Friday, December 11, 2009

The Most Interesting Man In The World

In the last week, I have been going back and forth on whether to man up and do Ironman St. George in May. As an unreformed addict, I'm a bit lost without an Ironman, but I think one of the main reasons Ironman is going on hiatus is that there are other things I want to try that would be impossible if I were training at an Ironman level.

For one thing, it is high time I got serious about working on the craft of writing. I have signed up for a fiction writing workshop, and I want to put in the effort of writing and rewriting that it deserves.

And remember in my last post where I mentioned "professional obligations" that I ought to be attending to?

Well, some of you know that when I doff my cape and super hero tights, I take on the secret identity of a mild-mannered lawyer.

In fact, I am an appellate lawyer, which means I read, write and research about the courts all the time.

When I have spoken at seminars on the law and the courts, I often get "best speaker" awards and high marks for content and entertainment.

(To be fair, law nerds are easily entertained. We don't get out much).

And some of the marketing people at the firm know that I blog.

So, if you combine my legal savoir faire and my mad blogging skillz with my dashing good looks and razor wit, do you know what you get?

The Most Interesting Man In The World.

As if there were any question.

Or at any rate you have the makings of a legal blogger.

Or blawger.

Maybe even a blawger that lawyers and clients would want to read.

So, as it happens, the firm has asked me to start a legal blog in the area of my professional expertise, Texas and Federal Appellate Law.

For the last several months, we have been trying to set a legal blog in a fashion where it could be done properly, and it looks like we are about to hit the ground running. Very soon we will launch a law blog called:

The Appellate Record
Because if it's not in here, it didn't happen.

Consistent with my history of biting off more than I can chew, I intend to make that legal blog the most authoritative and useful and entertaining voice on its subject matter in the Great State of Texas.

Yeah, let me know how that works out.

I say that to say this. I am expected to post regularly to the law blog without decreasing my billable hours or my collections. And I don't think I can post regularly there and write fiction and make speeches and write scholarly articles and continue developing as an athlete and be a good father and husband all while continuing to post here two or three times a week.

Not to mention the fact that this blog has largely been about me, and I have thoroughly exhausted that topic.

So, while I hope that this blog is not ending entirely, it is definitely going on a hiatus and at minimum is probably changing its focus. After the law blog gets going, I have some idea that I might repurpose this blog as a place for once weekly posts to encourage and instruct the new athlete who wants to get up off the couch of doom and reclaim their life and their health. I might even start a fiction blog to write a wovel.

And I'll probably maintain this space as one method of shouting out to my virtual friends so as to arrange races and events across the country.

So, don't delete me from your RSS feed or your google reader just yet.

But, trigreyhound, as it has existed before, a self-absorbed blog focused on my multi-sport mediocrity, is coming to an end.

It is time for what's next, and that "next" requires room. That means, at least for the moment, I pause and put down my pen.

I put it down grateful beyond words. The comments I have received on this blog tell me that this blog has mattered to some of its readers. Some are better off for having read it. Some have dared do great things that they might otherwise not have done. Some have broken beyond their comfort zones. In that, I have succeeded beyond anything I would have imagined when, 603 posts ago, in March of 2006, I first said . . .

So, here goes . . .

It has been a great ride, and I prize the friends this blog has brought me more than you can know. Those I will keep long after this URL dies. A mid-life that could have been colorless and dead has been made vivid and life-affirming.

You did that, not me.

You have taught me how to be an encouraging friend, and if you find me on Facebook, I will ever be that still. There is nothing more precious than a true friend to walk beside you, and with love, I will always be,

Your faithful friend,


Tuesday, December 08, 2009

What Now?

As I begin writing this post, it is Sunday night, the house is quiet, and I am bluer than B.B. King on a drunken bender. It's nothing unnatural or worthy of concern. I get this way after every season-ending Ironman. It's the Ironman blues.

Typically, it gets worse if I sit still, but right now I cannot train. Indeed I ought not train. So, the next best thing I can do is start scheming and planning for next year. That's where you come in. I always enjoy racing more when friends are involved. I'd love to host you in magnificent Tejas, and I'd love to race with you somewhere else.

But first . . . about that Ironman thing.

I am addicted and conflicted. I feel lost without the epic threat of an Ironman date on my calendar. It creates organization and purpose from necessity--sheer survival. And part of me wants some Ironman redemption. I did not race as strongly at Cozumel as I wanted to do. And that has only a little to do with the number on the clock.

And yet, I think my plans to do IM St. George are unwise. Cozumel took the starch right out of me. I cannot see being ready to commit to another Ironman, even by January. In addition, I've started thinking about other things I would do if not training 15 hours or more a week. There are family and professional obligations I should be attending to. And I want to pour time into my writing, including a fiction workshop here in Houston, instead of training on an Ironman level.

And Ironman is not making me better any more. Ironman is not making me improve. I've plateaued with the long and slow. I know what I need to do to improve and another Ironman is not it. I need to learn how to race and to suffer and to go fast. I need to get my butt into masters swim 5 days a week, regular swim lessons with a coach, and race HARD at the Olympic distance once or twice a month all year. Later in the year, I ought to try building up to a substantial PR at the Longhorn 70.3 and try to see how far under six hours this old dog can go.

Toward that end, I'm already scheming next year's schedule. What follows are some of my ideas. You are invited to come along and stay chez Greyhound, and they are subject to change if you want Greyhound couch surfing at your place:

2/27 Rodeo Run 10K (Houston)

3/13 Bayou City 10K (Houston)

4/10 Gateway to the Bay OLY (Kemah, maybe)

4/25 Lone Star OLY (Houston, definitely)

5/15 Ogden 1/2 Marathon

5/31 Cap Tex OLY (Austin)

6/25 Philly Tri OLY

JULY/August--Colorado Cycling Adventure, Boulder Stroke and Strides

8/29 Alcatraz Triathlon (REALLY? Swim in S.F. Bay? Holy Shit!)

9/6 Austin Tri OLY (prolly only if no Alcatraz)

9/26 Houston Tri OLY (new race)

10/17 Longhorn 70.3 (Austin)

Then in 2011 something epic, like IM Lake Placid or Austria or Brazil or New Zealand!!!

Come on, peeps. Help me out of this funk. Let's get some suffering on the calendar and make some bad decisions.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Ironman In Review

So, the Ironman experience is over for the year--for good and for ill. And it bears looking back to see those people and experiences that made the Ironman Cozumel experience what it was.

First, a tip of the hat to those parts of the race that were all awesomeness.

To Mrs. Greyhound and Superpounce who gave me the grace to go my miserable pace into the night rather than either quit or stress that I was taking too long because of any impatience to be done. Sometimes you just gotta walk.

Coach Kris deserves a tip of the hat for writing programs and answering e-mails and phone calls and guiding me through a year of training. He got me to the start line fitter than ever, healthy and ready to go. He wrote a program that I could complete while keeping my job and my marriage. I liked having a coach for the first time in my life, and I could not have had a better or more knowledgeable one. At times, he deserved a better athlete, but you git' what you git.

To the fine folks at Endurance Sports Travel: we tested your theory that Ironman travel can be idiot proof, and your theory held up. If you ever want to do a destination Ironman race, and you want someone to handle the details and take care of your family while you race and treat you like a rock star, even if you are slow, then Endurance Sports Travel is the only way to go. Owned and operated by Ironman legend Ken Glah, Endurance Sports Travel makes an Ironman trip worry free, at a cost less than what many of the athletes paid to make all those arrangements on their own. I don't know where my next destination Ironman will be, but I plan to pick the destination off of their itineraries. HUGE Tip O' the Greyhound Chapeau and A++ to them.

To bloggy peeps like Greyt Times and Coach Liz and Speed Racer and Kim and Johnny Tri, and The Artist Formerly Known As Iron Kahuna: People and friendships make this sport special, and all of you were a big part of why this trip has good memories for me. As I sit here in the house on a quiet Sunday afternoon with a profound case of the Ironman blues, I'm missing people like you. My only real regret is not having enough time on the island with each of you, and it will be a true disappointment if we can't share a race venue again some time in the very near future.

To Cozumelenos, you people turned out and opened the town for a bunch of weirdos in spandex with pointy helmets as if we were all rock stars. You cheered and chanted and applauded and offered hospitality never before seen north of the Rio Grande. Cozumel rocks.

To the race organization: Great spot for a race, very well executed overall, problems on the day were tackled quickly, the spectators were fantastic, and if you want a tough, tough (did I say effing TOUGH) Ironman experience, then this is the place to go. I say this, though, as preface to what I hope will be some constructive criticisms that will make the race even better.

The water bottles handed out on the race course were CRAP! As designed, one could not get enough water to come out the nozzle to pour down the gullet or over the head. Thus, people finally resorted to grabbing the nozzle in the teeth and ripping them off entirely, creating an open spout. Get a different bottle.

Mosquitos on the run course. Race organization needs repellent at the aid stations, and you best put some in your special needs bag or you'll be eaten alive.

Bike Aid Stations: Volunteers were game and friendly and eager to do a good job, but they needed training in some of the particulars--e.g., you have to take the inner seal off the Gatorade bottle so a cyclist can use it, and you have to keep the water bottles filled and ready to go. No water on the second loop of the bike course was not acceptable. This race will always be hot and you should anticipate needing twice as many iced water bottles because everyone is taking on cold water every 10k.

Special Needs Bags: the special needs bags were a clusterfuck. You can't do it on the narrow side of the island where there is no space. Do it before or after where the road is wide instead. Have someone down the road with a walkie talkie calling numbers so people can ride by and grab their bags on the run. This business of stopping and pawing through 2000 bags on the side of a narrow road was way below average.

Coastal rode: OK, so it is chip seal. It doesn't have to be washboard, bucking bronco, pound your testicles into your Willie chip seal. That road sucked--as did a notable section of the pavement in town--dangerously so. Obviously, this might not be the priority of local government, but if it could be resurfaced . . . . .

Ice and Coke: The organizers refilled it quickly when it ran out, but when it is this hot, you should never, EVER run out of ice, even for an instant. Ditto Coke later in the marathon. Never run out, and you must de-fizz the coke if runners are going to make use of it.

Medical Tent: if half of your participants are going to speak English, you must have someone in the medical tent who can tell an English speaking spouse that her husband is not there. Otherwise, Mrs. Greyhound will punch your lights out.

So, I would do this race again in a heartbeat, but I would do it for a Mexican vacation, not looking for a PR. It was a great experience, and I know it will be even better for the competitors who turn up for the second edition of Ironman Cozumel.

Friday, December 04, 2009

And So It Begins

Maybe it's because this was my best race this year . . . maybe it's because I can't stand having no training schedule and no race calendar, even for a week . . . but this is gonna be the key race at the end of next season.

October 17, 2010.

Come on bloggers and Facebook friends. Let's do this thing together.

The Artist Fomerly Known As The Tri-Geek Kahuna

**Editor's note: it is with great pleasure that I bring you a guest contributor, a man who was key in inspiring this blog and my exploits in the first place. I bring you the race report of the Iron Kahuna, one of the original tri bloggers**

35,000-FEET SOMEWHERE OVER NORTHERN MEXICO—Big thanks to TriGreyhound for allowing the Iron Kahuna to post this race report on Ironman Cozumel on his site. Those triathletes of a certain age will remember the Kahuna from TriGeekDreams, one of the first triathlon blogs on the Internet that suddenly went dark a few years ago, retiring like NFL Jim Brown did at the top of his game.

Well, the Iron Kahuna is back and badder than ever, at least for this single post.

About a year ago, Greyhound sent the Kahuna a message. “Hey, they’re starting an Ironman in Cozumel. How about we sign up?”

The Kahuna had one Ironman under his race belt—in Florida three years ago when the Gulf Coast did a nice imitation of a freezing fall day in New England. Still, surrounded by his tri-blogger friends—and with the proper training under his belt—it turned out to be one of the best weekends of his life. You can still see the Kahuna and Trimama getting their tattoos on YouTube (and yes, the Kahuna did cried like a little bitch, Trimama didn’t feel a think and Robo-Stu laughed his ass off).

Three years can make a memory hazy. The physical and mental pain of an Ironman recedes and eventually is stored into the that-was-no-big-deal? compartment in the brain. The tattoo looks a little less sharp, along with the clothing purchased in a frenzy after the Florida race. The Iron Kahuna was beginning to feel like the Rusty Kahuna. Though he had continued to race various distances over the intervening years, he wanted another crack at an Ironman.

So, Cozumel? The Mayan Riviera? With Tri-Greyhound? The Kahuna was in and signed up that day.

Well, training ebbed and flowed over the next 12 months. Juggling multiple jobs, four boys, a book tour (“Losing My Religion: How I Lost My Faith Reporting on Religion in America—and Found Unexpected Peace”) and two finicky calves, some weeks the triathlon training gods were pleased, other times they were extremely pissed.

There was something else heading into his second Ironman. The Kahuna didn’t have that epic, I’m-going-to-conquer-Mt.-Everest feeling in his gut. In fact, he had nothing. Little nerves, little anxiety, little excitement. He wondered if this meant his race was doomed.

Less than a month before the race, he competed in the Big Kahuna (no relation) Half-Ironman in Santa Cruz, Calif. and had to walk the last six miles of the run because his calf had popped. He decided during his long stroll toward the finish that he would drop out of Ironman Cozumel. That was the sensible thing to do.

Of course, after sleeping on it, he decided to eff his calves and at least get to the start line. The entry fee, airlines, hotel and food had already been paid. What the hell? He started running in the deep end of the pool—a practice that studies show keep runners in nearly as good of shape was running on dry land. He logged three hours on extremely boring Sunday morning. And he got Active Release Technique (ART) massages twice a week, sweating and tearing up at the pain caused by the doctor stripping away scar tissue.

So on Thanksgiving Day, he found himself full of doubts and pending doom but on a plane from Los Angeles bound to Cancun, Mexico. (By the way, if you’re thinking about doing Ironman Cozumel, there’s no easy way to get there. Most triathletes hopped a flight to Cancun, took a 50-minute taxi ride to a Playa del Something, board a ferry for a 45-minute vomit-inducing voyage to Cozumel, and then (in the Kahuna’s case) a 25-minute taxi ride to his hotel. Thank God Greyhound had wisely signed up for package deal from Endurance Sports Travel, which shepherded us along the way—he will never do another Ironman without its services).

On Cozumel, everyone soon discovered that the island produced few easy race days. If it was windy, bad for the bike. If it wasn’t, the heat could wreck you. Turned out, the triathletes got a little of both.

The swim had to be the best course in Ironman history. You start by walking along a dock that enclosed a pod of dolphins (that tourists swim with) and then jump off on the platform into the warm and crystal waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The Kahuna, a swimmer more than anything else, took his place in the second row of triathletes. He didn’t feel nervous, only under-prepared and wondering if his calves would hold up on land enough for him to see the finish line.

He didn’t hear the gun, but everyone took off and so did he. The ocean bottom, probably 30-feet below, served as a guidepost. He would look up at the buoy, and then find a spot on the bottom far ahead that was in line with it and just swim to it. He easily stayed on course.

The majority of the swim had a favorable current, enough that the Kahuna pulled off a PR of 54:48. Hmmm. Maybe this was his day! Running to T1, he felt a twinge in his left calf. Holy crap. Right then, he decided to go all out on the bike because he would, at best, forced to walk the marathon.

So he took off on the bike and for the first 20 miles or so, he flew, his speedometer registering a steady 19, 20, 21 and sometimes 22 miles per hours. Like a freaking idiot, he began calculating the math and thinking it could get under 6 hours on the bike. This Ironman was going to be easy.

But then, he turned a corner and his bike, buffeted by 30 mph winds, almost came to a stop. The landscape gave a clue as to what to expect: the windward side of the island didn’t support much vegetation because nothing much could grow against the strong, steady winds. He struggled to maintain a double-digit speed. The mental torture?

He’d have to pass by this section of the course two more times before he could get off the bike.

Near the end of the first lap, he rode back into town and was greeted, for the first time, by the locals. The Mexicans were the best fans EVER. It felt like being on the pitch at a major futbol game: ear-piercing noise makers and residents lined along the street shouting, “Vayamos (Let’s go!), “Si, se puedo (Yes, you can!), and “Animal (Animal).”

It wasn’t until the third bike lap (after not finding his special needs bag) that the Kahuna felt like was he was dying, thanks mostly to the wind and heat (93 degrees was the high he registered on his bike computer). He had taken in his nutrition well, but his body didn’t want anything more.

At T2, the Kahuna sat for a while trying to cool his body and thinking, “Now a marathon? Really? Why did I ever sign up for this?” It was a familiar Ironman panic that seems new each time. He found some solace in that everyone inside in the men’s tent seemed to be bewildered by the difficulty of the bike leg.

Finally, the Kahuna forced himself to get out of his plastic chair and onto the race course. The crowds, as stated earlier, couldn’t have been better. And the truth be told, the Kahuna’s legs didn’t feel too bad, despite being hammered on the bike. His body overheating was the problem.

Want to know the most depressing part of an Ironman for the Kahuna? Passing by the Mile 1 banner on the run. Only 25.2 miles left! That will play tricks on your mind.

The Kahuna slogged on, running (slowly) between each aid station (they were only 1k apart). At the stations, he forced liquid down him and ate only bananas (the one food that seemed even remotely appealing).

The field of triathletes seemed like a pretty even mix between North American and Central and South American triathletes, which left a language barrier and resulted in little talking on the run leg (different than other triathlons the Kahuna had competed in). But that was OK because the Kahuna didn’t seem much like talking. He just was trying not to totally blow up (secretly he was hoping his calf would pop and he could either a) walk the rest of the way or b) quit; however, his ART doc had too good of a job).

As the sun set, the island delivered another soul-crushing obstacle: clouds of mosquitos. These bastards bit the hell of the Kahuna, who wasn’t in the mood. Finally, a volunteer broke out some repellante and the Kahuna splashed it all over his body. Problem solved.

After lap 2 of the run, the Kahuna did some quick mental calculations. If he hustled, he could finish under 14 hours. Here’s the internal debate he had with himself for the next couple of miles.

“Push! You can break 14 hours!”

“What, are you crazy? That’s just an artificial barrier. You are dangerously close to a heat stroke. Be mature about this.”

“But 14 hours! And you only have a 10k to go. Think of all the training you put in. This is nothing.”

“Just walk it in. Be safe. You will still be an Ironman today.”

Of course, the bad guy won. The Kahuna hustled along, making sure he kept ahead of the 14 hour barrier. But as he closed in on the 26-mile mark, the Kahuna realized he didn’t factor in the .2 part of the 26.2-mile run. So he sped up even faster (by know, faster was a relative term).

Finally, the Kahuna turned the final corner and saw, maybe 50 yards ahead of him, the finish line and the large digital clock above it that read: 13:59:50. He was in too much of a hurry and in too much pain to hear the cheers of the crowd (or even hear what the announcer was saying).

He crossed the line (head up, arms extended overhead for the good finishing photo) and triggered the timing mat: 13:59:59.

The Kahuna swam, biked and ran his best race he could that day. The course was much tougher than expected. Throughout much of the day, he swore that this would be his last Ironman. He wouldn’t go through all this pain again.

But now, a few days later, he’s announcing his un-retirement. He’s got more Ironmans in him. The feeling of accomplishment after finishing one is just too good to not experience again. Maybe Ironman Brazil 2011.

Greyhound, you in?

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Best Laid Plans

You might recall how I asked Coach Kris for advice in formulating a plan for Ironman Cozumel. He gave me great advice: Plan A for the ideal day, Plan B for if something goes wrong, and Plan C for just getting to the finish. As it turns out, I needed all three plans just to get through the hardest Ironman course I have ever experienced in two hours slower than my unstated goal.

See, going in, I kinda had some numbers in mind. I thought it reasonable that I could swim--MAYBE--about 1:30 if the seas were kind. I had no idea what to expect of the current in Cozumel. I had trained to bike about 18mph if conditions were reasonable. Then, if I were strong and my nutrition was good, I might be able to hold 10 minute miles or so on the run. If it all worked out, I thought, based upon the results of my training, that I might finish in the mid to high 12 hour neighborhood.

Based upon my half-iron results on a hilly course and the higher level of fitness Coach Kris had given me this year, I think this was reasonable. But see, Ironman and Mother Nature have an unholy alliance. Here's how it went down.

The Swim: Plan A

I was nervous about the swim. Before the race I had the opportunity to take one practice swim on the course. The wind had decreased from the gales the day before, but it was still quite a challenge--two to three foot swells and strong current. I needn't have worried. Like everyone in the race, I had the swim of my life.

On the morning of the race, it was calm and still on the western side of the island. I jumped off the dock with 2000 of my closest friends and treaded water against the current until the horn sounded and we all pummeled each other on the way to the first turn buoy 500 meters up current. Because of the current, it seemed like it took forever to make that first turn. I choked down some sea water a couple times but did not wear myself out.

Squished and crowded around the turn buoys and we were heading back down current. This was like walking the moving sidewalk at the airport. I had some difficulty seeing the intermediate bouys as wakes and swells arose, but before I knew it I was at the far end of the course heading for home.

I was afraid how much effort would be required to get back to the finish, but the course must have been laid out close enough to shore that the channel current was not a factor. Each buoy passed in course and before I knew it, I was getting out of the water, fresh and ready to ride in only 1:20.

That's abysmal for some people, but pretty good for me and 10 minutes faster than Plan A.
"Sweet!" I think to myself. "10 minutes in the bank for later!"

Yeah. Not so much.

The Bike: Plan B

In and out of transition and I was on to my favorite part of the race--or so I thought. I love the bike, and the first few miles were going just as planned. I got my heart rate calmed down and settled into 20-22 miles per hour at a heart rate way under my thresh hold. I swam and rode so fast that Mrs. Greyhound and Superpounce barely made it out to the bike course to see me fly by on the first lap.

"Sweet," I'm thinking to myself. "I can put some more time in the bank for the eastern side of the island where they told us to expect cross-winds. I mean, how hard can it be? It's only 10 to 12 miles next to the open ocean. I've ridden 5 hours at Galveston before."

And then reality hit. We turned left onto the bumpy, rough, chip-sealed coastal road and were nearly blown off our bikes by a 30 mile per hour head wind with gusts even faster. My speed dropped from 20 to 15 to 14 and sometimes down to 12. It was less than 30 minutes into the bike, but I knew immediately that the numbers in my head were now just fantasy.

Time for Plan B. If I pushed over the edge here, the finish line might not happen at all. So, I dropped to the small ring and tried to maintain a cadence and heart rate while watching the mileage tick slowly by. Mezcalitos, the left turn back to Cozumel, seemed like it would never come. And all the while, I knew that I had to do that same stretch two more times.

By the time I reached the turn at Mezcalitos, my average speed had dropped from 18.5 mph to 15.8 mph. So Plan B was to see how much lost speed I could get back without digging myself into a hole. I road as fast as I thought I reasonably could without exceeding my target heart rates, and I got back some of my speed, but not nearly all of it by the time I made it back to the coastal road.

The second time through, I lost less speed off my average (the average being lower to begin with now) but several aid stations were now out of the water I had been using to cool myself, and my stomach was starting to rebel against Gatorade and calories. I was feeling bloated and stopped up, and yet I was bonking. I needed water to drink and dillute my stomach, not just pour on my head and torso. But second time around, there was none to be had.

The whole time on the coast road, I was counting pedal strokes--100 revolutions down in the aero bars at a time then start again. Don't look at the speedometer or the mileage markers because it is too depressing.

It was all I could do to go out for another serving from that course, but the two professionals in the lead of the male race lapped me as I got to town, and you can't stop and quit when the whole city is out cheering--even if they're cheering for someone else. I was able to get some water, but I was already overheating and was still 40 miles from home.

I don't remember much about the third lap. I was woozy and suffering and my body was in rebellion. Unlike a course with elevation changes, this one has you down in the bars the whole time and tears up the same muscles. By the time of the final turn into town, I could barely maintain 16 mph, even with no wind to contend with. I weaved a couple of times and thought, "Wow, I might crash. That wouldn't be so bad." There were also dark clouds over part of the island, and I half hoped for lightening in the hopes the run would be called off.

Yeah. That's not the place you want to be when you're starting the marathon. Plan C was firmly in play by this point.

The Run: Plan C

I have never come so very close to quitting a race as I did at T2 in this race. The fact that I continued cannot be attributed to toughness or character on my part. Character is what you do when nobody is watching. If nobody had been watching, I would have stopped. But my daughter was there, and she was watching. I don't want to raise a quitter. And I had written that damn fool thing about imagination, and I knew you had read it. So you were watching, and I couldn't stop with you watching me.

So, I put on my shoes, picked myself up off the deck of the stifling hot transition tent, and went out on the road. Still, it wasn't like I was prepared to flog myself anymore. I was done going to the well for the day. I was in the race in name only.

I walked for about two minutes and then started jogging with the goal of going very easy to the first aid station at 1km. With that accomplished, I decided to jog to the next aid station only 1km away. At each aid station I tried to catch up with water to get the calories to absorb again.

I made it all the way out to the far end of the three loop run course and managed to take on some calories without yakking. Turning around to come back, however, the slight breeze that had been cooling us running one way disappeared. Running in the same direction as the breeze, I started to overheat again in the muggy, tropical air. The dull headache I had been carrying became more pronounced. At the second aid station on the way back into town, the ground lurched and I almost lost my balance.

OK, this might be more serious, I thought. Suffering out of T2 makes no sense if you don't finish at all. So, I decided to be more careful. My aid station jogs became four minutes jogging, 1 minute walking, jogging to the next station, then one minute more of walking. Lather, rinse, repeat.

The second lap was the hardest. My body had still not come correct nutritionally, and mentally, you're still so far from the finish, it's hard to focus on the goal. I maintained the four minute jogs out to the far end and most of the way back, but those too deteriorated to three minute jogs and two minute walks by the beginning of the third lap, and thence to two minute jogs with three minute walks.

And I was not the only one suffering. Many were not jogging at all. It was fair carnage on the course by that hour, and they were not all pudgy one-timers who lacked training or experience. There were some very sharp and fit athletes who had been destroyed on the bike course and were barely surviving a 26.2 mile forced march.

One athlete, who was both young and fast, was curled in the fetal position on a cot at the medical tent furthest from the finish line several times that I went by. He was faster and fitter than me on any given day. And yet, slow and shame-faced as I was, I was faster that day. I finished. He did not.

He took the ambulance to a Mexican hospital.

But I finished.

And I went back to a nice hotel with a family who had only one Ironman they cared about in the whole race. They don't know that Yvonne Van Vlerken biked like a Norse Goddess and Rutger Beke won the men's race. They could not pick those people out of a lineup.

But they know I am an Ironman. And that is enough.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Vamos, Mexico!!

That was the hardest course conditions I have ever experienced at Ironman. Had it been my first, I don't know if I would have made it. Full race report to come when I get back to The States and dry out, but can I just say one thing?

Mexicans cheer WAY better than Anglo spectators.


Not even close. We’re talking Mexicans are to Michael Phelps as Anglos are to me.

If you’re doing an event in the U.S., you’ll get the occasional “way to go, guys,” or maybe “good job” or the dreaded “you’re almost there” along with the ubiquitous “WOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

This would be sorry fare indeed, judged by the prevailing norms south of The Border. The people of Cozumel lined their streets and made them into the equivalent of a rowdy soccer match. Men, women and children were out all day long, cheering pros and age groupers alike.

They were beating on drums.

They were beating on buckets and pails.

They were beating on pots and pans.

They were singing and chanting.

They cheered audibly and rhythmically for every sad sack that was limping by, well into the night. We heard:

Bravo!! Bravo!!

Bravo, Muchachos!


A-r-r-r-r-riba A-r-r-r-r-r-riba!

We heard much that I did not understand (which might be best later in the day), But every competitor decked out in the Mexican flag was regaled with a rhythmic:



The little kids in their soprano voices were the best. They cheered every Mexican competitor as if he or she was an Olympian in the home stretch on the way to certain gold for the Mother Country.

Late in the evening, a little boy about 8 or 9 years old was sitting on a wall by an aid station as the walking wounded and left-over carnage from the bike course were limping through their marathon. In his little, heavily-accented voice he singled out an older, Anglo participant, and broke out his elementary school English training:

“GO! You-cahn-doo-eeet! You-cahn-bee EYE-RON MANG!”

The participant, to his great credit, acknowledged the encouragement. He looked straight at the boy and said:

“You can too. Some day, you can be an Ironman.”

Pay it forward people. Currency exchange is not necessary.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


"The man who has no imagination has no wings."*

So, here we are again, the night before another Ironman race. It is at this point that you start to wonder why it is you do this for "fun" and how it is that you will complete a 2.4 mile seas swim, 112 miles of cycling in the Caribbean sun, and a marathon on the Cozumel sea wall.

In the end, those types of things are completed with the same power that causes one to push "Register" on the race's internet site.

It's imagination.

That inner eye that let's you see history before it happens, to see what can be, to dare to do things, "not because they are easy, but because they are hard."**

You watch a race, and you do your first triathlon, and you watch an Ironman, and you begin to imagine that you can do this.

And you can.

Not all at once, but one bouy at a time.

Not all 112 miles, but the 10 minutes until your next drink.

Not all 26 miles, but 1 kilometer to the next aid station.

As long as you can imagine just that far into the future, just around the corner where only the mind can see, you have wings.

And when you have wings, anything is possible.

*Muhammad Ali

**John F. Kennedy