September 1, 2014

Tri Rock (It happens everyday, today was my day)

I once passed out in a bar in Amsterdam. The details of that are a different story. I was really embarrassed and was lamenting to one of locals that was sitting up in the front. (It was a really small bar/coffee shop so everyone easily saw what I had happened. The bartender bringing me a 5 gallon bucket to vomit in didn't help. I never did, by the way). Anyhow, the local just smiled and said "It happens every night, and tonight was your night".

A similar thing can be said of my race at TriRock Austin - "It happens every day, and today was your day". My training hadn't been going all that great. I'd had some injuries to deal with, namely in my lower back. It had cut short more than a few training runs and I was concerned it would affect me during my race. This wasn't an "A" race for me. I was racing this jut because it's downtown, at a good time, and it was my first triathlon. So, if it didn't go well, it wasn't a big deal. I didn't need to risk prolonged injury for a good finish here.

I felt pretty good about the race going into it. However, about 1,000 meters into the swim, my back really started hurting. I knew it could be a long day and I needed to be cognizant of it throughout the race. I also kept telling myself there was no shame in DFN-ing due to injury, although that was a tough conversation to have.

I got on the bike and getting into aero position, I could really feel the pain. I needed to take it easy, just go as hard as is comfortable. The bike course is a loop course, three loops for Olympic distance and two sprint. I was finishing my second loop, nearing the split where you either turn in to head toward transition or go straight to complete another loop. As I was going straight, I could feel there was another bike to my left, just off my back wheel. I was between he and the turn into transition. I maintained my line and headed for my third loop. It was then that I heard an indecipherable yell very close to me and then felt the brunt of a wheel then handlebars in my hip. This a$$ho** just ran into me! 

I was able to recover, largely due I think to the fact that he hit me and not my bike. However, since my body took all of the impact, specifically my hip, it jarred my back even more. I was now in serious pain. The shock of the (near) crash and shooting pain that I was now experiencing was enough to deal with. By the time I got my wits about me again, I was essentially past an ideal place to bail. I had a to keep going. I made the decision I would finish the third loop and asses how things were once I got to transition.

Rolling into transition, I was in a lot of pain. I decided I would go out for the run and just see how things go. I really wanted to finish, and also knew that it wasn't worth it if meant my injury getting significantly worse. The run was a three loop course. I normally hate the loop courses, though this time it was my friend. I started out and it was rough going. A lot of start and stop (run and walk) and I thought at least if I kept making forward progress, that was a good thing.

There was a lot of construction around the run course area so it had been altered from years past. A big stretch took place down a sidewalk around the events and performing arts center. I was nearing a turn around a side of the building where this would cross the entrance to the parking garage. I was in pain and was walking a bit, letting the pain subside a bit before I started running again. I was contemplating bailing out of the run. To DNF and live to fight another day. Wrestling with it, I seriously considered it as an option.

Turning the corner, there was a small group of people, maybe three or four sitting by the sidewalk, cheering people on. As I came around the corner, walking, one of the spectators noticed my tri kit. I was wearing the same tri kit I wore for the Ironman and had the logo for 'Team Marsh' as I was being coached by coach and professional triathlete Brandon Marsh (link). A woman, who I would later learn was professional triathlete Natasha Van Der Merwe who finished 3rd in Challenge Atlantic City, called out to me "You're walking, Brandon wouldn't like that". I knew immediately that her comment was good natured and meant to be motivating, and I took it as such. I started to run and turned around to her to give as much of a smile as I could muster, which probably looked more like a smirk. Of course, this meant I wasn't paying attention to where I was going. 

As I was enjoying my exchange with her, my toe found a lip in the pavement. Down. I. Went. Knee, then shoulder, then head all hit the pavement. It took me a moment of lying on the ground to comprehend what had just happened. Interestingly, my first thought after realizing what had just happened was, "well I've got to finish now". I'm not sure where that thought came from. Maybe it was grit and determination. Maybe it was stubbornness. Maybe it was comfort that I'd now have a visible excuse to go slow and hobble in. Maybe it was that may race pictures were going to be awesome; bloody finisher's photo = epic.

I think it was all of them. Natasha immediately ran over to check on my, apologizing profusely. I laughed, said it was OK and announced my intention to finish. An official called a paramedic over to check me out. He looked me over and asked me repeatedly if I was sure I wanted to keep going. I was now realizing I was bleeding from my knee, shoulder, and head. I was determined. "Patch me up" I said. He proceeded to wrap my head in gauze. I'm still thinking that he didn't have his scissors on him because he put a ridiculously large amount of gauze around my head. "I'm glad I wore this hat to cover this," I said. It was the first race since my first TriRock that I'd worn a hat on the run. After getting patched up, I posed for a picture with Natasha, and then started on my way. I still had two loops to go.

I hobbled and grudged through the remaining two loops, getting lots of encouragement from the crowd. Running, walking, soaking it all in. More than ever, I was looking for the race photographers. These pics were going to be awesome. Eventually I crossed the finish line, bloody and battered. I got a shout out from the announcer; something about how great it was to still finish despite adversity. I once again found myself in the medical tent where I received three stitches. Made for a great story and good pictures. 

Me and Natasha Van Der Merwe

Snitches get stitches... And so do those who don't pay attention during the run of a triathlon.

August 9, 2014

Age Group Nationals 

There's been a lot that's happened since the Ironman, and then again, not a lot. I took a good deal of time off after the race and got in some much needed rest and recovery. I think the hardest thing about my Ironman training was the sheer volume of training and the time that took. Doing two workouts a day, six days a week is tough. By the time I was a month out from the race, I was ready to get it over with. Now, I'm starting to get back into the swing of things.

I've joined another training group at the same place I've been doing my run training for the last two years. However, this one is a bit different. I've previously been in groups that were event focused. That is, everyone was training for the same event, or events that were around the same time, and the program was over once the event happened. This new group is a year-round group that's full of people that are pretty serious, most of whom either have or are trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon. If I'm honest, I'm a little intimidated. Especially since it's been hard coming back from the Ironman race and the recovery afterwards. This is compounded by the fact that it's the middle of summer in Texas. I'm slow, don't have as much endurance as I did, and I'm struggling a bit. It is what it is I guess.

Back in March I competed in the Tall Texan Triathlon in Boerne, TX. My "win" qualified me for a spot in the USAT Olympic Distance Age Group National Championships in Milwaukee, WI. I figured that it might be a long while before I get another chance to qualify for something like this so I should take advantage of it while I can. After all, surely there was a few other people like me that qualified at some small race and were going to be out their league here. I mean, the field can't completely be the fastest people in the nation, can it?

My plan was just to race as hard as I could, have a good race, and not finish last. This was also my first race out of state and the first time I've had to ship everything. That all made for a very interesting experience. I was able to get in some practice time in the swim area. The swim was taking place in a protected area of Lake Michigan. It was cold water but protected from the chop and waves of the lake. I knew that it was going to be an interesting swim. Wetsuit legal, no wetsuit strippers, and a decent run from the swim exit to T1. I had my work cut out for me. After a  big pasta dinner, I settled back into the hotel room and got everything ready for the next day.

Race morning I arrived early morning, I knew traffic and parking would be a challenge, and it definitely was for those who arrived not long after I did. My group was going out later so I knew there'd be a lot of waiting around, and I'd prefer that to hurrying around last minute. I got my body marking from Miss Wisconsin, which was kind of cool I guess. I got everything ready, got my wetsuit on, and headed over to the swim start to watch the earlier waves and focus.

I was in big age group so it took us a while get down to the dock once it was our turn. So much so, that the warm up in the water before our wave we were promised never happened. Guess I was just going to wing it. The wave started and I began as I often do, slow and steady. Through all of my training, I have yet to develop an affinity for swimming; I tolerate it at best. As is often the case, I was at the back of my group, then alone behind my group, then caught by the leaders of the group behind me, then overtaken by said, group, then...well you get the picture. I'm not completely sure, though I think I was probably last of my group out of the water.

A quick transition and I was off on the bike. Of course, not without a little hiccup at the mount line. My flying mount wasn't as graceful as it needed to be and I found myself swerving toward the barrier. Simultaneously, someone was passing me on that same side and we almost had a collision. Narrowly avoiding disaster at the beginning of the bike, I was off and running (or biking actually). The bike course was relatively flat, except for the big bridge we had to cross over the channel into the port. That was interesting, especially the large timing mat on the downhill side. Those things can be a little unnerving to go over at full, downhill speed.

I had a pretty good bike and it was relatively uneventful. I made a good trip back into transition and headed out for the run. By this time, it was getting hot and the sun was full in the sky overhead. At least I was used to this. I was also happy about the fact that the run was one big loop. None of this multi-loop run course, which I'm not a bog fan of. It was a tough run and I was happy to say that I was nailing my plan until the last 1.5 miles. I started to fade bit. I kept pushing and the people who had already finished were very encouraging. I pushed hard and finished really strong, feeling I had left it all out there.

I didn't quite hit my goal, I only missed by a few minutes. I was pretty close and happy to say that was my fastest Olympic distance triathlon that I've done. I was also really happy with the sustained effort and I had and how I was able to finish strong and empty the tank. It was a great experience and I was really happy with everything. My goal was to not finish last in my age group...I made it by one spot. 

Also got to take in a Brewer's game, which after like 25 years of having this,
I finally got a reason to pull out this old Brewers hat.

June 4, 2014


"Bryan Peterson of Austin, Texas, you are an Ironman!"  The words that I had been imagining hearing for almost a year.  The words I finally heard the evening of May 17, 2014.  I had been training for this for almost a year.  In many ways, I had been preparing for this for a larger part of my life.  I had done it.  I had accomplished a goal I set out for myself.  A HUGE goal. A goal that only a small percentage of the population reaches.  I had finally accomplished something epic and awesome that no one could take away and that will forever be a defining part of my life.  It was an incredible moment.   One of the best of my life.  One I'll never forget and will always cherish.

Here is how that amazingly epic moment happened:  I woke up early at 3:30 AM.  I had slept pretty well, all things considered.  I wanted to give myself plenty of time to eat breakfast, have a juice, relax, and mentally prepare for the day ahead.  I have been incorporating mindfulness into my training (as well as the rest of my life) for a few months now and I've been amazed at how much of a difference that's made.  I wanted to afford myself some time in the morning to have a full mediation session.  I felt like I was going to need it.  This would end up being a huge benefit later in the day.

After all of this, I slowly started to get my stuff together.  This was different.  For other races, it seemed no matter how much I prepared the night before, there was always frantic running around race morning combined with general nerves and jitters.  There was none of that.  I was calm, organized, and focused.  Even to the point where I wasn't even second guessing myself.  Every time I've stepped up my distance or attempted something new, I've always been a nervous wreck.  Yet, here I was about to take on the biggest, longest, and toughest event I've ever tried and I was more calm and confident than I have ever been.  This was a testament to both my mental focus and training.  I had trained hard.  I had trained for a long time.  It had both physically and mentally exhausted me.  During training, I often couldn't imagine doing this again.  Yet, here I was focused, calm, confident and prepared.

Body Marking
The rest of my Support Team (My wife Marisa and close friends Cody & Erica) awoke and we made our way down the transition area.  These guys have been very supportive and encouraging and I felt very thankful to have them with me. This too would be something that would end up being a major factor later in the day.  I made my way over to my bike, checked everything over, pumped up the tires, and placed my water bottles and nutrition.  After letting a couple of people borrow my pump, I was off on the 3/4 mile walk to the swim start.  I met up with Marisa, Cody, and Erica and we made our way down to mass that was the swim start.  Making my way through the crowd I got my body marking done, dropped off my special needs, and then realized that I was unfortunately going to have to get into the seemingly infinite line for the port-o-can.  All the extra time I had afforded myself was about to dissipate in a line for coveted turn into a smelly 4'x4' plastic compartment.  Memories of my BCS Marathon where I was in the can when the gun went off came flooding back.  I wasn't going to let that happen.

My wife Marisa at the start
Fortunately, I made it out with about 7 minutes before the starting gun.  As I did, I met one of my
coaches, Amy Marsh.  (Her husband Brandon Marsh, my other coach, had already taken off in the pro start)  She had some last minute words of wisdom and wished me luck.  I got the wetsuit on, got my good lucks and goodbyes from the Support Team, kissed the wife, and scrambled down to the start.  There was a big bottle-neck at the small boat ramp that led into the swim start.  As I got to the traffic jam of people, the gun went off.  There were a few people that tried to push their way up through the crowd once that happened.  They soon realized we weren't just meandering around or scared to get in the water.  We were all trying to get in the water as quickly as possible.  I saw people jumping off the pier the other way, some of which were hitting rocks in the water.  I had no idea where the actual start line was.  I just knew I needed to go "that" direction, where everyone else was going.  I found an opening, dove off the end of the ramp, started the Garmin and began swimming.  U2's "Beautiful Day" was playing.

'Support Team's' view of the swim.  I'm in there somewhere.
Swimming is by far my weakest event.  My strategy is just to survive, make the cutoff, and not expend all of my energy.  I am what they call a very not-fast (try not use the "s" word) swimmer.  I've had some really bad swims and some swims that were not completely terrible.  Two things happened on this swim that have never happened to me during a race before.  The first, I never stopped.  I've learned about myself that for some reason my body has a hard time getting moving.  The first 3 miles of a run, the first 5-7 miles of a ride, the first 500 meters of a swim are all hard and my body just wants to quit.  After that, the body realizes it has lost the argument and succumbs to providing the athletic performance it's been trained for. If I can just push through the first 500 meters, I'll establish a rhythm and I should be fine.  I quickly got in a rhythm and never really got out of it.  I got kicked, punched, bumped, grabbed, and swam over.  And still I never stopped and never felt like I needed or wanted to.  The second thing that's never really happened, I was passing people.  Not a ton of people, but it seemed like I was passing more people than were passing me.  This was my philosophy for the bike and run and it seemed to be working on the swim.  As we made the turn into the canal (about 3,000 meters), I glanced at my Garmin and noticed that I was swimming at a pace faster than I expected to.  A pace I hadn't really done much of even in training.

I slowed a little bit in the canal due to the fact that the close quarters forced everyone on top of each other.  I had about twice as much contact in that last 1,000 meters than I had in the first 3,000.  As I made my way to the swim exit, I prepared to get out of the water and start my transition.  I had done the distance a few times in training.  Each time I had completed it, I felt a little tired, a little winded, but that I still had plenty of energy to ride and run.  In all of my other races, when I got to the swim exit my legs were tight and shaky, taking a while to get my legs underneath me.  Neither of those happened here.  I stepped onto the stairs at the exit and was very surprised.  I didn't feel winded.  My legs were strong.  I felt incredible.  At that point I heard my name from the crowd and saw the Support Team.  I felt amazing.  My Garmin would later inform me that I swam 2.75 miles due to the start behind the start line and the wide angles I took.  I did that distance in slightly faster than what I expected to do the 2.4 miles.

I got out of the wetsuit and into the changing tent.  Or, rather I stopped at the entrance to the changing tent, noticed the cluster of people, and decided I would put my shoes and helmet on outside.  I dropped off my bag, ran to my bike and I was off again.  As I got to the mount line, I again heard my name.  It was the Support Team again.  Did I mention that these guys were awesome?  That, the rest of the cheering crowd, and the momentum from the swim had me exhilarated.  I felt charged, as if the bike wreck from a week ago was a distance memory.

Coming into transition
The bike was one of my best rides yet.  I was dialed in, present, and focused.  My mind wasn't wandering and I was able to both focus on and enjoy every moment.  Not even the guy who felt it necessary to tell me that when the light hit them right, my shorts were basically see through could phase me.  Mindfulness at work!  My hydration, fueling, and nutrition strategy was working perfectly.  I was able to stay in the aero position for most of the way.  Not even the wind, chip seal surface, or hills really phased me.  After all, none of that was anywhere near what I'd been training on in Austin.  I got a good boost from when I was passed on the bike course by the Support Team.  They had, unadvisedly, driven out onto the bike course, cheers and cow bells blaring.  It was much appreciated.

I had a brief stop at special needs and another at a rest stop to run into a port-o-can.  (Peeing on the bike just wasn't happening)  Even with those two stops, I finished the bike in 6:35, averaging 17 mph.  I was happy with that.  As I dismounted, I again saw the Support Team. They were cheering loudly.  I felt great as I ran into transition.  A volunteer took my bike and I ran to get my transition bag.  As I went into the changing tent, I realized I now had no concept of what time it was.  It really didn't seem real that I was now about to run a marathon.  A brief sit to put my run shoes on, quick slather of Vaseline on some strategic areas, a laugh at the guy behind me that had put a McDonald's cheeseburger in his run gear bag, and I was off again.

Headed out for the run
I had a quick pee, had sunscreen applied and I was ready.  The run.  The part of which I felt the most confident and well trained.  As I exited the changing tent, I again saw the Support Team.  They were very encouraging and confident, saying "You got this".  My wife was very encouraging.  "This is part you're most comfortable and confident about.  You're doing great!"  I couldn't believe I where I was.  I couldn't believe that while I was tired and wearing down, I felt good; better than I even imagined I would at this point.

I had a very specific run plan that I knew I needed to stick to if I was going to finish where I wanted to.  The run was a three loop course, roughly 9 miles each.  The first 10 miles, I ran my plan perfectly.  By mile 12, things had started to get tough.  I was getting hot, physically and mentally tired, and despite my best effort my legs were slowing down.  I decided I would have to dip into my special needs bag after all.  I grabbed my fuel hydration (mixture of electrolytes and amino acids) and a rice cake.  I felt like I needed to eat but couldn't take in anymore gel.

My feet hurt.  My legs were getting wobbly.  I
was tired and felt like I was running out of gas.  I realized I was off my race plan.  For the next couple of miles I was telling myself that I was just regrouping and that I would get back on plan soon.  I then realized that wasn't going to happen.  My plan was now to just stay focused, keep pushing and try to finish as strong as possible.  I didn't feel like I was failing or being weak or breaking down.  I was giving it all I had.  This was just the reality of my race now.

The crowds were incredible.  Rarely was there a place where you weren't surrounded by legions of cheering fans.  Some plain clothed.  Some in costumes.  There were the hippies banging on garbage cans.  There was the triathlon training group in speedos.  There was the guy in the speedo and gift wrapped box strategically placed on his pelvis (a la Justin Timberlake on SNL).  There were the signs.  Some funny, some inspirational, all positive.  There were all the people who were cheering your name, giving high-fives, telling you how awesome you were, and spurring you on.  There were all the children who wanted high-fives from every single person who ran by. It was the largest amount of and densely concentrated positivity that I've ever experienced.  It was awesome!  Dispersed throughout all of this was the Support Team.  They would randomly show up at different spots to cheer me on and emphatically ring the cow bells.  I was struggling.  I was tired.  I was slowing.  But I was energized.  I was happy.  I was going to finish.

Starting the third loop, I could neither believe how much more I had to go nor how much I had completed already.  I still had no concept of what time it was.  I kept pushing through.  I tried taking gel and it was really hard to get it down.  I tried the flat Coke, that didn't work at all.  I had some cookies at one of the aid stations and they seemed as if they were some of the best things I've ever eaten.  Unfortunately none of the other aid stations had them.  I just kept moving, putting one foot in front of the other.  "JFR" as my running group says.  The distance between aid stations felt like it was getting longer and longer.  The sun had gone down.  I made it to mile 24 and it took all I had to keep moving.  The run/walk had become a little more walk than run.  Once again, the Support Team showed up to cheer me on, cow bells and all.  I had two more miles to go.  I had come so far.  I now didn't have far to go.

I made it to the loop turn off point.  The place where I had gone to the left twice before to go onto the 2nd and 3rd loop.  I was now going to go right, following the signs that said "Finish".  It was a dark and deserted stretch as I ran uphill from the waterway toward the finish chute.  I was by myself.  I heard U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name" playing from the finish line.  It was getting louder and louder.  U2 is my favorite band and that's one of my favorite songs.  It would be so cool to run in to that.  I could now hear the crowd and they were growing louder.  I had all the motivation I needed.  As I turned the corner and entered the chute, the energy was palpable.  Everyone lined against the fence, banging on the barriers, emphatically cheering, yelling my name, giving high fives.  It was absolutely incredible!  For so long, all I could think about was finishing.  Now, I didn't want this moment to end.  I made eye contact and high-fived everyone I could.  In the last stretch, the crowds were bigger and louder.  The emotion I was feeling at this point I still can not put into words.

I heard my dad's voice and saw him, my mother, and my cousin there to cheer me on.  I high-fived each of them.  I saw the finish line and heard Mike Riley say those words: "Bryan Peterson of Austin, Texas, you are an Ironman!"  I was no longer touching the ground, I was just floating above it.  Nothing hurt anymore.  I felt incredibly alive!   I ran towards the finish line, feeling exhilarated, ecstatic, accomplished.  I put my arms in the air.  Just before crossing the finish line, I again heard my name.  It was the Support Team. Marisa, Cody, and Erica had been there the entire way.  At the start, numerous points throughout the race, cheering, encouraging.  And here they were cheering their loudest.  I ran over to them and got high-fives from each of them.  I turned and cross the finish line.  14:04:08.  It was one of the greatest moments of my life.  I am an Ironman!

The day after, with the best Support Team ever!

May 15, 2014

Let's Do This!

I've just come from the athlete's welcome banquet.  It was very inspiring.  A lot of great stories from people who lost weight to get here, the oldest competitor, the youngest competitors, people who've done a lot Ironmans before, and the fact that almost half the field are first timers.

It's been a crazy day.  There were a few last minute things I forgot and had to scramble around to get.  I discovered this morning that all of the food I was going to carry with me on the bike was bad and had to be remade.  This meant that I had find a rice cooker, get all of the ingredients,  and track down the specific type of rice I use in my rice cakes.  (I make the rice cakes from the Feed Zone Portables cookbook).  This caused some early morning panic, so I went for a run and cleared my head.  I came back feeling better and had a plan to deal with it.

After some intense searching, I found the rice as well as all of the other ingredients I needed.  I got the rice cakes made and made it to the Ironman village in time for the mandatory athlete's briefing.  I finally felt like I could relax.

I'm feeling good physically and mentally.  I've feel like I've finally gotten back to where I was before the bike wreck.  Every time I've stepped up in distance, I've been very nervous about the race.  I've wondered how I would perform.  I had a lot of angst about whether or not I would be able to do the distance.  Would I make the cutoff time?  Would I be able to finish?

This is the longest distance I've done, and yet I've never felt more prepared, more confident, more relaxed before a race than I do now.  Let's do this!

May 11, 2014

Breaking the #1 Rule of Taper

The number 1 rule of tapering - DON'T GET INJURED!  Unfortunately, I broke that rule the week before the race.  Yesterday started off great.  I had an early morning 10 mile run that felt amazing and so many of my fellow runners wishing me luck.  I had dropped my bike off at the shop to get a final tune up before the race.  My plan was to go pick up the bike, do an hour or so workout and then rest for the remainder of the day.

I decided that I would just go ride the Veloway (a 3.1 mile paved asphalt trail exclusively for bicycles and inline skates), which is something I haven't done in quite a while.  It's hard getting a long ride in doing a 3 mile loop.  Although, I guess better than doing it on a trainer, but still. Also, it's got a lot of turns, something I won't have a lot of on race course.  It would also give me an opportunity to practice in all of my race equipment; shoes, aero helmet.

I got on the bike, got into aero position and off I went.  I felt great on the bike and was ready to fly, and I was.  There weren't a lot of people out there so I could move through the corners pretty well in aero.  I got to one of the first big turns and was move along at a pretty good clip in the aero position.  All of the sudden, I realized I was taking the corner way too fast.  What happened after that, I'm really not sure of.  The bike skidded, I had to avoid a tree, and I went over the handlebars and landed on my head and shoulder.

I was stunned, pissed off, shaken up, and worried all at the same time.  I believe there were probably some other emotions going on there as well.  Immediately some other riders came to my aid.  Asking if I was alright and checking me and my bike over.  The bike seemed fine, just had the chain come off. No major visible damage.  Me, on the other hand, that was a different story.  My head hurt.  My helmet was really scratched up, having taken the brunt of the fall.  My initial reaction was the ager, frustration, and disappointment that I was now going to have to buy another expensive aero race helmet.  Then I saw that my shoulder was bleeding.  It felt like a really bad scratch.  I poured some water on it and it didn't appear to need stitches.  At least not right away in any case.  I told the good samaritans that I was fine, I thanked them, and they rode off.

Now what was I going to do.  I was thankful that it wasn't any worse.  I hadn't even really started my workout.  More importantly, I was worried that I was now going to be skittish on the bike and that that could seriously affect my race.   When was I going to be able to get comfortable for the race?  How was I going to deal with adversity during the race?  F**ck it, I thought, it's now or never!

I got back on the bike and told myself I would ride until I felt comfortable again.  It took nearly an hour before I was able to feel comfortable again.  But that's what I needed.  I need to get my confidence back.  I needed to clear my head.  I needed to shake out the emotion and think about this rationally in order to put a plan together.  My bike's OK.  I'm, more or less, OK.  This wasn't going to beat me.

I finished up, cleaned and dressed my wound, and went back to the bike shop to get it checked out and buy another helmet.  On the bright side, I could now get a helmet that matched my new bike! Everything was fine with the bike.  Only a small bend in the derailleur which was easily fixed.  I got a sweet new aero helmet with a visor.  I left the shop in pretty good spirits.  It was a setback but I'd gotten over it and everything was going to be fine.  My wife gave me some good advice: "Don't make this anything more than it is. Deal with it and move on."

Today, it's been a little different.  I guess having time sitting still causes some reflection.  The spill on the bike resulted in a sore neck and big scrape on my shoulder. I'm confident everything will be fine for raceday (I'm seeing a chiropractor, PT, and massage therapist), however it's starting to affect me mentally. I feel like it's thrown me off of my game and that I've lost focus. I know some of this is normal stuff I deal with during taper. But I feel a little sadness and depression starting to set in and I can't seem to stop thinking about it. Again, I'm confident I'm going to race. I'm just worried I might not be as focused and mentally prepared as I need to be and want to get that back. I know I'm ready physically and up until this happened I felt like I was mentally prepared.  I've reached out to my coaches for some advice.  Hopefully I can shake this soon.

My helmet which took the brunt of the impact.  Good to know it does what it's designed to do.

May 6, 2014

Peak Training Volume & Taper

I'm hitting my peak volume of training.  I took a couple of days off just to regroup and I feel a million times better, both physically and especially mentally.  I'm about to start my taper and it couldn't come at a better time.  I feel solid about all aspects of my training and feel like I'll be very well prepared.  I've hit that point in my training where I'm not getting any faster or stronger and I'm still doing a high volume and intensity.  I'm just ready for this race to be here!

The one thing I keep thinking about is the race itself.  Finishing an Ironman.  That accomplishment.  I've been training for this nearly a year, and in some ways I feel like I've been preparing for this my entire life.  Someone posted the following to our Facebook group for Ironman Texas.  The author is unknown and it's been passed around and posted for many of the Ironman races.  It resonates with me, everything I've been through and am expecting to go through.  I've read this over a few times and will probably re-read this a few more.  Fair warning, you might get a little emotional upon reading.

The Ironman Taper

Right now you are about to enter the taper. Perhaps you've been at this a few months, perhaps you've been at this a few years. For some of you this is your first IM, for others, a long-overdue welcome back to a race that few can match.

You've been following your schedule to the letter. You've been piling on the mileage, piling up the laundry, and getting a set of tan lines that will take until next year to erase. Long rides were followed by long runs, which both were preceded by long swims, all of which were followed by recovery naps that were longer than you slept for any given night during college.

You ran in the snow.
You rode in the rain.
You ran in the heat.
You ran in the cold.
You went out when others stayed home.
You rode the trainer when others pulled the covers over their heads.

You have survived the Darwinian progression that is an Ironman summer, and now the hardest days are behind you. Like a climber in the Tour de France coming over the summit of the penultimate climb on an alpine stage, you've already covered so much ground...there's just one more climb to go. You shift up, you take a drink, you zip up the jersey; the descent lies before you...and it will be a fast one.
Time that used to be filled with never-ending work will now be filling with silent muscles, taking their final, well-earned rest. While this taper is something your body desperately needs, your mind cast off to the background for so very long, will start to speak to you.

It won't be pretty.

It will bring up thoughts of doubt, pain, hunger, thirst, failure, and loss. It will give you reasons why you aren't ready. It will try and make one last stand to stop you, because your brain doesn't know what the body already does. Your body knows the truth:
You are ready.

Your brain won't believe it. It will use the taper to convince you that this is foolish - that there is too much that can go wrong.

You are ready.

Finishing an Ironman is never an accident. It's the result of dedication, focus, hard work, and belief that all the long runs in January, long rides in April, and long swims every damn weekend will be worth it. It comes from getting on the bike, day in, day out. It comes from long, solo runs. From that first long run where you wondered, "How will I ever be ready?" to the last long run where you smiled to yourself with one mile to go...knowing that you'd found the answer.

It is worth it. Now that you're at the taper, you know it will be worth it. The workload becomes less. The body winds up and prepares, and you just need to quiet your worried mind. Not easy, but you can do it.

You are ready.

You will walk into the water with 2000 other wide-open sets of eyes. You will look upon the sea of humanity, and know that you belong. You'll feel the chill of the water crawl into your wetsuit, and shiver like everyone else, but smile because the day you have waited for so VERY long is finally here.
You will tear up in your goggles. Everyone does.

The helicopters will roar overhead.
The splashing will surround you.
You'll stop thinking about Ironman, because you're now racing one.

The swim will be long - it's long for everyone, but you'll make it. You'll watch as the shoreline grows and grows, and soon you'll hear the end. You'll come up the beach and head for the wetsuit strippers. Three people will get that sucker off before you know what happening, then you’ll head for the bike.
The voices, the cowbells, and the curb-to-curb chalk giving you a hero's sendoff can't wipe the smile off your face.

You'll settle down to your race. The crowds will spread out on the road. You'll soon be on your bike, eating your food on your schedule, controlling your Ironman.

You'll start to feel that morning sun turn to afternoon sun. It's warmer now. Maybe it's hot. Maybe you're not feeling so good now. You'll keep riding. You'll keep drinking. You'll keep moving. After all, this is just a long training day with valet parking and catering, right?

You'll put on your game face, fighting the urge to feel down as you ride for what seems like hours. You reach special needs, fuel up, and head out.

By now it'll be hot. You'll be tired. Doubts will fight for your focus. Everyone struggles here. You've been on that bike for a few hours, and stopping would be nice, but you won't - not here. Not today.
You'll grind the false flats to the climb. You'll know you're almost there. You'll fight for every inch of road. The crowd will come back to you here. Let their energy push you. Let them see your eyes. Smile when they cheer for you - your body will get just that little bit lighter.


You'll plunge down the road, swooping from corner to corner, chaining together the turns, tucking on the straights, letting your legs recover for the run to come - soon! You'll roll back - you'll see people running out. You'll think to yourself, "Wasn't I just here?" The noise will grow. The chalk dust will hang in the air - you're back, with only 26.2 miles to go. You'll relax a little bit, knowing that even if you get a flat tire or something breaks here, you can run the damn bike into T2.

You'll roll into transition. 100 volunteers will fight for your bike. You'll give it up and not look back. You'll have your bag handed to you, and into the tent you'll go. You'll change. You'll load up your pockets, and open the door to the last long run of your Ironman summer - the one that counts.

You'll take that first step of a thousand...and you'll smile. You'll know that the bike won't let you down now - the race is down to your own two feet. The same crowd that cheered for you in the shadows of the morning will cheer for you in the brilliant sunshine of a summer Sunday. High-five people on the way out. Smile. Enjoy it. This is what you've worked for all year long.

That first mile will feel great. So will the second. By mile 3, you probably won't feel so good.
That's okay. You knew it couldn't all be that easy. You'll settle down just like you did on the bike, and get down to your pace. You'll see the leaders coming back the other way. Some will look great - some won't. You might feel great, you might not. No matter how you feel, don't panic - this is the part of the day where whatever you're feeling, you can be sure it won't last.

You'll keep moving. You'll keep drinking. You'll keep eating. Maybe you'll be right on plan - maybe you won't. If you're ahead of schedule, don't worry - believe. If you're behind, don't panic - roll with it. Everyone comes up with a brilliant race plan for Ironman, and then everyone has to deal with the reality that planning for something like Ironman is like trying to land a man on the moon. By remote control. Blindfolded.

How you react to the changes in your plan will dictate your day. Don't waste energy worrying about things - just do what you have to when you have to, and keep moving. Keep eating. Keep drinking. Just don't sit down - don't EVER sit down.

You'll make it to the halfway point. You'll load up on special needs. Some of what you packed will look good, some won't. Eat what looks good, toss the rest. Keep moving. Start looking for people you know. Cheer for people you don't. You're headed in - they're not. They want to be where you are, just like you wanted to be when you saw all those fast people headed into town. Share some energy - you'll get it right back.

Run if you can.
Walk if you have to.
Just keep moving.

The miles will drag on. The brilliant sunshine will yawn. You'll be coming up to those aid stations fully alive with people, music, and chicken soup. TAKE THE SOUP. Keep moving.

You'll soon only have a few miles to go. You'll start to believe that you're going to make it. You'll start to imagine how good it's going to feel when you get there. Let those feelings drive you on. When your legs just don't want to move anymore, think about what it's going to be like when someone catches you…and puts a medal over your head... all you have to do is get there.

You'll start to hear the people in town. People you can't see in the twilight will cheer for you. They'll call out your name. Smile and thank them. They were there when you left on the bike, and when you came back, and when you left on the run, and now when you've come back.

You'll enter town. You'll start to realize that the day is almost over. You'll be exhausted, wiped out, barely able to run a 10-minute mile (if you're lucky), but you'll ask yourself, "Where did the whole day go?" You'll be standing on the edge of two feelings - the desire to finally stop, and the desire to take these last moments and make them last as long as possible.

You'll hit mile 25. Your Ironman will have 1.2 miles - just 2KM left in it.

You'll run. You'll find your legs. You'll fly. You won't know how, but you will run. The lights will grow brighter, brighter, and brighter. Soon you'll be able to hear the music again. This time, it'll be for keeps.

Soon they'll see you. Soon, everyone will see you. You'll run towards the lights, between the fences, and into the night sun made just for you.

They'll say your name.
You'll keep running.
Nothing will hurt.

The moment will be yours - for one moment, the entire world will be looking at you and only you.
You'll break the tape at the finish line, 140.6 miles after starting your journey. The flash will go off.
You'll stop. You'll finally stop. Your legs will wobble their last, and capable of nothing more.

Someone will catch you.
You'll lean into them.
It will suddenly hit you.


You are ready.

You are ready.

April 17, 2014

New job, adjustment to schedule and dealing with mental challenges

I've just recently started a new job.  The job is great.  Great company, work from home, exciting new position.  The timing is tough, though. Right as I'm peaking in my training, I'm having to deal with all of the logistics and details that come with transition.  I'm spending a week in Indianapolis for new employee training.  That makes it hard to keep up with my Ironman training.  I don't have  access to a pool and it's in the 30's and snowing here.  I'm making it as best I can.  It's just got me to thinking and reflecting on how tough this is mentally.

Training 6-7 days a week for 14-18 hours a week can be taxing.  Up at 4:30 every morning.  Often training twice a day.  Working towards a distance I've never done before with the uncertainty that goes with that.  All of that along with the stress, angst, and constant shuffling of schedules that comes with trying to align training with work, family obligations, and personal time is lot to deal with.  I'm really feeling the affects of this.  I feel mentally exhausted and a little "beaten down".

It's exactly one month until the Ironman.  My confidence is there.  My fitness is there.  I know I'll be ready.  I know that there are still some things I need to do and work on between now and then.  I don't feel like I could race it tomorrow.  I do feel like I'm on the path to be adequately prepared a month from now.  I'm just mentally spent.  This is nothing new and something everyone training for an Ironman goes through, or so it seems to be.  I've had to take days off from training for schedule conflicts, traveling like I am now, and just because my body needed it.  With all of the thought put into training, preparation for the Ironman, a new job, family and social commitments, and just life in general, the mind doesn't' get a day off.