OUCH! My Running Serious Injury List

I was wrapping up Week 17 of my training for the 2022 Tunnel Hill 100 and was feeling pretty good until Saturday when things took an unexpected turn. In the midst of running my Saturday 18-mile long run, it came to an abrupt halt at a little after mile five. I was in need of a bathroom break and I knew that there would be a port-o-potty at the next street crossing, just up the road to the left. I slowed to a walk and was looking for it but it wasn’t there. Was I just missing it? Did they move it? Then BAM! I walked straight into one of those metal posts in the middle of the trail that are there to keep cars from driving down the trail. All at once, I was dealing with a low blow and the feeling of falling down without having any clue what the heck was going on! I quickly put my palm down on the trail to keep myself from falling, but I was still stunned as to what was happening. Then it hit me – after many years of successfully avoiding those dumb posts on the trail, I finally collided with one.

For the record, this isn’t me, but it’s exactly what happened.

As I dealt with the pain of walking into the dumb thing, I was no longer really worried about the bathroom break.  Obviously, my next reaction to this dumb move was to look around and see if anyone saw me because embarrassment would definitely make it much worse.  The trail had been pretty busy and I had been running with other runners, walkers, and cyclists, but fortunately, I was pretty much by myself.  There were a couple dog walkers coming but I’m not sure they saw me.  Regardless, I decided to keep moving.  What did all of my baseball coaches say when I was a kid?  Rub some dirt on it and walk it off.  I always thought that was dumb advice, but walking it off is what I chose to do.  I wasn’t about to rub dirt on my now bruised groin.  

As I trudged onward, next came the expletives, as that always seemed to be my response to dumb acts, and after a few minutes of that, I started to feel a little better.  Not smarter, just a little less in pain.  I guess the pain wouldn’t make me quit the run, and I continued on for the rest of the run.

Upon getting home I was able to see how messed up I had made myself.  Pulling up my shorts revealed a huge bump on my inner left thigh.  It was definitely sore and I marveled that I was actually able to keep running with that bump the rest of the way.  I also had a bump and a cut on my lower left shin.  I inspected my running shoe and I could see rust and paint transfer on it from striking the painted post.  That had to be a serious collision to do that!

 

I’ll spare you a photo of the bump on my groin.  

In the movie Rainman Charlie Babbit pulls Ray’s neck and Ray responds by whipping out his “serious injury list.”

Charlie:
What are you writing?… What the f*** is this? “Serious Injury List”? *Serious* injury list? Are you f***ing kidding me?

Raymond:
Number eighteen in 1988, Charlie Babbitt squeezed and pulled and hurt my neck in 1988.

Charlie:
Squeezed and pulled and hurt your neck in 1988?

I’m thinking of starting my own serious injury list.  I have three entries already this year!

  1. WausaUltra Backyard Ultra – fell on loop 5, skinned up my arm, leg and knee, causing me to quit the race
  2. Hickory Creek Preserve/LaPorte Road Access – went off the beaten path and tripped on a tree root, scrapped up my arm and knee
  3. Old Plank Trail – walked into a stupid post, causing bumps and scrapes to my groin.

I chose to skip the 1.5-hour run that the plan called for on Sunday and opted to do a hike with Kari instead.  I’m happy to report there were no injuries on the hike.  But I’m sure that I will be adding to the list sooner or later.  

Kari made sure that I wouldn’t injure myself.

Continue reading “OUCH! My Running Serious Injury List”

2022 Tunnel Hill 100 – Improving on 2021

I have been quietly putting in the running miles for Tunnel Hill 100 in November.  As I run, I have a lot of time to think about the enormity of running 100 miles – the training, the race, the external needs, etc.  I attempted the 100-mile run in 2021, but ultimately dropped at the 50-mile finish and was allowed to accept the 50-mile finisher award.  I was warned as a 100-mile registrant to resist the urge to quit at 50 by many different people but quit I did.  I’m not ashamed of it at all, as completing 50 miles is a pretty impressive accomplishment.  But as all of the people warning me indicated, I would regret it sooner or later.  For me, it was sooner.  By the time I had gotten to the hotel, cleaned up, and had some food, I was already regretting it.  I felt that I let myself down, my son and my daughter-in-law who had come to pace me, and my wife who was there for support and provide all the dumb things I needed to go 100 miles.  They were there and ready to do their jobs, I just didn’t do mine.

Continuing past the 50-mile mark while attempting to hit 100 should have been a no-brainer.  I often say that the hardest part of any run is taking the first step, as once you get started you often will finish the job.  But I just didn’t take that first step past the halfway point.  I spent miles 30 to 49 debating with myself as to whether to drop at 50 0r keep going.  I vacillated back and forth many times, but at the time I was worn out, tired and sore and felt that going on would have been rough on me.  I guess I was afraid of what was to come and getting the 50-mile finish was a pretty good consolation prize.  Until it wasn’t.

I have spent many a training mile thinking about the mistake or mistakes I made last time, but I am reluctant to call them mistakes.  I think that making improvements on what happened would be more productive, so I am focusing on the positive and trying to make improvements.  Here are some of the things I have been thinking about improving upon.

DO THE APPROPRIATE TRAINING – My first attempt at Tunnel Hill in 2021 became a secondary event to Ironman Chattanooga when Covid-19 messed up my plans and put the two races in the same calendar year.  Nothing I could do about it, but at the time I chose to make Chatty my priority, and focus my training on the Ironman and hope that it would be enough to get me through the ultramarathon.  I’m not totally convinced that the Ironman training I was doing wasn’t enough to get me through 100 miles, but it’s really hard to substitute swimming/biking/running for just long-running.  This time I decided to focus my training on just doing the ultra.  I haven’t even raced a sprint triathlon or 5K this year, I’m just doing long, slow distance running.

TRAIN THE BRAIN – Ironman can be emboldening, making you believe that “anything is possible” (a motto of theirs), so I thought that if I can finish an Ironman (or now five of them) I can easily get through an ultra.  Boy, I underestimated the ultra distance and what it took mentally to get through it.  Pushing on was something I wasn’t able to do.  How do you get over that mental hurdle?  I’m still trying to figure it out, but for now, I keep pushing myself out the door when I need to do so.  In marathon training, you typically build to one 20-mile training run before the race.  I’ve done several 18-milers and a couple of 20-mile runs so far, with many more to do.  I need to get those distances in not only for my legs but for my mind as well.  I’m guessing with the miles I run and the time I put into them, my mind will get used to being along for the ride.

Right now it’s summer and it’s been a hot and humid one too.   I have to resist the temptation to judge where I will be in November based on where I’m at now.  My brain sometimes tells me that I’m going to struggle with this, but it’s all because I’m currently struggling with heat and humidity.  Got to get through the plan and get close to race day, then I will know where I stand.

USE THE GADGETS – I acquired what I thought I might need to run long distances – shoes with more cushion, shoe gaiters, trekking poles, headlamps, portable watch and phone chargers, and other odds and ends, but I haven’t really used them much.  Last year I did use the lights from about mile 35 to 50, but I wasn’t used to running with them.  I did very little training running with lights, and they can be kind of weird.  Some runners say that the bouncing movement of the light from a headlamp can make them feel a little unbalanced.  I didn’t really have a problem with that, but I can see it having a strobe light-type effect.  I did practice with the watch charger in training last year, but having a new watch with better battery life might make them unnecessary.  I think the watch will last the full 100 miles.  But I should probably refresh myself on how to use them while running.

DO SOME NIGHTTIME RUNNING – My wife Kari “coaches” me often with thoughtful suggestions, and one of them that I could benefit from is doing some nighttime running.  Tunnel Hill starts at 7am in November and you had daylight until about 4:30pm, so not even 10 hours of sunlight.  The majority of the race will be run in the dark.  Last year it was so dark in southern Illinois that without the light I couldn’t see anything.  There were people coming back to finish 50 miles without lights and I had no idea how they were staying on the path!  Some practice running at night with lights would be a good idea.  But I think she is also suggesting that I run at night when it’s the time of day that I’m getting tired.  I don’t really remember feeling “sleepy” tired last year, thanks to caffeine, more of a fatigued muscles-type tired.  But it is a good suggestion.  I will suggest that she join me.

RE-EVALUATE YOUR EXPECTATIONS – Last year I had no idea what to expect and just going off of what my training leading up to the race was telling me, I foolishly thought that a sub-24-hour finish was probable.  Heck, I was averaging 5.5 miles every hour in training and thinking a sub-20-hour finish might happen!  Man, did that race teach me a lesson.  I did happen to finish the 50 in 11 hours and 32 minutes, but there was no way I was going to be able to do another 12-hour 50 miles.  The experience from last year has made me adjust my expectations a little.  I’m still going to shoot for around 24 hours, but the overall goal, and one I can’t overlook, IS TO FINISH THE DAMN DISTANCE!

WHAT THE PACE? – One of the crucial elements of running 100 miles is going at a pace that won’t kill you too soon, and I think I blew this part of it last year.  That’s a surprising statement seeing that my local friends all went out much faster than me for the first 25 miles of it.  It was quite a shock to be bringing up the rear when I was holding a sub-20 pace myself!  With the exception of Leah, who turned in and impressive 22:54, Jim ended up slowing and dropping out around the 70 mile mark, and Jodi seemed to run out of gas as well, but added another exceptional finish to her ultra running resume.  I think that they tend to run until they can’t any more, and then walk some to recover.  I try to build walk breaks into my miles by run/walking, essentially running four minutes and then walking for 2.  But am I doing enough walking?

As I mentioned above, I could hold 5.5 miles/hour fairly well, which gave me the expectations of easily going sub-24, but I tired and ended up slowing down in the last 15 miles pretty dramatically.  I settled on a 4-minute run/2-minute walk method in order to give me a break and keep me from overdoing it.  But I think it was still too fast.  Since I hit the 5-mile mark around 50 minutes, I have tinkered with walking the remaining 10-minutes of every hour.  This will give me an additional extended walking break, and still keep me on track.  I will see how this goes.

GET THE NUTRITION DIALED IN – In my five Ironman races I have been fortunate to have been pretty consistent with my in-race nutritional needs.  For some reason, I just struggle with it during training.  Lately I have been a little better, but on race days I tend to skip eating solid food when I shouldn’t.  Sometimes what the race is offering isn’t all that appetizing to me.  Sometimes I don’t eat enough.  My two Backyard Ultra races this year I struggled both times with getting enough food, even though I was trying to do better.  It’s tough to run on a full stomach, so I might have to experiment with eating more over a longer period of time, rather than just scarfing down a bunch of food in a 2-3 minute break.

~~~

So there you have it, I’m sticking to the plan, trusting it, doing the work, and trying to avoid the mistakes.  I just hope I’m not overthinking it.  Future updates to follow, I’m sure.  Thanks for reading.

Long Run Motivation

I thought that I might try my hand at some poetry, so forgive me if I make a mockery of it. ~ Chris

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LONG RUN MOTIVATION

Breakfast was had, time to head out / I have 20-miles planned, got to hit the route

Saturday long run is about to begin

I bring my phone, not a typical action / And choose some music for the distraction

I thumb through the artists held within

Begin the day with a friendly voice” / I kiss the wife goodbye, with Rush as the choice

Out the door with my favorite band

I cue up the watch for running and walking / GPS finds me and off I go jogging

Spray on some sunscreen, getting very tanned

Over the tracks I’ve been told not to cross / It’s Barney Fife’s personal albatross

One mile in and the sweat has begun

The weather has been dry / But the wildflowers are high

The nature preserve never fails to stun 

Over the bridge, the creek filled again / Yesterday provided the much-needed rain

Two miles from home is the watch alert

Out of the hills and onto the trail / Once upon a time there were trains on the rails

Mile three, starting to sweat through my shirt

Up ahead, I see a lady running with her dog / It’s my friend Julie with Blue – out for a jog

That’s something new for Julie to do

Miles four through ten were somewhat of a blur / Runners and bikers enjoying the day I figure

Maybe for their races, they’re training too

I hit Cherry Hill road, just as predicted / Time to turn around, but I’m not conflicted

Not going away from home any longer

At twelve and a half, the vest needed filling / I replaced the warm with water that was chilling

Eat a gel and candy bar, got me feeling stronger

Off the trail and into the preserve, three miles to go / The pep in my step had turned slow

Finishing the run with hills will eventually pay off

Hit the stop button at twenty, go jump in the pool / The run is done, it’s time to cool

Recovery time has begun, a Gatorade I quaff

But Sunday comes, I awaken to realize / Another long run is the plan’s surprise

Motivation is lacking, I still put on running gear

Another breakfast, I skip the music and running vest / Just a water bottle and off on another quest

Running on some sore legs is what I fear

But to my surprise, I feel really fresh / Maybe back-to-back long runs make my legs mesh

I’m quite surprised and skip the walk breaks

A different route, to east this time I go / Running through the hills, but I don’t feel slow

Muggy but not hot, I feel few aches

Once again, I turn onto Old Plank Trail / Seeing Angela, Susan, and John running help me sail

This run is going better than I was expecting

I hit the neighborhood, a little shy of 90 minutes / I add a little extra, I have no limits

Feeling good after two days of running, I’m not objecting

The hardest part of running long distance / Might be trying to find the persistance

Got to fight the desire to quit or not even begin

An emotional finish to a couple days of long running / To the starting line I will keep gunning

I’ve learned that what it takes I might have within

Thanks for reading.

The Run/Walk Ratio Experiment

Training for an ultra is a complicated thing, not that training for other race distances isn’t, but training to run 100 miles is a whole new ball of wax for me. And to complicate it more I’m not following any specific plan to accomplish running 100 miles, as I’m relying on my 30-weeks of Ironman training to do the brunt of the work for me, leaving me only seven weeks to devote to some run only specific training. I still have some work to do. 

I was listening to a podcast called “The Tunnel Hill Chronicles,” in which this younger guy named Lorin is documenting his training for the race, and he mentioned that he would rather be a little undertrained for an ultra-marathon than be overtrained. I agree, so I got that going for me – which is nice. 

Lately, I have been experimenting with pace. To run 100 miles in under 20 hours is pretty simple – average 12 minutes per mile, or 5 mph, and you are golden. And running the Big Hill Bonk taught me that running 4.166 miles every hour will net you a 24-hour 100 miler. Not many spend the entirety of the distance actually running. Most follow some sort of run and walk ratio, either by design or by having it forced upon them. The majority of ultra marathons seem to take place in hilly or mountainous areas, and the golden rule is to run the flats and the downhills and walk the uphills. At Tunnel Hill, despite what the name might be suggesting, there aren’t any hills or mountains. From what I understand, the tunnel actually goes through the “hill.” I’ve read that there are a few gradual inclines on the old railroad bed turned trail, but they aren’t really hills. 

So if there are no hills you have to design some sort of plan to incorporate some walking into your strategy or you will likely find walking as your only strategy.

I have searched for common run/walk ratios for ultras and found that they can vary widely. Some recommend a 15-minute run with a 3-minute walk. That seems on the high side to me. That gives you 3.33 run/walk blocks in an hour, and my OCD would prefer that I make them divide out nicely over 60-minutes. I have decided that breaking it up into a 6-minute run/walk segment might be perfect, which would give me 10 total blocks per hour. So far I have tried the following:

5 minutes : 1 minute Ratio – Five minutes of running followed by one minute of walking was the obvious first choice. I have done that ratio several times and I found that five minutes of running was a little long, and the one-minute recovery walk went by quickly. 

5 minutes : 1 minute, 15 seconds Ratio – I tried to add some additional time to the walk, but I didn’t like that it screwed up the 6-minute block.

4 minutes, 45 seconds : 1 minute, 15 seconds Ratio – I realized that I didn’t have to focus on adding time to the walk and took off 15-seconds from the run. This 4:45 run / 1:15 walk ratio worked pretty well. However, it got me to the 5-mile split around 53-minutes, which could be used to walk some more until the hour is up, or I could come to my senses and see that I should probably slow my pace a little.

4.5 minutes : 1.5 minutes Ratio – This ratio wasn’t much different than the 4.75:1.25, but I am starting to think that a little more walk time would be beneficial to for me. 

4 minutes, 15 seconds : 1 minute, 45 seconds Ratio – Bingo!  Running 4:15 and then walking for 1:45 was a great combo by not having too much run time and enough walk time to recover a little and give me some time to drink some water and take on nutrition.  This was working great, but I was a little concerned about not walking enough.

4 minutes : 2 minutes Ratio – Now I am onto something.  This seems to be the best combination for me.  The minutes are even splits and the 2-minutes of walking gives me a much needed break without wasting too much time walking.  I’m still covering just about the same distance as the 4-minute 15-second ratio, so I’ll take the extra walk time break and use it in my favor.  This works out to be a pace somewhere around 11:15 minutes to 11:20 minutes average pace per mile, which will be optimal.   

So, that’s enough experimenting.  A four minute run followed by a two minute walk seems to be the best combo for me and will be what I use in the event.  Six minute intervals, 10 per hour – I just have to do 200 of these intervals and I’m golden.  I won’t be wasting energy keeping track of that in my mind.    

The overall goal for me is obviously to finish 100 miles before the 30-hour cutoff, but I think I might be able to shoot for a sub-20 hour finish based on how I have felt in training while doing that run/walk method.  This goal may be a little over-ambitious, but I think that I can hold the pace for at least half of the 100 miles.  It’s the unknown miles from 50 on that I have no idea what will happen.  I’m sure the journey to the finish line will tell me a lot about myself.  I’m looking forward to it.  

One Week To Go!

2021 IRONMAN CHATTANOOGA TRAINING

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WEEK 29 – September 19, 2021 

29 weeks down, 1 week to go!  I’ve gone from Week 1 back in March and doing my workouts inside, to seeing farm fields go from untilled dirt, to not being able to see around turns due to the corn being fully grown.  I’ve gone from being mentally burned out, to being very atuned to how great I feel.  I’ve been so far from being ready, to feeling like I’m ready to rock this race.  All it took was a day to day effort, following a great plan for the fifth time, and having the support of my Gunner teammates and the local friends that have been very instrumental in making this training block pleasurable.  Let’s roll!

Last “long” ride of the training before the race. I had to wait for a choo-choo while training for Choo.

 

I try to plan out a race day plan for myself and in 2019 it became very clear that the day would be about surviving the heat.  It was a scorcher and I won’t ever forget it.  I don’t really try to worry too much about the weather or water temperatures for race day, but after 2019 I’m not ignoring it either.  So when a couple of casual checks of the long-range forecast revealed that the temperature might be in the 70s and sunny, well that changes my mindset a little.  I may be going from planning to pace an Ironman to racing it instead.  It means instead of a 16.5 mph average on the bike to maybe an 18 mph average.  It means that I may be able to run a sub-4.5 hour marathon instead of something over 5 hours.  I’m definitely bringing the wetsuit, like always.  But last time I knew I wasn’t going to be using it.  This time?  There might be a wetsuit legal swim for the first time in Choo history.  We’ll see, I’m not holding my breath, but it would be awesome if it was.

So, let’s wrap up these 29 weeks and get ready for race week.  Here’s a summary and a link to all previous weeks.  I’ll give you a virtual medal for going back and reading all these blogs.  

Week 1 – Getting pumped for Ironman #5!  PUMP IT UP!

Week 2 – Yeah, I eat junk food.  Who doesn’t?  I’M SHOCKED!

Week 3 – A little optimistic that I was 1/10 done with training.  One Tenth Done

Week 4 – Ended March with some unexpected motivation.  Inspiring Motivation

Week 5 – A cold ride brought out the MacGuyver in me.  Three Plastic Bags and a Popped Balloon

Week 6 – Trying to recall some meaningless training info.  I Can’t Remember

Week 7 – A calf injury had me a little concerned.  Running Injury? A Minor Inconvenience

Week 8 – Feeling guilty about inspiring others to join in this dumb sport.  (not really)  Regretfully Inspiring Others

Week 9 – Roared into May with a light-hearted post.  I’m In The Cool Kids Club

Week 10 – Glad to hit the 1/3 done mark.  One-Third Into the Training

Week 11 – Back soreness had me worried.  I Was Spineless, But Now I’m Back

Week 12 – Wondering and thinking can lead to some crazy ideas.  I Wonder… About Week 12

Week 13 – I had to remind myself that you can’t have the reward without the journey.  Work First, Brag Later

Week 14 – Sort of an odds and ends week.  Week 14 Hitting Hard

Week 15 – Not a great finish to 15 weeks of training.  Limping It In At The Half-way Point

Week 16 – I gave myself a gold star for this week.  Grading Myself

Week 17 – Torch Run with the coworkers, and the start of vacation.  Ins and Outs of Week 17

Week 18 – Foot injury and vacation meant let the training slide a little.  Vacation Overrules Training

Week 19 – I had issues this week, some good, some bad, some ugly.  The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Week 20 – An off-road tri, and things we triathletes fear.  Fear, Part… III

Week 21 – My friend Tom takes a licking and keeps on ticking.  Rub Some Dirt On It

Week 22 – Couldn’t do this dumb sport without her.  My Coach Wife

Week 23 – Swapping the weeks around.  An Easy Week?

Week 24 – My first 50K ultra; thinking less about Ironman.  Field of Dreams

Week 25 – Trying to get something out of training instead of doing the opposite.  Yielding a Better Return

Week 26 – I know I don’t have to do this dumb sport, but I still do it.  By My Own Choosing

Week 27 – Had a pretty good training week to round out the endurance phase of training.  A Not So Dreadful Week 27

Week 28 – Some bike maintenance and the welcome of the taper.  Bring on the Taper!

And there you have it.  I’ll wrap up Week 30 in the Ironman Chattanooga race report.  Time to start packing and getting ready for Choo!

SWIMS: 3 – 3780 yards

BIKES: 3 – 67 miles

RUNS: 4 – 22 miles

 

Bring on the Taper!

2021 IRONMAN CHATTANOOGA TRAINING

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WEEK 28 – September 12, 2021 

The taper is here! I’m finally winding down the training and enjoying the feeling of accomplishing what I needed to do to get myself ready for my fifth Ironman. I’ve trained on cold days, hot days, windy days, rainy days, and beautiful days as well. I think that it’s okay to start celebrating the work that I have done even if I haven’t got to the starting line yet. So, after 27 weeks of building up to long bike rides and long runs, it’s time to start pulling back.

The band Boston certainly played a huge part in the soundtrack of my youth, and I still enjoy their music today. Of course, the first two albums were what made them, but their third album Third Stage was a big hit as well.

I’ve been hearing the song We’re Ready quite a bit lately on SiriusXM’s Classic Rewind and I find one verse of the lyrics very fitting for this third stage of Ironman training.  I certainly feel like I’m ready.

We’re ready now
Catchin’ a wave to ride on
Steady now
Headin’ where we decide on
And I know that there’s something that’s just out of sight
And I feel like we’re trying to do something right
Come on make it if we hold on tight
Hold on tight
We’re Ready! C’mon we’re ready
We’re ready

There’s another song on that album called Cool The Engines, which is also very appropriate for the taper. I took advantage of the cooler weather this week and the lighter training load to push my pace a little bit. Maybe I just wanted to rev the engine somewhat. But in the back of my mind, I could hear my brain reminding me to not overdo it.

Take me for a ride
Take me all the way
Take me where I’ve never been
Someplace I can stay
Don’t get yourself too hot
Don’t get yourself too high
If we don’t take it easy now
We can kiss it all goodbye

Cool the engines
Red line’s gettin’ near
Cool the engines
Better take it out of gear

I’m no fool
Gonna keep it cool
Take it day by day
We won’t know where we might go
‘Til we make it all the way

So, it’s time for me to cool the engines and bring on the taper!  We’re ready!

~~~

I took the time on Friday to fix my rear brakes and to put on new tires and throw on Conti 5000’s for the first time.  The brakes are working well again, and the new tires were like floating on air on Saturday’s ride.

I rode with a group on Saturday and by the time we spread out I found myself riding mostly with Julie, whom I had never met before at these rides, but her pace and mine got us through Elwood and I enjoyed getting to meet another local rider.  Julie is an Ironman, and said she was training for Ironman Waco in October.  Good luck, Julie!

I have to take a moment and brag on my son Ben a little.  He ran a local half-marathon called the Hidden Gem and nailed a PR for himself – 1:16:34, a 5:51 pace!  My kid is smoking fast!  Great job, Ben!

I’m also excited to hear that another Gunner fence-sitter may have committed to joining Jeff, Jan, and I on this dumb idea.  YESSSSSSSS!

On Sunday I wrapped up my week with a 2-hour long run on mine and my wife Kari’s 29th wedding annniversary.  I’m so lucky to have shared 29 wedded years with this woman, and I look forward to many more!  I’m also very lucky she tolerates these adventures I go on.

SWIMS: 1 – 1500 yards

BIKES: 3 – 105.5 miles

RUNS: 5 –  32.5miles

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A Not So Dreadful Week 27

2021 IRONMAN CHATTANOOGA TRAINING

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WEEK 27 – September 5, 2021 

I usually refer to Week 27 of the Be Iron Fit Ironman training plan as the “Dreaded Week 27.”  It’s the toughest week in the 30-weeks of training, ending in a 6-hour bike ride with a one hour run right after it on Saturday, and a 3-hour long run on Sunday.  But I took a little sting out of it by basically doing that workout at the end of Week 26.  I did that for a couple of reasons.  First, the opportunity presented itself last Saturday to ride an extra half-hour when I rode with Susan and we were managing our effort very well, staying hydrated and fueled on a very hot day.  So as we got closer to getting back I just committed to it and it worked out fine.  Same with Sunday, I was feeling good and figured I would just go an extra 15-minutes and make it a full 3-hour run.  On the Friday before those two days I was somewhat dreading the weekend, but after getting out there and doing the extended portions and feeling good afterwards, it was a huge confidence builder for me.

Secondly, my wife Kari and I planned to head north to our lake home to enjoy some lake life and take care of some fall house and yard needs, and I thought that if I did the workouts a week ahead of time, I might not be so pressed for time or be so wornout if I swapped the planned workouts.  I may even cut the long Saturday ride and long Sunday run down and start my tapering a little earlier this time around.

Here’s how the Dreaded Week 27 went for me.

Monday is usually a rest day, and I usually putter around the house and do the things that get neglected during the week; catch up on laundry, mow the grass, get groceries, etc.  But after a couple of walks I was bored and thought why not do a swim.  So I put on some tri shorts and jumped in.  30-minutes is my typical swim workout, but I was feeling good so I pushed it to 60-minutes.  When I got to sixty I was still feeling pretty good, so I pushed it another half-hour, and before I knew it I had swum 4300 yards – covering the distance of an Ironman swim.  There was no tiredness, no calf or foot cramps, and really no boredom, which surprised the heck out of me.  Knowing that I can easily swim the 2.4 miles in my own backyard pool in 1.5 hours was a good feeling.  Oh sure, I have done the Ironman swim four previous times, so I know that I can do it.  But I still needed to train for each one of those previous attempts, and prove that it can be accomplished with smart training.  Could I actually be enjoying swimming?  Let’s not get carried away.

Tuesday ushered in a little bit less heat for the day and I ran at a time when there was a coolish breeze and it was overcast.  I did the 10-minute warm-up and then started in on the five 6-minute repeats.  I was pacing them pretty well.  My legs were a little sore at the start, but when I picked up pace I did so easily.  My turnover felt smooth and comfortable.  I felt like I was rocking it!  I skipped the swim due to the previous day’s effort, and opted to vacuum the pool instead.

Wednesday was quite a different day weather-wise than what I had last weekend.  Much cooler, with a strong northeast wind.  I hopped on the bike and was flying along heading south on my usual route.  I saw my buddy Charlie attempting to run on his two injured toes and wished him a good run.  I must have been averaging over 20 mph heading south, but turning around and coming back north was not fun.  The ride ended with a 18 mph average, so I guess I was doing okay.  A quick change to running shoes and it was off on a 30-minute run.  I didn’t feel the wind as much, but the cooler temperature had me running with a good tempo.  I like to use the Wednesday bike/run brick as a hard effort instead of staying in a Zone 2 heart rate zone.  It’s the one day I like to hit the gas.

Thursday ushered in another cooler day and the winds were better for me as well, which caused me to push myself a little more than I should of.  I could feel my calves tightening, but the 1.5-hour ride went well.  I jumped in the pool afterwards and tried to swim, but I was getting some calf cramps and called it a day after 21 minutes.

Friday I got in my 1.5-hour run and then jumped into the car with Kari to head to Wisconsin.

Saturday was rainy of course, but it wasn’t too bad, and after a hearty breakfast with Kari at Tula’s in Minocqua the rain was turning to a misty drizzle on its way to ending. I planned to do a 5-hour ride and I stuck to it. I headed down Hwy J towards St. Germain to pick up the trails and head into the beautiful Northwoods. I hadn’t even gotten a few miles into it and the wet road and what little leftover sprinkles had me pretty wet. But it was bearable and I kept pushing on. I had never went further than Boulder Junction before so I continued onward and found the trail toward Manitowish Waters to be beautiful.

I took a couple of minutes on the way back to stop and enjoy some scenery just west of Boulder Junction. The trail here was beautiful.

I was thinking of how much fun I was having and four hours of the ride was just perfect. The last hour, not so much. Back onto Hwy J I was greeted with hills and headwind and an overall lack of energy. At one point my thigh muscles started to cramp, which had never happened to me before. I decided to slow down and fuel and hydrate more and limp it home. I got off my bike and sat down and took a minute to watch my calf muscles twitch uncontrollably. Good times.

I decided to not do the 60-minute run after the bike after watching the twitching going on.

Sunday was beautiful. I had recovered enough from yesterday’s bike ride that I talked myself back into doing a long run after talking myself out of it during the latter portion of yesterday’s bike.

I headed to the Bearskin Trail in downtown Minocqua and before I realized it, I was was crashing a marathon and half-marathon in progress. It was fun to see the runners coming back in with determination on their faces. I ran out seven miles and turned around and headed back. There were spectators cheering me on, as they didn’t realize that I wasn’t in the race. I said, “I’m not in the race, but I love your enthusiasm!”

It wasn’t long and the 3:45 marathon pacer caught up to me as I was walking and taking a gel. He was encouraging everyone to join in, and after telling him that I was on a training run he still wanted me to pace with him. I ran with him chatting about my Ironman and ultra coming up and I then took a detour to avoid the finish line, as I already felt awkward being on the trail with the others. I made it home with an extra mile added due to the detour, making it 15 total miles and some fun memories of running with those runners. Maybe I will join them for real next year.

Time to enjoy some lake life one last time before pulling the boat out of the water for the season.

SWIMS: 2 – 5312 yards

BIKES: 3 – 130 miles

RUNS: 4 – 36 miles

By My Own Choosing

2021 IRONMAN CHATTANOOGA TRAINING

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WEEK 26 – August 29, 2021 

My coworkers are kind people and take a passing interest in what I do outside of work. As I train for my fifth Ironman, it’s pretty obvious at this point that my weekend will be filled with a long bike ride and a long run. This weekend would be no different, but the kicker is that it was going to be hot outside, with temperatures in the 90s. So when my coworker Tracy asked what I was doing this weekend I replied that I was biking for 5.5 hours and running for an hour on Saturday, and running for 2.75 hours on Sunday, with somewhat of a “not too excited to do this” tone in my voice.

Then Tracy went full mom mode – YOU KNOW YOU ARE DOING THAT AT YOUR OWN CHOOSING. YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO THAT!

I closed my eyes and shook my head. I almost felt like I was being scolded for doing the things I like to do. Yes, I know that I choose to train for an Ironman, and yes I know that it is hard sometimes, and yes I know that you mere mortals find it somewhat perplexing as to why any of us training for an Ironman would put ourselves through such miserable efforts and give away our weekends doing it. But I choose to do it because I like riding and running (swimming, not so much), and being an Ironman is a goal that I pursue because it empowers me. It changed my life.

Later that evening my family and I met my son Ben and “kind-of daughter-in-law” Emily (just get married already!!!) for a birthday dinner for Ben and I mentioned once again that I was dreading doing my long bike and run this weekend. And although Emily didn’t chastise me as harshly as Tracy did, she said the same damn thing – You know, you choose to do it – or something to that effect.

This time I chuckled, hearing the same admonishment twice in a single day, but what was surprising was that it was coming from Emily, who as a runner herself knows full well what it takes to do amazing things. Maybe the empathy I was expecting and didn’t get was the amusing part for me.

Oh well, I guess nobody cares that I choose to do this dumb sport in an extreme way on a very hot two weekend days. And sometimes the only person to impress worth impressing is me.

Another good ride with Susan on Saturday, and it was pretty much a repeat of last weekend except we both decided to add a little extra, and instead of doing the planned 5.5-hour ride, I ended up doing 6.25 hours and reached 100 miles. I followed up the ride with 6-miles on the treadmill because, well, I’m not dumb. It was insanely warm and humid outside. Smart move and I felt great after that long day.

On Sunday, I parlayed the success of Saturday into Sunday, adding some extra time to the run, running an extra 15 minutes to hit 3-hours. I’m still playing around with a run\walk ratio, and I added 15-seconds to the walk interval. I think that is a pretty good option right now, and I will keep toying with it on my long runs.

On to the dreaded Week 27, which won’t be so dreadful because I pretty much did that week’s workout this weekend. Getting closer to race day and feeling more ready every day.

Swims: 2 – 3000 yards

Rides: 3 – 146 miles

Runs: 5 – 42.3 miles

Tunnel Hill 100 Training Update

I signed up for the Tunnel Hill 100 mile ultramarathon without much forethought. If I’m good for anything it’s not thinking things through. But seeing that I was training for Ironman Chattanooga in September 2021 and doing the Big Hill Bonk Last Runner Standing event in August, I figured that the training load for Ironman and running 50K at the Big Hill Bonk would prepare me well for Tunnel Hill in November. I may have figured wrong. But we’ll see. There’s still plenty of weeks of training to go, and I’m sure I may see some improvements in endurance running as I creep closer to the ultra.


I saw a post on Facebook recently that asked what was harder, an Ironman or a 100-mile ultra, and the answers were interesting. In terms of the race itself, most declared that running 100 miles in a day was much tougher than completing an Ironman. But many also agreed that the training for Ironman was much harder than what people do to train for an ultra. I was troubled and glad to hear both of those responses.


I’m a little concerned that the run training that I am doing for Ironman is not going to be sufficient to get me to that 100-mile finish. I only got through 50K at Big Hill Bonk before tapping out. Maybe if the finish 4.16 miles in one-hour time constraint wasn’t in play there, I might have walked more and gone a little further. That time/distance format is a good indicator or predictor for an ultra as 4.16 miles in one hour will net you 100 miles in 24 hours. I was able to get a third of it in.


On my 2.5-hour training run today, I played with using run/walk intervals for the first time. I had played with that Galloway method probably twenty years ago, but I found that I would essentially pace way too fast for the run portion and not walk leisurely enough in the walk portion. I gave up on it and just went with what I knew best, running by feel and keeping an even pace.


I tried running for five minutes and then walking for one minute. That 5:1 ratio was working pretty well for me and I was averaging 10 min/mile pace, which nets a 20-hour 100 miler. When I turned around at 75 minutes I was at 7.75 miles, and by the time I finished the 2.5 hours I only netted 15 miles and felt pretty worn out. Not enough nutrition? Was the day warming up too much? Were the hills at the end causing me to slow down? Maybe, sure, all of the above, I dunno.


To do 100 miles in 20 hours you need to hit five miles every hour, and I did that today. Maybe if I run the 5:1 ratio until I hit five miles, I could have more time to walk out the remaining minutes of the hour. I will give that a go next time. I’m also considering lowering the ratio to four minutes of running and one minute of walking and see how that goes. There is still time to play with the run:walk ratio.


Thoughts of dropping down to the 50-mile ultra have been entering my head, but I’m not giving up just yet. I just need to dial it in a little better and see where it takes me.

Yielding a Better Return

2021 IRONMAN CHATTANOOGA TRAINING

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WEEK 25 – August 22, 2021 

Every year or so the bank sends us a note about one of the CDs we have sitting in their bank making them money but hardly doing anything for us, and informs us that it’s maturing soon.  My wife will say “we should put this into something else and get a better return.”  I always reply that I’m good with that.  Then in a year, we get the same note telling us that our same CD is maturing again, because WE DIDN’T DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT LAST TIME!  Then the wife and I will have the same converstation again.  It’s pretty funny, actually.

This week my friend Susan, who is also doing IM Choo, was looking for someone to ride with on the Saturday long ride.  I didn’t hesitate to offer to ride with her for a couple of reasons.  First, I was tired of riding alone and welcomed the company, and secondly, every long ride that I have done recently has ended in me overdoing it and bonking pretty hard at the end.  I was getting tired of that, so I decided to ride with Susan, provide her some company, and use her to keep me from riding out of my comfort zone.  There was definitely some give and take in this arrangement.

Now Susan is no slouch, she’s an Ironman and a good rider.  Both of us have been struggling with the mental aspect of training lately, and the physical aspect of training is partly the cause of that.  So I thought why not ride along, enjoy having company and good conversation with someone other than myself for a change.  And I’m so glad I did.

We decided to head west toward Elwood, Illinois, and play it by ear as to which direction to go once we got there.  I had only been over Route 52 into Elwood once before, and I was glad to have her show me the route to Brandon Road that everyone seems to love doing.  It was a nice ride with new things to look at for a change, and I certainly was enjoying that.  We turned around at two hours and headed back to the BP to refill our water bottles, and saw some more friends there doing the same thing.

Leaving the gas station, we headed back to the usual route east and Susan wondered where the road we were leaving actually headed.  I said, “I KNOW!”  and I suggested that we can loop back around that way.  Now I had a chance to show her an alternative to always going down Hoff Road.  We rode that way back to Elwood, stopped at the BP to refill our bottles once again, and then I decided I needed a bathroom break.  The BP staff told me that the bathrooms were unavailable at the moment, so no worries, we hopped on our bikes and rode ten minutes or so back to the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery to use the facilities there.

Then the trip home started and I needed to add on a few more minutes so I did, and then worked hard to catch back up with Susan.  We rode back to where she parked her car, took a selfie, then I rode home and for the first time in quite a while, finished the ride feeling pretty good.  I quickly switched from biking to running gear and followed up the nearly 90-mile ride with a 6.25-mile run.  It was so nice not finishing a long Saturday workout and needing several hours of recovery.  It was a good day for me.

My friend Chalie was nice to praise me for “helping” Susan with her ride.  And even though I would do that for anybody, I was also doing it for myself, to be honest.  I realized that sometimes you might have to do something a little different than what you are used to in order to get something better.  Change it up and get a better yield.

Maybe I should do something about that CD this time around.

The creepy old guy and Susan. I’ll let Susan take the photos from now on.  All smiles after 5+hours of riding.  Thanks for letting me join you, Susan!

~~~

The Sunday long run went pretty well for me, too.  I started early to beat the heat of the day, and it wasn’t too bad of a morning.  I decided to try using a 5-minute run/1-minute walk interval to see how it went.  I’m starting to do these last few long runs in training for IM Choo with a nod to the ultramarathon that I will be attempting in November.  It was nice to break-up just straight running with a one minute walk break every five minutes.  That produced an average pace just under 10 minutes per mile, and 6 miles per hour.  That would be a pretty good pace, but I was running out of gas at the end, mainly due to the heat and the hills as I got closer to home and finishing the 2.5-hour run.  I may drop it to a 4:1 ratio and see how that goes.  I’m not sure that I can handle the pace needed for a sub-20 hour hundred mile run.

Swims: 2 – 3030 yards

Rides: 3 – 135 miles

Runs: 5 – 41.5 miles