2021 Running and Triathlon Year in Review

2021 Running and Triathlon Year in Review

Started 2021 with some trail running. Found out I loved running trails.

What a difference a year makes! After just going through the motions last year, running and biking without any racing, it was such a joy to have racing back again in 2021. As I write this, December 2021 is starting to feel more like 2020, and I definitely do not want to go back there, but I think the ship will right itself again.

2021 saw a return to racing for me. I tried to not go overboard with racing, and there were some changes to how things were done, but we were allowed to push ourselves once again.

On the triathlon front, I got in two events – the first being an “off-road” sprint triathlon that was a lot of fun, and resulted in an age-group placing. And I completed my fifth Ironman in Chattanooga with my friends.

The Gunner Gang the morning of Ironman Chattanooga 2021.

It was also a year of new adventures in running for me as I trained for and ran a couple ultra marathons. I found training for the ultras to reinvigorate my passion for running. I also found that going slower can also be fun. I learned quite a bit about myself on those training runs and during the events as well. I’ve already signed up to do the Big Hill Bonk event, as well as another attempt at the Tunnel Hill 100.  I’m an Ultra Runner now!!!

In the spring I began my training for Ironman Chattanooga, which I made my goal “A” race, and would train for the other stuff around that training. Although it prepared me well for the Ironman, I think the training wasn’t quite adequate for the 100-miler, and that became clear to me when I decided to drop at the halfway mark and take the 50-mile finish. I felt no regret about stopping at 50 miles at the time I did it, but it wasn’t long before I was regretting it a little. I will prepare myself with a little more ultra-specific run training and arm myself with what I learned from the race to give it another try in the fall.

Summer saw me entering my first race of the year and first time back at racing since Covid shut down everything in 2020. I was urged by a few of my coworkers to run a local 5K and that was a fun return to road racing. The course was hilly and tough, and the warm day didn’t lend to a great 5K time, but I did okay-ish. Here’s the race report:  2021 Chasing the Sun 5K Race Report

Had some fun swim training with Tom in Lake Michigan.  He’s caught the tri bug.  

Next was a new, local triathlon that was “off-road,” which basically meant it was on a crushed limestone trail for the bike and run. I was excited about that because I got to actually race my gravel bike for the first time. You can read about it here:  The Forge Off-road Triathlon Race Report

Coming out of the water at the Forge Tri.

In August the Big Hill Bonk – Wisconsin’s Backyard Ultra race finally took place after a couple of postponements and it was a ton of fun. This race format of running multiple 4.16 mile loops every hour is still kind of new, so I found myself learning as I ran. And what I learned is that I had a lot of fun running through the woods and into the dark of night. It was a great experience and I look forward to doing it again in April 2022. Eight laps, or “yards” netted me 33 total miles.  The adventure can be found on this post:  Big Hill Bonk – Wisconsin Backyard Ultra Race Report

Fake running for the photographer, but having a blast at Big Hill Bonk.

Next up was a return to Chattanooga for my fifth Ironman with my Gunner teammates Dave, Jeff, and Jan. Weatherwise, race day was much better than what we experienced in 2019, a dreadfully hot and humid day. This race was wetsuit legal, a first for Chattanooga, I believe. Even with an extra four miles on the bike course, and the run course being one of the hilliest ever, I turned in my second fastest IM time. Here’s the report:  2021 Ironman Chattanooga Race Report

Doing my part to promote pathetic triathlonism.  

I had about a month and a half to work on building some mileage for my first attempt at running 100 miles. I worked on pacing and in-race nutrition while logging lots of weekly miles in training. Race day came and I felt prepared, but my body was aching a little and my mind wasn’t quite prepared to tell my body to keep going. Thankfully, at Tunnel Hill you can get the 50-mile finisher award if you decide to drop at the half-way point, and that’s what I did. I’ve never run that far in one day ever, and I’m pretty proud of that. Read about Tunnel Hill here:  Tunnel Hill 50 Mile Run Race Report

Finishing 50 miles of running and calling it a day.  I had a Forrest Gump moment and didn’t feel like running anymore.

One little note about the Boston Marathon. I ran the Chicago Marathon in 2019 and got my third Boston qualifier, albiet barely. I was thirteen seconds under the qualifying time and even though I was proud of that, I knew that a BQ-13 would not be quick enough, and I didn’t give any thought to applying to run it again. I was wrong. Boston announced that there would be NO CUTOFF FOR 2022! I could have made it in! Oh well, I’m not sure I wanted to run it on such short notice anyway. Running Boston in 2018 was such a miserable experience (!) and great memory for me, I might not ever want to run it again!

So that wraps up 2021. What’s in store for 2022? Well, it seems that I’ve gotten myself entangled in a hodge-podge of events that I will have to figure out how to train for. Plus, I have to keep the calendar clear for a couple reasons: Kari and I celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary in September and we are hoping to go on a trip. And my son Ben and fiance Emily are planning a summer wedding, which doesn’t quite have a concrete date yet. I’m looking forward to both of those non-running, non-triathloning events!

But I have already committed to running the Big Hill Bonk in April, which I have sorta started training for now. I’ve also added the Manteno sprint tri for the end of July. I’m toying with adding the Chicago Triathlon for the end of August. And since the Chicago Marathon notified me that I have legacy and can sign up for the race, I did so. It may end up being another attempt at a Boston qualifier, or it may end up being a training run for Tunnel Hill 100, which I committed to just 2 hours ago. Yeah, I have some unfinished business there.  And I’m a glutton for punishment.

So here’s to 2022 and a happy and healthy racing year.

RUNNING STATS

  • JANUARY – 21 Runs / 140 Miles / 35 Miles per week
  • FEBRUARY – 15 Runs / 79 Miles / 20 Miles per week
  • MARCH – 19 Runs / 85 Miles / 21 Miles per week
  • APRIL – 15 Runs / 78 Miles / 19 Miles per week
  • MAY – 17 Runs / 91 Miles / 23 Miles per week
  • JUNE – 18 Runs / 98 Miles / 24.5 Miles per week
  • JULY – 18 Runs / 120 Miles / 30 Miles per week
  • AUGUST – 20 Runs / 180 Miles / 45 Miles per week
  • SEPTEMBER – 18 Runs / 124 Miles / 31 Miles per week
  • OCTOBER – 21 Runs / 242 Miles / 60.5 Miles per week
  • NOVEMBER – 14 Runs / 158 Miles / 39 Miles per week
  • DECEMBER – 13 Runs / 95 Miles / 24 Miles per week
  • 2021 TOTALS – 209 Runs / 1490 Miles / 28.6 Miles per week

LIFETIME RUNNING TOTAL

  • 29049 Total Lifetime Miles / 5190 Total Lifetime Runs / 33rd Year of Running

BIKING STATS

  • 109 Total Rides / 2843 Total Miles

SWIMMING STATS

  • 33 Total Swims / 51971 Total Yards (29.5 miles)

2021 Ironman Chattanooga Race Report

September 26, 2021

How did I end up back here?

After doing this race in 2019 and nearly melting from the heat, my buddy Dave and I were in agreement about not wanting to ever experience that again.  I definitely tried to avoid Chattanooga, but fate pushed me there.

I had signed up for the 2020 Ironman Louisville race but it got canceled due to some social unrest in the city and of course, a worldwide pandemic.  Ironman gave me four options to transfer to, three of which were also fall 2020 races and clearly not going to happen.  The only other option was to go back to Chatty in 2021 and hope that the world would settle down.  Thankfully, we had a better knowledge about the virus, and the vaccine helped keep the option for racing open in 2021.  Things still aren’t ideal, but it’s getting better.

So I opted for a return trip to Chattanooga and I was soon joined by my Gunner buddies Jeff, his sister Jan, and eventually Dave.  A few local friends also opted to give Choo a go – Susan, John, and Charlie, as well as first-timers Angela and Daniel.  At first I thought that this race was going to be a solo affair for me, but now it was a full-fledged party!

Training thirty weeks for an Ironman is an awfully long time.

Once again I broke out the old trusty Be Iron Fit training book and followed the plan.  30-weeks broken into base, build, and endurance phases that has prepared this self-coached triathlete well in four previous Ironman races.

I follow the plan pretty closely with a few changes that I have found over the previous training cycles to be beneficial to me.  First, I reduced the swim from the hour-plus swim, 2-3 times per week that the book dictates, to two 30-minute swims per week.  I’m not the greatest swimmer, but once I had the technique down, I found that the swim training that the book wants me to do is INSANE.  Plus, I get so bored swimming that I just can’t take much more than 30-minutes.  I did get in a longer open water swim in Minocqua at my lake home, and I did one 4200 yard swim in my pool in the closing weeks of training just to prove to myself that I could do the distance.

Biking was more of a group thing for me this time around, and I often joined the locals for the rides out to Elwood.  My coworker Tom, who had caught the triathlon bug and signed up for Ironman Muncie 70.3 was also a training ride partner.  A couple of weekends I was joined by Susan, which were much needed in order to help each other get over the mental struggle of training.  She won’t take any credit for turning me around mentally, but she deserves some none-the-less.  Overall, it was a pretty good year for cycling leading up to the race.

As for the running – oh boy.  I foolishly signed up for a “last runner standing” format ultra which also got postponed to August.  I just used my Ironman training and it got me through 8-loops and 33 miles, completing my first 50K distance ultramarathon.  After that, it was back to the plan and doing the work with one exception – I also foolishly signed up for the Tunnel Hill 100, an ultra-marathon in November.  I’m pretty dumb.  So I decided that even though I wasn’t going to increase my mileage, I did adapt to doing some run/walk long runs.  I learned that a ratio of about 4.5 minutes of running with a 1.5 minute walk break on my Sunday long runs was working pretty good for me.  Since I was doing Chattanooga, I figured that I was going to be walking most of the marathon anyway, so why not get used to that style of running.

How hot is it going to be this year?

Summer was hot here in the Chicago area again this year and I could sense that race day might be ugly once again.  Boy was I wrong.  I generally avoid looking at the weather forecast until it gets closer to race day, but it was shaping up to be beautiful.  How beautiful?  How about mid to upper 70s, no rain and no wind.  If you could pick the perfect day, this might have been an ideal race day forecast.  And if that wasn’t good enough, it rained for several days leading up to the race which cooled the water temp down below the wetsuit legal temperature of 76.1.  I think this was a first for Chattanooga – a wetsuit legal swim!

What can go wrong will go wrong.

Race week meant one final check of the bike and I decided to give the drive train one last going over.  That’s when my 8-year-old rear derailleur decided to die.

That spring thing isn’t supposed to be showing. 

I drove the bike up to Spokes in Wheaton, Illinois and begged a guy named Chris to fix it for me.  He said I was screwed.  Actually, he said that they don’t stock 10-speed parts as they aren’t being used anymore.  But he searched through an old box of spare parts and found a lesser level Sram 10-speed derailleur in workable condition.  He bolted it on, I took it for a test spin, happily forked over the $70 bucks, and then thanked my lucky stars.  The next day the bike was in the car and I was headed to Chattanooga.

When Carla wasn’t involved in picking out our lodging, things can get weird.

Since Dave was a last minute sign up, his wife Carla wasn’t doing all of the work finding us lodging.  I didn’t mind our last hotel that we stayed at in Chattanooga, but I was hoping for something closer.  I settled on the Marriott Residence Inn, which I totally picked because it was a block away and it had a little kitchenette thing.  When I checked in I got some attitude from the guy at the front desk about not canceling our second room soon enough, and then I made my way to the room.  It was a little dirty and smelled a little, but I was glad to have plenty room for my stuff.  It got a little weird when the toilet wouldn’t flush and they had to call a plumber in to remove the travel-sized deodorant that someone had flushed down it.  Fun times.

Kari flew in and soon the whole Gunner gang was in town. The next couple of days were spent checking in for the race, organizing our gear bags, and then dropping the bags and the bikes off.  Gunner Jeff, a four-time Ironman, for some reason could not remember the bike/bag drop-off procedure, which I found highly entertaining.  Race week anxiety does some weird stuff to your brain.

My friend Angela checking out her bags for her first Ironman.

We typically try to find a restaurant to eat a prerace meal at, but since we couldn’t find something at such a short notice for our big group, we opted for a family-style spaghetti dinner, courtesy of Jill and assisted by her daughter Emma and my wife Kari.  It might have been the best prerace dinner ever.  We had such good conversations and the meal was delicious.

Best prerace meal ever!

Why am I nervous?  Prerace anxiety sucks.

After setting a couple of alarms I was ready to hit the sack.  Except there was no way I was going to fall asleep.  At 10:30pm or so, I got back up and took a portion of an Ambien and tried again.  According to Kari, I was soon asleep.  According to me, my brain was active all night long.

Race day is finally here!

The alarms went off and I got up and showered.  Dave always showers before the race but it’s a sometimes for me.  I felt like the shower might wake me up more  and needed a shave, so I took one.  Next up was getting dressed and grabbing some food.  Then off to meet the gang to walk down to the village and into transition to check the bike and bags.

I think Dave needs another shower. He never was a morning person.

We hopped onto the school bus for the shuttle ride to the swim start and then settled into to await the start.  I heard that the kayak volunteers were late getting into the water for some reason, which delayed our start by about ten minutes, but we heard the pro racers start and we would be next.

I had made a Facebook friend, a guy named Marc the Shark, and had missed seeing him at Louisville in 2017 and so far for this race too, but as I was looking around there he was just a couple of people away.  I said hello and we wished each other well.

Next thing I knew I was walking down the ramp and jumping into the Tennessee River with hardly any performance expectation other than to finish without getting too worn out.

59 MINUTES!?!?  THAT CAN’T BE RIGHT!

The swim went swimmingly.  I drifted to the right, away from the shore and more toward the middle of the river in order to take advantage of any current that was pushing us along.  The kayakers will only let you get so far away from the buoys, so I found myself pretty much between them and the kayakers.  It seemed like I was swimming by myself, once again enjoying the almost 100% contactless swim.  I had a little hint of a foot cramp happening, but I was able to kick it out of my system.

As the buoys turned from yellow to orange at the halfway point, I found myself getting closer to them and eventually looked up to find them on my right side for the first time.  I got past the island in the middle of the river and the three bridges were dead ahead.  The next thing I knew I rounded the red turn buoy and swam to the ladder, and that’s when I glanced at my watch – 59 minutes.  That’s insane.  I know that this course could give me a quick swim, but never in my life did I think I could swim 2.4 miles in under an hour.  00:59:43 officially.  A swim PR for me.

Still wondering how the heck I swam a 59 minute Ironman swim.
Thankfully a volunteer yanked my wetsuit off for me or I would still be sitting there trying to remove it.

SWIM:  00:59:43 – 52nd in Male 55-59 Age Group / 529th Male / 679th Overall

Why do I suck at the swim to bike transition?

My plan going for getting through the first transition was to not waste time like I usually do.  So what did I do?  I found a way to waste time.

As you can see in my swim photos I still have my swim goggles on.  That’s because they are prescription and I need them to see where I am going, find my bag, and go find a place to sit down and get ready for the bike.  All that went well enough but as soon as I put my eyeglasses on, they fogged up.  Nice.  Now I couldn’t see much at all.  I couldn’t find my socks at first, but then I remembered that I had put them into one of my shoes.  I found my towel and dried my feet and got some Skin Glide on them and then struggled to get my socks on.  Next were the arm sleeves that went on okay thanks to me rolling them on, but then I realized that I hadn’t put on any sunscreen yet and I was sure that I would take the arm sleeves off when I warmed up.  So I started looking for my spray can of sunscreen and couldn’t find it.  Since I knew that they had a sun screen table at the exit of the bike corral, I stopped looking for my own and got all of my swim crap into the bag.  The helmet got strapped, my nutrition, consisting of five Payday fun size candy bars, a Stroopwafel, and my gel flask, got thrown into my back pockets, and off I clopped to find my bike.

I walked the bike over to the table with the sunscreen and took off my gloves and started hitting the most vulnerable spots heavily.  The gloves went back on and off I clopped again to the mount line to begin my tour of a sliver of southern Tennessee and a big chunk of northern Georgia.

T1:  12:34

They say this is a beautiful and scenic bike course.  I’ll take their word for it.

Almost all of the Ironman bike courses are listed as “scenic” and I’m sure that they are.  But when you are riding along at 18 mph or so, with others jockeying around you on roads that sometimes aren’t in the best shape, you tend to spend more attention to not crashing than the beautiful scenery.  But this time I did actually take a few moments to gaze at the mountains and the local picturesque landscape.  I did notice some low lying fog in the early stages.

Apparently most of the sunscreen I put on went on my face.

I had a long sleeve shirt that I intended to put on when I started the bike but I opted not to use it and I was fine.  I rode with the arm sleeves and gloves for more than half of the race before tossing them.

First loop fun. At least the sunscreen had faded by now.
Earning my Pathetic Triathlete Badge. Had to do it.

Heading out of town was at a fast pace.  It was that way in 2019, too.  I didn’t feel like I was pushing hard or anything, but after about an hour of a pace faster than I normally train at, I knew that I would be pushing pace all through the bike.  The first 56 miles was under three hours by a lot, a time that I would have been really proud of if it was just a 70.3 race.

Less goofing around on the second loop.

Like usual, I was glad to be getting off the bike at the end.  I didn’t feel as miserable as I normally do, but 116 miles and a little over 6 hours is a long time to be riding a bike.  I handed my bike to a kid volunteer to put away and jokingly told her to change the oil and give it a wash and I would be back to pick it up in five hours.  She looked at me like I had two heads.  Tough crowd.  I guess comedy isn’t my thing.

My Garmin had me at 6:06 with the autopause turned on.  That’s a huge PR for me.  Garmin also has a 18.9 mph average and a top speed of 39.1 mph.

BIKE:  6:18:27 – 55th Male 55-59 Age Group / 544th Male / 662nd Overall

Time for the emotions to kick in.

As I walked from dropping the bike off with the kid, I got hit with the feels.  Usually this hits me around the last mile or so of the marathon, but I was pretty proud of what I just did on the bike, as well as the swim.  It didn’t last long.  I was handed my Run Gear bag and off to the changing tent to waste some time.

I sat down and pulled the cycling gear off and looked for the Dude Wipe (basically a big wet wipe) and wiped my face off, as well as the bugs that I had accumulated on my sweaty shoulders.  It always makes me feel a little fresher to clean up a little.

Amazingly enough, I had a sun screen can in my bag.  It’s less necessary at this part of the race, but I sprayed my bald head and arms anyway.  With the bib belt, shoes and visor on, I grabbed my nutrition and started out of transition.

T2 – 7:11

This marathon is no joke.  I’m not going to crush this.

On Friday, I approached a first timer as he was talking with his wife about the run course and I told him that the run starts on the sidewalk about 300 yards back there and the walk starts here, pointing to the hill not even a quarter mile into the course.  I was joking, but not really.  I saw a photographer and gave a half-hearted effort at running for the picture but it wasn’t going so well for me.

Just starting the “run” and trying to contain my blazing speed.

I felt hot, which is not uncommon for me.  Yes, it was still sunny and later into the day, but when you are riding you have that constant wind blowing on you to help cool you off.  I walked about a half-mile before I even started thinking about running.

After the first couple of aid stations, I started to get more hydration and sugar into me and started to come around.  By the time I got four miles into it I was feeling better.

It wasn’t long and Gunner Jeff caught me.  I knew he would.  We would leap frog back and forth sharing the run lead for the rest of the way, but seeing that he had made up the difference in what little lead I had with the swim and bike, I knew that he was ahead of me by chip time even if he was standing right next to me.  The same thing happened last time as well, it just happened sooner this year.  He’s good.

Jeff and I walking to the top of Battery Hill and seeing Kari, Jill, Emma, and Maxwell.
Feeling good here on the walking bridge finishing the first loop.

In 2019, I made it a goal at the start of the second loop to try to get through the wooded park along the river walk before it got dark but didn’t get it done.  This time it was no problem.

Second loop and second time up Battery. This isn’t even the hilliest part of this marathon. ~ Mile 18 here.

I caught Jeff again and we walked up the dreaded Barton Avenue hill together and for most of the rest of that north side of the river portion of the course.  I recognized my local friend Daniel just as we were turning off of Barton.  He seemed to be somewhat doubtful about finishing, but I tried my best to encourage him to keep moving forward.  He was in a rough place mentally, but he overcame it and finished in plenty of time.

Jeff and I also saw Dave heading up the hill as we were heading down and knew he was also going to finish not far behind us.

As we approached the walking bridge I told Jeff that I was going to walk the uphill portion of it and not to wait for me.  I could have jogged with him, but I wanted him to go get his glory and cross the line first.  He finished about a minute ahead of me according to the time of day, but he bested me by about 11 minutes.

As I got over the bridge I was forced to run through a gauntlet of fans that crowd the run course and one guy got an extended evil eye from me and got out of my way.  I ran down the hill and turned onto the road to finish.  As I approached the finish chute I kept checking in front and behind me to have a good finish for myself and things were looking good.  But all at once this dope comes screaming past me and spoils my finish.  And to add to that disappointment, the announcer didn’t even call me in!  WTF?  Oh well, it’s not my first Ironman finish, and it probably won’t be my last.  But the photos still prove that I had a great race.

5 TIME IRONMAN FINISHER

RUN:  5:04:47 – 50th Male in 55-59 Age Group / 476th Male / 612th Overall

FINAL TIME:  12:42:42 – 2nd fastest Ironman Finish / Swim & Bike Ironman PR’s / 5th Ironman Finish

But wait, there’s more!

Loads of thanks to go around.  To my wife Kari – you’re my Iron Rock.  Thanks for supporting me not only once or twice, but five times now.  I promise to take next year off!

To my Gunner teammates Dave, Jeff, and Jan – thanks for being on the journey with me once again.  Doing a race without you would never be as fun.

To my local friends Susan, John, Charlie, Angela, and Daniel – WELL DONE!  You are all IRONMEN!  And let’s not forget Casey, who magically appeared at the finish line as a volunteer and handed a much surprised me my finisher hat, medal and shirt!  That was unexpected and a great way to finish.

Until next time, thanks for reading.  – Chris

One Week To Go!

2021 IRONMAN CHATTANOOGA TRAINING

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WEEK 29 – September 19, 2021 

29 weeks down, 1 week to go!  I’ve gone from Week 1 back in March and doing my workouts inside, to seeing farm fields go from untilled dirt, to not being able to see around turns due to the corn being fully grown.  I’ve gone from being mentally burned out, to being very atuned to how great I feel.  I’ve been so far from being ready, to feeling like I’m ready to rock this race.  All it took was a day to day effort, following a great plan for the fifth time, and having the support of my Gunner teammates and the local friends that have been very instrumental in making this training block pleasurable.  Let’s roll!

Last “long” ride of the training before the race. I had to wait for a choo-choo while training for Choo.

 

I try to plan out a race day plan for myself and in 2019 it became very clear that the day would be about surviving the heat.  It was a scorcher and I won’t ever forget it.  I don’t really try to worry too much about the weather or water temperatures for race day, but after 2019 I’m not ignoring it either.  So when a couple of casual checks of the long-range forecast revealed that the temperature might be in the 70s and sunny, well that changes my mindset a little.  I may be going from planning to pace an Ironman to racing it instead.  It means instead of a 16.5 mph average on the bike to maybe an 18 mph average.  It means that I may be able to run a sub-4.5 hour marathon instead of something over 5 hours.  I’m definitely bringing the wetsuit, like always.  But last time I knew I wasn’t going to be using it.  This time?  There might be a wetsuit legal swim for the first time in Choo history.  We’ll see, I’m not holding my breath, but it would be awesome if it was.

So, let’s wrap up these 29 weeks and get ready for race week.  Here’s a summary and a link to all previous weeks.  I’ll give you a virtual medal for going back and reading all these blogs.  

Week 1 – Getting pumped for Ironman #5!  PUMP IT UP!

Week 2 – Yeah, I eat junk food.  Who doesn’t?  I’M SHOCKED!

Week 3 – A little optimistic that I was 1/10 done with training.  One Tenth Done

Week 4 – Ended March with some unexpected motivation.  Inspiring Motivation

Week 5 – A cold ride brought out the MacGuyver in me.  Three Plastic Bags and a Popped Balloon

Week 6 – Trying to recall some meaningless training info.  I Can’t Remember

Week 7 – A calf injury had me a little concerned.  Running Injury? A Minor Inconvenience

Week 8 – Feeling guilty about inspiring others to join in this dumb sport.  (not really)  Regretfully Inspiring Others

Week 9 – Roared into May with a light-hearted post.  I’m In The Cool Kids Club

Week 10 – Glad to hit the 1/3 done mark.  One-Third Into the Training

Week 11 – Back soreness had me worried.  I Was Spineless, But Now I’m Back

Week 12 – Wondering and thinking can lead to some crazy ideas.  I Wonder… About Week 12

Week 13 – I had to remind myself that you can’t have the reward without the journey.  Work First, Brag Later

Week 14 – Sort of an odds and ends week.  Week 14 Hitting Hard

Week 15 – Not a great finish to 15 weeks of training.  Limping It In At The Half-way Point

Week 16 – I gave myself a gold star for this week.  Grading Myself

Week 17 – Torch Run with the coworkers, and the start of vacation.  Ins and Outs of Week 17

Week 18 – Foot injury and vacation meant let the training slide a little.  Vacation Overrules Training

Week 19 – I had issues this week, some good, some bad, some ugly.  The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Week 20 – An off-road tri, and things we triathletes fear.  Fear, Part… III

Week 21 – My friend Tom takes a licking and keeps on ticking.  Rub Some Dirt On It

Week 22 – Couldn’t do this dumb sport without her.  My Coach Wife

Week 23 – Swapping the weeks around.  An Easy Week?

Week 24 – My first 50K ultra; thinking less about Ironman.  Field of Dreams

Week 25 – Trying to get something out of training instead of doing the opposite.  Yielding a Better Return

Week 26 – I know I don’t have to do this dumb sport, but I still do it.  By My Own Choosing

Week 27 – Had a pretty good training week to round out the endurance phase of training.  A Not So Dreadful Week 27

Week 28 – Some bike maintenance and the welcome of the taper.  Bring on the Taper!

And there you have it.  I’ll wrap up Week 30 in the Ironman Chattanooga race report.  Time to start packing and getting ready for Choo!

SWIMS: 3 – 3780 yards

BIKES: 3 – 67 miles

RUNS: 4 – 22 miles

 

Bring on the Taper!

2021 IRONMAN CHATTANOOGA TRAINING

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WEEK 28 – September 12, 2021 

The taper is here! I’m finally winding down the training and enjoying the feeling of accomplishing what I needed to do to get myself ready for my fifth Ironman. I’ve trained on cold days, hot days, windy days, rainy days, and beautiful days as well. I think that it’s okay to start celebrating the work that I have done even if I haven’t got to the starting line yet. So, after 27 weeks of building up to long bike rides and long runs, it’s time to start pulling back.

The band Boston certainly played a huge part in the soundtrack of my youth, and I still enjoy their music today. Of course, the first two albums were what made them, but their third album Third Stage was a big hit as well.

I’ve been hearing the song We’re Ready quite a bit lately on SiriusXM’s Classic Rewind and I find one verse of the lyrics very fitting for this third stage of Ironman training.  I certainly feel like I’m ready.

We’re ready now
Catchin’ a wave to ride on
Steady now
Headin’ where we decide on
And I know that there’s something that’s just out of sight
And I feel like we’re trying to do something right
Come on make it if we hold on tight
Hold on tight
We’re Ready! C’mon we’re ready
We’re ready

There’s another song on that album called Cool The Engines, which is also very appropriate for the taper. I took advantage of the cooler weather this week and the lighter training load to push my pace a little bit. Maybe I just wanted to rev the engine somewhat. But in the back of my mind, I could hear my brain reminding me to not overdo it.

Take me for a ride
Take me all the way
Take me where I’ve never been
Someplace I can stay
Don’t get yourself too hot
Don’t get yourself too high
If we don’t take it easy now
We can kiss it all goodbye

Cool the engines
Red line’s gettin’ near
Cool the engines
Better take it out of gear

I’m no fool
Gonna keep it cool
Take it day by day
We won’t know where we might go
‘Til we make it all the way

So, it’s time for me to cool the engines and bring on the taper!  We’re ready!

~~~

I took the time on Friday to fix my rear brakes and to put on new tires and throw on Conti 5000’s for the first time.  The brakes are working well again, and the new tires were like floating on air on Saturday’s ride.

I rode with a group on Saturday and by the time we spread out I found myself riding mostly with Julie, whom I had never met before at these rides, but her pace and mine got us through Elwood and I enjoyed getting to meet another local rider.  Julie is an Ironman, and said she was training for Ironman Waco in October.  Good luck, Julie!

I have to take a moment and brag on my son Ben a little.  He ran a local half-marathon called the Hidden Gem and nailed a PR for himself – 1:16:34, a 5:51 pace!  My kid is smoking fast!  Great job, Ben!

I’m also excited to hear that another Gunner fence-sitter may have committed to joining Jeff, Jan, and I on this dumb idea.  YESSSSSSSS!

On Sunday I wrapped up my week with a 2-hour long run on mine and my wife Kari’s 29th wedding annniversary.  I’m so lucky to have shared 29 wedded years with this woman, and I look forward to many more!  I’m also very lucky she tolerates these adventures I go on.

SWIMS: 1 – 1500 yards

BIKES: 3 – 105.5 miles

RUNS: 5 –  32.5miles

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A Not So Dreadful Week 27

2021 IRONMAN CHATTANOOGA TRAINING

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WEEK 27 – September 5, 2021 

I usually refer to Week 27 of the Be Iron Fit Ironman training plan as the “Dreaded Week 27.”  It’s the toughest week in the 30-weeks of training, ending in a 6-hour bike ride with a one hour run right after it on Saturday, and a 3-hour long run on Sunday.  But I took a little sting out of it by basically doing that workout at the end of Week 26.  I did that for a couple of reasons.  First, the opportunity presented itself last Saturday to ride an extra half-hour when I rode with Susan and we were managing our effort very well, staying hydrated and fueled on a very hot day.  So as we got closer to getting back I just committed to it and it worked out fine.  Same with Sunday, I was feeling good and figured I would just go an extra 15-minutes and make it a full 3-hour run.  On the Friday before those two days I was somewhat dreading the weekend, but after getting out there and doing the extended portions and feeling good afterwards, it was a huge confidence builder for me.

Secondly, my wife Kari and I planned to head north to our lake home to enjoy some lake life and take care of some fall house and yard needs, and I thought that if I did the workouts a week ahead of time, I might not be so pressed for time or be so wornout if I swapped the planned workouts.  I may even cut the long Saturday ride and long Sunday run down and start my tapering a little earlier this time around.

Here’s how the Dreaded Week 27 went for me.

Monday is usually a rest day, and I usually putter around the house and do the things that get neglected during the week; catch up on laundry, mow the grass, get groceries, etc.  But after a couple of walks I was bored and thought why not do a swim.  So I put on some tri shorts and jumped in.  30-minutes is my typical swim workout, but I was feeling good so I pushed it to 60-minutes.  When I got to sixty I was still feeling pretty good, so I pushed it another half-hour, and before I knew it I had swum 4300 yards – covering the distance of an Ironman swim.  There was no tiredness, no calf or foot cramps, and really no boredom, which surprised the heck out of me.  Knowing that I can easily swim the 2.4 miles in my own backyard pool in 1.5 hours was a good feeling.  Oh sure, I have done the Ironman swim four previous times, so I know that I can do it.  But I still needed to train for each one of those previous attempts, and prove that it can be accomplished with smart training.  Could I actually be enjoying swimming?  Let’s not get carried away.

Tuesday ushered in a little bit less heat for the day and I ran at a time when there was a coolish breeze and it was overcast.  I did the 10-minute warm-up and then started in on the five 6-minute repeats.  I was pacing them pretty well.  My legs were a little sore at the start, but when I picked up pace I did so easily.  My turnover felt smooth and comfortable.  I felt like I was rocking it!  I skipped the swim due to the previous day’s effort, and opted to vacuum the pool instead.

Wednesday was quite a different day weather-wise than what I had last weekend.  Much cooler, with a strong northeast wind.  I hopped on the bike and was flying along heading south on my usual route.  I saw my buddy Charlie attempting to run on his two injured toes and wished him a good run.  I must have been averaging over 20 mph heading south, but turning around and coming back north was not fun.  The ride ended with a 18 mph average, so I guess I was doing okay.  A quick change to running shoes and it was off on a 30-minute run.  I didn’t feel the wind as much, but the cooler temperature had me running with a good tempo.  I like to use the Wednesday bike/run brick as a hard effort instead of staying in a Zone 2 heart rate zone.  It’s the one day I like to hit the gas.

Thursday ushered in another cooler day and the winds were better for me as well, which caused me to push myself a little more than I should of.  I could feel my calves tightening, but the 1.5-hour ride went well.  I jumped in the pool afterwards and tried to swim, but I was getting some calf cramps and called it a day after 21 minutes.

Friday I got in my 1.5-hour run and then jumped into the car with Kari to head to Wisconsin.

Saturday was rainy of course, but it wasn’t too bad, and after a hearty breakfast with Kari at Tula’s in Minocqua the rain was turning to a misty drizzle on its way to ending. I planned to do a 5-hour ride and I stuck to it. I headed down Hwy J towards St. Germain to pick up the trails and head into the beautiful Northwoods. I hadn’t even gotten a few miles into it and the wet road and what little leftover sprinkles had me pretty wet. But it was bearable and I kept pushing on. I had never went further than Boulder Junction before so I continued onward and found the trail toward Manitowish Waters to be beautiful.

I took a couple of minutes on the way back to stop and enjoy some scenery just west of Boulder Junction. The trail here was beautiful.

I was thinking of how much fun I was having and four hours of the ride was just perfect. The last hour, not so much. Back onto Hwy J I was greeted with hills and headwind and an overall lack of energy. At one point my thigh muscles started to cramp, which had never happened to me before. I decided to slow down and fuel and hydrate more and limp it home. I got off my bike and sat down and took a minute to watch my calf muscles twitch uncontrollably. Good times.

I decided to not do the 60-minute run after the bike after watching the twitching going on.

Sunday was beautiful. I had recovered enough from yesterday’s bike ride that I talked myself back into doing a long run after talking myself out of it during the latter portion of yesterday’s bike.

I headed to the Bearskin Trail in downtown Minocqua and before I realized it, I was was crashing a marathon and half-marathon in progress. It was fun to see the runners coming back in with determination on their faces. I ran out seven miles and turned around and headed back. There were spectators cheering me on, as they didn’t realize that I wasn’t in the race. I said, “I’m not in the race, but I love your enthusiasm!”

It wasn’t long and the 3:45 marathon pacer caught up to me as I was walking and taking a gel. He was encouraging everyone to join in, and after telling him that I was on a training run he still wanted me to pace with him. I ran with him chatting about my Ironman and ultra coming up and I then took a detour to avoid the finish line, as I already felt awkward being on the trail with the others. I made it home with an extra mile added due to the detour, making it 15 total miles and some fun memories of running with those runners. Maybe I will join them for real next year.

Time to enjoy some lake life one last time before pulling the boat out of the water for the season.

SWIMS: 2 – 5312 yards

BIKES: 3 – 130 miles

RUNS: 4 – 36 miles

By My Own Choosing

2021 IRONMAN CHATTANOOGA TRAINING

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WEEK 26 – August 29, 2021 

My coworkers are kind people and take a passing interest in what I do outside of work. As I train for my fifth Ironman, it’s pretty obvious at this point that my weekend will be filled with a long bike ride and a long run. This weekend would be no different, but the kicker is that it was going to be hot outside, with temperatures in the 90s. So when my coworker Tracy asked what I was doing this weekend I replied that I was biking for 5.5 hours and running for an hour on Saturday, and running for 2.75 hours on Sunday, with somewhat of a “not too excited to do this” tone in my voice.

Then Tracy went full mom mode – YOU KNOW YOU ARE DOING THAT AT YOUR OWN CHOOSING. YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO THAT!

I closed my eyes and shook my head. I almost felt like I was being scolded for doing the things I like to do. Yes, I know that I choose to train for an Ironman, and yes I know that it is hard sometimes, and yes I know that you mere mortals find it somewhat perplexing as to why any of us training for an Ironman would put ourselves through such miserable efforts and give away our weekends doing it. But I choose to do it because I like riding and running (swimming, not so much), and being an Ironman is a goal that I pursue because it empowers me. It changed my life.

Later that evening my family and I met my son Ben and “kind-of daughter-in-law” Emily (just get married already!!!) for a birthday dinner for Ben and I mentioned once again that I was dreading doing my long bike and run this weekend. And although Emily didn’t chastise me as harshly as Tracy did, she said the same damn thing – You know, you choose to do it – or something to that effect.

This time I chuckled, hearing the same admonishment twice in a single day, but what was surprising was that it was coming from Emily, who as a runner herself knows full well what it takes to do amazing things. Maybe the empathy I was expecting and didn’t get was the amusing part for me.

Oh well, I guess nobody cares that I choose to do this dumb sport in an extreme way on a very hot two weekend days. And sometimes the only person to impress worth impressing is me.

Another good ride with Susan on Saturday, and it was pretty much a repeat of last weekend except we both decided to add a little extra, and instead of doing the planned 5.5-hour ride, I ended up doing 6.25 hours and reached 100 miles. I followed up the ride with 6-miles on the treadmill because, well, I’m not dumb. It was insanely warm and humid outside. Smart move and I felt great after that long day.

On Sunday, I parlayed the success of Saturday into Sunday, adding some extra time to the run, running an extra 15 minutes to hit 3-hours. I’m still playing around with a run\walk ratio, and I added 15-seconds to the walk interval. I think that is a pretty good option right now, and I will keep toying with it on my long runs.

On to the dreaded Week 27, which won’t be so dreadful because I pretty much did that week’s workout this weekend. Getting closer to race day and feeling more ready every day.

Swims: 2 – 3000 yards

Rides: 3 – 146 miles

Runs: 5 – 42.3 miles

Yielding a Better Return

2021 IRONMAN CHATTANOOGA TRAINING

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WEEK 25 – August 22, 2021 

Every year or so the bank sends us a note about one of the CDs we have sitting in their bank making them money but hardly doing anything for us, and informs us that it’s maturing soon.  My wife will say “we should put this into something else and get a better return.”  I always reply that I’m good with that.  Then in a year, we get the same note telling us that our same CD is maturing again, because WE DIDN’T DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT LAST TIME!  Then the wife and I will have the same converstation again.  It’s pretty funny, actually.

This week my friend Susan, who is also doing IM Choo, was looking for someone to ride with on the Saturday long ride.  I didn’t hesitate to offer to ride with her for a couple of reasons.  First, I was tired of riding alone and welcomed the company, and secondly, every long ride that I have done recently has ended in me overdoing it and bonking pretty hard at the end.  I was getting tired of that, so I decided to ride with Susan, provide her some company, and use her to keep me from riding out of my comfort zone.  There was definitely some give and take in this arrangement.

Now Susan is no slouch, she’s an Ironman and a good rider.  Both of us have been struggling with the mental aspect of training lately, and the physical aspect of training is partly the cause of that.  So I thought why not ride along, enjoy having company and good conversation with someone other than myself for a change.  And I’m so glad I did.

We decided to head west toward Elwood, Illinois, and play it by ear as to which direction to go once we got there.  I had only been over Route 52 into Elwood once before, and I was glad to have her show me the route to Brandon Road that everyone seems to love doing.  It was a nice ride with new things to look at for a change, and I certainly was enjoying that.  We turned around at two hours and headed back to the BP to refill our water bottles, and saw some more friends there doing the same thing.

Leaving the gas station, we headed back to the usual route east and Susan wondered where the road we were leaving actually headed.  I said, “I KNOW!”  and I suggested that we can loop back around that way.  Now I had a chance to show her an alternative to always going down Hoff Road.  We rode that way back to Elwood, stopped at the BP to refill our bottles once again, and then I decided I needed a bathroom break.  The BP staff told me that the bathrooms were unavailable at the moment, so no worries, we hopped on our bikes and rode ten minutes or so back to the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery to use the facilities there.

Then the trip home started and I needed to add on a few more minutes so I did, and then worked hard to catch back up with Susan.  We rode back to where she parked her car, took a selfie, then I rode home and for the first time in quite a while, finished the ride feeling pretty good.  I quickly switched from biking to running gear and followed up the nearly 90-mile ride with a 6.25-mile run.  It was so nice not finishing a long Saturday workout and needing several hours of recovery.  It was a good day for me.

My friend Chalie was nice to praise me for “helping” Susan with her ride.  And even though I would do that for anybody, I was also doing it for myself, to be honest.  I realized that sometimes you might have to do something a little different than what you are used to in order to get something better.  Change it up and get a better yield.

Maybe I should do something about that CD this time around.

The creepy old guy and Susan. I’ll let Susan take the photos from now on.  All smiles after 5+hours of riding.  Thanks for letting me join you, Susan!

~~~

The Sunday long run went pretty well for me, too.  I started early to beat the heat of the day, and it wasn’t too bad of a morning.  I decided to try using a 5-minute run/1-minute walk interval to see how it went.  I’m starting to do these last few long runs in training for IM Choo with a nod to the ultramarathon that I will be attempting in November.  It was nice to break-up just straight running with a one minute walk break every five minutes.  That produced an average pace just under 10 minutes per mile, and 6 miles per hour.  That would be a pretty good pace, but I was running out of gas at the end, mainly due to the heat and the hills as I got closer to home and finishing the 2.5-hour run.  I may drop it to a 4:1 ratio and see how that goes.  I’m not sure that I can handle the pace needed for a sub-20 hour hundred mile run.

Swims: 2 – 3030 yards

Rides: 3 – 135 miles

Runs: 5 – 41.5 miles

Field of Dreams

2021 IRONMAN CHATTANOOGA TRAINING

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WEEK 24 – August 15, 2021 

This week, Major League Baseball hosted a “Field of Dreams” game featuring the Chicago White Sox (Go-Go Sox!) vs. the dreaded New York Yankees (suck it, Yankees), and the game didn’t disappoint. Its inspiration came from the 1989 Field of Dreams movie, and the game did its best to recreate the feeling of the narrative. I heartily enjoyed the game, but my kids, having not seen the movie, lacked the same enthusiasm that I did. So that led to watching the movie, of course.

The movie’s purpose for me is about finding what your true purpose is in life, and often I find myself thinking what my purpose is, especially when it comes to training and racing for Ironman. The first time is obviously about seeing if you can do it, the second or third time around it might be about setting a personal best. Subsequent races may just be for a new venue or experience. This go around with training seems to be lacking a purpose. I’m on the struggle bus, as my friend Jan said this week, but sometimes I feel like I’m driving the bus, too. I have a friend who is also struggling with motivation right now and I totally get it. We’re tired of the six-hour workouts on hot and humid Saturdays and giving up our weekends for the training.  I tried to offer some sage advice, and I hoped to provide a little incentive to keep going.  Maybe encouraging others to be awesome is my purpose.  

We have corn in Illinois, too. Just taking a moment to see if Shoeless Joe will walk out of the corn. Just kidding, I was urinating. Field of “Streams.”  And damn, when did I get so old?!

 

I often find purpose after the workout, when I’m done and the hay is in the barn, as they say. I like to pat myself on my back for a job well done, even if Saturday’s 5-hour ride/1-hour run brick did end in a bonk and a tough recovery. This last remaining six weeks will be tough, get tougher, then draw back on the intensity a little as we slide into race day. Then I believe the purpose of all the training will be clear. I’m going to be an Ironman. And even if it’s the fifth time for me proving that to myself, I will gladly look back on what I accomplished because no matter how many times I finish, it always feels special.

~~~

I was hoping that I wouldn’t be too beat up after running my first 50K last weekend, and the heat and humidity took a little bit of a toll again on Tuesday. We had some storms on Wednesday, which forced me inside and gave me a different perspective on my typical Wednesday workout. Thursday was back outside for a ride. But we got relief from the hot weather on Friday and I just clicked on a 1.5-hour run. That went real well and led into some even nicer weather for the weekend. I struggled a little on Saturday, as I mentioned above, but Sunday’s 14.5-mile long run was great. I seemed to bounce back pretty quickly.

I need to spend a little more attention to swimming, as I only got in one swim this week, but Chattanooga’s swim is very forgiving, and I’m not all that worried about it.

Here’s to some better fall weather on the horizon, and six more weeks of self-discovery until race day.  Keep moving forward!

Swims: 1 – 1500 yards

Rides: 3 – 128 miles

Runs: 3 – 40.5 miles

An Easy Week?

2021 IRONMAN CHATTANOOGA TRAINING

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WEEK 23 – August 8, 2021 

Last week I swapped Week 22 for Week 23 of the training plan so I could have an easy week leading up to Friday and my first attempt at an ultramarathon at the Big Hill Bonk – Wisconsin’s Backyard Ultra in Beloit, Wisconsin.  Thank goodness for that because the ultra was certainly a challenge for me.  The race recap follows this blog post.  I’ll be back with my usual pontificating about training next week.

So the easy Ironman training week ended with somewhat of a hard effort of running through the hills of Beloit and Big Hill Park.  Here are this weeks stats, which includes the long run on Friday/Saturday:

Swims: 2 – 3000 yards

Rides: 2 – 32 miles

Runs: 3 – 44 miles

 

My Coach Wife

2021 IRONMAN CHATTANOOGA TRAINING

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WEEK 22 – August 1, 2021 

I saw a post the other day on one of the triathlon groups I follow on Facebook and he asked if anyone else had a “coach wife” and I knew immediately what he was alluding to.  And I have the best coach wife in the business.

I’m not sure Kari intended to be a coach wife, she just kind of had the position forced upon her.  After watching me train and do races she just kind of learned about running and triathlon from the sidelines.  After I crashed and burned in the 2009 Rockford Marathon (3:43), which I ran alone without her or other family being there, it resulted in me taking a trip to the local hospital for an i.v. and a long walk of shame back to where I parked my car.  She swore after that happened that I would not be doing these things on my own anymore.

As I train for my fifth Ironman she is inquisitive about what I’m doing, especially on the weekend.  The other day she inquired about how long my Saturday bike would be and I said that I thought it was four hours.  “Again?  You’ve done the four-hour ride the past three weekends.”  I admitted that I was using a spreadsheet of the plan that my buddy Jeff shared with me, so I thought it could be a typo, but after checking the plan in the book, sure enough, the plan has three, four-hour rides in a row.  It is interesting how she picked up on that and I was just taking it for granted that it was correct.

Kari also began running and biking, and has learned even more about the sports and what they involve.  The funny thing is, she never asks about my input.  

Last night when I was turning in for the night, I looked at my watch as I laid it on the nightstand and wondered aloud if its 44% battery would be enough to get me through my planned five-hour ride.  Coach Kari immediately spoke up and said “Why don’t you just charge it?” knowing full well that my charge cord for it is right there next to the nightstand.  I didn’t debate with her or hesitate about it for even a second, I just grabbed the cord and plugged it in.  

There are numerous other examples, but in reality, it’s just her way of showing that she cares about me and my dumb adventures.  And I’m very glad to have a coach wife – make that the best coach wife ever.  

Cutest Coach Wife Ever!

~~~

I decided to swap Week 22 of the plan for Week 23 because I am doing the Big Hill Bonk – Last Runner Standing event next weekend and I wanted to take advantage of a taper week that Week 22 had in it.  

I started the week off pretty good, doing an open water swim with my coworker buddy Tom in Lake Michigan at Ohio Street Beach, Chicago.  It was a well-run event by Lifetime Fitness/Chicago Triathlon.  Tom got some great experience in some big, open water and also some well-earned confidence in being able to swim in those kinds of conditions.  I made him try my large Xterra wetsuit and I think that was a good experience as well.  He may do better in an XL, as he has more muscle than I ever will.  

A happy Tom after a great OWS in Lake Michigan.

 

On Thursday I got sick with some sort of stomach bug and it was bad.  Kari thinks I am ignoring a bigger GI issue, but it was just a stomach bug.  And the two things that come hand in hand with a stomach bug wiped me out.  I was not doing well.  But it ran its course in about a day, and I used Friday as a rest day to rehydrate and recover.  I was concerned that the planned five-hour ride on Saturday would be too much, so I swapped it with Sunday and things worked out well.  I’m still needed to stay on top of hydration, but I’m doing better.  

On to the Big Hill Bonk and running infinite 4.166-mile loops for as long as I can!

Swims: 1 – 1650 yards

Rides: 3 – 120 miles

Runs: 4 – 28 miles