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.
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.
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.
It was so hot that the loaf of bread I bought at the store was toast when I got home.
It was so hot that I started my clothes on fire just to cool off.
It was so hot that I saw a heatwave but I was too hot to wave back.
It was so hot that hot water was coming out of both sides of the faucet (in my hotel that was true!).
It was so hot that I jumped in the Tennessee River just to get wet, got on my bike and rode 116 miles just to have some wind blow on me, and then dumped ice down my pants for 5-plus hours as I ran through the streets of Chattanooga just because that’s the kind of weird things an Ironman triathlete does when faced with one of the hottest days I have ever raced in.
I am an Ironman Chattanooga finisher. A 2019 Ironman Chattanooga finisher. I don’t say that lightly. The race day high temperature reached 94 degrees from what I can see on the internet. Humid too, pushing the real feel heat index up over 100 degrees. Mostly sunny. No wind. No escape from the heat. It was hot. Chattanooga threw a heck of a day at me, and I am proud to say I was able to get the job done. Here’s a recap of how I survived this day and was able to become a four-time Ironman.
Once again, I followed Don Fink’s book Be Iron Fit to train for this race. It has served me well the past three races, and again I followed the 30 Week Competitive Plan to get ready. I did make some changes to the plan, mainly to the swim. The school I normally use for swimming changed their policy regarding daytime public access to the pool, so I decided to wait until I opened my own pool to swim, which meant I missed several weeks of swim training. And like I did when I trained for Ironman Louisville, I decided that the plan had too much swimming for my needs. So I reduced it to two 45-minute swims per week, and if I couldn’t get those two swims in, I shot for one 1-hour swim on my Monday rest day. Seeing that Chattanooga would be a current aided swim in the Tennessee River, I figured I would be okay.
Biking and running were done mostly to the plan and all went well. Once again I felt that Be Iron Fit prepared me well. My teammates Dave, Alex, Jeff and his sister Jan all followed the plan and we had a great time training together (mostly virtually) over the summer.
My wife Kari and I left for Chattanooga Thursday morning and drove the 9 or so hours with a few stops along the way. After checking into the hotel and grabbing a bite to eat, we waited up for Alex, Dave and his crew to arrive. Jeff and Jan were late arrivals and we met up in the morning.
We all met up had breakfast and then went to the Ironman Village to check-in. We attended the “mandatory” athlete briefing, and then it was back to the hotel to escape the heat for a while. We even opted to eat the pasta buffet that the hotel hosted on Friday just because it was an easy option and we didn’t have to go back outside.
Saturday we checked our bikes and dropped off our gear bags and then the group decided to drive the bike course to see what we were up against. We always make this mistake because experiencing the course from a car is nothing like experiencing the course from the bike and it usually scares the heck out of us. But Dave mentioned that since none of us came out and said anything really noteworthy about it, it must not be that bad. I agreed, it didn’t really seem that bad, just a bunch of hills repeated over and over again with some good downhills thrown in. It didn’t shock us like Wisconsin, Lake Placid, or Louisville did thankfully.
We later sat in the hot sun and attended the Welcoming Ceremony hosted by the Ironman announcer who does a pretty good Mike Reilly impersonation. I didn’t catch his name but he was fine. The video about what it’s like to sign up and train for an Ironman was pretty funny and got us in a good mood for tomorrow.
One thing I dropped the ball on with this race was that it was the host for the Ironman North American Club Championships. I regret that we didn’t register our team and compete against the other clubs and teams. I bet we could have beaten some of them, especially with our ringer, Alex gaining huge points for us.
After a dinner with the gang and our families, we headed back to the hotel and made plans to meet at 4:50am to head to transition. Ugh.
I slept pretty decent and got up feeling pretty good at 4am. After getting ready and downing a bagel, I grabbed my Morning Clothes bag and headed to the lobby. The Gunners all seemed awake and ready to take on the day. We walked to transition to check our bikes and bags and to get body marked.
I gave the tires the old finger pinch test and decided that they felt pumped up enough to not bother trying to find a pump to use. If anything they might be a little low, but with the heat, they would probably gain a little pressure throughout the midday ride.
We hopped on the school bus for the shuttle ride to the swim start and I took a seat with Dave, just like we did back in kindergarten 50 years ago. The bus dropped us off in the dark and we got our bearings and took a seat on the grass to await the start.
Dave and I opted to start in the 1:10 to 1:20 pace group, which turned out to be pretty appropriate for me. Alex started up in the first wave, and Jeff and Jan started in a few behind us. I pulled on my Roka swim skin and got my earplugs, goggles and swim cap on and that is when Kari and Ben found us. After a quick picture, it was time to start moving to the start.
We shuffled our way down the path to the dock, avoiding pee puddles along the way and jumped in. I wouldn’t see Dave again until the second loop of the run.
SWIM – 2.4 Miles / 1:16:14 / 57th M55-59 Age Group / 645th Male / 898th Overall
I realized as soon as I hit the water that the swim, the portion of triathlon that I usually dread, was going to be the easiest and most enjoyable part of the day. The water was warm, clean and wet, just like I like it. I reminded myself to start slow, start heading wide and just swim nice and easy. The kayakers and stand-up paddleboard volunteers monitoring the swimmers seemed to prefer everyone to stay on the left side of the buoys. I did that for the first two, but then moved over a little and kept the majority of the rest of them on my left because I wanted to be as far out in the river as I could to take advantage of a stronger current but I’m not sure it made much of a difference.
I had heard in the athlete briefing that when the buoys turn from yellow to orange you were halfway done. The last buoy was marked with a number 9 and I told myself to count off nine more. When I saw the last red turn buoy I relaxed rather than start sprinting to the swim out like I normally do. I was helped up the stairs by volunteers and gave a glance at my watch and saw 1:16. I was hoping to be closer to one hour but I think the lack of a wetsuit kept me from hitting that. My two 45-minute weekly training swims were plenty to get me ready for that swim.
Overall, it was a low-contact, uneventful swim that I kind of wanted to enjoy a little longer because I knew 116 miles of riding a bike in 90-degree temps was about to begin.
T1 – 10:39
I found my bag quickly and was off to the change tent. I rubbed a ton of Body Glide on my feet, grabbed my stuff, ate most of a Clif Bar and a gel, and took time to spray myself down with sunscreen before heading outside and having more sunscreen put on me by volunteers. I grabbed my bike off the rack and headed out.
BIKE – 116 Miles / 6:47:00 / 40th M55-59 Age Group / 505th Male / 641st Overall
After driving the course the day before, I knew the road was going to be rough, so I made sure I paid attention to the road. I found myself trying to hold back my pace but I was feeling super good. I was doing 20+ mph easily and that’s not how to start out on the day that was ahead of me. I finally decided to watch the speed and heart rate a little more and just relax. I found a good pace and settled in.
At the first aid station, I decided to refill my water bottle with GU Roctane drink mix that I had trained with all summer, but I ended up spilling most of it because the volunteer helping me put in too much water in my bottle. It made for sticky arm pads and aerobars, but I took another water bottle and washed it off. No harm, no foul. I needed to use the bathroom, so I handed my bike to a kid volunteer and went inside for a quick potty break. I pulled my tri shorts down and that’s when my first OH NO! happened. I had dealt with some saddle sores on my butt from training and I had remembered that I had this little 1/4 inch thick foam rubber pad that I started using to provide much-needed relief. I decided to put it in my shorts before leaving transition and it was doing its job. But as I dropped trou, the pad fell into the blue lagoon. For one hot second, I thought about reaching in and grabbing it! But I quickly came to my senses and just dealt with the fact that my butt is going to be sore for another six hours.
The bike course consisted of one little rolling hill after another and they just wouldn’t stop coming. But when you ride a course like that it kind of engages you and focuses your attention on shifting and adjusting to the effort, which keeps your mind off the heat or in my case, my sore butt. I always find it interesting that in a race with 2000 or so triathletes, you tend to end up in a group and stick with them the majority of the ride. It makes sense because sooner or later you are going to settle in with people riding at the same pace. I had some good conversations with a few of them. Most of the conversation was started because they liked the saying I had put on the back of our team tri suits: “I HATE THIS SPORT”. The other Gunners said they also got plenty of feedback from that saying. Alex made that saying our motto, and we always joke about it.
As for keeping up with my hydration and nutrition, I think I did pretty well. I stopped at nearly every aid station and got a fresh water bottle and Gatorade Endurance bottle, even if they weren’t completely empty. I grabbed some cut banana pieces occasionally and kept taking my gels every half hour. I did stick with a salt capsule every hour through the first half of the ride, but I added an additional capsule every other hour on the second half. I didn’t want to get low on electrolytes, but with the Gatorade, gels, and salt capsules, I think I was plenty fine on electrolytes.
I had one little incident with a bug flying into the slot at the top of my helmet which forced me to pull over and try to get it out of there because I didn’t want it to sting me. Otherwise, the ride was pleasant enough in spite of the heat. Truthfully, the heat never fully came to the forefront of my focus on the bike. Creating my own breeze at 18 mph, dumping water on myself, and focusing on not wrecking on one of the bad sections of the road was enough to keep my mind off the heat. My Garmin data shows that I averaged about 18.1 mph, but that doesn’t take into account the amount of time that I spent stopped at the aid stations. Garmin tells me that I had about 23 minutes of non-moving time, so you can see that I did spend some time in the aid stations. It also shows that I maxed out at one point at 37 mph, so there were some good downhills. The one difficult climb was the last part of the south section of the course on Cove Road, which was a very slow spin for a few minutes, but we were then rewarded with a quick downhill just before the hairpin turn onto Hog Jowl Road and heading back north.
I can remember thinking that this was the most difficult bike course of the four Ironman courses I have ridden, but after a few days of thinking about it, I don’t think it was as bad as I was experiencing during the ride. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m pretty sure that I don’t want to experience that course again.
T2 – 12:08
I grabbed a water bottle off my bike and made my way to the Run Gear bags. I sat down in the tent near the exit where the fan was blowing and emptied my bag on the ground. First up was to grab the wet towel I had stored in a bag and wash my face off. It was hot, but just getting sweat and grime off of me makes me feel better. Next, my socks came off and I saw that my feet looked a little pale and water-soaked but weren’t sore at all. I grabbed the Skin Glide lotion and emptied it on both feet and then pulled on fresh socks. I had put my fuel belt in my bag with a bottle containing energy drink, but after it sat outside in the sun all day I didn’t think I wanted to drink that. Plus it was heavy and I decided that just running with the bib belt was my best option. I opted for a running hat instead of a visor to keep the sun off my bald head and to have the possibility of putting ice in it if I needed to. My gel flask with my GU in it and an empty plastic bag to fill with ice on the course went into my back pockets and off I went to get some more sunscreen before heading out of transition.
RUN – 26.2 Miles / 5:11:48 / 24th M55-59 Age Group / 380th Male / 486th Overall
I may have managed to start out jogging, but when the course started to head out of Downtown Chattanooga it became an uphill grind in the sun for about 6 miles. My body was telling me that I wasn’t going to last very long if I tried running up the hills and in the sun. I walked. I walked some more. I stopped at every aid station and took on ice and cold drinks. I went to the water bottle I was carrying a lot, but only kept it about a third full so it wouldn’t be too heavy to carry. Refilling it wasn’t a problem. Miles 1-6 was a slog and I just was hoping to get from aid station to aid station. I grabbed some ice water-filled sponges and stuck them under my kit, redipping them at a few of the aid stations. I kept up the routine of walk and jog, and at the aid stations I followed the same routine nearly every time: eat some GU, drink the ice water, dump the ice into my tri suit somewhere, get some flat cola with ice and drink it, get three to four potato chips or pretzels and try to wash them down with some more water, fill my little plastic bag with ice and stick it in my pocket, then move to the next aid station and repeat.
Once over the Tennessee River, I got to meet a street called Barton. Barton sucked. I foolishly thought that once I walked up it that it would level off and that portion of the loop would be flat. Wrong. It went downhill even longer, then the loop portion had hills. So I walked when it went up, jogged when I went down and made my way around a nice part of Chattanooga. Lots of local crowd support out and about providing music and cheers for everyone.
As I returned back to the other side of the run course to begin the second half, a strange and unexpected feeling started to come over me. I was actually starting to feel strong and felt pretty good. The sun was starting to set and I told myself that I would prefer to get out and start heading back through the trail portion of the course before it got dark. I started picking up the pace, still stopping at the aid stations, but no longer lingering there. I was actually passing people. Actually, no one passed me while I was running that I can remember except for Jeff, but he did that much earlier.
Somewhere around Mile 18, I passed Dave. This was a moment that I had been chasing for four Ironman races now. Dave had beat his brother John, Jeff and me at all of our previous races and I really wanted to savor this moment. But I couldn’t. He was having a tough time. I almost made the decision to just run the rest of the race with him, but now I was no longer last, and Jeff wasn’t far ahead. So Dave and I chatted a little bit and gave each other some encouragement, and I began the task of chasing down Jeff.
Jeff started the race after Dave and me, so I knew I had a headstart on him, but how much of a headstart I didn’t really know. I figured about five minutes or so, but in reality, it was more like 20 minutes. I didn’t know it, but there weren’t really enough miles left in the race to make that up unless he walked and I kept up my now great pace.
Around Mile 23.5 I saw him ahead of me in the pitch dark. I thought maybe I could sneak past him like I tried to do in Louisville, but at that point, it was really just him and me on that road section. I caught him and gave him an emphatic “GUNNERS!” and we ran together and chatted until the next aid station, where we both walked and got our fluids and fuel and stopped at the port-o-potty. Barton was ahead of us and Jeff said he was walking it. I ran up it. I ran up it and felt great. I ran down it and felt great. I decided that I could skip that last aid station and motor on back in. Then Jeff passed me back. DAMMIT! We had a mile or so to go, but he ran out of gas and I passed him back. I tried to get him to run with me, but I think he was being nice and let me finish ahead of him. He knew that he had a better overall time and was in no way going to lose it in the final stretch. But I put down the hammer anyway, shifted into high gear and practically sprinted my way into the finisher chute, extremely glad to be done with this race.
One last note: Ironman Chattanooga run course was without a doubt the toughest marathon I have ever run. Hands down.
All five of us were able to beat the heat at Ironman Chattanooga. I’m so proud of my teammates and what we were able to accomplish.
ALEX – 12:44:30
JEFF – 13:25:11
DAVE – 13:58:23
JAN – 15:51:22
A couple others of note from the running club: Charlie trained his ass off and I marveled at his bike rides he would post throughout the summer. Unfortunately, Charlie came down with a stomach bug the day before the race and was in no shape to attempt the race on a super hot day. He was at the finish line and he told me what was going on and I felt awful for him. But he’s a prior experienced Ironman finisher and I hear he’s got another race coming up soon. And Charlie’s training partner Casey is also from the running club and took on Chattanooga for her first and crushed it in a little over 12 hours. That is impressive to do on such a hard course and a super hot day. Very impressive.
Many thanks to go around. First, as always, I’m super appreciative to have such a loving and supportive wife who encourages me and puts up with my crazy adventures. I can’t imagine doing these Ironmans without your love and help. These finishes are powered by your love. Thank you, Kari.
To my son Ben, who took time off from work to fly to Chattanooga and chase us guys around in 95-degree temps, thank you very much. You make me proud.
To my Gunner teammates Alex, Dave, Jeff, and Jan! Truly a pleasure sharing this lifelong memory with you.
Carla once again came through for us on the lodging and cheering. It’s an incredible relief to not have to worry about hotels and the stuff you arrange for us. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
To Maxwell and Zachary, thanks for being good sons to your dad and providing some entertainment and distraction from the nervousness of the Ironman circus. Maxwell is a champion cheerer on the run course. Always has been. And many thanks to Kennedy for watching those two goofs and cheering us on.
Jill, you are one of the most cheerful people out there. Thanks for providing us with that lift every race.
To my coworkers who put up with my whining about training and bragging about Ironman. Hey, that’s what an Ironman does. Suffer for 140.6 miles, brag for a lifetime. A special thanks to Julie, who in spite of dealing with a flooded basement, still found the time to track me and watch me finish live online. Even sent me a screenshot. Thank you!
And thanks once again to my super fan Carl, who greets me every day with “GOOD MORNING IRONMAN!” You take a sincere interest in my pursuit of this dumb sport, and I truly appreciate it. I tried my best to spell out CARL in a “YMCA” fashion at the finish line. I hope that you caught that. It’s not easy to do after 144.6 miles in God awful heat.
One week until race day! And it’s getting a little crazy in my world. Even after going through this three times now, I still get anxious and nervous and slightly bonkers knowing what is coming up. I basically go to sleep thinking about Ironman, and it’s the first thing on my mind when I wake up. It does consume my thoughts, that is for sure. But the majority of the things that can worry me are the things that are in my control. It’s the out of control stuff that people really freak out about. Here are some examples of things I freak out about, both in my control and out of it.
Last week I noticed that my bike was no longer shifting from the big ring to the small ring on the crank. This could be a big problem for me as I spend a lot of my time spinning in the small ring, especially up hills. I decided to give my bike a good cleaning and see if I could find what was causing it not to shift. I figured it was probably junked up with sweat/Gatorade/road debris, etc., but the cable is not allowing it to move the chain. This will probably require a new cable, which also means a trip to the bike shop. I took the bike into the shop and was told I would get it back in a couple of days. Just as I thought, the cable was frayed inside the housing and they replaced it, and also performed a tune-up on the rest of the components. That freak out was definitely one I could deal with, although having to deal with it so close to race day was not comforting.
When I got the bike back I brought it home and decided to adjust the seat a little, and that is when I noticed the clamp that holds the saddle to the seat post was cracked! Yikes! Can you imagine having that break during the race and having to ride standing up for 116 miles? OMG. I took off the part and headed back to the bike shop and thankfully they had another one, and it only cost me $6.40.
The other thing that is freaking us all out is the weather, and this is something none of us can control. Most weather apps are predicting the weather in Chattanooga on race day to be 96 degrees with 53% humidity, meaning a possible real feel temperature of about 105 degrees. 100% sunshine and very little wind the last time I checked it. I can’t control that, but I can prepare for it. I plan on taking extra electrolytes with me on the bike and run, and to hydrate like crazy leading up to Sunday and during the race. I added some extra sunscreen to my bike special needs bag just in case and will make sure to not leave transition without having a volunteer lather me up with the stuff. I also plan on really keeping a close eye on how I feel and making sure that I don’t overdo the bike. Being smart on the bike sets you up for a good run, and that’s my plan.
With the heat being what it is, I am sure that the swim will not be wetsuit legal. I can easily get through a quick sprint triathlon without the wetsuit, but an Ironman swim is a heck of a lot longer. Fortunately, at Chattanooga, the swim is current aided, and I am pretty confident that I can swim the course easily without it. I practiced using a swim skin, a type of swimsuit you wear over your tri suit that reduces water friction I guess, but it was very tight and was rubbing my neck quite a bit. Not sure I want to chafe my neck and then sweat on that sore spot for 13 more hours in the race.
I always let Carla handle the hotels for us and she has never let us down. Thankfully that is one thing I am not freaking out about. Carla is the best!
Saturday was the worst for me and got to thinking too much about what is going on, not just with the race but with family and everything else. Fortunately, Sunday came and I got in a good run and realized that this sport is just about doing three things in one day. All of which is heavily supported with volunteers and people stand around cheering you on. I’m going to have a blast in Chattanooga.
Then Dave hit us with this:
Now I’m freaking out again!
WEEK 29 TRAINING TOTALS:
Swims: 2 total, 4200 total yards
Rides: 3 total, 65 total miles
Runs: 5 total, 22 total miles
Note: I will wrap up Week 30 when I write my race report.
I was having a great week, I really was. Then Sunday came along and I’m not sure that I am wanting to do this anymore.
I’m going to cut to the point. I pissed off an asshole driver for the simple reason of riding my bike. Not once, but twice – by the same fucking driver 3.5-hours apart. It seems that this driver doesn’t want to share the road with a cyclist, which was me. Pulled up behind me both times, blasted her fucking horn and then passed by so close that I could touch her damn Nissan Juke. The second time she pulled in front of me and slammed on her brakes. Nice. Whatever the fuck she needed to do – what could it be? Go to the grocery store? Go get gas? whatever – it was more important to her than my fucking life. I have some video of her doing this, but not of the slam on the brakes part because my camera battery on the front of my bike had died. Oh well.
You can see in the video that I’m blocking a little because there are a curb and a median right after crossing the tracks and if I even hint that there might be enough room to pass me, my experience is that they will try to do it. She must have been really pissed to have to deal with my old ass not once, but twice.
I could quit riding roads and stick to the trails, but guess what? That’s even worse. The people on the trail are ten times riskier than car drivers and no one polices the trail.
Most of the time I feel pretty safe, but it only takes one time, one instance to make me question doing this at all.
I will take the video to the local police tomorrow and show them, but it probably won’t do any good. I’m guessing they probably hate old dumb ass guys on bikes too.
The Dreaded Week 27 is over! And two days ahead of schedule. I have followed this training plan four times, and I should know by now that yes it is hard, but I always get it done, and it’s usually no big deal. It’s just that after the previous 26 weeks of training, I get to the point that I have had enough. But it’s done, and it’s time now to start pulling back and coasting into the race on September 29th.
I’m not sure how I keep track of anything going on in my non-triathlon training life right now, but I’m writing this wrap-up on Sunday evening as usual and I don’t even remember much about this week. Life here in our household is insanely crazy, and it’s not going to get any easier until late October!
The Dreaded Week 27 is dreaded because it is the longest and most difficult of the 30 weeks of training in my Ironman training plan. The weekend workout calls for a six-hour ride with an hour-long run right afterward on Saturday, and then it’s followed by a three-hour-long run on Sunday. But guess what? I had to move them to Thursday and Friday because I needed to go to my lake home and get my boat out of the water and do some winterizing of the boat and house. There are literally no free weekends to take care of that responsibility until after Halloween, so it had to be done. It was kind of a blessing actually because I didn’t have two extra days to fret about doing that long ride and long run.
The weather turned cool and the 20-mile run went pretty well. The plan just wants you to get in three hours of running, but I decided that I would shoot for 20 miles regardless of the time it takes me. Fortunately, I felt pretty good and got out and back on my route in 2:53.
I took the day off from work on Friday and hit the road by 7 am. It was another cloudy day but not as cool as Thursday was. I was a little worried that my legs would be a little tired trying to ride 100 miles after running 20 miles the day before, but they felt fine. It was my butt that didn’t like it.
My butt hates me. I’m not sure if I am capable of making it happy. I have been training as much as I can in the tri suit that I bought for this event, and even though it is comfortable enough, I’m not sure the chamois pad is working for me. I’ve tried creams, lotions, band-aids, silicon type spray, etc. and nothing seems to make the miles less strenuous on my sit bones. That’s the real issue. You can’t really distribute the weight around on a tiny tri bike seat. Most of the contact is made in a small spot and the constant pressure and movement of my legs end up causing the discomfort. It’s not that I can’t ride 100 miles or the 116 miles of Ironman Chattanooga this way, it’s just not going to be enjoyable.
Anyway, the bike ended just at 100 miles and just a couple minutes below 6 hours. I had to really give myself a strong pep talk to change shoes and go for an hour-long run, but once I started out the door it was over after 6 miles. Nice and easy run at a pace I described as “I don’t want to do this run” pace.
I tried to relax after that and wait until Kari came home. She’s been swamped at work and our planned trip north to Minocqua didn’t get started until 7 pm. We decided to drive up to Madison and stay the night. That was a good move. We got there Saturday morning and got so busy that training and my butt didn’t even come into my mind. I think being up there also improved Kari’s mood too. That’s what lake life can do for you.
The Dreaded Week 27 is over. The boat is out of the water and winterized. Nothing more to dread until race day.
WEEK 27 TRAINING TOTALS:
Swims: 1 total, 2800 total yards
Rides: 2 total, 119 total miles
Runs: 4 total, 37 total miles
The totals are a little less than last week but I lost two days of training when I moved Saturday/Sunday to Thursday/Friday.
Dave came to join me for the Saturday long ride, a planned 5.5-hour ride with an hour-long brick run right after. As he was getting ready I saw that he was doing a little pre-ride carb-loading with what looked like a Little Debbie Nutty Bar.
“Is that a Nutty Bar?” I asked. “Yeah, do you want one?”
Do I want one? That’s like offering a junkie a fix. That’s like asking a dog if he wants a bone. That’s like asking a fisherman if he wants to go fishing. That’s like asking… well, you get the point. At one time I was addicted to the dang things. I would buy a box weekly and have one for my mid-afternoon snack. When I go on car trips and stop for gas, the snack I look for is a Nutty Bar or a Payday if the gas station is dumb enough to not stock Nutty Bars.
So back to the question – did I want one? You bet I did. But seeing that I had just eaten breakfast and also was dealing with a pre-ride nervous stomach, I didn’t want to chance eating one and regret my decision. So I very reluctantly took a pass.
So onward we rode heading south and west on the route I take because it’s the safest and best riding from where I live, but that can be an issue if the wind is not in your favor. We could tell that the wind was going to be in our faces coming back as we rode out with ease. But as we turned around, it didn’t seem to be too much of a struggle.
At the turn around we filled up our water bottles and Dave texted his brother John that we would swing by his house to pick him up. John had done Wisconsin and Lake Placid with us, but his growing little family has now taken priority in his life. So we were looking forward to riding with him.
We finally got to his place and I could see he was having some issues with his bike. He showed us his chain and it looked like he had tied the chain in two knots. Quite a head-scratcher for sure, but we got it sorted out and hit the trail for home. When we got to downtown Frankfort, this younger guy on a mountain bike asked as we passed if he could join us. I don’t think any of us said yes to him, but he grabbed on to us as we were trying to meander our way back through Frankfort that was extremely busy with the annual Labor Day Fall Fest. Dave and John both rode up and told me that this guy was behind us, so I pushed the pace and tried some different routes to see if we could drop him or get him to get bored with us, but he hung on. We finally got close to my house and stopped and told the guy the ride was over. I guess that was all it took and he said he’d ride around Mokena for awhile. I got to hand it to him, he kept up with us at times doing 25 mph or so on a mountain bike.
The run went well and we both came back ready to be done with the day. I offered Dave the opportunity to jump in the pool for a cool down, but he declined. He loaded up his gear in the car and we said our goodbyes. As I walked away, he said: “Hey, do you want a Nutty Bar?” I reluctantly declined again, this time with a chuckle. I didn’t think a Nutty Bar sitting in a warm car would be very tasty, and I kind of wanted some real food so once again I reluctantly passed.
They better have Nutty Bars at the finish line of Ironman Chattanooga.
Granted, I’m a pretty moody SOB to begin with, but this week I was in a funk. After training for four Ironman events, I should know by now that come about this time during training that I can get moody. Week 25 in my thirty-week training plan is usually when I am sick of the training and just want to get it over with. I’m not alone in that, plenty of triathletes get that way judging from the posts I read on Facebook this week.
It started last week really when I had sort of a rough Saturday long ride and run workout. It wasn’t bad, but I felt like it wore me out more than it should have and that I should have my hydration and nutrition better dialed in by now.
Then on Wednesday, I realized it was the 40th anniversary of my father’s passing. I spent some time reflecting on that for some reason. Truthfully, I don’t really remember mourning his passing when I was 15 years old and usually, the day passes by without me even noticing. But I did remember this week and got reflective about it.
The following day I had a work event in the evening that I wasn’t really excited about doing. The event was just not my thing, but I went and realized that I was silly to feel the way I did. My coworkers appreciated my effort even though I was in a mood, and I realized the people there were fighting things in life that I had no idea about. I’ve written about attitude before and reminded myself about being more understanding and appreciative of others and their personal battles.
But on Friday I had a good day. The weather got cool – temps in the ’70s for late August made for a great 1.5-hour run. Saturday was also beautiful. My 5.5-hour bike ride was awesome. I dialed back the effort a little and found that I didn’t wear myself out as much as I usually do. I think if I plan to ride about 17mph in the race it will be a good tempo to leave me feeling good for the marathon. I never felt dehydrated or without energy, and the hour-long run afterward went great. Sunday was another great weather day and the 16.5 miles of my 2.5-hour run seemed to float by.
The weather certainly made a huge difference in my attitude. I am really hoping this trend continues to race day. A great day will make for a much better mood for me. Five more weeks of training and I am now kind of looking forward to it.
I was expecting to get back on track this week with very little deviance from the plan after swapping the past two weeks of training around and making a concession here and there. But life sometimes throws you a curveball or two.
I’m getting really tired of having nipples.
It was a nice day, somewhat cooler than the past few and I only had an hour-long run to do, so I skipped covering my nipples. Big mistake. One got chaffed and started bleeding halfway through the run. Why do men have nipples anyway? It’s not like we use them for anything. They aren’t even that interesting in my opinion. But if you are a male runner that isn’t rail-thin, you are bound to one day experience the dreaded bleeding nipple. After thirty-plus years of running, you would think that they would have calloused over by now, or somehow adapted so they don’t get chafed. But sadly no. So I guess I will start covering them with Bandaids for every run, so buy some stock now.
Ashley’s back at Valpo for one last year!
Ashley may not have been excited about returning to Valpo for one final year, but it’s only one more year! Check-in at the apartment where she stays was on Saturday, so that meant if I wanted to help move her in I needed to somehow get my important Saturday long bike in, so I moved the Sunday two-hour and 15-minute run to Friday to free up Sunday for the bike. Doing the long run on Friday meant I would have to try to make up Friday’s normal run another day. Yeah, it didn’t happen.
Why can’t summer storms come in the middle of the week?
I had moved my Saturday long ride to Sunday so I could have Saturday free and what happened? It decided to storm like crazy Sunday morning. I had planned to be out on the bike before 8 am but with the heavy rain and lightning, I waited until the radar showed that it was past. I hit the road at 10 am and was amazed by how much water had poured on us. I was soaked from the waist down from just riding through the puddles and the standing water on the roadway. I explored a little on the ride to avoid the bike trail because when the leaves and junk on the trail get wet things get a little scary. Thankfully though the ride went smooth, I had no wind going out and a tailwind coming back, and I stayed on top of my hydration and nutrition today. I only felt a little low on energy getting back home, but as I switched to my running shoes for the hour-long run, I downed a Gatorade and the run went well.
Hello Saddle Sore, My Old Friend (with apologies to Simon & Garfunkel)
Hello saddle sore, my old friend
It’s not nice to see you once again
Because you are literally a big pain in the ass
And it’ll take you at least a month to pass
And the cries of my pain could be heard along the road I ride
Thanks to you, you damn saddle sore.
What’s the deal with saddle sores? I use the butt cream. I use Body Glide. I make sure that anything that can chafe will get some attention. But this past couple of weeks the damn saddle sore I always get from riding showed up again. It is actually bothering me just sitting on this cushy chair right now. And don’t mistake it for a zit, because it is definitely not a zit. Matter of fact if you try to squeeze that sucker, it’s going to let you know that he’s the Captain now. Touching it hurts!!! So I generally will just coat it with some Neosporin and a Bandaid (again, buy some stock now!) and let it be. Some day when this Ironman race is over it will go away because I can guarantee that I won’t be letting my butt sit on that bike again until next year.
Last week my training buddies and I opted to switch training Weeks 22 and 23 so that we could do Week 23’s long ride together. So this week I went back to Week 22 in the Be Iron Fit training plan and did the work. Week 22 is sort of an easier week ending in a half Iron distance race, which I always do on my own instead of opting for an actual race. I am a little afraid that racing against a thousand or more other athletes could lead to an accident or other injuries that could jeopardize all of the work I have been putting in up to this point. I just prefer to tackle it on my own.
Last time I did this workout was in 2017, leading up to Ironman Louisville. I had a pretty decent day that day and had a good swim and bike. It was the run that beat me. I ended up having to cut it short and get an unofficial DNF (did not finish) to my one-man race. That day I got beat. You can read that recap here: It Beat Me
I was determined to do this one a little smarter and not suffer like I did in 2017. I looked at the weather and saw that Sunday had some rain forecasted, so I opted to do the practice race a day earlier. Saturday started out beautiful. The temperature was in the 60’s, it was overcast, and there was no wind or breeze to speak of. I jumped into the pool and got going.
I swam pretty strong, pushing myself harder than I usually do. Since my watch won’t read correctly in my pool, I just based my distance on what I have done in actual half Iron distance swims in the past. I swam for 40 minutes and then got out and prepped myself for the bike.
After reapplying Body Glide in the usual locations and fiddling with my bike and gizmos, I hopped on and hit the road. I hadn’t ridden west to Elwood in several weeks, so I decided to go that route. I knew that I would probably have to add on some extra miles, and when I got to the cemetery out there and after I looped through it once my odometer showed about 25 miles. I needed an additional 6 miles or so. I decided to explore a little and added a quick extra three miles on a nearby road or two, then started heading back.
I was keeping track of my sweating and with a couple of nature stops, I was pretty sure that I was doing pretty good with keeping on top of my hydration and fueling. I was fortunate to not have really any wind heading out and I seemed to pick up a tailwind as I was heading back, which was really rare for me. I was moving along well.
This doggo provided some entertainment toward the last third of the ride.
At about 47 miles into riding, I saw another rider coming up on a side road and eventually passed me. I could tell he was on a mission to pass me and make it known that he was Top Dog on this road. I started studying him a little – he seemed like a typical cyclist, who liked to climb out of the saddle (which I hardly ever do) and had a nice Willier bike. He was pulling away going up a slight uphill, but when we started the downhill after cresting, I pulled him back in thanks to being more aerodynamic than he was. He kept looking over his shoulder and finally slowed down and let me catch him. We chatted a little bit and he turned off on another road and I went straight toward home.
Upon getting home, I was pretty close to hitting that 56 mile ride on the nose. I ended up with an additional .75 miles due to overestimating a second out and back of about 3 miles. I came inside, downed a Gatorade, toweled myself off, switched to a running singlet, grabbed my running stuff and hit the trail.
I felt pretty good heading out until I didn’t. My route starts and ends with hills. The middle is all flat, but it was sunny now and getting warm. I was sweating a lot and with only one water bottle, I was being a little too miserly with drinking. Fortunately, I was heading toward Frankfort where I could refill my water. But I was now running on fumes. I had been consistent with eating my gels and taking a salt capsule, but the day was certainly starting to become very much like the last time I did it in 2017. But I refused to let it beat me. I started walking more, sought out more shade when I could, and just kept moving forward. The plan was to be under 2 hours for this run, but I thought early on that that was an ambitious goal. I ended up getting back home in 2:09. That’s probably pretty close to Ironman run race pace, so not quite what I wanted for a half Iron distance race pace, but more in line with what to expect in seven weeks.
I spent some time in the pool to cool off, downed a couple Gatorades, started shivering and ended up taking a 20-minute hot shower to warm me back up. I got out of the shower and jumped into bed and napped for a little bit. I was actually feeling a little worse than I did after last week’s 5-hour group ride. This was not how I expected the day to end, especially after having a really good swim and bike. Now I know not to hammer the bike too hard and to drink more. Lots more.
I was determined to not be beaten like I was in 2017, and I wasn’t. But it wasn’t pretty either. I have seven more weeks to dial this in.