Reminds Me of Ironman Wisconsin

This really does look like Ironman Wisconsin, with one big difference…the hills in Wisconsin actually end. Can’t even imagine what it’s like to climb in the Tour de France. 20140724-130502-47102524.jpg

Making Some Changes at Crushing Iron

If you’ve noticed some wackiness lately it’s because I’m migrating my site to a new server, and frankly, it’s testing my nerves.  But, truthfully, it’s going to be for the best as soon as I can get everything cleaned up.

For example, if you get emailed stories, you may want to check the site for new posts over the next week because I have to figure out how to transfer the list.  There are also tons of issues with photos and videos that need to be fixed, but that’s only older content, but none-the-less it’s kinda jacked up.

The good news is, Matisse has taken to the new writing room.  Mattie Mike's Dog

I’m still “training” for New Orleans and have been sifting through some creative workout plans with a buddy.  As soon as we dial things in I’ll let you know what’s going on, but I can tell you this much, it is a completely new take on how to train for Ironman.

I”m also learning a lot more about website design and back end techniques (this has nothing to do with Chammy Butter) like this little embedded tweet from a guy with an online newspaper that featured one of my posts.  It’s a live tweet, so feel free to comment, favorite, or retweet right from here.

I Don’t Workout as Much as You Think

Yep, I’m training for a Half Ironman and I hadn’t run in a week and a half, until last night.  I wasn’t injured, either.  I just didn’t feel like running, or getting off the couch for that matter.

The culprit was probably the Dry Creek Trail 1/2.  It was a brutal track filled with 700 feet of gain, and I was not prepared.

So, in the days following I started to question my desires for this Ironman business again.  I thought, “What the hell am I doing, this hurts!”  Then one night I got on my bike trainer and road for longer than I’ve ridden since November and it felt damn good.  I was back!

Then I went swimming the next day and it fried my ass, again.  I wasn’t back!

I took a day off, then ran last night in the darkness doing my best to avoid wild dogs.  Six hilly loops around a .8 mile track in my hood.  I took it pretty easy and ran 5 miles in about 40 minutes.  I felt good, and am happy to report I feel good now, too.

So, tonight, I will get back onto my bike and see how that goes.  I’ll probably wake up tomorrow have a desperate urge to take the day off, but that’s why being on this Zen training plan is so awesome.  You just kinda workout when you want to.

Too bad I can’t decide which day I feel like racing the New Orleans 70.3.

My Biggest Fan

On a warm summer day many years ago, I was playing the second baseball game of my life. I was 10-years-old, standing in right field and batting ninth for my Little League team.  It was the 5th of a six inning game and a fly ball came my way.  I spun in circles, shielded the sun, then threw my arm at the ball which miraculously landed in my glove.

But that wasn’t the good part.

We were losing 5-0 and the 12-year-old pitcher from the other team was throwing a perfect game.  It was now the top of the 6th, our last at bat, and I was the third person up in the inning.  The first two guys struck out, and now, the youngest boy on the team, me, was standing in the batter’s box ready to face the best pitcher in the league.

He reached back and threw a big fastball that flew over the catcher’s head and struck the chain link backstop with a loud clang.  He stared at me as if to say, “Don’t even think about breaking up this no hitter.”

I shook nervously in the batter’s box as he flung the next pitch a foot outside for ball two.  The screams were getting louder, “Come on, Mike!  You can do it!”  There were probably 30 fans there that day, but it felt like the World Series.

What happened next was one of those little moments in life that sticks with me whenever I face an “impossible” feat.

The league ace wound up, threw his leg high into the sky, then delivered a ferocious fastball on the inside half of the plate.  Somehow I reacted with my signature inside-out-swing (think Derek Jeter) and drove the ball into right field for our team’s first hit.  I’ll never forget standing on first base and looking into the bleachers.  My mother was jumping with joy.  Bouncing up and down, hugging anyone within her reach.

I casually tipped the bill of my helmet and smiled at mom, then scowled at the pitcher who walked back to the mound shaking his head in defeat.  We lost that day, but it was the first time I realized how important it is to have someone on your side.

I’m 50 now, and there have been many athletic conquests since then, but I think it was one of my mother’s proudest moments.  Until last September.

When I told her I was doing an Ironman, she kinda shrugged it off in the beginning.  Over time I would casually mention some of the workouts I was doing and suggested she sign up for my blog.  Slowly, but surely, she began to understand the magnitude of Ironman, and her curiosity got the best of her.

We started talking more often as the race drew near.  We’d have long phone conversations where she peppered me with questions about the race, how on earth I was going to do it, and more specifically, where she was going to watch.

About a month before Ironman, mom drove an hour up the road to Madison on a scouting mission.  She carried maps and took pictures of key landmarks then sent them along to me.  My covert race-planning-team of one. momscout

There’s nothing a child wants more than attention and love from their parents, and that doesn’t change just because you turn fifty.  Her enthusiasm was a genuine inspiration as the Ironman walls closed in around me.  I wanted her to be proud and that fueled me with confidence.

She made signs, t-shirts, and endless strategy maps.  Suddenly Ironman spectating was her new hobby and everyone who knew her would get a lesson whether they liked it or not.

By the time race day arrived, there were no more questions.  She knew almost everything there was to know about Ironman and all that was left was for her to remain calm and watch as her son walked the plank into Lake Monona.

She was alive and energized as she watched her son chase his dream.  She hurried and waited like everyone else.  Patience, followed by a burst of energy, followed by bonding with a crowd that was all pulling for the same team.1278835_10201079953013576_439309443_o

Mom was never a big sports fan and I honestly believe Ironman was her Super Bowl.  It brought the entire family together and channeled love and support like any mother would want.  There weren’t winners or losers, only survivors, and the more we know about life, the more we understand this as truth.

When I came down the Finisher’s Chute at Ironman, mom was standing behind the fence, bouncing with pride and joy just like she was for my Little League game that day.  And I felt just like that kid again.  All alone in the batter’s box, but secure and confident knowing he was loved.

Even though we live 500 miles away, I really believe Ironman helped bring us closer than ever. We talked often and those discussions were about the simple things in life.  There was no mom and son, it was two friends discussing what made them happy and that has continued to this day.

I love you, mom.  Happy Birthday.

Routine and Consistency

This video/post is awesome. I love the part about the first 15 minutes after waking up is never easy, but understanding that that’s just how it is, and what it takes. Thanks for posting!


This is a great 7 minute clip if you have time.

One of the things that really resonated with me was when Alex was talking about his routine and how it’s not always pleasant or enjoyable, but part simply part of getting the work done.

I know for me personally, routine is what keeps me consistent in both the training and recovery. Throughout this horrid winter, it has been very difficult to maintain the typical day-to-day flow I’m accustomed to and I can feel the difference in my focus and attitude. I’ve been able to get the sessions done, but everything has been at odd times and I just feel like the ebb and flow has been way off.

Hopefully, with the ground thawing (yes, even way down south we froze over!) and the grass once again turning green, things will finally return to normal!

Routine= Consistency= Success

Swim Happy…

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Now or Never for New Orleans 70.3

I’m not gonna lie . . . the Dry Creek Trail 1/2 Marathon knocked me out for a week.  I was tired as hell and completely lost my mojo on the new diet.  I’m not sure why it cooked me so much, but it did and I’ve been fighting to make a comeback.  It hasn’t been easy.

I’m not in terrible shape by any means, but I’m not a big fan of driving 7 hours to half-ass a race.  It’s actually kind of cool to be sitting here thinking I have a Half Ironman staring in my face and the distance doesn’t intimidate me.  I was talking about that with some of the guys when we went down to do Goosepond last fall.  I had barely even worked out for over a month after Ironman Wisconsin and “knocked out” a half at Goosepond.

Well, it was actually more like Goosepond knocked me out and that’s exactly what I need to avoid in New Orleans.

So tonight I got back on the wagon and did a little workout that gave me some hope.  I went over to Nashville Running Company the other day and got me a pair of Pearl Izumi N1s and running socks, both of which performed awesomely tonight.  Pearl Izumi N1 Road

So, we’ll see.

Tennessee’s “Secret Race” is a Beast! #ultramarathon

Wow, this discovery just got the hair standing on my neck.  And after combining the insight from my first trail race with the unbelievable information below, I am even more convinced that wilderness runners salute a twisted code that encourages legal forms of masochistic humiliation.

That said, I am currently VERY disappointed about two things:

  1. I’ve never heard of this race.
  2. No one I know has run it (that I know of)

Fist PumpPhoto © Geoffrey S. Baker  (photo links to source)

Here are a few tidbits about this race that I pulled from here:

“Only 14 runners out of about 1000 have finished within the 60 hour cutoff.”

“Runners climb 1,500 feet in the first mile.”

“Humility awaits.”

“Son of a ditch. 10 feet wide, 10 feet deep.”

“Descending Leonard’s Butt Slide. The first few hundred feet are on muddy slopes at a 45 degree angle down to book 3.”

All of these words are attempting to describe the horror that is referred to as The Barkley Marathons — 100 Mile run (and 60 mile fun run) in Frozen Head State Park, Tennessee (which is just outside of Knoxville).

This race is so awesome (yet unknown) the NY Times wrote this piece titled, “Few Know How to Enter; Fewer Finish.

There’s even a book about it.

What’s also great is this little nugget (posted on an unofficial website) about how to enter the race:

The entry procedure is secret. There is no official website. This is not the official website. This site mostly has pointers back here. The race is not listed on any calendar. You have to email the race director on a certain day of the year. The race will fill up on that day. In 2010 there were about 200 entries and 35 were accepted.

Now, I can honestly say I have zero interest in doing this race, especially after struggling to finish my first trail 1/2 marathon, but I wish someone I know would step up and take the challenge.  I mean, only 14 runners have ever finished within the 60 hour cutoff time?  That’s ridiculously awesome.

I know a lot of you out there are drooling.  Who’s gonna step up?

Dry Creek 1/2 Trail Marathon Race Report

Not many would call me country, but what transpired in the deep woods of Tennessee yesterday will soon have dozens of Crushing Iron readers calling me a nature boy.  The Dry Creek Marathon (and half) was another spectacular example in the long list of contributions  Nashville Running Company has delivered to a growing, and wildly masochistic, running community.

I woke at 5:30 am, walked the dog, then followed my printed Mapquest directions to the covert Dry Creek Race Headquarters.  I shared war stories with Corey, Wasky, and Jim, then dug into my pre-packed race bag.  First thing I noticed was (even with the uncanny day-before-planning) I forgot my Swiftwick’s.  Luckily I was wearing a pair of Timberland over-the-ankle-hikers, but this adds to my increasingly controversial history with socks.

The race started predictably enough.  Wasky shot out of a cannon, and I stayed with Corey for a couple miles until I realized our 9 minute pace goal was in the 7’s.  I dropped back, but an unexpected “ab flash” by NRC Kingpin, Lee Wilson, gave me the adrenaline I needed to attack the wilderness.

Around mile three, we turned off the rather smooth roads and plunged down a steep, single track–covered knee-deep in leaves.  It reminded me of my childhood and I took a retroactive risk by falling to my ass and gliding across the leaves like I was riding a luge.

It was dicey to say the least, but I crashed at the bottom of the hill, dusted off my Vince Wyatt for judge tech shirt, and tore through the rushing creek.  That’s when the race got unusual.

While crossing the first creek, my foot slammed the rocky bottom, narrowly missing a helpless turtle flipped on his back.  I was somehow flooded with a surge of compassion and decided to rescue the powerless creature.  I tiptoed into the water, grabbed the outer edges of his shell and somehow avoided the turtle’s vicious snap that would have quickly removed my forefinger. I moved him to deeper water and watched like a proud father as he swam into the sunrise.

The creek bottom gave way to a gorgeous meadow and, while drifting into meditation, I was startled by a piercing screech.  The loud, Macaw-like gobble was a heinous distraction, but clearly a cry for help.  I tread lightly as the commotion unfolded before me and I spotted a wild turkey with its talons trapped under a boulder.

I approached the frightening scene with caution and, for reasons I can’t humanly explain, started calling the helpless bird, Frank.  I calmed him with Zen mantras, “Ohm little bird,” “be at peace wild one,” “soup, soup, relax.”  Frank responded with timid unrest as I softly pet his mane.

I sacrificed race hydration by unloading my water bottle at his feet and watching in bewilderment as the hard soil turned to mud, releasing the talon to freedom. Unfortunately my generosity did not confirm our connection as Frank took a wicked parting swipe with his claw that broke skin through my stylish knee wrap.

I was waterless, bloody, and facing the meat of the 700 feet gain.  A beastly two-mile climb stood in my path and my valiant rescue efforts were falling on deaf ears.

Halfway up the monster, I locked eyes with a fainthearted deer, and let me tell you, the expression “doe eyes,” is no joke.  The rough winter had taken its toll and this animal was obviously struggling to find food.  I stopped again and approached her with a handful of quinoa which she eagerly lapped from my hand before bashfully begging for more.  I reached into fanny pack and pulled what was left of my nutrition to feed the starving doe.

I wanted to stay, but these interruptions were a major drag on my time.  Thankfully this new Zen Racing approach is paying dividends in other ways.

At mile 7 my favorite race photographer, Carolyn Wasky, snapped a fantastic shot of me before I flew back through base camp.  Little did she know, the story on my face was showing much more than pain.  It was a life altering 7 miles . . . and the last 6 would never live up . . . or would they?drycreekm2

Virtual high fives greeted me as I lumbered though the campground and Jim graciously took the above picture with his iPhone.  I stopped in my mind to give him a hug and he wished me well before swearing to uphold his oath as 2014 Social Chairman at my above ground swimming pool backyard resort.

The road was rocky, but all that was left was a 3 mile out and back.

It’s always painful to see competition going the other way but in an unbelievable move of generosity, the leader, Connor, graciously stopped in his tracks and poured what was left in his water bottle over my aching ankles.  A true pro.

Shortly thereafter, I saw Bryan, of Pearl Izumi fame glide by me with complete grace while answering email on his phone.  It was a remarkable show of “endurance racing” meets “stalwart employee.”  I was absolutely captivated when he flashed a picture of the new Pearl Izumi Road N-zeros and delivered a quick, yet heart felt sales pitch on the move.   Consider me sold.

One by one, Wasky, Corey, Daniel, and Steven flew by in the opposite direction and, rather than lose my cool, my mind drifted to the creatures I had saved that morning.  It was a wonderful day for nature lovers and I secretly inducted myself into the fraternity.

Around 1:56, and easily under my 2 hour goal, I staggered to my first Trail 1/2 Marathon finish.    I stood tall, soaked in the magnitude of the day’s events, then slowly walked to the food table . . . and ate everything in sight.

My First Trail 1/2 Marathon is Sunday

I haven’t run on trails much, period, and now I’ve decided to hit the woods for the Dry Creek 1/2 Marathon put on by my friends over at Nashville Running Company.  This will be another first.

My “goal” is to use it as a training run, but since it is technically a race, we’ll see how that goes.  I should also probably run in my trail shoes once before I do a half marathon.

The thing is, I’m really thinking about how to run this (and future events/workouts) as pure meditation.  Not that I won’t push myself, but how do you stay in that gliding zone?  How do you move the mental needle and get faster without grunting and killing yourself along the way?

I mean why do we feel trepidation over something we know we can do?  I really think it’s fear.

This how fear could crush me this weekend.

I could be worried about my shoes.  I’ve never run in them and I’ll surely get blisters and new foot pain.  Then, I will be waiting for it the entire run in an effort to justify my thoughts.

I will also worry about getting hurt.  Trails are “dangerous” and it’s not worth the risk to wrench an ankle.  So, I will be running scared.  Thinking about running rather than running.

I’ve never run this trail, so I will imaging rocks and limbs and boulders to be bigger and more imposing than the reality.  I will abuse my comfort zone before I show up.

But this is how I will not let fear crush me this weekend.

I will marvel at how awesome shoes are these days.  It’s not like when I was in high school where you had to break in your ProKeds for two painful weeks before they worked.  I will embrace the comfort of my Pearl Izumis Trail N1’s (which are available at NRC…mention Crushing Iron to get no discount).

Instead of worrying about injury, I will think about how much stronger and well rounded running on uneven ground will make my muscles.  A half marathon on trails will demand more energy, but cross training remains king in my book.

And instead of imagining the worst, why not embrace the beauty of the trails?  The Zen-like nature.  The solitude and peace.  I live in what most would consider a “rough” part of town, but it is really quite serene when the pit bulls aren’t barking all night.  My preconceptions of the neighborhood had me creating false illusions long before I moved in, now you can find me running often at 10pm.

So, I don’t expect any records and I don’t expect it to be easy.  But I will not give myself premature blisters, injuries, or beat downs.   The mind is a powerful place and I will be using a lot of it on Sunday.

I May Milk This Until I Die #IMWI

IMWI-Finish-KeeperMedI  finally pulled the trigger on race photos.  It cost $100, but that’s a small price to pay for a Wisconsin kid who . . . went back home, ran under the Ironman arch, then got a picture of it with his favorite State Capitol in the background.

My life isn’t THAT boring, but I do think about this moment a lot.  It’s not about how awesome I am, in fact the thought I have most often is:

It just doesn’t seem real.

As much as I trained . . . as much as I built my confidence for Ironman . . . it’s still 140.6 miles of endurance.  Back in the day, using those numbers and my name in the same sentence would have gotten belly laughs from my homies.

One year before Ironman the conquest seemed as realistic as climbing Mt. Everest, swimming the English Channel, or getting a good night’s sleep.  But, as the picture proves (assuming you don’t think I took a short cut) I actually did complete an Ironman.

It was really, really hard, but something propelled me to pursue the unthinkable that day.  My furthest combination of swim, bike, run before that was 1/2 the distance.  Half.

But the body and mind are truly capable of more than we know.

Sometimes I ask myself if I could have ran even one more mile that day.  I know the answer is yes, it would have been the most painful 10 minutes of my athletic career, by far.  Did I have two more miles?  Probably not.

It’s crazy how we adjust our goals to a specific target. I was mentally programmed to go 140.6 and that was about my limit.  What if I had trained for 200?  What is our real potential?

It really makes me wonder.  Not only physically, but mentally.  I mean, realistically I pulled this feat together in just over ONE YEAR . . . at 50 years old.  What else can I do?  What else can you do?

Until I figure out what’s next, I’ll probably keep looking at pictures of me and that guy in the blue shirt while trying to understand Ironman Wisconsin on a deeper level.  It was a wildly surreal experience that took forever, and went by in a flash.