Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Race Report: Read, Fire, Aim!

So, if you looked up my splits on Ironmanlive, you’re probably wondering what in-flight movie they were showing while I was in T2. 13 MINUTES????? Luke Bell ran almost 3 miles in that amount of time. Except by the time I was in T2 he had already finished. Natasha Badmann won the women’s race while I was there.

The main problem was my mind and my unwillingness to race anymore. (More on that later) The only legitimate excuse is that I was concerned about my hydration, the plumbing having not worked at any time while on the bike notwithstanding having consumed over a gallon of water and/or Gatorade. So, I paused at a portalet. After verifying that all the “fancy parts” still worked properly, at least in their non-recreational sense, I hit the run course.
Why can’t I feel my toes? And why do my feet feel like bricks hitting the pavement? At the time I had no idea what was going on, but thanks to TriBoomer, I have since figured out that the vibration from the pebbly surface of the bike course left my feet as numb as if I had been walking in the snow for the past three hours. For the first three miles of the run, I had no feeling in my toes and every footstrike was painful in the balls of my feet.
I still shuffled through the first three miles, walking only once for a drink between aid stations, congratulating myself for making it up a hill.
GUH! That was not a hill. These monstrosities climbing in and out of the canyon are hills. (Note to self: survey the run course next time). Being mentally unprepared there was little alternative but to walk the hills.
Aside from that, I essentially managed to run between aid stations, one of the rare exceptions being a side stitch that I managed by walking. Of course, that is the very instant that Robo-Christy saw me and gave me the “Go Greyhound” woohoos. Story of my life. I’m always at my wimpiest when a pretty girl happens to be watching.
Even when I was running, however, I was not focused and did not hit my rhythm or make any kind of pace. I walked a lot in the last three miles. But neither the pace nor the ultimate walking were caused by physical problems. Not really. Sure, I had the beginnings of a calf cramp, and sure, my feet hurt. Sure, I was tired. But I did not give my best.
My willingness to push the envelope and tolerate the pain of serious effort abandoned me when I lost focus on the bike. The loss of focus meant I did not reach T2 in time for a 6 hour finish after a 2 hour half-marathon. The loss of that target made me unwilling to hurt. I was mentally unprepared to focus for the entire distance. My little dog brain was tired.
One of the quotes on the sidebar of my blog states that “Men hit only what they aim at.” There are two thoughts in this quote. One is “aim high.” The other one is simply, “aim.” I did not aim at six hours and then fail. I failed to aim. I did not set a goal time or train with that goal in mind. I probably would have been foolish to do so on such a course for my first half-iron. I had no idea the mental stamina required for the 70.3 distance. I likewise did not aim at just finishing and having a good time. My competitive, testosterone poisoned self did not allow that attitude in a race. Afraid of failing to make a finishing time, and afraid of feeling like a failure for lack of a finishing goal, I ultimately failed to aim for or to hit any target at all.
. . . except I did hit that very important personal target of becoming a triathlete and finishing a half-iron. Since the race ended, I have come to be very satisfied with that. It is the product of a lot of hard work and a lot of tolerance by my family.
I am a triathlete. I’m in, forever. I will never go back to what I was before, and I will be back to the half-iron distance. I know how I will change my training. I know how I will change me. I will be back. And next time, I will be . . . .
Just wait and see.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Race Report: Saddle Up

I hate this feeling. As soon as I am relieved and proud to have finished another open water swim, the transition area inevitably reminds me that my relative accomplishment is in fact only relative. Nearly all the bikes in my age group are already gone. I know that will be the case, but I never like it when it happens.

(Note to self: masters swim team. Even though I am not competitive in the sense that I have to win, do you get the impression that I cannot abide the thought of sucking?)

That feeling does not last long, because as I am wriggling from my hobbit-sized wetsuit I see a line of handcycles, and one athlete being helped into one. Greyhound, everything is coming up roses for you. Mount Carmen Tequilo and have some fun.

And I knew that fun is what it would be. I drove the course the day before and knew exactly what was out there. (This is HIGHLY recommended). I even took my bike up the two steep hills immediately outside the transition area, so I knew that I could take the short burn of lactic acid and recover without difficulty.

Carmen was already in a low gear so I merely stood in the stirrups and she sprang to the top of the first climb like a fawn, screamed down the descent like a perrigrin falcon and topped the second climb to head for the exit and the open road.

The lightening and high winds were gone, but once out on the open road, there was a decent cross wind and then a head wind on the outward bound leg. Carmen entreated me to snuggle the aero bars and pick a gear where the cadence would be high. In fact, the focus for nearly everything except the climbs was simply to find that gear in which we could hold a 90+ RPM cadence.

Landmarks on the flats passed, and before I knew it we had dived into and out of the first canyon leg, a nice 30+ mph descent down, climb out the other side, turn around, descend down, and climb out the way you came in. I might have embarassed Carmen, but I could not stand on decorum. Those descents deserved a good, Texas, rebel yell and I let it all hang out. This was play time at its 9 year old best. Cowboys and indians on a bike! Chasing Jesse James into a box canyon.

Things were going well. 20 miles into the bike leg, and I had not expended 2 hours on the race course! If I make it back to T2 by 4:00 I might knock this thing out in 6 hours!

Then, as I hung a right to head for the second canyon leg, it happened. WHOOSH! The pros are on their way home. WHOOSH! WHOOSH! One after the other, manned spacecraft on two wheels fly past in the opposite direction with the wind at their back. A silver blur, a yellow whoosh, and I new Natascha Badmann had flown by on her way to certain victory.

Is this sport cool or what?

In the second canyon I actually saw M&M on the two turn arounds and I gave her the rebel yell as I descended and she climbed. I also saw a lady climbing the road I was descending who must have been 65 years old if she was a day. She's probably someone's sweet grandma, but by the look on her face, she could have been an airborn ranger intent on breaking things and killing people. It was totally inspiring

40 miles in and I have expended about 3 hours on the race course. I can still make a 6 hour half-iron in my first time out! At least that's what I thought . . . .

I knew the climb out of the second canyon is the longest climb of the day, so I metered my effort and determined that it would not beat me. But . . .

In the time I had spent in the second canyon, the wind had shifted somewhat more northerly and appeared to have picked up. Even after topping the canyon wall, you were effectively still climbing because the wind was directly into your face for several miles. That, and I was almost out of food, taking gatorade for calories.

That unexpected effort broke my mojo and my chance for a 20 mph average on the bike. It was not as if it was beyond my reach physically. It was beyond my mental capabilities. I did not quit the race, but I quit racing. More on this later, because it is the part of the race that frustrated me.

The bright spot of the long, flat trip over the moonscape back to T2 was the Cajun Tri-Chica, otherwise known as Robo-Christy. Robo-Christy is a phenomenon. She's 25 but looks 15. Five foot nothing, she's cute as a bug, and yet don't be fooled. She's smarter than smart and an extremely motivated and successful engineer--totally making it in a male dominated workplace. She is exactly the kind of confident woman I want my own daughter to be some day. In the triathlon world, she won her age group at nationals and intends to compete at the ITU long course championships and Ironman Florida. Imagine Katie Couric at age 15 but with a killer instinct. A perky assassin. Robo-Christy's got game.

I had not seen Robo-Christy in the canyons, but as I am hauling myself back to T2 and feeling a bit more sorry for myself than I had a right to, I hear my name. "Hey [Greyhound]! Is that you!!! Hey [Greyhound], looking good! Keep going!" She gives me the woohoo and the high wattage smile as she passes on her way to a 5:37 finish!


In triathlon, as in life, sometimes all you need is a little encouragement. I was back in 3:09, slightly undernourised, 17.7 mph average, but capable of running.

To be continued . . . .

Monday, June 26, 2006

Race Report: Frodo Goes Swimming

It was a dark and stormy night. No, really. It was. The first couple of flashes, you thought, “was that lightening?” The next couple you thought you saw the bottom of a wall cloud, and you said it out loud. “Was that lightening?”
It was lightening.
I had visions of my A race being rained out, just like my first ever triathlon. After all this training. After coming all this way. After all that expense. Yet, was a part of me hoping that I could avoid the effort of the day?
Iron Scott, multiple ironman finisher who served as our driver and valet for the weekend, drove us in the SUV toward Buffalo Springs Lake. In our group was Tri-Trish, (Iron Scott’s girlfriend) who will be racing Ironman Florida this year, The Cajun Tri-Chica, who will also be racing Ironman Florida as well as representing the USA in international competition to be held in Australia (more on her later), and M&M, the Iron-Chica who will race Ironman Western Australia. Traveling separately but joining us for race and the food was Cajun Mike, multiple Ironman finisher. What was I doing in this group? That was not the last time that day that I asked that question.

A line of triathlete automobiles snaked into the park, slowly inching forward as race time approached. Exiting the cars, we were hit with a face full of blown dust on a cold wind. 20+ mph northerly cold wind, when the weather forecast called for 10-13 mph easterly winds.
“Well, that’s festive.”
Silhouettes of triathletes all over the bluff were quickly parking their cars and wheeling their bicycles toward the transition area, buffeted by blinding clouds of dust. Transition is down a 7.5% grade--the same grade you will have to bike up from a dead stop after your swim.
Because of the traffic, I was somewhat frantic in setting up my transition area. As always, I met some really great people, but there is something very different about an Ironman sanctioned Kona Qualifier as opposed to your local Oly distance event. There are few if any pudgy age groupers waddling around transition. A large percentage are justice league super hero types, especially where the 35-39 year old men rack their bikes. They all looked 8 feet tall and ripped. I am 5’ 4", a hobbit, “a mere child to your eyes.” What am I doing here?
Nevertheless, the announcer kept reminding us how little time remained before the start. So Frodo donned his hobbit-sized wetsuit and skittled down to the beach for the start. I got a chance to do a little warm-up swim, then it was time for the pros. Off with the gun went the porpoises, Luke Bell, Michael Lovato, Andrea Fischer, Natasha Badmann, Simon Lessing . . . .
What am I doing here?
A mere two waves later it is my turn. So, I placed myself at the back of the justice league super heroes and started to swim. The first 200 yards were actually pretty good, but, apparently some of the justice league was having a bad day. I actually caught someone and jammed my fingertips right into the side of his arse. (All together now, “not that there’s anything wrong with that.”)
So I am now in the midst of the crowd and freaking out. I am taking a face full of water from the chop on every other stroke, goggles jostled, water in the eyes. But in retrospect, I recognize that I am more worried about being in the way of the terrific athletes I had seen on the beach. I know I can solve my own swim problems and finish, but I don’t want to ruin the day for anyone who is actually racing to race.
I don’t think we should have left the Shire, Pip.
Get it together. Grab a kayak, cough, fix your goggles, and more importantly, fix your head. Find some open water, relax and count your strokes. 20 and site. 20 and site. 20 and site. I am ready to be out of the water, but being impatient will not avoid the effort required. I make a conscious decision not to look more than one buoy ahead. They eventually fall behind until it is time to turn.
So I make the turn. 20 and site.
Where am I? I am 25 yards past the buoys now, drifting further and further every time I site. 12 and sight. 10 and sight. 8 and sight. Fighting my way back to the second turn buoy.
Finally, I’m on the back stretch, but drifting wide toward the shore here. Don’t get impatient. The race does not get shorter just because you are ready to be done. But now the justice league members from the next wave are mixing it in with me and the rest of the pathetic brethren from my own wave. Zig zag to the open water, but then the justice league members from the NEXT wave are starting to mix it up. I manage to keep going, although I instinctively freeze every time I feel someone near for fear of kicking Superman or Wonder Woman in the face.
I’m a very courteous hobbit.
I make the third left hand turn and suddenly realize that I even don’t know where the swim exit is. GUH! Do I have a fourth left turn and then back to the beach or do I swim toward the shore? I think on this through two or three more cycles of stroke and site, and only then realize that I am less than 100 yards from the exit ramp straight in front of me.
I am so glad to be hauled from the water, but there are no wetsuit strippers for me. I look around . . .
Behind me, three or four volunteers are pulling an athlete from the water who has no legs. He just swam the same distance I did. The same water. The same crowd. No legs.

Wow. That is justice league. I’ll go on my two good legs and find my bike now.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

YOU ARE AN . . . . iron. . . man . . . kinda half of one

I finished ok for a first timer I guess on a VERY tough course. (Wildflower, Schmildflower) Swim pathetic as always, bike pretty average, run very tough. Had a great time and will do a full race report on Ironman 70.3 at Buffalo Springs Lake later. For now, some random observations that I hope you will find humorous or perhaps touching.

1. Orca is a great line of clothing products; but (not to be ugly or anything) if a big gentleman puts on gear that is colored to resemble a Killer Whale, everyone is thinking "SHAMU!" or "FREE WILLY" Perhaps Orca ought to rethink their sizing policy. I'm just saying.

2. You know that smell of two cycle lawnmower fuel and grass clippings in your garage? That's what the water in Buffalo Springs Lake tastes like. I had a lot of it. Eau de garage.

3. Not to be cheated, I sorta kinda did a full ironman swim, almost. I was ALL OVER the freakin' lake. After the first turn, I think there was a current down towards the dam, and I washed WAAAAAAYYYYYYY wide. I am thinking about asking the race director for extra credit.

4. I saw Natasha Badmann on the bike!!!!! Well, not exactly. What I saw was an oncoming yellow blur that was there and gone in a nanosecond, after which I was buffeted by a slipstream that could have been generated by a cement truck.

5. I saw Natasha Badmann finish!!!!!! Well, not exactly. I was in T2, IN T FREAKING TWO, when she broke the course record and finished in 4:21. (My wave started like way later so it really did not take me nearly four and half hours to reach . . . never mind.)

6. If Natasha Badmann and Clark Kent made babies, kryptonite would no longer be a problem.

7. Grannies who do ironman races and make faces like Marines in bayonette practice while climbing absolutely Rock.

8. Grannies and Gampas that do ironman races together more than rock. That's freakin' hawt.

9. The baddest @$$ on the planet award goes to the racer who was cranking his WHEELCHAIR (not handcycle mind you, WHEELCHAIR) up the massive hills on the run---six inches at a time for half a mile or more. I saw perhaps 10 such bad @$$e$. They made me weep.

10. Maria Gratia, who is virtuous and and full of grace, does not like it when I notice hawt athletic chicks. So, I will not blog about the hawtness of the Latina in the black racing outfit who smoke up the canyon wall and passed me like I was parked. See, Maria. No need to thank me. I'm just here to help.

11. Murphy's law of triathlon states that even if you run pretty well for most of the run, the 25 year old awesome tri chica who rode up with the group will pass you after her turn around at the very instant you walk to manage a cramp.

12. BIIIIIIIIIGGGGG UPS to the race directors. There was ice and water and gatorade and gels and cold rags and various and sundry other things at EVERY aid station, all the way through the event. AWESOME organization.



If anyone back in civilization want to monitor whether I am progressing or whether I am a carrion, click here for the link to the athlete tracker and look for bib number 535.

Here goes nuthin'

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Hey, Simon!

Only have a minute before we go to packet pickup, but had to blog this. At course recon this morning, I see some justice league member streak by on a space shuttle bike. He calls out,
"Hey, Simon!"

It is Michael F-ing Lovato greeting Simon F-ing Lessing! In the same race and on the same course that I am.

Is this sport cool or what?

Friday, June 23, 2006

Lubbock isn't Nice (pronounced neice)

If you're from Lubbock, please don't take this the wrong way, but its like a long freakin' way out here. Nine hours in the car, some of which is over a landscape that, well let's just say it's not the south of France. While little sister Curly-Su rolls with her jet set friends in Nice while doing Ironman France, I'l be in . . .

West Texas. There's nothing between here and Canada except two barbed wire fences, and those blew over. I bet Curly-Su couldn't find a rodeo arena or stockyard anywhere within 100 kilometers of her little Frenchy L'homme de fer race.

And I can see the Wal Mart parking lot from my hotel. Bananas and Bagels. So there!

Actually, I'm happy to finally be here, happy to have made some new cajun triathlete friends during the drive up, and looking forward to the course recon tomorrow. In addition to driving the course, we're going to tackle those staircase climbs on the bike in and out of T1, just to gain some confidence.

Until then, au revoir, mes amis.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Whoap! There Goes Gravity . . .

So. There are a few elevation changes at Buffalo Springs Lake Ironman 70.3. Nothing like a 7.9% grade directly out of T1. And by all appearances, one falls into a crevasse every 5 to 10 miles from which one must extricate oneself without the aid of an internal combustion engine or a longhorn sheep.

This course is not billed as "flat and fast," and I won't be either. But I will be there and I will enjoy every minute.

A bad day on the bike is better than a good day at the office.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

. . . get back to reality . . .

Accuweather says suffering is in order on Sunday, June 25 in Lubbock, Texas.

High Temperature:
92° F
NE at 17 mph
Wind Gusts:
35 mph
Maximum UV:
Very High (10)
Thunderstorm Probability:

**Warning, false bravado to follow** Y'all yankee tri-chicas, Cali pretty boys and mountain metrosexuals may have your tri-s with the pretty 70 degree weather and the cooling rain showers. That's not how we roll in Texas. We be keepin' it real. 92 with wind gusts to 35 mph is just old school, baby. You want some 'o me, mother nature??

Sunday, June 18, 2006

You Are Here

If you're not into introspection read no further.

I have posted in the past about the physical changes training has made in me, and I really enjoyed the cyber oggling and tri-chica commentary about my race photos. (The guys were very kind too, but somehow it's not the same. Not that there's anything wrong with that.) I have also posted about some internal changes, how endurance sport has made me more engaged with the people around me. Another type of internal "adaptation" has occurred to me.

Remember that old saying, "If a tree falls in the forest, but no one is around to hear it, does it really make a sound?" Take it one step further. If you live without seeing, tasting, hearing, smelling, touching and experiencing what is going on, are you really alive?

I have spent far too much of my life wanting to be somewhere else, feeling like I was waiting for something, preparing for something, saving for something, looking forward to something. When I graduate from music school, I will . . . When I win an audition, I will . . . .When I get into law school I will . . . When finals are over I will . . . When I graduate from law school . . . When I finish my clerkship . . . When I change jobs . . . When I'm a partner . . .

When what? Why not now?

In swimming, biking or running, such foolishness is not possible. I have no choice. I can either live here and now, or I can suffer. As soon as I pine about the rest of the workout or the rest of the training program or the future race, I gag, gasp, and bonk. If I just enjoy the stroke, the glide, the wind, the hill, or the stride, all is well. When you're strong enough to turn the earth under your feet, you actually know it and feel it. You remember those days because they are written on your character. When the wind kicks your ass, anesthesia and excuses are not available. It is what it is, and you are there. The ride is experienced and you remember it forever. It is the badge of honor that propels you even further.

The trick, on which I will probably be working for the rest of my life, is getting the now in my now, even when I am not training. There is nothing wrong with planning, preparing or saving. But you are here. You are here now. You can either choose suspended animation, or you can have a life. Don't let life be what happens while you're making other plans. "Only that day dawns to which we are awake." Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Give and Get

"Remember, we all stumble, every one of us. That's why it's a comfort to go hand in hand."
--Emily Kimbrough

I just did something selfish--selfish because I know I'm going to have a blast. I volunteered for Ironman Wisconsin.

I am going to be a finishing line "catcher." I get to be there when all these competitors reach the goal they've been pursuing for all these hard months. I get to be the one to hold them up and soak up the light and power of their sweat and tears. When Iron Wil and TriSaraTops cross the line, when the announcer screams, "YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!" I'll get to hear it with my own ears and feed on their excess joy. You could light the eastern seaboard with joy like that. Bottle it and carry it home.

This is volunteering. Supposedly it is giving, but I'm getting so much, that cannot possibly be true. Try it. Volunteer for a race. Give nutrition on the bike course and cheer at Ironman Wisconsin. Give cold water and encouragement to the Kahuna or TriMama at Ironman Florida. Donate to a team in training member like Tri-Boomer or Curly-Su. Support Bold's efforts on behalf of the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Give and you will never ever run out.

Triathlon makes good friendships, and it is impossible to outgive good friendships.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Triathlete Stud In The Making

Alright, I've had enough deep introspection for awhile. Instead, inspired by Iron Wil, it is time for some triathlon beefcake--or triathlon greyhound cake if you like. Here is the greyhound in all his shaved, suncreened cut and rippling glory (or lack thereof) at his first ever race. You can see the old dog exiting TI with sexy Carmen Tequilo here, mounted and racing on Carmen here and here, and on the run here.

Cyber cat calls and "woo woos" from female bloggers would not go unappreciated.

Quotes of the Week

I couldn't decide whether I needed to be reminded that dreaming big was OK, or that I should have faith that the foundations I have been putting under my dreams will be enough. So, this week there are two quotes. Hope they resonate with you too.

"If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them."

--Henry David Thoreau

"Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase."

--Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Taper, Anyone?

Although I did see vultures on the roadside, I am back from the epic brick in the Hill Country. I am so, SO ready to taper.

The bike portion was absolutely beautiful. The route, (over the profile showed above) covered mostly back country farm roads through pastures and over some challenging climbs. The countryside was just gorgeous, and hopefully I'll have a decent picture or two to post before long. I saw deer, cattle, fox, Hill Country rivers, open pastures, soaring vists. AWESOME. Even the HC climb up to the Bat Cave Summit felt great. The ride was tons of fun until . . .

. . . until the last 45 minutes or so, when the Texas heat began in earnest. The last hour was a cooker, with sweat pouring down my face and off the elbows. Eyes stinging, sun burning my dome even through the do rag. It was heat and UV energy like some science fiction planet with two suns. It was a little bit of a struggle to cover the last couple miles into town.

Then there was the run.

Our run route was 45 minutes out, 45 minutes back, twice over the ridge north of Fredericksburg. That means that most of the first three miles was a brutal climb in nearly 100 degree heat. Then, after you descend into the valley beyond, you have to turn around and top the ridge again to get back.

The run was a real struggle, and frankly I was hoping to feel stronger than that on my last long workout before the race. But, honestly, I think (hope) the conditions were probably more difficult than the Buffalo Springs Lake 70.3 course. Plus, my body is far from fresh at this point, and I have two weeks to recover and absorb these months of training.

I guess I've just got to have faith that the deposits in the bank will be there on race day. No other choice really.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Epic Brick

I am SO ready to taper for Buffalo Springs, but I have one more epic brick this weekend. It is so epic that we have to leave town to do it.

Mrs. Greyhound and I are on the way to the Fredericksburg in the Texas Hill Country to celebrate our 17th annivsersay (which actually passed a couple of weeks ago). But thankfully, Mrs. Greyhound is tolerant enough to let me have Saturday morning to complete a massive brick in the best cycling in the state. 55 miles on the bike including some climbs of category 2, category 1 and one HC climb to the "Bat Cave Summit." Then, hopefully, 10 or more miles running.

If I survive, it is taper time. Wish me luck, because this tired old body is going to need it.

Coach says . . .

Nobody is ever going to mistake me for a swim coach, but I have found a swim set in "Swim Workouts for Triathletes" that is really useful, especially for newbie non-swimmers like me. It teaches one how to tolerate short, anaerobic bursts, it teaches pacing, and it teaches one how to "recover" from oxygen debt (like at the beginning of a race) while maintaining your stroke rather than breaking to a back float or breast stroke. It can be used toward the middle or end of any workout when you have 800 to 1000 yards or work remaining.

When you get to that point in your workout swim 4 or 5 x 200 with 15 to 20 second rest intervals, but do it this way:

1. Do your first 50 hard and fast, as if you were going to quit when you finished.
2. Do the middle 100 easy, learning how to recovery your oxygen equilibrium while swimming with perfectly balanced form.
3. Do the last 50 at your ordinary endurance workout pace.

This breaks down 1000 yards into easily managed bite-sized pieces, each of which has a specific skill to teach. Try it out.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Thank You Note

Sixty-two years ago, while Europe slept, tens thousands of men in airplanes and ships teetered on the razor's edge of destiny. Would Western Civilization be plunged "into the abyss of a new Dark Age," or would we once again "move forward into broad, sunlit uplands." The question stood to be decided by tens of thousands of free men, one man at a time.

Farmers, teachers, shopkeepers, delinquents, professors, West Point grads, and high school dropouts prepared to cast their bodies into the night sky or wade to the beach through a malestrom of metal that had been pre-sighted to inflict maximum harm.

They succeeded, on this day, D-Day. Live this day, of all days, in gratitude.

(Note: The picture above is Captain Richard Winters who led the "Band of Brothers" and who is now living in quiet retirement. Click here to learn more about this amazing man.)

Monday, June 05, 2006

Quote of the Week

"Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength."

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Sunday, June 04, 2006

This Bank is a Beyotch

There was a wedding last night in rural Oklahoma. The baking sun was descending behind the foothills of the Arbuckle Mountains in southern Oklahoma as the Bob White quail sounded from the thicket beyond the newly mown pasture. The evening breeze brought some relief from the day’s heat. I sat amidst the family of the bride, Mrs. Greyhound’s niece, and no one but me knew about the endorphin high that explained the idiot smile on my face.

This was supposed to be the ultimate peak training weekend before Buffalo Springs Lake Ironman 70.3, and I was anal to the point of being impolite about the potential kink this traveling would put in my training schedule. The triathlon gods, however, ensured that I would not whither on the vine of inactivity. In fact, the bike and run of the weekend might even exceed the difficulty of the Buffalo Springs course.

Friday morning, I managed an epic “hookie ride” with a teammate only recently met at the Capital of Texas Tri. LOL and I repaired to Montgomery, Texas where we completed an extremely hot and hilly 60 mile loop, and I went 15 more after she went home. 75 miles of constant hills and South Texas humidity. It was a beyotch, but it is in the bank.

Saturday, after driving six hours to Ardmore, Oklahoma, it was a two hour run in the mid-day heat in extreme hills. It was not fast and it was not pretty. But it was done. It was a beyotch, but it is in the bank.

Sunday, did not manage to get to the pool after traveling, but a little tweaking of the training schedule, and I'll be no worse off. I'll take tomorrow's rest day today and train tomorrow instead of resting.

What is it that Bold says? Respect the distance, but no fear. Right now, I think I can manage that.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Epilogue: Little Chief Returns

August. 1983. Ridgecrest, North Carolina. I am dead asleep in my bunk. Other campers are sleeping around me, and as I recall it, they stay asleep as the counselors rouse me and we slip out into the night.

In that way that is unique to 15-year-olds, it is an honor to be awakened in the middle of the night for this particular purpose. It means I am eligible to attain the rank of “Little Chief,” the equivalent of an Eagle Scout at Camp Ridgecrest for Boys.

But there is a test. After a ceremonial pep talk from the counselors, we few candidates are placed under a vow of silence and led into the mountains where we must gather wood, start a fire and keep it going all night. If we succeed, we must complete a trail run up the side of a mountain, eat in solitude, and prepare the ceremonial camp fire for the next evening--all in complete silence.

The trail run is approximately a mile, switchback after switchback. Repeatedly, you think you see the top, but it is only a false summit. Each one sucks the determination out of you. Walk or become overtaken by the counselor in the rear and you fail.

But the run hurts. With no warm up, with no breakfast, you take off running, you almost always start too fast, and it hurts. All you can think is “walk and you can breathe again. Walk and the pain will stop.” At least your brain tells you this. The truth is otherwise.

Walk and the pain is just beginning.

I walked. Twice. Once in 1983 and again in 1984 after determining that I would not again fail. I walked anyway. I did not like myself because I walked. I walked because I did not like myself. What a trap.

It’s not as if I lived in a depression for the last quarter century. I’ve been really happy and have been wondrously blessed. But it still gnawed at me. I felt like a quitter. That feeling probably was a good thing. After all, it is our dissatisfaction that makes us work to improve. My dissatisfaction probably motivated me to overachieve academically and professionally.

All that is fine, but guys feel the judgment of society on their athleticism, probably in much the same was that girls suffer judgment about their weight or their looks. I know I should probably have turned the page a long time ago, but as time creeps up on us, we guys start to wonder, “is this all there is? Is this all I’m going to be?” My question also asked, “are you still a quitter?”

Every time I finish one of these events, and every time I improve to do something I could never do before, I get to answer that question the way I want. I am not a quitter. I am not just the shy, studious one. When I was a teenager, I walked when I should have run. Now, I am old enough to simply waddle around the golf course with my colleagues. But I don’t. I swim. I bike. I run. I don’t quit. I finish. I compete because I like myself, and I like myself because I compete. It may be 25 years late, but the Little Chief has returned.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Race Report: Intermezzo & Act III

Intermezzo: T-2

It isn’t that hot through the bike portion of the race. In fact, it is overcast and there is occasional drizzle to keep the temperature (if not the humidity) somewhat moderate. I dared to think that perhaps heat would not be a big factor on the run . . .

. . . until I hit T-2. The clouds disappeared, and I discovered that our run course would have the same micro-climate as Equatorial Guinea. Literally, I hit the dismount line for the bike and the clouds were GONE. NADA. GONZO. The mercury spiked and my brain melted.
Luckily, I don’t need my brain to run. (After all, it was my brain that got me into trouble in the first two disciplines). I wibble-wobble back the 100+ yards from “Bike In” to my rack, don my shoes and hat, and limp/jog 100 more yards to “Run Out” T-2: 3:31.1

Act III: The Run

Does anyone remember that movie “A Christmas Story” in which the main character and narrator pines for a Red-Ryder-carbine-action-BB-gun-with-a-compass-in-the-stock. Of course, every time he expresses his heart’s deepest desire, he hears the same refrain:

“You’ll shoot your eye out.”

I keep hearing a similar, negative refrain as the heat waves shimmer over the run course. “You’ll blow up on the run. You’ll blow up on the run. You’ll blow up on the run. You’ll blow up on the run.”

I glance down at my watch as I cross the timing pad onto the course proper and do not like what I see. I am barely jogging, and I have been barely jogging for only about 100 yards, and yet my heart rate looks like I’m in the middle of a tempo run. Each little increase in grade causes my heart rate to mimic an interval workout, while my ego complains, “If you go any slower, you’ll be going backwards.”

I am not going to blow up on the run. I am going to run this course, manage my effort, and finish with enough in the tank to keep going if necessary.

. . . except there are no mile markers. The only reference points are the irregularly placed aid stations on the two loop course. Fine. I will run from station to station, take a good drink, put ice in my hat, and keep going. I will focus on making good strides, and I will do this until Tuesday morning if necessary. One station at a time. It is me, my footfalls, my breathing, and my mind, alone on a crowded course. Before I know it, I am 800 yards from the finish with much left in the tank. I run into the handshakes of teammates.

It was not a spectacular run, and there were gastro issues, but consider this, gentle reader. My 10k time in the heat at the end of my first triathlon was less than 10 seconds per mile slower than I ran an open race under ideal conditions last year. 55:41.7 Pace: 8:58. Avg. HR: 151.

Times have changed. If only you knew how much.

I finsh. I finish what I started 18 months ago with my first, failed swim workout. I finish what I started five years ago when I quit running after my first, miserable half-marathon.

I finish what I failed to complete 25 years ago when I was only 15 . . .

To be continued . . .