Friday, September 21, 2007

Everything Must Go!

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

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

You can now find me...

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Call of the Wild

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

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Geeking Out!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13. Your storage devices come in terabytes.

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

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

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

Monday, September 10, 2007


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

In no particular order, CONGRATULATIONS to the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 06, 2007

IM MOO Tracking

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

A Little Help

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

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

I will greatly appreciate any help that can be provided.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are People Still Finishing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 02, 2007


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Voice from the Past

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

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

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

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

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

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

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