February 08, 2011

The Three Faces of a Triathlete

Saturday and Sunday mornings were always "Big Days" during training season. When I was signed up for an Ironman or Half-Ironman it was always Long Bike & Run on Saturday and Long Run on Sunday. I loved to do it early to get it out of the way so it wouldn't hang over my head later in the day. Plus it freed me up to do anything the family wanted (or to complete any work around the house.) We could happily go places and I wouldn't carry the stress of the workout looming over my head. I am sure we have all been there before. Plus they were usually sleeping while I was out logging mile after mile on the bike or run so it was a no brainer to do it first thing. Even when I was only doing "small things" for the upcoming racing season or when the season was over, I preferred doing my workouts in the morning. When mountain bike season is in full swing, it's the same. Ride in the AM, be home by 10:30 with bagels and no one gives you grief. Plus, it's the courteous thing to do. Those who ask for something must give back in return. All is fair in love and war or something like that.

Now that we are in the midst of enduring one of the longest, snowiest, and coldest Winters on record, I ask myself what has happened to me?! It seems that all I want to do on weekends is spend my Saturday (and Sunday) mornings in my PJ's, by the fire, reading my book and drinking hot coffee. In fact I look forward to it. If I am going to go out and run, it's usually later in the day when the sun is at it's warmest. Or I hit the treadmill and/or the bike trainer. But it's always later when the family is up and about and I'm fully awake with 3 good cups of coffee under my belt. And I have had my "quiet time" by the fire.

I guess I am using the weather as an excuse. This is certainly with good reason. But right now I am a lost soul searching for my motivation. I watched home movies my daughter made from two of my Ironman races this past weekend and I got re-energized all over again. But it's a fleeting feeling. I couldn't turn it into anything substantial work out wise. I am setting my sights on 2013 for Ironman again but each shot of pain below my knee and ache in my back makes me wonder if I will get there again. Now it's not only mental but physical as well.

The plan for 2011 is still to get out there and race in a Half Ironman and I am still setting my sights on REV3 in June but we will see. At press time I am still not signed up.

Finally, I should defend my other half because I am not being totally lazy. I am getting one bike trainer session in per week and I am running every third day. But the pool is whispering my name and I am not listening or answering the call. One half wants to get back in the water while the other half could care less.

January 31, 2011

Did What I Said

Yesterday, I did what I said I would: went to the basement, passed the easy chair and rode my bike on the trainer. I actually had a nice workout. It was only 45 minutes but I peddled hard including getting out of the saddle several times simulating hills. Now the real test is to keep it going. We shall see.

I have to say that motivation was supplied by jumping back on blogger and reading several of the triathlon blogs out there. I even posted links on some of the ones I enjoyed reading. Thanks everyone.

January 30, 2011

Lost in Space

It is hard to believe that it has been over 4 months since my last post to this blog. I can't explain why except that I think I lost interest. Plus there has been so much going on in my life that I just didn't t make the time to write and keep it updated. I was also thinking of abandoning this idea for several others. I still might.

I haven't raced in a triathlon since Ironman Lake Placid in July 2009. In fact I haven't swam one single lap since then either! When I lost my job 4 days before the race, I dropped our family membership to the Y in a monetary move to tighten our belts. I am just now considering re-joining as our "situation" has become a little better. I have plans to jump back into racing this year with REV3 Quassy Half-Ironman (www.rev3tri.com) in Middlebury, Connecticut as the target race but as of press time I have't yet signed up.

I haven't completely lost my fitness the last 18 months by drinking beer and watching sports from the easy chair in my basement (although there has been plenty of that). There has been a lot of serious mountain biking, some road riding (when there isn't snow on the ground) and some running. In fact, I have been looking to sign up for a 10K or a half-marathon if I can figure out where and when as well as finding the motivation to actually do it.

In conclusion, I am hopeful that 2011 will get me back into triathlon racing. Whether I continue with the Iron H blog remains to be seen. I have a few other ideas I have been kicking around including something "triathlon related" but we shall see. For right now on this quiet Sunday morning, I think I may head down into that basement, by pass the easy chair and mount my bike in the trainer. Wish me luck!

September 14, 2010

Ironman: The Hardest Component Part II

Nutrition. Some say it's the fourth discipline. I believe I have written about this before. Maybe more than once! For me it's the first discipline. In three Ironman races, I managed to get it right only once, my first time. I followed a similar program the very next year but the results were quite different. Let's just say it didn't work. By the time I left the transition tent after the bike, my stomach was well on its way to shutting down. After dry heaves at mile 10, it was "the will to finish and flat coke" that got me through. I walked most of the last 13 miles! Not fun! Some say that if one walks in Ironman, then there is something not completely right about that. I disagree. Triathlon, and Ironman specifically, is about finishing. As long as you do it legally.

But getting back to what makes this race so hard, Nutrition is second on my list. If you don't hit it right on the bike, it makes the run that much more difficult. And you are in for a long day. Trust me, I've experienced it twice now.

September 09, 2010

Ironman: The Hardest Component Part 1

It has been over a year now since I last did Ironman in July 2009. I was out running recently and was thinking back to what the hardest part of the race really is. I mean if you dissect it piece by piece, what really stands out as the most challenging?

This really didn't take long to think through. For me, it was the run. And if I break it down further, it's the components of the run including the psychological aspect, nutrition and time of day that stand out.

First, the psychological component seems evident. You just finished a 2.4 mile swim and a 112 mile bike and all you have left is a 26.2 mile run. Thought of in those terms, the run seems at first like a picnic. It certainly is when you are at mile 95 on the bike and you and your muscles are screaming to be done already. The run appears very inviting. Anything to get off the bike even running a marathon! When you do finish the bike, pull into transition and relieve your tired feet from those rigid bike shoes, it's a great feeling. First, you know made it through the bike and the race is almost over. Second, it feels incredible to be standing in sneakers and not hunched over screaming at the pain in your back, quads and everywhere else.

You leave the tent and get swallowed by the crowds lining the street calling your name. For a brief moment as you run through town, you are a true rock star. Then after 1 or 2 miles, reality sets in. The crowd dumps you like a bored girlfriend. The muscles start to ache once more and this time all over. (They never really stopped aching!) Suddenly, the thought of running 26.2 miles starts to choke you. The mind begins its relentless campaign of getting you to stop. The little red devil appears on your shoulder and won't go away. It's going to be a long day and night and you know it. You feel it.

Next post, I'll go into the Nutritional aspect of the run and what it means. Nutrition itself could make or break your whole race. It starts the day before, takes hold in the morning of the race, and completes the second act (the bike) in a breathtaking climax. How it turns out is what Act 3 (the run) is all about.

July 20, 2010

The Heartless Can't Keep Me Down

One year ago tomorrow was an interesting day. It was my last day of work before I would be packing up the Suburban and heading north with the family to race Ironman in Lake Placid. It was also my last day of work with my then employer.

I remember the day like it was yesterday. As I awoke that morning, I had a certain bounce in my step. Training was just about over with Ironman just 4 days away. I had had a good 8 months of training that started the week of Thanksgiving in 2008. I felt I was prepared to meet my race goals. IM training is a long, hard grind and when you get to the last week, it's quite a relief. Even though you are feeling the stress of the approaching race, you know the end is near.

My job was as a manager in charge of a sales team in the IT staffing industry. I was looking forward to putting in a good day of work and then taking off until the following Wednesday when I would return. My family was looking forward to this trip as well since it was also serving as our summer vacation.

I was in my office when my then boss kept trying to come in to talk with me. I kept getting phone calls so he would duck back out again. It was like musical chairs. Finally, he got in, the phone didn't ring (Bummer!), he sat down and he laid it out on me: "We're letting you go." Did I just hear that? Wait a minute, I have been giving my heart and soul to this place for the last 2 years for little in return. Since November, I have been training for Ironman, which he knew, and not once did it ever interfere with work. I was also taking off for only 4 days all of which I had earned. He didn't even have the heart to wait until I returned. He made the choice to pile on more stress on top of the stress I was already feeling from racing 140.6 miles on Sunday. More than anything, I was insulted.

I packed up my things and left abruptly. The heat that day was unbelievable. It must have been 90 degrees. So, there I was in the parking lot of our building, in a suit, sweating and pacing back and forth. I was angry. I was upset. But I was also, in a weird way, relieved. I really couldn't stand working for this guy anyway. He was the sole owner of this small, Mom & Pop company. He was arrogant, pompous, thought he knew everything but really knew nothing on how to run and grow a company. He could care less about the people who worked for him. Since I was there, I saw it repeatedly how poorly he treated people.

But I was also nervous because now I had to call my wife and let her know. She would cry. She would be angry. She would be upset. And the worst of it, our little vacation would now have a black cloud hanging over it.

Fast forward to now. I can honestly say that losing my job that day was a great thing for me. I am with a much better company run by managers that care about their people. They also know how to run a business.

I didn't let the firing ruin my race. Even though I didn't finish in the time I wanted, it was still my fastest IM finish by about 10 minutes. And my wife and daughters had a great time too! My niece gave me a great motivational tool for that day. She said, "every time you want to slow down, get angry and think of your boss." But you know what? I didn't think of him at all. I thought of good images not bad. Even though I had good reason to think of him at Mile 10 of the run when I had the drive heaves.

July 17, 2010

The Summer of Nothing

No races.
No real training.
No alarms going off at 5 AM to get to the pool.
No cold pools half awake.
No 100 mile rides.
No hills at 90 degrees and humid, ready to throw up.
No 3 hour runs.
No sore knee's.
No Nothing.
Well, almost nothing.

I haven't totally forgot how to lace up my running shoes or pump air in my tires but basically this has been the Summer of Nothing. And I can't decide if I like it or not. I don't miss the time commitment. (How did all this work around the house ever get done?) But I do miss the challenge and the good tiredness all that training brings. I always seem to sleep better when I did something earlier in the day. Now I just sleep.