Friday, September 29, 2006
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
"You smell that smell--that charcoal smell? That's Athena.
"I LOVE the smell of Athena in the morning. . . . . Smells like . . . VICTORY!"
It is SO on. SOMA is so SO ON!!
So yeah, I had a good brick in the park this morning. At 0445 the temps were (finally) down in the 60s, and I ripped around the picnic loop for two hours worth of two mile intervals. The Ipod was blaring Siegfried's Death and Funeral March (right before Brunhilde casts herself on the funeral pire) and Ride of the Valkeries when I started to smell that smell.
Roasting Athena. VICTORY.
After two hours of hammering, I sprang off the bike and ripped off a 5k at about 8 minute pace and felt like I could have gone on forever. Athenas and Cruiser class dudes were falling into the ditches after being pelted by the mighty greyhound's slipstream. We are the Cowboys from hell.
And I feel good.
Wait--you mean it's not going to be 60 degrees on the run in Tempe?
And she's only going half as far as I am? I have to maintain the same pace over a half-iron as she does for the quarter?
Oh, snap. Never mind.
Sunday, September 24, 2006
Saturday, September 23, 2006
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Nothing like doing the morning commute twice and missing the single best morning of weather since last April.
Plan B: 10k at lunch and swim after the day job.
Monday, September 18, 2006
So, this was at the top of my computer screen this evening. It is what you get in response to successfully completing an Ironman registration. It seems so easy. You fill in the little boxes. You tell them what size t-shirt you want. You let them know of any medical conditions that might endanger you on the course. Fork over a wad o' money, then hit "submit."
Oh, wait. Did not check the waiver box. Let's see . . . I agree, warrant and covenant as follows:
"Doing an Ironman or Ironman 70.3 is a large commitment on the athlete's time and lifestyle. It is a serious venture that involves sacrifice and some risks." Duh.
"Doing an Ironman or Ironman 70.3 is a serious athletic endeavor." Duh, again. Hopefully, I am becoming a serious athlete.
* * *
"I am physically fit and have sufficiently trained for this competition and that my physical condition has been verified by a licensed medical doctor." Ok, perhaps it is time for a physical.
* * *
"I HEREBY RELEASE, WAIVE, DISCHARGE AND COVENANT NOT TO SUE FORD IRONMAN WISCONSIN, IRONMAN NORTH AMERICA TRIATHLON, INC., The WORLD TRIATHLON CORPORATION, USAT, . . . herein referred to as "releasees", from all liability to me, my personal representatives, assigns, heirs, and next of kin for any and all loss or damage, and any claim or demands therefore on account of injury to me or my property or resulting in my death, . . . ." **blink**
"I HEREBY ASSUME FULL RESPONSIBILITY FOR RISK OF BODILY INJURY,DEATH OR PROPERTY DAMAGE . . . . ."
OK, they are really starting to annoy me with the whole "death" thing. And why do I keep envisioning the swim start every time that word comes up?
First in . . . .
Sunday, September 17, 2006
That is the theory. Today, practice started.
Friday, September 15, 2006
Monday, September 11, 2006
It was hard to tell when daylight actually began at Monona Terrace that morning. The overcast was so thick and persistant that we never saw the sun or knew when it came up. As 0600 passed and race time got closer, it did not become light so much as it got less dark. Even that changed so slowly that you almost did not notice. The terrace was nevertheless awhirl. With all the athletes and volunteers and family members and the voice of Ironman stirring the organized chaos, I was lucky to run into Trisaratops and Iron Wil on their way to body marking. With a thumbs up and a hug they were off into the vortex.
As the appointed hour drew near, one got to see how people handle stress. Some people talked. Some were completely silent. Some sought out strangers. Some sought out solitude. With Reilly urging reluctant athletes into the water, I saw one male competitor who was obviously very fit and obviously had absorbed much training; yet he sat with his back to the wall of the Monona Terrace, his eyes fixed in a 1000 yard stare straight ahead as if he had a date with a hangman’s noose.
With much cajoling, all the competitors finally made it into the water. About this time, Trimama and Trihubby showed up for their volunteer station as wet suit strippers. For those of you who have met them, you will understand what I am about to say. I fell completely under their spell. Trihubby is a mensch who drinks my brand of scotch and Trimama simply rocks. Coolest mom on the block. No doubt. The whole long day we were together, I had only one complaint: they did not bring the tribe with them.
Soon thereafter, the gun went off. My first thought at seeing more than 2000 competitors clawing through the steel grey chop was base and simple. “[Expletive deleted], I’ll never be able to do this.” Although I went to Madison intending to register, I started to reject the idea out of hand. At one point, the swimming “peloton” stretched nearly all the way around the two loop course. I was on top of the terrace at that point and had time to think. That sight was early 1.2 miles of human beings representing countless hundreds of thousands of training hours and all the dreams invested in them.
As age groupers started to emerge from the water, I went to the swim exit looking for Wil and Sara. In an ominous omen on the day, the wind picked up and a drizzle began. The lake lapped at the rocks on shore and the weather began to look hostile. It was impossible not to shiver, both from the damp chill, and from anxiety. 138.2 miles left for these athletes, and conditions were getting worse, not better.
After the swim champs, the “ordinary” Ironmen (if there is such a thing) started to emerge from the water. From the fright of seeing the swim start, this was all encouragement. It makes you think, “maybe I can do this.” I kept an eye on my watch and kept looking for Wil’s telltale red, Orca wetsuit. (I looked hard for Sara, but did not know what her wetstuit looked like. I thought I saw her, but I was not sure.). Orca after Orca came out of the water as Wil’s top swim time came and went. I started to worry for her, but then I saw one last set of red, Orca arms. Her face turned toward me as she breathed and I recognized her at once. The volunteers grabbed her up out of the water like a baptism at a camp revival meeting and she was all smiles. Trihubby and Trimama yanked the wetsuit off her, and with a huge hug and an even bigger smile, she was off to T1.
I snagged some coffee and cookies for Trihubby and Trimama, because they were all wet from their duties, and there was still 40 minutes left in the swim. The emotions were raw as the swim cutoff approached. Out in the water, you could see the last few sets of arms cycling through their strokes, trying to make it in. With each swimmer, you wondered, “Is that the last guy? Or him? Will he make it?” Very soon we found out. With less than one minute to the cutoff, a female age grouper wept tears of joy and relief as she was informed that she made it. A spare few seconds later, two or three others wept tears of heartbreak when their chips were removed and they were not allowed to continue. The weeping was not in solitude. The volunteers cried. I cried.
Here, the weather really started to turn foul. The wind continued to climb as the temperature and the rain continued to fall. Trimama and Trihubby and I hopped in the car and took off for Verona to catch some of the bike route. The drizzle was now an honest rain. Elites and age groupers alike were suffering from the cold. You could see the suffering. Some, you could tell, had not gotten warm since emerging from the water. Yet, on they rode.
I got the tribe leaders back into town for their volunteer water stop duty and actually had to buy some sweats and another coat at the expo, just to keep warm. I saw the first two men out of T2 and cheered the incoming bikes for three hours. The suffering was right on the surface, even on the best athletes. Elites had been caught by some of the uberstrong age groupers, and some of the age groupers who are normally strong were limping in with blue lips and early hypothermia.
Then it was on to my volunteer station. I saw the first men and first women finish, but that is not nearly the most rewarding part of Ironman. I saw the middle and end of the bell curve come cross the line, and I was honored to carry their weight until they met weeping or cheering or screaming family members. A few just hobbled off into the night, alone and looking for dry clothes. I don’t know if they were lonely. It made me lonely.
These ironmen came in all types. The whooping 30 year old tri-stud, the dad who carries the kids across the line and collapses, the Irongrandpa, and the competitors who could not tell you their names and did not know where they were. The rain fell heavier and the temperature dropped further. Athletes who did not get inside were getting shocky and occasionally falling over. This was real. One young man sprinted for the line to break 11 hours, made his goal, and then promptly collapsed into our firemen’s carry. He did not open his eyes in the medical tent, but he could stammer that he had broken 11 hours. That was all he knew.
In the midst of this, all of us that were within electronic communication saw that Sara had made it in from the bike, but her time told the story of the day. Her average speed revealed just how hard the course was in those conditions. She was not far in advance of the cutoff, and still no news on Iron Wil. 5:30 came and 5:30 passed. We thought Wil had timed out and were crushed for her. Five minutes later ironmanlive (may it rot forever in hell) springs up with her bike split--just under the wire. Down turned to up. Trihubby ran out, saw her, and ran with her to the first breakpoint.
Somewhat later, we projected a finishing time for Sara based on her half-marathon split. We positioned ourselves so that she would have her own, personal, TBC finish line catchers. Those of you who know her in real life will not be surprised that she was all smiles, all gratitude, all grace. On a very hard day she did some very hard stuff. Wow. Just. Wow.
But by this time. Up had turned to down again. We knew Wil’s split for the first half of the marathon. We knew that hopes were dim, and we were extremely thankful that Stu was right along with her. She would tell you herself that she was in very good hands with Stu for the entire race. I know she must have been hurting much, much more than we, but we felt a sliver of the disappointment for her. She worked so hard. She did everything right. She was prepared. But there are no guarantees. You can do it right and still not finish. I sent her a text that night. I don’t know if she received it, and I don’t even know if the attention from out-of-state internet strangers was even entirely welcome, but the sentiment was as real as the race conditions that day.
Saturday, September 09, 2006
Friday, September 08, 2006
"If you are going through hell, keep going."
- Sir Winston Churchill
I admire you guys so much, and hope that I may some day stand with you in the company of Ironmen.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Saturday, September 02, 2006
Friday, September 01, 2006
By elimination, number 2, which sounds true, is false. Mrs. Greyhound was not my high school sweetheart, nor did we go to the same college. And this is a story in itself.
When I was a kid, we visited Mrs. Greyhound's home town once each summer for a family reunion. I dissed that little town once, and my mother, the Baptist prophetess remarked, "You don't know, you might actually marry a girl from this town some day." Moms are scarry, because through an improbable turn of events, that statement came true.
Congrats to Danielle and Tri-Mama who nailed the answer. Contact me by e-mail and tell me where to send the schwag. (I can deliver yours, tri-mama, at IMWI if you like). 21st Century Mom picked the right statement for the wrong reason and Fe-Lady picked the right statement with no specification of the falsehood. If you contact me by e-mail, I'll send you some schwag anyway, because that's just the kind of guy I am.
And now you know . . . the rest . . . of the story.