Posts Tagged ‘Reflections’

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:

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This was a close second:

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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 …

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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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On-the-Job Training

Posted: April 2, 2018 in Lifestyle, Training
Tags:

Well, I’m now “officially” entering into my third season of full-on Ironman training.

Sure, there have been some obvious obstacles along the way that have prevented me from, well, racing…but I am confident that I have much of this training thing down pat by now.

How do I know?

Well, I guess I don’t seeing as how I’ve never really tested it in battle, per se, but, regardless, if my overall fitness one week out from last years’ event was anything to go by I was absolutely 100% ready… you know, before all this bullshit happened (click HERE).  I was strong, I was confident and I was raring to go.  I was swimming, cycling and running at a level I hadn’t managed since Ironman Wales and, in many ways – better.  I perfected my nutrition strategy (click HERE) and even had a few amazing local sponsors (click HERE) to help and encourage me along the way.  And most importantly, I had the best support system possible (click HERE).

All my ducks were in a perfect row so to speak.

Now, that’s not say that there weren’t some bumps along the way – in fact, there were many – but that’s just part of the process.  Sometimes you have to fall flat on your face (quite literally I’m afraid) in order to learn those oh, so valuable lessons.

And believe me; I learned a lot of lessons over the past two years.

They say everything happens for a reason (or so I keep telling myself) so maybe these past two years were just to be my overall “Iron-schooling” if you will, so that when I actually do – *knock on wood* – get to pull the trigger, it will be exactly the experience I am looking forward to and expect from myself because I will have done all the right hard work that I’ve learned as a result from all those mistakes, and I will perfected a successful training plan that works for ME.

Of course, as you might expect, this year has already presented me with another major obstacle to factor in – new employment.

For the past six years I have been fortunate enough to work in my jammies from my basement office, affording me the opportunity to train more or less at my own convenience.  I swam or cycled in the late morning or evening, ran in the afternoons between conference calls and kept up a dedicated strength conditioning program throughout.

Essentially, I could work my job around my training and everyone was happy.

Unfortunately, this is no longer the same case this year.

Now I have a regular eight hour work day, Monday through Friday, which requires me to be gone from home.  Also, it’s a physical job…very physical.  Especially considering that the most physical thing I did before was dial the phone, or get up and walk over to the printer across the room to pick up my daily report.

No, now I actually have to work and train. 

This has now forced me to once again re-evaluate my training program in order to successfully accomplish both without over doing it and thereby putting too much stress on my mind and body because, let’s face it, I’m not getting any younger.

Just another problem to be tackled and lesson to be learned I suppose.

Anyway, instead of spending my days conducting virtual classrooms and pumping out those stupid endless (not to mention meaningless) reports in my pajama pants, I am now officially working in the Pest Control business.

I know, talk about your 180° turn right?

After all, who thinks of bugs and rats and goes, “OH BOY!”

No one!

That’s who.

Then again, the same thing could be said about the environment I was working in before so, yeah, I figured “why the fuck not?” when this opportunity produced itself and the truth of the matter is – I love it.

As it turns out, I really enjoy the “unknown factor” in my day each and every time I turn up at a new location/job and that excites me.  There is nothing “routine” about Pest Management.  Behind every door is the unknown; be it the issue, the environment, or the people and this genuinely appeals to my overall sense of curiosity and adventure (click HERE for a small taste of what I’m talking about).

The challenge now that I’ve been tasked with figuring out these past three months is how to turn this new situation to my advantage.  You see, the downside now is that I’m not able to go for my mid-dayn runs anymore on my lunchtime, nor can I structure morning conference call a bit late so I can hit up the pool.

In other words, “time management” has become my #1 priority; particularly if I ever want to see my family again.

So here is what I’ve learned while being (and training) on the job for the past few months.

1. Early mornings are a definite. Get used to it.

Yup, there’s just no getting around it.  Monday through Friday means a ridiculously early wake-up.  My alarm will typically go off anytime between 4:15 and 5:00am on a normal work day.  Afterwards, I will either a) go for swim before starting work, or b) complete a 20-25 minute core/yoga routine with Toby the Cat (affectionately called my “Core Project“).

Shit, sometimes I even attend a ladies “Booty Camp” on Friday’s.

Either way, I’m up and at ‘em.

The benefit to this (besides the obvious) is that once I’m up, I will have completed something that day and even if everything else that day gets totally FUBAR-ed, I still will have managed to complete at least one thing constructive and aimed at my overall goal of rebuilding my Iron-fitness.

On the weekends, however, I sleep in to 8:00am…and it’s glorious.

2. My work day IS a strength workout.

Between October and November while I was unemployed, I was completing at least 2-3 weights specific strength building workouts at the gym and these have definitely served me well.  However, now there’s just not enough time in the day to complete these on top of the necessary swim, bike and run workouts; something had to give.

Fortunately, my day is one long strength-building workout (double if you factor in my morning core workouts) in that I’m flipping mattresses and box springs, pulling out stoves and fridges and otherwise moving heavy obstacles and furniture out of the way in order to get at my enemy.  While doing this, I am conscientious to maintain the same good form and engage the right muscle groups that I would have had I been working with the free weights at the gym.

Also, I have to be able to get down and under things regularly.  In fact, on one particular work day I successfully accomplished exactly 367 lunges (yes, I counted) – that’s getting down on one knee (or squatting) and then getting back up again.

Umm, hello?

When was the last time you managed 367 lunges/squats in a single day?

I do this almost daily, and already I am noticing some significantly improved bike/run strength in these first early weeks of dedicated Ironman training; bearing in mind that I ceased with the free weights three months ago.

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Winning!

3. No fast food.  Ever.

I am noticing that a lot of my peers in the industry eat complete shit throughout the day, or just not at all.  Myself?  The last thing I do before I go to bed at the ripe hour of 8:00-8:30pm each night is make up a healthy lunch and a bunch of small containers of healthy snacks that I can graze on in the truck throughout the day.  This is particularly important seeing as how the chances are high that I will have another challenging workout to complete after work once I get home.

As I figure it, this is also helping to determine proper fueling strategies that I can then utilize in the days leading up to all my events, and even during.

In the past three months, I have managed to get away with buying a medium coffee in the mornings after a swim, and one single breakfast sandwich (which I instantly regretted) only because I forgot my post-workout snack at home.

4. Afternoon/evening workouts are actually better!

Well, better in the sense that I don’t necessarily have to warm up a lot before I begin my main sets.  When I was running/cycling in the afternoons while working from home, because I was more or less 100% sedentary throughout the working hours, my body needed at least 15-20 minutes of steady warming up before I felt like I could tackle any difficult intervals and the like.

Now, essentially, my entire day is one big warm up so that when I head back out the door when I get home, I’m more or less ready to go – instantly.

The other immediate benefit is that I can also cut down on the overall length of the workout itself seeing as how I don’t have to spend that initial time warming up.  I can just get straight to the main core of the workout fairly quickly (which, really, is the important part), get ‘er done and then get home again.  And that also means less overall wear and tear and stress being placed on the body.

Sure my weekly mileage may be a bit short compared to where I was at this time in previous years, but I’m not performing any worse either; the quality is still all there.

5. Additional mental toughness conditioning.

I’ve already mentioned numerous times how important I think developing “mental toughness” is in triathlon, especially at the Ironman level.  Well, try working a very physical eight hour work day and then going out for a run or bike.  Sure I just mentioned that those post-work day workouts have been trending well recently, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I was looking forward to them.

No, that takes a bit of added discipline.

More so if the weather is shitty.

When I worked from home, I literally couldn’t wait to get outside and counted down the hours and minutes before I could.  Now, depending on how hard I’ve worked that day I will have to mentally prepare myself and sometimes practically force myself out.

And when I do, I feel almost invincible.

So, yeah, so far so good on both the work and training fronts!

And while these lessons are valuable and I feel like I’m getting a handle on this Ironman training business once again, I know that in two weeks when things take another turn towards the LONG, there will inevitably be more things to figure out and strategize around.

Thing is, where I didn’t exactly know how this whole new direction was going to play out when I first accepted this job, so far, it’s been manageable and I’m once again beginning to believe that this whole Ironman madness is once again possible…

Providing I can actually stay on my bike that is.

2017: What I Learned

Posted: November 4, 2017 in In Transition
Tags: , ,

My competitive season is all over.  Actually, in truth, it was over a long time ago but it hasn’t been until now that I’ve sat down to reflect on it all.  What I do know for certain is that there were certainly a lot of big successes, as well as a lot of even bigger failures and now is probably the time I should try to make some sense of it all regarding what I learned before I try to get back into any disciplined and structured training program.

This is no easy task I assure you, considering that I started the year injured (click HERE) and, of course, there was the whole ultimate bullshit enchilada that went down this past June (click HERE).  But having said that, there were definitely successes in these setbacks and I feel it’s important to know what they are so a) hopefully, I don’t repeat them again, or b) if they do happen, I will know how to deal with the situation.  This information is essential as far as I’m concerned if I’m going to continue growing as an athlete and, really, as a person.

First off, let’s just get it out there.  I haven’t competed in a triathlon – of any distance – in two years.  Now, this doesn’t mean that I have in any way not done anything.  In fact, I have trained very hard at being Ironman ready for two years, but I just haven’t been successful at actually being able to test this fitness on the field of battle, per se.  That’s right, for two years I have trained up to 20 hours a week and endured all the pavement pounding, the wear and tear, the mental and physical fatigue and what have you, for TWO-FUCKING-YEARS.

You could say that in the past two years I have become somewhat of an authority on how to train for an Ironman without actually having to race one.

Not that I’m bragging, mind you.

Sure, one year the event was cancelled last minute (click HERE) and the next, well, I ended up running my body over an industrial cheese grater seven days from the big event but, still, it’s frustrating.  But I’m choosing here to look at the positives and use it to fuel me into the 2018 season.

So what did I learn?

  1. Less is more

Especially in 2017, I trained actually less hours than I have previously and ended up in probably the best shape I have been in since Ironman Wales.  Sure, I still had some long days but those didn’t really come until just over a month out from my “Go date” (July 8th).  Of course, I had a lot of help thanks to an amazing coach and a great support team but previously, I would be running and spinning ridiculous mileage by the time the New Year rolled over and would maintain that right up until my taper.  I was more often than not exhausted, fatigued, grumpy, and not loving the process.

This was though was the year that I forgot about distance and time and, instead, focused on quality and form.  In other words, I trained smarter.  Each session had a point, a focus and a goal and none of those were time or distance related.  Over the winter months, I was only cycling one hour sessions twice a week and then riding my mountain bike on the weekend to and from the pool.  I ran only three times a week and the same with swimming.

During this indoor period, I focused on anaerobic and strength conditioning on all my swim, bike and run workouts, as well as improving my overall mental toughness; things that would serve me well come April when I began to transition outside and into my longer, suckier training sessions.  Instead of saying I swam for two hours, or ran 25 kilometers, I would say that I swam, biked or ran until I had achieved my intended goal for that workout – whatever that was at the time.

That’s a huge paradigm shift in thinking for someone who was used to measuring their success in kilometers or hours.  However, success is not measured in time or distance, it is measured in your ability to achieve the focus or goal of the workout.

Therefore, he (or she) who accomplishes the goal most often on a regular basis- wins.

  1. Core

This is likely the smartest thing I did all year.  In lieu of being sidelined from my running in January, I embarked on a 28 Day Challenge, which ended being stretched out to 100 days.  In doing so, I immediately noticed that I was swimming, biking and running (once I started) significantly better because my overall core strength had improved drastically.

Essentially, any forward momentum starts and ends in the core and the stronger my core, the longer it could hold its form while going forward be it swimming, biking or running, meaning the longer I continue with unnecessary wasted effort.  This means longer hours, longer distances, with less wear and tear.

How awesome is that?

This realization is pretty much the foundation that I preach to anyone and everyone who will listen these days.

Basically, do your core workout EVERY day – without fail.

  1. Learn the difference between “Fitness” and “Training”

Yes, there is a difference.

A big one.

Largely this discrepancy occurs now thanks to Garmin and other workout tracking applications that ask you to classify your activity under one of these two banners, or something entirely difference.  Usually, the weekly workouts I do will fall under one of these two main categories.  Previously, I would classify everything I did as “training” since it was part of my weekly plan, and I believe that most triathletes make this same assumption.  However, I have now come to recognize that the two are not the same thing, like, at all; apples and oranges actually.

There are things you do for the purpose of being fun, active and being involved in a healthy lifestyle (fitness) and then there are things you do to best simulate the conditions you can expect come race day (training).  While the two are definitely symbiotic of one another, not being able to distinguish the difference between the two can be completely counter-productive to your training program.  In fact, I will go so far as to say that my inability to know the difference between the two is what led me to my first injury this past January.

First, however, let’s discuss the difference.

“Fitness” workouts are the things you do to maintain your physical and aerobic abilities, as well as burn some calories.  Things such as yoga, core, anything regarded as “recovery” or “easy”, and maybe weights.  The aim and focus here is to take things easy, and just enjoy the process and not psyche yourself out that you didn’t go hard enough or long enough and therefore the workout didn’t accomplish anything, or it was a failure all together.

Total bullshit.

“Training” workouts simulate race day conditions, be it anaerobic capacity, muscular endurance, etc.  They are definitely not the workouts you look forward to but definitely they make you better at coping with the physical and mental stresses you can expect to endure on race day.

Here’s an example:  my typical Saturday workout will see me riding out to the local Port Colbourne pool 20 kilometers away – fitness.  When I get there, I will complete a structured long swim of 3000-5000mtraining.  Afterwards, I ride home again – fitness.

So why is this difference important?

Well, the main goal of the day is to complete my long swim that simulates race day conditions.  The rides out and back (be it on my classic steel or mountain bike) are simply for fun and all at an “easy-does-it” pace.  Consider it my warm-up and warn-down if you will.  Having said all that, anyone who has ever ridden 20 kilometers in -20° weather through snow will immediately know that this it is not necessarily “easy-does-it”.  So, yes, there is something beneficial to be gained like bonus strength conditioning in the legs and an immediate development of one’s mental toughness of riding in less than ideal conditions.  But it was not the immediate focus of the day; it was an accompaniment.  Not everything needs to be balls-to-the-wall.  In this case, it was just a bonus to be out and moving the legs, but it was not necessarily “training”.

Adopting the mindset that everything is “training”, inevitably leads one to think that everything has to be hard, long and/or difficult and that will also inevitably lead one to needlessly over-taxing the body and one’s stress (Cortisol) levels, and injury will inevitably be the result.  Take my word for it.  So learn to accept that some things are for fitness only and don’t necessarily have to be performed at 100%.  For anything less that race day simulation, just enjoy the experience, give yourself some credit for simply doing it, and give your body and brain a break.

In actuality, all my bike riding since mid-August when I finally returned to riding have been done on my steel bike at an easy pace – and I love it.  LOVE.  IT.

  1. The Double Run

This was a new tactic I employed this year.  When my coach first introduced this into my training program come May I think I had an immediate heart attack.

You mean, you want me to run twice…in a single day?

Excuse me?

Surely you jest.

But she wasn’t kidding.

The goal here was to a) train the legs to perform fatigued, and b) get in some added mileage on the day while minimizing your chances of getting injured.

The premise goes like this:  head out early in the day for a long run; long being the length of time you can hold your ideal race pace.  Once your body begins to shut down and your pace goes to shit, call the workout off.  On some days this will be either longer or shorter than the previous week but distance isn’t necessarily the focus here.  Later in the day, once you have recovered head out a second time and do a second, shorter run, again at pace and again until your form collapses.  This process begins to build muscle memory (and the necessary strength conditioning) on how to hold your form while fatigued and, eventually, those second runs begin to feel better than the initial long run in the morning.

Word.

In a few short weeks, I went from running 15-20 kilometers in the morning with another 2-3 kilometers in the evening, to running 25 kilometers in the morning and another 10 kilometers later on for a larger daily mileage and – here’s the thing – the second run even felt good.

Imagine that!

Was it fun in the beginning?  Fuck no.  But after the initial shock of the first 2-3 weeks wore off, those double runs begin to feel – dare I say it – awesome.  And that translated to immediate confidence that I could manage the entire marathon at the end of the day without having to needlessly suffer.

  1. Mental toughness – it’ a thing

I’ve preached about mental toughness before (click HERE) so if you’re still not doing it, well, that’s your loss.  You need to train your brain to cope with the stress the same way you train your body.

All those motivational videos you see on YouTube will likely not be of any use out on the road, or during your event.  Instead, you should have a mental strategy of what provides you mental strength in the moment that you have already tested in battle (ie. your daily workouts) that you can then draw on when the shit begins to hit the fan.

The last thing you want going through your head at the end of the day is how much something sucks. There is nothing productive in that.

  1. Get in the pool.

Now.  Go do it.

You can pound out another long run (if that’s your thing) or spin for four hours (because it’s warm and convenient) and deal with the wear and tear afterwards, or you can wake up early, drag your butt in the pool to develop your form and technique (because it’s  hard), and reap the low-impact cardio and strength benefits by learning how to get out of the water feeling good, strong and confident.

Remember, if you don’t get out of the water – you never get to the bike, the run or the rest of the race.

Period.

  1. Shit happens.

More than anything, this was my single most learning opportunity this year.

I fractured my hand seven days from my Ironman.  I was in the best shape of my life and in the blink of an eye, it was over.  My realization now though now that the frustration and disappointment was worn off is that I had a great plan, a great coach and, ultimately, a recipe that works.

To quote from a cheesy Rocky film, “life will beat you down and keep you there.  It’s about taking the punch and keep moving forward”, and that’s what I’m trying doing baby.

I will rise again.  I will tackle this Ironman again sooner than later.  I will persevere.

God willing, of course.

“Fabia’s Big Ride” 2017

Posted: October 7, 2017 in Bike
Tags: ,

It’s become something of a tradition between HRH  and I to plan a few Adventures together over the course of the summer and this year we were fortunate enough to have four such adventures: participating in the Across the Lake Swim in Kelowna, British Columbia, snorkeling out to see the Sherkston Shipwrecks in Lake Erie (click HERE), HRH‘s first 50k Big Move Ride (click HERE) and this, our 2nd annual Daddy-Daughter Ride (click HERE for last years ride).

The original plan was to cycle from our home here in Ridgeway out to Dunnville (70k) for lunch but seeing as how we haven’t been out cycling together as much as we did last year what with my not being able to ride most of the summer n’ all, we decided to forgo the distance and settle for something fun and scenic instead.

I first discovered the Lakeshore Rd. route back in June while exploring the greater Dunnville area on my long Ironman rides and then again with a fun little ride with the wife last month.  I was sold on the relaxed route through the remote Haldimand County cottage country which skirts along the shores of Lake Erie: scenic, smooth paved road, and zero traffic to contend with.

Perfect for relaxed afternoon of cycling with the kiddo.

All aboard!

We departed from Selkirk Provincial Park around 1:00pm after the rain showers had passed over for the day.

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From there it was a straight shot along Lakeshore Rd. straight back to Dunnville.

Easy peasy.

With little to zero traffic to contend with, we more or less had the entire road to ourselves meaning that we could take out time and ride together, enjoying the autumn color, the interesting cottages, old barns and vasts spans of farmland, the infinite number of crazy ass squirrels, more statuettes and garden gnomes than you could shake a stick at and, oh yes, mermaids.

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Thought I was kidding, did you?

There was lots of other cool things to see as well.

Eventually we stopped at about the half way point for a quick lunch of Subway and gummy worms on a cute little pagoda overlooking the lake.

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Over the course of the next 20k, we more or less just enjoyed each others company, the scenery, a stupid amount of windmills, and the fact that there was zero wind blowing off the lake.

Oh, and we even had a little lie down with some pigs.

Here’s some other shots of the journey.

Of course, there was also the “almost there” treat as well:

Appropriate, right?

So after a little more than 2 hours worth of cycling (give or take another hour or so for stopping, picture taking and whatnot), we arrived safely in Dunnville to hook up with mommy again who had spend the afternoon Thrift store shopping.

Mission accomplished.

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Sure there was the whole snafu of arriving back to a dead battery in the car and the whole drama that ensued getting it charged in order to get home but, hey, that’s fodder for an entirely different blog post.

Now the planning begins for next years trip.

16681781_1605888902760929_1085829283789604340_nThis has not exactly been a banner year.  As far as I’m concerned, 2017 can bite me and 2018 can’t come quick enough.

The real capper came late last week with the heartbreaking news that a dear friend, a training partner, and a personal inspiration of mine passed away tragically.

Steve Apps will be sorely missed.

It was on an early Sunday morning eons ago when Coach Bill asked me to move over into the next lane with Saskia, Devin, and a guy named Steve.  I’m pretty sure they closed the pool later that morning due to a sudden “pool fouling”.

I was that nervous.

Saskia was all business and Devin just talked endlessly.  Seriously, Devin would practically swim beside you during fast intervals and yap on endlessly about the night before, String Theory, or his take on lactate threshold training in spinning, or simply whatever it was that happened to occupy his mind at that precise moment.

Steve was different.

He laughed.

A lot.

In between sets, lengths, drills, whatever.  There was always some zinger being thrown around the pool in someone’s direction (often mine).  It made the fact that I was practically drowning at the time seem like it was even fun.

That was Steve’s Modus Operandi to a tee:

“Have fun in all things you do”.

 

I barely kept up through those early days but Steve was encouraging, in between well placed ribbing and teasing.

Steve was different  than these other A-type personalities.

He was fun.

(Even if I did want to kill him sometimes for making swimming look so damn easy.)

If we were really lucky, we’d also get a chance to hear Steve single along to George Thurogood in the spin class later that same morning.  Coach Bill would have us spinning our bollocks off at a ridiculous pace when there would inevitably come from the back of the room:

“And then she was so nice,
Lord, she was lovey-dovey.”

And then there would be that contagious laugh.

When we took to the road later that Spring, I learned how to ride my bike (gears, braking, etc.) on group rides that Steve helped to organize and lead as one of the founders of the original TryForce group.  Afterwards, there was always Starbucks, laughter and lots of healthy, good natured ribbing.

Have fun in all things you do.

Steve was more or less the reason why I took my first crack at a half Ironman distance triathlon.  He went into it of course to have fun, while I was bit more methodical and demanding of myself in terms of finishing.  In short, I managed to complete the event in a not-so-stellar time but he definitely had more fun.  Truth, I more or less fell apart during and directly afterwards while Steve finished with a big smile on his face so, yeah, he had it right all along.

Have fun in all things you do.

Fast forward a few years and Steve isn’t racing much thanks to a busy work travel schedule.  Our relationship had more or less evolved into making regular recommendations through Facebook regarding local craft brews, and then again in our kitchen for our annual Christmas Open House.  It was through these idle kitchen chats that ended up with us partnering together this past April to complete the Frank & Friends 10k Swim for Strong Kids (click HERE).

Steve was looking for a challenge while I was looking for company.

A perfect match, right?

It was.

In the lead up, as always, Steve had his own unique approach to training (click HERE) but when it was all said and done, dare I say it, it was as much fun as you’d expect anything you did with Steve would inevitably be.  It was certainly the most fun I’ve ever had swimming 400 long, boring laps in a pool anyway.

Steve just had that effect.

Of course, we celebrated with a few pints and good food.

Have fun in all things you do.

Besides his laugh and tips on tasty beverages, it will be these type of reminders that Steve offered and  completely embodied that there is more to triathlon than just swimming, biking and running.

There is Life.

Triathlon is not solely Life itself, but only a means with which to better enjoy and celebrate it.  That’s a difficult concept to grasp and I know that I, as with others I suspect, have struggled with comprehending that in the beginning when we were first initiated into this crazy sport; particularly given our often rigorous personal training regimens.

It was always about the training.

Steve was a powerful reminder that Life came first, as well as all the fun things that will inevitably come along with it.  Understanding this principle of “triathlon as fun”, something with which to embrace and enjoy life, was an important epoch in my own development into a triathlete and future family man; one which I am trying hard to follow now and apply on a daily basis.

Moving on without Steve to constantly remind me to focus on the fun and thereby enjoying the process as a whole, is going to be hard.

I’m going to miss doing laps with the guy.

I’m going to miss his early morning zingers.

I will miss his addressing me as “Nasher”.

I’m going to miss his great beer recommendations.

Mostly, I’m going to miss that laugh.

R.I.P.

The Big Move 2017

Posted: September 11, 2017 in Bike, Lifestyle
Tags: , , ,

After a more than disappointing end to this competitive season, I’m just beginning to feel a little semblance to how I was back fitness-wise in June before my wee accident (click HERE).

Throughout this two month period of adjustment, knowing that this year’s ride was going to be my 9th consecutive year volunteering as the “Tail End Charlie” for the Big Move Cancer Ride 100k event, well, let’s just say that it has kept me inspired to get back in the saddle as soon as possible.  And I have.  Where I’ve definitely cycled in some tough situations before – both physical and environmental (lest we forget 2015’s challenging ride click HERE) – I feel good, this morning’s weather looks good, Daisy’s been oiled and the tires are pumped up, and ‘ol Thunder n’ Lightning are rarin’ to get under way as I’m excited to see what this year’s event has in store for me.

Let’s get this party started.

As per usual, I was up early and making a breakfast of eggs and toast and washed it all down with one too many cups of Joe.  What’s different this year is that instead of volunteering, Hailey and Kelly are riding the 50k event and seeing as how their ride doesn’t begin until later in the day, I’ll be arriving on my own and starting my ride before they even show up so no family selfie this year.

Sorry.

As per usual, by 7:30am the grounds around Club Roma is a hive of activity with everything in the process of setting something up, securing something down, moving something over there, then moving it right back again and, well, let’s  just say that there is butt ton of stuff going on.

As per usual, pedaling is my jam so I just stand around drinking coffee.

I kind of feel like the grasshopper among the ants but, hey, once that ride starts at 8:30am sharp, my work officially begins and doesn’t let up for the next six to seven hours, so this relax time with a warm beverage helps to get me mentally and physically prepped as well as providing an opportunity to get myself and my bike all squared away and ready to go.  And then, of course, with just mere minutes to the start I will inevitably have to go to the bathroom one last time forcing me to take off my entire kit one more time and put it all back on again but, I digress…

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Such is the routine.

There are some really cool parts that I love about being the “Tail End Charlie” as these rides.  For starters, it’s a very powerful feeling to be situated out at the very back of the pack for the opening speeches before the ride even gets going.  From this vantage point, you can see everyone’s motivation pinned to on their backs; bibs listing all the names of those for whom the cyclists are riding in memory of.

Think about that.

Cancer sucks and it’s just plain stupid how many names there are.  It’s an overwhelming feeling.  I can’t even fit all those who have been affected in my own life on my bib now, so I just go with this nowadays:

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So, really, you’re not just riding with the cyclists themselves but each and every one of those people with whom they are carrying along for the journey as represented by the names written in black magic marker.

How can that not both upset and  inspire you?

This year I was very lucky to be partnered with a friend, Karen Natho whom I first back in the early TryForce days and have since maintained a friendship with since then.  Let me tell you this about Karen: not only is she the nicest person you’re ever going to meet, but she’s also among the toughest triathletes I know so having an opportunity to ride alongside her and pick her brain was inspiring in and of itself.

It also bodes well that Karen can also keep up her end of a conversation over a 100 kilometer bike route as well.

Here we are at the beginning almost looking like a Before and After pic:

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It’s a bit of a different route this year but it’s the same monster climb up to Rockway Glen that starts it all off.  The climb up the escarpment is the first and most significant challenge faced by the riders.   That typically means there is a lot of coaching and encouraging up this segment of roadway.

Being a decent climber myself I am usually able to do all that but seeing how my legs currently may or may not be up to their usual strength yet, this morning I’m even kind of looking at this hill myself like:

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I did manage to get up it however, as did everyone else.

Check #1 off my sweeper’s “To Do” list.

It’s also usually around this point that the little “Lantern Rouge” group of riders, begins to form at the very back.  This is another terrific aspect of being the “Tail End Charlie”, in that you typically get to meet a new group of people each year very, very well, as you will inevitably get to spend 5-6 hours getting to know them as you are riding together.

This year I was fortunate to be riding with not one, but 6 riders belonging to the same family; 4 year old Nova was riding along with her mother and dad was riding with the two boys in tow.

Here’s they are:

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Here’s why they ride:

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Talk about parenting being done right.

Shortly thereafter, Karen and I met up with Maggie and Kelly, a Niagara teacher and banker, and it was with these two girls that Karen and I would end up riding with for the remaining 70-75 kilometers – not that needed us mind you.

I wish here now that I had some interesting stories about all the difficult trials and travails  we had to endure together over this years 100 kilometers in order to get our little Lantern Rouge  back to the finish line safely and successfully, but I don’t.  Sometimes Karen and I rode with the girls, sometimes ahead of the girls and sometimes behind, all depending on who wanted to chat with who.   Of course, as is tradition about being at the tail end of the ride with me, you also have to endure 5 hours of my endless stories and Maggie and Kelly definitely weathered the storm admirably.

Karen didn’t have a choice.

Dare I say it, however, that the going was easy-peasy and before we knew it we were more than halfway around the course and rolling into the ‘First Incounters’   Rest Stop in Welland, and you know what that means:

Honestly, if the Big Move ride wasn’t what it was, the bib on the back my vest might have well read: “I Brake for Cookies”.

Truth!

God bless the long standing volunteer Martyk family for making their rest stop along River Road at Becketts Bridge what it is, something to be enjoyed.  Many hugs were passed, good cheer was spread and, tragically, many cookies met their fateful end, but soon we were a-rollin’ on.

Heading back into Pelham and St. Catharines, Maggie and Kelly wanted to commemorate their longest ride at the 88k mark along Maple Street.   Balloons were even procured for the occasion out of the sweep van riding behind us.

“Always ready” we are at the end.

Here’s the big moment:

And, again, we continued on with high spirits.

Only another short 12 kilometers to go.

Here’s a few more photos of the day:

I’m going to change the story a bit drastically here, as there wasn’t really much left to tell of my own.  The girls made it back, Karen and I rolled over the finish line in last place (my 9th), a delicious pasta and meat ball lunch provided by Club Roma was crushed, and our day officially ended on the same high note that it started.

Here’s the proof:

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DisclaimerThe pasta lunch didn’t last long enough for a photo.

The other story unfolding today involves Hailey, my 12 year old step-daughter who had managed to complete the entire 50k ride on her own, including riding to the top of Rockway Glen on her own thanks to a little encouragement provided by the 50k sweep team.

Thanks Nicole, Christina, and Paule!).

Here’s some pictures of my step-daughter’s own Big Move experience:

This was a huge milestone to cap off her Summer with and I’m thrilled that she was able to do that as a part of the same incredible event that I am also very passionate about.  We have one last big ride to look forward to together later in the Autumn, so she is currently very jazzed about it as she is extremely confident to take it on.

Great job, sweeps!

And a very sincere and heartfelt “Thank you”  as well.

Maybe in the future, Hailey and I will evolve into a “Father and Daughter” sweep team on future Big Move rides.

Who knows?

Definitely something to look forward to in the coming years though.

See you all next year and until then:

Happy Riding!!

Note:  For a little more insight into this years event, please check out this video HERE.

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.