IRONMAN TRAINING IN THE TIME OF PANDEMIC – PART VII
My son had a female teammate on his college cross country team that had two great attributes that everyone took notice of. First, she was smoking fast. She outright won many of the meets during the season. When the team ran in the NCAA DIII Cross Country Nationals, she was the runner-up. So yeah, the competition knew who she was. And the second characteristic – she smiled when she did it. I’m not just saying that if she heard you cheer for her that she would flash a smile. No, she smiled through the entire race like she actually enjoyed running and putting the beat down on everyone else.
This week I thought about that out on the trail while putting in my training runs. Although lately there have been some times when I wanted to flip people off, this week seemed to be more enjoyable. Lots of people were being friendly and I took notice. So I started to smile when I saw people. Not sure if they noticed me having fun doing what I love doing, but I started to see the benefit of smiling. My pace quickened a little. I felt myself sliding comfortably into a pace that normally is reserved for hard efforts.
So smiling may be in my future. Feeling good about running in this crazy world right now is just what I need.
Training went well this week. After riding a stationary bike and my gravel bike for my training rides the previous six weeks of training, I finally committed to riding my tri bike for my Saturday long ride. I don’t mind getting my gravel bike dirty and riding it is fun, but I was pushing hard and only finishing with a 15 mph average. So I was eager to ride the tri bike to see if there was a difference. Yes, there is a difference. I did 45 miles and averaged 17.5 mph. That’s something to smile about.
I’m not alone when I say I haven’t done any swim training yet. Most pools are closed due to the pandemic, and the lakes are just now starting to hit 60 degrees allowing some swimmers that are braver than I a chance to swim. But that’s way too cold for me. I will open my pool soon though. I usually open it in May when the temps start averaging around 60 degrees or more. I looked at the forecast for next week and see that we have another cooler week coming, so I think I will wait one more week before opening the pool. I’m okay with waiting. Swimming sucks.
IRONMAN TRAINING IN THE TIME OF PANDEMIC – PART IV
Spring is here and there are signs everywhere! As a runner who spends the majority of his time running staring at the ground 5-6 feet ahead of me, I’m surprised I notice anything going on around me. But lately, I have noticed a lot of signs out on the trail. From the little flowers that are blooming right along the edge of the path to the painted rocks that people are placing in public places and along the trail to brighten everyone’s day. The grass is greening up and judging from the hayfever I’m experiencing, I’m guessing everything is about to go from winter grey to a very colorful spring.
I have also seen some new signs out on the trail. Signs measuring the six-foot safe passing distance and reminders to please pass others in a single file way. Someone has placed a reflector sign on the unofficial path that I maintain that’s used to access the nature preserve to help them remember where to get on the path. Not sure it needed a sign because it’s really the only path like it on the abandoned frontage road, but it’s definitely a sign that someone else is utilizing my little path.
Another sign I’ve been seeing is my buddy John texting “Day Done” in our group chat that he’s completed the day’s workout. Could that be a sign that he’s joining the Gunners in Louisville this year?!?! That would be quite a sign!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Ironman Louisville – What a day! After 30 weeks of training, straining, and complaining I have finally crossed the Fourth Street Live! finish line! And what a finish line! And to finish my third Ironman with my teammates once again makes it all the sweeter. Here’s the recap of my week leading up to and my experiences and memories of Ironman Louisville 2017! (Brace yourself – Tons of photos and tons of paragraphs ahead!)
INTRODUCTION:My four other Gunner teammates and I felt a little too emboldened after having a great race at Ironman Lake Placid in 2016, so we kidded around and prompted each other to do another in 2017 until we got serious about it. Louisville kept coming up as a strong possibility. I knew Ironman Louisville would fall around the same time of year as the Chicago Marathon, so I had to make a decision – Ironman Louisville or the 40th anniversary of Chicago’s premier event. When the gang decided that Lou was a go, Alex, Dave, Jeff and I all applied and Ironman Louisville was on our calendars. The only Gunner missing was John, who had just welcomed a new baby to his growing family and would have to opt out this time. He was definitely there in spirit!
Once again, I decided to use Don Fink’s Be Iron Fit 30-week competitive training plan with one major change. I decided that the swim plan was too exhaustive for me, with three swims per week that were mostly 2500 yards or more. My swim technique is by no means something to be proud of, but I think it’s about as good as it is going to get. And after swimming 1:18 at IMLP, I felt that I could cut it back and still do well. So I switched to the Just Finish swim plan of the book until I decided that was too much as well! I ended up doing most of my swim training at home in my own pool, two 45 minute swims per week. I focused on good technique during those swims and figured that if I could swim 45 minutes without being drained, swimming another 30 to 45 minutes in a race would be no problem.
With that major change to the swim plan, I also decided that this year I was going to gun a little harder and step out of my comfort zone in other areas too. I had a full aero disc wheel for my bike, but had chickened out using it in Lake Placid and in other races as well. I finally just said screw it, and threw the dumb thing onto my bike and trained with it. I rode that thing all spring, summer and fall and quickly came to the realization that I was way too conservative of a Ironman triathlete. I’m using the disc wheel, dang it. I almost chickened out using it on race day with good reason, but I held my ground.
The call to the gate has been played! Now, off to the race!
WEDNESDAY: The plan was to caravan as a group down to Louisville. Jeff needed a ride, so he took the train to Mokena and I picked him up and we waited until Dave and his gang pulled into town. A quick trip to Mindy’s restaurant for a dinner and off we went to Louisville.
We arrived in the city sometime after 1am and started to check into our hotel, the Embassy Suites Downtown. That’s when we were greeted by one of Louisville’s finest – 30 cents guy. This guy was asking for money, but the strange thing is he was only asking for 30 cents. “It’s ONLY 30 CENTS” was his request, which he made over and over again. Funny thing is I had 30 cents in my pocket, but there was no way I was giving it to him. Pro tip: If you’re going to beg for money, be nice about it. And don’t be weird and request some stupid arbitrary number like 30 cents. What the hell do you buy with 30 cents anyway?
THURSDAY: After breakfast with the gang, I did a quick 3 mile run. We then all walked to the Ironman village to register and pick up our packets. Seeing that my birthday was coming two days after the race, I decided to treat myself to some early birthday gifts. After buying a cycling jersey, tri kit, zippered hoodie, two t-shirts, a hat, a visor, a long sleeve tech shirt, and two coffee mugs, I decided that was plenty for now and to save some for the finisher’s jacket on Monday.
After exiting the Ironman store, we were just in time for the Athlete Briefing, a course talk that they say is mandatory, but it’s not like they take attendance. It pays to go to it though, as each course is different, and there were some changes to the swim start at Ironman Louisville. Not long into it, we encountered weirdo number two. I wish I had taken his picture, but he appeared to be a somewhat inebriated version of Tulio from “The Road to El Dorado” and Dave Navarro.
This weirdo’s M.O. was to stand on the outside of the Athlete Village and stare at us. He later made entry and stood and listened to the course talk as well, like the drafting rule changes were the best advice he had ever heard. Maybe he was considering a last minute entry into the race. Last I saw of him, he was doing chin-ups on a parkway tree.
We did a little course reconnaissance, seeing that the transition area and the Swim Out was nearby. I kind of wish we hadn’t looked at the water because we saw a bunch of floating logs and debris in the water, and of particular note a group of about six or so fish. Yes, I know that there are fish in the water. But these things were insanely HUGE!!! They looked almost prehistoric, and moved their mouths super slow, almost like they were silently telling us that they planned to dine well on Sunday morning.
After a late lunch at an Italian place on Fourth Street Live (I had the spaghetti pie), we decided to drive the bike course. If looking at the water was a mistake, we should have also skipped the bike course drive. It was not what I was expecting. Rolling hills in Illinois must mean something totally different in Kentucky, because these things were relentless and looked horrible. Nothing we could do about it at this point. It was probably a good idea to see what we were dealing with, but it certainly didn’t look like fun.
FRIDAY:I got up and ran a four mile out and back on the run course and thankfully found it to be pleasurable, i.e. no hills. Now it seemed like Louisville was being taken over by Ironman triathletes and their families. It was getting crowded and the excitement was starting to build. We attended the athlete welcoming ceremony on Fourth Street Live and were treated to a pretty decent band and a really inspirational video about some of our fellow Ironman competitors.
Dinner was at TGIFriday’s, and I stayed up and greeted Kari and Ben who arrived late.
SATURDAY: Kari and I got up early and had breakfast with Jeff. He talked me into doing the optional practice swim and I’m glad I did. It was a simple ten to fifteen minute dip, but it always helps me realize that the swim course isn’t anything to worry about. The water temp was mild, free of debris and man eating fish. Upon getting out of the water, I ran a mile with Ben, who had just returned from his own run.
Upon getting back to the hotel, I double checked my gear bags.
After packing up, our group walked to transition to rack our bikes and drop off our bags. About 3/4 of the way there, I realized that Ben was carrying the Bike Gear Bag, and I had thought Kari had the Run Gear bag. She wasn’t carrying it. Oops. Just like that I had my first freakout of the day. Did I leave it in the hotel room? On the elevator? In the lobby? On a street corner? Kari was kind enough to walk back to the hotel, find it in the room and grab it. All was good with the world again. It’s a good thing I am married to one of the greatest sherpa’s of all time.
My gear bags were in a great spot, third row deep and all the way down at the end, thanks to the row ending with my bib number: 2400. That made it super easy to find.
We stopped at a pizza place for dinner and then headed home to get off our feet and chill out for the night. It was race day eve!
SUNDAY RACE DAY!
The alarm went off at 4 am, and I got up and took a shower. I don’t usually do that, but I took Dave’s advice and let it wake me up. I felt pretty good. I got dressed, ate a bagel and some banana and gathered up my Morning Clothes bag and headed down to the lobby to meet up with the crew.
We shuffled our way to transition and checked our gear – added water bottles, checked the tires, made sure our gear bags were still there – then it was off to body marking. I think body marking is somewhat strange and useless. I guess it makes it easier to identify our bodies if we drown, crash off a cliff, or have a major grabber on the run. Oh well, I try to have fun with it and I requested my usual smiley face on the calf. That’s about as close as I will get to getting an Ironman tattoo.
Getting 2400 written on my arm
My age and disposition.
Louisville had somewhat of a unique rolling swim start that underwent a change for 2017. It was still a rolling start, but instead of a first come/first serve method of getting in line, you self-seeded yourself into a grouping based on your predicted swim finish time. I was overthinking this too much, because my swim PR from last year at Lake Placid would have put me in the 1:20 group, but I also knew and expected that the Louisville current aided swim would make me faster, and I should possibly get in with a faster group. That morning Dave opted to go into the faster group and I played it conservative and stuck with the 1:20 to 1:30 group with Jeff. My thinking was that I would rather swim around and pass others than have faster swimmers swim over me.
As we approached the dock where we enter, I could hear Ben yelling for me even with my ear plugs in. I ditched my water shoes and Jeff and I opted to join the line of the swimmers jumping off the closest dock. “Why should I swim an extra 10 yards?” was my thinking. I waved to Ben and Kari and then jumped in and started my journey.
2.4 Miles > 1:09:18 > 78th in M50-54 A/G > 716th Male > 957th Overall
As soon as I was horizontal in the water I felt at ease and in control. The water was slightly cooler than it had been the day before in the practice swim, but it felt perfect. I reminded myself to dial it back for about 10-15 minutes and make sure I don’t get above a perceived Z2 effort. The course has you swimming upstream around Towhead Island and then a little further into the Ohio River until you reach the turn buoy. Just as we passed the island, it seemed like the water temp dropped about 5-10 degrees. I saw another athlete post a similar reaction, so I know I wasn’t misperceiving that. A little after I made my way over to the turn buoy I felt it warm up again. Not sure what was going on with that. There was a little bit of choppiness to the water in the last third of the swim, but I just made sure to rotate in the water a little more and had no issues with it.
After a little contact turning around that first buoy, I began the remaining 2/3’s of the trip back. I’m terrible when it comes to sensing slight changes in the wind and apparently the current as well, but I could tell that I was quickly closing in on the bridges we had to swim under. It was no time until I got past the last bridge and could spot Joe’s Crab Shack, which was near the Swim Out. I started swimming a little harder in that last 10 minutes and was amazed when I saw my watch time of 1:09, a PR by almost 10 minutes.
The Ironman Louisville swim was without a doubt the most painless, cramp-free, quickest and most enjoyable of the three Ironman swims I have done. There were no fish, no logs, no odors, and nothing that was unexpected. It was awesome.
SWIM > BIKE TRANSITION – T1
After getting out of the water I immediately saw Ben and Kari and most of our cheer crew. I jogged up to the wetsuit strippers and let them do the job. Then it was off to T1 and find my Bike Gear bag and my bike for the next part of the race.
112 Miles > 6:12:14 > 78th Place M50-54 A/G > 698th Place Male > 840th Place Overall
Equipment: Specialized Shiv Pro Triathlon Bike > Specialized Trivent Expert Cycling Shoes > FLO aero wheels 30 front/Full back > Louis Garneau Superleggera Aero Helmet > Garmin Edge 500 Bike Computer > Feetures Mini Crew Light Cushion Socks > Homemade Tube Sock Arm Warmers > GU Salted Caramel and Vanilla Bean Energy Gel in Two GU Energy Gel Flasks > Salt Stick Dispenser with Salt Capsules
The bike ride had been on my mind since driving it on Friday. We had seen the hills on the two looped portion and they did not look all that friendly. But the main player of the day would not turn out to be the hills, it was the weather.
We had been keeping an eye on the weather for a couple of weeks, and it was shaping up to be a hot day in the 80’s until the last few days prior to Sunday. The temps were predicted to be much cooler, which was welcome, however that also meant that a cold front was expected midday, bringing gusts of around 30 mph and strong sustained winds for the day, as well as the chance for rain and thunderstorms. The thunderstorms didn’t materialize, but we did have light rain and strong gusts.
I had made the decision much earlier in training that I wasn’t going to wimp out anymore by not using my full disc aero wheel, and I had racked my bike with that full disc wheel for the race. And even though I managed to somehow stay upright in strong crosswinds, it was not easy. I found myself several times leaning very aggressively into the crosswind, hoping not to get blown off my intended line. It was hard.
Heading out of Louisville was amazingly gentle, a fast ride made possible by a flat road and a super strong tailwind. The first ten miles I had averaged about 21 mph and it was easy riding.
I finally got to the turn for the loops and felt the crosswind for the first time. And then the hills started. After riding them a little I realized that they really weren’t all that bad. Compared to Wisconsin and Lake Placid, these were not as bad. The climbs were pretty short in duration, and there were plenty of screaming down hills thrown in as well. My Garmin registered a top speed of 41 mph, and there were several descents in which I hit 30+ mph.
Upon getting to LaGrange, the weather was warming up. I had tossed the arm warmers in the transition in town and could feel myself sweating a little more. My Garmin said the temperature had risen into the low 80’s, but I don’t think it got that warm. I would say mid to upper 70’s. It lasted maybe thirty minutes and then it clouded over, got cooler and started to sprinkle.
The rain was pesky, never really completely wetting the roadway to the point were I felt it was a concern. But now that it was raining slightly, and the temps had dropped, I went from being slightly warm to being uncomfortably cool. It wasn’t unbearable, but I did regret not keeping my arm warmers.
At Mile 45 I found myself riding mostly alone and got a little concerned that I missed the second loop turn. I finally caught up with the next rider, who was standing and pedaling, and I asked him if he was on his first or second loop. He said he was on his first loop and that the turn for the second loop is still ahead. Immediately after asking him the question though, I realized why he was standing – he was urinating. I almost laughed at him while he was responding to me, but I was able to contain myself. Triathlon is weird.
The turn for the second loop finally came and off I went back toward LaGrange. I stopped at the aid station there and found the toilets (I don’t pee myself, although there were times I considered it). Upon exiting I was greeted by a volunteer who had a table of miscellaneous stuff – pretzel sticks, chips, grapes, and other stuff. But it was the Vasoline that caught my eye. I had forgotten to apply some Glide in T1, so I grabbed a stick full of the goo and stuck it in my pants. I rode pretty comfortably after that. The volunteer said the Vasoline was pretty popular. No doubt. I also stopped at the Bike Special Needs and grabbed the little yellow jacket I bought. I thought I might need it again, seeing that I had already seen the temps drop once.
After getting through the second loop and turning back west, I could see that the weather ahead of me looked awful. And it was really windy at this point. Around the 90 mile marker I passed Jeff and said hello. He said hi back, but didn’t appear to be in the mood to talk. We must of rode a similar pace back because he later came out of T2 right after me.
I pushed a pretty hard pace between 90 and 105 miles or so, but then decided to relax a little on the rougher River Road and spin my legs to recover for the run a little bit. I was pretty glad to come back into Louisville and get off the bike. It was a great ride, especially considering the brutal weather and the challenging rollers, but I was glad to be heading in for the run. Had I not stopped in four of the aid stations, I probably would have saved 10 minutes on that ride. In all, the bike course is challenging and technical, but plenty of fun to ride.
BIKE > RUN TRANSITION – T2
I was amazed to once again see Ben yelling for me there at the end of the ride. He really did a great job making sure to be loud and get my attention and cheer me on. Every time seeing him and the others was a big emotional lift.
I dismounted and started the walk into transition, where along the way I handed my pile of money (bike) off to some kid who couldn’t have been more than 10, and continued my post-ride shuffle into the change tent. I could see the amused look on many of the spectators getting a good chuckle at our hunched over and hobbled walk. I was even laughing at some of the others as well.
In my bag I had packed a large baby wipe and used it to towel myself off. Even if it was just for the refreshing smell, it made me feel better. I grabbed my bib belt, shoved my feet into my shoes, and opted for the visor instead of the hat. I kept the rain jacket in my back pocket, and I am very glad I did.
26.2 Miles > 4:05:07 > 24th Place M50-54 A/G > 341st Place Male > 434th Place Overall
Equipment: Boco Visor > Nishiki Weather/Wind Resistant Cycling Jacket > Hoka One One Clifton 3 > Fuel Belt Bib Belt with Pouch
When I came out of the change tent I was surprised to see Jeff. I had passed him on the bike and never saw him pass me back, so he must have been right behind me. He was trying to determine if waiting for a portable toilet to open up was in his best interest, and I saw him jog off to a set further up from Run Out. But he was right there with me, and I knew he was going to be chasing me down soon.
I was barely out of T2 when I saw Dave’s son Maxwell, who was cheering like mad. He was telling me that I only had a little run of 26 miles to go. Funny kid. Kari and Ben saw me again and I advised them that Jeff was right behind me. They took this bit of information somewhat nonchalantly, and it dawned on me they new exactly where everyone was at. “Yeah, we know he’s behind you. Now get going!”
Kari and Ben had discovered that Louisville has a bike share program and decided to hop a couple of bikes and chase me around the first part of the first loop. I would get up the road a little and then out of the blue Ben would yell “GO Papa!” which usually took me by surprise. He even caught me once coming out of the porta-john, at which I just shook my head.
Right after that potty break, I saw that Jeff had caught up with me. It was then he said he had crashed on the bike! No wonder he wasn’t up for small talk out on the bike course when I had seen him earlier. He said that some dope had passed him and then stopped right in front of him, causing him to crash and being tossed over his handlebars. He ended up with a pretty good sized bump on his forehead, but seemed to be doing okay.
Jeff and I jogged together for most of the first four miles of the first loop out, but my desire to walk the aid stations and multiple porta-john breaks caused him to gain a little distance on me. I had been passing some gas quite a bit, a common occurrence which many of the other racers also experienced from the sound of it. The saying in triathlon is “Never Trust a Fart,” and I had already “trusted” about a half dozen of them, so I was playing it safe by continually wasting my time in the toilet. But after awhile, I must have gotten most of the gas out of me and never felt the need to go again other than pee breaks. I was staying hydrated pretty well, and was content with my hydration and nutrition plan on the run. I was hitting the Coke and chicken broth, and eating the pretzels/potato chips and bananas when I felt like it. I kept up the gel intake at every 30 minutes as well. I never ran out of energy on the course.
Jeff knew that one of his former bosses was in the race and they met up on the run course somewhere around the 7 mile mark. I had started to creep back up on Jeff, and when I saw them jogging together and sharing their experiences of the day, I decided to try to sneak by and pass them unnoticed. But Jeff saw me and gave me some well wishes for the rest of the race. It was at that point that I thought he might be struggling a little.
Up next for me was seeing Alex, and I jogged with him for a little while. I came to realize that he was about 5 miles from being a two time Ironman and I was still on my first loop. We didn’t stride together for long, and he was off to finish.
It wasn’t long until I was also near the finish; however, I had to make the turn for my second loop. It’s somewhat of a sickening feeling when the halfway turnaround point is very close to the finish line. I was feeling really good at this point and figured that if I was still doing well with 10K to go, I would probably start my kick. And that’s what I did. I got lots of “great pace, Chris” and “nice run” from the spectators, who could read my name on the front of my bib. I did like the fact that the fans along the course could cheer for you personally. It freaks you out the first time, and then you figure it out.
The turn at the end of the out loop was near the 20 mile mark and it was now go time for me. I felt really good. I picked up my pace and was running just under 8 minute miles and passing a good number of runners. Around the 22 mile mark I drank a little chicken broth and it wasn’t long after that that it seemed like it wasn’t settling so well. I started to get slightly nauseated, and I burped a couple of times, which seemed to alleviate the nausea. When I hit the 24 mile mark, I was now pretty comfortable. I had ran this out and back on Friday, and had done this run back once already in the race. It was time to hit it. I had set a goal for myself pre-race that I wanted to try to break 4 hours in the run. I knew it would be close because my half marathon split was a little over 2 hours. But I knew that I had pushed pretty hard the second half, and was kicking to the end.
As I approached the finish chute I took a look at my watch and noticed that I was clearly going to be under 12 hours, far exceeding my goal of being sub 12:30. The emotions of finishing started to hit me. I can get a little emotional during the race – finishing the swim, and the start of the run both got me a little choked up. But coming in to this finish line was amazing! It was supercharged with excitement, and I was flying high on adrenaline. As I came down Fourth Street Live! to the finish it was almost a blur. I couldn’t hear any music, or even the announcer introducing me and saying the words “YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!” Just as I was crossing I almost got tripped up on the rug and almost did a complete faceplant! But I was able to collect myself and finish the race, even if I was an emotional wreck.
The Ironman Louisville run course couldn’t have been better. Flat and fast and the volunteers were awesome. A four hour and five minute marathon after biking and swimming 114.4 miles seemed impossible to me. 4:05 is quicker than some of the stand alone marathons I have run. Even I’m impressed. Just like the slogan says, “Anything Is Possible.”
140.6 Miles > 11:46:55 > 43rd M50-54 A/G > 479th Male Overall > 600th place Overall Finisher
Equipment: A cot, a blanket, a bottle of water, Base Salt, and an Ironman Louisville Finisher’s Medal
I ended Ironman Lake Placid 2016 in pretty good shape. I was able to walk, talk, and do other stuff without much effort. This time was the complete opposite. I was a blubbering mess. I wanted to keep moving, but the finisher chute was quite short. My finish line catcher was amazing, and stayed with me while I tried to figure out what the heck was going to happen to me. At some point I saw Ben and Kari and walked over to greet them at the fence. I let it out. The catcher asked if this was “normal” – lol. I handed my hat and finisher’s shirt to Kari and tried to collect myself. But I could tell I was starting to get chilled in the low to mid 50 degree temps. I asked the catcher to walk me to the medical tent.
Once inside the medical tent I was directed to a cot, had my blood pressure taken (110/70, 80 bpm) was told to lie down and had a blanket placed over me. I was now in full shiver mode and from my prone position could see that there was IV bags hanging all around. As I laid there wondering when they were going to give me the IV, I came to the conclusion that they probably weren’t. They had provided me a water bottle, and I still had my Base Salt container, so I figured I might as well start getting my electrolytes up on my own. I started licking the salt and trying to absorb it sublingually, and kept pushing the water. I suppose I laid there for thirty minutes and finally sat up. The shivering was over, and I was feeling better. My nurse Stacy walked me to the porta-john and I knew at that point I was doing much better.
I was allowed to keep the blanket and was very thankful for that as it was 50 degrees out and the wind of the day had not subsided at all. As I walked out, I took a look over at the recovery tent where there was more food and drink, but I could see that Ben and Kari were waiting for me on the other side of the fence. The area where the Morning Clothes bags were being held was nearby and I went over and retrieved mine. I met my wife and son and said lets go back to the hotel.
After a shower and a change of clothes, we walked back to the finish area and had dinner at TGIFriday’s. I needed some salty carbs and protein, so I ordered some soup, a steak and fries. I ate what I could and was feeling much better.
Since this race didn’t have a hard finish at midnight, and the fact that it was cold and my left leg was getting super sore, we decided to pack it in and not watch some of the final finishers. I kind of regret not sticking around for what is usually the highlight of the day, but I had no more to give to the day, and my crew was also tired of chasing me around. It was time for bed.
I was anxious to get up and get breakfast so we could get over to the Ironman store in the Athlete Village. I wanted to get that finisher’s jacket that Ironmen seem to covet for some reason. Kari and I flagged down weirdo number 3, a cabbie who was done with his shift for the night, but decided he could drive us to the Great Lawn where the Athlete Village was located. He was a little strange with his conversations about once owning a yachting jacket like the America’s Cup guys use, but at least he could give us a lift.
I expected that there would be a line and wasn’t let down. It was pretty long, and since we had gotten there late I figured all of the jackets were probably sold out by now. But we decided to stick it out, and since the awards ceremony was about to begin, we had something to occupy our time while we stood in line.
Once inside the store, I found my jacket in my size and we bought a couple of t-shirts for the girls and made a beeline out of there. It was time to check out of the hotel and hit the road for home.
POST RACE ANALYSIS
Ironman Louisville was awesome. It produced another personal best for me and a time that I am really proud of. I’m amazed that I went from being in 992nd place overall after the swim, to 840th overall after the bike, to 434th overall after the run. I had moved up hundreds of places after that awesome run. 600th out of 2,273 finishers is also pretty awesome.
I highly recommend Ironman Louisville for anyone looking to find a fast and contact free swim, a challenging but interesting bike course, and a flat and fast run with an awesome finish line like no other.
Alex: 10:14:57 > 5th Place M18-24 A/G PODIUM FINISH > 155th Place Overall > 2 time Ironman Finisher
Dave: 11:40:20 > 41st Place M50-54 A/G > 548th Place Overall > 3 time Ironman Finisher
Jeff: 12:14:27 > 107th Place M45-49 A/G > 802nd Place Overall > 2 time Ironman Finisher
As usual, I have many to thank. My friends at work, who probably regret asking about my training once I start answering. Thanks Lou, Micah, Jeff, Julie, Mary, Tracy, and the others, and especially my Super Fan, Carl! I’m still not getting the tattoo, Carl.
Thanks go to the Mueller’s, who like us had to sacrifice to make sure Jeff could get his training in, especially with moving to Downtown Chicago, and having a recent high school graduate off to college in late August. Jill, Emma and Charlie, thanks for coming to the race and supporting us and chasing us around.
Without Carla securing our hotel needs for every race we do, and doing such a great job at it, we would probably be staying in a dive hotel an hour outside of town. Instead we had wonderful suites in downtown Louisville, right next to the finish line. Carla, you are the best. And to the other DeForest’s, Max and Zach, and Lizzy and Alex’s girlfriend Kennedy, thanks for cheering as loud as you did. Seeing you guys was great.
To my son Ben, it was a great relief having you there. Thanks for chasing me around the course, running with me before the race, and going and retrieving my pile of money (bike) and gear bags, and putting up with such a long day of Gunner racing. I really appreciate it.
And lastly, a huge thanks to my endurance partner in life, my wife Kari. Thanks for keeping me on task during training, allowing me to go do those crazy long rides all the while we were loading our lives with a new home, a recent college graduate, a second year college student, and a busy high schooler in a competitive marching band who was also learning to drive. Thanks for being there for me as always. I love you.
Thanks for reading! On to my next adventure – my first Boston Marathon in 2018!
I typically write my weekly Ironman training wrap-up on Sunday, when all of my workouts have been completed, and share something worthwhile during the week that I find interesting in my journey toward my goal of doing a third Ironman race. Usually the long bike on Saturday or the long run on Sunday will give me something to reflect upon. But I find myself typing this on a Wednesday instead, a couple of days after another mass murder in the world involving gunfire, this time in Las Vegas, Nevada.
I have become somewhat numb to these shootings, and I believe most of the world has as well. They seem to have become routine or expected. I guess most people think that it won’t happen where they live. I also believe that I live in a pretty safe place in the world, the south suburbs of Chicago, a place where if you go a couple miles north you are certainly in the urban life, and if you travel a couple miles south you are definitely looking at cornfields. But I’m not fooling myself with that. At this writing, 58 people lost their lives in Las Vegas. The City of Chicago loses that many people in a month to gunfire. September 2017 alone registered 60 people murdered in Chicago(1). Chicago has a Las Vegas every damn month. Let that sink in.
I’m not anti-gun. I’m for protecting 2nd Amendment rights. But I’m also thinking we need much stricter gun ownership rules. I don’t even know what that entails, really. I just don’t want people to lose their minds and have access to guns and wipe out scores of people because they woke up on the wrong side of the world that day. With all the killings going on in Chicago, I have recently thought about purchasing a small handgun for protection and taking the two day concealed carry licensing course. But I haven’t done that, and may or may not. I don’t like to think about having to have to do that. I don’t want to have to get to the point where if I leave the house I have to carry a gun. I don’t want my pre-ride checklist to include water bottles, gels, a helmet, some spare tubes and a handgun.
My father grew up in Nebraska and was a farm boy, so I’m pretty sure that hunting was a common practice for him. I don’t remember my dad having guns around the house, maybe an old .22 caliber rifle that must have been in his family. Our house was on four wooded acres and my older brother Jon had shotguns and would walk the woods and the adjoining cornfields to shoot at pheasants and rabbits, and occasionally I would tag along. He gave me a gun to carry that I’m guessing he thought was perfect for me. It was an over/under type long gun, with a .22 caliber rifle on top and a .410 gauge shotgun on the bottom. I don’t remember ever shooting the dumb thing, but I do recall that it was heavy.
My friends were very avid hunters, and good at it too. I’m not anti-hunting at all, but I guess my path as a kid was more about playing wiffle ball, riding my mini-bike, and listening to rock and roll than it was about killing rabbits in the back yard. One year Jon must have thought that I was big enough now to carry a .20 gauge, and we traipsed once again through the woods. He saw some ducks swimming in the creek that ran through the property and he yelled “SHOOT THE FUCKING DUCKS!” I pulled the trigger and killed a duck. When we pulled it out of the creek we saw that this duck must have lived the high life, because he was huge. Most likely a duck that was fed pretty well by the neighbor to the north. I most likely had killed someone’s pet wild duck.
We were into taxidermy at the time, so my buddies helped me stuff that damn thing. We hung it from my ceiling like he was flying, which in all likelihood he was too damn fat to do, and likely the reason he was in essence a sitting duck to a kid who couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn from 10 feet away. That hanging duck in my bedroom kind of became my albatross around my neck, just like in the Rime of the Ancient Mariner. I looked at it everyday and eventually came to the conclusion that hunting may not be my thing.
After marriage and becoming a father, I just didn’t want any guns around the house. I have a valid Firearms Owners Identification card, but have never owned a gun. I work in non-sworn position in law enforcement and just maintain it in case I find myself possessing a gun for some reason. I’m a rule follower.
So how does the terrible event in Las Vegas have anything to do with training for another Ironman? Well, my group of buddies and I call our team “The Gunners”.
When we decided to do our second Ironman in 2016 in Lake Placid, New York, I thought that since there were five of us doing the race, we should have a cool team name, along with matching tri kits. But there wasn’t any theme or idea that really resonated with us until my buddy John suggested Gunners. That suggestion was made because the youngest of our group, Alex, had a habit of going full throttle in races, gunning for the win as they say. I had heard the term used in sports many times, especially in auto racing. “HE’S REALLY GUNNING FOR THE LEAD!” and stuff like that. And to be honest, I think the rest of our group was highly competitive as well. We all gun for the win. The name was bad ass. Not only did we want to be bad ass, we wanted to be GUNNERS!
I had trouble coming up with a logo, and thought about using a cannon in the design, kind of like Arsenal FC, a soccer club in London, who also went by the Gunner moniker. But I thought, maybe it should just be about the what we wanted the word to reflect, that we were highly competitive, gunning for the podium. In the end, I asked the company that we used to make our team kits if they could assist with a team logo for us, and they came up with the word Gunners in a fast looking script, with three stars above the name. They also suggested a logo having a handgun sticking out of the end of the “S”, but it looked really stupid, and it wasn’t what we were trying to express. So the Gunners logo with the three stars was our choice.
As we rapidly approach Ironman Louisville on October 15, we typically also make some t-shirts for ourselves and our family and crew of supporters that come along. My wife and I designed some cool looking shirts with the Gunner logo and the IM Louisville fleur-de-lis design similar to what they use, and ordered a few hundred dollars worth of shirts. A couple days later a crazed gunman went full gunner in his own way and mowed down 58 people and wounding scores more. What an asshole. He died too. He just got the order of who to shoot first wrong.
So now the question for me is, do I really want to plaster the word “Gunners” on my chest, and parade through 140.6 miles of Louisville, Kentucky? Not really. But yes, dammit, I do. Can I expect that people will understand the context of the word that we want it to portray, or will they look at it and say WTF? Is being a Gunner still bad ass, or just make me look like an ass? I’m not sure I have the answer to those questions. I feel like this guy stole something from me. But really, can I be upset about that when all those people in Las Vegas had their lives stolen from them? The answer to that is no.
I have a week and a few days to decide as to whether I’m going to represent the team name at Ironman Louisville. I probably will. I’m just bummed about the killings. But I know that I am a Gunner, and my teammates are Gunners, and we will all be gunning it on October 15, whether we are wearing it on our chest or not.
2 Swims – 5500 yards this week / 110250 yards total
4 Bikes – 82.5 miles this week / 10571 miles total
I was anticipating that this week would be pretty good. Week 28 is the first of three taper weeks, and after the heat and workload of the previous week, I knew it would be a lot better. But I wasn’t expecting it to be so dang good!
First of all, the weather got better. Temperatures went from low 90’s back to the mid 60’s and it felt great. On Tuesday, I decided to go back to the high school pool and swim what the plan had called for, about 3500 yards of swimming. But I felt pretty good, and once I got started I decided to test myself and I ended up swimming the full Ironman distance swim of 4200 yards. After swimming only two 45 minute swims a week for the past several, I just needed to prove to myself that I could cover the distance and I did.
But the week really turned awesome on Wednesday, when after waiting very anxiously for a week and a half, I finally got the word that I had made the cut for the Boston Marathon, a first for me. It had been a long time in the making, never really thinking that I would ever reach that goal, but it finally happened. I’m still a little in shock about making it into the field, but expect a blog report from me about being accepted soon.
Getting into Boston for the first time was pretty awesome, but the day wasn’t done delivering good news. I went to pick up Rebecca from marching band practice and although all of the band equipment and props were out on the field, the kids were nowhere in sight. When they came out of the building back to the field I could see that they were each carrying a red rose. I knew it immediately – they were going to Pasadena!!! The Tournament of Roses Parade!!! Now this may not seem like such a big deal, but it’s really like getting into Boston. First you have to meet several qualifications just to get in. And getting in means that this band is pretty darn good. But what really makes it special for me is that I marched in the parade on January 1, 1982, and it’s really cool that Rebecca will get to experience that as well. It was an experience of a lifetime for me. One of those special opportunities that not everyone gets. Pretty cool. Looks like I will be traveling to Pasadena in December/January 2019!
I went back to the pool on Thursday, even though I still have my pool at home open. It’s the end of September, almost October, and I still have the pool open, which is pretty unusual. But I am having some issues with the auto chlorinator, and will probably have to replace it in the spring, along with the pump and possibly the heater as well. It seems like everything is starting to reach the end of its use and getting worn out. I will deal with it in the spring. I began closing it on Sunday.
The Saturday long ride was four hours with a 1/2 hour run and it went really well. What a difference a week makes. Last Saturday was a 7 hour day in mid 90 degree temps. This Saturday started out at 54 degrees and didn’t get much more than 63 or so by the time I was done. I had three layers on for that ride!
Sunday wrapped up the week with another cool morning and a two hour run, and thanks to the cool temps I was able to squeeze in an extra mile and finished comfortably with 14 miles. However the real wrap up of the weekend was a trip to downtown Chicago with my family to see Hamilton. I really had no expectations for the show, and I was really impressed. It was pretty cool.
Here’s to Week 28! Thanks for being so good to me.
2 Swims – 7200 yards this week / 104,750 yards total