Moving On

THE LAST POST REGARDING IRONMAN LOUISVILLE 2020 

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R.I.P. LOUISVILLE IRONMAN 2020

It really didn’t take me too long to get over having the race I was training for come to an end.  I guess I had been expecting it to end for quite a while, but I just kept moving forward (a tried and true Ironman motto) in my training until the final word was announced.  So after having a week to think it over, here’s what I will most likely do going forward.

I will opt to take the automatic transfer to Ironman Chattanooga in 2021.  There is really no way the other three Fall 2020 transfer options are going to happen in my mind.  Three of us Gunner teammates were already signed up for Louisville, and two and maybe a third had not signed up.  So if we decide as a group to head back to Chatty in 2021 all I need to do is make the transfer official and start training next year.  If we for some reason want to do a different race then I will have no problem paying the transfer fee and do that race with the group.  But Ironman has some pretty specific rules on transferring, so I will have to take that into consideration.  We’ll have to talk that over.  I remember us talking about not wanting to do Chatty again, but I think that was the dreadful heat of the 2019 race influencing that decision.  It was an okay location, we enjoyed ourselves and I would go back.  But before I get too confident with all that, I have to realize that this is all conjecture.  There’s talk that this Covid-19 crap may stick around into 2021 and screw everybody’s race season up again.  So there’s that…

I will keep training, that really isn’t a big surprise.  I actually enjoy the weekly stuff, the long Saturday ride, and running is just part of who I am.  I can’t imagine not running.  Swimming on the other hand…  well, let’s just say that I do enjoy a cannonball splashdown after a long run or ride.  But I doubt I will do much swim training for the rest of the year.  The training won’t be anything too overwhelming, but enough to keep me fit and doing what I love.  I may join some local group rides now that it won’t interfere with me following my training plan.  I may also text a local friend to see if he wants to do some riding again.  We stopped riding together when my training became too specific and he just wanted to ride.  

I was kicking around the idea of doing an Ironman of my own making either at home or in Wisconsin at my lakehome and inviting my buddies to do it, but I’m not so hot on the idea now.  That would require us to keep training and following the plan and with the weather heating up and the fact we’ve had our bubble burst with Louisville, I don’t think any of us would want to do it.  I may, however, do a half-iron distance day of my own just because I already have the fitness to do that and could pull it off pretty easily.  I think the training plan has a 70.3 training day built into it coming up in a few weeks, so I may still do that.  I need to sleep on that a little.

Lastly, I have one more hope left of having an opportunity to race this year and that race is the Big Hill Bonk Last Runner Standing elimination ultramarathon.  This race was supposed to occur in April but got postponed to October.  I received an email last week stating that as of right now the race is a go until the race director finds out otherwise.  He gave us a drop dead date of September 15th, so we’ll know by then if he has to cancel it.  So since that tells me that the race is iffy at best, I’m not going to do any special ultramarathon type distance training and if the race happens I will just go up to Beloit and run 4.166-mile loops every hour until I can’t take it anymore.  And that’s all predicated on whether I feel comfortable around other athletes and doing the Covid-19 dance around each other.  If I don’t feel safe in that environment or it’s too big of a hassle I will opt out.

So there you have it.  I’m going forward with my daily workouts for fun instead of for a specific reason and we’ll see what happens.  So long, Ironman Louisville 2020.  Hello, Ironman Chattanooga 2021.

 

 

What’s the Deal with Calf Cramps?

IRONMAN LOUISVILLE 2020 TRAINING

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WEEK 3 – MARCH 30 > APRIL 5, 2020

IRONMAN TRAINING IN THE TIME OF PANDEMIC – PART III

It’s a really strange time in the world right now but I am doing my best to keep some normalcy in my life, and training for my fifth Ironman is helping a lot with that.  Many races scheduled for spring have either been canceled or postponed to the fall.  Fortunately, my race is scheduled for mid-October and hasn’t been affected yet but I am training with crossed fingers and doing each workout with the thought in the back of my mind that if things don’t improve with this virus, I may be training for naught.

But since I’m Mr. Optomist, I’m keeping a positive outlook and will keep training for Ironman Louisville until I’m told otherwise.  I’d be doing some kind of training anyway, regardless if I was signed up for a race.

The weather has started to turn a little for the better and with the warmer temps, I find myself riding outside more and relying less on the spin bike.  This has reminded me a couple of things.  First, a spin bike is a decent workout but it’s no substitute for riding outside.  Secondly, riding outside is killing me!  My butt is sore and hates me for making it sit on a bike saddle that was clearly not designed for comfort.  And my calves have decided that cramping up while riding is a fine thing.

 

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Maybe only triathletes will find this funny.

 

As a longtime runner, I don’t remember ever having cramps from running.  It’s only when I started doing triathlons and in particular training for Ironman that they became a thing.  I would get cramps in my feet when swimming, which is really weird because you aren’t even using them much.  I knew when the foot cramps came on it was time for me to get out of the pool because they would get worse before they got better.  Plus it gave me an excuse to quit swimming because I hate it.

Most of my rides are short enough during the week that cramps aren’t a problem.  It’s the longer weekend rides that cause them.  Specifically, I am referring to calf cramps.  I’ll be spinning along doing just fine and then I will get that first warning twinge.  I’ve gotten pretty good at backing off the intensity and avoiding the dreaded “Charley Horse”.  Severe cramps really don’t occur while biking.  No, they save themselves for when you are in bed trying to sleep.  Move your foot just the wrong way under the covers and BOOM – Cramp City.

In all honesty, though, the cramps were a much more frequent occurrence when I was first starting out in the sport.  That first year training for Ironman Wisconsin in 2013 I would experience them much more often after a long ride.  But I am much more experienced now and they don’t seem to bother me as much as they used to.

Other triathletes are always looking at the reason behind the calf cramps.  Some say it’s due to being dehydrated.  Or not enough salt, potassium or other minerals in your diet or hydration drink.  I don’t disagree with those reasons contributing to calf cramps, but I don’t think it’s the main reason.  I have found a correlation to getting calf cramps with an increase in a certain activity that you haven’t been doing and/or the intensity of the new activity.  Calf cramps for me are always at the beginning of a 30-week training cycle when I stop spinning an easy gear on the spin bike indoors and actually have to work when I ride outdoors.  I always want to jump right back in where I left off in the late fall and ride with the same intensity that I had built up over the course of the summer.  That’s a silly mistake that I always make and relearn every spring.  Cramps also generally occur towards the end of a ride, when you have been spinning your legs at 90+ rpm and haven’t given them a single break.

Some athletes will also treat the symptoms of a cramp rather than why they are cramping in the first place.  Somewhere someone decided that pickle juice is the wonder drink to prevent cramps.  What a horrible thing to drink.  And there’s a company out there that produces a drink product that claims to stop cramps as soon as you feel them coming on.  This drink has a combination of ginger, cinnamon and a strong pepper in it that is supposed to re-wire your nerves to stop the cramp.  That seems dumb, but the science behind it kind of makes sense.  The theory is that when you over-stimulate the nerves in your muscles they go haywire.  When you start to cramp you take a drink of their product (or something very strong tasting, like pickle juice) and that strong taste of it refocuses your brain away from the over-excited nerves in your cramping leg.  People swear that it works.  But wouldn’t you rather not cramp up than have to treat it with some crazy drink?  I would.

I do find that after a few weeks of retraining my legs for the workload and backing off how hard I push myself will result in the cramping occurrence to fade and be a lot less of a problem.  By the end of the training period and when race day comes, cramps will pretty much be a non-issue for me.

So I truly believe that calf cramps from cycling come from an increase in the activity from being off for a long period and then working them too hard when restarting your training regimen.  It’s overexertion, plain and simple.  So hopefully I will never need to carry pickle juice with me on a ride.

TOTALS FOR WEEK 3:

  • Swim:  0 / 0 yards
  • Bike:  3 rides  /  53.5 miles
  • Run:  4 runs  /  20.5 miles
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I’m not really an optimist.

 

Share The Trail And Don’t Screw It Up

IRONMAN LOUISVILLE 2020 TRAINING

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WEEK 2 – MARCH 23 > 29, 2020

IRONMAN TRAINING IN THE TIME OF PANDEMIC – PART II

When the state of Illinois mandated that we all quarantine ourselves by staying in place or staying at home, the governor allowed us to still be able to go outside to exercise as long as we maintain a safe “social” distance of six feet of separation.  It was great seeing people out walking, riding bikes, and running on sidewalks and trails that were pretty much just taken advantage of by the regulars – runners and bikers like me that I see all the time, and the few neighbors that will go on a daily walk.  People were making an effort to enjoy the time to get some fresh air and utilize trails that are a great benefit to our community.  Until the people ruined it.

People ruin everything.  Give them an inch and they’ll take a yard.  In the case of our gift of being able to get outside, people ignored the mandate of avoiding group activities, openly playing soccer and basketball, and riding and running in groups.  It got so bad in the city of Chicago that the mayor gave them a stern warning.  And what did the people do?  They ignored the warning forcing the mayor to take action and closing the Lakefront Trail, one of the most used trails in the state.  No more getting exercise outdoors.

I was riding my bike on my local trail this week and I also encountered groups of people walking on the trails together and other gatherings of kids playing at parks and team related sports like basketball.  I guess everyone figures if they aren’t affecting you directly there really isn’t any harm.  But that isn’t true, and the reason we are staying in place and avoiding each other is to stop the spread of this deadly virus.  But now I fear that our local trail may get closed as well, and that won’t make me happy.  I’m betting that won’t happen, but here’s what we can do to help make sure it doesn’t happen:

  • Train alone instead of groups.  The runners in our local running club are pretty good about doing the right thing, but group runs were still going on.  Our local running club leaders implored runners to stop posting group photos so that it wasn’t appearing that we were ignoring the rules, and to consider running in much smaller groups or running alone.
  • Follow the safe social distancing rules as well as the trail rules.  The six feet of separation rules apply to families as well as friends and other trail users.  Also, if you are new to using the trail, follow the posted rules that are posted at nearly all of the trail street crossings and trailheads.  The most abused trail rule of them all is “All Users Stay Right /  Pass Left” yet I encounter groups all the time and have to remind them to share the trail.  Other trail users following the rules shouldn’t have to be inconvenienced by someone not following the rules.
  • Be courteous.  We are all trying to enjoy the outdoors and people need to understand that what you are doing shouldn’t hinder what other trail users are doing.  Walk your dog on a leash and keep him on the correct side.  Cyclists should yield to pedestrians.  All users should follow the signage and stop at road crossings. Be safe.

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Training Week Wrap-up

Week 2 was a typical spring training week.  The weather was iffy this week, so I did spend some time training indoors.  This is my fifth time training for an Ironman and I have to remind myself not to overdo it too much in these early training weeks.  This week I found myself pushing my running pace more than I should have and that could lead to bad things.  It’s a long journey to get to race day and blowing myself up in week two is not in the plan.

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More than once, apparently.  

 

TOTALS FOR WEEK 2:

  • Swim:  0 / 0 yards
  • Bike:  3 rides  /  44 miles
  • Run:  5 runs  /  19 miles

 

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Getting off my soapbox for now.

Ironman Louisville 2020 Week 1!

 

IRONMAN LOUISVILLE 2020 TRAINING

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WEEK 1 – MARCH 16 > 22, 2020

IRONMAN TRAINING IN THE TIME OF PANDEMIC

Training for Ironman #5 has begun!  But not without some concern.  Usually, my concerns are about some nagging injury that is giving me doubt about completing my workouts, or some forgotten conflict that may pop up and cause me to miss something important, or some other dumb thing on my mind.  But I never thought that a global pandemic might derail not only my training but the race itself.

When my buddies and I committed to doing Louisville again back in January, I had no idea that I would be sitting around inside my house with the government telling me to stay home and not go anywhere other than essential travel, i.e. to work, to get groceries, etc.  But here we are.  When the race dominoes started falling, races like the Boston Marathon and others, I knew that this might be a little more of a worry than what we were telling ourselves.  Pools are now closed.  Gyms are now closed.  Running trails are open, but the toilets are locked!  (Maybe that’s only a problem for me.)  Getting the workouts in maybe a little difficult for some, but Ironman triathletes are a hardy bunch.  Heck, if we can get through an actual Ironman race, we can get around these training obstacles.

My plan for this Ironman is to once again follow Don Fink’s “Be Iron Fit” competitive training plan for the next 30 weeks.  It has served me well in my past four races and I have tweaked it over time to fit my abilities and needs.  I don’t follow the swim plans like I did the first two times I used it.  The past two races went well with just two 45-minute swims per week with a handful of longer open water swims thrown in.  I won’t be able to swim for a while, as it hasn’t warmed up enough for me to open my own pool.  I suspect I will start swimming in late May.

It is on the cusp of being nice enough to bike outside, but if the weather prevents that I have both a trainer at home or a spin bike at work that I can use if necessary.

I’m in pretty good shape for running this time around.  I had been training for an ultramarathon that was to take place on April 3rd but it fell victim to the pandemic and got postponed.  My goal for this year’s race is to try to go sub-4 hours on the run.  In 2017 my run split was 4:05 at Louisville, so I think that it is reachable.  I just got to learn to stay out of the porta-potties on the run course, which always rob me of time.  If they are locked on race day it might not be an issue!

My ultramarathon got postponed until 12 days after Ironman Louisville, so I hope to use the 30-weeks of training to prepare me for that event as well.

So here’s to a safe 30-weeks of training, and I hope my buddies and I and everyone else training for Ironman Louisville stays healthy.

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THE GUNNERS ARE BACK!

TOTALS FOR WEEK 1:  

Swim:  0 / 0 yards

Bike:  3 rides / 31.5 miles

Run:  5 runs / 18 miles

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Louisville 2020 – Here come the GUNNERS!

 

That’s Probably A Bad Idea. Do It!

A local running/triathlete friend of mine advised me the other day that he has a friend who is considering racing an iron-distance race but has already signed up for a marathon that is two weeks after the Ironman.  My friend remembered that I had dealt with the same issue last year and asked if I wouldn’t mind if she contacted me to discuss it.  Of course, I didn’t mind, and I am flattered, but I haven’t heard from her yet.  But it got me thinking about what I would actually tell someone that is considering such a dumb idea.  As you read the below keep in mind that I am not a certified expert, not a coach, and really not qualified to tell anyone how to do anything.  It’s just my experience and how I dealt with it.

WHY DID I DO SUCH A DUMB THING AS TO SIGN UP FOR TWO BIG RACES SO CLOSE TO EACH OTHER?

In 2017 my teammates and I were debating about doing Ironman Louisville, which was on the same day as the 2017 Chicago Marathon.  I kind of wanted to do the marathon since it was the 40th anniversary of the race, but I knew if we chose to race the Ironman I would have no problem skipping the marathon, and that’s what happened.  I returned to the Chicago Marathon in 2018 because I have legacy status and want to retain it.

Although I was getting a little tired of running Chicago and figured that all I needed to do to keep my legacy status was to sign-up every other year, I signed up for it again because the window to apply was pretty short and I needed to make a decision.  Not long after that, my buddies decided we were going to do Ironman Chattanooga.  That put the late-September 2019 Ironman race two weeks prior to the October marathon on my race calendar.  Of course, I wasn’t going to skip the Ironman with my friends, so I thought that maybe I should defer the marathon to the next year for a small fee.  But then I figured that I would just race the Ironman and take a victory lap at the Chicago Marathon and walk away from it for a while.  So that was the plan, train hard and race the Ironman and take it easy for the marathon.

HOW DID I TRAIN FOR THE TWO DIFFERENT RACES?

That really wasn’t an issue for me, seeing that there is an actual marathon in an Ironman race.  So I followed the Ironman training plan that I always follow and just figured that I would use the two weeks in between the two events to recover.  Ideally, I would have preferred my marathon training long-run to be around 20 miles and three weeks prior to my marathon, but that wasn’t going to happen.  I just needed to make sure I utilized the two weeks between Chattanooga and Chicago for recovery and not overdo it.

SO WHAT HAPPENED?

My plan got flipped upsidedown.  And it resulted in a Boston Qualifier!  A BQ was never in the plan!  The weather turned extremely hot at Ironman Chattanooga, with day time temperatures hitting the mid-nineties with a “real feel” around 100 degrees.  Definitely the hottest day I have had to race in.  I had to adjust the race plan to fit the conditions of the day, but I only really did that because it forced me to do so.  The swim took me a little longer than I expected because the water was too warm to compete in a wetsuit, so I opted to swim without it.  The bike for me was right about what I normally ride for an Ironman – 6:47.  And Chattanooga has an extra 4 miles of biking than all the other Ironman races.  The marathon, however, was very humbling.  Right out of transition I stopped and told my wife that I felt pretty good, all things considered.  I started out with a good jog and started to head out of town and then it was an uphill grind in the hot sun. I slowed to a walk and was able to shuffle just occasionally.  And then the horrible hills hit and I walked some more.  I spent the first half of the marathon trying to recover and finish the race under the cutoff.  I was seriously doing the math in my head to make sure I knew what I had to do.  And then the second loop began and I started feeling pretty good.  I had rehydrated and refueled myself well enough to press pretty hard in the second half.  I finished pretty strong and felt really good.  The 5:11 finish time is my personal worst (PW ?) for a marathon, but I was pretty happy with my 13:37 overall finish time.   You can read my race report here:  2019 Ironman Chattanooga Race Report

I took it pretty easy and tried my best to recover from the Ironman prior to running the Chicago Marathon.  After a full week of rest I “eased” back into running with four runs of 5, 6.5, 10 and 4 miles and then rested three days before the marathon.  I can remember my muscles still feeling pretty sore but they felt functional enough to run pretty comfortably.  The 10-miler I ran was done at 8:34 pace and it gave me some confidence that I might be able to push myself in the race a little bit.  I decided that a sub-3:35 BQ might be reachable, so I planned to run 8-minute miles and shoot for a 3:30.

Things went pretty well during the race and I held pace until I started to struggle with it in the last 5 miles or so.  Although I kept at my nutrition well, I was getting pretty tired.  I knew the 3:30 wasn’t going to happen, but I kept pushing to hit that 3:35.  I turned and ran up Mt. Roosevelt until a calf cramp almost did me in.  Fortunately, the race was almost done and I made it in just under the BQ by 13 seconds!  3:34:46 was my time, and although a BQ-13 isn’t going to get me into the Boston Marathon field, I am now up to three BQ’s, with one really memorable Boston Marathon finish in 2018.  I can’t complain about that.

Here’s my race report from the marathon:   2019 Chicago Marathon Race Report

WHY DO I THINK I DID BETTER THAN I EXPECTED AT CHICAGO?

I think there are a couple factors at play.  The Be Iron Fit training program I follow for Ironman training is really good and it prepared me well.  I’ve never felt underprepared using this plan in my four Ironman finishes.  So not only was I prepared for the Ironman, I was also pretty well prepared for the marathon two weeks later.

But the real reason I think I did well was that the heat of the day at Chattanooga forced me to not overdo it on the marathon portion of the race.  By having to walk about half of it, it saved my legs to the point that the next day I sauntered down to the Ironman Village to buy my finisher’s jacket like a BOSS!  I felt like I hadn’t even run a marathon the day before.

SO WHAT IS MY ADVICE TO OTHERS THINKING OF DOING THE SAME DUMB THING?

I think you need to pick what race is most important to you.  If you have a specific time goal for a marathon or possibly a BQ, I would advise you to focus your training on that goal and not sabotage it by adding a less meaningful race that could possibly prevent you from doing your best in the race that matters more.  Pick your “A” race and use the other race to supplement it if you are convinced that you want to still do both events.

If you really want to also do the Ironman in the same year, maybe pick one that is a couple of months out from the marathon.  I read a post the other day stating that you should give yourself a couple of months of recovery between Ironman races; that is pretty sound advice that I would agree with.  I did Ironman Lake Placid in July 2016 and then raced the Chicago Marathon in October and got my second BQ and stamped my ticket to the 2018 Boston Marathon.  So for me, there definitely was some precedent in racing an Ironman and a marathon in the same year with positive results.

I did this when I was almost 56 years old.  It takes me a lot longer to recover from races than it did in my 30’s and 40’s.  So maybe a younger person might be in a better position to do an Ironman and a marathon a couple of weeks apart.  But if you are just out to enjoy both races, I have to admit that it can be done without ruining yourself.

Lastly, if this is your first Ironman make sure you are aware of what is involved with it.  Marathon training and racing are tough, but Ironman training is pretty intense too.  Also, if you think marathon entry fees and hotels are expensive, plan on the Ironman being nearly triple that cost.  Ironman is not cheap.

WOULD I EVER DO THIS DUMB THING AGAIN?

Nope.  Never.  Not a chance.  No way, José!

Actually, as I was typing this post I took a break to sign up for the 2020 NYC Marathon Lottery, which is three weeks past Ironman Louisville, a race I already signed up for.

Don’t tell my wife.

 

Ironman Number Five Here I Come!

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It appears that the “one and done” thing is not part of my thinking when it comes to Ironman triathlon.  When I started my path toward my first Ironman I really had no idea what to expect.  Would the training be hard?  Would I drown?  Would I have to crawl at any point during the run? Would I be able to finish the race under the 17-hour time limit?  Don’t laugh, those were legitimate questions in my head.

But I took the training one day at a time, and it was manageable.  I took the time to learn to swim, practiced it and built confidence in the pool and in the open water.  The crawling thing?  I watched athletes like Julie Moss, Sian Welch, and Wendy Ingraham on TV crawl across the finish line in Hawaii and wondered how anyone could put their body through such an effort, let alone myself.  But I didn’t have to crawl or even shuffle.  And I finished well under the cutoff, far exceeding my time goals and become a newly minted Ironman.

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2013 – Ironman Wisconsin

Three years passed and my group of buddies and myself signed up for Ironman number two, Ironman Lake Placid 2016.  I got better, faster and more confident.  It may have taken us three years to do it again, but we proved that this wasn’t a “one and done” thing.

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2016 – Ironman Lake Placid

We didn’t waste time signing up for another.  For our third race, we headed south to Louisville, Kentucky the following year.  With a decent day for racing, I put in my best effort and went sub-12 hours for the first time.

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2017 – Ironman Louisville

And last year we regrouped and headed further south to Chattanooga, Tennessee to swim, bike and run in what would be one of the hottest days I have ever raced in.

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2019 – Ironman Chattanooga

So signing up for a fifth race really wasn’t much of an effort at all.  We’ve decided to head back to Louisville in 2020.  It really is a great race location.  The swim is fast, the bike pretty scenic and challenging, and the run is still predicted to be pretty flat and fast even after changing the course from when we last did it in 2017.  The finish line is one of the loudest and best in all of Ironman.  I have heard some rumors that this might be the last year for Louisville, so that was just another incentive to do it one more time.  It’s going to be fun!  Training begins in March, so here’s to a safe and memorable 30-weeks of training.

But the real reason I keep doing it is because of the people below.  They make the journey worthwhile.

 

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The pre-GUNNERS at Wisconsin.
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The GUNNERS at Lake Placid.
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The GUNNERS take on Louisville.
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The GUNNERS at Chattanooga.

 

I’ve grown to love the training and experiencing the events with my buddies.  That’s where the special memories get made.  Without them, maybe I would have been “one and done.”

 

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2020 Ironman Louisville – HERE COME THE GUNNERS!