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.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Nail Polish, Blown Plans, Bike Karma, and a PR

Yes, those things all relate. This isn't a "one of these things doesn't belong." I completed the Spirit of Racine Half-IM triathlon, and had a great day.

I'll provide more details in the full race report, but here are the ticklers.

On Saturday, as we prepared to head to Racine, my 20-month old daughter found a bottle of nail polish. Blue, to be exact.

The aforementioned discovery led to SIGNIFICANT delays in travel, which drastically changed all of the plans for the day in Racine.

I had to fix a flat in the race. And against all odds, it was a front flat. It was not, however, on my bike.

Despite the delays involved in playing SAG support, I managed a PR by nearly 16 minutes.

By the numbers:

Swim Goal - 43 minutes. Official swim time - 43:22 (unofficial swim time 41:30 with a 2-minute 100 yard dash through the sand).

Bike goal - 2:50. Official bike time - 2:53:06. Too bad karma can't be traded in for time credits.

Run goal - 1:55. Official run time - 1:45:51. I was trying to get my time back.

Overall goal - 5:30. Official total time - 5:31:08. Chivalry does, after all, have a price.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Twenty Yards

So, my workout for today (okay, really for yesterday, but that's a whole other story) called for a 4000 yard swim. And unless you're that dude who swam the Amazon River, or maybe the people who swim the English Channel (you get the point), that's a long swim. And don't get me started about it being the middle of the week and this swim happening in the morning.

I made sure I was in the pool as quickly as possible after it opened at 5 a.m. For a turtle like me, 4000 yards can almost be timed on a calendar, and work starts at 7:30. I jumped right into the warmup and then got to do some interesting "open water mass start" practice.

Somewhere in the middle of the main set (lots of 300s), I realized I was probably going to be late for work. As I went into the final 300 yard sets, the "probably" was no longer important. I was definitely going to be late.

So, you're 3800 yards into a 4000 yard set and realize there's zero hope of making it to work on time. What do you do? Somehow, in my warped head, it made perfect sense to use that opportunity to add a few hundred extra yards onto the workout, with an extra 224 yards being the target. Sort of like a guy I knew in the Navy who realized he wasn't going to make it for morning muster. So, he went and had breakfast, did a bit of shopping at the Exchange, and stopped for gas. After all, if you're going to be late, you may as well get some mileage out of it. Me, I just decide to swim a few hundred yards more than the already insanely long swim I'm doing.

I added an extra 100 yards to the final main set interval of 300 yards, and 200 yards to the cool down. I figured that would put me at "4300" yards. That's in quotes because our pool is actually 24.44 yards long (72 lengths to a mile). So 172 lengths is something less than 4300 yards.

Apparently, it's 96 yards short of 4300 yards. If you do the math, you'll see that means I swam 4204 yards. Exactly 20 yards short of the IM swim. You won't believe the number of people who stopped by to ask why I was pounding my head on my desk. One length of the pool. ONE! After swimming 172 lengths, it is maddening to find I missed the goal by one length of the pool. Have I mentioned before that I'm pretty lousy at math when minor things like breathing take up most my concentration.

So, I have now completed 99.2% of the Ironman swim. I have previously completed just over 100% of the Ironman bike and just over 100% of the Ironman run. I feel confident I can get the other 20 yards done. Now, all I have to do is string the three of them together in under 17 hours and all will be well.

Somehow, when put that way, it seems daunting. I think I'll look at it in smaller chunks. It's easier that way.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Getting Close Too

With things being as hectic as they have, posting has been challenging enough. Posting pictures has been even more challenging. I really should be in bed, but the camera was busting at the seams, and there were some good pictures to be downloaded.

Here are a few of the better ones, beginning with pictures from the High Cliff half-IM pre-race dinner.

Everyone having good food and good fellowship!

George Schweitzer (Article George) and Simply Stu.

Tri-bloggers at the end of a nice evening! (Only triathletes would say "end of the evening" when there's that much daylight left) (from left: Iron Pol, Simply Stu, Rural Girl, Iron Wil, George Schweitzer)

And a few pictures from the Wisconsin Ironman Brick Adventure on Saturday, July 7th.

A few of the daring swimmers. Note the speedboat in the background.

Yeah, this is just how raceAthlete rolls. We compete against water skiers. Swimmer wins!

WIBA T1 - A very relaxed transition area

I did get one more picture. That would be the picture of Iron Wil coming out of the water after the swim. She made veiled threats about pictures involving neoprene and messing with Italian girls. That may have explained the odd feelings of being followed all over the IMWI bike course later in the day. If you want to see that picture, you'll have to plead your case with her. I don't mind swimming with the fish. Sleeping with them, that's another story.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Railroad Grade Road

It's become readily apparent that any day that begins with Coach Mike saying something like, "Bike, 5-6 hours, HR zone 1-2" is sure to hold many adventures. This weekend's long ride certainly lived up to the challenge. It can be added to the "Ooops, the road is gone" issue of my bike around Lake Winnebago and the "Hey, 90 degree right turns are hard to make at 45 mph" situation from WIBA 2007. Then again, all the challenges of last weekend resulted in my Vittoria tires being wrecked, and this ride was on brand new Continental Ultra Racers.

Any ride longer than a few hours takes some amount of planning. Since I am loathe to bike in circles, I spend a great deal of time plotting out 80-100 mile routes. This weekend, a section with youth from the tri club had to be added into the mix. After a lot of browsing through maps, I laid out an 85 mile route complete with a good number of slow rolling hills.

The ride started out at a very easy pace, as I was biking with one of the youth, and he was on a mountain bike. In addition, we were headed into a fairly stiff headwind. It took just under an hour to complete the first eight miles to get him to his house. And I knew that I would have to spend much of the next 30 miles heading into the same wind.

Once I was on my own, I kicked the pace up, and started the tough training. Some of the hills were more than I expected, and the wind kept the pace down in the 16 mph range. Of course, the adventures of the day were still to come.

That first fun situation happened around 20 miles into the ride. I started to make one of my turns and thought, "Yeah, new blacktop." Followed immediately by, "Why is that new blacktop so wavy?" I was already slowing as my wheels hit what appeared to be very fine black gravel. Apparently, in some places they are unable to afford actual blacktop, so they spread nice black gravel/sand on the road to make it LOOK new. It might look nice, but it's brutal for biking.

After getting through that, and dealing with one minor glitch in the route, I hit one of the larger cities on the ride. After riding by Jellystone Park (yes, THE Jellystone, complete with Yogi and BooBoo), I saw a sign indicating one of my turns was coming. Where I thought I should turn, I saw two important sings. One said the road was now the "Jellystone Recreational trail." The other said the road had no outlet. I figured the road I wanted must be somewhere up the road. Only it couldn't be, because of what I DID know of the course. I crossed a highway I shouldn't have crossed, yet, and went about a mile before turning around. Heading back, I saw a similar sign indicating Railroad Grade Road, and decided to take the "recreational trail."

What started out as a nice blacktop road soon turned to a gravel trail. However, I could see that about a half-mile up the road, it was blacktop, again. I walked the bike to the blacktop, only to find out it was just enough to turn around. Well, that and hold the reflector posts indicating the dead end.

I grabbed the phone and put in a call to my sister. "Help, operator, I need an exit!" Helpful as she was, my sister only found the same information I already knew. Googlemaps was missing some fairly important details about this route. Luckily, a guy at the cabin right at the dead end had a county plot map. Oddly, it also showed the road I was on as continuing through what was plainly NOT a road. He also indicated that I was actually the FIFTH biker that day on the same route.

After thanking my sister for her help, and determining that the road I needed was on the other side of a little used path along some high tension wires, I began the cyclocross portion of the ride. I grabbed the Pol-R Express and started the half-mile trip down the overgrown path. Luckily, there wasn't any actual swamp, though the last 20 feet had me nervous. I was also, apparently, the fifth biker to take this path.

The rest of the ride was comparatively mundane. It is notable that the first 45 miles of the ride took four hours. The next 44 miles took just under two hours. That's headwind, for you.

And now, since it has taken nearly two and a half hours to write this post, it's time to deal with the causes of delay. Ahhh, the life of pursuing Ironman while raising two toddlers...

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Getting Close

This morning it hit me that we must be getting close to Ironman Louisville. Was it because I looked at my countdown clock and saw a much lower number? No. Was it because I received some kind of vital "down to the wire" paperwork from the race director? No. Was it because someone sent me an e-mail and said, "Oh my God, look at how close it's getting!" No, it wasn't any of those.

It might have been:

1. Waking up and going to the pool for a 2300 yard swim despite there being no swim scheduled for this morning. Just because getting up and swimming is how things normally go.

2. Realizing that I see more of the lifeguard than my wife or kids.

3. When asked for directions to my house, I give them to the person, only to have them call me from either the YMCA or the state park where I start my bike rides.

4. I reviewed my training statistics since signing up for IMKY and realized just how much effort has been dedictated to getting to the starting line.

Swim - 283,356 yds
Bike - 907.2 miles plus 46 hours 10 minutes on the trainer
Run - 522.3 miles

Total time - 282 hours

The next time someone questions who is and isn't an Ironman based on finishing a race or, worse yet, which race was completed, simply remind them of numbers like that.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Long, Lonely Ride OR Hey, My Tires Are Melting

It was a wonderful weekend. WIBA 2007 is in the bank, and I got a lot out of it. First and foremost was the opportunity to meet up with so many members of the Tri Blog Community. All day Saturday was a lesson in putting faces to blog identities and blog identities to real names. In all, we had nearly 75 people participate in various aspects of WIBA.
And there were many lessons learned during Saturday's training.
The day started early, as I had to drive to Madison. I was up at 3:30 and on the road by 4 a.m. The goal was to be at the swim start by about 6 a.m. getting ready for the day. My timing was pretty good, and by 6:15 I had all my swim gear at the lake, and I had already met Gavin Nunn and a few others. Prior to the swim, I also saw Taconite Boy, Coach Mike, Iron Wil, Bolder, Robby B, Rural Girl, and Stu.
As we got into wetsuits, a local ski team showed up for a bit of practice on the ski jump. This was a bit problematic as our swim course went right through that ski area. Iron Wil had spent many hours on the phone ensuring we would have clear swim lanes, and speedboats barreling through the water didn't really match her vision of "clear." With the boat crews express promise to avoid running over any swimmers, we started swimming. Our plan was 30 minutes out, and 30 minutes back. (This was shortened by 30 minutes in order to get on the bikes a bit early due to projected temps in the 90s).
The swim was fairly uneventful, though there was one lesson learned. That lesson is that regardless of the size of the lake, someone WILL punch you in the face during the swim. After spending 45 minutes being concerned that I would run into another swimmer, I saw an arm heading right at me. Someone caught me right in the head, knocking my goggles off my eyes. Call it good practice for Louisville. Still, there couldn't have been more than one other swimmer within 100 yards, and that swimmer hits me!?
Another lesson? Consider Body Glide on the neck. The red ring from wetsuit love isn't all that appealing.
After the swim, everyone started getting bikes out for the ride. We had three options ranging from 70 to 112 miles. Well, 112.6 miles if you make a couple wrong turns. Two groups left from Monona Terrace. One group would make the leg from the bike start to the loop start and complete one loop. The other would complete the full IMWI bike course. (A third group completed two loops without the out and back legs from the bike start/finish).
We started out as a large group, mostly a function of being unfamiliar with the course. Many thanks to Stu who did everything he could to clue people in on various details of the route. Many miles down the road, I would find myself wishing he had been with me at that specific moment. More on that, later.
Early in the bike, I learned yet another of the day's lessons. If high temps are expected and your bike will be somewhere particularly warm, say the back of a vehicle, electrical tape might not be the best bet for keeping gels on a bike's top tube. Taconite Boy found it quite humorous that I had to keep pulling gels off the bike and throw them in my back pocket. As warm as it was, the glue turned to mush and the gels were just sliding around.
Once we hit Mount Horeb, the group split up. Many in the group stopped at the BMC sag wagon, and others stopped at one of several gas stations on the route. Some of us didn't realize where these stops were located and continued down the road. It took only a short time for me to realize I was completely alone. That baffled me as I hardly considered myself the workhorse of the group. Still, triathlon is an individual sport, so I kept on biking.
Things went smoothly until a little country road called Garfoot. Don't ask me about the name, as I have no clue. But if you plan on racing IM MOO and haven't seen the course, ask me about why Garfoot is a good street name to remember. On that I have a clue. No, a warning. No, a bit of potentially lifesaving trivia.
Garfoot is truly a minor country road. And after a long period of climbing, Garfoot offers the first really nice drop, and I easily reached 35 mph without pedaling. Of course, it immediately heads back up, but it was a great stretch. Now, for the PAY ATTENTION part. Garfoot makes a left onto some road. Its name isn't really important, because about 100 feet down that road, the course makes a right turn back onto Garfoot.
Which then goes into another downhill stretch. A much steeper downhill where I hit about 45 mph. And then saw the "à" sign. And then realized that "à" meant, "This road turns 90 degrees to the right. It would be a corner, except it's just a turn. Prepare to die."
I was already on the brakes, and realized that SLOWING was neither an option nor sufficient. Stopping? That seemed like a better idea, but was also not going to be happening.
Wheels melting? Yeah, that was happening. Bike starting to twist and shake underneath me as the wheels started to skip on the pavement? Yep. Me trying to figure out how long it might take for someone to find and scrape my carcass off the road. Definitely.
Somehow (and for anyone who questions the existence of God, this is good proof), I managed to keep the bike upright, though I left the road. Fortunately, I got off the grass and onto a driveway that just happened to be where I needed it. I was doing about 30 mph when I hit that. I'm sure the horses in the barn didn't mind my sudden appearance. They probably just thought, "Look, another triathletes missed the turn."
Once I cleaned my shorts out, I got back on the road.
The rest of the bike was long, hilly, and, at times, painful. Taconite Boy commented that someone's bike computer indicated the temperature on the road was 98F. The hills on the back half of the loops are challenging, and completing them helps me believe I can face whatever Louisville throws my way. With four stops for water/fuel, it took 7 hours 30 minutes to complete the ride.
Notable is that it has been nearly two decades since my last century ride. And this trip was more than 30 miles over more recent long rides. Challenging as it was, it was a great training day that will pay huge dividends on August 26th.
After the bike and an opportunity to wash up, we all met for dinner. We had about 40 people there, got lots of swag from various sponsors, and shared our day's experiences. Shortly after dinner, I headed out for the drive home.
And, there is one final lesson for those who made it this far. Swim goggles work best when worn right side up. When upside down, they are prone to leaking and falling off. I didn't learn that at WIBA. That was this morning, but it seems fitting for this post.
Stop by later for information about some contest opportunities. A certain WIBA participant informed me he has lots of swag he'd love to give away in contests, but he has too little traffic through his blog.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Small Changes

In the movie "Contact," the lead character, played as an adult by Jodi Foster, is shown in her childhood learning to use a ham radio. Her father is teaching her that small changes are needed when searching the airwaves for signals. As an adult, she applies that knowledge as a researcher working for SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence).

It is advice we can all take to heart in our pursuit of triathlon.

As we hone our skills in the various disciplines of our sport, we must remember that small changes are best. Rather than attempt to become perfect swimmers overnight, we seek gradual improvement through drills that reinforce one small change. Then we move onto a another small change.

As we strive to make our bikes as comfortable as possible, we make minute adjustments. Millimeters, clicks, or portions of a degree are all that are needed when altering heights, lengths, or angles. Major changes are likely to create more problems than they solve.

On the run, we do everything we can to stay in the same shoe, as even minor differences between pairs can cause discomfort. As we tweak our outfits, nutrition, and stride, we seek that perfect mix that we will use, without change, as long as possible.

And the day to day changes we see are also small. Weight loss fluctuates so wildly that it is difficult to tell if that half-pound loss is water, actual loss, or an erratic scale. Changes in physical appearance and clothes size are also hard to judge. From our perspective, improvements in performance may be negligible or non-existent.

Over time, though, those changes quickly accumulate. Physical changes that seem non-existent on a daily basis become readily apparent when viewed over a six month time frame. Clothes that barely fit in December are three sizes too big in August. And workouts that would have killed us a year ago are now standard weekday sessions.

Diligence in training pays huge dividends. If you struggle to see these changes, find aco-worker or friend who exercises less consistently and have them train with you. If they complete a workout with you once or twice a month, they'll be able to tell you how quickly you are improving.

Small changes. They're difficult to see, but they make all the difference. Whether trying to find signs of alien life, run that first 5K, or complete an Ironman triathlon, those small changes the key to success.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

WIBA Gobing Tuba Madison-ba

There are few things I recall about the cartoon Fat Albert. I do, however, recall one of the characters speaking in a very memorable, if difficult to follow manner. He was prone to throwing b's into various portions of words. I guess if something sticks this long, it was either truly remarkable or truly horrific. And Fat Albert was certainly not horrific.

The above comments do little except offer a unique lead in to...

Iron Pol hasn't gone fishing!
Iron Pol hasn't gone crazy! (Not legally, at least)
Iron Pol is at

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Freak-Out Countdown

I was looking at the countdown to IMKY and felt an oh-so-slight twinge of anxiety. Nothing major, mind you. I didn't have to run to the bathroom to fight down the nausea. There were no worries of peeing my pants in fright. (Well, boxers, it IS late at night).

Just a small, short lived sense of, "Wow, it's nearly down to seven weeks. Given taper, that's only about a month of training left." And a bit of goosebumps as I realized how short things are getting.

All too soon we'll be running the final preparatory races. Not long after that, taper begins for real. Build weeks, recovery weeks, breakthrough workouts, they'll all go by the wayside. Packets will start going out letting us know our race numbers. And months will turn to weeks, which will turn to days.

At some point, the small, short lived hint of anxiety will be replaced with the real thing. The physical battle will be replaced with a mental battle. And some friends I haven't discussed in some time will be back.


They'll start trying to tear down the foundation that has been laid over the past 10 months. They'll pose questions about the effectiveness of swim training. They'll bring up problems from the past. And they'll definitely question preparedness. Was the training enough? Are you ready? Is success really a possibility?

That's when the mental game begins. Defeating gremlins is as vital to race day success as 8-week aerobic base sessions, century bike rides, and nutrition plans. If gremlins find a chink in the armor, a year's worth of training can be rendered pointless by our own minds.

Get ready! Because the gremlins will come. Are you ready to smoosh them?

Monday, July 02, 2007

Night Rider

It was a long three days. Long, and tiring. And in the manner of long, tiring weekends, huge deposits have been made into my IM Louisville account.

Saturday, after getting out of the pool and heading to the locker room, a lifeguard commented, "Wow, you were swimming a long time!" I guess she was right, though in terms of Ironman, it wasn't really long enough. The workout was about 80 minutes, during which I completed 3600 yards. It was, however, a great way to start the day.

Following the swim, I moved the base of operations a few blocks over, rotated the tires on my bike, and waited for youth tri club members. We headed out for a 15 mile loop, after which I headed out alone to meet up with some co-workers for another leg of my training. My trip odometer rolled 86 miles as I rolled into the driveway at home just about 7 hours after I had left for the start of training. The five hours of biking gave me an average pace of something over 17 mph.

This morning, it was another 4009 yards in the pool. Yes, it was four thousand and NINE. I firmly believe that anything over 4000 yards warrants an exact yardage. That means the most important 215 yards have yet to be completed.

But yesterday was the real bonus of the training weekend. The events of the day limited my training opportunities, and it was nearly 9 p.m. when I headed out the door for my run. Given the 4:30 a.m. wake-up calls, it's been quite some time since a night time run like this. It's something I miss, and it's one of my secret weapons in Louisville.

I love running at night. There's no sun to bother my eyes. The world becomes much smaller as sighting distances decrease. It cools down. And I run faster (this may or may not be all in my head). In Louisville, if things go horribly awry and I'm on the course much longer than I expect (well, hope), the setting of the sun will signal a change in fortunes. Just as many are revitalized by the rising of the morning sun, I find solace in the solitude of running after dark.

If not for the knowledge of a 4000 yard swim looming a few short hours away, the 10-mile run would have quickly turned into a much longer run.