Tuesday, November 26, 2013

All About The Flying Monkeys

We were warned, we were told, we were reminded that Running Is Stupid. But then again You Can't Fix Stupid. This is why some 335 runners registered, not sure at this point how many actually got the message and didn't show up to brave this year's  Harpeth Hills Flying Monkey Marathon at Percy Warner Park in Nashville, TN. or more importantly, how many actually survived the Monkey.

In the eyes of many, it is Tennessee's Best Marathon, and according to Wikipedia, "it was created to be among the top five most difficult road marathons in the United States", but who am I to argue with this, after all, if its in Wikipedia and the internet, it has to be true... right? You just have to be stupid, and a big enough idiot to finish this marathon in order to make your own conclusions.

Last year I volunteered. But after watching all the "fun" runners were having braving through the estimated 7000 ft of elevation change, I decided to add this to my bucket list. One day I will be brave enough to run this, one day.

Tennessee's weather this time of year is extremely unpredictable. The air temperature at race start was 22°F. The winds were somewhere around 10-12 mph, therefore the "feels like" temperature at 8 AM on Sunday, November 24, 2013 was a crisp 14°F.  Yeah, perfect Monkey weather, right? So, layers we wore.

After the registration process, which this year due to the popularity growth of the marathon included a lottery, I received an email which very gently expressed deepest condolences and extreme concern for what I had just committed to do. Somewhere along the line I was encouraged to make sure my will and life insurance were current. Which I did. This is the recurring communication theme from the organizer, Trent Rosenbloom. From the git-go he warned us that "you can't train for the Monkey". I thought it was hype. I am now a believer.

With the many layers of clothing on, it was a small miracle that we could even move. Well, at least I had many layers on. Three top layers, two bottom layers and even my hands had two. I'm not sure I mentioned this before, but it was frigid cold. And it was windy.

Our running group, Hendersonville Running Club (HRC) was extremely well represented. Most of the other runners are highly experienced and fast. Not most. All. But me. When it was all said and done, I came in about 50 minutes after the previous last one had already finished. Even one of them who was out there sicker than sick, came in about an hour faster than I did. So what was I doing here? What possessed me to venture into this event? Surely, the simple idea of adding this to my list of accomplishment could not be it. I have an appointment with a Shrink to figure out why I do stuff like this. Running IS Stupid.

During the training process, which I know, I know I wasn't supposed to do, I wondered if I should have gone to the park and do a recon run. I found out yesterday that "ignorance is truly bliss". Had I known before hand what was ahead of me, I probably would have not made it to the starting line. Which begs the question... "why do so many runners keep coming back? over and over again?" It seems like every step along the way, you were either going up, or coming down. I do not recall any "flat" spots, anywhere. Where there any? Didn't think so. Next year, I'm going to suggest that whichever volunteer group has the duty of staffing the water stop atop Mt. Percy, that they provide oxygen masks! Yes, the air was very thin up there!

This marathon is about having some "serious" "fun". This marathon is not sanctioned, it's not a BQ qualifier, there are no pace groups, nothing is official, times don't really matter. It's about the "I Did It" factor.

Small details, sometimes became big reasons to smile during the race. Upon approach to one of the water stops, the one at mile 23, at a point were something, anything encouraging was very much needed, I saw this written on the road...


This my friends... made my day! Thanks folks, you know who you are!

I ran with a gentleman for a couple of miles who told me that he is not a marathoner, that this is the only marathon he runs every year, his seventh straight. When I asked why he continues to come back, he told me that it's all about validation for him. He proves to himself, at the end of every year, that he in fact, can finish a marathon. So why this one? He didn't have an answer, but I think I know.

Will I run this marathon again? I'm glad I don't have to make a decision yet. But the quick answer is: "you betcha."

I continue to grow as a runner and this allows me to continue my growth as a person. Over the last few months which included the NYC Marathon and yesterday, I pushed the limit to new levels. I asked my body and most importantly my mind, to do things I could not have imagined a few short years ago. I hope to continue to have good health to see how far I can take this. For now, I need to rest. Training for Ironman Chattanooga 2014 is right around the bend.

Friday, November 15, 2013

NYC Marathon ~ The Flight & Plight of # 542


I remember it like it was just yesterday. I opened the email from NYRR with my race number assignment. Remember thinking as I was opening that the date was getting closer and closer. Remember the excitement building. Remember that gut wrenching feeling when I saw that my assigned number was 542. Remember the cold sweat pouring down my face when I read: Wave 1.

Almost immediately, I jumped and retrieved last years number, the one that had been assigned to me before the race was canceled. Last years number would have been 65201. This year's number, did I tell you? would be 542.

I'm going to assume (but you know what happens when we do that), that if you're following this blog, you know a thing or two about "corral" and "wave" assignments. But just in case any of you don't know what I'm talking about, the lower the numbers, the earlier waves and corrals are usually reserved for those faster than fast runners. Obviously that's not me. Obviously someone made a big mistake.

I tried to justify this by thinking that maybe, just maybe the NYRR had assigned a special starting place to those of us who were to run last year and returned this year.

Nah, that couldn't be it.

As time passed I looked for the positives in this. There had to be some, right? The first one, and only one I really embraced was the fact that I would start earlier and that the wait in the cold would not be as long. But even that came with a hard realization that if I wasn't really careful, I would get trampled. There went my positive!

So how did this happen, I kept asking myself. There had to be only one logical explanation. The person or persons in charge of making bib assignments for the NYRR must have thought that "Mauricio" in Kenyan meant "With Gazelle-like Speed" and therefore gave me that number. In reality, they should have known that "Mauricio" was Spanish for "So slow he's moving backwards".

Come race day, I attached my number to my race belt and off I went. Didn't think about it any longer.

Well, that is until I arrived at the staging area.

There's something to be said about a mature, slim looking gentleman, sporting white hair and wearing a number 542. He must know a thing or two about running and racing.

As I sat patiently waiting for us to be called, a gentleman from Dublin sat next to me. He must have noticed my number, my HOKAs, my "experienced" look and promptly asked me: "what's your time goal?"

I told him sub 5.

Immediately, I saw the puzzled, bewildered look on his face. I asked for his and he said 4:00 hours. He was wearing a number in the 30-000 range.

He proceed to ask about my number. I told him not to ask. He insisted. I shrugged.

I moved to a warmer place. Found a spot inside a runners tent. The temperature here was about 10 degrees warmer. I thought I would just wait here.

But then someone said..."You best get moving. Start finding your way to the start. You're off with the fast runners, and they take of in about 40 minutes."

And so I did. I navigated my way through the maze to the corral to find my spot with Wave 1.

Once there the conversation was pretty much the same. Everyone was comparing notes. "What pace will you be running?", "What's your expected time?", so on and so forth.  I was trying as hard as I could not to make eye contact with anyone so as to prevent anyone from asking that or a similar question of me.

But then something hit me and hit me hard. Real hard. A pace sign went up a few people in front of me. I was standing smack, dab in the middle of this pace group. Said sign read: "3:10". Okay, that's not going to happen today.

Very carefully I moved as far back of the corral as I could. I figured back there, I would not get trampled upon. This worked out good, I survived the start.

And so concludes the flight and plight of bib no. 542. Or does it?

I did discover the humongous benefit of having this number, one I had not thought of before the race. I was not blocked by any runner. I found my way to the middle of the road and ran the race without having to weave through slower runners. This made it a whole lot easier to run a steady, controlled pace.  However, it was demoralizing for a moment or two, when I realized that I had passed no one and that everyone was passing me. Oh, well. I got over that real quick!

As I made my way through the Boroughs of New York City, I never gave the number a second thought. That is until I saw pictures of me at the finish line. Alongside runners sporting bib numbers in the 39-000!

Read the entire recap by following these links:

NYC Marathon Part I ~ The Training Process. Click here
NYC Marathon Part II ~ The Middle Half. Click here
NYC Marathon Part III ~ Why I Love My HOKAs. Click here
NYC Marathon Part IV ~ Race Day. Click here

Thursday, November 14, 2013

NYC Marathon Part IV ~ Race Day

The ING New York City Marathon is billed as the World's Largest Marathon. This year, over 50,000 runners started. This number is a bit higher than usual because additional spots were opened to accommodate those runners that opted to return after last year's cancellation. I was one of those runners.

I prepared myself for this race like I've never prepared myself for any other marathon. This would be my fifth. The training plan was very specific and very methodical. I followed the plan to a tee.

The most often advised received from friends that had been here before was to have fun, enjoy the day. Take pictures and make memories. I did all of these, except I did not take many pictures. I came to race, because chances are big, I will never do this one again. Not that I did not enjoy and love every minute of it, that's not it. I don't enjoy big cities. I'm a smaller town kinda guy.

A few weeks before the marathon was to take place, I received my number assignment.  I would be #542. That seemed somewhat strange to me for I remember last year my number was quiet a bit higher, actually much. much higher.  Last year, I was assigned #65201. Per my calculations, I would have been the last one out, into the race.

The mystery of my number assignment became more confusing when I realized that my corral would be the very first one out. How did this happen?  I thought the faster runners would go first. How did I get placed there? The more I thought about, the happier I became about this because this meant that I would not have to weave through the crowded field in order to achieve my goals.

We arrived into NYC on Friday. Our flight had been changed, so instead of getting there mid morning, we landed very late. I had planned to go pick up my registration packet and visit the expo on Friday afternoon, and on Saturday I just wanted to rest and relax. This did not take place as planned.

REGISTRATION, EXPO AND DINNER ON SATURDAY

Mid morning Saturday, we went to the Javits Convention Center to get registered and pick up the race packet. Upon arrival, the enormity of the event began to sink in. This place was huge, and full of people. The lines were large, lines for everything; to get in, to pick up bib, to pick up tee shirts, to get into the expo. They were all big. But amazingly enough, they moved fast and everyone was very efficient.

I had been given instructions that I was to visit the booths in the back of registration. There they would have a special something for me for returning to the race after last year's cancellation. I was given an orange bracelet that had both 2012 and 2013 ING NYC Marathon inscribed, plus I was also given a commemorative 2012 ING NYC Marathon medal. I cannot tell if this medal is a special medal made just for this occasion, or if its the actual medal from last year. Regardless, this medal will not be hung alongside the rest of my race medals.

And then came the Expo. Oh my goodness, the size of this thing! I have been to many an expo in my life, but nothing compares to this. The Asics marathon collection pavilion was something the likes I've never seen. If only time and budget would allow, I could have left there with plenty. Instead, I opted for just a jacket. One jacket was all I bought.

There's just one piece of advice I'd like to pass along to the organizers. Having just ONE bathroom available to a crowd this large, mostly runners who have been hydrating for days, well...not a good idea!

At about 1 pm, we left. Maybe a little later. We asked for directions to get to Little Italy. We wanted to find a restaurant to get some good carb loading appropriate food. We would have to venture into the subway. I don't like the subway, nothing about it appeals to me. But my wife was excited about this and the prospect of going to Little Italy was enough to get me to venture into this. So off we went.

We ended up in a very nice restaurant, eating the very best lasagna I have ever eaten. It was fabulous. And the timing was just right. I would have plenty of it to allow my meal to digest properly before calling it a night. But before this could happen, there was that small detail of making it back to the hotel. A small matter that required two different subways, one bus transfer and a shuttle. Yes, I was really looking forward this. Not!

I had not fully realized until later that day that the time would change. I guess I knew it would but it finally dawned on me that that meant one more hour of rest that night. This was nice. The shuttle to the start would load up at 5:00 am. It was time to go to bed.

RACE DAY

At 4:00 am the alarm went off. I had been awake for about 30 minutes so jumping into the shower immediately was not a problem. I took a quick one, fixed a peanut butter sandwich and had it with a cup of hotel room coffee. Got dressed and it was time to go get in the bus.

The ride to Staten Island, where the start village was located at Fort Wadsworth took about 45-60 minutes, or maybe it was an hour and a half, I couldn't tell you. This time was well spent reflecting on the journey that got me there and the journey in front of me that day.

By the time we passed through security and were guided to our staging area, mine being the green one, it was about 6:30-6:45 am. There we had available coffee and beagles. A hot cup of coffee was very much needed at that time. The temperature was low; it was very cold and it was windy. Boy was it windy! But would it be at my back?

I walked around a bit and found me a spot to park myself. Drank my first cup of coffee, a couple of bites of a bagle, and made friends with a gentleman from Dublin. This was his first NYC Marathon as well. We exchanges stories for a bit. I began to get nervous because time was getting closer, so I got up and walked some. Also went to the porta potty. Big Bonus surprise... there were enough of these so that there was never a waiting line, I had to use a few times and never had to wait. Okay, I had to use it A LOT!

Then, just like that, the announcement came over the p.a., staging for the first corral and the first wave would begin immediately. So off we went. It was like herding cattle. We would walk from one stage to the next, then from one area to the next until we arrived at the starting line, at the bottom of the Verazzano-Narrows Bridge. There we waited for about 30 minutes. It was still cold, it was still windy.

Now for that awkward moment when you realize for sure that a mistake had been made with your race number. Everyone around me was asking everyone what their planned or goal time was. I just kept silent when I began to overhear these conversations. My suspicions were confirmed when the pace sign went up and it read "3:10". Yes, a mistake had been made.  I made my way as far back to the corral as I could so that I would not be trampled as the race started, besides, back there I would not be tempted to try to run at the speed these folks would be running... not that I could anyway.

This was the only moment I ever wished I had my iShuffle with me. You know, I could pretend to be deep in concentration and lost in thought with my music and no one would venture to ask me my projected time.

At one point I thought... man, if I could keep some sort of pace with some of these folks, I could quiet possibly BQ!  HaHaHa! Enough of that nonsense!  We all know why I was there!  Actually, not really, no one knew how I got to be there!

THE RACE

At exactly 9:40 am the gun went off, and so did we. We were off and running. The V-N bridge was long and tall, the wind was howling and it was cold. But it was a beautiful sight to see.

The other side of the bridge dumped us into Brooklyn and into the yelling and hollering of the crowds.  Yes, the promised crowds of support were there. Hundreds of people, no thousands of people, everywhere, both sides of the street, two deep, three deep, as far as the sight could see, you saw people, they were yelling, screaming, ringing their bells and horns, playing their music, encouraging the runners. If this didn't put a smile on your face, ice was running through your veins.

It was my plan, from the start, to run the first 13.1 miles all out. Give everything I had, but at a steady, controlled pace. Much like I had done two weeks before at The Middle Half. After this point, it was my plan to run a 5-1 plan. 5 minute run at best possible speed and walk for a minute. I would stop at all water stops at take both water and Gatorade so as to stay hydrated. This worked really good for me.


This was my plan, not because I was not sure if I had the endurance to keep that pace up for an entire marathon, for I believe I did. It had more to do with the fact that I did not want my ankle(s) to blow up. If that happened, that would be the end of the dream.

I would also enjoy the second half of the race to the fullest. I would high-five the crowd, mostly the children. I would also wave to and thank the police and firefighters. There were plenty of both.

Brooklyn was the longest of the Boroughs. Not sure how long but it seemed like it took forever to get through it, I'm guessing somewhere around mile 15 we entered Queens and then crossed the Queensboro Bridge into Manhattan. It was at this bridge that I lost my Garmin satellite signal for a while. No big deal except for the fact that now my average pace and distance were messed up.

Passed Manhattan and into the Bronx and returned to Manhattan where we entered 5th Ave and Central Park. All five Boroughs just like that.

 As I approached mile marker 24, I heard  my name called. It was Monica! She had been tracking me with the help of our daughters and my brother and she knew to be there when I came through. Right about that moment, it was the best sight I saw all day. I back tracked a couple of steps, went to her, gave her a big hug and a kiss and went on to the finish line.

From here to the finish line, the last 2 miles took forever. Every step got heavier and heavier. It seemed like I had weights on my feet. Everyone was slowing down somewhat and this made the course crowded. The final stretch, or .2 miles were fun. They had the distance marked on the road, 800 yds. "That's two laps around the football field", I thought. 400 yds., "just one more lap around the stadium, a victory lap, if you would." 200, 100... and there it was. The Finish Line!

4:51:27 was my official time. This would be well below my goal of 4:59:59 and some 50 minutes below my previous best time... So my day and mission... DONE!


It took about 1 hour and 30 minutes to meet up with Monica after the race was over. Just getting out of the park took about an hour. It was a slow, methodical process but it went smoothly.



LESSONS LEARNED

I thoroughly believe that you should always take something with you from every journey traveled. So it is always my intention to ponder back and draw something from each experience. This was no different.


The journey to the NYC Marathon taught me that I really never trusted myself and my abilities to the fullest. I always held something back. Not sure why, but I did. During this journey, I pushed myself way past my comfort zone. I learned to be comfortable outside my comfort zone.

Now I am tired and I need some rest, if it weren't for that little matter of The Harpeth Hills Flying Monkey Marathon coming up in two weeks, I would just sleep for a month. Oh, heck...I can always sleep on the other side! Right?

One more post to conclude this series will come tomorrow!

NYC Marathon Part I ~ The Training Process can be found here.
NYC Marathon Part II ~ The Middle Half can be found here.
NYC Marathon Part III ~ Why I love my HOKAs can be found here

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

NYC Marathon Part III~ Why I Love My HOKAs

When a conversation about running shoes begins with the statement: "They aren't very good looking shoes!", you have to wonder...

Lucky for me I don't buy, and have never bought a pair of shoes, because of "what they look like". For me, performance and comfort above style, color and look. Mostly comfort.

Quiet possibly there's no other piece of equipment more important to an athlete than the shoes are to the runner. And there's quiet possibly no piece of equipment more important to a runner with bad feet than the right shoes.

And what does a post specific to running shoes have to do in the middle of my NYC Marathon recap?

Let's see...

It could be argued, and it has been, that anyone can run without shoes.  Yes, this is true. I see at each race plenty of folks running barefoot. However, to someone who has the issues I've had with my feet, this is not an option. If you care to know more about these issues, next time we see each other, ask me to show you my feet, in particular my left foot.

I have tried just about every brand of running shoe available to me in Middle Tennessee.  I have had "professional" shoe fitters fit me, I have fitted some myself.  Some have worked for a bit, others longer and a few have just bombed.

The issue I have boils down to support and comfort, which leads to improved performance. My left ankle is good for about a half marathon. After that distance it begins to ache and the longer the run, the stronger the pain. I've had ankle surgery, two tumors have been removed and after this surgery, the ankle was never the same.

I heard about this new shoe called HOKA. I was told that it was an "ugly" shoe.  Not sure why it mattered what it looked like but when I first saw one, I understood what they meant. It is in fact, an interesting looking shoe.

When I brought the HOKAs home and my daughters saw them, only thing they had to say was... "Seriously Dad? Seriously?"

I was told that running with this shoe on was like running with pillow tops on your feet. "This may just be what I've been looking for", I remember thinking.

After researching more about this shoe, I decided to give them a try. So I bought me a pair.

At first sight, you might think that this shoe is a heavy sort of shoe, that its weight would be an issue.  Let  me show you...



A total weight of 12.7 oz!  That's it!

I laced them up and took them for a run. On your feet, they do feel like pillow tops. A few steps with them and you can't believe how they feel.

First couple of steps were a bit odd but felt good. But within a few yards I could feel a potential problem:  I was striking heavily on my heel.  I did not feel the impact on my ankles and knees because of the padding of the shoe, but I could tell I was doing this. This would be a problem. Perhaps this is a problem I've been having all along, and this shoe just magnified the issue.

It made me concentrate hard on my striking. It was a struggle to focus on this again, but soon enough I had the issue under control.  At the start of every run, I have to fix this and every so often I catch myself going back to the heel strike. I'm not sure why I've noticed this more with this shoe than with any other shoe, but I have.

The first real test came during a 20 mile long run. I cannot tell you the ankles did not hurt, for they still did, but the pain I could feel was cut probably in half.  In shorter runs, anything over 8 miles and including the Middle Half Marathon, the ankles were not an issue.

In the ING New York  City Marathon, these shoes were a Godsend.  During the last marathon I ran, the ankles were literally on fire. In NYC, although they hurt, the pain was manageable.

Someone asked me if the shoes made me faster during my Half Marathon PR run. That, my friend, I do not know.  I'd like to think that the shoes allowed me to run the race I had trained to run.

So, do I wear these shoes during all my training?

No, I don't. I only wear these shoes for any distance longer than 8 miles, give or take.

For short, tempo runs I wear ONs.


And for speed work, I wear Brooks.


Notice that there's only .7 oz difference between the HOKAs and the ONs and 1.7 oz difference between the HOKAs and the Brooks.

So, if weight is not an issue and looks really don't matter, then it must be all about the comfort and improved performance.  That's why I love my HOKAs.

Added bonus... wearing the HOKAs in the NYC Marathon made me a popular kinda guy while patiently waiting in the "Staging Area" before the race started.  One runner asked me how I liked my shoes. I told him. Before I knew it, there had been at least 15 people around me wanting to know all about the HOKAs.

Okay, I must confess.  I don't think they would have valued my opinion quiet as much had it not been for the bib number "542" pinned to my shirt. I could just hear everyone thinking... "this guy is fast, so we really need to know what his opinion is". More about this in upcoming posts.

This is Part III of a IV part recap of my NYC Marathon Experience and Journey. Part IV ~ Race Day coming tomorrow.

NYC Marathon Part I ~ The Training Process, can be found here.
NYC Marathon Part II ~ The Middle Half, can be found here.

Monday, November 11, 2013

NYC Marathon Part II ~ The Middle Half

A few days before the Middle Half Marathon, which was held in Murfreesboro, TN on October 12, 2013, I received a call from my good friend Skip.

"A little birdie tells me that you want to run a sub 2 hr half marathon this Saturday"
"Yes, that's the goal" I said.
"Well, do you want a pacer?"
"ah, duh... a pacer? well, yeah. That would be nice" I replied without really knowing where he was going with this, and without really understanding what I was getting myself into.

Skip is one of those runners you always look up to. He is dedicated, committed and most of all he's fast.  So, what would he mean by "do you want a pacer?"

"I was planning or running my usual race this Saturday, but due to lingering injuries, my plan is to take it easy.  So when I heard you wanted to run a sub 2, I thought I would offer to be your pacer."

"Are you sure? You know that this pace is well below your normal pace. It will hold you back tremendously" I asked him.

"Yeap.  I figured if I pace you, first I can help you get to your goal, and second it'll prevent me from going too fast and aggravating my injury, so my motive is two fold." Skip told me.

And just like that, I had my very own pacer. 

Did I mention Skip is a very fast runner?

It was a perfect day for a race, weather couldn't have been better. I was nervous and yet excited.  I had never ran with a time goal in mind, I had never ran with a pacer.  But I felt ready.

I had asked coach Barry before the race what he suggested my race day plan should be. I wanted to know if I should go out faster the first couple of miles, settle into a comfortable pace during the middle of the run, then kick it into high gear at the end? or should I go slow, then fast and finish stronger, or should I go steady all the way through.

His reply was simple and to the point. He told me "don't over think it. Just go out and run, run your race, run your pace. Have fun."

So that's what we did. We started at a comfortable pace and settled into a more comfortable, steady one.  This served me well. I was feeling it. I would look at my Garmin and see that each mile was just where it needed to be.

Skip was more analytical than I was during the race. He was keeping track of our progress. Perhaps that's the job of a pacer, perhaps that's Skip doing what Skip loves to do, besides running fast.

Somewhere around mile 8ish, he said something like this: "don't want to jinx this, but we're running negative splits"

"WHAT?"  Negative splits, Me?  Never!  WOW!

Later on he asked me if I wanted something to feel really good about.  I said yeah, of course.

"See that 2 hour pace sign ahead?, they started way ahead of us.  Let's give it a push and pass them."  So we did.

We continued to navigate through he streets of Murfreesboro, without incident. The miles added up as we came closer to the finish line.  With some 2 miles left, Skip said, if you can, lets pick this up a bit and not only will you beat your goal, but you will  crush it.

"Crush a Goal?"... lets do this.

We crossed the finish line in 1:57:51, exactly at a 9:00 mile pace.  Two minutes faster than the goal. I will take this.

I would say that training for the NYC Marathon is well under way at this point. So far, everything that I set out to do has been accomplished. There's just three weeks left until D-Day.

But there's still much more to do! Many more hills to tackle, many more intervals to run, many more miles to log.


This is Part II of a IV part recap of my NYC Marathon Journey.  Part III ~ Why I Love My HOKAs coming tomorrow

NYC Marathon Part I ~ The Training Process, can be found by clicking here.

NYC Marthon Part I ~ The Training Process

Its not quiet clear when, exactly, I turned my complete focus on the NYC Marathon training process.  Perhaps it came a week or so after Ironman 70.3 Steelhead, perhaps I was training for this all along, perhaps it just happened automatically and I didn't even notice the transition.  Regardless of the timing, I found myself immersed in a journey that took me through the streets of New York City on Sunday, November 3, 2013.

One thing is for sure, this adventure started some four years ago.  You read that right... Four years ago.

I first decided to put this Marathon on my bucket list back in 2009. Knowing and understanding that the process would be a long one, I took the plunge and entered the lottery that year. I knew the chances of being selected were slim. The day came and I was not. The same thing happened the following year.  I entered the lottery once again, and again I was not chosen.

On the third try, my name did come up.  I registered and began the journey.  But that was last year, 2012. And we know what happened.  Hurricane Sandy happened, the Marathon was cancelled. I took an automatic entry to this year's race and began the countdown again.

In my camp, I count with one of the very best trainers in the business, Barry Baird. From my early days in the triathlon world, he took a chance on me. I went solo on my first half iron distance race, Ironman 70.3 Augusta, a race which I thoroughly enjoyed but failed miserably in the run portion. It was obvious that I needed guidance; in comes Barry.

All along the way he has provided me with well thought out plans.  Plans that took into account my goals, physical ability and challenges I was facing at the time.  More often than not, I would follow said plans just as written, often though, I would take certain liberties and adjust to my liking at the moment.  Sometimes I would add, sometimes I would move but always I would train,  The sole exception was training for Ironman Louisville.  I followed this plan just as prescribed and the results were proof of how well it all worked out. He told me one day I was his "renegade" athlete. I took that as a compliment.

There are two elements of a running plan that I have never embraced; speed work and hill repeats.  Hill repeats became a must because in addition to the NYC Marathon, I registered for the infamous Harpeth Hills Flying Monkey Marathon to take place in Nashville's Percy Warner Park on Sunday, November 24, 2013. This Marathon boasts a total elevation change of over 7200 feet.  Speed work I had never seriously pursued because, well I think because I did not understand.

Hill repeats, I must confess, were a huge challenge at first.  Not that today I love them, but I now can do them and survive them.  Speed work, pretty much the same thing. It has become a love-hate relationship. I began to see results on my tempo runs. I had always been a 10 min/mile kinda runner.  Now this pace was improving, and improving rapidly.  I cut a whole minute off this pace in no time at all.

And then I became serious about these two. I would join my friends from the Hendersonville Running Club on long runs, hill work and speed work. I have always been a loner when it comes to training but I soon found out that hanging with these faster runners would also push me to places I had not been before.  I owe y'all a tremendous amount of gratitude for allowing me to crash your parties.

As my times improved, I allowed myself to think of the upcoming Middle Half Marathon, the first test of my training improvement this fall, as a race where I could improve on my previous best time, or a PR.  I did mention to one of my running buddies one day that my goal was to break that elusive 2 hour time, I had never done this before. About the same time, I expressed this wish to Barry.  I had never run any race with a specific "time" in mind.  Until now.  I was assured that this was within my reach. I began to believe.

Another change that took place, in my opinion a big change, was the fact that I eliminated "music" from my runs.

I have always had trouble getting earphones to fit properly.  I have tried numerous and none have worked. During one particular run, I removed the already falling earphone and put it away, forever. I have not looked back once. It has made my runs more pleasant. I am more aware of my body and my surroundings.

And then there's the shoes. But these deserve a post all to themselves.

Because this race cannot be recapped in one post, I have split it into four.  Next chapter will come to you tomorrow... NYC Marathon Part II ~ The Middle Half

Thursday, September 19, 2013

2014's Schedule Is Set

There's still over three months left in 2013, but next year's "big" race schedule is already cemented in.

My plans were to race my second, and final, Ironman for my 60th birthday. This would be in 2014.  I had originally planned on returning to Louisville to complete this goal. This had been my plan for over a year.

With this in mind, I began researching which 70.3 distance I would race.  Because of the timing, and with the input from my coach, I chose Ironman 70.3 Raleigh.  June 1, 2014. This race sold out quickly last year, so I registered without hesitation.

Ironman 70.3 Raleigh June 1, 2014

Once registered for Raleigh, all I had to do was wait for registration to Ironman Louisville to open and my 2014 schedule would be set.

And then WTC announced a new Ironman event to their schedule.  Ironman Chattanooga would be held on September 28, 2014.

It didn't take much thought or any deliberation to make the switch. Chattanooga, it would be.  But now the registration.  Not having any experience with registering for new events, I did not know how soon or if it even would sell out.  The buzz around Middle Tennessee about this event was tremendous.  It just seemed like most everyone was planning on racing it.  Outside Middle TN, I did not hear much.  I asked often on Twitter but the response was minimal.  Not sure what to think of that.

Bottom line is I got my spot.  But the registration process did not come without controversy.  But perhaps that's a topic for another post.



Another, and the most important development came about when my daughter Juliana, announced that she too, will be racing Ironman Chattanooga 2014.  



Monday, September 16, 2013

Not Your Average Long Training Run

As I set out on Saturday to do my weekly long run, I planned on 16 miles.  I planned on running a hilly, very hilly route for I am training for the ING NYC Marathon on November 3, 2013, with an estimated 885 ft of elevation and The Harpeth Hills Flying Monkey Marathon on November 24, 2013, with an estimated elevation gain of 3600 ft.

ING NYC Marathon, November 3, 2013

Harpeth Hills Flying Monkey Marathon, November 24, 2013


The route I have chosen for this run has a total elevation gain of 1054 ft.  Not a tremendous amount of elevation for the total run, but half of the elevation comes in a two mile stretch of the course, about half way through the run.

I set out with three goals.  1) NOT to walk up any hill. Accomplished. 2) To stick to a 5 minute run, 1 minute walk for the entire run.  When the five minutes were up, and I was going up hill, I finished the hill and adjusted accordingly.  Goal No. 1 was a priority today, and 3) To average a pace of under 12:30.  Actual pace was 12:20/mile. I've never claimed to be fast!

The run started without consequence. I left the park where we meet with our running club each and every Saturday morning.  We have talent of all levels, so everyone pretty much matches up according to pace and distance planned.

This morning I teamed up with my friends Tabitha, K'Leetha, Jennifer and Janelle, but this didn't last long for we went our own separte routes.  As it turns out Tabitha and Jennifer were running part of the route I was running.  I asked Tabitha if she would do the out and back with me (the one with the monster hills) and she quickly said... NO!.

Somewhere around mile 4, I picked up a bottle of water that K'Leetha had left there for us.  I drank about half of it and planned on dropping the remainder where I could have it after the out and back portion of the route.

I approached the stop sign where I would leave my water, and I dropped it at the base of said sign. So off I went. Ran over the hill to the other side and one mile later I turned around.  The return is a tougher rise so it took a little longer. About half way through the return, I began to think about the bottle of water.  I did not want to consume what I had on my fuel belt because I still had a long way to go.

Some three to four houses before getting to the stop sign and my water, a dog began to bark. Loudly and angrily. He came chasing after me with what appeared to be a fierce determination to get a good bite in. Only thought that came to my mind was that he was going to bite me in the back of my leg, my left leg, where my new tattoo is. That could just not happen.

So I stopped abruptly and waited for the dog. When he reached me, the dog immediately got on his back and started kicking his legs; he wanted me to pet him. So relieved I was that his intentions where not what I had thought, that I did pet him. Big mistake.

Off I went, I continued running. He went with me. Side by side.

Then he took off.  Like a bat out of hell. He headed directly to the stop sign. Yes, the same one where my water bottle was on the ground.  He started sniffing around the post and the water bottle. Then I though... "Oh, NO, he's not". And yes, he did. He raised his right leg and proceeded to claim the water bottle as his own.  Dang!

I laughed for a few moments and continued my run. The dog came along with me. For the next 6 miles or so, I had company. I was getting worried that he would not find his way back home. He was wearing a collar, but no tag. I began to think what I was going to do with him if he continued to run with me to the end.

Two cars stopped and asked if the dog was mine. It appears that he had been roaming the streets for about two weeks.  The second car offered to take him home.  Not being my dog, I did not object. I noticed as the car drove away, that the lady had one of those dog rescue stickers on her car. I was happy she took him.

I continued.  5 minutes running, 1 minute walking. My ankles, as usual, were getting a bit upset. Time to suck it up and keep on moving.

Overall it was a great day. All of the goals I had left with, I had accomplished. Yes, the miles were hard and long. The ankles were in pain, but the spirits were high. The distractions today made it a great one!  What will next week's long run bring?

Monday, September 9, 2013

Ironman Ink ~ Go Big or Go Home

My wish to sport an M-dot tattoo has been well documented. Months before running the final stretch of runway at Ironman Louisville 2011, I wrote about my desire to get a tattoo after completing my first Ironman.

I planned and deliberated on a design that would be representative of the journey.  I came up with a very simple idea adapted from images I had seen in the Internet, which at the time seemed to fit just right.  This, to me, represented the "blood, sweat and tears" that had fallen during the journey. Read about this here.

As the new race season came upon us and I participated in three IM 70.3 events, it became apparent that I had not done enough research on the design.  It was very clear, very quickly, that an m-dot tattoo half filled represented a 70.3 race.  Folks would ask me "when I was going to fill it in".  I also became very uncomfortable with this, because I strongly believe that you should not flaunt the m-dot until you have actually finished a 140.6 event.  I have nothing against a 70.3 tattoo, it's just not for me.  So I began to try to figure out what to do.

So I just thought that filling it in would be another simple solution.  I should have stopped at that.  But I also wanted to add the tribal piece I have been using as sort of my trademark to put a final stamp on the artwork.

As you can see by the photo, the job was sub-par.  From day one I was not happy with it.  The top half of the M was not filled properly and the "swim" figure was just awful. You really could not tell what the figures were unless you stopped and looked closer.  Not what I had intended-

Yes, I could have gone back to the artist that created this mess, but what would he do and what would it look like?  So I decided to wait and fix it right, once and for all.

Through some serious research and recommendations, I landed in the able hands of Ben Dixon, owner of Lone Wolf Tattoo in Nashville, TN.  I discussed with him my problem and what I was looking for.  He came up with some ideas, and together we tweaked it until I was happy.  But... one thing was the artwork on paper, another would be the final piece.  He showed me some examples of repair work he had done in the past and I felt comfortable that this was the route to take.  So we went ahead.

A tattoo, he told me, should tell a story.  It's one thing to do what everyone else is doing, its another thing to put your personal stamp on it.  We talked a lot about my journey; where I have been and what I have done. He seemed to know a lot about the Ironman.  I asked how.  He told me he has done several dozen m-dot tattoos over the year.  "Most people are just happy with a simple design."  He could sense that I am not "most people".

In our conversation(s) I revealed to him that my biggest fear upon entering the triathlon world was the swim. My second fear, or strong dislike, was the "big hills" on the bike.  I shared with him how I has able to overcome both of them. I shared with him about my swim experience in Louisville and my Mountain trek across the High Road in the Ozarks.  Granted, this was the IM 70.3 Branson experience, but as with the swim in Kentucky, I am now comfortable knowing that I can overcome any course that is put before me.

So this is what he came up with...


I could not be any happier with the result.  Yes, it is bigger than I would have ever thought I'd like and folks that know me are probably thinking that I've lost my mind. But I can assure you ... I have not!

And by the way... in case you're wondering, yes... getting this done, hurt like "you know what"!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Becoming An Ironman... It's All About The Journey!

Every journey has a destination for without a destination, the journey would take us nowhere.  But, haven't we all heard that "It's the Journey that matters, not the final Destination."?

Is this really true?  How often do we find ourselves embarked in a journey we just wish would come to an end. School, for example. Didn't we wish graduation day would come, like... tomorrow?  Did we really enjoy and looked forward to four long years of college? Once there, we just wished it was over.  That journey was just not too appealing to us.

But its not the college "degree" that makes you whatever you became.  Its the journey.  The classes, the exams, the late night study sessions. This is what truly matters.

So in all reality, its any worthwhile journey that makes us who we are, what we are and what we will become. The final destination is simply the payoff.

Becoming an Ironman is no different.

You're not an Ironman because Mike Reilly says you are. Those of you who have had the privilege of hearing your name called by the Voice of  Ironman know what I'm talking about. And if you're one of the privileged to have had Mike Reilly call your name, it's a hell of a pay day!

You became an Ironman because of the dedication, determination, tenacity, will and desire. The grit and the guts. You became an Ironman because you paid the piper, you put the hay in the barn.

The 4:00 am wake up calls, the early morning swims.  The hundreds and in some cases, thousand of yards you swam to the far wall and back. You called it a night, when most others were just getting theirs started. The calories, carbs and fat grams you counted and miscounted.  You learned to eat food you never knew existed (quinoa ~ who would have thought?); you learned to like some and just tolerated the rest.

You and your bike became one and the same. You gave her a name.  In my case she became my "Roo". You became an expert at changing tires, adjusting gears and break pads, yet your bike mechanic's phone number took over "speed dial 1".

Your rides progressed from a short, quick 20 miler to that dreaded Century, and then these became common place.  Then your coach or plan or your friend introduced you to the infamous "brick"; that 45 minute run after that grueling 100 mile ride. "What was I thinking?"

Hill repeats, you loved them, you hated them.  You still hate them, but you still do them.  The group rides, the solo rides.  In the heat, in the cold and everything in between. You were chased by dogs, pushed off the road by careless drivers, but that didn't matter because on those very early morning rides, you witnessed the sunrise and the peacefulness and tranquility of those quiet country roads. You learned to navigate your Garmin, which by the way, is the size of a kitchen timer, with precision and accuracy that would leave a NASA engineer green with envy. Yes, all these became part of the process.

To you, "let's go shopping" meant a new pair of running shorts, socks or a new tee.  You thought Christmas came early when in the mailbox you found a copy of  Triathlete Magazine, which you hoped had a new tip or new advice on how to cut an extra minute of your bike split.

Speed work and Intervals. Endurance runs that lasted for hours.  "Daddy, why are you running again?", "Mommy, when will you be back?".  You hoped that they understood, you wish you could explain.  But as time passed they saw a change, they loved the change, they were happy with the change.  "Daddy, what's on your schedule today?", "Mommy, I'll be here when you get back.".

Yes, the journey to an Ironman finish line is paved with highs, lows, ups, downs, and hundreds of lessons. You endure it all because quickly you understand that it all has a purpose, and not just a physical one. In the nine month process, you grow. You understand better than ever that there's a bigger purpose for you in this world.  You're doing this, because your place is here, your time is now.

My Ironman tattoo is a testament to what I've become. I'd like for people to understand that yes, I did swim 2.4 miles in a nasty river, rode my Roo for 112 hilly, hot and humid miles and ran a full marathon with legs screaming from pain, all in just over 15.5 hours, but more importantly that I moved into a new zone of confidence, of readiness and of purpose and that my actions and behaviour make me worthy of the title Ironman.
_________________________________

Although Ironman is a registered trademark of WTC, the term is used here to represent any 140.6 triathlon distance, be it Ironman, Rev3 or another.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Ironman 70.3 Steelhead 2013: A Recap I Didn't Expect To Write

I would never have imagined that I'd be sitting here writing a post like this.  But, with all the good that has come my way, I must face the fact that sometimes things just aren't meant to be.

This past weekend was just one of those "sometimes".

I have entered 59 races since I started this whole crazy thing.  Races that range from 5k's to the Ironman and everything in between.  I have started ALL 59 races.  And until Sunday, I had finished ALL of them.  Sunday was the first time I could not, or rather I did not.  Yes, I now have a DNF on my resume.  I have an m-dot sticker on my car along with a 26.2, and now, I can proudly display a new one... this one:


Proudly?  Let me explain.

I came prepared for this race as I have to each and every other race before.  I swam my laps and put in the miles; the early morning runs, the long weekend rides.  I followed my coach's plan pretty much to the letter. Okay, I would take an occasional license to alter a workout, but never have I crossed the starting line without full knowledge that I left no training stone unturned.  I had a race plan in place, I knew what I would do should this, or that happen.   Yes, I was ready to go.

So what went wrong?

On Friday (two days prior to the race), my wife found a "tick" on my back. It was in a place where it was hard for me to see.  It appears that it had found a home there a few days prior due to its size and size of the ring around it.

Lucky for us one of our team members that traveled to Michigan to race, is a nurse.  She came promptly and removed the little bugger.  With all the skill and precision of a trained professional she pinched and pulled it out.  Okay... that hurt!  But it was out.  She recommended that I take some Benadril, which I did.

The following morning after assessing my condition, which was not normal; I was tired and achy, the symptoms of the flu, she recommended I go see a doctor.  We needed to make sure that I was not infected with the illnesses associated with tick bites, Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

We could not find a doctor so I called my family physician and he prescribed an antibiotic for me to start taking immediately... Doxy-something-or-other, 100mg.  I was to take two pills a day for 10 days, starting immediately.  Which I did.  I took the first pill around 4 pm.

Returned to my hotel after dinner and before calling it a night, I took pill no. 2.  After my pre-race breakfast I took pill no. 3.  I was going to make sure that whatever, if anything, I had was going to be disposed of it immediately.

All was well.  Or so I thought.

Made it to the race site and it appeared to me that I felt good and ready to race.  On the drive there I told my wife that I hadn't been this excited about a race in a long time.  Yes, I was ready.

Made the mile walk to the swim start, took a short 10 minute swim warm up and lined up ready for my wave to start.  Still, all was well.  Again, or so I thought.

The lake was angry that morning.  I remember thinking it would be tough, but there was no doubt that I would do it.  It would take me longer than planned, but I would do it.  So 7:08 came, and off we went.

The trek to the first buoy was long and hard, but I made it.  I turned right and headed home.  Only 1.15 miles to go.

Each and every stroke I took was hard. My shoulders were tight, the elbows stiff. It didn't seem like I was moving at all.  It felt like I was standing still.  It was the waves, it had to be the waves.  So I pushed harder and kept on.

And then I lost it.  Really lost it.  Whatever I had in my belly parted company.  Not once, but twice. After the first incident, I remember seeing a kayak following me.  After the second time, the kayak came up and asked me if I was okay.  I responded:  "where am I?"

Immediately he raised his red flag and told me I was done.  I must have really felt bad, because I didn't argue.

I looked at my Garmin.  It said I was half way done!  Not bad, right?  But it had taken me 47 minutes and change to get this done.  No way I could go on.  No way!

BTW, when I asked what I asked I meant to ask:  "How far do I have to go?", or "Where am I on the course?".  I did not mean to ask if I was in Florida, Cuba or Tahiti.

It took a while for the wave runner to come by and pick me up.  I still had time to argue the young man's decision, but I didn't.  I hadn't felt this bad in a very long time, but still I pondered if I could make it. Obviously not very seriously, because I just supported myself against the kayak and waited, and waited for what seemed forever.

The toughest moment I have ever endured at any event was that very instant when I decided that yes, I was done!

"Oh great!"  the wave runner arrived and is manned by a sheriff's deputy.  No arguing with him.  Not that I was going to, but...

I jumped on the back of that thing and off we went. To the beach we headed.  I was hoping at that point that no one was looking, but they were.  Lots of folks were looking.  Not just at me, but at the massive exodus of swimmers coming out of the water, surrendering their day, leaving their hopes and dreams out in the lake.  (I read somewhere on the internet, so it has to be true, right?) that over 100 swimmers were pulled from the water that morning.

The longest moment I have ever lived at any event was that moment (about 30-45 seconds) that it took for the Sheriff to take me back to shore.

Walking down the beach, I came across a gentleman picking up the timing chips from all who abandoned. He had a handful.  Actually both hands were full.  Reality set in when he asked for my number and over his radio he said: "Number 196 DNF"... 

At Swim Out is where I would find my wife.  She was patiently waiting along the fence for me to come out of the water.  I saw her from a distance and at that moment, I didn't know what I would say.  I came up to her, taped her on the shoulder. She turned around and I could tell the pain in her eyes when she saw me, standing there, defeated.  She didn't say a word. She didn't have to. She just hugged me and held me tight.  That's what I needed.

The rest of the day is somewhat a blur.  Mostly I sat under our team's tent and slept.  I was tired, very tired.

IN RETROSPECT

I have replayed the events of the day in my head, over and over again.  I guess I was, or maybe still am, looking for anything that I could have done different that would have saved my day.  I have come to the conclusion that this happened because it needed to happen.

I remembered that on the mile walk to swim start, and then more so after the 10 minute swim practice, my mouth was dry. Very, very dry. "Cotton Mouth" comes to mind. This had never happened before.  I come to my races truly well hydrated.  It's one of my "musts". I think this was a sign, and I missed it.

I am at peace with what happened, with the decision of the life guard in the kayak to call my race. I am glad he was there making a decision for me, when obviously I was in no apparent shape to make it myself.

I would be somewhat dishonest if I were to tell you that it didn't hurt, for it hurt like hell.  Mostly because my pride was crushed, severely crushed.  But it's mending nicely.

A WORD OF THANKS

I have amassed the most amazing support team of family and friends, some of which I have never met in person, but I feel close to. I am blessed beyond words to have each and everyone of them around me.  The words they said, and hugs they shared meant the world to me. Without these I'd still be a wreck.  I know I would be.

A few of people need to be recognized at this moment because of their ability to know what to say and do at the right moment. This by no means implies that everyone else's words did not matter or I have forgotten, for they did and I haven't.

Beth...matters would have been a lot worse had you not come to the rescue on Friday.
Charlene... you came to me at the tent and that silent hug began the mending.
Skip... at the restaurant you told me that my "actions today would inspire more people than I could ever imagine".  WOW! 
Heidi... Your post on my facebook page solidified the notion that choosing wisdom is always the route to go.
K'leetha and Leigh S...Not sure I deserve to be anyone's hero, but to know that you think of me like that puts a lump on my throat.
Eddie..."One of your favorite athletes"??? With the company you keep, I am honored that you think of me like that.
Robert P... the text you sent me... I've read that a hundred times.  Still get teary eyed.
Coach Barry... No sure there are words that would describe how much I appreciate your continuous support.
Candy... your daily text means the world to me! Thanks!
Beverly...No jinxing involved. And you're right... A man has to do what a man has to do.  Thanks!
Hernando, Carlos and Mercedes (brothers and sister).  Thanks a hundred million times.
Juliana and Marcela... Sorry I put you through a few tough moments, just know that I love you both very much.
And.. Monica... You have been by my side every step of the way without any expectations.  I hurt more knowing, or rather thinking that you were going to be disappointed, but you knew what to say and when to say it, and when not to say anything.  I never get tired of telling you (and the world) how much you mean to me and how much I love you.

DOCTOR'S VISIT

I went to see the doctor on Tuesday. To keep the story short, he told me I should have never been in the water.  The antibiotic I'm taking, because of its strength and how fast I took the first three doses, rendered me weak.  Add to that the choppy water and it was disaster waiting to happen. They drew like five gallons of blood and now we wait for the results. In the meantime, I have been grounded for a week!

LESSONS LEARNED

When talking to a life guard... chose your words wisely.

There's no shame in a DNF... It's better than the alternative.

SILVER LINING

I lived to race another day!


FINAL WORD

It never occurred to me that I would ever be faced with a situation like this. Because of this, I did not have a plan for this "what if" moment. I am glad to know that when push came to shove, I was able to make the right decision.

I will continue to dream. I will continue to plan. I will continue to train. I will continue to come to races ready to race. Nothing has changed.  Life goes on.  I lived to race another day.


Friday, August 2, 2013

Ironman 70.3 Steelhead Expectations

Last long distance triathlon I did was IM 70.3 Branson on September 23, 2012.  So, almost a year since my last 70.3, and since then only an Olympic distance, REV3 Knoxville on May 5, 2013.  Both of these tested me to the upper limits of my existence.  You can read my recaps by clicking on the links above.



With just under 48 hours before Ironman 70.3 Steelhead, I have to examine my honest expectations.  I have always been one to say that "just finishing" is an accomplishment.  I cannot forget this principle, no matter what other goals I may have.

I have never broken 7 hours in a half distance.  Best time has been 7:08:34.  And this was accomplished at this race, three years ago.  Now, three years older, I'm hoping that I'm also three years wiser.

My swim will be my swim. I have worked extremely hard this year on efficiency but honestly, I would be very happy to just meet or slightly beat the 52:02 last time.  I have a plan and it is the same as always:  Stay back and to the outside.  Don't want to get caught in the washtub.

The run has also improved two fold since 2010.  However, I've been dealing with Plantar Fasciitis for the past several months, so this time around the plan will be to avoid debilitating pain.  If I work my plan on the bike, this should be no problem.  If I can cut some 10 minutes of my previous time here, I will be very happy.

Where I have done the most work and have seen the most improvement has been on the bike.  I have worked extremely hard and long at improving here.  Most of my longer rides have shown these results.  So, If I can be around the 3 hour mark, I should be good to go.

Oh dear, and those transitions... If I could just get out...

My most other's standards, these are not lofty goals.  By my standards, these are achievable and reasonable, but my job on race day will still be to race my plan and adapt to change as need be.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Slide In, Slip Right Out

I purchased my wetsuit soon after I entered the triathlon arena. One of the things I quickly learned is that putting this thing on is not an easy task.  And never mind if you happen to be wet... it's almost impossible.

Over the last couple of years, it has become even more difficult.  I truly believe that the wetsuit has shrunk!  There couldn't be any other logical explanation, right?!

You hear advise from this person and the other on what is the best method.  I've tried the "plastic bag" thing, it worked okay, but it still did not do the job quiet right.  I've also heard, from several sources, that you should spray PAM on yourself, I've heard that this makes it really, really easy to put on.  Well, there's something about the PAM thing that I haven't quiet understood.  When I take the wetsuit off, and get on my bike, wouldn't any residue of PAM start to bake on me?

About a month ago, at an open water swim, we were discussing this very topic.  One of my friends said that he had used a product called TriSlide.  He said that it made putting on the wetsuit a "piece of cake".

My friend is in his late 20's.  His definition of a "piece of cake" was probably worlds apart from mine.

So as soon as had a chance, I looked it up in and found it.  Ordered me a bottle.  It cost $11.49 plus s/h.  I figured this was a small investment to test this thing out.  Worth the risk...

The water temperature changed since then, so I've not had the opportunity to try it out.  Until today.  It was time to swim with a wetsuit as part of our Ironman 70.3 Steelhead training.  Plus, the water got cold... again.

The product comes in an aerosol spray.  It's like putting on sunscreen or bug spray.  No heavy or thick residue.  A little spray goes a long way.

Sprayed my legs, front and back and my arms, front and back.  Forgot to spray my neck.  I must remember this next time.

And the moment of truth:  The wetsuit slid ride in!  No pulling, no tugging, no fighting, no pinching or bitching or complaining.  No huffing or puffing.  It was amazing!

And to take it off?  Same thing... Slipped right out!  Again, no pulling, no...well, you get the idea.

So, as far as I'm concerned, this is the best $11.49 plus s/h I've spent in a long time.  Now, I must remember to pack it for my trip to Michigan next week!


Sunday, June 30, 2013

Flip Out

I have never owned a pair of headphones.  Ever.  I have found them to be constrictive, bulky, obnoxious and when worn in public, offensive.  Add to this the fact that I could really never tell the difference in quality of sound, music specifically, when listening with a pair of headphones wrapped around my head vs the sound I heard through a set of good speakers.

As a runner, I learned that a good pair of earphones is an essential piece of equipment.  I have yet to find such a pair, but that's a topic of discussion for a separate post.

I was presented with the opportunity to review, or as I like to call it, give my honest to goodness opinion about Flips.  So always willing to oblige, I agreed.  The fact that someone was asking for my two cents worth on a matter such as this was impressive enough, so without asking many questions, or much further to do, I waited for the Flips to arrive.

I remember thinking that I wasn't sure how I was going to do this.  After all, my blog has been dedicated to the world of endurance sports, not product evaluation, specially products not directly related to my sport.  But I was up to the challenge and my mission was simple:  honestly and thoroughly report my findings.  I can do that!

The package arrived in no time. The box design was very impressive.  I work in a business where plate presentation is ever so important. Flips have an awesome plate presentation. I could not wait to put my hands on the product.

And that I did promptly.  Opened the box, unzipped the hard protective case and took the Flips out.  First thing that came to mind was "omg, these things are light!" Being the skeptic that I am, I immediately thought, "no way, these could pack a punch".  We'll see.

I wasted no time.  Turned on my iPad and plugged them in.  Put them on my head, around my ears, turned on the music and... WOW!  What was that I was hearing?!  "Impossible" I thought.  Not from these things.  So I took them off and read more about them.  Curious, I was, I wanted to know what the "flip" thing was all about.  Once I figured it out, I plugged it back in to the iPad and turned the music back on.  Again, WOW!  all that sound coming out of these things?  My wife and daughters who were sitting around the table immediately stopped what they were doing, and I could tell by their reaction that they too, were impressed.

You see, the Flip concept is pretty simple, really.  You turn the headphone piece around and they become speakers.

But this was just the first impression.  Would this last?  Would I be turned into a Flip wearing, Flip loving enthusiast?  Only time would tell.

I have since plugged them into my computer, watched some videos and listened to some music.  I have never heard sounds so crisp, so clear.  I often play classical music as I work, this allows me to concentrate.  I could have never imagined that a pair of headphones would allow me to get lost into the music the way I have done since the arrival of the Flips.  One of my favorite composers is Robert Schumann.  His piano works are truly genius. Wearing the Flips I hear things I had never heard before.  I found myself mesmerized.  I remembering listening to each note in ways I have never heard it before.  Not much work was getting done at this point.  I was impressed.

But I was not done yet.  Next came my iPod Shuffle.  Yes, that tiny, little bitty piece of noise producing device that runners wear as they put on the miles.  The pure sight of this inch square gadget hooked up to these headphones was if anything, a bit comical.  But the results were not any different.  If even for a second, I remember thinking how cool it would be if I could wear this while on my runs. If someone could come up with a device that I could wear while running, that reproduced music the way the Flips do, I will buy it!  Just for the record, however, I will not be wearing these to run.  This is just not right.

Curiosity bit me again.  I plugged the Flips into my phone.  I have an htc droid.  Yes, you guess it... sound was impressive as well.  I don't use my phone to listen to music, but I know a whole lot of folks do, so try it, I did.  And loved it as well.

The last thing I needed to test was the "speaker" feature of the Flips.  I turned the headphones over, plugged it in to my iPad again, and once and for all, I was sold.  The volume on the iPad was at a level lower than 25%.  It was enough that I could hear it all over the house with no distortion.  Amazing.

I am not going to get into all the technical aspects of the Flips, for I really don't understand and really, it does not matter (to me).  If you'd like to know all these, you can go to their website at www.flipsaudio.com.

One thing I do not do when reviewing a product is visit a website or search for information about the product so that I am not influenced by other's opinions or manufacturer's claims.  With this in mind, I asked myself how much I would be willing to pay for the Flips.  Somewhere around $200 is what I would expect the price to be.

When I found out that the going price for these is only $120, well I was SOLD!

I have secured for the followers of this blog a sweet deal from Flips.  If you order, via their website, your pair before July 16, 2013, you will receive $10 off your purchase plus you will get free Rush Shipping Upgrade.  Enter code: FA0010INT

(Disclaimer;  The author, that being me, has not received nor will ever receive monetary compensation for reviewing, errr. giving honest opinions, about any product and that includes any sales which may occur through links attached to this or future blog post.)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Enjoying Your Kid's Triathlon

The inspiration for this post came from a recent experience, but as you will soon see, it is not limited just to triathlons...
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Been there.  Done that!  I was once "that" soccer dad.

Which one you may be asking?  Or if you saw me at the sidelines of my daughter's first travel soccer game, you know which "that" I'm talking about.

I knew "everything" there was to know about soccer, and I knew what was best for my daughter, or rather I thought I knew what was best for my daughter... on the soccer field.

Never mind the fact that the expert, or coach, was on the other side of the field.  Never mind the fact that she had spent countless hours at practice, honing in on skills they were trying to improve at these games.  But NOOOOO... I knew what she needed to do and I was not shy about telling her so.

Stay with me.  I'll get to the point.

That is until the very first "travel" game ever.  As I was standing on the sideline, yelling instructions to my daughter, a much wiser man came up and stood next to me.  At first I thought he was going to punch me in the face or something.  But then suddenly, he leaned over and in a very quiet, unassuming voice said:  "Let her play.  She's a good player.  She'll make the right choices."

WOW... I remember this like it was yesterday.

I pondered upon this for a long time and the message was received loud and clear.  I must say, without a doubt in my mind, that I never, ever again yelled a word of "instruction" to my daughter on the field.  As a matter of fact, I learned later from her then head coach, that the one thing she did want to hear from me, but only after the game, was "I'm proud of the way you played" and / or "I enjoyed watching you play today."  This I did until she played her last College game!

Still with me?

A few weeks ago we volunteered at the Nashville Kids Triathlon, along with my wife, daughter and a host of local triathlete friends.  This was one of the most exiting and uplifting experiences in a long time.

The kids, ALL of the them were awesome.  You could tell they were nervous, apprehensive, full of questions and some doubt.  They were there, as most of us are at all triathlons, for a variety of reasons.  The skill levels were also as varied as there were athletes.  Yes, I do call them athletes because that's what they are.  And then there were the parents.  Not all of the parents.  Some of the parents.

The kids were guided inside the transition area by volunteers. The parents were asked to wait outside. Most, if not all, of these volunteers have experience in the world of triathlons.  Several have completed Ironman distances.  Yes, this expertise was there for the kids.  We each took one young triathlete at a time and guided them to their very own personal space within the transition area.  We spent time answering questions, giving light instructions, calming nerves and listening to stories of importance, at that moment, to the kids.

But as you can probably conclude by now, there was "that" parent on the sideline.  Yelling, screaming and giving last minute instructions to their sons and daughters.  Some were telling the volunteers how they wanted their kid's transition are to be set up.  Some of these parents were not going to hear any different. We just knew that if we did not follow the yelled instructions, it would be the kid that would pay the price later.  So, for the most part, we obliged.

I know, like I knew back then, that the parents mean well.  They want whats best for their sons and daughters.

So in order to Enjoy your Kid's Triathlon to the max, here's a tip or two:

*  Let go, sit back and relax.  Your young offspring knows what he/she needs to do.
*  Let the Volunteers do their job.  They have hundreds of hours and thousands of miles of experience.  They're here because they want to pass this along.
*  Did I mention to Let go, sit back and relax?  From first hand experience, I can tell you that you will make better memories, if you just Let go, sit back and relax!

Those of you that know me, know that sitting back and keeping quiet at the soccer games must have been quiet the challenge.  But it really wasn't.  I also realized very quickly that attitudes on the sideline are contagious.  Not all parents get it, some parents still yelled.  So I found my way to my very own private world on the field and luckily there I also developed on of the very best soccer friendships ever

Gordon and I would sit in the corner of the field.  At half time, we would fold up our chairs and move to the other corner.  This we did for some four years.  We would discuss, but not solve, all the problems of the world. We would tell stories and just enjoy the game. We would wear our Columbia Sun Hats because we knew it embarrassed our daughters. And yes... we found that yelling at the referees was a whole lot more fun than yelling at our daughters.  We would, of course, disagree with every call he made, we would tell him what he missed and what he did wrong.  I think that maybe just once, we told him what a great job he did. I miss you Gordon!

Find yourself a "partner" in crime.  Someone you can rely on to keep you straight and off the yelling path.  This too, will allow you to Enjoy Your Kids Triathlon.

Footnote... This advise, I dare to say, would apply to any and all sports your sons and daughters are involved in.  So, please heed the advise and enjoy!