Monday, June 30, 2008

On Finishing And Starting Again

"The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of 60 minutes an hour,
whatever he does, whoever he is.
"

"The safest road to hell is the gradual one - the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts."
--C.S. Lewis

If you take over 13 hours to race an Ironman, you will be watching the sun drift lazily and reluctantly below the mountains as you finally turn around between miles 20 and 21 on the run course in Idaho. The lake shimmers like molten gold, and if you're as lucky as we were, a breeze blows off the water with the promise of a cool night ahead. It is at this point that things start to really improve. Lies and pain give way to truth and painful joy.

For much of the previous hours, you have been fighting big negative thoughts with little rhythmic ones.Some people would say it is the psyche that's picking on you, asking you rhetorical questions that have no purpose on a race course, questions like:

"What are you doing?"

"You've already done one of these. What's the point? Look at those people already finishing. You'll never be as fast as they are, even if you quit your job and trained full time."

"If you're going to be THIS slow, you might as well walk. Why keep on running?"

"Nobody will care if you quit."

It might be the psyche--it might be Lucifer. Whatever. It serves no purpose for good. You will care if you quit. You know it beyond certainty, and you complain to yourself when you walk. So you drown out Lucifer--or yourself--with white noise--little thoughts as simple as the rhythm of your foot strikes and the song in your head.

"I'm gonna break
gonna break my
gonna break my rusty cage and run."

And as the sun finally disappears into twilight, the road tips up as you come back into town for the final time.

You can see the towers from the resort on the skyline, and you know you will reach them. That is where you will finish. The course is mostly quiet now. Many of the neighbors have gone inside for the night. You can see them through their windows. But some are still there. Someone who has been in their front yard all day cheering Ironmen in all shapes and sizes tells you it is 1.7 miles to the finish. Someone else is there later to tell you it is 1.2 miles. Yet again, another man on a bike, who has been in the same spot since you last saw him more than an hour ago, says, "Three more turns. You've got this. Good job." And one more angel whom you encounter unawares says, "six blocks; only six blocks."

You can hear the music and the loudspeakers and see the lights, and like whirling faster and faster down a funnel, it gets tighter, narrower, crazier and louder until you are just carried along. Somewhere you hear your name shouted and your child grabs your hand. Both of you are swept down the chute:






And even though the earth tilts sideways and your body starts to chill and shake and shiver, you know.

You know that those questions in your head were nonsense, lies that only seem true under stress.

You know that you'll do this again.

And you know why.

Because seeking comfort and avoiding pain are suitable motivations only for lower animals, not for human beings bearing the image of God.

Because pain and risk are the worthy price for taking the gift of life and using it.

Because burying the gift of your one and only life in the ground rather than drinking it dry and sucking the marrow from the bones is a sin.

Because $10,000 raised to fight the disease that grips your wife is only just beginning.

Because the reward of the hard journey is far better than the anesthesia of couch and table.

Because the happy few that live the adventurous life never let you feel alone.

Because everyone gets 60 minutes per hour to journey toward the future, and those 60 minutes should be full to overflowing.

Because the broad and plain highway does not go to your desired destination. The traffic is awful and the scenery sucks.

Because the narrow way is beautiful.

Because, you need it.

32042-345-036f

Because you're an Ironman.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

I'm Gonna Break My Rusty Cage And Run

“So, are you going to be able to run after this?”

That was Bolder’s question. I had no idea, and I told him so. There were times on that bike ride, even in the second loop, where I felt like a superhero. Run? Bring it! There were other times when I felt like I was an accident victim doing rehab on a stationary bike as others whizzed by. Run? Rectum? Damn near killed ‘im.

32042-065-029f

Of course, isn’t that the very essence of Ironman? The risk and unanswered question of, “Can I [fill in the blank]?” Don't we keep going because we're trying to find out?

Anyway, as I reached the downhill slope that took us the last 8 or 10 miles into town, the wind was in my face, and I tried to just stay in a gear I could turn at the appropriate cadence in an effort to find my legs and settle my tummy, that threatened to go into open revolt if I fed it one more calorie while my body threatened to stop if I failed to do so.

As I said yesterday, my watch told me a good bit of news when I finally arrived. having turned in a decent bike split, I was well-positioned to PR. However, the quietness and shade of the T2 changing tent was awfully inviting. I wanted to sit there for awhile. I did not want to run a marathon. But I knew I had to. I also knew that the more time I took to get started, the more time it would take to bet finished, which is all I wanted to do at that point. So eventually, I headed for the door and started to jog.

32042-215-029f

The run course is a study in contrasts. Just outside the transition area, the course is a wall of sound, even as late in the day as I started the run. People lined both sides of the run course and cheered indiscriminately for strangers in the Ironman family. I also saw Iron Jenny and Nytro and the peeps, who consistently treated me like a rock star. The run through town and through the neighborhoods was the same way. When you were being cheered well or (very infrequently) cheered poorly, you wanted to run for them and were embarrassed when it was time to take a scheduled or unscheduled walk break.

And then there were the parts of the course where no one was watching, where the only sounds were those of the footfalls around you, and your own breathing. What do you do when nobody is watching? It feels better to walk, except walking imperils your goals and lengthens the suffering.

32042-156-032f

Then there is coming back into town for the second loop, as the fast kids are finishing and you know you are going out to be “alone” again. Gird your loins, grasshopper, because that is just plain dispiriting.

IMG_0684

So, was I able to run? Yes.

And no.

Here’s the no: I had hoped to run between aid stations and go faster than IMWI, maybe by as much as a half hour. I can run a marathon under 4 hours, and SOMEDAY I’d really like to “run” an Ironman marathon within 45 minutes or an hour of my open marathon time instead of shuffling over an hour slower. From the get go, however, I was unable to execute my desired strategy. From the first step, I was in crisis management mode. Every time the road tipped up even slightly, some part of my body chose to complain--back, side stitch, calf cramp . . . . Me? I knew I would finish, but I did not have the mental fortitude to push through for 8 to 10 minutes at a time.

Here’s the yes: I was able to set smaller goals for myself and push through for 4 minutes at a time on the first lap, 3 on the second. When I was running, I ran well and with decent turnover. When I was walking, I did not extend my breaks. On the second loop, I metered my effort with the goal of breaking 14 hours, and I was able to do so.

I went into zombie mode leaving town on the second lap and running by the lake. Over and over, my subconscious sang the refrain from "Rusty Cage" that I posted the day before the race. My pace picked up on the downhill and flat stretches. I had caught some people in front of me and I was seeing friends on the out and backs. Mile 21 arrived and I glided downhill to mile 22. Four miles left and plenty of time to do it in. Mile 23, only a 5k now. I put enough time in the bank that I could afford not to suffer up the slight gradients coming back into the town.

One mile left, the sun is down below the horizon, as is the finish line. I can hear it. A couple more turns in the road . . . .

IMG_0680

But that is another chapter.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Use The Force, Luke

When last we left our intrepid Underdog, I was sprinting from the male changing tent (You will be spared the visual horrors therein, even if I thought I had words worthy of describing them) past the women’s changing tent (the delights of which I shall ne’er be permitted to see and which I can scarce imagine) toward my trusty ride, Carmen Tequilo.

But the bike leg merits some prologue.

Carmen Tequilo has a new set of Zipp 404s, but I just couldn’t leave well enough alone. I thought it would be a good idea if she had fresh tires and tubes for the race. Little did I know, you have to be able to rip phone books in half and crush raw carbon into diamonds with your bare hands to change tires on Zipp wheels. I broke four tire levers trying to change the tires and tubes before finally getting help from the bike shop and just hoping beyond all hope that I did not suffer a puncture during the race.

Fast forward to Friday when I picked up my bike from Tri-Bike transport. It came off the truck with a puncture in the front tube, not a blown tube from heat, a pinhole puncture. Is this just a freak accident, or perhaps have I permanently damaged the rims in wrestling with changing a tire such that some burr in the metal is puncturing my tube? Paranoid beyond all measure, I took the bike back to the house and made the effort to change the tire. It was a multiple MF’er job with heavy duty tire levers, but I finally got the new tube installed. I inflated the tire and set it aside . . . .

and two minutes later it was flat again.

M*TH$R F*&%)@R!!

Now I know the Tri gods are punishing me for messing with my race wheels, or perhaps getting them in the first place. I hot footed it down to In and Out Sports and left the offending wheel with them, requesting an exorcism. A bored looking bike mechanic about 22 years old shrugged, looked at me in disgust as if I did not know how to change a tire, and told me to come back in three hours after he’d had time to slot me in.

He later claimed to have changed the tire with his bare hands and accused me of pinching it flat.

Little whipper snapper.

So, as I was sprinting from T1 to my bike, family and friends cheering like I had just given Mark Allen a forearm shiver, I was actually worried about the potential of puncture Armageddon hanging over my head like the Sword of Damocles. But every other piece of equipment was checked and ready to go, right?

Not so much.

I had taken the trouble to set my Polar watch so it would show me my bike split, my miles per hour, and my heart rate, but as I mounted the bike and stood in the pedals to hammer away from transition, I looked down and

NUTHIN’

NADA

NYET

ZIPPO

No bike speedo at all. In order to gage my ride, I had to rely only on Jedi mind tricks. “Use the Force, Luke. Trust your feelings.” All I had was heart rate, perceived effort, and rough mathematical calculations of average speed when I passed a five mile mark. Not ideal, but not all that bad either. Why?

Because the course was gorgeous. BEE YOU TEE FULL. And the temps were ideal. It was pure joy in motion to ride a bike on that route, with people cheering all through town and beautiful scenery all outside the town. There are hills, but great descents and long stretches for recovery. It is a very tough but fair course, and the viewing is great for both racers and spectators. Every time I passed by transition, crowds cheered and there were bloggy peeps cheering me by name. Every time I passed near our house, Trimama and Mrs. Greyhound cheered me. I climbed OK, I descended great, and I kept fairly good tempo on the flats.

I even saw Bolder at one point in the near distance. (I knew it was him because nobody wears more BMC-Ho Schwag than he does). When I caught him, he asked, “So, are you going to be able to run after this?”

Ah, that IS the question, is it not? I admitted that I did not know. Time would tell, and my tummy was having something to say on the matter. What I did know, when I came into transition, was that I had turned in a sub-7 bike split without totally killing myself. Big deal, right? Well for me, it meant that only a medical emergency involving an ambulance would keep me away from a PR.

But how would I run? Time would tell.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Ironman ISO Swim Dominatrix

How do you go about doing the “impossible” a second time? Is it truly impossible or even worth doing after you have already discovered that “anything is possible?” That was kind of the quandry for this race.

At a first Ironman, you find out whether you can do it. But what about a second? If you’re not a Kona study, why exactly are you out there? Why are you racing? You know you can complete it. But do you? Really? If you get cocky or the weather is bad or if you have a mechanical problem or if your nutrition fails or if you just don’t keep your head in the game, that second one can be just out of reach. I knew I was confident, but I also knew that if I took it for granted, I was just asking for trouble. He whom the gods would humble, they first raise up.

So, in the days leading up to the event, I tried to be practical. No need in getting all manic or fearful about things out of my control. Change or fix what you can, roll with what you cannot. I tried to be confident in the preparation behind me, and yet realistically appraise and solve the challenges yet to come.

For me, this primarily meant coming to terms with the water. On Wednesday when I arrived, the water temperature was in the mid-50s, which by Texas standards is unswimmably cold. Standing on the beach, I knew that if I wanted get from my current position to the finish line on Sherman Street, I had to go through the water. It doesn’t matter how cold or how rough it is, and it doesn’t matter that swimming is still a new discipline for me. That is where the race course starts, and that is the first challenge of the long day.

So, I planned. I knew the first few minutes of the swim would be unpleasant, no matter if the water was 52 degrees or 62 degrees. The solution? To experience that first few minutes over and over so it was no big deal. I would swim at least once every day, going straight from the beach into the water with no thinking, no second guessing, and no warmup. The first time, I made a bargain with myself that I only needed to swim for 15 minutes, 7:30 out and 7:30 back. Easy as pie. Second time, 15 minutes out and 15 minutes back. No sweat. Day before the race, just get wet with a brief hard swim. Day of the race, no fear.

And it worked . . . . to a point.

On race morning, I was most of the way down the beach, and unlike Wisconsin, it was impossible to hear Mike Reilly and the music. I was all dressed out and ready to go--new long sleeve wetsuit, polar cap, booties, swim cap, goggles up on my forehead. Looking at my watch, I knew it was about go time, but my watch was apparently two minutes slower than Mike’s watch, because the cannon suddenly boomed and we all started shuffling toward the waterline.
Here was the first occasion of the day that I was reminded to get my head on straight. I hit my watch, waded up to my waist and went to “duck dive” for my first strokes, at which time the water hitting my eyes reminded me that my goggles were still on top of my head, not on my eyes.

Brilliant. So, are you going to swim today, Einstein?

With that little snafu corrected, I commenced the first leg of the race without even feeling the cold water or getting breathless. I call it a race, but I never really feel like I’m racing in the swim, mostly because it is a very long day, and the swim is my weakest link. I was completely unsure how my swim split would compare with Wisconsin, and as it turned out, I swam slower. A comparatively wretched 1:40.

But let me e’splain.

No, let me sum up.

The first 1000 meters of the swim was unbelievably crowded as a wide beach of swimmers all converged on a single buoy 1000 meters away. (The place to be is right on the edge at the left or right. Everyone in the middle gets pinched off). I had to doggy paddle and dodge and breast stroke as the water became obstructed, because I’m just not willing to swim over the top of someone.

In addition, I think I suffered from a lack of goals for the swim. I am a stronger and faster swimmer than last year, but the water temperature and the comparative insignificance of the swim demotivated me to doing some of the last detail work that is the difference between swimming well and just finishing. This was the first really extended swim in my long sleeve suit--such things being unnecessary and painfully hot in Texas. I had also bagged some long OW swims in favor of the pool, because the water at Twin Lakes was too low, too muddy, too hot, and too far away. It’s just dang hard to get motivated to swim hard. I probably need a Serbian Swim Dominatrix (SSD)TM to give me the tolerance for pain and fear of failure to become a really strong swimmer.

But that is next season.

As for this season, I did make it through the swim. There were times, especially on the inward bound legs, when the swim exit did not look like it was getting any closer. I choked down water on several occasions when I lifted my head to sight over the boat wakes and some developing chop. And I just could not feel the water or seem to swim a straight line with those sleeves on. Part of the whole swimming straight thing is muscular endurance deficit holding over from my ruptured disc and me loathing strength training. This I will fix too. Wait until next year.

I was down only a little bit when I saw the time on my watch coming out of the water. 5 minutes slower than Wisconsin, which was a much easier swim. But as so often happens, the people in our lives don’t let us stay down long. Kathleen was right there at the swim exit with her platinum smile, screaming my name and whooping it up. Trimama and Mrs. Greyhound were there with Superpounce and the Tribe, yelling like I was the second coming of Mark Allen as I exited T1 and sprinted for the bike.

Is this sport great or what?

Monday, June 23, 2008

PR


I'll do a proper race report later when there is more time, but I wanted to throw something out there to let you know that I finished, and that I appear to be uninjured notwithstanding the pain in my left knee and right achilles. It was a mixed day, but I am proud to say that I beat my first Ironman time by about 45 minutes, mostly due to a better bike split, and I finished (barely) under 14 hours.

It was hard (duh!!), but it was made both easier and more enjoyable knowing there were so many people here and online who were interested in following a pint-sized, age-grouper at the back of the Ironman bell curve.

Now, where's the ice and ibuprofen?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Break Your Rusty Cage And Run

You wired me awake
And hit me with a hand of broken nails
You tied my lead and pulled my chain
To watch my blood begin to boil

But I'm gonna break
I'm gonna break my
I'm gonna break my rusty cage and run

Too cold to start a fire
I'm burning diesel, burning dinosaur bones
I'll take the river down to still water
And ride a pack of dogs

I'm gonna break
I'm gonna break my
I'm gonna break my rusty cage and run

Hits like a Phillips head Into my brain
It's gonna be too dark
To sleep again Cutting my teeth on bars
And rusty chains,
I'm gonna break my Rusty cage and run

When the forest burns
Along the road Like God's eyes In my headlights
When the dogs are looking
For their bones
And it's raining icepicks
On your steel shore

I'm gonna break
I'm gonna break my
I'm gonna break my rusty cage and run

The Calm

I have been trying for a while now to figure out what to write, this night before Ironman. Everything profound seems maudlin when I try to put it in print. Everything not profound seems out of place or not up to the task.

There are concerns in my mind about how the day will go, but I don't feel anything I could identify as fear. I have faith that I can do this again, but not certainty. If you asked me why I do it, I'm not sure I could tell you. Sometimes, it is only because I can. Sometimes, it is to feel fully alive--risking something I could very well fail at so that I can know that I truly lived that single day.

Sometimes, I'm not really sure what I feel. Sometimes, its nothing.

But I can tell you what I am looking forward to feeling. I am looking forward to riding my bike through some beautiful countryside in 70 degree weather. I am looking forward to the feeling of making the final turn at the turnaround and knowing that the finish line is getting nearer with every step. I am looking forward to the feeling of running down Sherman Avenue and seeing the finish line.

But you know, for me, this is not about finish lines. It is more about milestones. The journey does not end here. I'm more interested in where it might go next. The road goes ever on and on.


"... it's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door...you step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet,there's not knowing where you might be swept off to."

Saturday, June 14, 2008

How You Know


One of the peeps posted a question about Ironman somewhere to the effect of, "how do you know when you're ready?" I don't know if certainty about such a question is possible; however, here are a few guideposts and metrics against which you can measure yourself. You Ironman vets out there, please feel free to include your own additions in the comments.



  1. If you groan and grit your teeth trying to get up out of a car seat, but a 50 mile ride is "tapering" or "recovery," you might be an Ironman.

  2. If you walk like an arthritic octegenarian when you first get out of bed, but then run 20 miles after a quick cup of coffee and a Cliff Bar, you might be an Ironman.

  3. If you dream about being late to the transition and showing up toting a race wheel with no tire (like last night maybe), you might be an Ironman.

  4. If you feel like a Chevy Nova running on 3 cylinders the first 45 minutes of every workout, but then find a groove where you feel like you could go all day, you might be an Ironman.

  5. If your bike begs you not to be ridden any more, because she's been rode hard and put away wet and sweaty, you might be an Ironman.

  6. If the BSG (bike shop guy) winces and rolls his eyes at the dirty, gel-encrusted, deraillure grinding condition of your ride when you show up for tri bike transport, you might be an Ironman.

  7. If you you lose count at "5" while looking at the black line on the bottom of a pool because you essentially "sleep swam" through a lap (or three) you might be an Ironman.

  8. If your swimsuits and tri shorts are becoming so threadbare that you need a sexually oriented business license just to work out, you might be an Ironman.

  9. If you have bookmarked a lake temperature guage and started a neoprene hedge fund, you might be an Ironman.

  10. If your child gets up at 9:00 on a Saturday or Sunday and says (with genuine surprise), "Dad's home??!!", you might be an Ironman.

And some of my favorite ifs:



If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream--and not make dreams your master,
If you can think--and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings--nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be [an Ironman], my son!


--Rudyard Kipling

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Keep Moving Forward

Bigun said my "No Gravity" post was too sensitive for shortly before Ironman. So, Bigun, this one's for you:



That's how winnin' is done.

Get Your Kicks


Numbers for Ironman CdA have now been assigned. And you will never forget mine, even though I'm not going to tell it to you.



How cool is that number?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

No Gravity


I know her name--I'll call her Millie here. I know it because it is written on a piece of tape on the back of her jacket. Someone who cares for her has written it there because they are afraid she might wander off, become lost, and not be able to identify herself.

I see her regularly at the pool on those mornings when there is not a masters workout and there are lots of empty lanes. She has the halting step of one who is afraid--afraid she might fall, but also probably just afraid because of the confusion in her own brain. Her face tells the same story I've seen in some of my grandparents and great grandparents. If I had to guess, she can remember some long ago things very clearly, like perhaps the time when the man on her arm took her on their first date. But I would also suppose that she cannot remember much of what happened yesterday or 15 minutes ago. She might not even remember that man's name sometimes, perhaps only the feeling of his presence, his smell, or the way his arm feels, warm and steady.

But he's always there whenever she is there. He drives the big Oldsmobile, parks in the handicapped space, and takes her arm as they walk ever so slowly, with tiny, fearful steps, toward the front door of the aquatic center. If I were invisible, the only company to their walk would be the metallic hum of the arc lights, and the frogs and insects chirping out in the pines. He walks her through the door, and she takes the inside lane in the indoor pool.

He reads the paper. But she escapes. She swims an easy freestyle. She breastsrokes. She backstrokes.

And she smiles.

The fear is gone from her face, for there is no gravity here. There is no specter of muddled past. This, she remembers. Every feeling and sensation is recalled without effort from the past written in her muscle memory.

And she smiles.

Who had the more meaningful swim this morning--the middle-aged, mediocre Ironman trying to push himself through 200s? Or Millie?

Monday, June 09, 2008

One More Solid Week Of . . . .



up before the butt crack of dawn,

cliff bar breakfasts in the car,

going hard before Joe Average is going at all,

and wondering at the end of the day, if it was all long and hard enough.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Vision



NASA DIRECTOR:
. . . This could be the
worst disaster NASA's ever experienced.

GENE KRANTZ (FLIGHT DIRECTOR - WHITE):
- With all due respect, sir. I believe this is gonna be our
finest hour.

I've been seeing things all wrong. As I look back over my posts and my thoughts for the last several weeks, I know I have been worrying about potential difficulties and obstacles that the weather or the course or happenstance might throw in my path to make this Ironman unsuccessful. I've been worried about doing worse at this one than in the first one. I've even been worried about not finishing this one because conditions turn out to be more difficult than the first one. Some might call that type of vision realistic. I call it cloudy, cowardly even.

The people I admire--that we all admire--in history and literature don't ignore the difficulties and obstacles; but, they always seem to see beyond them to the outcome they desire. In seeing life like that, all the obstacles and difficulties simply become stair steps or ascents--the more difficult or steeper they are, the greater the victory or success when they are overcome.

We see that kind of vision in Gene Krantz, flight operations director for the Apollo space program who doggedly worked to bring his astronauts home. Contrast Krantz with the NASA engineer in the movie who seeks only to cover his butt by refusing to take responsibility for procedures and equipment that had not been tested under these conditions. He was the bureaucratic realist. Krantz was the opposite. Breakdown after snafu after screw up conspired to make it seem impossible, and yet Krantz saw past the hurdles to the outcome he wanted, and rightly foresaw that it would be NASA's finest hour.

We see that kind of vision in Henry V's St. Crispin's Day speech where, outnumbered by the French, King Henry does not bemoan the troops he lacks. On the contrary, he bids any reluctant participant to depart:

WESTMORELAND. O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!

KING. What's he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark'd to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
* * *
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man's company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.




Henry had the common, English long bowman who was more than a match for the French cavalry. "All things be ready, " he declared, "if our minds be so." He was right. The French were cut down before they could even engage. Henry and his "few, [his] happy few" garnered glory that Henry (at least the Shakespearean version) foresaw. They became the eternal archetype for the "Band of Brothers."

Finally, we see that kind of visionary leadership in Winston Churchill, who knew very well that his countrymen were about to be pummled to within an inch of their very existence by the worst that modern warfare had to offer at the time. He called for a kind of sacrifice that this country, by all modern observations, would never tolerate in our current mindset. But he did so while seeing past the obstacles to the British Empire's "finest hour."



Now, I fully recognize that triathlon and Ironman are nowhere near as important or as significant as warfare or the saving of human life. Nevertheless, these far more serious pursuits have something to teach me. Starting now, I'm through with my old way of thinking. If the lake is cold, it's cold. The colder it is, the greater the accomplishment in overcoming it. If the course his hilly or windy or hard, so be it. I will find a way, and when I do, the finish line will be all the sweeter.

In the words of Sir Winston, "Do your worst, and we shall do our best."

Monday, June 02, 2008

On Hay, Barns and Rebellion


I went sub-8 last night.

I wasn't working out. I was sleeping. And for the first time in MONTHS, I managed to get almost 8 hours of sleep at a stretch.

When people ask me how I fit in all this training and a law practice, and parental responsibilities, I could be the hero, or I could be honest. Honestly? I don't sleep much--ever. And during the peak period, I'm not a very good dad or a very sharp lawyer.

This has combined to make me just a leeeeeetle bit cranky lately, and not very rational. Could you tell? Uhm. Yeah.

That crankiness persisted this weekend. I was pissed that I had to call it a day at "only" 95 miles on my bike ride on a very hilly route in very high heat. I had nothing left. I barely made it back to the car, nearly passed out when I got off the bike, and scrubbed my transition run.

Which made me even more pissed.

Almost fell asleep in the car on the way home, then couldn't sleep when I got home because of the pounding of my pulse when I tried to relax.

Which made me even more pissed.

Then, Sunday, I was pissed that I had to walk it in from between 17 and 18 miles on my long run. I had planned 20 in three hours. I made it only 17 and a fraction in 2:58. Never mind that you needed gills to breathe the Houston humidity and there wasn't a breath of a breeze. Never mind the high temperatures and lingering problems from the previous ride. No, I was irritated.

And continued to be irritated because I could not MAKE myself swim outside in yet more sun. I napped and went to swim inside. 4000 yards--not meters--in a short course pool.

The very perceptive amongst you will have noticed that the link to my training log has disappeared from my sidebar. I put off logging a few workouts, and but now I'm in total rebellion. I have to bill my time in my job, I have to call and let people know when I'll be home, and at this point, I'll be damned if I account for duration and heart rates in my "me time."

I'll hit the workouts as best I can, but what kind of person feels guilty about riding "only" 95 hilly miles in high heat and humidity and then scrubbing the transition run? What kind of person gets irritated at himself for running "only" 17-18 miles in high heat, and coming 2 minutes short of the 3 hour workout goal? What kind of person feels inadequate having swum only 4000 yards (not meters) in a short course pool instead of in the open water because he could not bear to be in the sun one more minute?

Well, apparently it's the kind of person who logs his training and heart rates, pretty much exactly like me. So, I'm quitting. From now until the race, no more logging. No more heart rates. I know what "tempo" feels like, I know how hard is hard. Enough with the numbers and the guilt and the data. I'll give it my best for the next three weeks, but that's going to have to be enough.

Realistically, I did good, long workouts two weeks ago--112 on the bike, 18 on the run, and 4000 long course meters in the pool. I'd give my training to this point a B+ for duration and a B- for intensity. So, the hay is probably in the barn. The logical part of my canine brain knows the fatigue that I feel right now is a result of loading that hay, and not from lack of fitness. But the psyche is not wedded to reality, nor is it necessarily rational. It's not real, but it sure seems real.

Of course, if this Ironman thing were "rational," everyone would do it. It would be average. If it were, we wouldn't have any part of it. Average sucks.

Sunday, June 01, 2008