2019 Spring Break College Tour

I had a wonderful time touring colleges with my wife and our high school daughter Rebecca over spring break.  She claims she’s “so ready for college,” but I’m not sure mom and dad are.  She’s only a junior for goodness sake.  Since Becca has a preference for a college that is located in the eastern or southern part of the US, i.e. far away from home, we headed toward the South to check off a couple that are high on her list.  Along the way, we did some great sightseeing too!

First up was Nashville, Tennessee, home to Vanderbilt University.  My introduction to Nashville wasn’t too positive, as I couldn’t figure out how to get into the hotel parking lot with the swarming millions of people walking around.  Is Nashville this crazy popular?!  It was insane.  I made a comment that it was almost like Las Vegas, and later on, my sister made a comment on Facebook referring to Nashville as “Nashvegas.”  I’m not a fan of crazy crowded and loud places, but as we got settled in I got more comfortable.  Here are some photos from our tour of Nashville:


We took a walk on the walking bridge over the Cumberland River.


Panoramic photo of our hotel in Nashville. The Nashville Predators play hockey in the building on the left.


The Country Music Hall of Fame was a block from our hotel, so we went there and they pitched a group package of tours, including the hall, as well as Studio B where Elvis and many greats recorded their hits and a historic letterpress print shop that produced many of the great concert posters from the early country music days in Nashville.  I was amazed at how much I knew about country music, even though I don’t like it much.  After seeing some of the sights and listening to some of the live music going on, I realized maybe I don’t hate it as much as I thought.  


Standing next to the piano that many of the great country stars used on their recordings in Studio B.  The studio is pretty much the same as it was in the 1950’s when Elvis was recording there.  


We took a tour of the Ryman Auditorium, home to the Grand Ole Opry back in the early days of Country Music.  The whole time there I was thinking about my father who loved this stuff.  


Next up on the agenda was our first college visit, Vanderbilt University.  We learned a little about the Commodore and the history of the school.  Beautiful campus.  This school is high on Becca’s list.


I had a desire to go to the American Pickers shop, Antique Archeology to see some cool stuff.  My favorite was this Evel Knievel jacket that Evel had worn.  Ol’ Evel and I share a birthday, and he was an idol of mine as a kid.  No Mike or Frankie sightings.


Our trip to Nashville coincided with my sister-in-law Wendy and her family and we all took in a live music show starring some great young women singer-songwriters.  They were very talented.  I found the girl in the middle to stand out somewhat from the others, but they were all good.  They would take turns singing and tell a little about the song and how they came to write it.  The girl on the far left added some percussion to each of the songs and did a great job.  We were shocked to hear that she was only 14 years old.  She was just as professional as the others.



I’m glad I took the time to tour the Johnny Cash exhibit.  The one artist that my father really liked was The Man in Black.  He had one 8-track tape, Live at San Quentin, and played it in the car over and over again.  That 8-track was on display at the museum.  I know his copy has to be around somewhere, I took it to college and my roommate Dave and I listened to it occasionally. 




Not far from Nashville was a place called the Hermitage, home to President Andrew Jackson.  I was surprised at how much I didn’t know about Jackson, for instance, he detested the US Bank at the time and ironically his picture appears on our $20, which he probably would be ticked off about.  He’s buried at the Hermitage in the garden, next to his wife with his stone labeled as General Andrew Jackson.  He apparently was more proud of his army legacy than his presidency.


After an awesome stay in Nashville, we got in the car and headed to Columbia, South Carolina.  We broke the trip up with an overnight stay in Gatlinburg, Tennessee and did some hiking and some sightseeing of this very touristy area.


Pancakes are Becca’s favorite, and these set a new standard! This was a place called Crockett’s in Gatlinburg.


After loading up on pancakes, we went for a hike on some nearby hiking trails in the Great Smoky Mountains.  Lots of beautiful things to see on this hike, especially this waterfall.

After the hike, we drove the rest of the way to Columbia to tour the campus of U of SC.  I was expecting the campus to be a boring tour of buildings, but I was pleasantly surprised.  It’s a very nice campus situated in downtown Columbia, next to the Statehouse.


South Carolina Statehouse.  I like how the flowers pop in this picture and the flags poke out at the top.  The exterior walls bear some stars that indicate where General Sherman’s artillery shells had hit the statehouse during the Civil War.  


Becca and Cocky.  She liked U of SC.


After spending a night in Lexington, Kentucky, we pushed toward home and stopped in West Lafayette, Indiana to see Purdue University.  Big school and quite different than the previous two schools we just toured.  


So glad we had the opportunity to take some time to see some really cool things and expose Becca to some college campuses.  This was a fun vacation.














Two For One Training Update



WEEKS 3 AND 4 – Monday 3/18/19 – Sunday 3/31/19

I am a little behind in the weekly logging of my Ironman training due to leaving for spring break and not having access to a computer, as well as not having any desire to post about it as I was trying to enjoy my vacation.  So I will wrap up the past two weeks with one post.

Week 3 was going just fine until I strained another high leg/groin muscle, this time in my left leg.  This left me very sore and unable to run.  The same injury happened a few weeks ago in my right leg, which left me unable to get in the mileage I was hoping to do while training for a spring marathon.  Due to that lack of training due to injury, and the fact that I had signed up for this Ironman, I decided to pull the plug on attempting to run another marathon and try for another Boston Marathon qualifier.  I ran Boston for the first time in 2018 and it was really all I needed to accomplish with it.  I found the journey of getting there to be more rewarding than actually running Boston.  By the time Boston rolled around I was overtrained, tired of killing myself, and thanks to one of the worst weather days in the history of the race, it wasn’t much fun.  The emotions of finishing my first Boston Marathon were special, especially on that day, but I will cherish the effort it took to get there more than the race itself, as I ran it much like a victory lap that I couldn’t really enjoy due to the weather.  Enough about Boston.  I pulled the plug on the upcoming marathon because there was no way I would be ready, and I didn’t want anything messing up my Ironman training.  Boston will have to wait until a time in the future when I really want to do it again.  I will get to enjoy watching my son and his girlfriend run Boston for their first time instead of running it with them.  Actually, running it “with” them isn’t even a possibility, as they are much faster than I am.

So in Week 3, I was only able to get in one 5-mile run.  Biking wasn’t affected and I was able to get in what I needed to.  I rode the Saturday 1 hour 45-minute ride on Friday instead because I was leaving on vacation Saturday.  One thing I was able to accomplish with my bum leg was to work on a small portion of my running path that is plagued with potholes.  I took a shovel and filled them in and was proud of my work.

Week 4 was a week for touring the Confederate South, as my wife and I took our daughter on a college visit tour of two southern colleges, Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tennessee, and the University of South Carolina in Columbia.  On the trip back home, we also stopped in West Lafayette, Indiana for a look at Purdue University.   There was a lot of walking involved in these tours, a lot of sitting in cars, and not a lot of great opportunities to workout.  I did squeeze in a spin bike workout in the hotel gym with a short two-mile brick added to it on Tuesday and decided not to worry about missing anything else.

We did a 4.5-mile hike in Gatlinburg, Tennessee through some relatively tough terrain.  Lots of uphill walking, stones, and climbing.  It was a good alternative workout.  I’ll take it.


Becca and I hiking in Tennessee


We walked a ton during the tour of Purdue.  It was a big campus and the tour guides walked us everywhere.

Upon getting back home on Friday, I was able to do the planned 90-minute bike workout but chose to do it on the spin bike at the gym instead of outside.  After having some decent weather on our trip, I was a little disappointed to find Illinois was rainy and colder.  Sunday’s 60-minute run went well on a windy but sunny 30-degree day.

So I think I will benefit a little from taking a little break to get back on track.  I had originally planned to follow the “Just Finish” plan but I have given in to peer pressure a little from my training buddies who are all following the competitive plan.  I will make sure to stay in the planned zones and not overdo it.

On to Week 5!

Week 3 & 4 Training Totals:

Swims:  None     >    Rides:  5 total / 87.75 miles     >     Runs:  3 total / 14 miles



Time to get back on the Ironman Choo track!



Attitude is Everything



WEEK 2 – Monday 3/11/19 – Sunday 3/17/19

I ended this week with the typical Sunday run and was not in a good place mentally.  I woke up on this fine St. Patrick’s Day to find about an inch of freshly fallen snow and I immediately slumped my shoulders and trudged downstairs.  Will this winter never end?  Come on, already!  I also had strained my upper left leg groin muscle on Friday’s easy run.  I can’t even go easy and not injure something anymore.  It seems my attitude lately has been pretty low.

My fellow Gunner teammates are feeling somewhat off as well.  In our group text chats this week we complained about the change to Daylight Savings Time and how that has screwed us up; our necks (Alex) and butts (me) hurting on the bike training; Alex declaring “I HATE THIS SPORT” after a windy, cold, and wet ride that was mentally draining for him; and to wondering why this sport costs so much.

By the time I got around to doing the run, the sun had pretty much melted what snow had fallen, leaving the paved trail void of any slippery spots.  As I made it around the block I questioned if I had dressed warmly enough and continued on into the nature preserve where it wasn’t long until I encountered two dogs being walked off-leash and in the preserve where they weren’t allowed.  They didn’t bother me physically, but mentally I wondered why can’t people follow the rules.  As I began climbing the hills on this run I paid close attention to that strained groin and hoped that I would not strain it more.  I backed off when I felt like it might be getting bothered and promised myself to take it easy today.  Heading back home in the last mile of the 6 total miles I ran I almost got hit by a lady who must believe that stop signs are optional, and that yielding the right of way to a pedestrian who was actually crossing the street at the time was not in her ability.  When she finally looked left and saw me she gave me the most puzzled look, like what the f*ck was I doing there in the street.  The look changed from surprise to screw you, buddy, when she realized that I wasn’t happy with her ability to follow the Rules of the Road and not kill people.  It wasn’t more than 1/4 mile later when I made it to the big intersection and pressed the WALK button and waited my turn.  That’s when the next driver decided stop lights were optional when turning right on red and didn’t bother waiting for me.

As a runner, you learn to run defensively and anticipate those kinds of things, but when you deal with them nearly every run it starts to wear on you.  When I got home I realized this week should have been a fun and easy one.  Week 2 out of 30 should be fun, but it seemed it had other ideas for me and my training partners.  But when I pushed the code to open the garage door I realized that I had made it home safely, I had gotten my run in even though I had strained my muscle, and I had completed the bikes and runs for the week, preparing the foundation of another Ironman attempt.  The sun was out, the snow was gone, and in reality, things are looking pretty good.  I have to remember that a positive attitude can go a long way in making 30 weeks of training be pleasurable.  That is on me.


I took my bike in for a tune-up to make sure that it’s ready for riding when the weather gets better.  I’m glad I did.  Turns out the bottom bracket needed work, and one of my derailleur pulleys was cracked, so both got replaced.


It looks like the bike is in good running shape again and ready for the season.  I can’t wait to get off the stationary bike and head outside.


Week 2 Training Totals:

Swims:  None     >    Rides:  3 total / 50 miles     >     Runs:  4 total / 17 miles


Looking forward to Week 3!!!




Ironman Chattanooga Training Begins!



WEEK 1 – Monday 3/4/19 – Sunday 3/10/19

Are we really doing this again?  Yes!

A couple of months ago, Dave’s awesome wife and our usual Ironman travel coordinator Carla texted us Ironman friends and informed us that she had secured hotels for our next Ironman.  Say that again?  You did what?!  When did we decide we are doing an Ironman?!  Usually, when I get that nauseated feeling of signing up for an Ironman it is self-inflicted.  This time Carla was causing it!  After some not-so-deep introspection as to whether I wanted to add this to my racing calendar (I already had a spring and fall marathon and some shorter tri’s on it) most of our group decided to rev up our Gunner mobiles and give it another go.  Honestly, training was not going well for my spring marathon Boston qualifying attempt, and this was a good enough reason to get out of that.  As for that Chicago Marathon that is two weeks after this Ironman race, I will see how I feel.  I may defer the race until the following year if I remember to do it in time, or I might just take it easy for two weeks post-Ironman and run Chicago as a victory lap.  I was planning on it being my last one for a while anyway.  So with that reasoning, I decided that I was in.

Training has now started for my fourth Ironman and again I am joined by my Gunner teammates, or some of them anyway.  It appears that Alex and I are the only ones officially signed up, and my life long buddy Dave (Alex’s dad) was the one who initiated the idea about doing the race so I am sure he’s probably signed up.  Jeff says he’s only in if John is in, but Jeff has started training for it too.  John skipped Louisville and has his hands full with a very young family, so I’m guessing he may miss this one as well, but I never count him out. I’m trying to pitch the easy training plan to him, which requires less training time.  There’s also talk of Jeff’s sister Jan joining us, and Dave is heavily recruiting his brother-in-law Scott to join in the fun.  That’s awesome, the more the merrier.  Also, there is a group of first-timers from the local running club that are also training for the race as well.  I’m looking forward to seeing Susan and John B. training and completing their first Ironman, and I hope we can find some time to do some training rides together.  So there are quite a few joining in the fun this time around.


Ironman Chattanooga is sponsored by Little Debbie!  I love Nutty Bars!  Wait, is it Choo or Chew?

Our adventure is taking us to the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, to Ironman Chattanooga, also known by triathletes as “Choo” as in The Chattanooga Choo-choo, and sometimes “Chatty,” and has a reputation for having a fast downstream swim, a mostly gentle rolling hill bike ride through northern Georgia and back to Chattanooga, and a run with a few killer hills.  The most notable item about Choo is that the bike ride is 116 miles, four more miles than all of the other Ironman races, making this Ironman 144.6 total miles.  The veterans will say that you don’t really notice the extra four miles of cycling and that the fast swim evens out the time.  All Ironman races have unique things about them, but none of the others have an extra four miles.  I’m looking forward to adding this race to my finisher resume.

Here’s a look at the bike and run elevation comparisons from the three races I have done (in order of completion) and Choo:

The data was taken from the Ironman website, but there are lots of triathletes that say that Ironman’s reported elevations are not very accurate.  I seriously doubt that Moo has less elevation than Lou.  Regardless, the chart is pretty consistent with how I remember them.  Choo looks like an easy run compared to Moo and Lake Placid.



I’m changing up my training plan this time around.  I will once again be using Don Fink’s Be Iron Fit for training, but after following the Competitive plan in the book for my previous three races I am giving serious consideration to following the Just Finish plan with some alterations.  The main reason is that I am pretty sore all the time, and I just want to ease into the training this time around without killing myself.  The Intermediate plan seems to me does not differ much from the Competitive plan to make it worth dropping down to.  Getting the Saturday and Sunday long bikes and long runs in are what really matter, and the Just Finish plan starts off with much less time training but gradually catches up to the Competitive plan.  The big difference is that the Just Finish maxes out at two 5-hour rides, whereas the Competitive plan has two 5-hour rides, a 5:30 ride, a 5:45 ride and finishes with a 6-hour ride.  Not sure if I can handle that stuff this time around.  We’ll see how the training goes and I may increase my weekend rides and runs to follow the Competitive plan.  If the group decides to do a group ride and they are following the harder plan, then I will definitely go along with that.

As I eased into Week 1 training, I found that the Just Finish plan was less work than I had been averaging in my off-season training, so I decided to start with the Competitive plan and keep my daily efforts to about an hour of daily exercise until I’m happy using the Competitive plan, or when the Just Finish plan catches up to me.

As for swimming, I gained a lot of confidence from the training I did in 2017 for Ironman Louisville.  Lou has a similar river swim as Chattanooga and I set a swim personal best there with a 1:09 swim.  Lou has a short upstream swim portion which Choo lacks.  At Choo, it’s all downstream, and I hear that even though the water temps may prevent wetsuit usage, many still set swim personal bests.  For Lou, I basically waited until May when I opened my own swimming pool and just did two 45 minute swims a week, with the occasional hour-long swim or open water swim thrown in to keep me honest and make sure that I had the confidence I needed to swim 2.4 miles.  Swimming for 45 minutes is really no big deal, and to swim an additional 45 minutes I always thought would be no big deal as well.

So here we go again!  And I’m very excited about training for Ironman Chattanooga! GO GUNNERS!

Week 1 Training Totals:

Swims:  None     >    Rides:  4 total / 57 miles     >     Runs:  4 total / 12.25 miles

Week 1 is always fun!