Friday, July 27, 2007
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Monday, July 23, 2007
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.
Sunday, July 22, 2007
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
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
Everyone having good food and good fellowship!
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
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
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
Friday, July 06, 2007
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
The above comments do little except offer a unique lead in to...
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
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
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.