Tuesday, August 28, 2007

IM Louisville Race Report


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.


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!


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.