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.

July 04, 2010

1 Year Ago: 100 Miles

One year ago yesterday was my final long ride for Ironman Lake Placid before the great season of tapering began. I looked back yesterday and honored the day with a shorter, albeit grueling, mountain bike ride. Not 100+ miles in the saddle.

It is true that I am enjoying this "no racing season" but I am starting to get itchy. There will be no Ironman in 2011 or 2012 for that matter. But next year I get back in the game with a half-IM and some shorter races. Heck, I might even pick up a sprint race this September if I can drag myself back into the pool anytime soon. For now though, it's a few morning runs, lots of Mountain Biking, and Miller Lite's.

I think back to that ride last year and remember it as being pretty hot and it involved a lot of hills. I get butterfly's when I think of it and the entire training plan overall. When you look back on what you need to do for 35 weeks, it's mentally challenging. How does one do it? The answer: you just do. Like anything in life, if you want it that badly, you go for it. Failure is not an option. There will be bumps in the road to Ironman but if you want to cross that finish line, and I did, then you just do it.

June 19, 2010

Gotta Be the Shoes

What a great morning for a mountain bike ride up in Ringwood, New Jersey. 60 degrees to start and sunny. I added some new parts to the bike including a Cannondale Lefty fork on the front so I was looking forward to it. But check out those shoes! Is it time to break down and get a new pair? I would say so since mid-way through the ride, the cleat on my left shoe ripped right out of the plastic sole on the bottom of the shoe. I was ready to head back via a fire road while my friends pushed on over some of the sweetest, technical single track Ringwood has to offer. But they wouldn't let me. And that's what friends are for, right?!

Well, we fixed the shoe as best we could. I was able to ride the rest of the trails out although the left foot kept slipping out of the pedal. Not so much fun when you are riding over some rough rocks and roots but it worked. Now it's time to break down and get a new pair. I can't tell you how long I've had these. I mean, it's crazy how long I've had them. That's a testament to the find product that Diadora makes. I wouldn't hesitate to but the same model. But I think they are out of print so to say.

Anyway, I owe it to my friend's to buy a new pair.

June 06, 2010

No Eagleman in 2010

Next Saturday I will do something that I haven't done in 8 years: stay home. This is Eagleman weekend and the boys and I will not be heading south to Maryland to compete. I feel a sort of sadness but, let's face it, it's a tough race. And I deliberately took this year off in terms of entering the long races: no Ironman and no half-Ironman. I have no sprint races scheduled either but we'll see. The only problem is that I haven't been in the pool since last July. And I don't see my self going there any time soon.

Eagleman is a great race and I have certainly stated this before. But the conditions can be very challenging. It's usually hot, windy and the current in the river can be rough. One year there were 3 foot wakes. No joke. You have to come into this race well trained. Otherwise it will be a very long and depressing day. This race rarely gives you any breaks and will punish those who treat it lightly.

Yeah, I'll be sad next Saturday but hey, I'll be relieved as well.

March 07, 2010


Nothing is better for the body and soul than sunshine. And a ride outside on the bike to boot! It's been mild these past 2 days here in Northern New Jersey: Sunny and 54 degrees. Yesterday, I ran for 35 minutes OUTSIDE and today I biked for 50 minutes OUTSIDE. It's been a long, hard, cold Winter and I can finally see light at the end of the tunnel. This depressing, long cocoon of inactivity that I've been struggling with is coming to an end. This past week included 4 workouts and I'm declaring that my struggle is near the end. The enemy is withdrawing and life is returning to "normal" again. Praise the God of Ironmen!

January 21, 2010

Good vs. Evil

Yesterday morning looked bad. I couldn't get out of bed right at 6 AM so I was on the verge of losing my window of opportunity. My window was this: I needed to get on the trainer at 6:05 in order to get 30 minutes of riding in, be able to shower, dress & eat something and all before 7:15 so I could take my daughter to school and then drive myself to work. And, last but not least, keep my promise. My promise to finally get myself going in 2010.

Well, my daughter was putting up quite the resistance. She said she "didn't feel well" and I was pushing her a little hard. I was also pushing the clock. I looked at my watch and it read 6:25. I was ready to throw in the towel when my wife said she was letting her sleep for a little longer and would take her in after 1st period. Okay I thought. Do I go back to bed and sleep for 30 more minutes? Or do I push through this mental resistance that has been hanging over me like the smog in LA? I had good and evil on opposite shoulders and evil was about to win when I finally said "Enough!"

I changed into my bike shorts, a dri-fit shirt, grabbed some socks, my ipod, bike shoes and headed down to my dark, dank and chilly basement. What happened next was a transformation. A re-awakening if you will. OK, maybe it wasn't that poetic but I did get 25 minutes in and felt great afterwards. A small victory and a step forward. I will admit that I felt more vigorous throughout the day. Maybe not so much from the physical workout itself but from the mental aspects that I pushed through. Good beat evil and I'll live another day. But let's see what tomorrow brings.

January 19, 2010

2010 Plans

I ran yesterday. I didn't jog. And it felt great! 50 degrees here in New Jersey and it felt like a spring day. I even managed to vacuum out two of our cars and wash one of them in our driveway. I would have taken the bike out for a ride but the roads are still mucky with dirt, mud, salt, sand and other elements that want to destroy my two wheels. So, I did the next best thing: I set her up on the trainer in my basement in what is known as the "Art Room." And tomorrow I shall ride before work.

My new year's resolution was to create a 2010 plan that would encompass all my life goals including working out. I have a drop dead date of getting it done by January 31but it's nearly complete and I will finalize it well before that date for sure. But just in case, the clock is ticking and I have 11 days to finish the final copy.

But isn't it funny that I have to put a workout goal in my 2010 plan? I mean less than 6 months removed from crossing the line at Ironman Lake Placid and I need to write down my workout goals! Yep, that's right. Because it gets harder as you get more involved and go greater distances. The mind fights you all along the way and you need to give your best shot right back. Staying on track with a workout goal(s) requires work and that work requires planning.

January 18, 2010

My Jog

I run; I don't jog. I go running; I don't go jogging. Those of us who seem to take running seriously, always want to make that distinction. Jogging is something you do casually. "There's nothing to do so let's go out for a jog." But running defines you. You're going somewhere when you run. Whether it's long mileage or part of triathlon training, running has a purpose. When I go for a run, I typically fight through mental or physical pain. Physical usually being the soreness in my knee's. Mental usually being another obstacle on my way to race day. Do I have to run again today? "It's cold outside, it's raining and I've worked out 6 days this week already." That's what running conjures up in the mind. Jogging does not.

So, last Monday, I made my way down to the basement to my treadmill. I've been struggling with my workouts since last July and part of the problem is that I have no races scheduled for 2010 right now. No Ironman. I've raced 3 out of the last 4 years and the family and I need a break. No Half-Ironman. My 9 straight years of heading south in June to Eagleman will come to an end in 2010. Therefore, I have no goals.

My intention this early Monday morning, before work, was to get on the treadmill and get the legs amd knee's begging for more of this. Tease them a little. Get them used to the pain and get the mind used to doing something early. Endorphins can illicit addiction. My overall plan was to get moving 4 days a week at the minimum. And this morning I was shooting low. I was going for lowing hanging fruit. Get an entry in the workout journal as a cornerstone for the rest of the winter. Bring me into the Spring, when the days start to get longer and the temperature warmer, with the right mindset. That's why I kept the speed low, the incline at zero, the time short and went for a jog to get things going.

January 09, 2010

In a Rut

New year but no new motivation.

I am in a downward spiral from my Ironman finish in July of last year. A mere shadow of what I once was. I haven't gained much weight, maybe 10 pounds over race day, but that is typical for me. It's my mind and spirit that are operating like a sloth right now.

It hasn't been a total shut the door on working out mind you. There have been "weekly" runs, usually 3+ miles for 25 to 30 minutes. That's once a week. And back when the ground was still visible (no snow) and the temp was bearable (above 30 degrees F), we were mountain biking every Saturday. But we are in a cold spell here in North Jersey and there has been snow on the ground since before Christmas and 20 degree days with wind chills below that. So, what's the point?

Every night I go to bed with the intention of waking up and hitting the treadmill in my basement for 30 minutes in the morning before work. (30 minutes is all I can stand before I go insane running in place). But, alas, I am "too tired" and unmotivated to follow through. Then there is my room in the basement where I usually set up my bike on the trainer. Unfortunately, we have been accumulating "junk" and there is no room in there to set the trainer up. One day I will straighten it up and make room but that day has not arrived. So, I tumble further down into this abyss of inactivity.

Three of my training buddies have signed up for a half IM in Connecticut in June but I have not. I've been to the website and it looks like a great race but I'm still standing on the sidelines. Besides how will I train for the swim? We put the Y membership on hold last August to save money. And it's too cold to swim outside.

Even writing this blog has become a chore. Here I sit on Saturday morning, in the basement, with the treadmill staring me down. I have to avoid eye contact with it when I go back upstairs. But I'm writing. My first post since November. Maybe this is the break I need to break out of this rut. No promises. We will just have to see.