Each racer will cross a timing mat at the beginning, and they will start us in "expected time" order, going every couple seconds. More fun.

So, the good is that I'm here. It appears my worries over the mass swim start have been alleviated. The bad is that I'll be swimming the wrong way. The ugly is that we may not be able to wear our wetsuits.

The race hasn't even started and the bizarre stories are presenting themselves.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Heading Out

Well, it's WAY past my bedtime, but there were things to do. The Pol-R Express now looks presentable and race ready. Most of the stuff is packed and ready for the car. And the house is ready for us to be gone for a few days.

I'm off to bed, and up early for a short stint at work in the morning. We pick up the rental car at 8 a.m. and will head out as soon as it is packed.

The next post you read here will be from the road or from the guest blogger. I'm still not telling who it is.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Play By Play

In a few days I'm going to be horribly busy. First, there will be the drive to Louisville. A 10-hour trip in the best of conditions, we'll be doing it with two toddlers. They're troopers, so it should be a good trip, but we're planning on the trip taking longer than it might otherwise take.

Once we get to Louisville, there is check-in, gear bag packing, bike check, tri-blogger dinners, practice swims, and a general mess of other things to handle. FYI, the tri-blogger group looks to be pretty major. There should be upwards of 20-30 people between participants, sherpas, family, volunteers, and other cheerleaders somehow associated with the Tri Blog Community. Getting to meet everyone without breaking the coach's designated curfew will prove interesting.

On Sunday, there's this little race thing I'll be tackling. Since that promises to take most of the day, and blogging probably won't be high on my "to do" list when I'm through, I've made other arrangements.

Starting as early as tomorrow, a guest blogger will have access to the controls here at Iron Pol central. Now, I won't ruin the surprise by telling you who he is, let's just suffice it to say he has the experience to know what might be happening throughout the day. I imagine he'll post soon enough so you can find out just who will be filling this post. Between his blogging skill and Mrs. Pol's phone updates, you'll have all the scary details on race day.

And now, there is a young lady that needs to find her way to bed, and daddy has the honors.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

At No Point

At no point in the first 37 years of my life did I ever plan on becoming an Ironman. In fact, it can be safely said that at no point in the first 35 years of my life did I ever plan on even becoming a marathoner. And, yet, here we are.

Seven days and a wake up away from Ironman Louisville, arguably one of the toughest days I will ever face in my life. Apparently, planning and doing aren't necessarily mutually inclusive.

It's been a long journey from there to here. After 10 years in the Navy and three years of college, I was overweight and out of shape. I was pushing 220 pounds, wearing size 38 pants that were starting to get tight, and suffering from an array of weight related issues. Another list of things I never planned.

The next twist of fate on the journey was being diagnosed with sarcoidosis. A benign enough condition, it did put me into the care of a pulmonary specialist that asked me to run a few miles a couple times each week to monitor pulmonary function. Despite a general hatred of running, I followed the doctors orders, and those occassional short runs turned into more frequent runs of longer distances. While I didn't gain a love of running, I did gain an appreciation of the challenges of being a runner.

Over a period of years, those distances started adding up, and I racked up several half-marathon finishes, and signed up for my first marathon. Oddly enough, it was the near ridicule of a co-worker that pushed me into that first full marathon race. His comments motivated me to sign up for a race, regardless of whether I finished it. The goal was to at least start it.

Even after completing numerous full marathons, the concept of doing a triathlon never entered my mind until I was challenged by a group of 8th graders to do one. And that was sort of like being double dog dared to eat worms. No matter how difficult the task might be, it must be done.

It wasn't until Roman Mica and the other founders of raceAthlete started talking about the opportunity to "Train Like a Professional" that I considered signing up for an Ironman. Wisconsin, that is. The irony is how upset I was after being unable to register for IM MOO. I was angry about being unable to sign up for an event I never planned on running. Go figure!

Enter IM Louisville. After missing Wisconsin, the opportunity presented by a brand new race seemed like an early Christmas present. And so, here we are.

In just over 7 days, I will toe the line in Louisville, Kentucky with about 2500 other triathletes. I will be wearing bib number 1675. And I will do all I can to set a good precedent for future athletes wearing that number in Louisville. Since we don't have historic information for this race, I went to some of the other races from this year.

CDA - M45-49, 14:01:07, Overall place, 1401
USA - M45-49, 11:27:04, Overall place, 324
Arizona - M45-49, 11:49:33, Overall place 466

That's some pretty good company. If I fall somewhere between the fastest and slowest times, I'll consider it an amazing day. If I continue the streak and finish the race, I'll call it a great day.

If Athlete Tracker is up for Louisville (far from a given, at this point), you'll be able to track my progress there. In addition, there will be a special guest blogger making periodic updates on this site via phone updates from Mrs. Pol.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Dress Rehearsal

Long ago, far before there was any hint of Iron Pol, there was another entity. Let's just call him Drama Geek Pol. This was one of my many roles in high school. You know, debate geek, forensics geek, drama geek. Oh yeah, I played football, too.

Any good performer knows that every show has its big dress rehearsal. The final chance to practice the performance without having an audience to see the little mistakes that are bound to happen. And any good performer knows that dress rehearsals rarely go perfectly. In fact, it is rare for ANY performance to be flawless. The key is to make it LOOK flawless. That's why it's called acting.

Fast forward about 20 years, and I'm still doing dress rehearsals. Today was the final big test run prior to Ironman Louisville. Though short of last weeks fiasco training, today's workout was an opportunity to redeem myself, and get that final boost of confidence about putting all three disciplines together. In short, a 5000 yard swim, a 90 mile bike, and a 30-minute run off.

Today, there were no map issues. There were no nutrition and hydration issues (well, at least as far as actually having it). There were no missing gear issues. The entire workout was completed and I've proven that I can get off the bike and start running.

Still, it was a dress rehearsal. So it is a given that there were lessons learned. Like the dropped line or missed entry that is bound to plague any theatrical performance, I experienced things that remind me that there is always room for improvement.

The two most problematic issues that I see center on my toes when biking and dehydration. The toe issue has me perplexed. And anyone who has some suggestions, feel free to start giving them. Every time I get up over 60-70 miles on the bike, my feet start to burn. Until today, I thought it was a function of rubbing. Now, I know the real cause. My toes are having circulation cut off and going numb. Basically, they are falling asleep. After hours of this, they start to feel like they are on fire. If I stop, remove my shoes, and massage the toes to get blood flowing again, I'll be fine for another chunk of miles. Unfortunately, the number of miles is far less than that first 50, closer to 20. Part of me says to leave the straps looser, but I know that can't be the proper solution. Besides opening me up to rubbing and blistering, power transfer to the pedals will be affected. So, I'm at a loss. Other than stopping on the course every few hours, I don't know what to do.

The other issue is more problematic. I'm taking in the fluids, but know that I'm being affected by electrolyte levels, primarily sodium. However, all the sodium pills I've found are too large for me to swallow. And just in case anyone is considering it, don't bother taking a sodium capsule apart and dumping it into a bottle of sports drink. That just makes a salty, nasty sports drink. Gatorade apparently makes a solution called GatorLytes, but they're only available through sports nutritionists. Unless they're handing them out at Louisville, that option is out.

So, again, anyone have any bright ideas. I'm at a loss. The one positive I do have is that I've been training with Gatorade and now Accelerade. On the course, they'll have Gatorade Endurance, which has a much higher sodium concentration. I'll also put some high sodium snacks in my special needs bag. If anyone knows of a good alternative to pills, I'd appreciate the suggestions.

In the end, the big performance is little different than a dress rehearsal. There will be more people watching. And there will be more tech support for the performers. But there are bound to be some mistakes. When they occur, what matters most is the response. As an actor, I learned to adapt to whatever was happening on the stage. Cover others who make mistakes. Change stage directions if the rehearsed actions won't work. But above all, don't let the audience know that something just went wrong.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Training Partners

Triathlon is designed to be an individual sport. By its very nature, it tends to be so. The training required to complete a triathlon, particularly longer races, lends itself to solo workouts. With the exception of specific races, drafting is prohibited on the bike, forcing us to ride our own race. And even when we run next to hundreds of others, we must go the distance alone.

Due to my schedule, I tend to do a lot of my training alone, as well. While there are others in the pool when I swim, it's difficult to be social with my face in the water. I can occassionally find others with whom I can ride bike, but those options become more limited as the distances increase. And I've always been a solitary runner. (Unless I'm helping someone through their first marathon, then I'm all about running together).

This doesn't mean that I don't have training partners. Much of my sidebar is filled with the raceAthlete sponsors. Some of them I actively use. Others are there for me to consider. My tri club is full of people I will meet up with during races. And I participated in WIBA 2007 with dozens of other tri bloggers.

Now, I'm adding a new group to my sidebar for actual training partners. It will be dedicated to those things outside of raceAthlete that have contributed to my training. They have provided some product, tool, or service (sometimes free of cost) that has greatly aided in my journey.

The first two companies that I am adding are Accelerade and SwimSmooth. I agreed to try Accelerade and provide some feedback. I've used it for several weeks, now, and it was the fuel source for my recent half-IM PR. I'll be posting more on it as time allows, and I have several articles on their Accelerade Edge web forum. I have been quite pleased with the benefits of the product, and suggest you check out their site.

Months ago, I posted a short clip from Paul Newsome's SwimSmooth video series. The specific clip focused on visualization and showed Olympic gold-medal swimmer Bill Kirby in the pool. Paul contacted me, provided a few articles he thought might also benefit my training. His short video clip was beneficial, and the video series is amazing. A couple minor adjustments made after watching the DVDs already improved my stroke. And I plan on spending a great deal of time in the off season (a few short weeks away) going through all the drills on the videos to see how much more improvement is possible. Whether you are a total novice or highly experienced swimmer, the SwimSmooth series is worth checking out. We spend so many dollars trying to eek a few seconds out of our bikes, and a few dollars will go a long way toward improving our swim times, often saving far more time than we gain by shaving a few ounces off our bikes.

So, keep an eye out for other Training Partners in the sidebar. While we might train and race on our own, we always have those training partners who help us along.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Bonus 20% and a Reserve Chute

I woke up, this morning, ready to put my Ironman game plan to the test. With my swim workout scheduled to begin at six o'clock, I was up at 3 a.m. to have breakfast consisting of a bagel and sports drink. Then, I went back to bed to get a bit more sleep before my alarm went off at 5:15.

I loaded up my gear and headed to the pool for the first big test of the day. I had a 5000 yards straight swim on tap, a long awaited test of just how much my swimming has improved. Things went fairly well, though I felt sluggish in the water. I did complete all 5000 yards, despite my desire to call it a day after about 2500. I talked my way through the rest in 500 yard increments. After getting to 3000, "it's just two more 500 yard sets to get to 4000." After hitting 4000, it was "only 225 to complete a full Ironman swim," at which point "I may as well finish that 500." And then, "it's just one last set to complete the full workout."

It worked. I checked my watch when I touched the wall after 4225. One hour, 32 minutes, and that was with an extra yard. I'll take it, considering my "good day" estimate is an hour, 35 minutes. The full 5000 yards took about an hour, 51 minutes.

After a quick shower to wash off the chlorine, I threw on my cycling clothes for part two of the test. I met some tri club kids for a quick 15-mile loop, and then headed off for the rest of my 7 1/2 hour ride. I had downloaded a map someone local had entered onto MapMyRide, figuring his 103 miles with the 15 I did with the kids would make a reasonable workout. I would come to regret that decision. A lot. Numerous times. All the way to the bitter end.

The ride started out well enough. I had 16 gels taped to the top tube of The Pol-R Express, two bottles of sports drink, and one bottle of water. I planned on refueling along the way as needed. Given Coach Mike's suggestion that I significantly increase my fluid intake, I figured I'd need to stop several times.

It didn't take long to find out just out badly screwed up the maps Google provided for this ride are. Starting fairly early in the ride, and repeatedly throughout the ride, I found myself wondering from just what decade the maps had come. Some roads detailed on the map didn't exist at all. Others seemed to have different names. And sometimes, the maps were right. That was when I would find there were no street signs identifying the road. Luckily, I was always able to find roads that would get me back to where I needed to be, or find a road with which I was familiar.

That does not, however, mean that I didn't pay a price for the poor data.

I don't know exactly how many extra miles I put on due to the confusion, but do know it was considerable. I'm also unsure if there were refueling locations I missed, but through the entire ride, I only came across one gas station, and that was one I got to on my own. I had completely screwed up, as evidenced by the fact that I found a road I DID know. I also knew it was at least 15 miles away from where I wanted to be. I took some roads I knew, and made sure I hit the gas station.

After refueling, I headed out, only to run into one issue after another. I kept on spinning, and eventually got to a point I have biked, before. At that point, I was torn. Head off on my own and find my own route (which would take me off the route I gave my wife), or stay with the downloaded route. I opted to take the planned route.

Hey, I never said I was a genius.

After a few more missing signs and non-existent roads, I went with general directions. You know, "This road takes me in the general direction I'd like to go. I'll follow it, even though I have no idea where I am." That got me to a road I wanted, though I had to take a wild guess at which way to head. Hey, 50/50 chance to get it right.

Did I mention that I was a nuclear operator in the Navy? And nukes are subject to the 50/50/90 rule? That says that given a 50/50 choice, nukes get it wrong 90% of the time. Well, this wasn't a 10 percenter. I went through a little town and said, "Hmmm, which side of the street is that cheese factory on if I'm heading AWAY from home?" And kept on going. Another one in the 90% category. Soon enough, I saw a sign advertising a business in a city I didn't really want to visit for the second time, today.

That made the decision of which way to go much easier. Too bad I'd covered about five miles to get the information. Turn around, and head back. And realize I've run out of fuel for the second time of the day.

At that point, I made the decision to call my wife and find out a few things. No answer. Cell phone, same result. Alright, go to dad. Answering machine. Well, mom's in Florida, but the she's bailed me out, before. A quick call and I learned I was somewhere between 15 and 20 miles from my car.

Nice, since the cycling computer already showed 7:44 and 130 miles. With my hands shaking from the impending total bonk, I called my wife, again, and finally got through. "Hey, I need you to come get me." With her asking the questions, I managed to explain where I was and how she could get there. Then, I told her I'd keep biking toward her and try to get to a gas station I knew should be about five miles down the road.

I made the gas station with 136.9 miles total for the trip. I barely managed to get some milk and pretzels before my wife showed up. Not bad considering I went five miles and she went something like thirty.

Needless to say, I had to scrap my 30-minute run off. Which angered me more than having to call for a bail out. I really wanted that run as a confidence booster. Still, after swimming about 20% more than the IM swim, and biking an extra 20% , I had to think safety.

There is, however, a lot of good news. Despite all the difficulties and including the various stops, I completed the trip in 8 hours 5 minutes, for an average pace just under 17 miles per hour. I passed 112 miles somewhere between 6:15 and 6:30, and nearly all the stops were before that. My nutrition was going well, and one of the reasons I kept running out of fuel is that I was staying well ahead of my normal bottle every two hours pace. And bonking after a two hour swim and eight hour, nearly unsupported bike is not unheard of.

So, despite the brutal finish, it was a good day. I learned a lot, and have some ideas about what is doable in Louisville. And I know that after the swim and first 112 miles on the bike, I could have got off and started the marathon. Given the far superior support of the IM course, today's fiasco doesn't shake my confidence. It does, however, strengthen my resolve. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING is going to stop me from getting off my bike and starting to run in Louisville.

And we'll have to wait 22 days to know exactly how that turns out.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Into the Forge

An alternative title for this post could be "Deja Vu, All Over Again!" I'm fairly certain this has been a recurring theme throughout the past 10 months.

I woke up this morning tired. It isn't so much the training that has me wore out. It's Vacation Bible School. Getting up at 4:30 a.m. is something to which I've grown accustom. Running out the door for training as soon as I get home is also familiar.

Running out the door to get to VBS, helping there until 8:15, fighting kids into cars, and battling with B-Boy and Monster Girl to get them into bed two hours late, not so much.

So, when I woke up this morning, no sooner had I made it to the bathroom then I decided that today was a good day to reset the alarm clock and go back to sleep. After two swim sessions, yesterday (my normal session and training with tri club kids), the last thing I wanted to do was get back into the pool. And the sleep would do me good.

Then, I put on my swimsuit, grabbed my gear, and headed out the door. Ironman is less than four weeks out, and I can sleep after I've crossed the finish line. There's very little forging of iron accomplished by sleeping through training sessions.

And at the end of the day, it was a VERY good swim session.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Running Down the Dream

After a near miss at taking out another rider at the dismount line (challenging, being at the bottom of a hill), I blazed into T2 ready to run down the 10 minutes I lost on the bike course. While I knew that I could subtract the time from my overall total, part of me was thinking how cool it would be to beat my target time after helping change a tire. And while I stink at math in the pool, I can calculate some fairly complex figures on the run.

In this case, I knew that my 8:30/mile pace was insufficient. To get under the original time target of 5:30 for the race, I would have to run closer to eight flat. After grabbing my run gear, which included my trusty hat and my Amphipod, I took off for the run exit.

Almost immediately out of transition, the single hill of the course tried to stop runners right in their tracks. Primarily flat, the first section heads down to the beach then back up to road level. After a determined jog up the hill, I was off to the races.

At the first mile marker, my time was about 7m50s. I liked the pace, but knew I couldn't maintain it. I eased off and found a pace around 8m10s. I felt good, and my heart rate was under control. At every aid station, I downed a bit of water and threw at least on cup over my head. Climate control at its best.

Somewhere between miles three and four, near the turn-around point, I saw George Schweitzer. He quickly hit the turn (of his second loop) and passed me up. He was looking strong as can be, and we chatted briefly about the race before he took off up the road.

The miles were flying by, and I was staying fairly close to the 8 min/mile I would need to break 5:30. I knew it would be close, and it would depend on how things went on the second loop, but I had some hope. When I hit the end of the first loop, I knew just how close. That loop took 52 minutes, leaving me somewhere around 51 minutes to achieve my goal. A tall order.

Knowing that making 5:30 would require not just a negative split, but a half-marathon PR (at the end of a half-IM, no less), I eased off just a bit, and decided to make the final decision at the 10 mile mark. The last 5K would make or break me.

Twice during the run I saw Iron Wil. Late in my first loop, and again around the 11 mile mark. The first time, I told her how strong she looked. The second time, I managed a "Hey Tracy" after she yelled as I passed her. She was doing great, and urged me on.

With 5K left, I knew my goal was possible, though highly unlikely. I had something like 23 minutes left to cover 3.1 miles, requiring a near seven minute pace. Following the advice of Coach Mike, I put it all on the line. I was going for broke.

Aid stations were flying by. I grabbed what I could and most of the water was for cooling purposes only. I drank what I could, but at the pace I was keeping, that was little. Soon enough, I passed the 12 mile mark and started the run through the zoo. I knew that the other side would leave only the short sprint to the finish line.

As I hit the final stretch to the finish, I glanced at my watch and saw 5:30 come and go. I would miss that target, though by the slimmest of margins. As I crossed the finish line, I remembered to do what I always tell my son. I threw up my arms in victory. Victory because I had finished the race. Victory because regardless of my place, I had won. And victory because regardless of time, I had beat my previous best.

Once again, there at the finish line was George. He had finished nearly an hour earlier, and was still there to see his friends cross the finish line.

A post-script to the race is appropriate, here. Prior to the race, Coach Mike sent an e-mail I received after getting home from the race. He suggested I push a bit harder on the run than I originally planned. I did accomplish that task, though for the wrong reasons. I was duly chastised for radically altering my race plan for the sole purpose of gaining some time back. Adjusting a plan for changing conditions or odd situations is one thing, and every good race plan has contingencies for various circumstances. Attempting to "make up time" shouldn't be one of them. I was lucky, and have to remember not to push that luck.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Flat? No Thanks, I Already Have One!

I headed up the beach toward T1, completely missing James, Iron Wil's husband. Though sad that I missed him, I'm glad he was there to capture the pictures he did. At least I found my family. I always keep an eye out for them on the course.

After a quick hug and kiss for all, I headed into transition. I was already removing the swim gear as I sat down, turning my attention to the wetsuit. All the while, I was talking to the kids letting them know what was happening. Soon enough, I was ready to head out onto the bike. I ran out of transition, ready for 56 miles of testing my limits. The plan was to push more aggressively than I had at High Cliff, and my goal was 2:50 with an average pace of 20 mph. This was also an opportunity to compare heart rate data against that from the High Cliff half-IM.
Straight out of transition, we headed up a short, steep hill. After that, it was a great deal of flat with some rolling hills. I quickly got my heart rate under 130, and started setting pace based on a 130-140 rate. I easily hit 20+ and locked in a cadence of about 95 rpm. The course was fairly well laid out, with a few bothersome turns. They had cones plainly identifying the course throughout the more urban areas, and even had road hazards painted orange. This was a huge help in seeing bad things coming.
After ten minutes, I began my nutrition plan which consisted of a Gu every 30 minutes, Accelerade, and water. In a fit of overzealous preparation, I had taped eight Gu packets to The Pol-R Express before I stopped myself, realizing this was "only" a 56 mile ride. It seems I was on auto pilot and preparing for the more standard 5-6 hour rides I've been doing lately. With that many gels, I was ready for anything.
Through mile 20 I was just ahead of my target pace. Between miles 20 and 30, knowing I was a few minutes ahead of pace, I made a pit stop for the porta potty and to refill my water bottle. I had gone through two bottles, and wanted to stay on pace for 1 1/2-2 bottles every hour. Around mile 30, I realized that was going to be rough. One of the bottles I picked for the race was a piece of junk. The top was hard to open, and even when it was open, more of the drink oozed out the cap than made it into my mouth. That will teach me to use anything other than my favorite bottles. To make up for the Accelerade I was missing, I grabbed a bottle of water at every aid station and downed it.
Through miles 40 and 45, I was right on target for my 20 mph goal. At mile 48, I passed another racer standing by the side of the road with a tire in her hand. I stopped to see if she needed a CO2 cartridge or spare tube. What she really needed was someone to change her tire. She had all the gear, but had never changed a tube, herself. She said her bike shop always fixed flats, and told her to just take the equipment and let SAG support change any flats. I hope she finds a new bike shop. One that will encourage her to learn as much about her bike as possible. SAG support was lacking on the course. In the time it took to change her tire, we saw exactly zero support vehicles.
About 7-8 minutes later, her flat was changed and we were both on the road. I quickly picked up the pace and started passing some of the hundreds of racers who had passed me while I worked. I was unable to make up all the time, and went into T2 with a bike time of 2:53 for an average pace of 19.4 mph. Not bad, considering my target time was 2:50.
I had gained a lot of bike karma, but I had lost a lot of time. I headed into T2 formulating a plan to get me time back.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Spirit of Racine Half-IM Part I

On the 80's show "The A-Team," Colonel Hannibal Smith always made the comment, "I love it when a plan comes together." We never got to see how he might react when a plan DIDN'T come together. But this weekend, I got to experience how it feels.

The plan for Saturday was to drive to Racine early enough to get checked in for the race, do a short bike ride and swim, and check into the hotel plenty early to do anything that might come up in the evening. That was the plan. Of course, any parent can probably tell you that plans are meant to be destroyed.

By the time Mrs. Pol returned from a morning of errands, all my gear was ready to be packed into the car, B-Boy was dressed and mostly packed, and I was gathering items for Monster Girl. Shortly after my wife joined the effort, it got awfully quiet and she asked where our daughter had gone. I headed to the dining room, figuring she was up on the table causing trouble. I was wrong.

She was in our bedroom causing trouble. She had found and somehow opened a bottle of blue nail polish. That was promptly dumped out, primarily onto the leg of a handy stuffed bear (an anniversary gift my son had made a few years ago). Monster Girl then started using the brush to paint. Herself. Blue.

While my wife freaked out, and I grabbed our daughter to get her out of the way. It took nearly 30 minutes with cotton balls and nail polish remover to get her clean. She had polish on her feet, chest, arms, legs, stomach, and face. Thankfully, she didn't get any into her hair. By the time the mess was completely cleaned, we were all a little high from the fumes. And we were nearly two hours behind schedule.

By the time we got to Racine, I had enough time find the check in location, pick up my packet, drive to the bike check location, and drop the bike off. Due to the delays, a few minor changes to the "not so come together plans" had to be made. Things like actually riding the bike and actually getting into the lake for a swim. Not so much. I took the bike for a quick spin in my tennis shoes and made sure it shifted. And I looked at the lake and said, "Yep, those bouys must indicate the swim."

I did manage to run into Iron Wil and her husband. They were just getting checked in themselves, and we promised to find each other the next day. Then, it was off to find dinner and something for breakfast. In the fiasco of trying to leave home, I had left all my bagels on the counter. Along with a gallon of Gatorade for the run.

On Sunday, I got up and had some banana bread and a couple of Nutrigrain bars. I started packing things into the car, mystified by how much stuff could be dragged into a hotel for a few short hours. After getting the wife and kids awake, dressed, fed, and loaded into the car, we headed for the race site.
We had to park a good distance from the race site and catch a shuttle to the start. By the time we got there, it was just after 6 a.m. A far cry from the 90-120 minutes early I usually show up. I hit body marking right away, headed into transition and started setting up.

While my wife and kids vanished into one of the playgrounds, I picked up my timing chip and finished setting up transition. After making sure my tires were inflated and going over transition setup one last time, I realized it was nearly 6:30. That gave me enough time to hit the porta-potty and grab my wetsuit head toward the lake.

After the National Anthem, they announced (at 6:40) that it was time to head to the swim start. That had me a bit curious as we were only about 100 yards from the lake.

And that would have been a valid point were we starting from anywhere near transition. Unfortunately, the swim start was approximately a half-mile away, and we had to walk. The fortunate thing was that my wave started about 30 minutes after the first wave, so I had plenty of time to get a short warm up swim completed.

Soon enough, they called my wave (35-39 males) to the start, and we were off. I waded out into the water and started swimming as soon as I found a bit of open water. Amazingly, I was able to swim quite a ways without running into any issues, and didn't have to deal with stopping and standing up. The biggest issue for the first quarter-mile was sighting, as we were heading directly into the sun. On that first leg, I wound up a bit inside the turn bouy and had to make a sharp turn to ensure I went on the outside.

After that, sighting was very easy, and I maintained a nice straight line. I did have to deal with a few breast strokers and even started running into people from the wave ahead of me (big shock, to me). Soon enough, the less courteous members of the wave behind started running over me, and I spent some time fighting for swim space. Even so, the swim went very well and I felt very comfortable. Other than the first bouy, hit within a few yards of every bouy, and never felt I was wondering back and forth.

Just over 41 minutes later, I went to sight and realized everyone around me was standing up. I swam a few more seconds and stood up, started removing my wetsuit, and ran out of the surf. We had a run of about 100 yards to get to the transition area. There were fans lining the path and it was a huge boost hearing them cheer. My wife and kids were right near the entrance to transition, and I lost a few seconds saying hello and getting hugs and kisses.

Picture courtesy of James Korn

Iron Wil's husband James was right at the shore of the lake taking pictures and provided some wonderful shots as I finished my swim. She said I looked like a pro coming out of the water. I think it was a good photographer working with what he had. I really appreciate the pictures because they are far better than anything I've had from some of the outfits paid to take photos of the race.

Picture courtesy of James Korn
My wife added her own shots to the mix, and I have some wonderful pictures to remind me of the swim portion of this race. My official time was 43:22, a half-IM swim PR. And that included the 100 yard dash through the sand. By my watch, I came out of the water at about 41:30. Even so, I'll take the swim time, as prior to the race I estimated my time at 43 minutes.

More importantly, I felt very good coming out of the water. I am very confident I could have finished another 1.2 miles swimming with few challenges. Again, the biggest factor was the boredom. Despite the excitement of the race, I still find 45 minutes face down in the water to be quite dull. It's getting better, though, and it appears I will have plenty of time in the next few weeks to practice surviving boredom. Coach Mike has plenty of swim yardage in the schedule.

This final picture was taken by my wife right at the entrance to T1. She does an amazing job juggling kids, equipment, and photographer duties. We'll have a few pictures of the kids showing what they did while their daddy did the swim, bike, run thing in a later post.