Fear, Part… III

2021 IRONMAN CHATTANOOGA TRAINING

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WEEK 20 – July 18, 2021 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://youtu.be/UVxhiZorh-E

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

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

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

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

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The Forge Off-road Triathlon Race Report

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

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

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

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

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

Swims: 3 – 3587 yards

Rides: 4 – 115 miles

Runs: 4 – 18 miles

It’s Heating Up In More Ways Than One

IRONMAN CHATTANOOGA 2019 TRAINING

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WEEK 20 – Monday 7/15/2019 – Sunday 7/21/2019

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Week 20 is finally over and two-thirds of the training plan is in the books.  This week though – wow did it get warm.

I first noticed the heat on Friday, a 75-minute run.  I do my runs smack dab in the middle of the day when I get off from work.  I was seeing heat advisory warnings early in the week, and of course, I scoffed at them.  The Tues./Wed./Thur. workouts were really the typical summertime heat stuff, but Friday came and I started the run with pretty warm and humid conditions.  I felt pretty good for the first three miles and I was thinking I would just do an out and back on the bike trail, but when I got there it offered no shade and I was feeling the heat pretty well.  I decided to head to the other forest preserve trail and make it a loop run instead, hoping that the shade would keep me cooler.  It did, but the hills and humidity were starting to get to me.  I ended up walking quite a bit and kept thinking about getting more water.

I finally got to the park district office and was really feeling the heat at that point.  Sort of shuffling along and walking.  I went in and basked in the air conditioning in the lobby for about ten minutes and refilled my water bottle with cold water and rehydrated myself.  I was about a mile and a half from home and started out with a newer outlook on finishing that portion, but when my watch hit 75 minutes, I decided to walk the remaining 3/4 miles home.  Glad I did.

 

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Feels like 104 degrees was pretty spot on.

 

Saturday came with a prescribed 4-hour bike ride followed by a 45-minute run.  I was a little concerned about that, and decided to get up at 4:30 and hit the trail by 5:30.  After making sure I had all my gels and extra water bottles, I hit the road.  The skies were overcast, so I was very grateful for that.  But it was still 80 degrees and humid and would get worse as the day went on.  Fortunately, on the bike, you get the wind cooling you down, but I was sweating within ten minutes of the start.  Two hours into the ride I did the same dumb thing I did last week and went a little bit further so that I would hit 35 miles, making the total trip 70 miles.  But I knew I had been riding into the wind, so the little bit of extra riding would equal out in the end.

The tailwind was awesome and the remaining ride home was mostly enjoyable.  Somewhere around the 3:15 mark things got interesting, and I was no longer worried about the weather.

First up was a flock of geese crossing the road, and they couldn’t just turn around, no, they had to walk right in front of me.

 

Next, my chain fell off the big ring and landed on my crank by my right shoe.  I was cruising down a hill and had some good speed going, so I just figured that I would coast until I slowed down and then I would stop and fix it.  But as I looked down it looked like I could reach down and grab it, so I decided to risk crashing and try to get it back on.  I did it!  Here’s me celebrating my achievement:

 

After getting the chain back on I came upon a farm tractor going down the road.  Usually, 100% of the time I’m the one getting passed by a vehicle, but not this time!  I was catching it and thought I had a chance to pass it.  I had to wait for an oncoming car and then I made my move.

 

As an added bonus, up ahead was a group of cyclists waiting for the light and I could see that it was about to turn green as I approached.  When it did turn green, I hit the gas and put the hammer down leaving them in my dust.  That was fun!

When I got home I was feeling pretty beat, so I opted for the treadmill in the basement for a 5-mile run.  I kind of felt guilty about that, but I think it was a sound decision.  I would rather live for another day than suffer through a real feel temperature of 105 degrees after four hours of biking.

I rested up and rehydrated as best as I could on Saturday afternoon because I was volunteering to punch tickets for the Joan Jett and The Blackhearts concert in New Lenox that night.  It was hot at the start of the event, but we had water and the temperature did come down a little as the evening progressed.

 

Sunday was supposed to bring some relief with the temperature but after breakfast and a quick look at the weather to check for possible storms, I headed out the door to find that it was still warm and humid!  I planned to run 6.5 miles out for an hour and then turn around.  I was sweating like crazy again!  I refilled my water bottle at the turnaround and popped a salt capsule to replace the electrolytes, but I was starting to suffer.  I think my critical mistake here was the sweat-fest I had the prior two days as well as not rehydrating enough before this run.  I dragged my butt back and finished 12.5 miles of the 13.1 I had hoped for.  Oh well, live for another day, again.

Looking ahead to the next ten weeks left of training and things are certainly going to heat up, not just with the weather but also with the intensity of the workouts.  I am going to have to be more cognizant of the weather as we head into the heat of the summer and the longer bike rides and runs to come.  It’s starting to heat up in more ways than one.

 

WEEK 20 TRAINING TOTALS:

Swims: 2 total, 2,400 total yards

Rides: 3 total, 108 total miles

Runs: 5 total, 36.5 total miles

 

 

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Time to relearn the things I have learned in regards to the heat.

 

My Brain on Ironman

IRONMAN LOUISVILLE 2017 TRAINING

WEEK 20 – July 31 > August 6

I read a recent article in Triathlete magazine that covered the subject of mental preparedness in Ironman.  I have always thought that training your mind to handle the effort in training and the races was almost as vital as the physical aspect of getting your body ready to spend the more than half a day swimming, biking and running.  Some of it can be very mind numbing for sure.

I find the swimming to be the most boring of the three.  You are either looking at a black line at the bottom of a swimming pool, the dark murkiness of a lake, or in my case a bunch of dead bugs lying at the bottom of my pool, a constant reminder that I also need to devote time to take care of things that get neglected during training.

Running can also be boring, but you can bring music if you are so inclined.  I don’t, but I do let the beauty of the area in which I run to keep me distracted from any suffering that may be going on.  I jogged behind a deer on Wednesday for about a minute until it finally took notice and bounded into the woods.

I find that I don’t have the luxury of being unfocused on the bike.  It’s the one discipline of triathlon in which you are required to focus.  You have to constantly monitor your surroundings, your effort level, and make sure that you don’t crash.  Certainly there are times when I can zone out, but something always quickly renews your focus on the bike – a bump on the road, a bug to the face, a gust of wind, etc.

Often times when someone asks about the Ironman, they only think in terms of how long it is – 140.6 miles – and are impressed that the distance can be covered under your own power.  But I find that your mind easily adapts to the distance if you break it down into manageable segments.  My training is 30 weeks long.  That’s a long time.  But when it is broken into its individual weeks, and then into each day, it is much easier to mentally handle the task.  The woman who inquired about my training this week asked me about the training, and I said for Wednesday’s workout I did 45 minutes on the bike followed by a 30 minute run.  A total of 75 minutes of exercise.  Lots of people can do that.  Break it up and it is much more manageable.

At Ironman Wisconsin in 2013, I found that I couldn’t bear to look out at the water where the swim course was being held prior to race day.  It looked enormous!  But on race day morning, I got in the water for the start and broke the swim up into small segments.  My plan was to swim from one orange buoy to the next.  On the bike it was all about riding to the next aid station where I could refill my water bottle and take on some more nutrition, then it was on to the next one.  Same thing with the run – one mile at a time, one aid station to the next.

So I guess the physical training for the race is the most important aspect of completing an Ironman.  But if you can train your brain to manage the race, it can make the physical portion of it much less of a burden.

THIS WEEK

Swimming in Lake Minocqua. 

I volunteered as a chaperone at this past couple of weeks at band camp.  Fortunately for me I was able to take the 3-6pm slot, and was still able to get my workouts done midday.  The weekend was spent in Minocqua with the family.  I felt the need to be with the family and spend quality time that is no longer a given. My son has his own job and is living out of state. And my middle daughter will begin her sophomore year at college soon. So to have everyone together for two short days was a luxury that I couldn’t pass up. So I skipped the scheduled four hour bike ride. But I was able to get an open water lake swim in as well as the two hour Sunday run. That run nearly wiped me out physically and mentally. I’ve got some work to do in the next ten weeks. 

TOTALS:

2 Swims – 4400 yards this week / 64450 yards total

2 Bikes – 41 miles this week / 9467 miles total

7 Runs – 40 miles this week / 605 miles total

Week 20 complete. Bring on the Peak Phase!