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.


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.


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.


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!


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

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


I lived to race another day!


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.