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!
I was expecting to get back on track this week with very little deviance from the plan after swapping the past two weeks of training around and making a concession here and there. But life sometimes throws you a curveball or two.
I’m getting really tired of having nipples.
It was a nice day, somewhat cooler than the past few and I only had an hour-long run to do, so I skipped covering my nipples. Big mistake. One got chaffed and started bleeding halfway through the run. Why do men have nipples anyway? It’s not like we use them for anything. They aren’t even that interesting in my opinion. But if you are a male runner that isn’t rail-thin, you are bound to one day experience the dreaded bleeding nipple. After thirty-plus years of running, you would think that they would have calloused over by now, or somehow adapted so they don’t get chafed. But sadly no. So I guess I will start covering them with Bandaids for every run, so buy some stock now.
Ashley’s back at Valpo for one last year!
Ashley may not have been excited about returning to Valpo for one final year, but it’s only one more year! Check-in at the apartment where she stays was on Saturday, so that meant if I wanted to help move her in I needed to somehow get my important Saturday long bike in, so I moved the Sunday two-hour and 15-minute run to Friday to free up Sunday for the bike. Doing the long run on Friday meant I would have to try to make up Friday’s normal run another day. Yeah, it didn’t happen.
Why can’t summer storms come in the middle of the week?
I had moved my Saturday long ride to Sunday so I could have Saturday free and what happened? It decided to storm like crazy Sunday morning. I had planned to be out on the bike before 8 am but with the heavy rain and lightning, I waited until the radar showed that it was past. I hit the road at 10 am and was amazed by how much water had poured on us. I was soaked from the waist down from just riding through the puddles and the standing water on the roadway. I explored a little on the ride to avoid the bike trail because when the leaves and junk on the trail get wet things get a little scary. Thankfully though the ride went smooth, I had no wind going out and a tailwind coming back, and I stayed on top of my hydration and nutrition today. I only felt a little low on energy getting back home, but as I switched to my running shoes for the hour-long run, I downed a Gatorade and the run went well.
Hello Saddle Sore, My Old Friend (with apologies to Simon & Garfunkel)
Hello saddle sore, my old friend
It’s not nice to see you once again
Because you are literally a big pain in the ass
And it’ll take you at least a month to pass
And the cries of my pain could be heard along the road I ride
Thanks to you, you damn saddle sore.
What’s the deal with saddle sores? I use the butt cream. I use Body Glide. I make sure that anything that can chafe will get some attention. But this past couple of weeks the damn saddle sore I always get from riding showed up again. It is actually bothering me just sitting on this cushy chair right now. And don’t mistake it for a zit, because it is definitely not a zit. Matter of fact if you try to squeeze that sucker, it’s going to let you know that he’s the Captain now. Touching it hurts!!! So I generally will just coat it with some Neosporin and a Bandaid (again, buy some stock now!) and let it be. Some day when this Ironman race is over it will go away because I can guarantee that I won’t be letting my butt sit on that bike again until next year.
Distance: Sprint: 400 yards (~.25 miles) Swim, 16.1 Mile Bike, 4.1 Mile Run
Results: 1:24:47 – 27th overall, 1/16 M55-59 Age Group
This race is one of my favorite sprints triathlons to race. It’s a race that is well executed, has a beautiful locale in the Western suburbs of Chicago, and it has the right balance of distances that play into my strengths as a triathlete.
I skipped this race the morning of the race last year due to a nasty storm that rolled through the area. I was even heading there in my car when I convinced myself that it was for sure going to be canceled. I came home and later found out that they eventually waited out the storm and held it anyway. I was mad at myself for bailing, so this year I was for sure going to race come rain or shine.
I really overloaded my weekend leading up to the race. I bought a used boat on Friday and was dealing with that new purchase (Fun!). On Saturday, my Ironman training plan called for a 3.5-hour ride followed by a 30-minute run that I did with two of my Gunner teammates Dave and Jeff (Fun!). And if that wasn’t enough, I went with my wife and friend John to see Cheap Trick in concert and stood the whole time (Fun!)! I was definitely setting myself up for a rough race on Sunday morning, especially after standing at the concert, getting to bed late, and having to get up at 4 am to drive to Batavia. I spent the concert thinking about what I will need to do to convince myself to get up at that early and go race a triathlon. I set the alarm and told myself to see how I feel in the morning.
RACE DAY MORNING
The alarm went off and I jumped out of bed. I felt great and was actually excited about racing. I checked the radar and could see that there was a chance for some rain, but not an orange and red blob on the radar screen like last year, just a friendly green blob. Green means GO! I got dressed, grabbed a scone that my daughter had baked and a cup of coffee and I was off.
I know how to drive to Batavia, done it many times. But I set my GPS for the location I usually park just so I didn’t have to worry about it. What did I do? I completely missed the exit ramp for I-88 westbound to Aurora! I had to drive an additional couple of miles up to Butterfield Road and turn around. I’m so dumb. I think I was distracted by a radio program that was talking about “This Day in History” and it was pretty interesting. Anyway, I realized my mistake soon enough and there was no harm, no foul.
I found a spot to park, unloaded my bike and made my way to transition to get body marked, which I will always contend is the dumbest thing ever. I will be wearing a number 60 written on my shoulder and my age on my left calf in Sharpie for the rest of the week. Maybe I will try some of my daughter or wife’s make up remover wipes.
I was pleased to find that my bike would be racked in the second row of bikes, really close to Swim Out. I like to rack next to the legs of the bike rack, it keeps another bike from being too close on that side and gives me some extra space to throw my transition bag down, because I am still bringing too much junk.
After setting up the bike and my stuff I took a bathroom break and headed to the swimming hole to check out the water. We were told that the water temp was 70 degrees, and it felt slightly cold to me. I don’t usually wear a wetsuit for this race because it is short and the water last time was about 74 degrees. I decided that after dipping my toes into the water I would wear the wetsuit. I put it on, all by myself for a change, and swam a couple easy laps as a warm up. I always try to warm up for the swim to get used to the water and to remind myself of the pace I want to keep.
The swim is two loops in a smallish park district swimming hole, which was a former small quarry of sorts from what I can gather. The bottom is all sand, and on the backside of the loop, I found my hands hitting bottom. In the past, most people will just start walking this part of the swim and I have done that too. I try not to run it because it raises my heart rate too high. I made a mental note that I would probably walk it and then I got in line for the time trial start.
Time: 6:15 – 1:25min/100 yds. – 3rd place AG
PRE-SWIM STRATEGY: Start easy, don’t go too fast, relax
SWIM REALITY: GUNNED IT AS HARD AS I COULD!
The race asks you for your predicted time when you sign up and I usually put 8 minutes because I typically swim at about 2 min/100 yds. When I seeded myself in line I saw a sign for 6 minutes and just joined in. I knew I would be wearing a wetsuit and might be a little faster, but I wanted to get the swim over with quick and get out on the bike course before it got too crowded.
The race started promptly at 6:30 am right after the National Anthem, and we slowly started getting fed into the water at about five-second intervals. I was pretty calm and relaxed before getting in, but as soon as my face hit the water after about ten strides I was GUNNING it hard. Why do I do this?! It’s like doing an interval in the pool without the benefit of a break afterward! Anyway, I did rein myself in a little bit, caught a little bit of my breath when I walked a small portion and then calmed myself for the second loop. I must admit, I was expecting a lot of swim traffic, seeing that it’s a two-looper and that there are roughly 30-40 swimmers in the water at one time. I didn’t have much contact at all. A few tickles on my feet, but pretty much contact-free. I got up on my feet on the shallow part a little sooner or else I would have swam into a bunch of walking swimmers ahead of me and started unzipping my wetsuit and made my way out to T1.
I’m glad I seeded myself where I did, and I was a little surprised to see that 6:15 finish. But I was wearing that wetsuit and it definitely did make me quicker. The swim finish put me 3rd overall in my age group. The two triathletes faster than me were 45 and 30 seconds quicker. Not too shabby of a swim for myself.
T1 – SWIM TO BIKE
TIME: 1:38 – 3rd place AG
PRE-T1 STRATEGY: Don’t waste time, be methodical, get out quick
T1 REALITY: GET PUZZLED AS TO HOW THE WATCH I HAVE OWNED FOR TWO YEARS ACTUALLY WORKS, WASTE TIME DRYING OFF FEET TO PUT ON SOCKS ON MY TENDER FEET, GET ANXIOUS ABOUT HOW MUCH TIME I WAS WASTING!
As I ran out of the swim and crossed the timing mat I realized that I needed to hit the button on my watch signaling the change from swim to T1, but I couldn’t remember which button to press! I guessed and it was the correct one. Next up was getting the wetsuit off, which typically does not go quickly for me. But I was using my new XTERRA wetsuit and it’s a little bigger than my old Blue Seventy. I got it down to my ankles and just gave it a swift pull with my hands. Came off pretty easy.
For some reason, I don’t fly through transition. The race announcer was jokingly chiding many of the age group award runner ups who had lost positions to those ahead of them by one or two seconds that they should have spent less time in transition. I took that to heart. I need to stop messing around. The wetsuit is a major time sucker, and then I take the time to dry my feet, attempt to pull on socks over wet feet, and put on my cycling shoes, glasses, and helmet. I need to forget about socks, not wear a helmet and leave my shoes on the bike and just do a flying mount. Yeah, two of those three won’t happen, as no helmet gets you a disqualification, and flying mounts are not something 55-year-olds should be taking up. There’s a reason there are so many folks spectating at BIKE OUT, it’s to see crashes and the stupidity that goes on! I guess I could bike without socks like some uncivilized knuckle dragger.
I realize I give away some precious seconds to others in transitions, but I was slightly surprised to see that I was once again the 3rd fastest in my age group. They were 37 and 9 seconds faster than me.
Time: 46:46 – 4th place AG
PRE-BIKE STRATEGY: GUN IT AS HARD AS I CAN!
BIKE REALITY: GUNNED IT AS HARD AS I COULD!
I hopped on the bike and off I went. There are some plywood covered speed bumps that you have to navigate over right at the start that requires being a little cautious with, and then it’s a left turn and up a short, sharp hill. This hill surprises a lot of first-time racers at this course, but I had the right gearing and spun up easily. Then it’s flat and fast for the most part. There are some hills here and there but they are pretty short-lived, and the downhill portions more than make up for it.
There was a girl who was ahead of me wearing an ITU tri suit with her name on the back and I attempted to keep pace with her. That lasted maybe 3 or 4 miles and she started to pull away. Her calf showed she was 43 years old, which was certainly impressive to me. I hoped to catch her later on the run.
With that first hill climb, and the adrenaline of starting the bike I was maxed out on my heart rate and breathing pretty hard. It wasn’t long though until I settled into my comfort zone and was riding comfortably hard. I passed a ton of riders in the first half of the ride and had a few overtake me in the second half, but overall I think I did pretty well on this ride. I had misplaced my bike computer and so I was racing without really having my speed available at a quick glance. It was kind of a blessing riding by feel and not getting caught up in my pace. I was a little surprised to see at the end that my watch was showing about 19 mph average, but the official race results have me averaging 20.1 mph. I’ll take it!
The bike course is usually about 14.5 miles long, but due to construction, they added a detour that increased the course to 16.1 miles. I didn’t notice it at all really.
Coming back into transition there are some sharp turns at the end of some hills, so you have to have a little caution with that, but I gunned it on in any way.
I dropped to fourth place on the bike segment, with only about 70 seconds separating me from the first place age group bike finisher.
T2 – BIKE TO RUN
Time: 1:27 – 3rd place AG
PRE-T2 STRATEGY: Don’t waste time, be methodical, get out quick
T2 REALITY: Didn’t waste time, was methodical, tried to run on rubbery legs
Nothing surprising here, rack the bike, take the helmet and cycling shoes off, put on running shoes, grab the visor and race belt and put them on while exiting transition. The only thing I did that robbed time from me was I had a gel flask lying there and I took a quick squeeze from it and a swig of water to wash it down. There were only 18 seconds between the first place guy and me. Not too bad. I’m always quicker in T2, as long as I’m not messing around with socks.
Time: 28:41 – 2nd place AG
PRE-RUN STRATEGY: Try to hold 7-minute miles, pick off runners one at a time
RUN REALITY: Held 7-minute miles! But I got passed by as many as I passed myself
I left T2 and hit the trail and got myself up to a comfortably hard race pace. I checked the watch a couple of times and saw 6:55/7:05/7:10 pace looking back at me, which I was content with.
Not more than a half mile or so out on the run course there was a turtle on the side of the path taking stock of the parade that was passing him by. There’s been a lot of turtles this year for some reason. My first thought was to not get snapped, and then I thought how fast can a turtle be? I decided to press on as the hare, and stop thinking about the wildlife.
The turnaround on this out and back always seems farther away than it should, but it was about 1.5 miles out. After turning around and picking up my pace again I saw the girl that had pulled away from me on the bike course. By mile 2 I caught and passed her, just like I had hoped. I realized at this point that she was racing the duathlon and not the triathlon, so I wasn’t really competing against her. She was the overall female winner of the duathlon. But I had reeled her in just like I had hoped to do. ALWAYS BET ON THE RUNNER!
It was about 3 miles into the run when a guy sporting a 59 on his calf blew by me like I was standing still. He was either a duathlete or he had a really slow swim and/or bike. Since I was second overall in my age group for the run, I assume the guy ahead of me was this 59 year old. He did, in fact, have a pretty slow bike.
I started kicking around 3.5 miles and finished strong. The official results have me averaging 6:59 min/mile pace! Win!
After averaging 4th place or so on the different stages of the race, I moved up to the top spot in the age group after the run. ALWAYS BET ON THE RUNNER!
Not much of note for the week as far as training. The miserable wet weather we have been having in much of the midwest forced me inside to do a couple of my ride and run workouts, but I can’t complain about having that option. Overall, the week went well and I’m starting to build a little speed on the bike again.
Speaking of the bike, for Christmas last year I asked for a flashing light/video camera device for my bike. I had heard several people talking about Cycliq and the Fly6 rear and Fly12 front cameras, so I put them on my wishlist and Santa delivered.
Since I hadn’t really had an opportunity to ride outside with them during winter and most of the early spring, I realized that the time to add them to my bike was ideal now that the weather is trying to get better. First and foremost, they are hi-viz flashers so that you are seen, and they certainly do that job well. But the most recent camera updates to the devices produce a pretty decent video of your ride. I guess the idea is to have proof of the offender should you be driven off the road or driven into, but I don’t really want to think about that.
The issue I had was finding space on my very crowded aerobars to mount the device. I finally was able to attach it so that it wasn’t in the way and I could easily access it. The rear device mounted very easily to my seat post.
Fly12 Front Camera
Fly6 Rear Camera
After working out some bugs with my son’s help and figuring out how to use them I gave them a try. I tried using them both for Saturday’s long 2-hour 45-minute ride but had a couple of issues. First, the Fly12 (front camera) gave me a notice that the battery was low about 1.5 hours into the ride and it didn’t produce any video for some reason. Had to be operator error of some sort. Secondly, the mount bracket came loose and the camera was just bouncing around on my aerobars. Minor issues that I can easily resolve. The rear camera produced some great shots though. Here is an example of the footage it will capture (Note: Turn the volume down):
The wind noise is horrible. I’m trying to figure out if that is just a fact of life with the Fly6/12 or there is some feature that I can turn on to make it record sound better. Interestingly enough it does not pick up the crazy conversations that I carry on with myself, which is a good thing, because they are usually profane laden rants.
So I will be interested in doing a group ride someday and capture some of my teammates riding together. That would be more interesting footage to watch than seeing the truck that runs me over.
The last thing of note is that I am trying to find another company to make team triathlon racing kits for our small group. The trouble is we are somewhat of a small group and most of these custom companies have minimum order numbers that we can’t reach. The company we last used upped their minimums by a few and also declared that the order all has to be of one sex, which stinks because we have added Gunner Jan to our group. I looked into another company that initially looked promising. They had promised to work on our project in April, and when I hadn’t heard from them I started emailing them with no response. I figured the guy was swamped or something, but it turned out that his company got bought out by another company from Mexico. No wonder I wasn’t getting any response from him. So I went back to the internet and found another company called Jakroo, which might be our best choice. They have basically no minimums, will assist with kit design, and you can order in both male or female sizes with no penalty, and I can add cycling jerseys, bike shorts, and other items, not just tri suits. They had a semi-custom design it yourself feature and I played around with it. Here are a couple of designs I came up with:
I ordered a kit that I made and will ride in it a few times to see if the quality meets what we need. I’m starting to get excited about having some new team kits!
Week 9 Training Totals:
Swims: None > Rides: 3 total / 76 miles > Runs: 4 total / 24 miles
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 ended this week with the typical Sunday run and was not in a good place mentally. I woke up on this fine St. Patrick’s Day to find about an inch of freshly fallen snow and I immediately slumped my shoulders and trudged downstairs. Will this winter never end? Come on, already! I also had strained my upper left leg groin muscle on Friday’s easy run. I can’t even go easy and not injure something anymore. It seems my attitude lately has been pretty low.
My fellow Gunner teammates are feeling somewhat off as well. In our group text chats this week we complained about the change to Daylight Savings Time and how that has screwed us up; our necks (Alex) and butts (me) hurting on the bike training; Alex declaring “I HATE THIS SPORT” after a windy, cold, and wet ride that was mentally draining for him; and to wondering why this sport costs so much.
By the time I got around to doing the run, the sun had pretty much melted what snow had fallen, leaving the paved trail void of any slippery spots. As I made it around the block I questioned if I had dressed warmly enough and continued on into the nature preserve where it wasn’t long until I encountered two dogs being walked off-leash and in the preserve where they weren’t allowed. They didn’t bother me physically, but mentally I wondered why can’t people follow the rules. As I began climbing the hills on this run I paid close attention to that strained groin and hoped that I would not strain it more. I backed off when I felt like it might be getting bothered and promised myself to take it easy today. Heading back home in the last mile of the 6 total miles I ran I almost got hit by a lady who must believe that stop signs are optional, and that yielding the right of way to a pedestrian who was actually crossing the street at the time was not in her ability. When she finally looked left and saw me she gave me the most puzzled look, like what the f*ck was I doing there in the street. The look changed from surprise to screw you, buddy, when she realized that I wasn’t happy with her ability to follow the Rules of the Road and not kill people. It wasn’t more than 1/4 mile later when I made it to the big intersection and pressed the WALK button and waited my turn. That’s when the next driver decided stop lights were optional when turning right on red and didn’t bother waiting for me.
As a runner, you learn to run defensively and anticipate those kinds of things, but when you deal with them nearly every run it starts to wear on you. When I got home I realized this week should have been a fun and easy one. Week 2 out of 30 should be fun, but it seemed it had other ideas for me and my training partners. But when I pushed the code to open the garage door I realized that I had made it home safely, I had gotten my run in even though I had strained my muscle, and I had completed the bikes and runs for the week, preparing the foundation of another Ironman attempt. The sun was out, the snow was gone, and in reality, things are looking pretty good. I have to remember that a positive attitude can go a long way in making 30 weeks of training be pleasurable. That is on me.
I took my bike in for a tune-up to make sure that it’s ready for riding when the weather gets better. I’m glad I did. Turns out the bottom bracket needed work, and one of my derailleur pulleys was cracked, so both got replaced.
It looks like the bike is in good running shape again and ready for the season. I can’t wait to get off the stationary bike and head outside.
Week 2 Training Totals:
Swims: None > Rides: 3 total / 50 miles > Runs: 4 total / 17 miles
A couple of months ago, Dave’s awesome wife and our usual Ironman travel coordinator Carla texted us Ironman friends and informed us that she had secured hotels for our next Ironman. Say that again? You did what?! When did we decide we are doing an Ironman?! Usually, when I get that nauseated feeling of signing up for an Ironman it is self-inflicted. This time Carla was causing it! After some not-so-deep introspection as to whether I wanted to add this to my racing calendar (I already had a spring and fall marathon and some shorter tri’s on it) most of our group decided to rev up our Gunner mobiles and give it another go. Honestly, training was not going well for my spring marathon Boston qualifying attempt, and this was a good enough reason to get out of that. As for that Chicago Marathon that is two weeks after this Ironman race, I will see how I feel. I may defer the race until the following year if I remember to do it in time, or I might just take it easy for two weeks post-Ironman and run Chicago as a victory lap. I was planning on it being my last one for a while anyway. So with that reasoning, I decided that I was in.
Training has now started for my fourth Ironman and again I am joined by my Gunner teammates, or some of them anyway. It appears that Alex and I are the only ones officially signed up, and my life long buddy Dave (Alex’s dad) was the one who initiated the idea about doing the race so I am sure he’s probably signed up. Jeff says he’s only in if John is in, but Jeff has started training for it too. John skipped Louisville and has his hands full with a very young family, so I’m guessing he may miss this one as well, but I never count him out. I’m trying to pitch the easy training plan to him, which requires less training time. There’s also talk of Jeff’s sister Jan joining us, and Dave is heavily recruiting his brother-in-law Scott to join in the fun. That’s awesome, the more the merrier. Also, there is a group of first-timers from the local running club that are also training for the race as well. I’m looking forward to seeing Susan and John B. training and completing their first Ironman, and I hope we can find some time to do some training rides together. So there are quite a few joining in the fun this time around.
Our adventure is taking us to the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, to Ironman Chattanooga, also known by triathletes as “Choo” as in The Chattanooga Choo-choo, and sometimes “Chatty,” and has a reputation for having a fast downstream swim, a mostly gentle rolling hill bike ride through northern Georgia and back to Chattanooga, and a run with a few killer hills. The most notable item about Choo is that the bike ride is 116 miles, four more miles than all of the other Ironman races, making this Ironman 144.6 total miles. The veterans will say that you don’t really notice the extra four miles of cycling and that the fast swim evens out the time. All Ironman races have unique things about them, but none of the others have an extra four miles. I’m looking forward to adding this race to my finisher resume.
Here’s a look at the bike and run elevation comparisons from the three races I have done (in order of completion) and Choo:
The data was taken from the Ironman website, but there are lots of triathletes that say that Ironman’s reported elevations are not very accurate. I seriously doubt that Moo has less elevation than Lou. Regardless, the chart is pretty consistent with how I remember them. Choo looks like an easy run compared to Moo and Lake Placid.
TRAINING PLAN FOR CHATTANOOGA
I’m changing up my training plan this time around. I will once again be using Don Fink’s Be Iron Fit for training, but after following the Competitive plan in the book for my previous three races I am giving serious consideration to following the Just Finish plan with some alterations. The main reason is that I am pretty sore all the time, and I just want to ease into the training this time around without killing myself. The Intermediate plan seems to me does not differ much from the Competitive plan to make it worth dropping down to. Getting the Saturday and Sunday long bikes and long runs in are what really matter, and the Just Finish plan starts off with much less time training but gradually catches up to the Competitive plan. The big difference is that the Just Finish maxes out at two 5-hour rides, whereas the Competitive plan has two 5-hour rides, a 5:30 ride, a 5:45 ride and finishes with a 6-hour ride. Not sure if I can handle that stuff this time around. We’ll see how the training goes and I may increase my weekend rides and runs to follow the Competitive plan. If the group decides to do a group ride and they are following the harder plan, then I will definitely go along with that.
As I eased into Week 1 training, I found that the Just Finish plan was less work than I had been averaging in my off-season training, so I decided to start with the Competitive plan and keep my daily efforts to about an hour of daily exercise until I’m happy using the Competitive plan, or when the Just Finish plan catches up to me.
As for swimming, I gained a lot of confidence from the training I did in 2017 for Ironman Louisville. Lou has a similar river swim as Chattanooga and I set a swim personal best there with a 1:09 swim. Lou has a short upstream swim portion which Choo lacks. At Choo, it’s all downstream, and I hear that even though the water temps may prevent wetsuit usage, many still set swim personal bests. For Lou, I basically waited until May when I opened my own swimming pool and just did two 45 minute swims a week, with the occasional hour-long swim or open water swim thrown in to keep me honest and make sure that I had the confidence I needed to swim 2.4 miles. Swimming for 45 minutes is really no big deal, and to swim an additional 45 minutes I always thought would be no big deal as well.
So here we go again! And I’m very excited about training for Ironman Chattanooga! GO GUNNERS!
Week 1 Training Totals:
Swims: None > Rides: 4 total / 57 miles > Runs: 4 total / 12.25 miles
Distance: Olympic/International: 1500 meters (0.93 mile) Swim, 40 Kilometers (24.8 mile) Bike, 10 Kilometer (6.2 mile) Run
Results: 2:53:43 – 756/2238 overall, 24/36 M55-59 Age Group, 171/483 Males Over 40
The Chicago Triathlon is always fun to do, even more so when your Team Gunner friends join in on the fun! WE LOVE THIS SPORT!!! Especially Gunner Alex! He loves it more than anyone!
I thought I’d let the pictures tell the story this time – so buckle up! Here we go!
Team Gunners started trickling in and I started taking selfies. The expo was where we all met and sat through the mandatory course talk in order to pick up our race packets.
I was kind of disappointed in the expo. I usually buy an event tri kit to wear in the race but they were almost completely sold out, save for a few size small tri tops. What guy wears a size small tri top? Nobody, that’s who.
After a quick discussion upon leaving the expo, we decided that we would take advantage of pre-racking our bikes in transition the day before the race. Here’s a few shots of what the transition area looks like. The photos don’t show the 7,000 plus bikes.
For dinner we went to Jeff and Jill’s house on Michigan Ave. and were treated to a wonderful spaghetti dinner. It was great, as was the conversation. Their view of Millennium Park and Lake Michigan is amazing.
RACE DAY – SUNDAY MORNING – 4 AM and the alarm goes off. I had written down that Dave said we should meet at the elevators of our floor at 4:40 am, but for some reason my mind registered to meet at 4:20 am. So there I was, 20 minutes early wondering where everyone was. Triathlon makes you dumb. The crew finally arrived and off we began our trek from the Chicago Hilton to transition again to set up the rest of our race gear. This is a long walk, and we were regretting not having our bikes to ride there. But honestly, the racks were so packed with bikes that I doubt I would have found room to rack the thing.
Upon leaving I saw three of Rebecca’s music teachers who were racing the Olympic distance as a relay team. I chatted them up and they seemed pretty excited.
Alex was first up. His wave started at 6:16 am. Lucky him. Did I mention that he loves this sport? He was racing in the Collegiate division with his buddy Brandon.
More pictures of Alex in the water. Nice sunrise photo, too! Thanks Kari!
It was Jeff’s turn to go next. He really loves this sport too. He’s on Week 28 of 30 training for Ironman Wisconsin. Fun times.
This cutie was next. This year Elizabeth and her friend Claire were in different waves. So Lizzy and Claire had to go it alone. I’m not sure if they love this sport too.
Somehow we missed taking pictures of Claire getting in the water, but I found this awesome photo on the race website. Go Claire!!! I’m guessing that she doesn’t enjoy this sport as much as we do.
My turn has finally come. What was I thinking about you ask? I was looking at these 55-59 year old men and thinking about how we all grew up listening to the same music, wearing the same types of clothes and doing the same stupid stuff back in the 70’s and 80’s. We’re the crew that somehow survived that period in one piece. Deep stuff man. Actually, I was fretting about how hot I was, that I had to pee, and that the run was going to suck. I love this sport.
SWIM: 1500 Meters – 32:03 – It was a pretty good swim for me, seeing that I had done practically NO swimming the entire summer. I was worried that the water would be warm – a week prior the water temp was 80 degrees. But thanks to some strong wave activity this past week, race day water temp was 70 degrees. I was surprised when I jumped in at how cold it felt. The water was perfect, very calm. I stayed wide of the fray and avoided contact. It was a pleasant swim.
T1: 5:40 – The distance from Swim Out to T1 seems like 1/2 mile. It’s a long way to go. I got my wetsuit off quickly, grabbed my bike and headed for Bike Out.
BIKE: 24.8 Miles – 1:13:49 – The bike course takes you north on Lake Shore Drive and although it can have some rollers, it’s pretty flat and fast. I’ve done about as much bike training as I have swim training, but I was moving along pretty well at an average of about 20.5 mph. Seeing that I was in Wave 24, I knew that there would be plenty of slower riders I had to pass around. I passed Elizabeth and then passed one of the Becca’s band teachers. I probably passed Claire too, but I didn’t see her. After coming back down LSD, you head into Lower Wacker Drive, and then the fun starts. I felt like I was riding a motorcycle. You loose GPS signal on Lower Wacker, so I really don’t know how fast I was going, but I assure you that I was easily getting over 25 mph. Love that section of the race. It’s was a lot cooler under there as well. The last third of the bike course is no fun. It’s on a bus only, two lane road and gets pretty crazy down there. I saw the aftermath of a crash with one guy still on the ground. I just wanted to get through it without any trouble, keep my average speed up, and get to the run in one piece.
T2: 3:27 – I’m kind of surprised that this isn’t longer, as helped a guy find his bike that he couldn’t locate, and I took time to shove an empty Gatorade bottle down my pants and pee into it as I walked from my bike to Run Out. Gotta love triathlon.
RUN: 10K/6.2 Miles – 58:46 – The run was a literal “hot mess” as the kids say. The race results listed the temperature at 93 degrees. It felt hotter. I started picking off other runners right away and got into a good pace. My split for the first mile was 7:42 and I knew I was not going to be able to hold it. By mile 3, I was walking the aid stations and just shuffling along. I felt like I had enough nutrition, I had taken 3 salt capsules leading up to this point, and I seemed like I was hydrated enough, judging from the color of my pee in that Gatorade bottle in T2. (I know, too much info.) My real concern was heat stroke. I could feel myself getting really hot. Fortunately, the aid stations had plenty of water and I kept putting it in me and on me. One table around the 4 mile mark had ice and I stuck some in my jersey pockets. By the time I passed by the 5K sprint turn around, they were sending all athletes back. The Event Alert System had gone to RED. Miles 4 and 5 were my slowest, notching a run/walk average pace of 10:35 and 11:03 respectively. But I think it was smart race management on my part. At least I didn’t end up like this girl:
Kari snapped this picture of another racer trying to prevent this girl from face-planting. She got medical assistance. The guy ended up in Dave and John’s race finish video. Kuddos to that guy.
I told myself that I would pick up the pace for the last mile and ended with a 9:27 pace for that mile. I’ll take it. It was brutal. Probably the hottest running race I have ever done. I can’t remember a hotter one.
My race finish video. I’m on the far right. If you watch it, turn the volume down. You’ve been warned.
Time to wrap it up:
Here’s Alex thoroughly enjoying his run. If you look at his leg you can see where he donated some skin to the pavement on Lower Wacker. I got to hand it to him – in spite of the signs saying to slow down for the turn, he went FULL GUNNER into it and wiped out. HE LOVES THIS SPORT!!!
Distance: Sprint: 400 yard Swim, 11 mile Bike, 3.1 mile Run
Results: 1:05:03 – 23rd overall, 2nd place M55-59
I thoroughly enjoyed this race when I did it for the first time last year, so there was no hesitation about signing up again this year. Kari joined me for the race this year again too, doing the duathlon. We got up around 5am and headed to the race.
As soon as we walked our bikes into transition I was met by a lady who recognized me and said she had read my blog from a previous race. She follows the same local running group that I do, but I was surprised that she had read it. I only share it on my page, so I’m guessing someone else must have shared it. Anyway, I kind of felt like a celebrity after that!
We ran into many familiar faces and we shared race day strategies and advised each other on who to look out for! Seems like a very close knit group. Even my wife remembered some of the duathlon competitors.
SWIM:400 Yards, 9:31, 3rd in A/G, 68th Overall
The swim temp was 77 degrees, barely wetsuit legal, but I only saw one guy wearing one. I opted to not even bring it from the car. I had a really good swim. Last year I was a touch faster, but I remember laboring more too. This swim had zero contact and was issue free. Some commented post-race that they thought the course was longer than 400 yards. My watch showed 511 yards, but I forgot to hit my lap button as I exited the water and headed into transition. Official T1 time was 1:14, which isn’t too bad.
BIKE: 11 Miles, 30:53, Average speed 21.4 mph, 3rd in A/G, 25th Overall
Like last year, I opted for the full aero disc on my bike and went all out from the start. I was pushing hard through the whole 11 mile ride. I didn’t get passed by anyone this year, and I was blowing by lots of other riders. The wind was much lighter this year and it was also from the west, so it only affected a mile or two of the ride. Moved up several spots after the bike. Official T2 time was 1:27, slower than T1 because I sat down to put on socks.
RUN:3.1 miles, 21:56, 7:04 per mile pace ave., 2nd in A/G, 20th Overall
I had not trained for triathlon much this spring in summer. This time last year I was already 10 or 11 weeks into Ironman Louisville training. When I got off the bike and started the run, my legs were rubber. Very apparent to me that brick workouts make a world of difference, and I hadn’t done hardly any this year. But all things considered, I settled into a comfortable pace and just started catching the next runner ahead of me. I must have passed a lot of duathletes, because I only moved up 5 spots from the bike. I started pushing a little harder at the 2 mile mark and just kept up the effort until I finished. I was greeted by a guy named Mike, who I beat last year and he asked what had taken me so long. Oh well, try to get him next year.
Kari and I both got 2nd in our age groups. Kari’s group seemed to be having more fun.
Overall, a little slower than last year, but I was not as prepared this year as last. Very fun day.
“Well I tried to make it Sunday, but I got so damn depressed, that I set my sights on Monday and I got myself undressed…” – America – Sister Golden Hair
I should be typing a glowing race report for the race I had signed up for today, but I’m not. I find myself typing words of regret, because for the first time in my history of doing races, I failed to start a race I had signed up for. A big fat DNS – Did Not Start.
I had every intention of doing the race. I was genuinely looking forward to doing it. ET Batavia is a sprint distance triathlon held in Batavia, IL. It’s an easy swim in a park district swimming hole, a gently rolling ride through town and outlying farms, and a tree lined run on the Fox River Valley Trail. I really enjoy the course and after racing it four or five times now, I was pretty familiar with it.
I set the alarm for 3:50 am and when it went off I got up with the full intention of getting ready and heading to Batavia. I could hear that it was raining outside, so I pulled up my weather app and saw this:
I dressed, ate and asked a now awake Kari if she still wanted to join me for a morning standing in the rain. Surprisingly she said “yes,” and we hopped in the car to head to the race.
I switched on the local AM radio for the weather and they were saying it was bad, and I new it wasn’t an exaggeration because it was raining hard on us. I got about 5 miles from home when I said “What am I doing?” I turned around and told Kari I’m pulling the plug on this one.
All things considered, as a triathlete I shouldn’t really worry about rain. You get wet in the swim for Pete’s sake. And I have raced two times now in heavy rain. I joked at Leon’s Triathlon the year we did it that it was interesting how the swim portion of the race was the driest part. It poured on us. And the 2018 Boston Marathon was not only rainy, but throw in cold and windy as well – the whole 26.2 miles. I wasn’t afraid of pulling out of the race because of the weather really, it just seemed ridiculous that I was about to drive 45-50 minutes to stand in the rain only to be told what my gut instinct was telling me – the race would be cancelled.
I got home and unpacked and checked Facebook for updates and there it was: “Race start at 7:40!!” REALLY?!?! Now I had regret. Knowing that I decided to pull out when others stayed with it just kills me.
Kari went back to bed. I ate another breakfast and read the newspaper until I fell asleep. Then I moped around the house until the skies stopped raining and I went for an 8 mile run. I ran hard, punishing myself for skipping a race I shouldn’t have. Oh well, I will be back next year – weather permitting.