28 years of running are in the book! I say “book” in the literal sense, seeing that I have been logging my runs since 1989 and keeping them in a notebook. It’s becoming a behemoth! 28 total years and a crazy 21,867 total miles is what I currently stand at. I’m very proud of that. I’m glad I started logging them down back in 1989.
As it is the usual custom for me, I like to sum up the year and take stock of my accomplishments and create goals for the following year. I started doing triathlons in 2012, so I now include notes about my triathlon season as well. So here’s my 2016 Running & Triathlon Year in Review!
2016 was Year 2 of the running streak that I started in 2015. I really wanted to see if I could run every day for a year, but once I got past that first year, I just kept it going.
I managed to log 1824 total miles in 2016. This is 288 less miles from last year, which surprises me a little, seeing I did both an Ironman and the Chicago Marathon in 2016, and only the marathon in 2015. Both 2015 and 2016 were years in which I ran every day. I think the main reason for the smaller year end total was that in November 2015, I started to wonder if I could get over the 2000 mile mark, and once I did I kept it going hard until the end of the year, running a lot of 8 and 10 milers until I reached the 2112 mile mark. (Being a die-hard Rush fan, how could I not shoot for that number?) This year I developed a nagging foot issue in December and really cut back in hopes of making it to the end and keeping the streak alive. Now that I have completed the 2 year streak, I think I better take some time off and let the foot heal. Plus, running a mile the day after an Ironman and a marathon was a very hard task. I have a huge year ahead of me planned for 2017. You never know with me, though.
One of the stats in the photo above is the average pace of 8:47 / mile, which surprised me quite a bit. It was 8:12 / mile in 2015, and I have always been more concerned with pace than distance. But since I trained for both Ironman Lake Placid and the Chicago Marathon this year, I logged a lot of long, slow distance runs. I’m not one to remember the weather, but I do seem to remember a lot of long, hot runs which may have also slowed me down. I will review it again in 2017 and see if I’m still slowing down. At 53 years old, I kind of expect it. But after setting another marathon PR this year, I also question it.
As far as racing goes, I took it a little light this year, only doing five races, which is two less than in 2015. I have included a link to my previous race report blogs.
Total Lifetime Runs: 3975 (as of end of 2016) ~ 142 runs/year
Total Lifetime Miles: 21,867 (as of end of 2016) ~ 780 miles/year
Total Lifetime Hours: 2884 (as of end of 2016) ~ 103 hours/year
Notes: 2016 was a leap year, adding an additional day to the year. The averages are based on 28 years of running data.
2016 BIKE AND SWIM
The bike and swim went well for me this year. I more than doubled my bike mileage from last year, which was expected thanks to all the training I did for the Ironman. Swimming was way down from my other Ironman year of 2013, somewhat due to pool issues and also due to me thinking all that damn swimming wasn’t that necessary for me. I did 67K less yards this year and still took off about 12 minutes from my Ironman 2.4 mile swim time.
For 2017, I will swim about the same or maybe cut back just a little more. I think the training plan is a little too swim heavy, and I am completely fine with being able to swim the 2.4 miles in 1:20 or so. I will keep an eye on how I am progressing throughout the year and adjust it if necessary.
I’d like to get my bike average up to near 17 mph or more for Ironman Louisville in 2017. I think that is doable. IMWI and IMLP were very challenging bike courses, and I am hoping for a faster ride at Louisville.
I think 2016 went really well for me in my running endeavors. I was glad I was able to complete my streak, running at least one mile every day for two straight years. I also set two new personal bests in 2016 in both the Ironman and marathon.
I thoroughly enjoyed training with my Gunner teammates Dave, John, Jeff and Alex and completing Ironman Lake Placid with them. It was an awesome day. I also got to race with my son Ben in the one 5K we did together. That was a hot race.
But I think the most notable thing for me this year was once again qualifying for the Boston Marathon with another personal best at the Chicago Marathon. I lowered my time by another 3 minutes, and gave myself a BQ-4:51. Not quite a slam dunk sub-5 minute cushion, but with the cutoff to get into the race sitting near 2 minutes under the qualifying time, I think I have a pretty good chance at getting into the 2018 Boston Marathon.
The “A” race for 2017 is Ironman Louisville on 10/15/17. I look forward to 30 weeks of training with my buddies and sharing this experience. I also have the Batavia Triathlon sprint on the schedule, and will probably add the Chicago Triathlon too. It’s been suggested that we try the Triple Challenge again, and knowing my Gunner teammates, that’s probably what we will do. The Chicago Marathon is a no go this year, as it falls the week before the Ironman. Even I am not crazy enough to attempt that. I’m regretting it a little as it is the 40th anniversary of the marathon, but I will make sure that I maintain my legacy status and make sure I can run the 50th.
Other than that, I hope to stay healthy, and out of harms way out on the roads training for my planned races. See you in 2017!
After getting a personal best and a Boston Marathon qualifying time at the 2015 Chicago Marathon, and then missing the cutoff by a half minute, I felt like I had a score to settle after that disappointment. I knew however, that trying to improve on a marathon best that was ten minutes faster than my previous personal best was not going to be easy. But this year was shaping up to make me well prepared.
I usually follow a sixteen week plan for the marathon. The plan I follow was created by Nike and was promoted by the Chicago Marathon. I was already into Week 2 of the training when I finished up the Ironman. So I wasn’t really starting at the beginning, seeing that I just finished a marathon as the plan had just began. But I needed to dial it back a little for a post-IMLP recovery and it was easy to slide in to the plan where I needed to be. (Here is the plan I followed: https://assets-chicagomarathon-com.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/2014_Advanced_Final.pdf )
So I eased into the plan, adding a few bikes into the mix, and kept checking off the weeks until race day. My longest run was a 22 mile run that I didn’t really want to do, but I got it done. Most of the training was pretty warm, and I struggled to train at a tempo that was near my goal of being under 8 min/miles. But I knew that training and racing were two different things for me, and the summer heat would hopefully be gone by race day.
MARATHON RACE WEEKEND
I went to the expo on Friday midday and found it to be very crowded. I usually buy some race day clothing at the Nike store, but after seeing how long the line was to check out (it actually went outside of their exhibit and wrapped around it!) and being disappointed at the junk they were selling, I almost passed on it. But I ended up buying a white event t-shirt and a new set of red shorts, along with a new visor.
Saturday was busy as usual for my family. I was glad that everyone was around for the weekend though. My son Ben didn’t have a XC meet and ended up coming home from college to watch the race. My daughter Ashley was excited to come home and watch the marching band home show that my youngest daughter Rebecca was involved with. I ate a pasta meal with the family at Gatto’s, and then made the trek into Chicago to the hotel.
My usual plan is to walk to the gate where I enter for the corrals just to make sure nothing has changed. Then I walked around a little, grabbed a muffin for breakfast, and a sub sandwich for dinner and headed to my room.
I walked through the lobby and got a glimpse of Joan Benoit Samuelson, which was pretty cool. I made it to my room and tried to find the Cubs playoff game on TV. Very disappointed to find the channel it was on wasn’t carried by the hotel. I tried to find it online, only to find that I could only get simple live updates on some dumb MLB website. So I monitored that while I pulled up the Ironman Championship live stream from Kona.
My alarm went off at 4:30 am and I got up and got ready. I made a cup of coffee, ate my muffin and started getting myself race ready.
I took my own advice and headed to the corrals at 6 am. In the past I have waited too long and had to stand in line waiting to get in. The wait was minimal this time. I walked to the corral area got in line for the toilets. Took care of that and then found a place to sit on the sidewalk outside of Corral B and just relax. People watching was interesting as usual. I saw actor/comedian Rob Riggle getting escorted to the front of the race even though he was wearing an E Corral bib. Must be nice being a celebrity. At about 7:10 am I ate a gel and drank the last of my Gatorade and then used it to inconspicuously pee into before entering the corral. Once in the corral we listened to the National Anthem, watched a group of geese fly over almost on cue, and started moving forward.
My plan had been formed by virtue of not making it into Boston. I would shoot for a sub 3:25 marathon, which meant holding about 7:50 min/mile pace. My strategy was to run even splits until either 5 miles, 5K, or less to go seeing how I felt at those times and then push as hard as I could to the end. Race day was perfect – temperature in the 50’s at the start and rising slowly into the low 60’s. There was a moderate breeze that concerned me a little, but I knew we were going to have a great day to run.
Mile 1: 7:36 split – I was running comfortably and wasn’t surprised at this split.
Mile 2: 7:41 split – Another good split, nothing out of the ordinary at this point except I felt like I had to pee again.
Mile 3: 7:44 split – This is the tempo that felt good and I hoped that I could maintain.
Mile 4: 7:43 split – Locked into that tempo. I was starting to sweat somewhat, which surprised me.
Mile 5: 7:39 split – Into Lincoln Park and moving along well. Could really feel the wind here and it definitely cooled me down with my sweaty shirt.
Mile 6: 7:46 split – Soon after leaving the aid station where volunteers were yelling “Gatorade” and “water,” we were met with a guy yelling “cigars, cigarettes.” Funny.
Mile 7: 7:40 split – Getting as far north as we would be, I was glad to be turning around. But as soon as you do, you get hit with the smell of breakfast. Gets me every year. Smells so good.
Mile 8: 8:20 split – Just before the Mile 8 marker I saw the toilets and saw my chance. I had the need to go since the start and I knew I would have to make one pit stop. As far as pee breaks go, this one was typical, but I think that it cost me the sub-3:25. I didn’t try to make up the time here, I just got back on the pace I had been running. I also took my first salt capsule at the aid station. I wasn’t thinking that I would need them today, but the amount of sweating I was doing made me commit to taking one.
Mile 9: 7:42 split – Somewhere in here I tossed the homemade tube sock arm warmers I had. I had rolled them down, but kept them in case it got cold. I kept my gloves, but just held on to them, mainly for personal memento reasons.
Mile 10: 7:49 split – Okay, for some reason the race would be a let down for me if I didn’t see Elvis in this mile. Upon turning onto North Avenue, I could hear the music. Normally he is right next to the roadway, but this time he was up a little higher and I wasn’t sure I would be able to get my fist bump. But I saw an opening and went over and yelled “Hey Elvis!” and he met my fist with his. Made my day.
Mile 11: 7:45 split – Mile 11 is pretty much a straight shot back into the Loop. Kept up my pace.
Mile 12: 7:45 split – Somewhere in here I found myself running with a guy carrying an American flag. He was a very popular guy. The crowd was making noise for him and I got energy from that as well. But after the flag hit me in the face a few times, I knew that Flag Man and me would have to part ways.
Mile 13: 7:44 split – Another very close split time and I got through the 13.1 mile marker in 1:41.49. A quick calculation in my head told me I was doing just fine and looking at possibly being closer to 3:20 than 3:25. I saw Kari, Ben and Ashley for the first time through this mile and it gave me a boost. I could tell Ben was following my splits closely and was cheering me on like I usually do for his races. Made me proud.
Mile 14: 7:42 split – A little faster, probably due to seeing the family and starting to head through the Cheer Zone of the route.
Mile 15: 7:38 split – Another faster split time as I headed into the Dead Zone of the race.
Mile 16: 7:58 split – Not sure why there is a 20 second difference. Maybe I hit the split/lap button too early in the previous mile.
Mile 17: 7:55 split – Okay, now I realize that I’m edging closer to 8 min/mile pace. As long as I kept it under 8’s I felt I’d be okay. I saw my family again and got another lift.
Mile 18: 7:53 split – I wasn’t feeling bad, I just couldn’t get back to the 7:45’s. I was walking a little more in the aid stations, making sure I was getting a good drink of Gatorade.
Mile 19: 7:46 split – Heading into Pilsen and feeling pretty good still. I could really feel the head wind now.
Mile 20: 7:55 split – At 20, I knew I was doing good but chose not to push any harder yet.
Mile 21: 8:05 split – Okay, lots of distractions in Chinatown – the music, crowds and of course the photographers distracted me enough that may have made this a slower mile split.
Mile 22: 7:50 split – It was at this point I made a choice to hold off until the last two miles before pushing hard. I made the same decision in 2015.
Mile 23: 8:07 split – (See note below) Just a 5K to go, and I got my last gel in me. Here’s where in your mind you are ready to turn to the finish line, but the course takes you south and then east for a block until you hit Michigan Avenue for the final stretch. I tried picking off runners that were ahead of me, one at a time.
Mile 24: 8:07 split – (Miles 23 and 24 were averaged as I missed the marker for Mile 23 and hit the lap button around 9:20 or so. I added them together and averaged them for the splits.) I felt like I was really pushing, but the effort was all in my head as it was taking that effort physically to maintain what I perceived as a fast pace. With two miles to go, I put my head down and started running.
Mile 25: 7:47 split – That’s more like it, although I thought I was running sub-7 at this point. Toward the end of this mile I saw a sign that read “800M”, meaning 800 meters to go. But my mind read it as “BOOM”, a saying my fellow triathletes had in the 2013 Ironman Wisconsin race. Either way, it was a positive for me.
Mile 26: 7:41 split – The fastest mile I had run since about Mile 14. I turned and climbed “Mount Roosevelt” and it seemed like an eternity. A quick left and I was checking my watch to see how close I was to 3:25. I sprinted with all I had left.
Mile 26.2/FINISH: 3:25.08 – Missed being under 3:25 by 9 seconds. But that really didn’t disappoint me at all. I had just gotten my second Boston qualifier, a BQ-4:52 as they say, which should be more than enough to get me into the 2018 Boston Marathon. If that’s not fast enough, I’m not sure what else I can do.
The finishing chute was a blur. I was really having a hard time moving forward, almost staggering and felt really drained. It wasn’t long and they handed us a bottle of water. I started sipping on it and then grabbed another salt capsule out of my fuel belt and downed it. I made my way to some misting fans and just kind of hung out there a little bit until moving on.
I chose an older lady out of all the volunteers to put the medal around my neck and wrestled with my emotions a little bit. Seems strange that after 16 marathon finishes, I still get a little choked up at finishing a race, especially when I set a personal best or have a great race.
I shuffled along picking up a banana, an apple and a bag of goodies and then saw the group of guys handing out the mylar blankets. They were pushing them like they were car salesmen or something. They were trying to get people to laugh and it worked. I got my blanket and headed for the gate. One last picture as I walked out and then I made my way back to the Hilton to meet my family.
After a quick shower it was a two block walk to Devil Dawg’s on State Street for the usual post event lunch. Another successful Chicago Marathon in the books!
Here’s some of the details of my race that helped me get another personal best and Boston Qualifier.
Running Gear: Nike 2016 Chicago Marathon Event shirt (not the participant shirt – that is a no-no in my book!) and visor, along with Nike Flex running shorts with the built in mid-thigh liner, all purchased at the expo.
Arm warmers made from new tube socks.
Skin Glide lotion for my feet to prevent blisters.
Two Band-Aid flexible fabric bandages to cover my useless nipples.
Louis Garneau Mid Ride cycling socks.
FuelBelt brand bib number belt with pouch.
ASICS Gel-Exalt 3 running shoes. I have been running in some of the cheapest ASICS shoes I can buy. They were great. I had broken them in two weeks prior to the race.
Three Salted Caramel (extra electrolytes, caffeinated), and four Root Beer flavored GU brand gels. I took one Salted Caramel about 15 minutes prior to the start, then one gel every 30 minutes. Two Root Beer, then one Salted Caramel until they were gone.
Four Salt Stik brand salt capsules. I took one at the hotel at about 6 am, and then took one every hour after the first hour.
One cup of Gatorade at every aid station, with an occasional water as well.
Timex Ironman 50 lap watch. I have a Garmin 910XT but don’t trust it. The Timex Ironman has never let me down.
I was 16 years old when Al Michaels celebrated with the rest of the United States with his famous words while we watched Team USA defeat the USSR in hockey in the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York. At that time Ironman was two years old, and I certainly didn’t think that I would ever be in Lake Placid or do an Ironman. But 36 years later, here I was in the place where a historic event took place looking for a little miracle of my own.
THE ROAD TO IRONMAN LAKE PLACID
My two lifelong friends, Dave, John and I had done Ironman Wisconsin together in 2013. That race was somewhat of a bucket-list experience, and we really never thought about doing more prior to finishing that race. But we kind of caught the triathlon bug, or I did in particular. After a couple of years, we started talking about doing another. Dave’s son Alex had been asking to do a full iron distance race, and another longtime friend Jeff had recently taken up the sport. So with renewed interest in completing another Ironman, Dave suggested that we take on Lake Placid.
Why Lake Placid? We had already done Madison, so a new venue was intriguing. We knew what to expect as far as riding tough bike courses like Madison, and figured Lake Placid couldn’t be much different. Also, the lake has a guide cable running in the water about 10 feet or so down and takes you right along the swim course. Plus, Lake Placid had a reputation as one of the best. So off to the Adirondacks we went.
The five of us registered on the day after the 2015 race, the typical time when the registration starts for the next year. I was on a college tour with my daughter Ashley, and registered using my iPhone. In retrospect I could have waited, but I wanted to make sure I got in. It was somewhat comical walking around looking at a college campus with my phone in my hand, falling behind the group and registering for an Ironman.
We nicknamed ourselves the “Gunners,” mainly because of Alex’s penchant for gunning for everything. But in essence, we all had the gunning for the win mentality. It just seemed like a fitting team name. And it sounded cool.
In 2013 we chose to follow Don Fink’s book, Be Iron Fit, for training and it served us well. We decided without any hesitation that we would follow the same 30-week Competitive training plan to prepare us for Lake Placid.
The training for the race went fairly well for all of us. This time around Alex formed a text group for just us five to share information and support each other. In true Gunner spirit, it almost became a race to see who could finish the workout first, which was usually punctuated with the text “day done.” It was fun stuff until John kept telling us that he was done – at 12:15 am!!! I learned to put my phone on sleep mode after a few of those.
As far as the plan was concerned, I missed some swimming due to a variety of issues, but it didn’t really effect me in the end. In the almost 3 years since doing Madison, I must have garnered a decent swim technique. Doing the 70.3 in Muncie, Indiana in 2014 was a turning point for me. It’s one lap, seeded swim was a perfect swim for me and I hoped that Lake Placid would be very similar, just twice the length. The distance doesn’t scare me any longer.
I was well prepared for the running. I started a running streak on 1/1/2015 and have run at least a mile everyday. I think it has made me a better runner, not only because I run more, but it has conditioned my legs to handle the workload much better.
The bike is another story. Lake Placid is in the Adirondack mountains and Illinoisans are commonly called “flatlanders” for a reason. I envied Dave and Alex because out in western Illinois where they live they have some pretty good rolling hills for training. I on the other hand commonly ride on a flat rails-to-trails bike path and very gentle hilly terrain in the rural south of Chicago suburbs.
But we did have a few times where we could get together and train.
30 weeks of training
Approximately 1,050 miles of running, 2,600 miles of cycling, and 149,000 yards of swimming
360 hours of total training
TRAVELING TO LAKE PLACID
Unfortunately, my kids had a busy summer schedule this year and couldn’t join my wife and me for the race. So Kari and I plotted out a little fun trip on our way to and from the race. We packed up the car and headed to Niagara Falls, Ontario on Wednesday 7/20. My first time in Canada, eh! We had never been to the falls and we weren’t disappointed. It was an awesome sight.
Getting through customs was interesting for me. Kind of made me nervous with all the questions. But after a night at the Falls, we left Canada on Thursday and drove directly to Lake Placid, New York.
Upon getting to the hotel I was fried. It was a long car ride, the anxiety about the race was starting to build, and my Gunner teammates were waiting for me to do a swim and bike. I got there and my attitude was awful. I just wanted to settle in and let myself catch up, but after I unloaded my junk and a trip to registration to get my race packet, off we went to Mirror Lake for a planned 30 minute swim.
My plan all along was to get into the lake and swim it pre-race, so I grumpily got in the water and started swimming. The first thing that I wanted to see was the famous cable in the lake that the course runs along. I was surprised by what I saw. I was expecting a large pipe type thing at the bottom of the lake, but in essence it is a thin cable, much like a clothesline, and was suspended in the water about 10 feet down. Very easy to see and follow.
Even though I had been a little gruff before the swim, swimming actually made me feel much better. It took away the tension and anxiety and I felt much better. When I looked at my watch I saw that I had did a loop in about 36 minutes I couldn’t believe it. I swam Muncie 70.3 in 43 minutes, so this was huge! I almost wanted to swim another lap!
Next up was a scouting mission of the bike course. Dave and Jeff had arrived earlier in the week and had ridden some of the course. First up was a trip to the infamous “3 Bears” – Momma, Baby and Papa Bear are nicknames of the last hills you have to climb coming back into Lake Placid at the end of the bike loop. Riding down them was fun and we rode out about 20 minutes and turned around. I expected them to be a hard climb coming up, but on fresh legs they really seemed kind of tame. I even have some hills by me that are just as much of a climb.
Then we took a spin over to where BIKE OUT was located to scout the beginning portion of the race. Unbelievable downhill at the start. I took some serious notes about using my brakes at the start of this ride.
We capped off the day with a pizza dinner and great conversation.
A morning run with the gang along the back portion of the run loop was done on Friday morning. We spent some time at the expo where I found that the finisher’s stuff was already on the racks for sale. Usually they put that stuff out post-race on Monday morning. Had this been my first Ironman, I would have avoided it. But since I was confident that I knew I would finish, I went ahead and bought the finisher’s jacket, a couple of the race shirts that had the competitors names on the back, and a coffee mug just so I wouldn’t have to worry about making sure that they still had my size after the race.
Kari and I had a nice lunch away from the group and then drove the bike course in our car. All I could say was WOW! Beautiful scenery, exceptionally good roads, and unbelievable hills! I was glad I took the time to drive it, but when you are on the bike it was a very different experience. I’m not sure why the Three Bears get all the credit. There were many other hills out there that should have names too.
The Gunners finally made it to the Athlete Welcoming Ceremony after trying to find the non-existent park it was located at. Mike Reilly made his first appearance, and Ironman weekend was starting to become real.
Capped off Friday with a dinner at the Boat House with Kari and her parents who made the trip to watch us race.
We spent Saturday making the same rookie mistake we always do, walking around in the heat instead of staying off our feet. We took our bikes and gear bags to transition and got it all set to go.
IRONMAN LAKE PLACID RACE DAY
The alarm went off at 3:15 am. I went downstairs and claimed my breakfast meal bag the Mirror Lake Hampton Inn provided the triathletes. I ate the bagel, yogurt and banana and spent time making sure the bathroom situation was all good. Then we headed to transition to ready our Gunner-mobiles (Alex’s term) and get body marked.
THE SWIM – 1:18:57 – 2:02/100M – 122 M50/54 – 951 Male – 1225 Overall
The swim went as expected for me. My plan was to watch where others were swimming as I entered the water and then head for the path of least resistance. Unfortunately, the path changed many times. I drifted left and right, other swimmers changed their minds, and the majority wanted to be on that cable. For the most part I stuck to about 10 yards or so off to the left of the cable and just kept sighting for open space to be in. The cable and the buoys and the majority of the swimmers swimming along the cable make it pretty easy to stay on course.
The turns were tough with a lot of contact and some treading water and dog paddling, but I got around them. I checked my watch after the first loop – 38 minutes! All good.
The second loop had spread out a little more than the first and I found that I could be on the cable with little contact. I stuck mostly to the inside of it as it was less occupied. About halfway down going out I got a Charley Horse type calf cramp. I never get these, but I surmised that it was probably from the tightness of the wetsuit causing it. I swam over to a kayaker/volunteer and she inquired if I was okay. I said I had a calf cramp and just needed to massage it out. I was there less than 20 seconds.
As I made the turn around the buoys, I got another cramp in the same left calf. This time I just rubbed it with my right foot and jumped back into the fray. I got a little pummeled at this point in which I had a brief primal release (I yelled at a guy), but it was just too many people at the same spot trying to go in the same direction all at once.
The backside of the swim heading back was uneventful the rest of the way. I looked up and saw 1:18 on the clock and was pleasantly surprised. I swam a 1:30 in Wisconsin. Big improvement for me.
T1 – SWIM to BIKE – 10:46
It was a hike to get from the swim exit to transition. Had to run up the beach, down a road to a carpeted sidewalk and then into T1. I found my bags easily as I knew exactly which row to go down and I had placed some green duct tape on the bags so they would stand out. Upon getting inside I couldn’t find a place to sit. I finally found a place and laid all my junk out. I used the water bottle to rinse the sand off my feet and then dried them off. I put on my homemade arm warmers (long white tube socks from Walmart) and my glasses and they immediately fogged up. I got my socks and shoes on after a liberal amount of Glide on my toes, and had a volunteer spray me with some sunscreen. He packed up all my junk and off I went. By the time I made it to my bike mount row a volunteer had my bike waiting for me, I grabbed it and off I went.
THE BIKE – 6:46:15 – 16.54 mph ave. – 106 M50-54 – 944 Male – 1149 Overall
The bike was interesting to say the least. It was hard, it was easy, it was beautiful, it was peaceful, it was crazy, it was scary. I felt like a Gunner heading out of T1 and down the hills. I was surprised to see Kari and my mother-in-law Darla at the bottom of the first hill. That started the ride off on a great note.
After getting down that first hill I was contemplating pulling over and peeing. I had to go really bad. I had tried while I was on the second loop of the swim, but just couldn’t go. It wasn’t long though until we hit the first Bike Aid station and I was able to stop for a potty break.
Then the climbing began. A lot of climbing. Another rider audibly warned everyone not to mash up the hills as she was getting passed by everyone. In all honesty I couldn’t go any slower and not suffer just as much. My heart rate monitor was screaming at me, but there was nothing I could really do. The only way to bring it down would be to walk! I tried my best and just kept climbing in my easiest chainring combination.
Then the descent began. A lot of descent. I have never felt my bike make so many new wobbles and vibrations. I have never felt quite so afraid on my bike before. In Wisconsin I hit 47 mph and was kind of mad that the hill ended. But the famous (or infamous!) descent into Keene was 6 miles long and scary as hell! Fortunately the descent had been repaved recently and as far as the road was concerned, it was perfect. I hit 45 and started applying the brakes as we serpentined our way down into Keene. I am so glad that I kept my hands on the brakes! Being in aero would have scared the crap out of me.
We got into Keene and the road flattened out. The scenery changed and the ride became somewhat calm and reassuring again. We just rolled along through some beautiful mountainous country.
There are two out and backs on this looped course, and while I was heading out on the longer first out and back I saw Dave for the first time heading the other way. Not much longer after that I saw John. About 5 minutes later I hit the turn around and figured that Dave had about a 15 minute lead on me and John about 10 minutes.
At 35 miles into the ride I decided to do a little work and push pace. I had been riding flats and was feeling good. Then the hills started. I couldn’t believe the amount of climbing that was going on. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that to get back to where I started and after all the descending I had done that I would have to climb it back. But it seemed to go on forever. At one point we were riding up a hill and I said to a guy that this hill was much harder than the dumb Bears. It should’ve been called Grandpa Bear. It definitely wasn’t Teddy Bear, that’s for sure.
Finally got to Papa Bear (Momma Bear and Baby Bear aren’t even worth mentioning) and saw Kari and Darla. Lots of crazy crowd support through that hill. It made for a fun part of the ride. Thankfully after cresting Papa Bear it was downhill into town for Loop 2.
The second loop was tough. I tried like crazy to budget my energy and spin up the hills but it was tough. I got a little braver going down the descent into Keene, but still held the speed at about 45 mph.
I saw John again on that first out and back and could tell I was closer, but I never did catch him on the bike. I did see Jeff behind me, but I had about 3 miles or so of a lead on him. I knew he was lurking though! Damn Gunners. Always gunning.
As far as the aid stations, they seemed to be strategically placed on the hills which was sort of a blessing as riders were going slower through them and not blazing by trying to grab a bottle. I stopped about 4 or 5 times to use the toilets and refuel, but for the most part I rode through them as well, something I didn’t do in Wisconsin.
At about 80 miles I stopped and grabbed some Vasoline for my crotch. I was really starting to get sore from sitting and it helped a lot. I was worried a little about getting sunburned, but there was really nothing I could do at that point.
As far as nutrition on the bike, I think I managed it well. I started with two of my own Gatorade bottles and then instead of refilling them, I just discarded them in the aid station and replaced them with Gatorade bottles and water. I didn’t think I would need as much salt as I normally would take, but I changed my mind and stuck with a salt capsule every hour. I’m glad I did. I was sweating but it was drying quickly and it didn’t seem to me like I was sweating as much as I was.
I kept up with a Clif Shot gel every half hour, ate a Clif Bar at about 2 hours into it and nibbled on some more around 4.5 hours into it. I took a bite from a banana at almost all aid stations. I never really felt out of energy, but I knew I was worn out from the effort it was taking to climb the hills.
T1 – BIKE to RUN – 8:02
T2 went very smoothly, I dismounted and handed my bike off to a volunteer bike handler who re-racked it for me and I shuffled off to the bags to get my Run Gear Bag and head to the changing tent. I sat down and the heat and humidity of the tent hit me pretty hard. It was warm in there. I grabbed the baby wipes I had and wiped my face and neck down. I wanted to feel a little cleaner. I grabbed my extra socks and put them in my back pocket in case I needed to change them, put on my shoes and visor, snapped on the running/bib belt and headed out of the tent.
I had some volunteers spray me with some sunscreen, and later on my kids told me that they were watching me online and saw all of that. I’m glad that they were able to see that and the finish too.
Upon leaving the oval for the run course, I spotted Kari and gave her a kiss. I mentioned or gestured that I was beat, but really what I experienced at that time is just a little overheating from getting off the bike where you are constantly being cooled by the wind and from sitting in the transition tent. It wasn’t long into the run that I was feeling normal.
THE RUN – 4:28:01 – 10:13 min./mile ave. – 59 M50-54 – 651 Male – 812 Overall
If you have any mental capacity left after that bike ride, this is the time to use it. Heading out of town on the first out and back portion it is very hilly, and especially very down hilly going out. It’s easy to get carried away with tempo at this point and I knew to hold back somewhat. Truthfully, I think downhills are tougher on your muscles than uphills are. They really beat up your quads and knees. But I got out of town and turned left at the ski jump hills. The sunlight was direct and warm. It wasn’t long before I was taking a sponge and putting it in my tri top. Later on I found that a sponge rested very nicely on my heart rate monitor chest strap, and I would take ice or water at every aid station and place it on the sponge. That helped me regulate my temperature on what was becoming a warm afternoon. A lot of people said it was hot, but I found the breeze to be nice and never really felt like I was cooking myself.
At about the 6 mile mark I saw John heading back. This put him about 4 minutes ahead of me and I slowly worked to pull him in. I caught him around the 7 mile mark or so, and walked with him a bit. He said he was glad that I was walking with him, but he felt like he was going to bonk and told me to keep on trucking. So I did. Not long after that I saw Jeff coming up behind us heading toward the turn around. From then on I felt like I was being chased.
I made it into town and could hear Mike Reilly telling people that they were an Ironman! But at that point I had to head past the hotel and all of my friends/fans for the second out and back before heading out for the second loop. It can be tough hearing people finishing, but I knew my time would be coming in another 13.1 miles.
The second loop of the run was much like the first. As far as nutrition, I kept up the gels every half hour, but I also went to the Base Salt every mile instead of the salt capsules because I wanted that salt more readily absorbed. Aid stations had bananas, pretzels, ice, water, Gatorade, cola, and after 5 pm chicken broth. I sample most of it, skipping the Clif bars. I always took ice and water, and usually the cola and broth too. I never really felt short on nutrition and energy from that fuel. The only thing really making me tired was the miles I was accumulating.
I saw Dave at one point as I was heading out and he was heading in. I congratulated him on a job well done. “Top Gunner!” is what I yelled. He returned the compliment. I knew I had no chance of catching him. It was Jeff that I worried about. He passed John and seemed to be making up ground on me. It was at the 20 mile mark that I decided that I needed to start to push somewhat. I figured Jeff would be walking the aid stations and hills like everyone else, so I made myself at least jog through the aid stations and hills to create a little gap. I also picked up the pace a little.
At 5K left to go I was heading back into town and felt like I had a good amount of energy still left in the tank. I picked up the pace and was running sub-7:30 or so through that last 5K. At one point some guy said that what I was doing was “ballsy” and another guy said “Somebody wants to go home.” I took it as a complement.
I kept speeding up, getting more and more emotional. It was starting to hit me – I was about to become a two-time Ironman. 30 weeks of training, hours of swimming, biking and running were coming to an end.
FINISH TIME: 12:52:01 – 651st Male finisher – 59th M50-54 Age Group – 812th Overall finisher
It seems like all of us Gunners rocked Ironman Lake Placid. I couldn’t be more impressed with these men. We supported each other through the easy training days and the hard. We rode together when we could, and rode together in spirit when we didn’t. We sized each other up, and helped each other out. The one-timers offered sage advice, and the first timers took great notes. Dave, John and I added two new guys to the Ironman ranks, and I really hope we inspired more to take on that same dream of becoming an Ironman.
Even though John says he’s done with Ironman for a while, I don’t believe him. I don’t believe anything he says! I can’t wait until this group of Gunners can do it again!
THE FINISH LINE
I can’t end this report without thanking everyone who supported me along this journey.
Can’t thank my friends on Facebook enough. Every week I would post a training wrap up and was so thankful that many of you took the time to read the blogs and give me support. I was so tired after the event to “like” all of your comments. But I want you to know that each and every one was well appreciated. To all of you, thank you!
I am so blessed to have such great in-laws that take pride in my accomplishments. Thank you Gary and Darla for making the trip and experiencing me becoming an Ironman for the second time.
To my coworkers who put up with my constant talk of my training and Ironman pursuits, and not being able to join you for lunch because I had to head to the swimming hole, thank you for being there for me! The regulars include Mary, Tracy, Julie, Jeff, Micah and of course, Lou! Let’s do lunch!
I do have a couple Super Fans that I want to mention – Carl Teska tells me every time he sees me that I am the pride of American youth. He always takes interest in my training and racing, and listens intently to every word I provide. Carl, thank you very much for supporting me. I may just get that Ironman tattoo that you keep pushing me to get!
And Mr. Hammond, I sometimes think that you are the only guy reading those blogs, and if it was just you reading them it was worth the effort to write them. Thank you for all the positive comments and support.
I would like to thank the families of my fellow Gunners. Jill, you had to watch Jeff go through a lot to get to that finish line, and I am sure he appreciates you being there for him. You also take such pride in the rest of us. Very much appreciated.
I can’t imagine what Mandy had to do to support John while working her butt off, being a mother for two littles (and a grown man!) and juggling all of that stuff while John joined in on the fun. Thank you for supporting him and us.
Without Carla we would not have had the wonderful hotel we stayed at, or the sandwiches you provided at the end of that training ride, or the awesome photos you have taken and shared on Facebook, and so much I can’t even remember it all. We Gunners could be total dopes, and you put up with it all. Thank you for being our planner/organizer/manager and everything else you do!
My family is always so supportive of me. Unfortunately they couldn’t join us on this trip. But knowing that you all watched the live feed online and cheering at home sure made me feel good.
Without the support of my wife Kari I could not even begin to do this crazy event. She is my rock, my tri coach in many ways, my supporter, my biggest fan, and awesome photographer. She never balked when I needed to do a long ride or long run. She pushed me when I dogged it with the swim training and held me accountable. She makes her way around the Ironman course like she’s doing the race too, just to grab that once-in-a-lifetime photo or give that much needed bit of enthusiastic support. She helps me schlep all my triathlon junk to the race, and helps me schlep the stinky stuff back home. In many ways, she helped me earn that medal. I’m blessed to have her by my side. I LOVE YOU!
If I missed anyone, thank you as well. My oversight is due to Ironman withdrawal! Forgive me.
And lastly, if anyone was inspired by my journey to become a two-time Ironman and take up something that pushed them out of their comfort zone, whether it be tackling a marathon, or going back to school, or beginning a walking program, or attempting anything that you find difficult – if my inspiration motivated you in any way, that is all the reward that I will ever need. Good luck to you on your journeys.
So, do I believe in miracles?
Actually, I just believe in myself. It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you want it.
Swim: Blue Seventy Reaction wetsuit; Speedo Vanquisher Prescription Goggles (-4.5)
Bike: Specialized Shiv Pro, SRAM Red components, 52/36 chainring with 11/28 Ten speed cassette, FLO Carbon Racing wheels (60’s), Conti Grand Prix 4000s II (700×23 front, 700×25 rear), two bottle cages and a Specialized Fuelselage, Salt Stick salt dispenser, Specialized Expert triathlon shoes
Run: Ironman visor, Fuel Belt, Asics GEL Excite 3, Louis Garneau Midride socks, Epix Go Fierce two piece custom trisuit, Garmin 910XT
Nutrition: I used the on-course provided offerings in training and on race day. Clif Shot gel (Razz), Clif bars, Base Salt, Salt Stick salt capsules, Gatorade powder in training, and Gatorade Endurance on course, bananas, pretzels, water, cola, ice, chicken broth.
29 Weeks down, one to go! Race day is almost here, and this week is full of lots of preparation and getting ready to go. And a lot of “hold on there, bub” going on too.
I took my bike into the bike shop for a race day check-up. Normally you drop the bike off and get it back a day or two later, but seeing that I bought the bike at a bike shop in Wheaton, Illinois and it takes me about 45 minutes to drive there, I begged the kid to work on it while I waited. Maybe he was a little more understanding when I told him I needed it for an Ironman soon. Maybe he was impressed that an old fogey like me can do an Ironman, I don’t know. They put it on the rack and checked, cleaned and lubed the chain, and examined the rest of it while I strolled through the store. After about 20 minutes the kid (must have been 18-19 maybe) and his supervisor (another kid maybe 5 years older than him) found me and said they were done. But from the look on the the older kids’ face, I could tell he had something really important to tell me. He asked me if I clean my internal “Fuelselage” device that holds my water and is contained within the frame of the bike. Now anyone who has one of these things knows that you need to clean it or else it might grow something funky. I was getting the sense that he was scolding me about it. I told him that I clean it out all the time and never put anything in it other than water. It’s just three years old and looks it. In typical kid fashion, he advised that I should replace it. I had just spent 20 minutes walking the store actually looking for a replacement, but they were out of stock and I advised him of that. “Yeah, I know” was his response. Well kid, it’s kind of hard to replace it when you don’t have any in stock.
Upon getting home I rode the bike and was glad to see the shifting was a little more crisp and nothing out of the ordinary was going on, except the rear brake. After that ride I took a look at it and found that the brake wasn’t releasing after I pull the brake handle. It had done this a couple of years ago, and it’s usually caused by road junk, sweat and Gatorade getting into the brake components and gumming things up. I cleaned it as best I could, lubed it well and got it to operate as designed. I need to figure out how to fully service my bike. I don’t want to rely on a kid and a kid supervisor anymore. They should have caught that.
As for the rest of the week, training was easy. I spent more time worrying about making sure I have everything for the trip to New York, thinking about what to bring and planning out how to approach the race. But life will through you a curve and as the week ended we found that we have some car issues with the car the kids drive. This is troubling, as we are leaving the kids home while my wife and I take the trip to Lake Placid. Also, our dog is showing signs that he might be ready to move on to the big dog house in the sky. He’s 14, and the past week has been really struggling. He’s stopped eating and taking water and might not be here for much longer. As if the anxiety of doing an Ironman race in a week wasn’t enough, I have this squarely on my mind. I’ve got a couple of days to deal with those things first, and then I will deal with the trip. Fortunately for me, I have done the race once before and I am confident that I am prepared.
I’ve learned a few things over the years. Thankfully, I’m no longer a kid.
When my wife and I were expecting our first child we were introduced to a phenomenon of sorts called nesting. It’s where the expectant parents, and in particular the mother, start preparing for the new bundle of joy to enter their lives. Baby junk gets purchased, walls get a new coat of pink or blue paint, and other things get done for the impending arrival. We have a similar type of nesting in Ironman triathlon called “WHAT THE HELL DID I GET MYSELF INTO?” Also known as the “Taper.”
Even though we were so happy to be done with the massive endurance stage of training, especially Week 27 and it’s crazy long weekend, the taper is something everyone welcomes but it drives us crazy. After doing so much training the taper starts drawing you back down in an effort to recover for race day. Sometimes just trying to go from runs that lasted over an hour to runs only 30 minutes long can make you question whether or not you are doing enough.
Truthfully, this week isn’t that big of a taper adjustment. The long Saturday bike was 4 hours long and the long Sunday run was 2 hours of joy (no, not really). The next two weeks is when you really cut back until the day of the race on July 24. But you still get weird things happening in the taper whether you are in the first week or the third. Things like being able to unclip from your bike pedal and falling over. I did that in 2013, my Gunner buddy John did it yesterday. The bike trail rides in March were typically void of bike trail idiots, but boy are there a lot of them out there now. Saturday I was cruising along the path when a goofball pulled onto the trail from a side path without stopping and bothering to look for people that were actually using the trail at the time. I almost t-boned him. There are things you can control, and things that are way out of your control.
Sometimes it’s little things that make you crazy, like the little piece of buckled tape that my hand touches on the handle bar. Every time I touch it I think “what is that I am touching for the 1,000th time?” It’s really an easy fix, but by the time you get back from 6 hours of riding, your mental checklist of things you promised to remember have left the grey matter many miles ago.
But cutting back the mileage is just part of the taper. The nesting part of the taper consists of making sure that you got all the non-training stuff covered – the hotels booked, the equipment you are going to use, the bike check-up that you have been neglecting, the travel plans, the tri suit you are going to wear… Oh yeah, that reminds me – our custom tri suits arrived! And they are sweet!
Since I have been through the taper before, I am blessed to know what to expect and how to handle it. It will still be the same crazy things happening, but I just won’t cry this time.
The dreaded Week 27 is over! The toughest of all the training weeks has been conquered!
Week 27 is the one that my training buddies and myself come to fear, with the Saturday long ride of six hours followed by an hour long run brick, and the Sunday three hour run and 1.5 hour bike spin. But thanks to a great weekend weather-wise, I found the weekend workout to be quite enjoyable. I got to ride with one of my Gunner teammates and lifelong friend John, and ended the seven hour day on Saturday feeling awesome.
The ride started out in the upper 50’s, and I wasn’t expecting that. I brought along some homemade arm warmers that I made out of tube socks that I purchased at Walmart. It’s a good thing I had them. It took about 1.5 hours before I didn’t feel cold anymore. Kept them on for the whole ride though. I will have to stick a pair in my bike special needs bag or my T1 bike bag for the race. I’m holding out hope that we will have a race day like this weekend.
The weather sure made for a different ride than the last couple of weeks. Two weeks ago I filled up my bottles three times in the 80 degree weather. This time I started with three full bottles and really only topped off two of them once. Just goes to show how much the temperatures effect hydration.
The three hour run on Sunday I was sort of dreading, mainly due to worrying about what lingering soreness I would still have from the 7 hour training the day before, but I felt great all through the run. I turned around at 1.5 hours/10.25 miles and headed back with the idea of pushing a little. That worked until the wall was starting to creep up around the 19 mile mark just as I was hitting the hills near home. I got through it okay and got home and jumped in the pool. Then I mowed the grass. My neighbor used to tell me that she considers mowing the grass as her workout. I guess after a three hour/20.5 mile run I got my workout in as well.
My wife helped me finish off the biggest training week of the plan by riding the 1.5 hour bike spin with me. I chose to do it on my hybrid for comfort sake, and even though I was giving an effort I was marveling at how much faster I ride the tri bike on the same stretch of trail. Good ride and a good finish to the hardest week of the plan.
Week 26 was a tough one. And it elicited the above statement from one of my training buddies. It’s his first time going through the 30 week training program in his pursuit of Ironman immortality, but having been through the training once before I can certainly empathize.
To me the weekend training workouts are the true efforts that are reflective of what it takes to get ready for the race. The other days are hard as well, but much shorter in duration. But the long Saturday ride and the long Sunday run really give you a taste of what the race will be like. I write this post on Sundays mostly, and by then the early parts of the week are distant memories, while the weekend distance events are still rather fresh in my mind.
So we bantered around a little in a group text about whether or not we all hate this sport. We don’t really, it’s just that doing a 5.5 hour ride followed by a 1 hour run on a 90 degree and humid day really makes you think about why we like triathlon at all.
But my friend Dave and I both agree that the training is tough, and although there can be some rough patches and good days of training as well, the training is truly the hard part. Getting through the 30 weeks prepares you for being ready to handle the distance. I’ve thought many times that since probably Week 20 or so that I was ready. This week really drove home the point that until you get past Week 26 and Week 27 (next week – yikes!), you really don’t know that you are ready. You may think so, but this week and the next will really tell you all you need to know. The race is really the easy part, utilizing the skills and endurance earned over 30 weeks. It’s now less than a month away. Mike Reilly may be at the finish line telling everyone that they are an Ironman, but what’s impressive is that we prepared for 30 weeks to get to the finish line after 140.6 miles to have him tell us that.
As for me this week, the swimming pool is finally done. I had missed quite a bit of swimming since the high school pools changed their summer hours to a time I couldn’t go, and then opening my own pool to find a torn liner delayed my training. But all is good now and I have decided to supplement the three swim days of the training plan by adding a 30 minute swim every weekday, and dropping the Friday 3500 yard swim, because of the fact that I never did it anyway! I should get my endurance and build some of the lost speed back in the next couple of weeks.
We had a graduation party for my high school graduate this weekend, so I had to swap Saturday’s long ride with Sunday’s long run to have time to help prepare for the party. I think I got lucky because I got the long run done early before the heat had time to get going on Saturday. And although there was a brief downpour before I started the 5.5 hour ride on Sunday, the skies and humidity cleared nicely and I didn’t really suffer like my Gunner teammates did.
The ride was the same as last week, a 5.5 hour ride, but I made to 95 miles last week and was kind of disappointed in myself for not hitting the century mark. So this week I rode a little extra and ended up at 101.5 miles on the bike. In 2013, I never reached that plateau until race day. So it is a nice reminder that I am pretty close to that race distance of 112 miles.
So yes, Week 26 was a challenge. But the challenge just proves that I have the stuff to become Ironman.