I was reading a race report in which the blogger talked about a race being in her top-five favorites of all time, and it got me thinking about what my top-five races would be. I call my blog “an amazing run” because most of my runs are pretty amazing, but if I could choose my favorites (oh boy, this will be difficult!) here they are:
NUMBER 5 – WINNING MY FIRST-EVER TROPHY
I grew up in an era that didn’t give out participation trophies, you had to earn them. Now, I’m not against participation awards, medals, or trophies, especially when it comes to running and triathlon. I’ve got dozens of them proudly hanging on my wall. I appreciate them for what they represent to me – a reminder and reward for the effort I gave to be handed one. Those that say that anyone can have one are simply mistaken. You have to at least get off your butt and complete the task. But when I was a kid, I never earned a trophy. But on July 4, 1993, I ran a 5K in a local race and decided to hang around for the post-race award ceremony. I don’t remember much about the race other than it was hot, and my wife and in-laws were there. But my name was called as the 2nd place winner in the Male, 25-30 age group category. I was 29 years old when I earned my first-ever trophy.
NUMBER 4 – THE DAY I RAN 5 MILES
I had toyed with running for a few years, but it was hit or miss for me. Like everyone else who tries running for the first time, it can suck, and I was no different. I just never stuck with it. After graduating college and finding a job, I relocated about 75 minutes north of my hometown and found myself living in an apartment bored out of my mind. My friends were back home or away at college, and I was too broke to afford golf or bowling. I bought a pair of cheap Macgregor running shoes at Kmart (remember, I was broke) and decided to try running again. The first few efforts were around the apartment complex. I was a fair-weather runner and my runs were typically after work and not any longer than a mile or two. But one lap turned into two and I also was getting a little faster. One day I decided to branch out into the neighboring subdivision and meander around. I felt great and I knew that I was going farther than I had before. When I got back, I jumped in my car and retraced my route, and I was excited to see that I had gone 5 miles! But the most exciting feeling was not just covering 5 miles, it was knowing that I could have run farther. I look back at this day as the day I became a true runner.
NUMBER 3 – WINNING A 5K RACE
You really never know what can happen unless you show up and give it your best. The Lindenhurst Police and Park District 5K was being held for the first time in Lindenhurst, Illinois, the town in which my new bride Kari and I had bought our first home, and was being held along with a little fall festival the town was having. I found this race listed in the local weekly newspaper, as the internet hadn’t really taken the world over yet. Most local racing was listed in the local papers. Since it was being held in our town, I figured why not run it?
When I got to the start line I could sense that not many people had seen the race listing in the paper, with only about a dozen runners nervously pacing around. I started to wonder if I had any competition. The girl in her twenties looked pretty fast, and so did the guy in his thirties. There were a few others, but I keyed on these two for some reason. We toed the line and off we sped, following the police chief in a police car. A weightlifter-type dude shot out to the lead like a rocket, which was somewhat surprising, as I had written him off prerace. But by a quarter-mile into the race, the girl, the guy, and I had reeled him in. My plan was to pace with them for a little while and it wasn’t long before I realized the pace was too slow. I hit the gas around mile one and took off. As I ran I actually overtook the chief in the pace car and I got a little nervous because I had no idea where the course was heading. No worries though, as he quickly got ahead and stayed there. There was a left turn about a quarter-mile from the finish and I took one quick glance back and saw no one within a distance that could catch me. I glided downhill, turned right, and broke my first finish line tape in first place overall. Show up and race all-comers, you might find that you are the best of the field that day.
NUMBER 2 – QUALIFYING FOR BOSTON
Early in my running days, I knew what a marathon was but it was never on my radar. I was happy to get around the block a few times. Marathons seemed impossible. But I finally got the urge and ran my first marathon in 1991. The Lake County Races Marathon ran from Zion to Highland Park, Illinois and it was very local for me, seeing that I worked and lived in Highland Park at the time. When I finished that first one, my reaction wasn’t the euphoria that I had anticipated, I can clearly remember thinking “That’s it? Where’s the fanfare?” I was handed a medal, which I have since misplaced (I’ve looked everywhere!), and ended up in the medical tent getting an IV.
The finish didn’t kill my enthusiasm for marathons, and I ran many more. But there was one that I wanted to do but figured I would never be able to, and that was Boston. Boston has a qualifying time requirement, and I was more than a half-hour away from it in my 30s. It seemed unreachable. But I got older, faster, and wiser, all of which would lead to me getting within striking distance of getting that elusive Boston Marathon qualifying time.
In 2015, I qualified by just a few minutes, but it wasn’t enough. When I crossed the finish line I was elated and deflated at the same time, because even though I had just run a personal best of 3:28, I knew that my cushion time might not make the cut. I missed it by 28 seconds. You can read about it here: 28 Seconds…
The following year I was much better prepared and had an awesome weather day. I cruised to a 3:25:08 finish and felt pretty good about my performance. Now the wait began.
After applying the following year, I got notice that I was in! That’s when the run became special. It took a while to get it validated.
You might ask why isn’t running Boston the high point? The 2018 Boston Marathon was miserable – I was overtrained, and it was a day of constant rain, wind, and cold temperatures. All of that makes for a great memory, but what I cherish most was accomplishing the hard part – qualifying.
NUMBER 1 – CHRIS HEDGES – YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!
I had watched the network coverage of Ironman for many years and was always in awe. I couldn’t even imagine what it took to do what they did. My experience taught me that marathons were hard, how do you do that after swimming 2.4 miles and biking 112 miles?! Fortunately for me, I have friends who pushed me into it. It’s easy to say that you can’t do it when you have never even tried. So I tried. Swimming was hard, but I eventually got it down. Biking had its own struggles, but I became a better rider. And running just had to be adjusted to make sure I didn’t push too hard.
I had no idea what crossing that Ironman finish line would do to me. It was empowering. Ironman’s motto is “Anything Is Possible” and that is a sentence not lost on me. After finishing an Ironman you do feel like anything is possible.
Each of my five Ironman finishes are special, but I will always remember that first Ironman in Madison, Wisconsin in 2013. It sent me on a path of new adventures and gave me a feeling that I could do anything.
After doing this race in 2019 and nearly melting from the heat, my buddy Dave and I were in agreement about not wanting to ever experience that again. I definitely tried to avoid Chattanooga, but fate pushed me there.
I had signed up for the 2020 Ironman Louisville race but it got canceled due to some social unrest in the city and of course, a worldwide pandemic. Ironman gave me four options to transfer to, three of which were also fall 2020 races and clearly not going to happen. The only other option was to go back to Chatty in 2021 and hope that the world would settle down. Thankfully, we had a better knowledge about the virus, and the vaccine helped keep the option for racing open in 2021. Things still aren’t ideal, but it’s getting better.
So I opted for a return trip to Chattanooga and I was soon joined by my Gunner buddies Jeff, his sister Jan, and eventually Dave. A few local friends also opted to give Choo a go – Susan, John, and Charlie, as well as first-timers Angela and Daniel. At first I thought that this race was going to be a solo affair for me, but now it was a full-fledged party!
Training thirty weeks for an Ironman is an awfully long time.
Once again I broke out the old trusty Be Iron Fit training book and followed the plan. 30-weeks broken into base, build, and endurance phases that has prepared this self-coached triathlete well in four previous Ironman races.
I follow the plan pretty closely with a few changes that I have found over the previous training cycles to be beneficial to me. First, I reduced the swim from the hour-plus swim, 2-3 times per week that the book dictates, to two 30-minute swims per week. I’m not the greatest swimmer, but once I had the technique down, I found that the swim training that the book wants me to do is INSANE. Plus, I get so bored swimming that I just can’t take much more than 30-minutes. I did get in a longer open water swim in Minocqua at my lake home, and I did one 4200 yard swim in my pool in the closing weeks of training just to prove to myself that I could do the distance.
Biking was more of a group thing for me this time around, and I often joined the locals for the rides out to Elwood. My coworker Tom, who had caught the triathlon bug and signed up for Ironman Muncie 70.3 was also a training ride partner. A couple of weekends I was joined by Susan, which were much needed in order to help each other get over the mental struggle of training. She won’t take any credit for turning me around mentally, but she deserves some none-the-less. Overall, it was a pretty good year for cycling leading up to the race.
As for the running – oh boy. I foolishly signed up for a “last runner standing” format ultra which also got postponed to August. I just used my Ironman training and it got me through 8-loops and 33 miles, completing my first 50K distance ultramarathon. After that, it was back to the plan and doing the work with one exception – I also foolishly signed up for the Tunnel Hill 100, an ultra-marathon in November. I’m pretty dumb. So I decided that even though I wasn’t going to increase my mileage, I did adapt to doing some run/walk long runs. I learned that a ratio of about 4.5 minutes of running with a 1.5 minute walk break on my Sunday long runs was working pretty good for me. Since I was doing Chattanooga, I figured that I was going to be walking most of the marathon anyway, so why not get used to that style of running.
How hot is it going to be this year?
Summer was hot here in the Chicago area again this year and I could sense that race day might be ugly once again. Boy was I wrong. I generally avoid looking at the weather forecast until it gets closer to race day, but it was shaping up to be beautiful. How beautiful? How about mid to upper 70s, no rain and no wind. If you could pick the perfect day, this might have been an ideal race day forecast. And if that wasn’t good enough, it rained for several days leading up to the race which cooled the water temp down below the wetsuit legal temperature of 76.1. I think this was a first for Chattanooga – a wetsuit legal swim!
What can go wrong will go wrong.
Race week meant one final check of the bike and I decided to give the drive train one last going over. That’s when my 8-year-old rear derailleur decided to die.
I drove the bike up to Spokes in Wheaton, Illinois and begged a guy named Chris to fix it for me. He said I was screwed. Actually, he said that they don’t stock 10-speed parts as they aren’t being used anymore. But he searched through an old box of spare parts and found a lesser level Sram 10-speed derailleur in workable condition. He bolted it on, I took it for a test spin, happily forked over the $70 bucks, and then thanked my lucky stars. The next day the bike was in the car and I was headed to Chattanooga.
When Carla wasn’t involved in picking out our lodging, things can get weird.
Since Dave was a last minute sign up, his wife Carla wasn’t doing all of the work finding us lodging. I didn’t mind our last hotel that we stayed at in Chattanooga, but I was hoping for something closer. I settled on the Marriott Residence Inn, which I totally picked because it was a block away and it had a little kitchenette thing. When I checked in I got some attitude from the guy at the front desk about not canceling our second room soon enough, and then I made my way to the room. It was a little dirty and smelled a little, but I was glad to have plenty room for my stuff. It got a little weird when the toilet wouldn’t flush and they had to call a plumber in to remove the travel-sized deodorant that someone had flushed down it. Fun times.
Kari flew in and soon the whole Gunner gang was in town. The next couple of days were spent checking in for the race, organizing our gear bags, and then dropping the bags and the bikes off. Gunner Jeff, a four-time Ironman, for some reason could not remember the bike/bag drop-off procedure, which I found highly entertaining. Race week anxiety does some weird stuff to your brain.
We typically try to find a restaurant to eat a prerace meal at, but since we couldn’t find something at such a short notice for our big group, we opted for a family-style spaghetti dinner, courtesy of Jill and assisted by her daughter Emma and my wife Kari. It might have been the best prerace dinner ever. We had such good conversations and the meal was delicious.
Why am I nervous? Prerace anxiety sucks.
After setting a couple of alarms I was ready to hit the sack. Except there was no way I was going to fall asleep. At 10:30pm or so, I got back up and took a portion of an Ambien and tried again. According to Kari, I was soon asleep. According to me, my brain was active all night long.
Race day is finally here!
The alarms went off and I got up and showered. Dave always showers before the race but it’s a sometimes for me. I felt like the shower might wake me up more and needed a shave, so I took one. Next up was getting dressed and grabbing some food. Then off to meet the gang to walk down to the village and into transition to check the bike and bags.
We hopped onto the school bus for the shuttle ride to the swim start and then settled into to await the start. I heard that the kayak volunteers were late getting into the water for some reason, which delayed our start by about ten minutes, but we heard the pro racers start and we would be next.
I had made a Facebook friend, a guy named Marc the Shark, and had missed seeing him at Louisville in 2017 and so far for this race too, but as I was looking around there he was just a couple of people away. I said hello and we wished each other well.
Next thing I knew I was walking down the ramp and jumping into the Tennessee River with hardly any performance expectation other than to finish without getting too worn out.
59 MINUTES!?!? THAT CAN’T BE RIGHT!
The swim went swimmingly. I drifted to the right, away from the shore and more toward the middle of the river in order to take advantage of any current that was pushing us along. The kayakers will only let you get so far away from the buoys, so I found myself pretty much between them and the kayakers. It seemed like I was swimming by myself, once again enjoying the almost 100% contactless swim. I had a little hint of a foot cramp happening, but I was able to kick it out of my system.
As the buoys turned from yellow to orange at the halfway point, I found myself getting closer to them and eventually looked up to find them on my right side for the first time. I got past the island in the middle of the river and the three bridges were dead ahead. The next thing I knew I rounded the red turn buoy and swam to the ladder, and that’s when I glanced at my watch – 59 minutes. That’s insane. I know that this course could give me a quick swim, but never in my life did I think I could swim 2.4 miles in under an hour. 00:59:43 officially. A swim PR for me.
SWIM: 00:59:43 – 52nd in Male 55-59 Age Group / 529th Male / 679th Overall
Why do I suck at the swim to bike transition?
My plan going for getting through the first transition was to not waste time like I usually do. So what did I do? I found a way to waste time.
As you can see in my swim photos I still have my swim goggles on. That’s because they are prescription and I need them to see where I am going, find my bag, and go find a place to sit down and get ready for the bike. All that went well enough but as soon as I put my eyeglasses on, they fogged up. Nice. Now I couldn’t see much at all. I couldn’t find my socks at first, but then I remembered that I had put them into one of my shoes. I found my towel and dried my feet and got some Skin Glide on them and then struggled to get my socks on. Next were the arm sleeves that went on okay thanks to me rolling them on, but then I realized that I hadn’t put on any sunscreen yet and I was sure that I would take the arm sleeves off when I warmed up. So I started looking for my spray can of sunscreen and couldn’t find it. Since I knew that they had a sun screen table at the exit of the bike corral, I stopped looking for my own and got all of my swim crap into the bag. The helmet got strapped, my nutrition, consisting of five Payday fun size candy bars, a Stroopwafel, and my gel flask, got thrown into my back pockets, and off I clopped to find my bike.
I walked the bike over to the table with the sunscreen and took off my gloves and started hitting the most vulnerable spots heavily. The gloves went back on and off I clopped again to the mount line to begin my tour of a sliver of southern Tennessee and a big chunk of northern Georgia.
They say this is a beautiful and scenic bike course. I’ll take their word for it.
Almost all of the Ironman bike courses are listed as “scenic” and I’m sure that they are. But when you are riding along at 18 mph or so, with others jockeying around you on roads that sometimes aren’t in the best shape, you tend to spend more attention to not crashing than the beautiful scenery. But this time I did actually take a few moments to gaze at the mountains and the local picturesque landscape. I did notice some low lying fog in the early stages.
I had a long sleeve shirt that I intended to put on when I started the bike but I opted not to use it and I was fine. I rode with the arm sleeves and gloves for more than half of the race before tossing them.
Heading out of town was at a fast pace. It was that way in 2019, too. I didn’t feel like I was pushing hard or anything, but after about an hour of a pace faster than I normally train at, I knew that I would be pushing pace all through the bike. The first 56 miles was under three hours by a lot, a time that I would have been really proud of if it was just a 70.3 race.
Like usual, I was glad to be getting off the bike at the end. I didn’t feel as miserable as I normally do, but 116 miles and a little over 6 hours is a long time to be riding a bike. I handed my bike to a kid volunteer to put away and jokingly told her to change the oil and give it a wash and I would be back to pick it up in five hours. She looked at me like I had two heads. Tough crowd. I guess comedy isn’t my thing.
My Garmin had me at 6:06 with the autopause turned on. That’s a huge PR for me. Garmin also has a 18.9 mph average and a top speed of 39.1 mph.
BIKE: 6:18:27 – 55th Male 55-59 Age Group / 544th Male / 662nd Overall
Time for the emotions to kick in.
As I walked from dropping the bike off with the kid, I got hit with the feels. Usually this hits me around the last mile or so of the marathon, but I was pretty proud of what I just did on the bike, as well as the swim. It didn’t last long. I was handed my Run Gear bag and off to the changing tent to waste some time.
I sat down and pulled the cycling gear off and looked for the Dude Wipe (basically a big wet wipe) and wiped my face off, as well as the bugs that I had accumulated on my sweaty shoulders. It always makes me feel a little fresher to clean up a little.
Amazingly enough, I had a sun screen can in my bag. It’s less necessary at this part of the race, but I sprayed my bald head and arms anyway. With the bib belt, shoes and visor on, I grabbed my nutrition and started out of transition.
T2 – 7:11
This marathon is no joke. I’m not going to crush this.
On Friday, I approached a first timer as he was talking with his wife about the run course and I told him that the run starts on the sidewalk about 300 yards back there and the walk starts here, pointing to the hill not even a quarter mile into the course. I was joking, but not really. I saw a photographer and gave a half-hearted effort at running for the picture but it wasn’t going so well for me.
I felt hot, which is not uncommon for me. Yes, it was still sunny and later into the day, but when you are riding you have that constant wind blowing on you to help cool you off. I walked about a half-mile before I even started thinking about running.
After the first couple of aid stations, I started to get more hydration and sugar into me and started to come around. By the time I got four miles into it I was feeling better.
It wasn’t long and Gunner Jeff caught me. I knew he would. We would leap frog back and forth sharing the run lead for the rest of the way, but seeing that he had made up the difference in what little lead I had with the swim and bike, I knew that he was ahead of me by chip time even if he was standing right next to me. The same thing happened last time as well, it just happened sooner this year. He’s good.
In 2019, I made it a goal at the start of the second loop to try to get through the wooded park along the river walk before it got dark but didn’t get it done. This time it was no problem.
I caught Jeff again and we walked up the dreaded Barton Avenue hill together and for most of the rest of that north side of the river portion of the course. I recognized my local friend Daniel just as we were turning off of Barton. He seemed to be somewhat doubtful about finishing, but I tried my best to encourage him to keep moving forward. He was in a rough place mentally, but he overcame it and finished in plenty of time.
Jeff and I also saw Dave heading up the hill as we were heading down and knew he was also going to finish not far behind us.
As we approached the walking bridge I told Jeff that I was going to walk the uphill portion of it and not to wait for me. I could have jogged with him, but I wanted him to go get his glory and cross the line first. He finished about a minute ahead of me according to the time of day, but he bested me by about 11 minutes.
As I got over the bridge I was forced to run through a gauntlet of fans that crowd the run course and one guy got an extended evil eye from me and got out of my way. I ran down the hill and turned onto the road to finish. As I approached the finish chute I kept checking in front and behind me to have a good finish for myself and things were looking good. But all at once this dope comes screaming past me and spoils my finish. And to add to that disappointment, the announcer didn’t even call me in! WTF? Oh well, it’s not my first Ironman finish, and it probably won’t be my last. But the photos still prove that I had a great race.
RUN: 5:04:47 – 50th Male in 55-59 Age Group / 476th Male / 612th Overall
FINAL TIME: 12:42:42 – 2nd fastest Ironman Finish / Swim & Bike Ironman PR’s / 5th Ironman Finish
But wait, there’s more!
Loads of thanks to go around. To my wife Kari – you’re my Iron Rock. Thanks for supporting me not only once or twice, but five times now. I promise to take next year off!
To my Gunner teammates Dave, Jeff, and Jan – thanks for being on the journey with me once again. Doing a race without you would never be as fun.
To my local friends Susan, John, Charlie, Angela, and Daniel – WELL DONE! You are all IRONMEN! And let’s not forget Casey, who magically appeared at the finish line as a volunteer and handed a much surprised me my finisher hat, medal and shirt! That was unexpected and a great way to finish.
29 weeks down, 1 week to go! I’ve gone from Week 1 back in March and doing my workouts inside, to seeing farm fields go from untilled dirt, to not being able to see around turns due to the corn being fully grown. I’ve gone from being mentally burned out, to being very atuned to how great I feel. I’ve been so far from being ready, to feeling like I’m ready to rock this race. All it took was a day to day effort, following a great plan for the fifth time, and having the support of my Gunner teammates and the local friends that have been very instrumental in making this training block pleasurable. Let’s roll!
I try to plan out a race day plan for myself and in 2019 it became very clear that the day would be about surviving the heat. It was a scorcher and I won’t ever forget it. I don’t really try to worry too much about the weather or water temperatures for race day, but after 2019 I’m not ignoring it either. So when a couple of casual checks of the long-range forecast revealed that the temperature might be in the 70s and sunny, well that changes my mindset a little. I may be going from planning to pace an Ironman to racing it instead. It means instead of a 16.5 mph average on the bike to maybe an 18 mph average. It means that I may be able to run a sub-4.5 hour marathon instead of something over 5 hours. I’m definitely bringing the wetsuit, like always. But last time I knew I wasn’t going to be using it. This time? There might be a wetsuit legal swim for the first time in Choo history. We’ll see, I’m not holding my breath, but it would be awesome if it was.
So, let’s wrap up these 29 weeks and get ready for race week. Here’s a summary and a link to all previous weeks. I’ll give you a virtual medal for going back and reading all these blogs.
The taper is here! I’m finally winding down the training and enjoying the feeling of accomplishing what I needed to do to get myself ready for my fifth Ironman. I’ve trained on cold days, hot days, windy days, rainy days, and beautiful days as well. I think that it’s okay to start celebrating the work that I have done even if I haven’t got to the starting line yet. So, after 27 weeks of building up to long bike rides and long runs, it’s time to start pulling back.
The band Boston certainly played a huge part in the soundtrack of my youth, and I still enjoy their music today. Of course, the first two albums were what made them, but their third album Third Stage was a big hit as well.
I’ve been hearing the song We’re Ready quite a bit lately on SiriusXM’s Classic Rewind and I find one verse of the lyrics very fitting for this third stage of Ironman training. I certainly feel like I’m ready.
We’re ready now Catchin’ a wave to ride on Steady now Headin’ where we decide on And I know that there’s something that’s just out of sight And I feel like we’re trying to do something right Come on make it if we hold on tight Hold on tight We’re Ready! C’mon we’re ready We’re ready
There’s another song on that album called Cool The Engines, which is also very appropriate for the taper. I took advantage of the cooler weather this week and the lighter training load to push my pace a little bit. Maybe I just wanted to rev the engine somewhat. But in the back of my mind, I could hear my brain reminding me to not overdo it.
Take me for a ride Take me all the way Take me where I’ve never been Someplace I can stay Don’t get yourself too hot Don’t get yourself too high If we don’t take it easy now We can kiss it all goodbye
Cool the engines Red line’s gettin’ near Cool the engines Better take it out of gear
I’m no fool Gonna keep it cool Take it day by day We won’t know where we might go ‘Til we make it all the way
So, it’s time for me to cool the engines and bring on the taper! We’re ready!
I took the time on Friday to fix my rear brakes and to put on new tires and throw on Conti 5000’s for the first time. The brakes are working well again, and the new tires were like floating on air on Saturday’s ride.
I rode with a group on Saturday and by the time we spread out I found myself riding mostly with Julie, whom I had never met before at these rides, but her pace and mine got us through Elwood and I enjoyed getting to meet another local rider. Julie is an Ironman, and said she was training for Ironman Waco in October. Good luck, Julie!
I have to take a moment and brag on my son Ben a little. He ran a local half-marathon called the Hidden Gem and nailed a PR for himself – 1:16:34, a 5:51 pace! My kid is smoking fast! Great job, Ben!
I’m also excited to hear that another Gunner fence-sitter may have committed to joining Jeff, Jan, and I on this dumb idea. YESSSSSSSS!
On Sunday I wrapped up my week with a 2-hour long run on mine and my wife Kari’s 29th wedding annniversary. I’m so lucky to have shared 29 wedded years with this woman, and I look forward to many more! I’m also very lucky she tolerates these adventures I go on.
I usually refer to Week 27 of the Be Iron Fit Ironman training plan as the “Dreaded Week 27.” It’s the toughest week in the 30-weeks of training, ending in a 6-hour bike ride with a one hour run right after it on Saturday, and a 3-hour long run on Sunday. But I took a little sting out of it by basically doing that workout at the end of Week 26. I did that for a couple of reasons. First, the opportunity presented itself last Saturday to ride an extra half-hour when I rode with Susan and we were managing our effort very well, staying hydrated and fueled on a very hot day. So as we got closer to getting back I just committed to it and it worked out fine. Same with Sunday, I was feeling good and figured I would just go an extra 15-minutes and make it a full 3-hour run. On the Friday before those two days I was somewhat dreading the weekend, but after getting out there and doing the extended portions and feeling good afterwards, it was a huge confidence builder for me.
Secondly, my wife Kari and I planned to head north to our lake home to enjoy some lake life and take care of some fall house and yard needs, and I thought that if I did the workouts a week ahead of time, I might not be so pressed for time or be so wornout if I swapped the planned workouts. I may even cut the long Saturday ride and long Sunday run down and start my tapering a little earlier this time around.
Here’s how the Dreaded Week 27 went for me.
Monday is usually a rest day, and I usually putter around the house and do the things that get neglected during the week; catch up on laundry, mow the grass, get groceries, etc. But after a couple of walks I was bored and thought why not do a swim. So I put on some tri shorts and jumped in. 30-minutes is my typical swim workout, but I was feeling good so I pushed it to 60-minutes. When I got to sixty I was still feeling pretty good, so I pushed it another half-hour, and before I knew it I had swum 4300 yards – covering the distance of an Ironman swim. There was no tiredness, no calf or foot cramps, and really no boredom, which surprised the heck out of me. Knowing that I can easily swim the 2.4 miles in my own backyard pool in 1.5 hours was a good feeling. Oh sure, I have done the Ironman swim four previous times, so I know that I can do it. But I still needed to train for each one of those previous attempts, and prove that it can be accomplished with smart training. Could I actually be enjoying swimming? Let’s not get carried away.
Tuesday ushered in a little bit less heat for the day and I ran at a time when there was a coolish breeze and it was overcast. I did the 10-minute warm-up and then started in on the five 6-minute repeats. I was pacing them pretty well. My legs were a little sore at the start, but when I picked up pace I did so easily. My turnover felt smooth and comfortable. I felt like I was rocking it! I skipped the swim due to the previous day’s effort, and opted to vacuum the pool instead.
Wednesday was quite a different day weather-wise than what I had last weekend. Much cooler, with a strong northeast wind. I hopped on the bike and was flying along heading south on my usual route. I saw my buddy Charlie attempting to run on his two injured toes and wished him a good run. I must have been averaging over 20 mph heading south, but turning around and coming back north was not fun. The ride ended with a 18 mph average, so I guess I was doing okay. A quick change to running shoes and it was off on a 30-minute run. I didn’t feel the wind as much, but the cooler temperature had me running with a good tempo. I like to use the Wednesday bike/run brick as a hard effort instead of staying in a Zone 2 heart rate zone. It’s the one day I like to hit the gas.
Thursday ushered in another cooler day and the winds were better for me as well, which caused me to push myself a little more than I should of. I could feel my calves tightening, but the 1.5-hour ride went well. I jumped in the pool afterwards and tried to swim, but I was getting some calf cramps and called it a day after 21 minutes.
Friday I got in my 1.5-hour run and then jumped into the car with Kari to head to Wisconsin.
Saturday was rainy of course, but it wasn’t too bad, and after a hearty breakfast with Kari at Tula’s in Minocqua the rain was turning to a misty drizzle on its way to ending. I planned to do a 5-hour ride and I stuck to it. I headed down Hwy J towards St. Germain to pick up the trails and head into the beautiful Northwoods. I hadn’t even gotten a few miles into it and the wet road and what little leftover sprinkles had me pretty wet. But it was bearable and I kept pushing on. I had never went further than Boulder Junction before so I continued onward and found the trail toward Manitowish Waters to be beautiful.
I took a couple of minutes on the way back to stop and enjoy some scenery just west of Boulder Junction. The trail here was beautiful.
I was thinking of how much fun I was having and four hours of the ride was just perfect. The last hour, not so much. Back onto Hwy J I was greeted with hills and headwind and an overall lack of energy. At one point my thigh muscles started to cramp, which had never happened to me before. I decided to slow down and fuel and hydrate more and limp it home. I got off my bike and sat down and took a minute to watch my calf muscles twitch uncontrollably. Good times.
I decided to not do the 60-minute run after the bike after watching the twitching going on.
Sunday was beautiful. I had recovered enough from yesterday’s bike ride that I talked myself back into doing a long run after talking myself out of it during the latter portion of yesterday’s bike.
I headed to the Bearskin Trail in downtown Minocqua and before I realized it, I was was crashing a marathon and half-marathon in progress. It was fun to see the runners coming back in with determination on their faces. I ran out seven miles and turned around and headed back. There were spectators cheering me on, as they didn’t realize that I wasn’t in the race. I said, “I’m not in the race, but I love your enthusiasm!”
It wasn’t long and the 3:45 marathon pacer caught up to me as I was walking and taking a gel. He was encouraging everyone to join in, and after telling him that I was on a training run he still wanted me to pace with him. I ran with him chatting about my Ironman and ultra coming up and I then took a detour to avoid the finish line, as I already felt awkward being on the trail with the others. I made it home with an extra mile added due to the detour, making it 15 total miles and some fun memories of running with those runners. Maybe I will join them for real next year.
Time to enjoy some lake lifeone last time before pulling the boat out of the water for the season.
My coworkers are kind people and take a passing interest in what I do outside of work. As I train for my fifth Ironman, it’s pretty obvious at this point that my weekend will be filled with a long bike ride and a long run. This weekend would be no different, but the kicker is that it was going to be hot outside, with temperatures in the 90s. So when my coworker Tracy asked what I was doing this weekend I replied that I was biking for 5.5 hours and running for an hour on Saturday, and running for 2.75 hours on Sunday, with somewhat of a “not too excited to do this” tone in my voice.
Then Tracy went full mom mode – YOU KNOW YOU ARE DOING THAT AT YOUR OWN CHOOSING. YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO THAT!
I closed my eyes and shook my head. I almost felt like I was being scolded for doing the things I like to do. Yes, I know that I choose to train for an Ironman, and yes I know that it is hard sometimes, and yes I know that you mere mortals find it somewhat perplexing as to why any of us training for an Ironman would put ourselves through such miserable efforts and give away our weekends doing it. But I choose to do it because I like riding and running (swimming, not so much), and being an Ironman is a goal that I pursue because it empowers me. It changed my life.
Later that evening my family and I met my son Ben and “kind-of daughter-in-law” Emily (just get married already!!!) for a birthday dinner for Ben and I mentioned once again that I was dreading doing my long bike and run this weekend. And although Emily didn’t chastise me as harshly as Tracy did, she said the same damn thing – You know, you choose to do it – or something to that effect.
This time I chuckled, hearing the same admonishment twice in a single day, but what was surprising was that it was coming from Emily, who as a runner herself knows full well what it takes to do amazing things. Maybe the empathy I was expecting and didn’t get was the amusing part for me.
Oh well, I guess nobody cares that I choose to do this dumb sport in an extreme way on a very hot two weekend days. And sometimes the only person to impress worth impressing is me.
Another good ride with Susan on Saturday, and it was pretty much a repeat of last weekend except we both decided to add a little extra, and instead of doing the planned 5.5-hour ride, I ended up doing 6.25 hours and reached 100 miles. I followed up the ride with 6-miles on the treadmill because, well, I’m not dumb. It was insanely warm and humid outside. Smart move and I felt great after that long day.
On Sunday, I parlayed the success of Saturday into Sunday, adding some extra time to the run, running an extra 15 minutes to hit 3-hours. I’m still playing around with a run\walk ratio, and I added 15-seconds to the walk interval. I think that is a pretty good option right now, and I will keep toying with it on my long runs.
On to the dreaded Week 27, which won’t be so dreadful because I pretty much did that week’s workout this weekend. Getting closer to race day and feeling more ready every day.
Every year or so the bank sends us a note about one of the CDs we have sitting in their bank making them money but hardly doing anything for us, and informs us that it’s maturing soon. My wife will say “we should put this into something else and get a better return.” I always reply that I’m good with that. Then in a year, we get the same note telling us that our same CD is maturing again, because WE DIDN’T DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT LAST TIME! Then the wife and I will have the same converstation again. It’s pretty funny, actually.
This week my friend Susan, who is also doing IM Choo, was looking for someone to ride with on the Saturday long ride. I didn’t hesitate to offer to ride with her for a couple of reasons. First, I was tired of riding alone and welcomed the company, and secondly, every long ride that I have done recently has ended in me overdoing it and bonking pretty hard at the end. I was getting tired of that, so I decided to ride with Susan, provide her some company, and use her to keep me from riding out of my comfort zone. There was definitely some give and take in this arrangement.
Now Susan is no slouch, she’s an Ironman and a good rider. Both of us have been struggling with the mental aspect of training lately, and the physical aspect of training is partly the cause of that. So I thought why not ride along, enjoy having company and good conversation with someone other than myself for a change. And I’m so glad I did.
We decided to head west toward Elwood, Illinois, and play it by ear as to which direction to go once we got there. I had only been over Route 52 into Elwood once before, and I was glad to have her show me the route to Brandon Road that everyone seems to love doing. It was a nice ride with new things to look at for a change, and I certainly was enjoying that. We turned around at two hours and headed back to the BP to refill our water bottles, and saw some more friends there doing the same thing.
Leaving the gas station, we headed back to the usual route east and Susan wondered where the road we were leaving actually headed. I said, “I KNOW!” and I suggested that we can loop back around that way. Now I had a chance to show her an alternative to always going down Hoff Road. We rode that way back to Elwood, stopped at the BP to refill our bottles once again, and then I decided I needed a bathroom break. The BP staff told me that the bathrooms were unavailable at the moment, so no worries, we hopped on our bikes and rode ten minutes or so back to the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery to use the facilities there.
Then the trip home started and I needed to add on a few more minutes so I did, and then worked hard to catch back up with Susan. We rode back to where she parked her car, took a selfie, then I rode home and for the first time in quite a while, finished the ride feeling pretty good. I quickly switched from biking to running gear and followed up the nearly 90-mile ride with a 6.25-mile run. It was so nice not finishing a long Saturday workout and needing several hours of recovery. It was a good day for me.
My friend Chalie was nice to praise me for “helping” Susan with her ride. And even though I would do that for anybody, I was also doing it for myself, to be honest. I realized that sometimes you might have to do something a little different than what you are used to in order to get something better. Change it up and get a better yield.
Maybe I should do something about that CD this time around.
The Sunday long run went pretty well for me, too. I started early to beat the heat of the day, and it wasn’t too bad of a morning. I decided to try using a 5-minute run/1-minute walk interval to see how it went. I’m starting to do these last few long runs in training for IM Choo with a nod to the ultramarathon that I will be attempting in November. It was nice to break-up just straight running with a one minute walk break every five minutes. That produced an average pace just under 10 minutes per mile, and 6 miles per hour. That would be a pretty good pace, but I was running out of gas at the end, mainly due to the heat and the hills as I got closer to home and finishing the 2.5-hour run. I may drop it to a 4:1 ratio and see how that goes. I’m not sure that I can handle the pace needed for a sub-20 hour hundred mile run.
This week, Major League Baseball hosted a “Field of Dreams” game featuring the Chicago White Sox (Go-Go Sox!) vs. the dreaded New York Yankees (suck it, Yankees), and the game didn’t disappoint. Its inspiration came from the 1989 Field of Dreams movie, and the game did its best to recreate the feeling of the narrative. I heartily enjoyed the game, but my kids, having not seen the movie, lacked the same enthusiasm that I did. So that led to watching the movie, of course.
The movie’s purpose for me is about finding what your true purpose is in life, and often I find myself thinking what my purpose is, especially when it comes to training and racing for Ironman. The first time is obviously about seeing if you can do it, the second or third time around it might be about setting a personal best. Subsequent races may just be for a new venue or experience. This go around with training seems to be lacking a purpose. I’m on the struggle bus, as my friend Jan said this week, but sometimes I feel like I’m driving the bus, too. I have a friend who is also struggling with motivation right now and I totally get it. We’re tired of the six-hour workouts on hot and humid Saturdays and giving up our weekends for the training. I tried to offer some sage advice, and I hoped to provide a little incentive to keep going. Maybe encouraging others to be awesome is my purpose.
I often find purpose after the workout, when I’m done and the hay is in the barn, as they say. I like to pat myself on my back for a job well done, even if Saturday’s 5-hour ride/1-hour run brick did end in a bonk and a tough recovery. This last remaining six weeks will be tough, get tougher, then draw back on the intensity a little as we slide into race day. Then I believe the purpose of all the training will be clear. I’m going to be an Ironman. And even if it’s the fifth time for me proving that to myself, I will gladly look back on what I accomplished because no matter how many times I finish, it always feels special.
I was hoping that I wouldn’t be too beat up after running my first 50K last weekend, and the heat and humidity took a little bit of a toll again on Tuesday. We had some storms on Wednesday, which forced me inside and gave me a different perspective on my typical Wednesday workout. Thursday was back outside for a ride. But we got relief from the hot weather on Friday and I just clicked on a 1.5-hour run. That went real well and led into some even nicer weather for the weekend. I struggled a little on Saturday, as I mentioned above, but Sunday’s 14.5-mile long run was great. I seemed to bounce back pretty quickly.
I need to spend a little more attention to swimming, as I only got in one swim this week, but Chattanooga’s swim is very forgiving, and I’m not all that worried about it.
Here’s to some better fall weather on the horizon, and six more weeks of self-discovery until race day. Keep moving forward!
Last week I swapped Week 22 for Week 23 of the training plan so I could have an easy week leading up to Friday and my first attempt at an ultramarathon at the Big Hill Bonk – Wisconsin’s Backyard Ultra in Beloit, Wisconsin. Thank goodness for that because the ultra was certainly a challenge for me. The race recap follows this blog post. I’ll be back with my usual pontificating about training next week.
So the easy Ironman training week ended with somewhat of a hard effort of running through the hills of Beloit and Big Hill Park. Here are this weeks stats, which includes the long run on Friday/Saturday:
I saw a post the other day on one of the triathlon groups I follow on Facebook and he asked if anyone else had a “coach wife” and I knew immediately what he was alluding to. And I have the best coach wife in the business.
I’m not sure Kari intended to be a coach wife, she just kind of had the position forced upon her. After watching me train and do races she just kind of learned about running and triathlon from the sidelines. After I crashed and burned in the 2009 Rockford Marathon (3:43), which I ran alone without her or other family being there, it resulted in me taking a trip to the local hospital for an i.v. and a long walk of shame back to where I parked my car. She swore after that happened that I would not be doing these things on my own anymore.
As I train for my fifth Ironman she is inquisitive about what I’m doing, especially on the weekend. The other day she inquired about how long my Saturday bike would be and I said that I thought it was four hours. “Again? You’ve done the four-hour ride the past three weekends.” I admitted that I was using a spreadsheet of the plan that my buddy Jeff shared with me, so I thought it could be a typo, but after checking the plan in the book, sure enough, the plan has three, four-hour rides in a row. It is interesting how she picked up on that and I was just taking it for granted that it was correct.
Kari also began running and biking, and has learned even more about the sports and what they involve. The funny thing is, she never asks about my input.
Last night when I was turning in for the night, I looked at my watch as I laid it on the nightstand and wondered aloud if its 44% battery would be enough to get me through my planned five-hour ride. Coach Kari immediately spoke up and said “Why don’t you just charge it?” knowing full well that my charge cord for it is right there next to the nightstand. I didn’t debate with her or hesitate about it for even a second, I just grabbed the cord and plugged it in.
There are numerous other examples, but in reality, it’s just her way of showing that she cares about me and my dumb adventures. And I’m very glad to have a coach wife – make that the best coach wife ever.
I decided to swap Week 22 of the plan for Week 23 because I am doing the Big Hill Bonk – Last Runner Standing event next weekend and I wanted to take advantage of a taper week that Week 22 had in it.
I started the week off pretty good, doing an open water swim with my coworker buddy Tom in Lake Michigan at Ohio Street Beach, Chicago. It was a well-run event by Lifetime Fitness/Chicago Triathlon. Tom got some great experience in some big, open water and also some well-earned confidence in being able to swim in those kinds of conditions. I made him try my large Xterra wetsuit and I think that was a good experience as well. He may do better in an XL, as he has more muscle than I ever will.
On Thursday I got sick with some sort of stomach bug and it was bad. Kari thinks I am ignoring a bigger GI issue, but it was just a stomach bug. And the two things that come hand in hand with a stomach bug wiped me out. I was not doing well. But it ran its course in about a day, and I used Friday as a rest day to rehydrate and recover. I was concerned that the planned five-hour ride on Saturday would be too much, so I swapped it with Sunday and things worked out well. I’m still needed to stay on top of hydration, but I’m doing better.
On to the Big Hill Bonk and running infinite 4.166-mile loops for as long as I can!