I Was Spineless, But Now I’m Back

2021 IRONMAN CHATTANOOGA TRAINING

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WEEK 11 – May 16, 2021

To “throw your back out” is an interesting phrase. To me, it’s somewhat of a dumb way to describe a strained lower back because it doesn’t make any sense. How does one “throw” his back anywhere? Can you throw out your ankle? Can you throw out your wrist? Would the younger generation of today say it differently? “Bruh, I yeeted my back.” I guess it’s just one of those things people say and everyone gets it.

Anyhow, I’m not sure exactly how I threw my back out but here is what I think contributed to it: On Sunday I drove seven hours to Nashville to pick up my kid from college, packed up her junk, slept on a hotel bed, drove seven hours back home on Monday, unpacked her junk, mowed the grass, slept on own my bed, and yet the old back was still with me.

I started my run on Tuesday feeling fine, not even a twinge or hint of what was to come. About a half-mile into it though I could sense my back starting to ache. At a mile, it was bugging me, but that didn’t stop me from adding the five 1-minute pace pick-ups. Why would I do something sensible like skipping those? But I didn’t do any particular thing to cause it to hurt, I was just running.

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When I got home it was aching pretty badly. I did the typical things to make it feel better, but it was hurting. On Wednesday, I was hoping to be able to get my workout in, but after a rough night trying to sleep the old back was not doing so well. I took a pain pill that I had kept from when my kid had her wisdom teeth pulled, and that definitely took the edge off. But since the dog needed to go to the vet, and the fact that I couldn’t even put my socks on meant that I should probably rest it.  So I skipped the Wednesday bike/run brick workout.

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Thursday I went ahead and did my bike ride and felt okay with it, although I thought I might also be throwing out my calf muscles because they were cramping up like crazy on that ride. Why do I do this dumb sport?

Another restless night preceded a Friday in which it actually felt worse than it did Wednesday and Thursday. Why does throwing your back out hurt so bad?

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I struggled through work but did a little back and leg stretching, as well as some hanging from the workout machine in our workout room, as my coworker Tom said that would work. And although my back was still hurting a little, I felt like I would try to do my 60-minute run.

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And as I ran it seemed like the run wasn’t making it worse. Matter of fact, I actually felt very little backache when I finished. I think I just invented a new saying: I threw my back IN!

Interesting… running was the cause of and cure to my aching back!

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Swims:  0

Bikes:  2 rides, 58.5 miles

Runs:  4 runs, 23 miles

One-Third Into the Training

2021 IRONMAN CHATTANOOGA TRAINING

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WEEK 10 – May 8, 2021

Ten weeks into the 30-week Ironman training plan and feeling great!  It goes by quickly!  It’s kind of scary actually, knowing that the base phase is over and I am now heading into the build phase.  But the next ten weeks is nothing new for me, I know what to expect and I look forward to training well into the summer and enjoying some good weather for a change.  

Speaking of the weather, it’s been a typical up and down spring so far.  There’s been a lack of rain, but if it’s not rain forcing me indoors it’s a cold day doing it. This week had a couple of good days and I took advantage of them.  I had a good run on Friday, swapping out the planned hour long run with Sunday’s 1.5-hour long effort.  I’m traveling on Sunday to Nashville, so I made sure I got my long run in.  

I joined the local group for a ride out to the Monee Reservoir and surrounding areas on Saturday.  It was a little chilly but I warmed up well.  I tend to push myself harder in the group rides basically trying to keep up with my idol Charlie, but I will allow getting out of my comfort zone and not follow the plan every once in a while.  Charlie is out of the comfort zone every ride and kicks my ass.  Maybe I should do that more often.  

Off to Nashville to pick up my Vanderbilt kid, Rebecca.  She’s 1/4 done with college!  It goes by quickly.

Swims:  0

Bikes:  3 rides, 87.5 miles

Runs:  3 runs, 19.25 miles

I’m In The Cool Kids Club

2021 IRONMAN CHATTANOOGA TRAINING

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WEEK 9 – May 2, 2021

This week I received a validation of sorts for my participation in the sport of running. It wasn’t in the form of a medal or seeing my name or picture in the paper, or a job well done from my running peers. No, it came in the form of a laughing emoji. I was Benfer-ed. Jane Benfer-ed.

I belong to a trail-running Facebook page and responded with an answer to a question about running shorts, as the poster was looking for suggestions. When I was mindlessly looking at my notifications later on I was surprised to see this:

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Who the heck is Jane Benfer you ask? Well, in the long-distance running world Jane Benfer is somewhat of a troublemaker. She’s a troll. And she trolls by reacting to running posts on Facebook with a laughing emoji. She’ll occasionally rant about some running-related topic as well. She likes to claim that marathons, ultras, and other running-related events are faked. I’m not sure what set her on the path of belittling others, but she has become slightly legendary.

Jane Benfer’s real name is Risa Reid, an ultra runner (or a former one) herself albeit someone with a little notoriety. The running community is somewhat divided over her. There are Facebook pages of devotees and Twitter followers looking for a laugh, but most believe that she is either harmless or has some mental health issues.

I guess there’s no harm about someone doling out laughing emoji’s to posts, but sometimes she will take to stalking someone and follow their page and fill it with her dumb laughing emoji. Some will block her, others will report her, and even I have reservations about even using her name much like that of Harry Potter and “He Who Must Not Be Named.” I’m kind of crossing my fingers that I don’t become a target as I write and post this blog.  

I messaged my runner friend Jodi and she reacted as if it was the most awesome thing that could happen to me. She’s been Benfer-ed too.  I guess that I can laugh it off and count it as a sort of initiation into the cool kids club, but it kind of made me paranoid, and I will definitely be checking my posts to see who reacted with a laughing emoji from now on.  It’s a weird feeling being Benfer-ed.

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It’s now May and a couple of friends with pools have already opened their pools. I think that I will do that soon. If I wait too long I will be dealing with a black lagoon again.  But I’m resisting opening it because that will just mean that I will start having to do swim workouts.  

I’m still dealing with a little bit of a strained calf, although I got through most of my runs this week without too much issue. It flared up again on Tuesday, but it was fine for the 1.5-mile run I did on Wednesday. On Friday, I slowed my usual training pace of 8:45 min/mile to roughly 10 min/mile and I had no problems with it. The long run of 8.5 miles on Sunday also went well, albeit at a nice leisurely pace.  I did replace my shoes with a new pair, so that may also help me.  The Rincon’s I was running in lack the cushioning that the Clifton’s possess.  I hope it heals up and is normal again soon. I want to race some sprints and 5K’s this year.

Shout out to a couple of friends I saw out on the trail Sunday:  Hey Karen!  I hope you enjoyed that windy Sunday ride with the group.  And another big hello to Laura McGivern, who was walking in the forest preserve with a group and gave me an emphatic hello!  

And if Jane Benfer wants to deny that I did my Sunday run, I’m sure both Karen and Laura will vouch for me.

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Swims:  0

Bikes:  3 rides, 73.5 miles

Runs:  4 runs, 23 miles

 

Regretfully Inspiring Others

2021 IRONMAN CHATTANOOGA TRAINING

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WEEK 8 – April 26, 2021

I’m a day late with this post thanks to a weekend trip to the beautiful Northwoods of Wisconsin, that in a matter of three days my wife and I experienced spring, summer, and winter.  That time of the year I guess.

This week a coworker of mine, Tom, took the plunge and signed up for his first triathlon – a 70.3 distance event in Indiana in October.  I always feel pretty good about inspiring others to join in on the fun I have doing this dumb sport.  It took a few years of working there to get someone to give triathlon a try.  Actually, my supervisor Micah may have been the first to do a one, but I think he had already participated in one or two before, so I am not sure I can take credit for his misery.  With the pride comes a little regret, however, because this sport is going to be a shock to him.  He’s a total newbie, and he thinks he’s going to win.  Well, that’s a little bit of a stretch.  His brother also signed up, and his brother is the one who thinks he will win, and Tom won’t let his little brother win, therefore, Tom thinks he will win.  Follow me?

Tom texted me with his exciting news that he had signed up.  I asked him if he had thrown up yet.  He replied that his heart had started racing and that he’s nervous.  I replied with a laughing emoji and that his reaction is pretty normal. I’m not sure if that made him feel any better.

I say I have a little regret about inspiring him to take on a half-iron distance race, and that is mainly due to knowing what he is up against.  First of all, he has a bike (that I sold to him) and a pair of Under Armor running shoes.  Tom played football, and football players wear Under Armor.  At least that covers the bare minimum.  He said that he was in shock from the cost of the race, and add to the fact that he is redoing his kitchen right now, he’s really going to be in shock from cost everything else he will and might need:  a helmet, a trisuit, cycling shoes, a wetsuit, tires, etc.  Plus he is dealing with an upper leg injury that may impact his training.

But don’t fret, Tom.  I’ll be there to help you out in anyway that I can.  Whatever equipment that I have that will fit your body you can use.  Come on over to my house to swim.  I’ll gladly give you unqualified advice on how to not drown.  And I will answer any other questions that you may have.  We’ll do some training together, and I will do my best to help you beat your brother and win the race.  Well, I can kind of promise that you’ll finish.  And that will be an awesome thing.

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This was a little bit of a pull-back week for me in the plan.  The weather forced some of my training indoors and I did some easy treadmill runs and found that the leg injury from last week seems to be okay now.  I did aggravate it a little on Saturday when I ran a little too hard.  I’m cramping in my calf muscles when I push hard on the bike, so there may be causation there with the running injury.  I will dial back the intensity for a while.  There are 22 weeks to go, no sense in burning myself out now.

Swims: 0

Bikes: 3 – 62 miles

Runs: 3 – 13 miles

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Running Injury? A Minor Inconvenience

2021 IRONMAN CHATTANOOGA TRAINING

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WEEK 7 – April 18, 2021

I was giving some thought to how I was training for the race this time around and how I was approaching it. This being my fifth time using the Be Iron Fit training plan I follow, I have followed it a little differently each time. The first time around I followed it to a “T,” doing the prescribed workouts almost exactly as written. Same with the second time three years later, although I started doing less of the written swim workouts and more straight swimming instead. By the third time using the plan, I had it dialed in. I had learned what was working for me and what wasn’t. I was also now starting to tailor the plan for the course I was going to race. Since Ironman Louisville was an easy swim and run I chose to spend a little more effort on the bike. The last time I followed the plan I was now doing the bare minimum for the swim training that I felt would be sufficient and was pushing myself a little more on the “easy” running and biking days.  

Since I had previously done Ironman Chattanooga in 2019 I felt pretty confident knowing what I needed to do to be successful at the race this time around – work on the run portion. The run is uphill both ways at Chattanooga.

This winter I had built up a pretty solid run base and when the plan kicked in I didn’t feel like dialing it back. So I figured I would just run whatever pace I felt like doing, sometimes going hard when I wasn’t supposed to, and sometimes just putting in the easy miles. I was doing just that this week, an easy paced 75-minute run on Friday when my right calf just decided to not like running anymore.  

About 3 miles into the run I was hobbling. I stopped and stretched it out and that didn’t make it any better. This wasn’t cramp, but more like a muscle strain.  I walked a little bit and although it wasn’t feeling great, I could keep moving forward. So I walked for about 10 minutes and decided that I needed to find the most direct route back home. That’s smart thinking, right there.  

Not long after that, I began jogging again, and although I was favoring the leg, I was doing okay. I ran up a busy road and wound through a subdivision until I got back to the trail. It was then I decided to be really dumb and run a little more to not cut the workout short.  Not so smart thinking, right there.  

I made it home and showered up okay, but after that, my leg was really sore. I iced it and massaged it for a while, added some linament creme to it, and then sat and elevated it for the rest of the day.

I was concerned that my ride on Saturday might be difficult, but the ride didn’t bother the leg at all. On Sunday, I opted to walk the 75-minutes instead of running it, and then did another ride with the local group in the afternoon and felt fine. What seemed like an injury that came out of nowhere and would need some serious rest, it looks like I just had some weird pain that hopefully won’t manifest itself into something that would keep me from running for a while.  

So I guess my weird leg pain might not be anything serious.  But I will be following the plan a little bit closer from here on.  

Just a flesh wound. I’m INVICIBLE!

Swims: 0

Bikes: 4 – 111 miles

Runs: 3 – 16 miles + one 4.5 mile walk

I Can’t Remember

2021 IRONMAN CHATTANOOGA TRAINING

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WEEK 6 – April 11, 2021

I am fortunate to have supportive family and friends who take an interest in my pursuit of my Ironman goals, but I have one friend in particular that I call my Number 1 Fan – Carl. Carl is the one friend that takes the passing interest to a much higher level. He not only wants to know what workout I did but needs to know the details as well. I’m glad to accommodate him as it allows me to brag about myself for a few minutes, except most of the time I can’t remember.

Carl: What did you do yesterday, Ironman?

Me: umm… a bike ride? Yeah, a bike ride.

Carl: How far did you go?

Me: umm… I rode for an hour.

Carl: How far is that?

Me: umm… let me look it up.

My Number 1 Fan Carl wondering why I can’t remember the details.

I don’t mind providing the details, but it’s interesting to me that once I get the workout done I kind of move on from it. It’s not that I don’t want to remember what I did as I train, but during a 30-week build to a race, it just all blends together somewhat. I certainly make an effort to document it. The workouts all get recorded by my Garmin watch and phone app. And I write a summary each week so that I can look back and spark my memory of the journey I am on. But sometimes it’s just a workout, nothing more and nothing less.

I am working on writing a post about all the races I have participated in since I started running in the 1980s. It’s taking me a while to go through my handwritten running log and find the entries. I am finding with that trip through the past that I can recall details about some of the long-ago races pretty clearly. It must be something about racing that makes you remember, something that creates a stored memory. I can also remember certain runs when something out of the ordinary happens, like a fall, or getting chased by a dog, getting caught in a storm, etc. But when the workout is spinning on a stationary bike for 60 minutes and thumbing through Facebook while doing it for the 200th time, it just simply becomes part of the day without creating anything special about it. Maybe that will have a cumulative effect in that I will remember doing those workouts as a whole rather than the details that went into them.

I can remember many of the details of running on the Green Bay Trail in the 1990s: where I began and ended my runs, the street crossings, the portion through Ravinia. But if I looked at my log and saw that I ran 8 miles in 60 minutes that day, I will have to take my word for it. I don’t remember it.

I have logged many miles on the Old Plank Trail, so many in fact that I sometimes say that I know every little dip, bump, and distinctive trait of the trail. I know which houses have a dog that barks at me. I know when to move to the left to avoid the divot in the trail as I head north up the path and over the bridge. Those memories are solid, and I rely on them quite a bit. But I guess our brains can’t store every single detail about each workout. I mean, how much of the mundane can you remember? Do you remember what you had for lunch yesterday? Probably not. Do you remember your 21st birthday? More than likely, because turning 21 is a memorable milestone. But do you remember your 22nd birthday? I don’t.

Am I supposed to make each run, bike or swim a memorable one? I’m not sure if that is even possible. Frankly, I think trying to concentrate and remember every detail would most likely wear me out mentally. But I am glad to have pretty clear memories of those workouts that do have something memorable happen.

I guess that I am lucky to have my Number 1 Fan pry those little details from me. Maybe I will remember more of them thanks to Carl. But I can promise you this – although I may not remember every little detail a day, a week or a years later, I will always remember my Number 1 Fan asking me about my workouts. Thanks, Carl.

Swims: 0

Bikes: 3 rides – 63 miles

Runs: 5 runs – 30 miles

Week 6 is in the books. 1/5th of the way done.

Three Plastic Bags and a Popped Balloon

2021 IRONMAN CHATTANOOGA TRAINING

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WEEK 5 – April 4, 2021

Last week I talked about needing some motivation to get through some biking and running workouts.  This week I had the motivation, but when it came to doing the Saturday long ride what I lacked was the desire.

My family had planned a trip to Nashville for the Easter weekend to visit our freshman daughter Rebecca, who attends Vanderbilt University, and some family who lives in the area.  I have always been of the mindset that if you are going to miss some workouts, it’s probably best to at least try to get the long weekend training stuff done.  At this stage of training, a long ride isn’t all that long; the plan called for an hour and 45-minutes.  So I moved the ride to Thursday and April Fool’s played an unappreciated trick on me – it was cold.  When I got home midday my car was telling me it was 32°F.  The wind wasn’t too bad, and I had the motivation to do the ride, now I lacked the desire!

After taking the dog for a quick walk, I decided to toughen up and act like an Ironman and just go do it.  I put on some extra layers and wore a set of gloves under a pair of large mittens and got my bike ready to roll.  While in the garage I decided to put on a couple of plastic newspaper bags over my socks before putting on my cycling shoes.  I’m glad I did because my very cold ride last week ended with some very numb toes.  

Normally I would put them under my layered socks, but I was too lazy to do that now.

As I headed south I realized that this ride was not going to be fun.  My rides always head south and return because where I live it is urban to the immediate north and rural to the immediate south.  I count my blessings with that.  The wind was pushing me along and I was easily riding in the upper teens and 20 mph speeds.  I got to the point where I could choose to head either east or west and I chose east because I thought I would take advantage of the heavily wooded trail to head home on and keep the wind from being too much of a burden.

As soon as I turned to head back north I could feel that this ride was going to be a struggle.  I stopped at a spot where I will sometimes take a nature break and ate a gel.  I was sweating and starting to feel the cold, and knowing when I got back on the bike I would be suffering even more.  

I started to ride again and my eyes were watering and I was getting a headache from the cold wind blowing on my wet head.  I crossed Monee/Manhattan Road and started looking for something I could use to help me out, and there was an empty plastic shopping bag stuck to some brush just blowing in the wind.  I got off my bike and looked it over to make sure it wasn’t dirty and then I took off my helmet and cap and put the bag on my head and covered it back up.  I hopped on the bike and within a hundred feet or so I saw a popped mylar ballon laying in the ditch.  I stopped and inspected that and then shoved that under my cycling jersey.  As I started riding again it was almost like instant relief.  My headache went away and I started getting comfortable riding in the wind again.

The ride took me almost two hours, but it could have been much longer and much more miserable.  And in the end, I felt a sense of accomplishment, overcoming the lack of desire to ride on a cold day and being resourceful enough to not having to cash in my chips and call for my kid to come get me.  

My wind-blocking shopping bag.

Wiped out after fighting the cold windy day.

Swims:  0

Bikes:  2 – 42 miles

Runs:  3 – 11 miles

Inspiring Motivation

2021 IRONMAN CHATTANOOGA TRAINING

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WEEK 4 – March 28, 2021

This past week was a kind of a week that lacked motivation for me. I’m not sure if the oft-changing rainy and windy spring weather had something to do with it, but I just wasn’t motivated to put in the effort.

In addition to what I felt was a worthless 30-minute bike ride that I barely broke a sweat with, I was dreading an easy-paced 30-minute run for some reason. I had been watching the weather and I was anticipating the rain to start right when I usually begin my workout. I am lucky to have access to a treadmill at work and also at home, but I loathe running on them so much that I only do it when I can’t run outside. But the rain hadn’t started yet, so I told myself to get out there. This run didn’t start out so well. First, I wasn’t in the mood to run, but I decided to run from my office to the local trail, which seemed like an uphill climb. My heart rate climbed to the point that I felt like it was reminding me how out of shape I am and how much work there is yet to do. But as I got to the flat trail I settled into a slow rhythm and found a suitable pace.

About a mile into the run I passed three walkers heading in the opposite direction from me, what appeared to be an older couple walking with their adult daughter having a lively conversation, but what she was wearing on her head instantly caught my eye – an Ironman finisher hat. Knowing what it takes to earn a hat like that was enough to make me forget about the self-loathing that had been in my head. I have four of those hats myself, and I am looking for a fifth. They aren’t easy to earn. But earn them I did. And earning them sometimes means doing a workout when you aren’t really wanting to.

I picked up my pace a little, ran with a little more strut, and added a short weightlifting workout after the run that I had no desire to do beforehand.

Sometimes something simple can be a great motivator.

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My four finisher hats.

 

Swims:  0

Bikes:  3 – 39 miles

Runs:  5 – 20 miles

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One Tenth Done

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WEEK 3 – March 21, 2021

Week 3 went by pretty quickly and was mostly unremarkable really.  The few things I thought about maybe discussing here have long evaporated from my mind, and after a beautiful weekend, I was thinking more about having some great weather for a change, rather than some triathlon or running topic to opine about.

I swapped my Saturday ride with Sunday’s run so that I could join the local running group for an early morning group run.  I’m glad that I did.  Normally group outings for me usually mean that I will find myself running or riding by myself, but this time I fell in with Pat, who also did the 2018 Boston Marathon when I did it, and another guy named Bill, who is married to someone who also works for the same employer that I do.  It was nice to have some conversations with others for a change, instead of me talking to myself.  It was a nice 8-mile run.

Sunday’s bike was a bit of a challenge heading south due to the wind, but it was nice to have a great tailwind pushing me along back home.  There was a group ride scheduled for later in the afternoon, but those guys have been doing some serious indoor riding all winter and there’s no way I would last with them.  Plus, I chose to follow my planned hour and 45-minute ride.  Stick with my plan, and forget what the others are doing.

My friend Susan commented about how I had started my training already, as she has not yet begun hers.  Her plan is shorter in duration apparently, and I think that I could also get by with a 20 or 25-week plan, but the 30-week plan I follow has been reliable for me and has consistently proven itself to prepare me well.  The thing about waiting to start the plan because you feel that you have a pretty good fitness base already doesn’t make much sense to me.  It just tells me that you are training, just not following a specific workout.  I have a pretty good base built up as well, but I’m following a plan instead of just winging it before starting.  In the end, I guess it’s a wash.  This is why I’m not a coach.  There are so many ways to personalize training.

I am one-tenth done with this plan!

Swims:  0

Bikes:  3 – 48 miles

Runs: 4 – 22 miles

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I’M SHOCKED!

2021 IRONMAN CHATTANOOGA TRAINING

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WEEK 2 – March 14, 2021

Occasionally at work, we will get treated to a lunch and on Wednesday we were told there would be pizza. Yay, pizza! I work until 11 am, so I did my bike spin/treadmill run brick workout (that’s a mouthful) in the weight room at work and then headed upstairs to enjoy some pizza. I barely had loaded my plate and sat down when I heard my genuinely shocked coworker say “YOU EAT JUNK?!?!”

I shook my head and chuckled at his comment because I have heard this question before, once from another coworker who I was currently sitting next to, and others too. For some reason, my coworker thinks that by virtue of doing stupid-long distance swim/bike/run events that I am somehow forced to eat like a rabbit. Well, this might come as a shock to everyone that thinks that being a triathlete also means that we are also nutritionally sound, unfortunately, that just isn’t the case for most of us. Look at the below picture – Ironman Chattanooga is literally sponsored by LITTLE DEBBIE!

Nutty Buddies, aka Nutty Bars, are my nemesis. Yay, Nutty Bars!

I really didn’t know whether to feel ashamed or to feel proud of the fact that I do enough exercise to allow me to enjoy a plate full of pizza without guilt. As a triathlete you develop a thick skin pretty quickly and modesty kind of goes out the window. The first time you stuff yourself in a tri suit will definitely either make you quit the sport immediately or just accept the fact that you look like an overstuffed sausage in a bright-colored nylon uniform. And eating what you want is a nice perk. But for Pete’s sake, I’m not even eating as much as you non-exercising coworkers are! I’ve seen you guys eat, and I’m not even in your league!

Me eating pizza shocks you, huh?  Do you want to hear some more shocking things triathletes do?  Well, I practically fuel my long rides and runs with – brace yourself – gels that are basically just sugar.  100 calories of sugar every 30 minutes!  Some athletes will eat a sleeve of gummy-type gel blocks every hour.  Imagine the cavities that are building after doing that for 30-weeks.  I also bring along these little sugar-pressed waffle things called “stroopwafels” for an added sugar bonus.  Yay, sugar!  

I buy these things by the box. An additional 150 calories per hour or so on top of the gels I slurp down. Ridiculously good.

Oh, and wait until the later weeks in this training program hits. I will be eating everything that isn’t nailed down, and I will still be losing weight.

I guess I need to step back from my surprise at the shock that others express when they see me scarfing down some pizza, cookies, or the other junk that comes into our office. They see the Ironman banners hanging in my office and must think it takes a monumental amount of self-discipline to do an Ironman. Well, I guess that is a little bit true, but the work generally results in a reward, whether it be getting across the finish line, or not feeling guilty about eating some pizza.

My office Ironman shrine to myself.

I have to wrap this post up for the week.  I need fuel for training and I’m having sloppy joe’s for dinner!  I earned it, I promise.  Yay, sloppy joe’s!

Swims:  0

Bikes:  3 – 41 miles

Runs: 4 – 21 miles