Rub Some Dirt On It

2021 IRONMAN CHATTANOOGA TRAINING

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WEEK 21 – July 25, 2021 

I was riding with Tom, my buddy from work who is training for his first half-iron distance triathlon race. He shared a story with me about this character on a show called “Eastbound & Down,” about a washed-up former baseball player named Kenny Powers taking a job as a teacher or something. The principal introduces himself as quite the athlete as well and was training for a triathlon, which he seems to think that Kenny knows all about that and Kenny replies that he doesn’t because he plays real sports and isn’t trying to be the best at exercising. Hilarious.

Old Kenny reminds me of most coaches from my youth who would tell you to rub some dirt on it and walk it off if you got injured no matter how serious the injury was. Well, as we were coming back home on our almost 4-hour ride and had about an hour and a half of riding to go, Tom hit a patch of gravel on a turn, and down he went. He literally rubbed some dirt on it, and in it. His hands were chewed up pretty good and it did not look like a fun injury. I had mentioned in an earlier conversation that morning about wearing cycling gloves to A.) alleviate any pain from holding the handlebars, and B.) to keep your hands from getting messed up if you crash. I guess it doesn’t help to add to his pain to mention that fact again. To his credit and my astonishment, Tom picked himself up, assessed his injuries, and decided to tough it out and continue the ride home with bloody and throbbing palms. Tell me that isn’t impressive, Kenny.

As I ended my ride on that very hot and humid day, I still had 45-minutes of running to do. I put on some less sweat-soaked running attire, grabbed some water, and headed out for my run. As I passed the park at the beginning of the run I saw some young men just starting to play basketball and thought nothing of it. But when I returned one of them was vomiting into the trash can. It was interesting to me that I had just completed four hours of cycling and another 45-minutes of running and this kid couldn’t handle a short game of tossing a ball into the hoop and jogging back and forth.

Back in the mid to late twentieth century, they used to say that bowling and golf were the two most popular participation sports in America. I bet that they might not even make the list today. I’m not really sure what the most popular sport to participate in is today, but if I had to guess I would say it is running. I would be shocked if it wasn’t running. Even the other sports that are popular, almost all of them involve running. Most might guess the usual football, baseball, basketball sports would dominate the list, but really, you play those games as a kid in local rec leagues, maybe into high school, rarely in college, almost never professionally, and as an adult, c’mon man, you haven’t played football as an adult ever. When you get old you run for exercise. And if you like it and stick with it you run for sport. Finishing that first 5K or marathon or any race and the sense of accomplishment is just as awesome as getting a hit every fourth-time at-bat. You might want to practice more if you wanted to stay in the big leagues, Kenny.

I hate to disrespect any type of sport. They’re popular for a reason. The professionals make it look easy, and the moments I spent coaching and watching my kids play baseball and soccer were some of my greatest memories. But I don’t like having my sport and the athletes like Tom, who came from football and is quickly learning that swimming, cycling, and running isn’t so easy, dissing triathlon. So if you stick-and-ball guys think that our sport isn’t worthy or as hard as yours, come give ours a try. Tom will have some scars to prove to you that it isn’t so easy, and I bet we would garner some respect from you.

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Come ask Tom if this sport is easy.

Swims: 2 – 3000 yards

Rides: 3 – 108 miles

Runs: 5 – 41 miles

Fear, Part… III

2021 IRONMAN CHATTANOOGA TRAINING

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WEEK 20 – July 18, 2021 

There seems to be a lot of fear in triathlon. I totally get it as I had those fears as well. My fear was really about overcoming my lack of swimming ability, as well as fearing swimming in open water, mainly due to the aforementioned lack of swimming ability.

But there are so many different kinds of fears. Swimming is probably at the top of the list for most. Whether it be the open water thing, or swimming in water in which you can’t see anything, or the fact that there may be fish swimming in the water with you. Listen you fish-fearing swimmers, they don’t want anything to do with you. And my goodness, some can’t stand to touch any sort of weed that may be growing underwater. I may roll my eyes at that stuff, but I really have no inclination to do any triathlon in the ocean. Yeah, there are jellyfish and sharks in the ocean, and I can go about living a life not having swum a triathlon swim in the ocean, thank you very much.

And the bike is not without fear. When I first started riding and bought a road bike right after college, I took a ride down a busy four-lane road in Northbrook, Illinois. It scared the crap out of me and I decided to stick with running from then on. 20+ years later I found myself riding some more, most often riding on local bike trails. But as I got serious about riding, I found that the trails were full of idiots on bikes who don’t give a flying fig about the rules or being courteous to other trail users. So that pushed me onto the road, a place where I figured it was just a matter of time before some car ran me over. Fortunately, the roads by me are fairly rural farm roads with very little traffic and I eventually overcame my fears of being on the roads with cars.

Other bike phobias include being “clipped” into the pedals, which for most beginners and experienced riders alike will likely result in not being able to remember to unclip yourself from the pedal when stopping and falling over. I’ve done it several times, usually when people are around to see it happen. It’s quite embarrassing. Riding in aero on a tri bike is another fear for some. I have two friends (yes, you know who you are!) who recently bought tri bikes and have yet to ride them outside. I think their fear is that it handles a little differently, or maybe the reaction time to move their hands from the aero bars to the brakes might make them nervous. I’m not sure, but I get it. It doesn’t take much to fear something that you aren’t used to, especially something that is going 20 mph two feet from the gravel shoulder of the road.

Other fears can sometimes be silly. Some fear looking stupid in the tri suit. I have to admit that along with swimming, the little tight pants and the tight top that would have made me look really silly kept me out of triathlon for a long, long time. You have to toss modesty out the door if you are going to be a triathlete. And honestly, no one really cares how you look.

There are some that are afraid that they won’t be able to finish. This one keeps many people out of triathlon, especially the long Iron-distance stuff. These are people who haven’t done a lick of training but are convinced that no amount of training would get them there. I was in this camp. I used to watch the yearly Ironman special on television in the ’80s and ’90s and think how impossible that must be. I knew that my lack of swimming would prevent me from even trying. How does anyone swim 2.4 miles?! I thought it was impossible.

Some are afraid of finishing last. That one cracks me up. Do you know what they call the last place finisher in an Ironman? An Ironman. And if you have ever witnessed the closing minutes of an Ironman, those that are finishing last are the most cheered for and celebrated of all who competed that day. Just Google “last Ironman finisher” and you’ll see several examples. Or just watch this:

https://youtu.be/UVxhiZorh-E

For runners, it seems lack of speed or having to walk is a fear. My goodness, walking is done by just about everyone in an Ironman.

There are so many more examples of fear in this sport. But it all seems to boil down to a lack of familiarity or a lack of trying. As I rode more on roads I became much more at ease with it. So much more that I now feel safer on the roads I ride than the trails I use to get to the roads. And my fear of swimming was more of not knowing how to swim than just thinking that I couldn’t do it. Once I took the time to learn, and believe me it was a slow process, I conquered those fears I had about swimming.

So if you are having some fears about triathlon, don’t be afraid to face your fears. Take that new aero bike for a few spins around the block and get comfortable on it, then come out and join the group ride on the fancy new speed mobile. Have a friend take you to a lake and help you get comfortable in open water. Put on that new tri suit and let it make you feel fast. You are only fearing things that you have not yet tried. Give tri a try and get rid of those fears!

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This wraps up Week 20 for me. Ten weeks to go. If you ever want to see your summer evaporate in a blink of an eye, start training for a race. It goes by so quickly. This week was pretty good. I took on an off-road sprint triathlon and did well enough to finish 22nd overall and third in my age group. Lots of great competition and racing off-road was a new challenge for me. I had a lot of fun.

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The Forge Off-road Triathlon Race Report

I’m still dealing with some left foot nerve pain. It’s not as bad as before on the bike because I adjusted my cleat and added some extra cushion to the shoe, but it is now happening with running which was never the case before. It makes me nervous because I have a lot of triathlon and running goals this year. I may have to seek some treatment for it.

I seem to be entering the always hungry stage of training. Well, I am always hungry anyway, but now I’m doing a lot more snacking. It kind of ticks me off that I have to train hard for 20 weeks to lose the 10 pounds that I gained in the four weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Since I decided to race on Saturday, I pushed the four-hour Saturday ride to Sunday and will more than likely do the two-hour run I missed on Sunday tomorrow. I always opt to do the long bike because I feel it’s the most important aspect in training for an Ironman. But I have some ultra marathon goals this year and I don’t want to miss out on getting that training done.

I saw this cool display on my bike ride and had to stop and take a picture:

So it’s on to the last third of the training plan, the dreaded endurance phase. But I have nothing to fear because I have been down this road four times before. Bring it on, endurance phase!

Swims: 3 – 3587 yards

Rides: 4 – 115 miles

Runs: 4 – 18 miles

The Forge Off-road Triathlon Race Report

When:  07/17/2021

Where:  The Forge – Lemont, Illinois

Distance:  Off-road Sprint – 14 miles total: ~ 500 yard SWIM, ~ 10.5 mile BIKE, ~ 3 mile RUN

Results:  1:14:56 – 22/203 Overall, 17/108 Male, 11/56 Male +40, 3/16 Male 50-59

Results Link: https://www.athlinks.com/event/356249/results/Event/977670/Course/2091242/Results

First time racing a triathlon since Ironman Chattanooga in 2019! It seemed a little different, but all things considered it was just like I remembered it.

I was a little apprehensive about this race. Any first-ever race, especially one that is not governed by USA Triathlon, can raise a red flag for me. But as more information kept coming I realized that the race director wasn’t a first-timer, and in the end it was a really well run event.

The Forge is a small to medium sized adventure style park located next to the old Illinois and Michigan Canal and the Lemont Quarries, where stone was mined to help build and then rebuild Chicago after the Great Fire. Lots of old quarries located in the Lemont, Lockport and Joliet areas. The park has zip lines, climbing walls, pump tracks and paths for cycling, and utilizes one of the quarries for swimming and kayaking. Lemont is a nearby community and when a link to this race was shared on a page I follow, I decided to give it a go. Okay, on to the race!

Getting up at 4 am is never easy, but I got up, ate, and then I drove to Lemont and parked at the Lemont High School parking lot, as the participant guide indicated that parking was limited at the Forge and it was really easy to park at the school and ride my bike to the park. Once that I got there, I found the rack for my bike and got my transition all set up.

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After setting up I had some time to kill, so I walked to the swim start and exit, and walked back to transition to see where bike and run in/out were located.  I jogged down the bike trail a little while to burn off some anxious energy and then used the bathroom and headed back to get my swim stuff.

The Swim – 11:28  

I had swam on Friday and had a really good workout.  Felt really strong and had no issues.  I’m not sure why I couldn’t duplicate that here but I couldn’t.  I was slow, felt like I couldn’t get enough air, and seemingly couldn’t get it under control.  I was getting passed by a lot of other swimmers, but I finally settled in.  Fortunately, the swim wasn’t long and I was out of the water soon enough.

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Jump off the dock, head left and swim around the turn buoys. Seemed simple enough. 

I had planned for a non-wetsuit swim as the race director had said several times that the water temps had been high and that we should plan to swim without a wetsuit.  Turns out, Friday night and Saturday morning were cool and it was wetsuit legal.  I hadn’t even brought the thing.  I kind of wish I had, but nothing I could do about it.  There were only a handful of triathletes wearing them.  I would have thought that the quarry would have been really deep, but there were several places where I could easily see bottom, and there were times where my hand was actually touching the weedy stuff growing in the water.  I was in 76th place overall after that miserable swim.

T1 – 2:08 – Coming out of the water we had a thin, green outdoor carpet covering rocks, but I’m such a tenderfoot that it was a struggle for me.  Then we hit the crushed limestone and I didn’t really enjoy that either, but eventually we got into transition where there was more carpet covering grass.  I quickly grabbed my water bottle and rinsed off my feet and then made a decision that I later regretted – I decided to go sockless on the bike.  I never do that but I didn’t want to wrestle socks onto two wet feet.  22nd overall fastest through T1.

The Bike – 37:52 – I had biked on Thursday and I thought that I could probably push close to 20 mph average on race day.  Boy was that wrong.  I ended up averaging about 17 mph, but it wasn’t for lack of trying to go faster.  The course was new to me, and there were lots of slower riders ahead of me.  But the thing that really affected my overall speed was the numerous sharp turns, as well as a few hairpin turns thrown in for fun.  It was a difficult course, and even though there was a no passing mandate on a portion in which there was two-way riding on a six foot wide path, there was plenty of passing going on.  But from the moment when my butt hit the seat, I was gunning hard and passing lots of the faster swimmers.  I never got passed on the bike, and ended up with the 24th best bike split.

T2 – 1:25 – What I thought was a super fast transition from bike to run, it turns out I was pretty slow compared to the others.  This is also where I realized how dumb it is to go sockless.  My cycling shoe had worn the skin off a small spot on the top of my foot.  Needless to say, I put on my socks for the run and won’t be going sockless ever again.  The results had my T2 split at a questionable 164th place.  Really?  That surprises me because I thought I had done pretty well.  But I guess having to put on socks is what killed my time.

The Run – 22:04 – Grabbing my visor and bib belt, I bolted out of T2 without yet putting them on, and I was on the trail for what is my strong suit – the run.  I passed three very fit triathletes by 1/4 mile into it and was feeling great.  I just kept motoring along, passing numerous other runners.  I came up on one woman at the turn around who knew what was about to happen and stepped aside to let me go by.  I thanked her and started trying to catch the next runner.  Soon I saw another woman heading toward the turn around and I thought to myself that I bet she overtakes me soon.  

Somewhere after the 2 mile marker, the course veered off the I&M Canal trail and headed onto a park trail.  There was a hill and the volunteer standing there said “You’re welcome.”  I said “I’m walking this damn thing.”  And I walked up it.  It was steep, but what goes up quickly came down as we meandered through the portion of the Forge where they have climbing apparatus and zip lining stuff.  There were some pretty steep rocky stairs that I had to run down, but they weren’t too technical.  Back up a couple more hills and it was back the the trail and over to where we had to pass the finish line and do a quick 1/4 mile out and back to the finish.  The out portion was where the woman who I figured would pass me finally did.  We went around the cone together, but she hit the gas and I couldn’t match her pace.  I had the 16th fastest run split for the day and moved myself up to 22nd overall.  

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I cooled down, grabbed a banana and some water, put on a dry shirt, and kicked back by the quarry to wait for the rest of the triathletes to finish.  The scrolling results on the projected screen would only show overall place and not age group place, so I had to wait until the awards to find out if I had placed.  When the announcer announced my time first I started heading for the stage.  I was slightly surprised at 3rd place in my age group, but I was glad to take home the award, even if it was an odd carabiner clip thing attached to a chunk of wood.  I think I prefer medals.  The Old Guy age group seems to be the most competitive group out there.  16 of the top 25 were over 40 years old, and most of the rest were in their thirties.  Only two of the top 25 were under 30 years old, a 19 year old and a 29 year old.  

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Conclusion – The Forge Off-Road Triathlon was a fun event.  It was different to have to actually think about riding on a course like this, instead of just hammering along in aero on my tri bike.  I would do this one again, and would recommend it to anyone thinking about hitting the trails for the bike and run instead of what we normally race on.  

Thanks for reading!

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

2021 IRONMAN CHATTANOOGA TRAINING

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WEEK 19 – July 11, 2021 

My in-laws have been staying with us this past couple of weeks and my father-in-law’s cellphone ringtone is the theme to The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, which is a pretty good metaphor for training this week. First up… 

The Good

Coming off a pretty easy week which ended in four straight rest days, I was hoping for a week of training that would feel pretty good. For the most part, I wasn’t disappointed. The legs felt strong, and the efforts weren’t killing me.

I joined the Saturday group ride and coaxed my coworker Tom into joining me. I planned to ride with Tom regardless, but when the fastest of the usual riders showed up, I knew that I wouldn’t be pushing myself to join in with their crazy tempo. Tom and I had a great ride out to the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery and back. We split apart at about two hours as Tom headed back and I needed to extend the ride another two hours. Saturday called for rain, but fortunately, it held off, stayed a cool day, and I was able to ride for a little more than 70 miles and then have a decent 30-minute post-ride run.  

The Bad

I have been dealing with some numbness in my left foot when riding my bike to the point of it being somewhat painful. It’s a little embarrassing to have this pain because I felt like I knew how to deal with it, but the way I dealt with it in the past wasn’t working this time. No matter how I adjusted the cleat on my cycling shoe, I wasn’t getting any relief. I added a piece of foam padding under the insert of the shoe and it seemed to make it a little more bearable on Saturday’s ride, so I will continue to adjust that until I find some relief. The troubling aspect of it though is that it has also been carrying over to my running. The shoes I run in have about 250 miles on them but don’t really feel worn out. On Sunday’s 10-mile run, I broke out a new pair of running shoes, and although the pain was much less it wasn’t gone. I’ll give it some time.

Sunday I was determined not to miss breakfast. I have been missing out on pancakes and sausage/bacon on the weekends too often because of training and I wasn’t settling for that on Sunday. As usual, Kari’s pancakes were outstanding, and I left feeling very satisfied. But I think it affected my run a little as I was somewhat laboring through the first four miles or so. Whatever. The pancakes were outstanding.

It was the swim for me this week that was the main “bad” part of training. On Thursday, I attempted a swim after pushing pretty hard through a bike ride. I was getting some cramps in my calves on the ride, so I decided that this swim would need the pull buoy to take kicking out of the equation. It didn’t matter because about 10-minutes into the swim my left calf cramped up with one of the worst Charley Horse-type cramps that I can remember. I pulled the plug on the swim and limped around on a sore calf for the rest of the day. I already do the bare minimum for swimming just putting in two 30-minute swims a week, so maybe it’s time to rethink that. I may move swimming to the off-day Monday to remove it from a post-run or post-bike workout during the week. Maybe an hour-long swim with some drills and intervals added may be a better idea. I don’t like swimming.

The Ugly

During the group ride, we had to deal with a jerk in a minivan. Apparently, he couldn’t stand being inconvenienced for a few seconds by some cyclists. He hit the gas, squealed his tires, beeped his horn, and tore off around us like we should not be on his road. People can really suck sometimes. He’ll get his karma someday. Hopefully sooner rather than later. I ride with a front and rear flashing light/camera device. Here are the videos:

From my rear camera

From the front camera

Swims: 1 – 510 yards

Rides: 3 – 109 miles

Runs: 5 – 32 miles

Vacation Overrules Training

2021 IRONMAN CHATTANOOGA TRAINING

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WEEK 18 – July 4, 2021

Happy Fourth of July!

The week preceding Independence Day was my family’s vacation week in Wisconsin at the lake home. I ended last week up here too, but looked forward to a great week of training with some awesome weather and some different scenery than what I am used to.

After my rest day on Monday I got in a nice open water swim in the lake. The wetsuit hadn’t been used in over a year, but I got it on with only some minor contortions and struggles.

Nice and calm water was like swimming in the pool.

This was an easy training week according to the plan, ending with an Olympic distance race. So Wednesday’s bike/run brick was about the hardest part of it. On Thursday I began my swim workout in the lake again and during the swim I decided why not just make this the Olympic distance race practice instead of doing it on the Fourth. So I turned around and headed back to the dock, finishing right at 1500 meters.

Since I hadn’t planned to do the mock race I had to go upstairs and gather some junk to do the ride. I needed a tri top, water bottle, a gel or two and get my bike ready. So transition took a little longer than usual, but I was soon on the bike heading to St. Germain.

Once back from the bike I opted to switch to a running shirt and drink a Gatorade that my wife was kind enough to have ready for me. Out the door and off at a pretty strong pace had me a little wiped out around 3.5 miles into the run, but a few stops to wait for traffic allowed me to catch my breath and find a comfortable pace.

Not bad times for a non-race practice Olympic triathlon.

At home and done meant a cool down jump in the lake, which is always refreshing. I decided right there and then that my week was over on a Thursday and it was time to take a mental break from training for the rest of the week. And that’s exactly what I did.

Time to forget about training for three days and enjoy some family time and fun on the lake. And wear a silly hat.

Swims: 2 – 3554 yards

Rides: 2 – 38 miles

Runs: 3 – 16 miles

Race day is in 12 more Sundays