Posts Tagged ‘Challenge’

Hudson Valley Full Triathlon

Posted: July 22, 2018 in Races
Tags: ,

Three years ago (2015) I started off on a half-baked quest to do something EPiC (click HERE), but it turned to be an EPiC disappointment instead (click HERE).  The next year that EPiC disappointment escalated into an EPiC disaster (click HERE).

This year, thank god… that original half-baked quest was finally realized.

Leading into 2018’s Hudson Valley full length triathlon (Ironman distance) through 2017 and 2018 I’ve had to confront some very different obstacles and challenges in seeing this goal through to the end.  Besides all the new hardware in my left hand, I’ve started a new and very physical job through the week, had the wind taken out of my sails (click HERE) and, truthfully, I just haven’t had the same amount of time to train as I have in the past.  That’s not to say I’ve slacked any, as anyone who knows me will also know that I work hard (as well as over-commit myself to other things hard as Kelly will be quick to point out), and I do not take training lightly – ever.

In fact, I think the quality of my training is actually very decent given I have largely strayed away from the “herd mentality” and therefore taken over my own training plan and race strategy.  However, even one and two years down the road, well, let’s just say that completing the same amount of distances and lead-up training time simply wasn’t possible this year.

I absolutely did the best I could with the time I had.

It is what it is.

While it may not have been my crowning achievement in triathlon, I am still very proud of my accomplishment and, ultimately, I learned a great deal about myself through this entire process.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t also attempt to regale you then with the official final closing chapter to this whole quest to be a two-time Ironman ordeal (yes, I genuinely think of the last three years’ worth getting to the starting line this year as an “ordeal” in every painful Viking sense of the word), so grab yourself a beverage of some sort and a handful of Gummies and let me try to recount for you how it all went down this past weekend.

(Friday, July 6th – 3:45am)

I had already begun feeling the nerves for about a week previous to this morning, but waking up bright and early on Friday morning and seeing this in my inbox:

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Well, let’s just say that the nervous anxiety turned more into desperate feeling of “oh shit!”

The plan was to get an early start in the morning and make some progress towards our destination.  We couldn’t check into our hotel 3:00pm (something about a cot) and the athlete orientation was at 2:00pm and then bike check begins at blah blah blah … we all arrived safely and early, had a quaint drive through the “rolling hills” around Rosendale, snacked at a downtown park and, dropped Lucille off at transition and by 6:41pm we were asleep, lights out, in the hotel room; our plan perfectly executed.

No fatalities.

Swim: 1:10:38

Pace: 1:46/100m

Rank: 2/16

I have to say, the girls were fantastic.

As planned, we were all up and ready to go within minutes and I was chowing down one of her special Keto-breakfast sandwiches and a banana.  Shortly afterwards, we were packed up in the car by 4:27am – three minutes ahead of schedule.

Again, no fatalities.

I gotta say, so far so good.

On route, we stopped at the local hick market by the roadside and picked up a coffee and, presto!, just as Kelly had anticipated we had we arrived bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at the race site promptly at 5:00am for first crack at a parking spot.  Because, hey, who doesn’t like an extra hour to sit around and stress pre-race, amiright?

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Once my coffee was done, I figured I should get moving and as the girls napped in the car, I started to get myself in pre-race mode and began to set up Lucille in transition and just basically whiled away some of the pre-race downtime listening to tunes on my iPod and trying not to shit my pants.

I do also want to note here for the record that usually when I roll into transition I tend to feel a bit like a triathlon hobo.  I lust over and sometimes get intimidated by other triathletes with fancy and more expensive equipment.  I realize this is a ridiculous thing to feel but, hey, that’s just how it goes anyway.

Anyway, this time around with Lucille all decked out with her new fancy carbon fibre Easton race wheels that I had purchased last summer and have been waiting to use.  These babies have a new Vittoria Corsa 25mm rear tire rear and a 22mm Continental Sprinter in front with only ONE ride in them and Ultegra cassette components.

TranslationTHEY LOOK BADASS.

Now, suddenly, walking into transition this morning was more like this:

At least it was in my mind anyway.

I should also perhaps mention here for the record, that on this particular morning I was listening specifically to Into the Frey’, the haunting theme music to the 2012 Liam Neeson film ‘The Grey’.

 

Don’t ask me why the theme music to a movie about a guy who gets hunted down in the Arctic by a vicious pack of hungry, starving wolves gets me all revved up in competition mode, but there you have it folks.

I am a unique and beautiful snowflake.

I remember when I used to listen to ZZ Top, Motley Crue and Aerosmith to get me all amped up in and now all my pre-race motivational playlists contain things like ‘Con te partirò’ by Andrea Bocelli and Two Thousand Places at Onceby the Polyphoic Spree and, yes, the theme to The Grey’.

I must be getting old or something.

Anyway, it was announced at the previous afternoon’s orientation that this was to be considered as a non-wetsuit legal race according to USAT regulations as the water was a balmy 83°.

It was like swimming in bath water.

This excited me.

I was already playing with the notion of ditching the wetsuit altogether so that announcement made my decision making process that much easier.

I mean, I love my wetsuit n’ all but, hey, if we’re going to be Ironman then let’s be real ass-kicking Ironmen, amifuckingright?

It’s July after all.

 

Anyway, the buoys hadn’t been set up in the water yesterday but the map made the route look pretty simple enough – four counter clockwise loops around four buoys through “the pristine spring-fed Williams Lake” and another 400500m jog to transition.

Simple, right?

The problem was, what we could envision was supposed to be there in our brains we just couldn’t see as the first of the buoys – a bright neon yellow buoy no less – was completely obstructed by the blinding glare from the early morning neon yellow sunrise coming over Joppenbergh Mountain.

No shit.

You couldn’t see shit without also burning out your retinas.

But I digress…

The swim was an open water start with the men for both the half and full distances starting together (the women three minutes afterwards) and it wasn’t long after wading into the water that I had lined myself up smack dab in front and center of the group, stared into the blinding sunrise where, apparently, one of two mysterious buoys awaited us, and waited for the official countdown to begin…

…and then I peed.

Yup.

I pissed myself right then and there amongst the small pod of other athletes lightly treading in the pristine spring-fed waters of Williams Lake.

It was glorious.

Who said triathlon wasn’t sexy?

Seconds after that, the horn sounded to start the official beginning of the race and I was furiously paddling in the general direction of where I had hoped I would eventually find a bright yellow swim buoy.  Thing is, everybody else seemed to have their own idea on where in dawn’s early light that buoy was so, a medium group of about six swimmers at the front took off in different directions which led to a lot of early confusion.

In short, it was a clusterfuck.

“Swim to where…??

…to what?”

WHERE?!!

Other swimmers (I heard) just froze right there altogether at the starting line.

Fuck it…

I made a general bearing the direction of a few other swimmers and starting heading towards what I thought what as good a spot as any to find a buoy, namely, directly into the sun.  It’s wasn’t long afterwards before I (and a few others I expect) I realized I was cutting too deeply into the loop and would have to veer out again 200-300m to arrive at what I very thankfully made out to be the first bright yellow buoy in the distance.

My apologies to any other athletes that may have been too trusting me let me site for them.

Oops.

I arrived at the first buoy with about three other swimmers and we snaked around it counter-clockwise, looked into the horizon where we knew the second buoy was supposed to be, and….

…mist.

Lots of early morning mist rising off the warm waters of the lake.  Great that we were now swimming away from the sun n’ all but, shit…

Here we go again.

And so once again I swam into the unknown and again I ended up too far outside the loop and had to veer myself back in again another 300-400m once I was able to pick out the buoy.  I tried not to get too frustrated as one thing was going very well, my arms and shoulders felt great, my stroke felt comfortable and everything seemed to be turning over rather well and I started to drop the other few swimmers around me.

I was pleased.

There were no issues siting the next two buoys and I used this opportunity to just keep my pace on point and “stay within myself” as I’ve practiced many times before on long swims.  Of course, there’s the other popular “no bubbles” mantra that I have perfected over countless hours of drilling over the past three years.

Train to race, and then race how you train.

Oh yeah, I peed again too so my hydration was definitely on point as well.

Yay.

As per usual, I found myself more or less swimming by myself, just behind the main scrum of faster swimmers and, well, everyone else.  As I rounded the fourth buoy, it was back trying to site into the sun again an I’d like to say that I made a better effort at arriving at it this time having been here once before, but I can’t…

I was off by another 200-300m but, this time, from the other direction.

Shitsticks!

And then I did it again at the second buoy which was still hidden by the morning mist.

I could only hope that everyone else was having as much difficulty.

Seriously, here’s the grizzly evidence I (hold your judgement):

swim route image

Ugly, right?

Seriously, a blind pelican could site better than that.

Mental Note to Self:  More practice siting in open water.

Anyway, by the time I started my third loop the sun had shifted enough behind the mountain (or tree, or whatever) enough that, low and behold, I could make out the buoy.  By now everything was feeling well into “go mode” and, of course, I had a near empty bladder now to boot, so I decided to increase my pace a bit.

Also by this time, I was now catching up to and passing other swimmers completing their own loops, albeit, behind me.  It wasn’t much of a problem to navigate around them, of course, just another day swimming at the Port Colborne YMCA with The Harpy if you ask me, but it was no longer simply a strait run to the buoys either.  Now that neither the sun nor mist played a factor any longer, I just kept turning things over smoothly and before you know it I had completed my four loops and was heading to shore.

Here’s am exciting video of me exiting the water:

Reeeeeal chill, man.

Now it must also be noted here for the record, that transition was still another 400-500m dash over a shredded wood chip and paved tarmac so that helps explain a little about my hefty swim time result and slower than expected pace.

(That’s my excuse anyway)

Bike: 06:04:08

Avg. Pace: 28.1 kph

Rank: 2/16

By the time I made it to transition, it was a complete hive of activity with other triathletes all milling about and setting up.  It was nice to have a few cheers of course but, seriously people, get the heck out of the way!

Having said that, it must also go on record here that my transition skills are more than a little slacking so any distraction that might have been caused by other traffic would be mute.  Even though I was doing nothing more than drying off my feet and getting into my cycling gear, I’m pretty sure I could have even made myself a little campfire breakfast as well given how slowly everything seemed at the time (Official T1 time: 2:46:95).  You see, unique to this race (as least to me anyway) was the inclusion of a little personal stool upon to sit while you do whatever you like while you’re there.

So, yeah, I’m taking advantage of that shit for sure.

Problem is though, you also get comfortable.

Regardless, once my tootsies were dry, socked and I was otherwise ready to go, I wished my family and friends goodbye and made my way to the bike mount line to begin 180 kilometers of ridiculousness.  I was the only one at the bike mount line at the time and it then became very clear it was going to be a very long and lonely bike ride; more or less, exactly what I had trained for having done 95% of my long weekend rides solo.

Let me try and put you in that particular head space as I saw it at that moment.

The majority of the athletes I started with are long gone having only needed to complete two laps of the swim, and the only completion in my own full triathlon category was ten minutes up the road already.

In other triathlons I have participated in, there is almost certainly a guarantee that there will be other athletes around with whom to share the race course and push each other against.  That’s racing and that’s what I wanted to experience today but at the moment, there was really nothing left to do but put my head down and give chase to whoever it was that next down the road and that’s exactly what I was preparing myself to do.

Push.

After all, I hadn’t purchased new race wheels for nothing.

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About 200m out into the bike course is where the first of a few “Race Day Debacles” (minus the invisible buoys that is) occurred:

My bike computer wasn’t working.

tenor

I stopped to make a quick adjustment but that didn’t seem to work either so I just made the decision, fuck it, we’re doing this thing blind.

I mean, I wasn’t totally blind as my Garmin was still tracking my distance and important race data but I just wouldn’t be able to constantly see my speed which is something I like to reference regularly while riding (my Garmin isn’t set up to view my speed on the main screen).  This wasn’t really any big deal, of course, as it was just one less thing to worry about while riding but, c’mon, one likes to know these things when they’re zipping along open spans of roads, especially given my new race wheels.

(Note:  I did manage to get myself up to 65.9kph at one point)

Essentially, the bike course was two loops up to and around “the majestic Ashokan Reservoir”.

What this really means is that there were a sweet shit ton of hills to contend with up to, around, and of course, back down again to transition and then, yup, out you go again for lap #2.  Now I could have sworn that when I first discovered this race two years ago (click HERE) that I also read somewhere that the bike course offered “gentle rolling hills”.

Ha!

“Gently rolling hills” my ass.

Or at least, the perspective of one who does not necessarily live in the vicinity of mountains is a little bit more askew than those who do.  Let’s just say that those who live in mountains have a very different take on hills than those ordinary mooks such as myself who consider the Ridgemont Rd. overpass as a genuine “hill”.

These weren’t “gentle rolling hills”, these were fucking climbs.

“Gently rolling hills” or not.

And there were a lot of ‘em, especially in the first 25-30 kilometers out to the State Hwy 28A.

2,157m worth in total over the entire 180 kilometer bike course.

For me, that’s one shitload of climbing.

It’s moments like this that I absolutely curse myself for not really wanting to know too much about the course pre-race (or weather predictions for that matter), preferring instead to be surprised on race day.

Let me give you a visual.

Here is the elevation map for one of my usual weekly training rides:

bikecourse1

Pancake flat.

How’s this by comparison:

bikecourse2

Insane, right?

All things considered, Thunder n’ Lightning have been strong in the pedals the past two years and I managed to get up and over each hill in turn and it wasn’t long before I was starting to catch the half triathlon participants one by one.

At some point I passed the Marbletown Park and there was an overwhelming smell of bacon wafting up from campers Coleman stoves and grills.

It was torture.

It was also around this period that I realized Race Day Debacle #2, my fancy race wheels had been more or less completely neutralized with all the climbing. Of course there were descents but they were sharp and winding and I was spending more time keeping myself under control and rubber side down than opening it up and risking life and limb.  One particular decent literally had me so scared at one point that my testicles retreated back into my abdomen to hide.  It certainly gives you a new perspective what professional cyclists are accomplishing when they race down the sides of mountains at insane speed up to and over 90kph, that’s for sure.

Having said all that, there were certainly some very scenic landscapes and picturesque vistas along the way.

The Hudson Valley was proving to be gorgeous what little I could focus on briefly taking in.

It wasn’t until I got to Highway 28 in Boiceville that I was really able to open up the legs and take advantage of my new race wheels.  It wasn’t a closed highway but there was a large bike lane on the side of the road and it was here I truly started to put in some decent legwork passing another dozen or so athletes in the process.  The wheels felt awesome and I loved the powerful “whopping” noise they made as I effortlessly sailed along the pavement as if I was gliding across glass and I was loving every last second of it and trying to savour it as I also knew that there were plenty more hills to come still.

(Mental Note to Self:  Next even with race wheels must be flat!)

I tried to be encouraging ever I passed the half iron stragglers but, secretly, I was revelling in the whole pursuit and chase; mark the next rider, reel them in, pass, mark the next rider, reel them in, pass, and so it goes…

It definitely passed the long periods where I was cycling alone.

Somewhere after West Hurley, we turned south again and along Dike Rd. which then skirts along the bank of the Ashokan Reservoir itself and, believe me, it was worth popping up out of the aero position temporarily to take a good appreciative look, then it was another handful of gummy bears, and then back into aero and tapping out a good rhythm with the pedals.

So far, hills and computer bullshit aside everything was feeling good.  There was no aching in my left foot which is apt to happen from time to time, the stitch I was experiencing earlier in my side had subsided and I was now working myself steadily through the mid-field of half triathlon athletes, I was being careful to eat and hydrate, and everything was otherwise going well.

But coming back along Hwy 213 to complete my first lap I ran into Race Day Debacle #3 as I began running into the other Sprint and Olympic athletes who were clearly into their own thing which, obviously, involved occupying as much of the road as possible.  Likewise, seeing as how the narrower roads weren’t closed to motorists, there was the odd impatient jackass driving a huge ass pickup to contend with as well and after 80-85 kilometers of solo riding, this was proving to be a bit stressful seeing as how I was cruising in most cases much faster than the other triathletes I now found myself among.

In essence, I had to begin working my way through a now busy race course to complete my first loop.

Now, I definitely try to be a polite and encouraging participant but, seriously, I could only give my head a shake in some cases.  For example, apparently, “Passing on your left” is an open invite to have the rider directly ahead of you veer to the left in front of you and thereby prevent you from getting by.

Who knew?

I only wish I was talking about an isolated situation too.

Anyway, shortly afterwards, I arrived back to the beginning (the entrance to transition) but I didn’t see any obvious sign of a turn around so I called out to the spectators who, for the most part, looked as confused as I was, for some assistance.  Thankfully, my wife was there and having taken control of the area quickly pointed out that, yes, this was indeed where I was turning around to head back out for the second lap…

…or, 25-30 more kilometers of “gently rolling hills”.

Again…

Yay.

She also let me know that I was still in 2nd position not having lost any (much) time to the lone rider ahead of me.  I also opted to not go with my Special Needs bag as I was still feeling pretty on point about my calorie intake (which, for the most part primarily consists of Nutella, gummy bears and dried mango slices – click HERE) and that I still had lots left over to last me another loop, not to mention I still had my coveted half time treat-slash-secret weapon: a frozen Mars bar taped to my crossbar.

I have to say though, I wasn’t quite so immediately eager for another 25-30 kilometers of gently rolling hill bullshit but suck it up I did.  It became evident at this point very quickly that this lap was going to be even lonelier than the first now that all the half triathlon cyclists were no longer be on the road not having been crazy enough to agree to do this course a second fucking time.

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But, hey, good for me!

The second loop went pretty much the same of the first with me munching, gulping and pedaling my way around Ashokan Reservoir for the second time.  By this time though, it was much more humid, the wind had picked up somewhat and the smell wafting out of the Marbletown Park was primarily of hamburgers and hotdogs instead and it was equally torturous.

I also had to pee …

… but I kept rolling while shoveling dried mango slices into my pie hole like an engineer shoveling coal into the boiler of a locomotive steam engine.

I think in the end my second loop was about 2 minutes slower than my first loop but considering all the stupid ass climbing I’d been doing I was happy nonetheless, especially seeing as how this ride also represented a 53 minute improvement over my Ironman Wales ride.  In fact, I’d say that this ride was on par with the extreme difficulty level of the Ironman Wales bike course and the only difference here being, that I’m a much stronger rider now than I was back then.

I distinctly remember being desperate to get off the bike in 2012 but today, I could have kept riding today and there been a need to be and, in truth, there may have been as my Garmin only registered a mere 172 kilometers (not that I was complaining at the time mind you).

All minor Race Day Debacles aside, it turned out to be a decent ride managing an average pace of 28.1kph for an official bike time of 6:04:08 (3rd fastest overall), which given all the climbing, (1,925m worth) wasn’t too bad considering my meagre “hill” preparation going in.  I had also burned a total of 9,197 calories throughout and, so far, my energy stores still felt pretty high.

So far …

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But, of course, that all went to hell in hand basket the moment I dismounted the bike to enter transition for the second time.

But, of course, that all went to hell in hand basket the moment I dismounted the bike to enter transition for the second time.

If you recall, I really had to pee at the beginning the second loop – just over three hours ago.

The challenging thing with the transition set up is that it only had athlete Porto-potties at the Bike entrance and not at the Run entrance over on the opposite side of the transition where the full distance triathletes such as myself, were set up.  So that meant either racking my bike then running back to drain the weasel or, lean my bike somewhere and do it before going to my transition set-up.

I chose for the later and, boy, what a mistake that was!

Enter Race Day Debacle #4:  do not attempt to piss seconds after coming off a hilly 180 kilometer bike ride.

(WARNING:  The following stanza or two may be too disturbing for sensitive readers, viewer discretion is strongly advised)

The first immediate challenge was just in finding my dick.  I mean, after six hours of being ground into a hard leather saddle all over God knows what mountain, let’s just say that’s not a simple task – especially if you have on such things as tri-suits and race belts.  The second I found what I though was Mr. Happy (who, clearly was not very happy), he just let loose with great vengeance and furry upon the inside of the doomed Port-potty.

It was pretty much this:

I know.

I’m ashamed of myself but it simply could not be avoided.

My sincerest apologies to whoever it was that unwittingly stumbled into that hot mess afterwards.

Feeling like a festering petri-dish of contagion, I exited the Porto-potty, reclaimed my bike and made my way – slowly but purposely – back to my transition area …

Run: 05:25:38

Avg. Pace: 7:37min/km

Rank: who cares

… and directly into Race Day Debacle #5

For the past few weeks, I have been snacking on pickles and taking a shot of pickle juice throughout the working day.  It helps to stave off and sooth over muscle cramps, it’s an excellent hydrator, it’s a fat free recovery aid, it’s chalked full of antioxidants and electrolytes and, yeah, you can definitely look forward to a future post about the benefits of pickles for sure!  But, anyway, I figured rather last minute that it might also be a wise thing to have a little shot of pickle juice once I got off the bike to begin the marathon.  I secured two healthy-sized pickles and a shot of juice inside a chilled mason jar and then wrapped it in tin foil and left it my transition with my running gear feeling all clever with myself.

Upon racking Lucille, I sat down on my stool, removed my cycle shoes and opened my much-anticipated and looked forward to jar of sweet, sweet briny goodness and, immediately geysered it back out again like the comedic foil who’s mistakenly ingested turpentine.

I think I might have even scaled my tongue a bit.

The thing that I hadn’t counted on is that that metal wrapped glass jar when left out in the hot sun for 6-7 hours begins to turn itself into a small pressure cooker.  Essentially, my pickles had been cooking in their own juice since I had ventured out on the bike course.

I guess the good thing is that I now know why Pickle Soup is not a thing. And, just in case there are any aspiring young hipster entrepreneurs out there thinking to themselves, “Hmm, pickle soup?!”, just fucking forget about it.

Not happening!

Nasty.

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You’ve been told.

In fact, everything I had left in my transition area was either now a hot, tepid liquid or a gooey sticky mess; nothing at all appealing.  Unsatisfied, I put on my running shoes and reluctantly strapped on the fuel belt that I had prepped and had also left sitting in the sun (“Mmmm!  More hot , mushy gummy bears!”) and I started to make my way towards the start of the Run course.

Both Kelly and Hailey were at the beginning of the course and cheered for me as I went past but, sadly, I think by that time I had already begun to put myself into “Crisis Mode” and mentally prepping myself for what I knew was going to be a very difficult marathon so I didn’t acknowledge them as warmly as I would have liked to.

Or maybe I did, but I doubt it.

 

The marathon was actually four loops along the historic Wallkill Valley Rail Trail which was both extremely cool, and extremely new for me seeing as how the only thing I know about trail running is that they have a penchant for gnarly-looking beards and 70’s era truckers hats, neither of which I currently had.

Fortunately, it was the soft and forgiving kind of trail.

One of the unique features of the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail is the Rosendale trestle, a 940-foot (290m) bridge across the Rondout Creek.

Now I am no lover of heights but, WOW!

The trestle spans its way not only across the Rondout Creek (and believe me, it’s a BIG fucking creek too!) but the main drag of local Rosendale as well where we had our picnic lunch only yesterday before the orientation.

Seriously …

What a breathtaking view and thankfully, a welcome breeze.

It truly was one of those cool, unique race opportunities that I will be inevitably be bragging about in the coming years which is pretty fortunately because, well, I was also going to have cross it again another seven times over the next few hours.

I couldn’t help but wonder how much I’d be enjoying the view then*.

Shortly around this time, I was passed and introduced to the leader of the full triathlon, a really nice guy named Logan.  I only learned his name afterwards, of course, and at the time he was simply known to me as the “really nice guy who’s currently beating me”.

And he was nice too.

He offered me lots of encouragement as he passed and then again later on when he lapped me once more into his second loop.

I wanted to hate him but he was just too nice (and crushing it too).

And the same could go for everyone else for that matter.

I wanted a small race to get a true sense of “competition” by knowing where you are within the field and not just the next sweaty guy in spandex and seeing as how %95 of all the other days’ participants were already done and split, this meant I would get to know my 16 competitors very, very well.  I hadn’t seen them at all out on the 180k bike course but, now, they would be front and center over four out and back laps along the Wallkill Rail Trail.

The real “race” I was looking for was on.

The trail was indeed very forgiving.  Not only was the packed trail soft underfoot but the tree coverage was pretty much constant which more or less protected us from the last scorching rays of the afternoon sun.  Labeled as one of America’s ten most iconic rail trails, it mostly consists of fields and forest of Joppenbergh Mountain, but it also takes you past old lime kilns of historic interest (not that I gave two shit’s at the time) and regularly welcomes hikers, joggers, bicycle and horseback riders, dog walkers, and, in the winter, snowshoers and cross-country skiers.  At one point about 6-7 kilometers into the trail there was a naturally occurring “chilly cavern” offering a soothing cool breeze emanating up from the creek below and other trail users were taking full advantage to have a break from the humidity.

I hated them all.

I guess I could also mention here that I was getting cranky …

… very cranky.

There was lots of variety available and on offer at the two aid stations so my fuel belt of mushy gummy bears was just a hindrance bouncing along on my ass and my sunglasses just kept fogging up with the heat radiating off my face every time I felt the need to use them which, along a primarily shaded run course, wasn’t very often.

I opted then to ditch them both at the first turnaround with Kelly and Hailey.

I was just 10 kilometers in and already knew that the next three laps were going to really suck.  The thing about my training this year is that I have not done quite the same volume as I have the previous two years.  I have had some disappointing long weekend runs and the odd double run that got missed and, I admit it, pushing myself through another 75-90 minutes of hard intervals after a hard eight hour work day already wasn’t always easy so I would settle for 45-60 minutes instead.  What I was largely hoping for was that in by keeping my legs strong and regularly challenged, as well as providing them with adequate periods of recovery, a certain degree of “muscle memory” would inevitably kick in on race day to carry me through to the end.

Well, I know now that this theory is largely bullshit.

It might be great if you’re like the next Lionel Sanders or something but middle-aged fat guys in beer suits need to put in the regular legwork and, unfortunately, I simply did not.  Yes, I did do my fartleks and tempo runs and whatnot, but I didn’t do them in the necessarily lengths of time required to train for a full distance triathlon.

At least I can’t anyway.

Lesson learned.

I consoled myself with something that had just begun to dawn on me over the previous two weeks.  I hadn’t approached my training with the same ferocity this year as I have in the past but, hey, three years of Ironman training simply proved to be too much in the end.  Last year, after having a good base build the previous year when the event was cancelled last minute (click HERE), I was hyped and ready to go.

I was confident and hungry; eager and motivated.

I was this:

And of course I somehow managed to fuck that up.

Anyway, I reminded myself the mantra:  “I was simply doing the best I could with the time I had”.

It’s been a very eventful year remember.  I completed a very intensive rehab program on my left hand (click HERE) and had to relearn my swim stroke all over again, I started a new physical job in January, and Hailey isn’t getting any less simple to manage the older she gets.  Now there are regular trips to and from friends’ houses and horseback riding lessons, camp and other miscellaneous school bullshit to worry about.

And this is all how it should be, I get that.

But it does make keeping a long and intense Iron-focused training schedule difficult – especially three years in.

And this was exactly the point where I found myself around 45 day ago.

“The mind was willing but the flesh was weak”, so to speak.

By the middle of the second loop I was walking as much as I was running and I had given up a few places by then to the purer (younger) runners that were filtering out onto the course by now.  And let me tell you, some of these athletes threw down some amazing paces – especially the three top finishing ladies.

Incredible efforts!

I almost didn’t mind getting passed.

Crowd support along the trail was minimal with the exception of a few hard core family spectators that had now become accustomed to seeing and cheering for all the other athletes as well.  At different points along the route I was known as “Canada”, “Beer Guy” (See, advertising works! Click HERE), “Ass Man” (don’t ask), and “Let’s go buddy!”

All of it was much appreciated.

Even though I had been watching both my time and podium goals ebb away, I was still happy though that both my legs didn’t feel too tortured.  Sure they weren’t happy with me, but there wasn’t the agony that I remember seeping in the last time I tried this crazy bullshit six years ago.  When I asked them to run they would, albeit for only a short time before needing to come back into a brisk walk again to recover.

And so it went.

On in to finish my second loop I was pleased to see Hailey who had ventured down the trail to both see if I coming (needless to say that each of my consecutive loops were becoming longer) and, more probably, to escape her mother’s company temporarily.  Or maybe Kelly had sent her up the trail herself, who knows.

But it was nice to see her.

I informed her of the trestle up ahead and sent her off to explore while I limped back to Kelly and around the turnaround point to begin my third loop.  Once I caught up with her, she was happy to run/walk with me for a while and it was fun to have some idle conversation after nearly hours of very minimal conversation beyond “keep it up!”, “you got this!”, etc..

By that point in my eternal grumpiness, I had just resorted to giving everyone a very unenthusiastic ‘thumbs up’ as we passed one another.

36924219_10102589785636347_26789974472916992_nHailey and chatted about God knows what for a second until she too had more or less given up on the whole running thing and opted to continue on at her own snail’s pace leaving me to forge ahead, albeit at my own snail’s pace.

The last 10 kilometers were just as weird.  My legs felt great at points and almost hinted that they were willing to get back to work again in a second (or thirteenth, seventy-seventh, or three-billionth) wind kind of way, but as soon as I tried to do so, they protested and complained after just a few moments.  I was having the classic endurance athlete’s internal conversation with his body which I know recognize is a classic sign of breaking down (and I told Kelly as much the last time I saw her at the turnaround).  I opted then to continue on with my shuffle/walk/shuffle pace determined to make it to the end healthily than try to suffer it out for the sake of time.

Remember, my overall goal when I began this whole two-time Ironman journey was not simply to complete another Ironman distance triathlon, but to complete it and walk away from it with marginal injury as well.

Meaning, I didn’t want to kill myself in pursuit of this goal like I did last time at this distance.

(Truthfully, this is a reoccurring pattern with me)

And to that regard, I felt in that moment that what I was currently doing pace-wise was the best idea moving forward – at least I was moving forward.

I guess I am learning.

In the final loop I just mentally ticked off each trail landmark I had created for myself over the past 30-some odd kilometers.

“Goodbye, chilly cavern!”

“So long, railway trestle!”

‘Goodbye, knotted tree!”

“See ya, strange old lady sleeping in a lawn chair!”

“Adios, little dog in a ridiculous looking sweater!”

(Remember, I was cranky)

I have to tell you though, the final 750m were absolutely heaven knowing that I didn’t have to make that stupid turnaround again to complete another agonizing loop of the course.  I zipped up my suit to appear somewhat respectable (well, as respectable as someone whose been basting in Lycra race suit soaked in sweat, piss, snot, and God knows what else, can be anyway) , faked my best non-pained running gait and made for the finish line.  My supporters were there with promises of cold beer, Hailey was there looking to run in with me and Kelly was at the line with her incredible sign:

36892557_10102589785561497_5784292693886631936_n

This was a close second:

36778355_10102589785711197_5078166513844748288_n

The second I crossed the line three years of pent up frustration, stress and fatigue bubbled over and erupted from somewhere deep within.  I don’t often have these kinds of outbursts often but when I do, they’re epic.

And this one sure felt epic.

I’m sure it made for a decent finisher’s photo as well, too bad the photo website water-marked it so bad I can’t tell and I’m not risking the $53.00 to find out.

Good one, Captivating Sports Photos!

It sure felt good though.

In summation, it might not have been the race I was hoping for, placing 8th overall, but I am proud that I stuck this quest through to the end.  I did the best I could with what I had and I didn’t end up breaking myself in the process and I am immensely proud of that.

Oh, and I did win my age category so, yeah …

tenor

AND, I was back at work two days later.

Go.

Me.

Anyway, now that’s it’s finally over, and having learned from my past experiences Post-Ironman, I have already returned to a somewhat moderate fitness routine.  In fact, my first workout the day after was to mow the lawn (no shit – click HERE).  Since then, I have started riding my bike with Hailey and have started open water swimming again.

Also, I am now already pursuing Round Three of my “Core Project”.

More than anything, I’m enjoying doing things because I want to do them and not because I have to do them and there’s a big difference between the two.  One way I still get to be a husband and dad again, the other, well, not so much.

Sure I am already thinking about next year’s goal as I would love to get back to more regular racing but, for the time being, I am just going to be content with being a husband and a dad once again.

*In fact, after the 4th pass over the trestle it completely failed to be novel anymore.  I simply did not give a shit about the view anymore.  By the last lap I would have happily accepted a bullet between the eyes than see that stupid Rondout Creek view once more.

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Exactly two months ago today I was in the shape of my life when, poof!, it all disappeared and my life instead took on a completely different type of “Ironman” adventure, one that included having seven titanium pins inserted into my left hand.  Not exactly the beginning, or end for that matter, of the 2017 triathlon season that I was hoping for (click HERE for a reminder).

These last two months have certainly not been easy and I have to contend with and endure some very difficult low points but I’m coming through it now; I can begin to see the light at the other end of the tunnel.  I figure then that having been exactly two months, it was time to post some sort of follow up on the healing process overall and shed some light on where I currently stand in regards to getting back on the ‘ol proverbial horse as it were.

The first four weeks were certainly the hardest as I struggled to simply deal with the situation (click HERE for that reminder).  Thankfully, I have more or less come through that now and am beginning to look to what the future holds for me in regards to the next challenge.

(Insert image of a mythological bird taking flight over smoldering ruins here)

The first issue needing addressing is the weight issue.  This was inevitably going to be the case as sitting around in an EZ-Boy unable to do anything isn’t exactly the key to maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle.  You know what you don’t want when you’re forced to sit around bored and incapacitated?  Salad.  Well, not unless you substitute all the lettuce and spinach for, oh I don’t know, Cheetohs.  And then swap the tomatoes, onion, and cucumbers for, say, Skittles, Gummy Bears and, peanut butter cups while you’re at it.  There.

That makes me feel superb.

So, yeah, I’ve put on a few pounds.

This was always in the cards of course as part of the post-Ironman recovery process, but at least I would have had one momentous accomplishment to look back on and be proud of in order to justify my laziness.

Without that, I’ve just gotten fat.

Period.

This change towards a healthier diet now that I’m beginning to be more active again will begin immediately.   Coupled with that, I am going to begin my regular (if not daily) core regimen to begin building back lean muscle and prepare my body to once again (three times the charm!) handle the rigors of all my off-season training.  This was likely the smartest thing I did all year in preparation for Ironman so I aim to reinitiate that program.  The upshot to all this, is that I also need to regenerate the muscles in my left hand and forearm, so this is also an excellent add-on to my regular physio treatments.

Speaking of building muscle, the biggest challenge at the moment is dealing with the severely atrophied muscles in my legs.  When this whole shit storm erupted, I was cycling stronger than I ever have before with a strength and endurance that I had previously never imagined and was on track with being able to accomplish a sub 5 hour 30 minute Ironman bike pace.  Now that power is gone.  Rather, I have the power, but I can’t maintain it for any significant length of time.

I just don’t have the wherewithal to do the long distances at the moment.

But that’s okay seeing as how my “riding season” was already aimed at being “fun” anyway, in just being able to get out and ride with Hailey and Kelly and I can do that once more.  I still have The Big Move to look forward to where I will once again be serving for the 10th time in the capacity as a “sweep” rider, then Hailey and I will attempt our second annual “Daddy-Daughter Bike Adventure” (click HERE for last years’ account) come October.  This year the plan is to ride out to Dunnville for brunch (approx. 65k).   I still slip in the odd ride on my own however when time and schedule allow and I’m confident that the legs will return in time.

The major challenge right now is swimming where, essentially, I am back to square one.

For anyone who swims (like, really  swims) they will understand that swimming is all about form and having an immediate “feel” for the water.  The current lack of mobility and muscle in my left hand in part with the severed and regenerating nerve endings after the surgery mean that I’ve now lost this instinctual feel for the water.

however, now that I’m back in the water, the goal is to reacquire this feel and regain my form ASAP so that means drills, drills, paddles and more drills.  Getting in the pool 3-4 times a week, even for short distances (1500m-2500m) is a big priority for me right now, having once prided myself on being an accomplished swimmer.

I really  want to regain that confidence in the water once again.

Running.

Gah!

I was just getting to a place where I was beginning to feel like a runner after years of trying to make peace with it.  Running for me has never been easy.  Having said that, by mid-June I was running off-the-bike comfortably and strongly with no adversity, or what’s commonly called among triathletes as “cement legs”.  That was definitely huge progress after nearly a decade in the sport.  While I might not have been the fastest runner in the field, I was consistent and running with decent form.

Now, with the added weight of two meaty man tits to contend with, that form and consistency have all but evaporated.  As with cycling, it’s back to the beginning and as with swimming, that means drills, drills, and more ABC drills.  Fortunately, the intense heat and humidity of summer has more or less passed so getting out now for easy(ish) short runs around the surrounding area – even it’s just to visit the neighborhood cat (click HERE) – isn’t the most challenging thing I need to get geared up to accomplish.  Once my legs muscle begin to return I will amp up these weekly runs to once again include regular fartleks, hill, speed, tempo and even long distance workouts through the week.

So, physically, I’m coming along nicely and have taken my first few tentative steps (and strokes) along the comeback trail, so to speak.

Mentally?

That’s a bit more daunting.

While I believe that I am on the right path, I’m still impatient and often find myself feeling angry or jealous of others around me who all still in their peak fitness and accomplishing great things.  I mean, it’s not them that I am angry with, but the circumstances if that makes sense.  I have done all the hard work already – twice – and still have nothing to show for it.  And now here I am again dealing with another (more major) setback.

It’s a hard thing to swallow regardless of how well things are going at the moment.

But as my chiropractic guru at Legacy Health & Fitness (also HERE), Dr. Kristin Burr who, I might add, has put this battered and sometimes broken body back together again more times than I can count, mentioned to me last week:

“You’re a real athlete now that you’ve had to deal with this type of serious injury and your ability to get past this is what’s going to define you as an athlete going forward.”

Huh.

I never thought of it quite like that.

Wise person this Dr. Burr.

But it’s true.  Everyone loves a comeback.  If I can manage to remain patient and not get too weighed down by the incredible psychological mire of doubt, regret and frustration and somehow successfully accomplish all the things I’ve mentioned above (not to mention finding a job) to reacquire my prior “Iron fitness” and – fingers crossed – once and for all complete this Ironman goal, that will be friggin’ huge.

HUGE.

I am very fortunate in that I already have the right team and the successful plan to follow (click HERE), I just need to be able to follow through and pull the trigger once the stars manage to correctly align themselves…whenever that happens to be.

THAT will be something truly epic.

And so that’s my motivation and mental state at the moment:

Be patient.  Be smart.  All good things to those who persevere.

We can rebuild him.

Again.

Well, I did it.

Exactly 116 days ago on January 1st of this year, in lieu of not being able to run at the time I committed myself to instead focusing on a different kind of challenge, something dubbed as “The 28 Day Challenge” (click HERE and HERE).

My goals were easy enough:

  1. Improve core strength
  2. Losing some weight

I already understood how important the core was to overall performance (click HERE), but it was never a huge focus in my training; haphazard at best.  Rather I would go through short periods of keeping up with it but then it would trail off again in lieu of other more sparkly interests and obsessions.

Anyway, mission accomplished this time around.

So good in fact that I decided to keep up with it and extended the challenge to the 100 Day mark (click HERE).

However, while I gave myself a bit of flexibility here in making it a daily ritual – no exceptions – I did raise the bar once more by setting two more personal goals.

  1. Be able to hold a 5 minute plank.
  2. Perform 60 push-ups in 60 seconds.

Mission accomplished there as well.

After that, I just kind of kept up with it although I decided to not bore any of you here with the details.

For the most part, after three posts in succession I figured you’d all be:

But, rest assured, it was still a part of my regular training regimen.

And while, yes, I did allow myself some days off (a whopping 16 in total) depending on what else I had committed to that day, it’s safe to say that this has become a daily habit now.

The big question then is what exactly did I accomplish in all this time?

Well, I ran some numbers this morning and the results had me literally performing some serious mental jujitsu on myself.

Get a load of these numbers:

  • Total mat time spent: 28 hours, 48 minutes
  • Total push-up count: 7,948
  • Most push-ups in a single week: 1,171
  • Total planking count: 8 hours, 15 minutes
  • Longest plank: 6 minutes, 28 seconds

Great googly-moogly!

So here, now let me wave something really shiny in front of you monkeys.

While not directly related solely to my core routine, I am now down 11lbs.

BOO-YAH!

The real upshot though is that I feel strong…real  strong.

My running has come a long way since those initial dark days in January (click HERE), I feel absolutely powerful on the bike and already I’m laying down some impressive paces for being this early into the season, and I accomplished my “Frank & Friends 10k Swim for Strong Kids” (click HERE) rather effortlessly in a much faster time than in previous years.

Plus, I started to get back into the yoga studio as well so you can add those once-a-week workouts to the ‘ol Bonfire of Awesome I got burning (click HERE) as well.

So, yeah, I’m kickin’ it.

The real hope is that this core strength building is going to pay off in dividends come race day by allowing me to hold my form over the course of 12-13 hours of Ironman racing.  So while I still struggle from time to time with my run pacing (aerobic and anaerobic conditioning), at least my body seems to be up to the task which makes me happy given my string of injuries leading out of 2016 and into 2017.

I’m realizing now that my body at that time just wasn’t up to the task and necessarily strong enough to do what I was expecting it to do when I prematurely forced it to go into long distance mode over the winter.  So this challenge forced me to slow down and concentrate on building myself back up smartly  before carrying on with the program, which I am currently attempting to do.

So what now?

Well, what else is there to say:

Little did I know that what Jake was really referring to was one of these:

254-voodoo-floss-band-web-h1

A “Voodoo band”.

Stay with me….

Going forward, I still plan on keeping with the program and making it an everyday thing when time allows.  I would still like to continue pushing my limits with the planking, but I have also begun now to begin incorporating more “injury prevention” type of drills into it as well, specifically those I’ve been reading about in the ‘Ready to Run: Unlocking Your Potential to Run Naturally’ book (Dr. Kelly Starrett) that I’ve been reading.

For example, deep squatting in order to improve hip strength.

Who knew this was even a thing?

And, no, I cannot do it properly…yet.

Likewise, being able to do a pistol squat as a means of developing my ankle range of motion, or improve hip extension by holding a proper couch stretch which, believe me, at the moment is about as much fun as pouring hot lava into your shorts.  And, yes, I want to begin using a Voodoo band (or “floss”) more regularly to improve my range, restore joint mechanics, and unglue matted down or previously injured tissue.

So even though I am well into long distance mode now, my “strength building” is more aimed at “injury prevention” and maintaining the strength I have built up thus far and managing the after effects of those long workouts.

Furthermore, my post-Ironman plan at the moment (immediately after the whole consuming of many Brimstone beers and CRAVE Local Fresh dinner plates that is) is going to be solely aimed at continuing this re-building process of developing my core and body mobility so that I don’t necessarily feel like I’m starting over from scratch again come September/October and with it, the host of nagging injuries that typically return as a result.

Oh, and anything that enables me not to look like a transvestite resisting arrest would be nice too.

Just sayin’…

So if anything, this challenge has taught me to train smarter.

And so smarter I shall be.

It has become one of my habits now to set a few goals through the off-season to work towards and which, ultimately, serve as benchmarks leading up to the accomplishment of the master plan being Ironman.  One of these regular goals is the completion of the Frank & Friends 10k Swim for Strong Kids at my local YMCA.

This has been my fifth year participating in and completing this charity swim and it has become the hallmark of my off-season training program; not to mention my motivation for getting my ass out of a warm bed at 5:00am on cold winter mornings.

Here are the particulars of my 2017 swim plan to date:

  • 182,025m covered in total (2,500m more than last year)
  • That’s an average of 14,205m per week for an average of 4 hours and 33 minutes (per week)
  • Which equates to 61 hours and 34 minutes spent in the pool
  • Over 47 different workouts

That’s not too shabby if I do say so myself.

17952595_10158536214270113_3324792525232267637_nI was particularly motivated this year as I was sharing the task with a friend and past training partner Steve, whom I met back in the early days of my triathlon quest.  I don’t necessarily remember how this partnership came about but I know there was definitely a beer in hand at a Christmas party where he actually committed to do the swim with me.  How many were consumed by that point is anyone’s guess but, true to his word, Steve took up the gauntlet and launched into his own preparation for this year’s event (click HERE for a little deeper insight into Steve’s rather “unique” training plan).

Besides getting to share this experience with someone it also meant that I wouldn’t have to deal with the hardest part of long distance swimming as far as I’m concerned:

B-O-R-E-D-O-M.

Seriously, when you’re spending the better part of three hours staring at the little hairs floating on the bottom of the pool, your brain tends to liquefy and slowly drain out your ears.

Let’s just say that it becomes very tedious indeed simply watching the black line endlessly pass underneath you and there’s a reason why I use this event to build up my overall “mental toughness”.

Believe me.

Usually, the last hour or so is just me – alone – simply trying not to go crazy.  So having someone to keep me company and share in the tediousness and general pacing was a huge benefit and I couldn’t really have been luckier in who offered to join me.

In past years, my 10k swims have clocked overall times of 3:22:50 (2016), 3:11:05 (2015) and 3:11:57 (2014), and 3:16:31 (2013) respectively.

Clearly, last year was a real struggle.

This year: 3:00:40.

That’s a difference of 11 minutes and 25 seconds over my best time.

Boo-yah!

Different from past years where I went it alone, Steve and I stopped every 500m  for a sip of water and a quick glance at one another before pushing off the wall again.  All in all, each break was only 4-5 seconds each.  Over the course of three hours, we only spend 4 minutes and 59 seconds resting and refueling.  Again, this represents a huge improvement over the 10 minutes or so between longer intervals in previous years so this plan seemed to work out much better.

Likewise, since we were splitting the pacing duties out front every 1,000m we managed a better average pace of 1:49min/100m and, really, it was only in the last 2,000-3,000m or so that our pace began to fade.

Some other interesting statistics for those of you who care:

  • I covered the distance in exactly 4,302 strokes
  • For an average of 23 strokes/minute
  • Burning exactly 2,400 calories in doing so

So what now?

Well, from here I begin pulling back on the distance and begin focusing more on speed and tempo work at the 4,000m  distance given my next swim goal is directly aimed at being among the first few out of the water at Hudson Valley (click HERE).  I will also be doing the Lake Okanagan Swim with HRH on July 15th (2,000m) – but that’s more of a fun bonding thing than it is any significant challenge.

Steve, however, is going to continue with the distance with – hopefully – designs on competing in a few open water events around Ontario meaning, of course, that we can both continue to motivate and train together in the open water come next month.

Well, that and getting rid of the pull buoy.

(Sorry Steve, couldn’t resist)

Anyway, seeing as how the Frank & Friends swim has now been reassigned to November we might even be doing this same swim again sooner than anticipated so there’s always that motivation to keep going as well.

I did it.  I have finally completed my “28 Day Challenge” (click HERE).  As I’ve previously stated, I’m usually very skeptical of these kinds of challenges but I needed a goal to focus on and be proud about in lieu of my steaming pile of fart pebbles that has become my current run program.  I decided then that I would pick one specific “limiter” in my current Ironman training regimen that I know I don’t do enough of and that I should do more of.  And that specific limiter was “core”.

To revisit, my goals were:

  1. Improved core strength
  2. A start at losing some weight

At the half-way point the results were definitely favorable, I was down 3lbs and able to do more push-ups in 3 minutes than I ever thought possible.  I was also able to hold a 3 minute plank (with perfect form), which had you asked me to do before this challenge I would have looked at you like you as if you had just asked me to circumcise myself with an airline spork.

Not happening.

But as it turns out, I can.

And did…many times.

In fact, not only are the 3 minute planks somewhat easy now but I also capped out in my last week at 186 push-ups in a 3 minute period.

Yes, 186 push-ups.

Look at the last weeks results:

pushups

Never in my wildest dreams!

But push-ups and planks weren’t the only specific tortures on the daily menu, there were also squats, crunches, Russian Twist’s, and those stupid looking donkey kick things, all aimed at giving me swim, cycle and run specific strength while also minimizing my risk of injury in the coming months of training.

So the million dollar question then is, did it work?

Well, in 28 days I am now down 5lbs, so that’s goal #1 successfully accomplished.  Having said that, I am also putting in 12-14 hours a week of training between the three disciplines, including two sessions with the heavy iron and at least one yoga class so is that weight loss resulting from the daily core workouts specifically?

Well, that’s up in the air really, but they certainly helped.

The real proof in the pudding regarding this challenges’ success would be the improved core strength.  And here I have to say that, yes, there is a significant improvement.

Absolutely, without a doubt!

Not only are my swim workouts going well with my ability to hold pace over designed intervals but I am also managing 12-15 kilometers per week, but I am managing 4-5 hours weekly in the pool without feeling overly fatigued in my shoulders; no doubt a result of all those planks and push-ups.

Of course, I wills say that doing push-ups after swimming certainly sucks.

Likewise, my cycling strength has also improved with my ability to sustain a higher wattage on the bike during my Thursday night 90 minute tempo spins.  They’re not “easy” per se, but I can definitely get it done holding an average of 160-170 watts over 70-80 minutes.  Prior to this 28 Day Challenge by comparison, well, let’s just say that it’s a significant improvement.

To answer the question then “am I stronger?”

It’s a very emphatic yes!

Plus, after all those squats (56 minutes worth in the last 28 days if you want to be precise) you can practically crack walnuts on my ass.  In fact, I’m more or less walking down the street now like this:

Yeah, exactly like that.

So where do I go from here?  Am I going to continue on with the challenge or what?

Abso-fucking-lutely!

In fact, I’m now making this 28 Day Challenge, the “100 Day Challenge”.

However, I am going to tweak the program a little as well as revisit my goals.  The goals of building overall core strength and losing weight aren’t changing but to those I am now adding the following:

  1. Be able to hold a 5 minute plank.
  2. Perform 60 push-ups in 60 seconds.

I think both of those goals are reasonable.

I am also making a significant change on how I am approaching the allotted time intervals for my specific core exercises in that I am going to stop looking at accumulative time but instead, focus on number of reps within that time frame.  In other words, before I was stopping the clock if and when I needed a break and resuming it once I started again.  This means that I could take a dozen 10 second breaks during, say, my 3 minutes of push-ups as long as the entire 3 minutes on the clock was spent doing push-ups.  Maybe I understood this wrong in the initial instructions of the challenge but I now think that this was a mistake.  Instead, I’m now going to keep the clock running consecutively and see how many reps I can accomplish in that time frame.  This is going to force me then to reconsider a) how many breaks I take, and b) how long I spend recovering before getting back at it.

Consider it a new twist to the whole challenge just to keep it, shall we say, interesting.

Also, I am adjusting the actual exercises to keep it fresh.  I am continuing on with the planks, push-ups, crunches and Russian Twists, but in lieu of those dumbass donkey kick things, I am adding some exercises recommended to me eons ago by Dr. Kristen Burr at Legacy Health and Performance that have since fallen by the wayside, namely bridges (quads/butt), and one-legged stands on a balance disc (calf and foot).  I’m still working all the same muscle groups, just using different exercises to target them.

And one last thing, I am giving myself permission to take at least one day off a week.  After all, if a day is aimed at being a “recovery day”, then it should be a 100% recovery day and not a semi-recovery day in that I must maintain a commitment to something else.

It’s a challenge after all, not a job.

So, here is my next months’ worth of routine heading towards the new goals:

Week 1:

  • 2.5 minutes plank
  • 1 minute push-ups
  • 1 minute lunges (each side)
  • 1 minute one-legged stand on balance disc (each side)
  • 1 minute bridges (w/ medicine ball)
  • 1 minute abs
  • 1 minute waist (Russian Twists)
  • 2.5 minutes plank

Week 2:

  • 3.5 minutes plank
  • 2 minutes squats
  • 3 minutes abs
  • 2 minutes bird dogs
  • 2 minutes waist (Russian Twists)
  • 2 minutes lunges (each side)
  • 2 minutes push-ups
  • 1 minutes V-sit (“Boat pose”)

Week 3 (same as Week 1), Week 4 (same as Week 2).

It all started last Friday, promptly at 3:01pm when I opened my email and saw a message from the Event Director of the Subaru EPiC Dartmouth Triathlon casually stating (as if nothing odd was transpiring):

You are receiving this email because you were registered for the 2016 Subaru EPIC Dartmouth Triathlon, and deferred your entry to the 2017 event.

I am going to attempt to transfer the amount you paid back into your hands electronically, but want to confirm that these are all still good addresses.

So send me a reply, so I will know this address works, and can send your refund.

My heart sunk.

This was me:

patrick-stewart-says-hed-reprise-his-role-of-captain-jean-luc-picard

Oh shit, here we go again.

If you recall, my planned Ironman was canceled last year due to road closures (click HERE).  I chose to take this as a sign, deferred my entry to the next year, and opted to focus on other goals, namely assisting with the SunRype Tri-Kids group for the summer.  And I’m glad I did as it’s ultimately a very rewarded experience, one that took my family out west to the Okanagan Valley, Calgary and then all over Ontario making kids triathlon dreams come true.  I (we) will be doing it again this summer as well.

However, it was the first year I didn’t compete in a single triathlon all summer and I realized that while the recovery was likely well needed and much enjoyed, I missed the thrill of completion and looked forward to getting back to business in 2017.  So, come October of last year it was back to the task at hand of kicking ass and taking names.

The EPiC Triathlon Challenge Facebook page was making semi-regular updates on the improved road conditions which only further whetted my appetite to race.  Once again, I was developing high hopes that this race would truly be an epic experience.

Until I received that recent email, that is.  Needless to say, it was not a welcome intrusion on the day.

As it turns out, the EPiC Triathlon Challenge had been cancelled uh-gain!

FML.

Here’s the official announcement/rationalization as provided by the Event Director:

Dear 2017 EPIC Triathlon Registrant,

When we lost our cycle route, and had to postpone the Subaru EPIC Dartmouth Triathlon in the Spring of 2016, we were on track for our best year ever (in terms of numbers of competitors).  At that time we didn’t know how being forced to take a year off would affect registration for the 2017 race:  Would we have even more registrants for 2017 from pent up demand, or would we have less from loss of momentum?

EPIC 2016 continued without the long distance triathlon, and the overall EPIC event had it’s best year ever!  We set record numbers in the EPIC Canadian Runs (becoming the 3rd largest Canada Day run in the country, plus adding a new Half and Quarter marathon).  We set record numbers in the EPIC Kids triathlon, record numbers in the EPIC Swim, and started a new adult Try-A-Tri.  Even without the long distance triathlon, we had the largest total number of participants ever – to the pleasure of the City and our Sponsors.

Immediately following the 2016 event, we opened registration for 2017 EPIC Kids for just one week…  57 kids signed up in the first 48 hours – all for a race 350 days away!

On the run side, excitement for 2017 and Canada 150 means registration for the EPIC Canadian runs will again be strong this year (now 5 race distances over three days, with the EPIC Double, the EPIC Triple and the new 3-day, 4-event, EPIC Marathon – 42.2k over three days).

Unfortunately, that same enthusiasm just has not materialized for the 2017 long distance events.  We had more kids register for our 2017 kids event in that first 48 hours registration was open, than new registrants for our 2017 long distance triathlon in the first six months between July and December.  Therefore, we have made the not-easy decision to focus 2017 on these growing events, and wrap up the long distance triathlon portion of the EPIC Weekend.

We know this news will be disappointing to those of you who did commit to the 2017 race.  Our entire team shares in that disappointment.

We know that the quality of the event has been there – from medals and swag, to meals, to medical services, to photo and video, to support on course.  We also know the experiences of the participants, lives changed, goals reached, and a huge amount raised by our participants for charity (over $135,000).

Yet, we never hit critical mass with this event – meaning registration fees never covered the cost of producing the event.  Each year we’ve found ways to continue, and to gather funds to subsidize the athletes – hoping that numbers would grow to the point where it could be self supporting.  Ironically, the events that are experiencing great growth, and that will continue for 2017 and beyond? Are those events that were initially started to share costs with, and subsidize, the long-distance triathlon.

Perhaps the EPIC Triathlon will be re-imagined in a different format in a few years time, or perhaps we will just have the memories.  In either case, it’s been fun, and a LOT of great times.  Those of you receiving this email were part of making EPIC happen, and if there were simply more like you eager to join us, the event would have continued for many, many years.

We have shut off registration, and are calculating refunds.  It’s a bit of a process, and some shuffling back and forth between us and Events.com (the registration host), but the goal is to have all refunds processed and back in to your hands by the end of January.

We hope that you will still join us for one of the other EPIC events this Canada Day Weekend 2017.  Canada150 is the biggest Canada Day that most of us will ever experience, and we’d still love to have you join us on the shores of Lake Banook for Canada Day Weekend 2017.

Now go do something EPIC!

What was my EPIC reaction?

I cried…epically, of course.

It felt like the triathlon gods had forsaken me and maybe this whole Ironman thing just wasn’t meant to be.  I was now faced with the same problem as the previous year, I had planned out our entire summer around this event meaning I had made other commitments, namely the SunRype Tri-Kids, and I hate  breaking promises.

This well and truly sucked.

EPiCally, even.

So while I had my own epic pity party, Kelly went on line and started looking for other opportunities.  However, most of the events she found either had closed their registration (ie. filled up) or were situated on a weekend that I already had a SunRype event planned.  Also, I am loathe to do my peak long distance training in the absolute worst (ie. hottest) point of the summer.  Fuck, no!  And seeing as how I’d already been down this path before last year, I started to give in that my 2017 Ironman simply wasn’t going to happen…maybe never.

I’m going to pause the story here for a moment to tell you that having the carpet yanked out from underneath you after you’ve already put in several months of training (not to mention the money into a proper training schedule provided by a coach) really, really sucks.

But having it happen twice?

tony-fuggedaboutit

FML x 2.

Then I found an event put on the HITS Triathlon Series (click HERE), located in the Hudson Valley of New York state (only a 6 hour drive away) on July 8th, only one week after the anticipated EPiC Challenge was to be held on July 2nd.  The website didn’t look very detailed or enticing but, hey, an Iron distance event is an Iron distance event right?  The challenge is still there.

So I did a little digging and read this on the event website:

The Hudson Valley is a top 20 destination in the world. A top destination deserves a top race! Introducing HITS Hudson Valley, NY July 9 at Williams Lake.

Less than 90 minutes from NYC lies the perfect setting for a perfect race. You’ll swim is in the pristine spring-fed Williams Lake, bike to the majestic Ashokan Reservoir and run on the historic Wallkill Valley Rail Trail.

That doesn’t sound too bad, right?

I also Googled the area and it does look pretty scenic.  So, yeah, maybe this wasn’t such a bad option after all.

And looking at the results from previous years, I also had a real chance of “competing” and placing well.  Sure there aren’t two thousand participants to compete against but, really, when can I ever possibly say that I had a real chance to podium in an Iron distance event?  Likely never, that’s when.  And I know that this is kind of an “ego-licious” thing to think, but I’d really like to be able to say that just once.

The other bonus to this event is that it wouldn’t also mean that I’d have to cancel any of my planned summer SunRype commitments.

And that  is truly EPiC.

So after receiving my prompt refund from the canceled Subaru event (kudo’s to them for being so professional) I signed up, and now it’s “So long Dartmouth, and hello Hudson Valley!”

It’s back on for 2017.

I will have another exciting announcement to make shortly in relation to this upcoming season, but for the time being it seems that my future Ironman status has been rejuvenated once again for the summer.

Time to get back at ‘er.

Today marks the halfway point in my 28 Day Challenge I assumed at the beginning of the year (click HERE).  I figured then that this deserves a little update on how things are progressing thus far.  Don’t worry though, I’m not going to slip in any more gratuitous fat pictures.

Well, not in this post anyway.

To review, my goals with this challenge were twofold:

  1. Improved core strength
  2. A start at losing some weight

So let’s begin with the first week, shall we?

The first seven days of the program (click HERE) called for a 2 minute plank to kick start off the whole routine.  Initially I didn’t think this was going to be too difficult as I do planks fairly regularly already.  However, what I learned – and very quickly I might add – is that what I think constitutes itself as a second is actually much faster (much, much faster) than it actually is when being ticked down digitally on the tablet I had in front of me to keep proper time.   I thought I could hold a plank for at least a whole minute, but in “Terry time”, that’s actually 43 seconds.   I did hang on for a full 60 seconds, but my shoulders more or less collapsed in on themselves at that point and I had to take a 15-20 second break before resuming the 2nd minute.

Yes, I stopped and restarted the clock while doing so.

In fact, it wasn’t until the 4th day that I was actually able to hold a plank for the full 2 minutes and, even then, just barely.

Core strength = improving.

Next, the routine called for 1 minute worth of push-ups.  Again, I wasn’t fretting too much as I do these now too.  In fact, I can snap off about 20 or so push-ups at a go until I’m fatigued enough that I have to take a break.  Thing is, that’s only 30 seconds…I still had another 30 seconds to go.  So, basically, my first 20 military precision push-ups were soon reduced to a slow, pained Sisyphean effort.  And, yeah, I had to take a 15 second break in the middle too.

My ego was definitely taking a beating.

However, the good news with the push-ups is that every day I made progress with the number I could knock off in that 60 minute time period.

Take a look at the first week’s push-up tally:

week-1

I’m pretty happy with that.  While I still needed to take a 15 seconds break in the middle I’m still pleased that I improved my overall push-up count by nearly 20 reps in just a single week.

Booyah!

The other routines called for 1 minute each of abs (using Kelly’s Swiss Ball in a fashion I’ve seen other triathletes use before – click HERE), birddogs, squats, Russian Twists, and whatever the heck it is you call this crazy maneuver:

absbutt

None of these posed too much problem, nor was I attempting to improve in number or duration so much as I was just trying to focus on doing it right.

And for the record, I took more than 15 seconds of break between each minute interval of exercise.  I needed it, believe me, and I doubt most people starting from scratch will be able to continue on with only this short period of rest.  I don’t think this has much to do with the overall routine so I’m not too bothered.  It’s not like I left, went and had a coffee and came back 45 minutes later but, yeah, 15 seconds was too short a break to be able to continue.

The only real sucky thing was that the routine also called to end the session with another 2 minute plank.

FML.

After the first 2 minute plank and the series of push-ups, and crazy abs/butt thing, my shoulders were pretty well toast, meaning that this full second 2 minute plank was only ever successfully accomplished on the very last day of Week 1 making me able to successfully hold 2 x 2 minute planks.

Success nonetheless.

Enter Week 2:

The second week was separated into 2 sets, the first set beginning with a 3 minute plank (FFS).  Now I can’t accurately relate what kind of fucked up contortions my mind acrobatics instantly started to conjure up in the ‘ol brain circus going on in my head at the point when I read three minutes.  How the fuck?  At the very least, I figured I could manage the first 2 minutes and then maybe a little more before needing a rest to complete the rest and, that’s true – I did – once and once only.  That’s right, folks!  On only Day 2 of the second week I banged out my first 3 minute plank, like…ever.   And a true three minutes at that!  So I guess suffering through those 2nd 2 minute planks in the first week were really working and I was now really beginning to see the real core improvement I was hoping for.

The other shitty thing was that all the minute intervals were now three minute intervals, not just the plank.  That means my 60 seconds of push-ups were now 180 seconds worth of push-ups and my 60 seconds of abs were now 180 seconds of crunches, et cetera and so forth.

God help me.

Anyway, after the first minute of push-ups, I was more or less reduced to wheezing like a dolphin with an itchy blowhole.  And I certainly needed more than a single 15 seconds break in the middle.  In fact, by the two minute point I was more or less doing 10 push-ups, taking a 10 second break, doing 10 push-ups, taking a 10 second break, repeat, until the end of the whole 3 minutes and trying not to pass out.  Not exactly ideal but again, what really matters is that the full three minutes were spent doing push-ups (give or take a second to get back in position after restarting the digital stopwatch on the tablet) as I was diligent to stop/start the time accurately.

Even still, again the results were impressive:

week-2

That’s 100 to 157  push-ups in seven days constituting over a 50% improvement in strength.  AND, towards the end of the second week I didn’t need as many breaks either.  Don’t get me wrong, I hadn’t suddenly turned into Charles Atlas or anything – I still needed them – but not as many of them.

WINNING!

The other three minute intervals of squats, crunches, Russian Twists and nutso donkey kick things were nothing special to write home about other than trying to support myself in the downward dog pose while doing my abs/butt kicks was challenging after popping off almost 160 push-ups, let me tell you!

I couldn’t feel myself getting stronger though.

Now, as for the overall verdict:  after two weeks (so far) my core and physical upper body strength have certainly improved.  On the bathroom scale (broken as it may be), I have lost 3lbs.  Now whether this is in direct relation to this particular workout or the fact that I haven’t been putting away the late night bags of Ring-Ding’s the way I used to is certainly debatable, but I will still take this as another success regardless.

Shit, this whole thing is just crazy enough that it might just work after all.  In fact, the web page where I found this challenge says this:

If you do everything correctly, you will achieve amazing results in just a month and, as a bonus, develop a habit of doing this simple ten-minute set of exercises every day. And if you want to improve your body even more, then doubling the effort is all you need to do!

Now I don’t know about the whole “doubling the effort” part, that shit is just KAR-azy  talk, but I can definitely see myself continuing with this routine or something similar afterwards as I no longer really dread, nor have to talk myself into doing it.

The only real challenge (and a small one at that) is just holding myself accountable every day to actually making the time for it and doing it.  But, hey, I’m already half way there and so far, so good.  There’s really no reason to make this a part of my everyday routine.

But better not get ahead of myself, I still have two more weeks to go and that’s an entirely different blog post.