IRONMAN TRAINING IN THE TIME OF PANDEMIC – PART XIV
A few weeks ago I talked about how my bike was making some clicks, groans, and other annoying noises that I should probably address before they become bigger issues, and as I rode this week it seemed like they were really noisy to me, so I decided to see if I could figure some of them out. I had heard some people say that the bike shops have 2-3 week backlogs in servicing bikes due to the shops dealing with Covid-19 crazy people who all of a sudden need to have their bikes fixed so that they can ride during the pandemic. I figured that I have enough skill to handle fixing a bike. It’s not a car for Pete’s sake. What’s the worst that can happen?
Since most bike noises are bearing related and usually just require some cleaning and repacking with grease, the front fork seemed like it would be a good starting point and something I could easily tackle before I attempt to deal with the chain, derailleur, bottom bracket, and wheel axles. I probably shouldn’t have.
I often say that I am handy enough to be dangerous. I know I’m not my father. My dad was a “jack-of-all-trades” kind of guy, and a master of many. He could pretty much do anything. He wasn’t afraid to build an addition to the house, or put on a new roof, or build a small shed/barn. And as a pipeline welder, he was pretty skilled. He always said that he could weld anything – anything except a broken heart and a butt crack. That always got a chuckle out of me as a kid. He also had another saying though – “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I think every dad probably has said that. That is pretty good advice.
Technically, my front fork wasn’t broken, but I felt that if I let the popping sound I heard when I turned the handlebars go for too long it could lead to something bad. So disassembly began by unscrewing a bolt that holds a plastic cap on over the top stem of the fork and covers a couple of bolts that are responsible for holding the handlebars on. Yes, two bolts clamp the aero bars to the fork. Not bolt the bars to the fork, but clamp them to it. You would think that would not be enough to handle the forces that I apply to the bars while riding but somehow they do. Then the fun began.
Side view uh oh…
Two metal spacer pieces needed to come off and they decided to be a giant pain in the ass. As I tried my best to not mar them up with pliers, I twisted them back and forth to loosen them and move them up and off the top of the fork. But they didn’t really want to come off by twisting. Time to apply a little “persuasion”, and I grabbed a rubber mallet. That seemed to be working but with every blow to the fork, I was extremely nervous about damaging a very expensive carbon fiber bike frame and fork. I eventually graduated to using a big screwdriver and prying in my attempt to remove them. The top one came off pretty easily but the second one required a lot more work but eventually relented and came off. Under the second one there was another piece that the bearings seemed to be attached to and it for sure wasn’t budging any further. It was awkwardly shaped enough that any tool I had really wasn’t effective. So I decided that maybe I should stop before I break something really expensive and admit defeat. With a couple inches of play now I had room to at least clean the areas where the bearing housing sits on the frame on both the top and underside of the frame, added a dab of grease to the area, and claimed a minor victory. Then I tried to put it back together. It was at this point I realized that I should have let a sleeping dog lay, and never messed with it in the first place. More persuasion with the rubber mallet took place, a pinched finger resulting in a pretty good blood blister occurred, some touch-up paint applied to my now badly scratched up spacers, and with some patience which I don’t normally have, I got the thing back together.
In the end, things seem to have turned out okay. I relearned that some jobs should probably be left to the pros no matter how long it takes. And by some stroke of luck, I no longer hear the loud click when I turn the handlebars.
The rest of the week went a little like this:
I opted to do the Monday hour-long swim instead of doing a 30-minute swim on Tuesday and Thursday. It went okay, but it did wear me out a little. I think I may alternate my swims by doing one hour-long swim one week and do the two 30-minute swims the next week. I think it may be beneficial to get used to that hour of suffering. And I wasn’t too bored to death.
My Saturday three and a half long ride started out okay but ended kind of bad. The wind direction was favorable for a change and I got at it early (around 6:45am) to beat the heat and the crowded trails. I had plenty of fuel and water and was hydrating well, but around 2.5 hours into it I could feel the bonk coming on and the heat was getting to me. But just 10 minutes after that my rear tire went flat just like a week ago. Not sure what caused it, probably a pinch flat. Fortunately, there was a shady, grassy area nearby and I took my time to recover a little while I changed the tube. When the job was done I got back to riding but I wasn’t in a good place. About 15 minutes from home I rolled by a newly built home that wasn’t yet occupied and refilled my water bottle with cold water from the hose bib. When I got home I skipped the 30-minute post-ride brick run and opted to rehydrate and cool off in the pool. I basically staggered into the pool. After a nap and some lunch, I felt good enough to do an easy 30 minutes of jogging.
I think the bonk was the result of dehydration and a little bit of heat exhaustion. I was drinking, had salt capsules and really wasn’t overdoing it. I just wasn’t exceeding my sweat rate with water consumption, I guess. And the heat was just adding to the issue. I did 2019 Ironman Chattanooga in 13:37 with 95 degree temps that felt hotter and did not feel like this. Training is not just doing the workout; it’s not just swimming, biking, and running. It’s also about learning to recognize the external factors and adapting, too.
The Tuesday run was fine and I texted my Gunner teammates that it felt effortless. Wednesday’s bike/run brick wasn’t so effortless though. I think I jinxed myself. On Friday I ran for an hour and it called for 7.5 minutes of Z4 after 45 minutes. I did fine on that but I think intervals longer than 3 minutes are tough for me to do because my mind will eventually wander, and my tempo will fall off and then all of a sudden I will realize – “Oh Yeah! I’m supposed to be running hard right now!” I’d rather do 2 X 3.5-minute repeats with a minute jog in between. My mind can handle that I think.
IRONMAN TRAINING IN THE TIME OF PANDEMIC – PART XIII
Most of my inspiration for the topics for this post comes from the time I am in the saddle riding my long Saturday rides and trust me, I’m doing a lot of thinking on those three-hour-long or more rides. This week is no different. Here some thoughts and things that happened this week.
I should have kept the Ironman-O-Meter from last week turned on this week and asked it if I was I going to keep riding the same old route out west of home to Elwood because I was getting a little tired of doing that route, and sure enough I changed it up this week and rode east on the bike trail to head south toward Peotone and then west from there. I usually ride the Elwood route on training days of less than 3 hours as it takes less than 1.5 hours to get there. I can ride much farther on the other route. I’m sure I will get sick of that pretty soon in the seventeen weeks that are left too. But it was a nice change of pace that refreshed my mind.
As I was riding the Old Plank Trail that heads east I quickly became perturbed at the amount of inconsiderate users that were starting to dominate the trail. They walk three or more wide, they ride in groups and pass with oncoming riders, and that’s just a few complaints. It used to be dominated by the regulars like me who put fear into those who came out on the trail, but how the tables have turned. When I first started triathlons and began riding a lot I was very glad to have the trail available to me, but soon realized that it wasn’t very safe for me to be on it. Too many people not following the few simple trail rules so that we can all get by without impacting each other. I soon realized that I felt safer riding on the roads than I was on the trail. I’m fortunate to live in an area of Chicagoland where north of me has everything the city can offer, and immediately south of me is pretty much a farmer’s paradise. I just need to find a quiet set of streets to get me to where I need to go without using the OPT. Sad that a cyclist doesn’t want to bike on a bike trail.
I was very fortunate to be about 1/10th of a mile from home when my rear tire started going down. I heard a pop and some hissing just as I was getting to my road and was able to coast it easy back home. Inspection of the tire revealed a small rock to have punctured the sidewall all the way through to the tube. I guess it’s time to switch to the new Continental 5000’s that I have been avoiding.
Thursday was an interesting day. I work as a non-sworn employee in a police department and we did the Torch Run as a group. Several of us had done it already virtually, as was suggested by the event organization, so for me, this was just to join the gang and be part of the team. Or to please the chief.
It was a bike day so I decided to bike to work, change into running shoes and then run and ride back home. We all did the required two miles, but I decided to add a third time trial mile just to see where my short distance speed stands since all I ever do is easy paced distance running. I turned a 6:35 mile and was pleasantly surprised. I think if I just focused on speed I could probably get under 6 minutes for a mile if I pushed hard. But that is not my goal right now, and I shouldn’t do dumb things.
Swimming is going well and I feel like I am getting more comfortable and stronger in the water, but I am thinking of maybe doing an hour-long swim on my Monday rest day instead of doing the Tu-Thu 30-minute swims. Monday seems like it needs something, and having to swim after a bike or run always gives me leg and foot cramps. I will consider it. Sixty minutes is a long time to be bored to death swimming back and forth in the pool. Swimming sucks.
My Sunday long run ended the week with a nice conversation with a couple other runners I met along the way. Mary and her husband Chris were both wearing Ironman visors as was I and we quickly started talking about Ironman and what races we were doing and what we thought was going to happen. I was surprised she knew of my son and it was a nice change to have someone to run at my pace and talk with. Super nice people. We ran for about 2-3 miles together and then went our separate ways.
One last thought that I have been thinking about this week is my commitment to training for Ironman Louisville in October as I have been doing this past thirteen weeks and what will I do if it gets canceled. I have said since the Covid-19 thing started that I will train like it is going to happen, and that hasn’t changed. Ironman has not yet been told by the City of Louisville to cancel the race. However, I drew a line in the sand this week. If the race does get canceled before the midway point of Week 15, then I will stop following the plan for Ironman and just spend my week swimming, biking, and running as I see fit. I will probably shift my focus to more long-distance running and restart my training for the elimination ultra-marathon that got moved from April to October. However, if the race is still on after I pass Week 15, I will continue to train for it. If the event then does get canceled for 2020 before race day, then I will try to do it on my own at home or up at the lake house in Minocqua sometime around Week 27 or 28 in the training plan. I would hate to see twenty or more weeks of training be for nothing, so that is the plan. Maybe I can talk my Gunner buddies into doing it with me. The Gunner Ironman! I’ve already got the t-shirt theme for it:
IRONMAN TRAINING IN THE TIME OF PANDEMIC – PART VI
Keeping in step with my new motto from last week, I gave myself a day to think about what to write today. My personal desire was to have a somewhat angry counterpoint to a few articles in the Chicago Tribune this past week or two shaming runners for their behavior during the coronavirus outbreak. (If you want to read them, I posted some links at the bottom of this post.) But I have decided to address them and then move on.
In essence, the beef with runners is that we are not following the social distancing rules in the minds of those that have swarmed to the places we run to take up space where we had plenty of room to exercise before. When the stay-at-home mandate took effect, we were told that we could go outside and exercise but only if we maintained social distancing. So what did non-exercisers do? They came in droves to the trails with their families and pets. The almost immediate effect of all those people now joining the regulars on the bike and running paths resulted in the complete shutdown of some of those places. Thanks to the non-regulars, we regular users of the paths were forced off.
I read another article about rats starting to move away from their normal hangouts behind restaurants and groceries where dumpsters normally overflow with tossed food scraps in search of food that is no longer being tossed. Funny how animal behavior changes when they are fighting to survive. And just like the rats, runners had to find other places to run since the non-runners ruined our ability to exercise away from the busy streets and sidewalks. And now they don’t like us anywhere.
When did we runners become villains? For the most part, we are some of the most healthy people on the planet. We run for charities, raising millions of dollars for worthy causes. We support new runners attempting to reach their running goals. Many of the running and cycling clothing companies have switched their focus to making masks for healthcare workers and frontline personnel. Some runners and cyclists even do their activity as a way to commute to and from work, helping reduce the impact of driving on the environment. For the most part, we are good, upstanding citizens.
Maybe it’s envy. I get that from time to time. Because I enjoy running or biking mile after mile and they don’t, they want to make sure that they think it is a dumb endeavor. “That’s crazy.” “I wouldn’t even want to drive that far.” “What’s wrong with you?” “Run, Forrest, run!” (That’s a put-down, not a cheer most of the time.)
Who knows really why there’s a division being drawn? I certainly don’t know. I think people just like to bitch about stuff. What I do know is that I’m not going to let some non-regulars keep me from doing my activity.
Anyway… here’s a picture of our new family dog! He’s a good boy! And he takes my mind off of the stuff that gets me riled.
TOTALS FOR WEEK 6:
Swim: 0 / 0 yards
Bike: 4 rides / 70.2 miles
Run: 4 runs / 22 miles
Here’s the links to the articles. What are your thoughts?
While on my 27-mile bike ride on the local bike trail Saturday I had constructed a profanity-laced diatribe for this post about the idiots out on the trail, complete with f-bombs and venting that would make a sailor blush. Although the windy day was the main reason I opted to ride the trail, I usually avoid it. Too many people not being considerate to others by not following the simplest trail usage rules is what really gets me ticked off. And now that the self-isolating, stir crazy, cabin fever locals have decided to head to the trail it’s become overrun with people who just can’t seem to think about anyone but themselves. Then I gave it a day and now I’m writing a completely different weekly wrap-up than what I had planned.
I have found that when I get upset about something if I just give it a day’s rest, I often feel less angry and more forgiving. I’ve also read that those who have been wronged in some way or another, being forgiving often leads to feeling relieved. So one day after feeling like I wanted to run over people for walking on the wrong side of the trail, and punching pet owners letting their dogs roam free while holding their leash in their hands, I chose to let it go. And I feel better about it.
I have a local runner friend who developed a running-related injury and from his Facebook post, you could tell it was something that he was upset about. So far this year, the work he had been doing as an ambassador for the Illinois Marathon had been for naught, as the race has been canceled thanks to the viral pandemic. He was also planning on running the race, too. And now one of his coping mechanisms was letting him down. Give it a day, my friend. Maybe give it a week or month if you have to. But in time you will be back to running, and your marathon will return too.
This week was a wild one. We had two accumulating snow events this mid-April. A day after each one the snow was gone. The week ended with a beautiful 60-degree sunny day. Give it a day and things get better.
Lots of changes have been occurring to our lifestyles in 2020, and sometimes I think we just need to give it a day. And maybe another day. Or a week. In some cases a month. But we will return to normal.
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.
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