56 years, 2 months, and 16 days into my life I found out that I actually like cross country skiing!
Now this isn’t my first attempt at XC skiing. Kari and I bought some skis for ourselves Christmas 1992. We took them out to the local park and fell down numerous times and had some fun. We got busy with our young lives together, having kids and moving that most of the time the skis were tossed up into the attic and forgotten about. We tried again shortly after moving into our current home, probably around 2001, but after trying them out on a very difficult place to ski, we brought them home and put them back into the attic again.
Flash ahead to February 2019 we decided to haul them up to our lake home in upper Wisconsin and give them a try up there, a place where winter is serious about being winter. We drove to a place called Minocqua Winter Park where they have numerous groomed trails. However that day the park was hosting a XC ski race, a marathon actually, and after deciding we’d be too embarrassed in front of this group of people we opted to head home and try them out on our frozen lake. That went well until I fell and my 25 year old ski boots ripped apart in the most comical way. The boot literally ripped itself from the sole and left the sole on the ski that was quickly skiing far away from me!
We came up north on January 1st, 2020 to spend some time before the holidays were over and tried to give XC skiing another go. I think we were all a little nervous when we got there, but we checked in and strapped on the skis and found the easiest trail we could find. We all struggled a little at first and there were a few falls, but we quickly got the hang of it and off we went.
Ashley seemed to struggle a little more than the rest of us, falling on her tush enough times that she was having some pain with that. So Kari and her headed back to the chalet and Rebecca and I attempted to complete the loop.
I forgot to start my watch’s XC ski app right when we started, but I did hit the start button after about 15 minutes of skiing. When Rebecca and I got back we had gone a little over 3.5 miles in an hour and twenty-one minutes. After reuniting with Kari and Ashley and finding out that Ashley was feeling pretty sore after falling so much, we packed it in and headed home for some much deserved hot chocolate. I can’t wait to go back!
The family was up north in Minocqua for Thanksgiving and four of us decided that doing the local turkey trot would be fun. Ben had already looked at the previous results from last year and figured he could easily beat the winner’s time by a couple of minutes. I was glad to see we could save a few bucks by signing up as a family, $90 for the four of us instead of $30 each on race day! What we hadn’t planned on was the snowstorm the day before.
The snowstorm caused the race director to alter the course and eliminate the trail portion of the run. The course was now changed to an out and back. The town took care of the snow for the most part, but the sidewalk and the streets we would run on still had some snow. Fortunately, due to the sand they throw around up there on the streets, the footing was pretty good.
So we all showed up, registered and then Kari and I went back to the car to keep warm while the real runners, Ben and Emily, went for a pre-race warm-up.
The start time approached and we all started gathering around the start banner. Ben had keyed on a kid wearing a Ripon College cross country shirt and figured he would stay with him until the end and out-kick him. Emily joined me and said she was going to run easy, which meant to go my pace, and I was glad to have the company. Kari took her spot away from the front and then the countdown began. 8… 7… 6… I hate when they do this because some guy always will jump the gun and go on 1, but here we were. 1… GO!
The race start was narrow and fed us almost immediately into a more narrow sidewalk, and that is when the festive mood of the race changed for me. A woman runner started to run almost directly at me from the left and I thought she was going to run into me so I held my arm up and kept her from bowling me over.
“YOU SHOVED ME, YOU ASSHOLE!”
For the record, I didn’t shove her. She didn’t even lose her balance. She just didn’t get to run into me like she was about to do. I explained to her that I was just keeping her from knocking me down, but damn, she was angry enough about it to call me an asshole. But now I was a little miffed. When you are a slow runner you shouldn’t be starting at the front of the race where the faster runners belong, and if you are going to cut someone off you better understand that the person you are cutting off isn’t going to like it. Why can’t these races just be fun and not end up with some weird, screwed-up occurrence? Happy Thanksgiving to you too, lady.
So with that incident on my mind, I tried to find a comfortable pace to run and try not to slip and fall on the snow-covered sidewalk. Emily and I made our way to the side street and to the turnaround point without any further issues. There were a couple of younger guys ahead of me wearing turkey outfits and I decided that I didn’t want to get beat by a couple of turkeys, so I started working on pulling them in. Emily had also decided to push ahead and leave me in her snowy dust. The first turkey I caught pretty quickly but it wasn’t until about a half-mile left of the race that I caught the second one. Another runner was ahead of me and I passed him as I was starting my last all-out kick, but he still had a kick left and then blew past me and started racing a high school kid up ahead that we were getting close to. I finished alone without any further challenges.
I looked at my watch and saw that the GPS recorded a distance of 2.90 miles and Ben and Emily said the same. The course was a little short, but no big deal.
Being called an “asshole” aside, it was a pretty good race for all four of us. Ben implemented his race plan and waited until 20 feet left to take the air out of the other kid and beat him by a second, winning the race. I think Ben enjoyed toying with his prey until the final moments. He won’t deny it. Emily was also first on the women’s side and both of them got turkeys for their wins. Kari was also on the podium with a 3rd place in her age group.
When we got home I was explaining to everyone what I did to get called an “asshole” and I demonstrated what she did with my daughter Rebecca. As I got close to Rebecca she instinctively put her arm up to keep me from running into her. There, I am vindicated!
Training while on vacation can be challenging, mainly because you want to be doing vacation stuff instead of training stuff. But fortunately for me, my family has a lake home in northern Wisconsin that allows me the opportunity to do open water swims, and run and bike on a beautiful trail. I can’t complain about that.
The training you do during the week while training for an Ironman is pretty unremarkable, and I find that the only thing I really remember about them when Sunday comes and I write this wrap up is the Saturday long bike ride. This week’s ride took place on the Bearskin Trail in Oneida County, Wisconsin, which is an old rail-to-trail conversion path. I have used this trail for most of my rides when I am up north because it offers lots of beautiful scenery and it is awesome.
I really had to motivate myself to do this ride. I was almost mad about it, but when I got to the trail, I realized how lucky I am to have this beautiful trail available to me. The ride was to be four hours long and just like the ride I did in 2017 when training for Ironman Louisville, I got to the 2-hour turn around point I decided to go just a little longer to hit 30 miles before turning around. I was feeling great, but I was getting low on water so I decided to ride by a couple of county buildings but found no outdoor water spigots. I rode a little further and found the Nokomis Fire Department building and a firefighter let me in to refill my bottles. Very thankful for that.
As I got to the three-hour mark I started to bonk. Not sure why that happened, as I was using gels and feeling good up to that point. But I limped it home in four hours and twenty minutes. Not exactly what the plan called for. I was also very sore from riding my hybrid bike on this crushed rock trail instead of my tri bike on the road. My muscles and butt just aren’t trained and used to that bike. I also made the mistake of trying to keep my pace on that bike equivalent to what I do at home on the roads, which caused me to push my effort pretty hard, only to manage a 14 mph average speed. It felt like I was averaging 20 mph by the effort I was putting out.
When I got home I hobbled down to the lake and waded into it while my somewhat concerned family watched. It took me a little bit to recover, but after a while, I was back to normal. They say being near the water restores the soul. It did that and a whole bunch more for me this week.
This week was somewhat light for the training plan that I follow and boy was I thankful for that. July Fourth occurred this week which meant that once my daughter marched in her last Independence Day hometown parade as a high schooler we would be off to our vacation in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. So there was travel involved and vacation and hosting lots of family at our lake home. Even with all that happening I still managed to get in most of the training.
One cool thing that happened this week is that I got my new tri kit a couple of days before leaving for vacation. I chose to go with Jakroo this time around and the kits seem to be pretty decent for a lower priced product. The best things about this company was there were no minimum orders to meet, I could design the kit myself, the prices were affordable, and the turnaround was super quick. Here’s me with the tri shorts and the cycling jersey. The shorts were size Large but were a little snug. I may order an XL if I find these uncomfortable. I did one short hour long bike ride in them and they felt okay.
The weekend called for an Olympic distance race according to the plan. Although I will race a 5K or triathlon during training I’m a little hesitant to race when training for an Ironman because I don’t want to risk crashing or otherwise injuring myself and throw away all the investment I made in training and other stuff, so I just usually do them at home on my own. And being in Minocqua offered a perfect opportunity to do just that.
First Annual Minocqua Olympic Distance Race For Chris Only Race Report
Where: Minocqua, Wisconsin
Results: 1st Place Overall – WINNER!
After a good breakfast of pancakes and bacon, I donned the wetsuit and recruited Kari to kayak next to me on the swim to keep me from being run over by one of the thousand wakeboard type boats on the lake. I’m exaggerating a little, but these obnoxious boats seem to be the boat of choice by beer drinking party animals who somehow have the money to afford such an over the top boat.
The Swim: 1562 yards / 28:49 / 1:51 per 100 yds.
Fortunately for me, I was seeded in the first wave and got ahead of the pack early. The wetsuit seemed a little restrictive for some reason, but I felt good. The water was warm, but the race director said that it was a wetsuit legal race. I decided that I would swim along the shoreline for 750 yards and then turn around, not realizing that 1500 yards didn’t quite equal 1500 meters, but it was close enough. I swam pretty comfortably and was surprised to see that I averaged under 2 mins per 100 yards, which was awesome. I reached the dock and like a dummy, I hit stop instead of the lap button, but I got it fixed quickly and I was off the change into bike gear for the ride. Nice to be first out of the water!
The Bike: 24.8 miles (40K) / 1:29:36 / 16.6 mph average
I decided that I would ride Highway J west toward St. Germain and make use of the wide bike lane on the road. I’m a little nervous about being on that road but the cars were giving me plenty of room. By a half mile into riding, I was regretting riding my hybrid bike in this race and not bringing my tri bike up to ride. My butt and left leg were bothering me and to alleviate the discomfort I shifted my butt as far back on the saddle that I could. Lots of rollers on this ride but it’s not too challenging. As I got to St. Germain I was very pleased that I was right at 12.4 miles and this out and back would be a perfect 40K. The ride back was smooth and trouble-free. Glad to average 16.6 miles on this heavy old bike. I was also very glad to be the first bike back and still in first place.
T2 – 3:21
The Run – 6.2 miles / 48:36 / 7:51 pace per mile
My back was a little sore getting off the bike but loosened up quickly. As I headed down my street I debated as to which way to run but decided to stick to my original thought of running downtown to the trail and then head back. I wasn’t planning on pushing the pace on this run because I had such a huge lead, but when I got to Hwy. 51 and saw the parade of backed up cars leaving town on the only road that takes them back south I did a little peacocking and was running hard. That was a bad decision as the pancakes were starting to wear a little thin. But I paced the out and back well, hit the water fountain a couple of times, and coasted home to a first-place finish. I kind of like winning. I might make this an annual tradition.
Ironman makes announcements all the time and I usually don’t give them much more than a quick glance. But this was shared on a couple Facebook group pages and it caught my eye:
The reason I didn’t pay much attention to it at first is that it looks like your standard “Register Now” announcement for Ironman, and I’m already signed up for it. But then I read a few comments and realized this was for a relay. Say what? An Ironman relay? NO!!!
Immediately I made up my mind that I hated this idea. A relay for Ironman? C’mon man, this shouldn’t be. Triathletes that do Ironman do them for the challenge of doing three tough events in one day, 17 hours typically. To do just one part doesn’t make any sense to me. The whole purpose of Ironman was to prove an argument as to who was the toughest athlete of three disciplines, the swimmer doing a 2.4-mile swim, the cyclist racing a century or more, or the runner running a marathon. Do all three events in one day and find out! – was the reason behind creating Ironman. (Note: It’s the runner if you are wondering. The strongest swimmer never wins the race. And if you followed Ironman Texas this weekend you witnessed Andrew Starykowicz destroy the bike course only to be caught on the run. And Daniela Ryf made up a significant time gap on the run to win the women’s title. Always bet on the runner. Unless the runner is me, then bet on my buddy Dave. Actually, always bet on Dave, he’s 3-0 in our Ironman racing.) But seriously, what are you proving by just doing one segment of the race? After the swim leg, what do you do while the rest of us are still busting our butts? I better not hear you call yourself an Ironman.
As I read through the many comments I was seeing a lot of similar reactions to this announcement and I was hitting the “like” button for every comment that I agreed with.
“Give me a break. It’s an Ironman! This cheapens it. The last thing I want is some fresh-legged relay athlete zip past me as I’m actually enduring an Ironman. Save the relays for the Olympic distance. I’m not ripping on the athletes, but the Ironman has been the one true test for individuals in triathlons. That’s the beauty of it. The individual challenge mentally and physically.”
“It’s called Ironman, not Ironmen.”
“It’s about that adversity. I’m signing up for the relay as “me” doing the swim, “myself” on the bike, and “I” for the run!”
But as I sorted through those comments others started making valid points.
“Embrace it. It is good for the preservation of the sport or these races go away. Those who do the relay many times will do the full.”
“This opens the door to people who have injuries or are thinking of working up to doing a full one day to experience it. The more people outside doing something, the better! Run your race, meet your goals and let others do the same!”
“Sad that people rip on the relay! I’ve done two full Ironmans and now knee injury. This is a great idea. And for all those who knock it, I hope you always stay injury free and continue being able to do fulls. Not everyone is that lucky!”
So now I am conflicted. I definitely will defend the tradition of the race and what it means to be an Ironman. But if we can get more people involved, I’m all for that too. I don’t really know what to expect when I will be racing Chattanooga in late September. If I see a faster cyclist fly by will I assume he’s doing the relay? When I’m gassed on the run and someone trots by like they haven’t done the previous 2.4-mile swim and the 116-mile bike ride, will that make me angry? I’m not sure. A few commenters mentioned that everyone should do the race their way and not worry about the other group. I guess I will need to focus on myself like I usually do. This is why I would make a horrible judge. If both sides made valid arguments, I wouldn’t be able to make a decision on a winner.
TRAINING FOR THE PAST TWO WEEKS
Last week was Easter and we had out of town plans, so I did some creative moving of my workouts and got the job done. And since I was out of town last weekend I didn’t have time to write my weekly wrap-up of training. So here are the details from the last two weeks.
Week 7 was jumbled around a little. I had the opportunity to run with the local running club F’NRC in a group run on Wednesday, which meant I ran twice that day. It was fun running with the group on a nice weeknight. I ended up skipping the long bike ride up north in Minocqua on Saturday, as they still had snow and ice on the bike path up there. Instead, I opted for doing the Sunday run on Saturday as I had a long drive home on Sunday with an additional trip to Valpo to take Ashley back to school.
Week 8 was looking to be a normal follow the plan training week. But the forecast for the weekend weather was terrible. A record-breaking late April snowstorm was predicted for Saturday, so I moved my Saturday 2-hour long bike ride to Friday and made it a bike/run brick, keeping my 1-hour run that was scheduled for Friday. That reminded me how tough brick workouts can be. I was pretty low on energy after that. My Gunner teammate Jeff asked this week as to when we start using gels on our weekend rides. I laughed at him because he’s a two-time Ironman and should know the answer by now, but I now found myself bonking because I didn’t remember that I should probably be adding more energy replacement into my workouts. Jeff’s not the dumb one, it’s me. At least he’s trying to be prepared for it. Although Saturday’s weather was crappy, we didn’t get anything more than a few ice pellets/sleet type stuff. I took Saturday off and had a great 1-hour run on a beautiful Sunday morning. So in all, the week ended well.
Week 7 Training Totals:
Swims: None > Rides: 2 total / 29 miles > Runs: 3 total / 22 miles
Week 8 Training Totals:
Swims: None > Rides: 3 total / 65 miles > Runs: 4 total / 23 miles
I read a recent article in Triathlete magazine that covered the subject of mental preparedness in Ironman. I have always thought that training your mind to handle the effort in training and the races was almost as vital as the physical aspect of getting your body ready to spend the more than half a day swimming, biking and running. Some of it can be very mind numbing for sure.
I find the swimming to be the most boring of the three. You are either looking at a black line at the bottom of a swimming pool, the dark murkiness of a lake, or in my case a bunch of dead bugs lying at the bottom of my pool, a constant reminder that I also need to devote time to take care of things that get neglected during training.
Running can also be boring, but you can bring music if you are so inclined. I don’t, but I do let the beauty of the area in which I run to keep me distracted from any suffering that may be going on. I jogged behind a deer on Wednesday for about a minute until it finally took notice and bounded into the woods.
I find that I don’t have the luxury of being unfocused on the bike. It’s the one discipline of triathlon in which you are required to focus. You have to constantly monitor your surroundings, your effort level, and make sure that you don’t crash. Certainly there are times when I can zone out, but something always quickly renews your focus on the bike – a bump on the road, a bug to the face, a gust of wind, etc.
Often times when someone asks about the Ironman, they only think in terms of how long it is – 140.6 miles – and are impressed that the distance can be covered under your own power. But I find that your mind easily adapts to the distance if you break it down into manageable segments. My training is 30 weeks long. That’s a long time. But when it is broken into its individual weeks, and then into each day, it is much easier to mentally handle the task. The woman who inquired about my training this week asked me about the training, and I said for Wednesday’s workout I did 45 minutes on the bike followed by a 30 minute run. A total of 75 minutes of exercise. Lots of people can do that. Break it up and it is much more manageable.
At Ironman Wisconsin in 2013, I found that I couldn’t bear to look out at the water where the swim course was being held prior to race day. It looked enormous! But on race day morning, I got in the water for the start and broke the swim up into small segments. My plan was to swim from one orange buoy to the next. On the bike it was all about riding to the next aid station where I could refill my water bottle and take on some more nutrition, then it was on to the next one. Same thing with the run – one mile at a time, one aid station to the next.
So I guess the physical training for the race is the most important aspect of completing an Ironman. But if you can train your brain to manage the race, it can make the physical portion of it much less of a burden.
Swimming in Lake Minocqua.
I volunteered as a chaperone at this past couple of weeks at band camp. Fortunately for me I was able to take the 3-6pm slot, and was still able to get my workouts done midday. The weekend was spent in Minocqua with the family. I felt the need to be with the family and spend quality time that is no longer a given. My son has his own job and is living out of state. And my middle daughter will begin her sophomore year at college soon. So to have everyone together for two short days was a luxury that I couldn’t pass up. So I skipped the scheduled four hour bike ride. But I was able to get an open water lake swim in as well as the two hour Sunday run. That run nearly wiped me out physically and mentally. I’ve got some work to do in the next ten weeks.
2 Swims – 4400 yards this week / 64450 yards total
A couple of twists to this week of training. First, I looked at the training for Week 18 and saw that it was to be somewhat of an easy week ending in an Olympic distance triathlon. Usually I just do the Oly distances of the swim/bike/run at home on the weekend and skip the racing, as racing can sometimes pose the risk of injury (i.e. bike crash, drowning, etc.) that you can avoid by just doing the day at home. But I had my eye on a local sprint distance race in the area which occurs next weekend, and I wanted to give it a try. So I swapped Week 18 with Week 19. Hopefully I won’t gun it too hard next weekend.
The second aspect of this week occurred to me on my long bike ride on Saturday, as most of my thinking and the ideas for this weekly wrap up happen. The family and I decided to head to the Northwoods of Wisconsin to our lake home to enjoy the weekend, as school activities are starting to heat up and it may be a while before we get a chance to get up there again.
As I was riding I began to assess where I was fitness-wise, and started to think about creating a race day strategy for Ironman Louisville. I was feeling pretty good on the ride and I hoped to translate that into a harder effort for the race itself. The ride was a 4 hour scheduled out and back, and I had hit 30 miles when I turned around. I was riding my hybrid bike and riding on a crushed granite trail, but I was still pretty pleased with my effort to that point.
I turned around to head for home and found that my Camelback was getting low on water. I had seen a building off of a local road and decided to see if I could find some water. No one was around, but I did find a spigot with a hose attached to it. Just as I was getting ready to fill it, a truck pulls up and inquires as to what I was doing. Fortunately the guy was pretty cool, and didn’t mind that I filled up.
Then about 3 hours into the ride I started to bonk a little bit. I had plenty of nutrition and I was eating it up, but for some reason I was just not quite as energetic as usual. I made it home in 4 hours and 10 minutes, so the trip back took me a little longer than going out did. I was almost ready to skip the post-ride brick run, but I decided to down a couple glasses of sugary tea/lemonade drink and at least get my mile in for the day (thanks, stupid running streak). But as I headed out, my legs came back and I put in a solid 3.5 miles in 30 minutes. It should have been a 45 minute run, but I knew Kari was worried about me, and I didn’t want to push my luck. The rest of the afternoon I could tell that I was drained.
One thing I can learn from this ride was that I’m not ready to be thinking about gunning for a personal best at 140.6 miles. The other thing is I’m glad I knew when I had had enough for the day.
Lastly, the Sunday run went really well, as did the rest of the week of training. Very glad that I got up north and had an adventure to mix things up. Next week will be much easier volume-wise, and I will have to balance training with being a volunteer chaperone at band camp. Looking forward to an easier week and a race on the weekend.
2 Swims – 4200 yards this week / 56750 yards total