Rub Some Dirt On It

2021 IRONMAN CHATTANOOGA TRAINING

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WEEK 21 – July 25, 2021 

I was riding with Tom, my buddy from work who is training for his first half-iron distance triathlon race. He shared a story with me about this character on a show called “Eastbound & Down,” about a washed-up former baseball player named Kenny Powers taking a job as a teacher or something. The principal introduces himself as quite the athlete as well and was training for a triathlon, which he seems to think that Kenny knows all about that and Kenny replies that he doesn’t because he plays real sports and isn’t trying to be the best at exercising. Hilarious.

Old Kenny reminds me of most coaches from my youth who would tell you to rub some dirt on it and walk it off if you got injured no matter how serious the injury was. Well, as we were coming back home on our almost 4-hour ride and had about an hour and a half of riding to go, Tom hit a patch of gravel on a turn, and down he went. He literally rubbed some dirt on it, and in it. His hands were chewed up pretty good and it did not look like a fun injury. I had mentioned in an earlier conversation that morning about wearing cycling gloves to A.) alleviate any pain from holding the handlebars, and B.) to keep your hands from getting messed up if you crash. I guess it doesn’t help to add to his pain to mention that fact again. To his credit and my astonishment, Tom picked himself up, assessed his injuries, and decided to tough it out and continue the ride home with bloody and throbbing palms. Tell me that isn’t impressive, Kenny.

As I ended my ride on that very hot and humid day, I still had 45-minutes of running to do. I put on some less sweat-soaked running attire, grabbed some water, and headed out for my run. As I passed the park at the beginning of the run I saw some young men just starting to play basketball and thought nothing of it. But when I returned one of them was vomiting into the trash can. It was interesting to me that I had just completed four hours of cycling and another 45-minutes of running and this kid couldn’t handle a short game of tossing a ball into the hoop and jogging back and forth.

Back in the mid to late twentieth century, they used to say that bowling and golf were the two most popular participation sports in America. I bet that they might not even make the list today. I’m not really sure what the most popular sport to participate in is today, but if I had to guess I would say it is running. I would be shocked if it wasn’t running. Even the other sports that are popular, almost all of them involve running. Most might guess the usual football, baseball, basketball sports would dominate the list, but really, you play those games as a kid in local rec leagues, maybe into high school, rarely in college, almost never professionally, and as an adult, c’mon man, you haven’t played football as an adult ever. When you get old you run for exercise. And if you like it and stick with it you run for sport. Finishing that first 5K or marathon or any race and the sense of accomplishment is just as awesome as getting a hit every fourth-time at-bat. You might want to practice more if you wanted to stay in the big leagues, Kenny.

I hate to disrespect any type of sport. They’re popular for a reason. The professionals make it look easy, and the moments I spent coaching and watching my kids play baseball and soccer were some of my greatest memories. But I don’t like having my sport and the athletes like Tom, who came from football and is quickly learning that swimming, cycling, and running isn’t so easy, dissing triathlon. So if you stick-and-ball guys think that our sport isn’t worthy or as hard as yours, come give ours a try. Tom will have some scars to prove to you that it isn’t so easy, and I bet we would garner some respect from you.

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Come ask Tom if this sport is easy.

Swims: 2 – 3000 yards

Rides: 3 – 108 miles

Runs: 5 – 41 miles

Fear, Part… III

2021 IRONMAN CHATTANOOGA TRAINING

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WEEK 20 – July 18, 2021 

There seems to be a lot of fear in triathlon. I totally get it as I had those fears as well. My fear was really about overcoming my lack of swimming ability, as well as fearing swimming in open water, mainly due to the aforementioned lack of swimming ability.

But there are so many different kinds of fears. Swimming is probably at the top of the list for most. Whether it be the open water thing, or swimming in water in which you can’t see anything, or the fact that there may be fish swimming in the water with you. Listen you fish-fearing swimmers, they don’t want anything to do with you. And my goodness, some can’t stand to touch any sort of weed that may be growing underwater. I may roll my eyes at that stuff, but I really have no inclination to do any triathlon in the ocean. Yeah, there are jellyfish and sharks in the ocean, and I can go about living a life not having swum a triathlon swim in the ocean, thank you very much.

And the bike is not without fear. When I first started riding and bought a road bike right after college, I took a ride down a busy four-lane road in Northbrook, Illinois. It scared the crap out of me and I decided to stick with running from then on. 20+ years later I found myself riding some more, most often riding on local bike trails. But as I got serious about riding, I found that the trails were full of idiots on bikes who don’t give a flying fig about the rules or being courteous to other trail users. So that pushed me onto the road, a place where I figured it was just a matter of time before some car ran me over. Fortunately, the roads by me are fairly rural farm roads with very little traffic and I eventually overcame my fears of being on the roads with cars.

Other bike phobias include being “clipped” into the pedals, which for most beginners and experienced riders alike will likely result in not being able to remember to unclip yourself from the pedal when stopping and falling over. I’ve done it several times, usually when people are around to see it happen. It’s quite embarrassing. Riding in aero on a tri bike is another fear for some. I have two friends (yes, you know who you are!) who recently bought tri bikes and have yet to ride them outside. I think their fear is that it handles a little differently, or maybe the reaction time to move their hands from the aero bars to the brakes might make them nervous. I’m not sure, but I get it. It doesn’t take much to fear something that you aren’t used to, especially something that is going 20 mph two feet from the gravel shoulder of the road.

Other fears can sometimes be silly. Some fear looking stupid in the tri suit. I have to admit that along with swimming, the little tight pants and the tight top that would have made me look really silly kept me out of triathlon for a long, long time. You have to toss modesty out the door if you are going to be a triathlete. And honestly, no one really cares how you look.

There are some that are afraid that they won’t be able to finish. This one keeps many people out of triathlon, especially the long Iron-distance stuff. These are people who haven’t done a lick of training but are convinced that no amount of training would get them there. I was in this camp. I used to watch the yearly Ironman special on television in the ’80s and ’90s and think how impossible that must be. I knew that my lack of swimming would prevent me from even trying. How does anyone swim 2.4 miles?! I thought it was impossible.

Some are afraid of finishing last. That one cracks me up. Do you know what they call the last place finisher in an Ironman? An Ironman. And if you have ever witnessed the closing minutes of an Ironman, those that are finishing last are the most cheered for and celebrated of all who competed that day. Just Google “last Ironman finisher” and you’ll see several examples. Or just watch this:

https://youtu.be/UVxhiZorh-E

For runners, it seems lack of speed or having to walk is a fear. My goodness, walking is done by just about everyone in an Ironman.

There are so many more examples of fear in this sport. But it all seems to boil down to a lack of familiarity or a lack of trying. As I rode more on roads I became much more at ease with it. So much more that I now feel safer on the roads I ride than the trails I use to get to the roads. And my fear of swimming was more of not knowing how to swim than just thinking that I couldn’t do it. Once I took the time to learn, and believe me it was a slow process, I conquered those fears I had about swimming.

So if you are having some fears about triathlon, don’t be afraid to face your fears. Take that new aero bike for a few spins around the block and get comfortable on it, then come out and join the group ride on the fancy new speed mobile. Have a friend take you to a lake and help you get comfortable in open water. Put on that new tri suit and let it make you feel fast. You are only fearing things that you have not yet tried. Give tri a try and get rid of those fears!

~~~

This wraps up Week 20 for me. Ten weeks to go. If you ever want to see your summer evaporate in a blink of an eye, start training for a race. It goes by so quickly. This week was pretty good. I took on an off-road sprint triathlon and did well enough to finish 22nd overall and third in my age group. Lots of great competition and racing off-road was a new challenge for me. I had a lot of fun.

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The Forge Off-road Triathlon Race Report

I’m still dealing with some left foot nerve pain. It’s not as bad as before on the bike because I adjusted my cleat and added some extra cushion to the shoe, but it is now happening with running which was never the case before. It makes me nervous because I have a lot of triathlon and running goals this year. I may have to seek some treatment for it.

I seem to be entering the always hungry stage of training. Well, I am always hungry anyway, but now I’m doing a lot more snacking. It kind of ticks me off that I have to train hard for 20 weeks to lose the 10 pounds that I gained in the four weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Since I decided to race on Saturday, I pushed the four-hour Saturday ride to Sunday and will more than likely do the two-hour run I missed on Sunday tomorrow. I always opt to do the long bike because I feel it’s the most important aspect in training for an Ironman. But I have some ultra marathon goals this year and I don’t want to miss out on getting that training done.

I saw this cool display on my bike ride and had to stop and take a picture:

So it’s on to the last third of the training plan, the dreaded endurance phase. But I have nothing to fear because I have been down this road four times before. Bring it on, endurance phase!

Swims: 3 – 3587 yards

Rides: 4 – 115 miles

Runs: 4 – 18 miles

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

2021 IRONMAN CHATTANOOGA TRAINING

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WEEK 19 – July 11, 2021 

My in-laws have been staying with us this past couple of weeks and my father-in-law’s cellphone ringtone is the theme to The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, which is a pretty good metaphor for training this week. First up… 

The Good

Coming off a pretty easy week which ended in four straight rest days, I was hoping for a week of training that would feel pretty good. For the most part, I wasn’t disappointed. The legs felt strong, and the efforts weren’t killing me.

I joined the Saturday group ride and coaxed my coworker Tom into joining me. I planned to ride with Tom regardless, but when the fastest of the usual riders showed up, I knew that I wouldn’t be pushing myself to join in with their crazy tempo. Tom and I had a great ride out to the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery and back. We split apart at about two hours as Tom headed back and I needed to extend the ride another two hours. Saturday called for rain, but fortunately, it held off, stayed a cool day, and I was able to ride for a little more than 70 miles and then have a decent 30-minute post-ride run.  

The Bad

I have been dealing with some numbness in my left foot when riding my bike to the point of it being somewhat painful. It’s a little embarrassing to have this pain because I felt like I knew how to deal with it, but the way I dealt with it in the past wasn’t working this time. No matter how I adjusted the cleat on my cycling shoe, I wasn’t getting any relief. I added a piece of foam padding under the insert of the shoe and it seemed to make it a little more bearable on Saturday’s ride, so I will continue to adjust that until I find some relief. The troubling aspect of it though is that it has also been carrying over to my running. The shoes I run in have about 250 miles on them but don’t really feel worn out. On Sunday’s 10-mile run, I broke out a new pair of running shoes, and although the pain was much less it wasn’t gone. I’ll give it some time.

Sunday I was determined not to miss breakfast. I have been missing out on pancakes and sausage/bacon on the weekends too often because of training and I wasn’t settling for that on Sunday. As usual, Kari’s pancakes were outstanding, and I left feeling very satisfied. But I think it affected my run a little as I was somewhat laboring through the first four miles or so. Whatever. The pancakes were outstanding.

It was the swim for me this week that was the main “bad” part of training. On Thursday, I attempted a swim after pushing pretty hard through a bike ride. I was getting some cramps in my calves on the ride, so I decided that this swim would need the pull buoy to take kicking out of the equation. It didn’t matter because about 10-minutes into the swim my left calf cramped up with one of the worst Charley Horse-type cramps that I can remember. I pulled the plug on the swim and limped around on a sore calf for the rest of the day. I already do the bare minimum for swimming just putting in two 30-minute swims a week, so maybe it’s time to rethink that. I may move swimming to the off-day Monday to remove it from a post-run or post-bike workout during the week. Maybe an hour-long swim with some drills and intervals added may be a better idea. I don’t like swimming.

The Ugly

During the group ride, we had to deal with a jerk in a minivan. Apparently, he couldn’t stand being inconvenienced for a few seconds by some cyclists. He hit the gas, squealed his tires, beeped his horn, and tore off around us like we should not be on his road. People can really suck sometimes. He’ll get his karma someday. Hopefully sooner rather than later. I ride with a front and rear flashing light/camera device. Here are the videos:

From my rear camera

From the front camera

Swims: 1 – 510 yards

Rides: 3 – 109 miles

Runs: 5 – 32 miles

Vacation Overrules Training

2021 IRONMAN CHATTANOOGA TRAINING

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WEEK 18 – July 4, 2021

Happy Fourth of July!

The week preceding Independence Day was my family’s vacation week in Wisconsin at the lake home. I ended last week up here too, but looked forward to a great week of training with some awesome weather and some different scenery than what I am used to.

After my rest day on Monday I got in a nice open water swim in the lake. The wetsuit hadn’t been used in over a year, but I got it on with only some minor contortions and struggles.

Nice and calm water was like swimming in the pool.

This was an easy training week according to the plan, ending with an Olympic distance race. So Wednesday’s bike/run brick was about the hardest part of it. On Thursday I began my swim workout in the lake again and during the swim I decided why not just make this the Olympic distance race practice instead of doing it on the Fourth. So I turned around and headed back to the dock, finishing right at 1500 meters.

Since I hadn’t planned to do the mock race I had to go upstairs and gather some junk to do the ride. I needed a tri top, water bottle, a gel or two and get my bike ready. So transition took a little longer than usual, but I was soon on the bike heading to St. Germain.

Once back from the bike I opted to switch to a running shirt and drink a Gatorade that my wife was kind enough to have ready for me. Out the door and off at a pretty strong pace had me a little wiped out around 3.5 miles into the run, but a few stops to wait for traffic allowed me to catch my breath and find a comfortable pace.

Not bad times for a non-race practice Olympic triathlon.

At home and done meant a cool down jump in the lake, which is always refreshing. I decided right there and then that my week was over on a Thursday and it was time to take a mental break from training for the rest of the week. And that’s exactly what I did.

Time to forget about training for three days and enjoy some family time and fun on the lake. And wear a silly hat.

Swims: 2 – 3554 yards

Rides: 2 – 38 miles

Runs: 3 – 16 miles

Race day is in 12 more Sundays

Ins and Outs of Week 17

2021 IRONMAN CHATTANOOGA TRAINING

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WEEK 17 – June 27, 2021

Week 17 was a little different than the usual “here’s the workout – go do it.” I had to change some things up a bit.

Monday and Tuesday went as planned. Wednesday I participated in my department’s leg of the Torch Run, benefiting the Illinois Special Olympics. So I biked to work, ran with the gang, and then biked home again. A little bit more than the usual bike/run brick.

I have no idea why I decided to kneel. Always got to be different, I guess.

On Thursday my in-laws arrived to join us for a vacation trip, so I had guests to entertain, and it was stormy in the afternoon. I decided that riding and swimming in a thunderstorm was probably not the best idea, so I bagged Thursday.

Friday I got in my planned run and felt really good. It was a cool and humid run, but not as bad as the 90’s we had been dealing with.

Saturday was a day for travel to our place in Minocqua, Wisconsin. Lots of busy work to take care of so I skipped another workout. But Sunday I made up for it by having a great brick workout of 3.5 hours of biking and a half hour run. I had a beautiful and cool day for it. I chose to ride the road out to St. Germain and then hit the paved trails they have there to head further north.

All was going great and at at an hour and 45 minutes I turned around to head back, except I was not sure where the connecting trail was after going around this little wooded lake. Fortunately I remembered that my GPS watch had a track back feature and once I figured out how to access it I was all set. Except I didn’t understand how to go the direction I was supposed to go.

So off I went in the direction I thought I needed to go but it would tell me that I was off course. So I would turn around and ride the other way until it told me that I was off course again! What was I doing wrong?

I really wanted to go down this nice trail but my watch said NO!

I finally passed a trail that I had kept missing because I was riding in a direction that kept me from seeing it. Oh well, I got back on the right trail, hit the gas and pulled into the driveway at exactly 3.5 hours.

The track back feature was pretty impressive and I’m sure I will use it again if I ever find myself not knowing how to get back.

Swims: 1 – 1500 yards

Bikes: 3 – 73 miles

Runs: 4 – 23 miles

Grading Myself

2021 IRONMAN CHATTANOOGA TRAINING

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WEEK 16 – June 20, 2021

Happy Father’s Day!  

I was enjoying the company of my children on this humid Father’s Day and was proud of how their young lives had turned out so far. I know my wife deserves most of the credit because she is an awesome mother, but I would like to think that I had done pretty well as a role model too.

My son was discussing his recent workouts and how he was just hoping to get “B’s” on them. Which prompted me to ask why was he getting B’s on his runs?  I would have thought that he would not have been happy with any effort that wasn’t an A.  Ben and his girlfriend Emily usually are pretty high achievers regarding their running and to give himself a B seemed like he was being a little too hard on himself.

I thought about the 10-mile run I had done earlier in the day and wondered how I would score it. Ben asked if I thought I had met the goals of the workout. Did I do the distance or time I intended to do? Yes, I did ten miles in about 93 minutes. Did I run at the effort I hoped to run? Sure did, I managed to keep myself in the zone that I had intended. And did I feel good afterward? I guess so, I wasn’t too beat or too dehydrated and had a sense of accomplishment of getting in ten miles on a day in which I was soaked to the bone from the humidity. So I guess I get an A. Yay!

But do all of my workouts get A’s? I don’t think they do. I sometimes will push out of the zone or do more or less of the workout than the plan calls for, so for those instances, I guess maybe grading myself after the workout may be beneficial. Or at least think about the grade I want prior to doing the workout. If you are looking for A’s every time, then thinking about the objectives of the run or bike workout prior to doing it may be a smart move.

Ben and Emily were happy with B’s because being new homeowners and having busy work lives were making their run efforts take a backseat to the more important things at hand. And they don’t really have many running goals right now, so just putting in some miles and getting by with a B was working for them.

I’m going to be looking to get some more A’s in the weeks to come.

Swims:  2 – 2600 yards

Bikes:  3 –  87 miles

Runs:  5 –  30 miles

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Limping It In At The Half-way Point

2021 IRONMAN CHATTANOOGA TRAINING

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WEEK 15 – June 13, 2021

Nothing makes a summer go by quicker than training for an Ironman.  Fifteen weeks are in the books and it went by in the blink of an eye.  Being halfway through the training plan is definitely a milestone, but it’s only halfway in time only.  The workload in the first fifteen weeks are pretty tame compared to what is coming in the second fifteen weeks.  There’s a lot of work yet to do.

I was cruising along just fine this week until Thursday, when I had a trip to the dentist to have a couple of old fillings replaced and to add to college fund for his kids.  Later that day I suffered through a 24-hour stomach bug which kept me from work on Friday.  On Saturday, I declared myself fine and geared up to go on a four-hour ride on a hot day and paid for it.  I was not nearly recovered enough from the dehydration from being sick and once again weakened myself.  I felt fine enough, but after a dinner of some Mexican food (I don’t make good decisions), the stomach bug thing seemed to make a come back.  It knocked me down again and I was unable to function on Sunday.  I got up and put on my running gear, foolishly thinking that I could go run for 90-minutes, but I could barely keep awake.  Instead of getting in that Sunday long run, I opted to watch four hours of the French Open.  That wore me out, too!

So, I finished the first half of the plan with a little bit of a dud, but I am determined to bounce back.  I’m looking forward to the remaining summer of training and hoping that it doesn’t go buy so quickly that I miss the summer.

Swims:  2 – 3000 yards

Bikes:  3 –  101 miles

Runs:  2 –  11 miles

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Week 14 Hitting Hard

2021 IRONMAN CHATTANOOGA TRAINING

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WEEK 14 – June 6, 2021

Most of my subject matter for these weekly write-ups comes from the long Saturday bike ride.  That’s when I do most of my thinking, as I sit on a bike and sweat through 3.5 hours of riding.  But when I sit down on Sunday to wrap up the week, I sometimes can’t recall anything about what I was thinking about on the previous days’ ride.

There were a couple of notable things about this week. I added an 8.5 mile run on my off-day Monday because I was traveling last Sunday and decided to push it to Monday, so Week 13 is short one run, and Week 14 added an extra one. Not a big deal, but that meant I would be doing back-to-back run days.

On Thursday, I raced a 5K, which beat me up a little. And also lead to moving a planned ride to Friday, which would precede the long ride on Saturday. So basically, I was messing with the structure of the plan and screwing up built-in recovery between bike and run efforts. On Saturday, I could feel some fatigue in my thighs when I started.

I made a couple of tactical mistakes on Saturday. The ride was to be 3.5 hours long, so I needed to ride out for an hour and 45-minutes, but thankfully the wind was in my face heading out, so I figured I’d add an extra 5-minutes into the wind to compensate for the easier and faster return trip. That was a pretty good estimation, but as I kept hitting 20mph riding back home I thought I would need to add a little more extra time to the return trip. As I got closer to home I could tell that I should have skipped the extra couple of miles. I finished the ride in 3:37 instead of 3:30. Again, not a big deal, but I realized that if I ever need to add on to make time, it’s better to do it nearer to home instead of out in the middle of the ride.

The second mistake was not drinking enough to replace what I was sweating out. It was a hot day, and although I thought I was drinking enough, I really wasn’t. I have to learn this lesson over and over every time I train for an Ironman. When I finished the 61-mile ride, I was suffering and was contemplating skipping the 30-minute run that I was supposed to do. Somehow I found the strength to get it done. Afterward, I wondered and marveled at how I was able to handle the heat at the 2019 Ironman Chattanooga, which was a much longer day in much tougher heat. I guess that is what training, building, and acclimating are for. Live and learn, and drink more!!!

~~~

I have to brag on my son Ben for a minute. He came down for a visit on Friday and mentioned that he thought about running the 5K that I had run but instead, he opted to run a 3K (I know, weird distance) in Rockford because there was a $300 prize for the winner like he was sure that he could win. He won and later said it was an easy win. 5:08 min/mile pace is what he averaged. I wish I had some of that speed! Well done, son!

Swims:  2 – 3000 yards

Bikes:  3 –  92 miles

Runs:  6 –  33 miles

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I’m In The Cool Kids Club

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WEEK 9 – May 2, 2021

This week I received a validation of sorts for my participation in the sport of running. It wasn’t in the form of a medal or seeing my name or picture in the paper, or a job well done from my running peers. No, it came in the form of a laughing emoji. I was Benfer-ed. Jane Benfer-ed.

I belong to a trail-running Facebook page and responded with an answer to a question about running shorts, as the poster was looking for suggestions. When I was mindlessly looking at my notifications later on I was surprised to see this:

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Who the heck is Jane Benfer you ask? Well, in the long-distance running world Jane Benfer is somewhat of a troublemaker. She’s a troll. And she trolls by reacting to running posts on Facebook with a laughing emoji. She’ll occasionally rant about some running-related topic as well. She likes to claim that marathons, ultras, and other running-related events are faked. I’m not sure what set her on the path of belittling others, but she has become slightly legendary.

Jane Benfer’s real name is Risa Reid, an ultra runner (or a former one) herself albeit someone with a little notoriety. The running community is somewhat divided over her. There are Facebook pages of devotees and Twitter followers looking for a laugh, but most believe that she is either harmless or has some mental health issues.

I guess there’s no harm about someone doling out laughing emoji’s to posts, but sometimes she will take to stalking someone and follow their page and fill it with her dumb laughing emoji. Some will block her, others will report her, and even I have reservations about even using her name much like that of Harry Potter and “He Who Must Not Be Named.” I’m kind of crossing my fingers that I don’t become a target as I write and post this blog.  

I messaged my runner friend Jodi and she reacted as if it was the most awesome thing that could happen to me. She’s been Benfer-ed too.  I guess that I can laugh it off and count it as a sort of initiation into the cool kids club, but it kind of made me paranoid, and I will definitely be checking my posts to see who reacted with a laughing emoji from now on.  It’s a weird feeling being Benfer-ed.

~~~

It’s now May and a couple of friends with pools have already opened their pools. I think that I will do that soon. If I wait too long I will be dealing with a black lagoon again.  But I’m resisting opening it because that will just mean that I will start having to do swim workouts.  

I’m still dealing with a little bit of a strained calf, although I got through most of my runs this week without too much issue. It flared up again on Tuesday, but it was fine for the 1.5-mile run I did on Wednesday. On Friday, I slowed my usual training pace of 8:45 min/mile to roughly 10 min/mile and I had no problems with it. The long run of 8.5 miles on Sunday also went well, albeit at a nice leisurely pace.  I did replace my shoes with a new pair, so that may also help me.  The Rincon’s I was running in lack the cushioning that the Clifton’s possess.  I hope it heals up and is normal again soon. I want to race some sprints and 5K’s this year.

Shout out to a couple of friends I saw out on the trail Sunday:  Hey Karen!  I hope you enjoyed that windy Sunday ride with the group.  And another big hello to Laura McGivern, who was walking in the forest preserve with a group and gave me an emphatic hello!  

And if Jane Benfer wants to deny that I did my Sunday run, I’m sure both Karen and Laura will vouch for me.

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Swims:  0

Bikes:  3 rides, 73.5 miles

Runs:  4 runs, 23 miles

 

I Can’t Remember

2021 IRONMAN CHATTANOOGA TRAINING

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WEEK 6 – April 11, 2021

I am fortunate to have supportive family and friends who take an interest in my pursuit of my Ironman goals, but I have one friend in particular that I call my Number 1 Fan – Carl. Carl is the one friend that takes the passing interest to a much higher level. He not only wants to know what workout I did but needs to know the details as well. I’m glad to accommodate him as it allows me to brag about myself for a few minutes, except most of the time I can’t remember.

Carl: What did you do yesterday, Ironman?

Me: umm… a bike ride? Yeah, a bike ride.

Carl: How far did you go?

Me: umm… I rode for an hour.

Carl: How far is that?

Me: umm… let me look it up.

My Number 1 Fan Carl wondering why I can’t remember the details.

I don’t mind providing the details, but it’s interesting to me that once I get the workout done I kind of move on from it. It’s not that I don’t want to remember what I did as I train, but during a 30-week build to a race, it just all blends together somewhat. I certainly make an effort to document it. The workouts all get recorded by my Garmin watch and phone app. And I write a summary each week so that I can look back and spark my memory of the journey I am on. But sometimes it’s just a workout, nothing more and nothing less.

I am working on writing a post about all the races I have participated in since I started running in the 1980s. It’s taking me a while to go through my handwritten running log and find the entries. I am finding with that trip through the past that I can recall details about some of the long-ago races pretty clearly. It must be something about racing that makes you remember, something that creates a stored memory. I can also remember certain runs when something out of the ordinary happens, like a fall, or getting chased by a dog, getting caught in a storm, etc. But when the workout is spinning on a stationary bike for 60 minutes and thumbing through Facebook while doing it for the 200th time, it just simply becomes part of the day without creating anything special about it. Maybe that will have a cumulative effect in that I will remember doing those workouts as a whole rather than the details that went into them.

I can remember many of the details of running on the Green Bay Trail in the 1990s: where I began and ended my runs, the street crossings, the portion through Ravinia. But if I looked at my log and saw that I ran 8 miles in 60 minutes that day, I will have to take my word for it. I don’t remember it.

I have logged many miles on the Old Plank Trail, so many in fact that I sometimes say that I know every little dip, bump, and distinctive trait of the trail. I know which houses have a dog that barks at me. I know when to move to the left to avoid the divot in the trail as I head north up the path and over the bridge. Those memories are solid, and I rely on them quite a bit. But I guess our brains can’t store every single detail about each workout. I mean, how much of the mundane can you remember? Do you remember what you had for lunch yesterday? Probably not. Do you remember your 21st birthday? More than likely, because turning 21 is a memorable milestone. But do you remember your 22nd birthday? I don’t.

Am I supposed to make each run, bike or swim a memorable one? I’m not sure if that is even possible. Frankly, I think trying to concentrate and remember every detail would most likely wear me out mentally. But I am glad to have pretty clear memories of those workouts that do have something memorable happen.

I guess that I am lucky to have my Number 1 Fan pry those little details from me. Maybe I will remember more of them thanks to Carl. But I can promise you this – although I may not remember every little detail a day, a week or a years later, I will always remember my Number 1 Fan asking me about my workouts. Thanks, Carl.

Swims: 0

Bikes: 3 rides – 63 miles

Runs: 5 runs – 30 miles

Week 6 is in the books. 1/5th of the way done.