Monthly Archives: February 2013

Running For Something

A while back I wrote a blog about my best friend from grade school but didn’t have the nerve to publish.  His name was Tim.

We played sports together from grade school through High School.  Tim was a great athlete and an amazing overachiever.  We were roommates in college, then he went into the Army and ransacked Europe for a couple years.

He was a crazy fucker and always getting into trouble.  We parted ways after college and he moved to Milwaukee where he landed in Sales for a staffing company that supplied companies with temporary workers.  Before Tim, that company never had a Fortune 500 client on their roster.  Within a year, he signed up four.

He was a relentless salesman and wasn’t afraid of anything.  Certainly not a no.

His methods were as unconventional as they came.  He’d spent months saddling up to an HR Director for a major company in Milwaukee before finally he got his chance.  Tim invited his boss and the company president to join him at the table.  The company president took over the meeting by going into a long spiel about about how Tim’s company would do this and do that and have x-amount of people ready at all times to satisfy the needs of their client.  Tim sat silently and watched as his boss’s boss lied through his teeth for 15 minutes.

When the president ended his pitch, the HR guy, who knew Tim well after months of sales calls, looked at him and asked, “Tim, can you guys do all of that for us?”

Tim, looked him in the eye, and matter of factly said, “No way in hell.”

That was Tim.  He shot straight and saw no reason to lie.  He called me out constantly on the simplest things and wouldn’t let it rest until I came clean.

Tim was tenacious and it came at a cost.  He had a dangerously addictive personality and while living in Milwaukee, cocaine became his diversion of choice.

He was working 14 hour days and that company was blowing up.  He’d get huge orders for temp. workers, then have to literally case the streets of Milwaukee to find enough people to fill the positions.  It was grueling work and on most nights, he would go home do a few lines, then sleep.

He was in and out of counseling for years and told me once his therapist said he was so wired that cocaine was actually a downer.  He used the most prevalent party upper of our time to relax!

Fast forward 10 years when Tim was living in Savannah.  He’d been through rehab and started his journey clean.  Then slowly, he started drinking again and things ran out of control.

He lived on Tybee Island and had a few more sales stints before slowly losing his way.  We talked almost every day and while I knew he was struggling to find work, he was always optimistic.  It was quite amazing, especially when he told me he had cancer.

He’d gone to the doctor because his back was killing him for months and they found a tumor.  Then a subsequent scan showed it had spread throughout his body.

He was consistent with updates and went into fight mode like only Tim could understand.  He started juicing and eating raw foods, along with an intense vitamin regiment.  We talked multiple times a day and there was no doubt in my mind Tim would turn his life around and beat this thing.  He had actually been at a new job for about three months and decided to quit so he could stay focused and move back to Wisconsin while he recharged himself.

On his way back he scheduled a couple nights in Nashville so we could hang out and catch up.  He called me the Friday before and said he was really excited to get home and watch the Packers and Badgers with friends and family he hadn’t seen in years.  I too was excited and optimistic to see him in 7 days.

Of course a bunch of us were all in contact at that point.  All doing what we could to sort it out and see how we could help.  On that Sunday, one of those buddies, Marty, called me around 2:00 in the afternoon.  They all called me Rope.

“Hey Rope.”

“Hey Marty, what’s up?”

“Are you sitting down?”

I couldn’t believe it.  Tim died.

Marty told me they thought he died in his sleep sometime between late Saturday and early Sunday morning.  I was stunned and completely wrecked.  He was my voice of reason, my daily confidant and my therapist rolled in one.  We had spent hours talking about dreams that never happened.  A wild exchange of passion that flew through the phone lines then out into the universe like they never happened.  He was my carbon copy in so many ways.

Tim died on Halloween and it shook me pretty hard.  I immediately vowed to take action on some of our ideas.  We’d been loosely working on a screenplay about his life in sales and it’s still sitting in my computer.  I haven’t been able to touch it, but Tim’s death has given me strength I wasn’t sure if I could muster.

I silently pledged to, at the very least, live with more vigor.  It didn’t happen overnight, but it gnawed at me for a couple months.  Tim was in overweight when he died and the first thing I decided was that I would find my health.  But, I still couldn’t do it.

I trudged ahead with similar patterns but so many things reminded me of Tim.  He was always there.  I kept his last phone message and replay the infectious laugh on occasion.  I was bummed and feeling sorry for myself.  Finally, it dawned on me that Tim would have been pissed at my lack of action.

Eventually, I took the the plunge on running and succeed in my first 5k.  Every race since has been a major challenge, and Tim continues to be an inspiration.  He was always up for a party, so I know he’ll be in New Orleans where I’m sure at least once, I’ll hear him screaming from a balcony as I run by . . .

“Come on Rope, you got this!”


More Nerves

So, all of a sudden I’m sitting here a little nervous about the New Orleans half marathon.  It’s this Sunday and I know I can complete it, but have no clue whether or not I’ve trained right. 

I’ve honestly started looking at all upcoming races as training grounds for the one and only race that has my real focus: Ironman Wisconsin. We’ve been talking about a 1:45 for me at New Orleans, but if that comes with a need for a few days off, I’m not sure how I feel about it.  It’s going to take a serious effort from me and will literally cut 29 minutes off my only other 1/2. 

Oh, who am I kidding, I’ll probably shoot for 1:30 and deal with the consequences. 

Swim Training

I really want swimming to be my favorite event.  I have been pretty consistent at getting to the pool, but it seems like every other swim goes to hell for me.  And by go to hell I mean gives me little confidence about completing the 2.4 miles. 

Now, I know I will be ready and will finish the swim regardless.  I did an Olympic swim in miserable conditions and was breast stroking 200 yards off shore.  It took about 43 minutes (13 minutes than more than my target pace) but I made it out of the water with plenty left for the bike in run.

The one constant in my bad swims is trying to go to fast too early.  It’s very difficult for me because, similar to the stationary bike, swimming in a pool just gets on my nerves sometimes.  I just want it to be over.  So I push and try to get out faster because the lane feels  claustrophobic and I’m not a big fan of chlorine.  So, I push and wind up out of breath.  Unable to relax.  I swim far less than I’d hoped and promise to do better the next time. 

We were supposed to have a swim lesson from coach this morning at 5am.  I was reticent, but made a decision to go because I need someone to correct my stroke.  Unfortunately, he texted everyone last night and said he was sick, but I’d be lying if I didn’t feel relief.  Still, the mornings! 

It’s all about the warm up.  I have to remember that.  In an hour and a half swim (that’s my Ironman goal) a few minutes of light, slow, and relaxed strokes at the beginning will go a LONG ways for me.  I want to get stronger, not be looking at the shore from a mile away going, “holy fuck… how will I make it?” 


I’ve made a decision that swimming will now get a higher percentage of my workout plan.  I grew up running and biking.  They are built into my fiber and I only have 200 days to do it with swimming.  I really like being in water, but my goal is to feel completely comfortable the moment it starts.  Running and biking will take care of themselves.  Not being ready for the swim could break me. 

Now, I realize people say you don’t lose the race in the swim, but I disagree.  Less people to pass and more intensity from better racers.  15 minutes may not seem like a lot, but when you’re hoping to come in under 13 hours, that will leave a lot less margin for error on the bike and run.  Just sayin…. And the debate starts now . . . .


Building for an Ironman

I believe that everything is on a continuum. 

I’m not a big fan of ultimatums and don’t think people are simply one way or the other.  There are at least 50 Shades of Grey.  On one end is death, the other, complete aliveness.  Most of us fall somewhere in the middle, and I believe that applies to training as well. 

I have been striving to be completely awake.  Training like never before, pushing my body to the limits in pursuit of ultimate bliss. I can honestly say that I feel better than I have in years.  The workouts have been intense and often.  I have been completing several of them, but not all. 

The guys I’m training with are amazing inspiration.  No less than 8 times I have laid in bed before a Saturday or Sunday workout and contemplated texting them with some kind of excuse.  Each time I have resisted and shown up.  That is because of them.

On the other hand, they are way further ahead of me and I am trying to keep up with their schedules.  When I say “way further” I mean at least a year and that is a huge time frame when I look at the progress I’ve made since I started running last January. 

Ironman is gonna be dicey for me.  There is no question about it.  I will have literally risen from the ashes in just over a year and a half to tackle one of the toughest races known to man.  It is a major challenge, and I embrace every second of the pain.

But I realize that I have to do this at my pace.  I am constantly thinking about Ironman and what it’s going to cross the finish line.  Time is only one factor.  I know that will likely be between 13 and 17 hours.  I also want to do it without breaking. 

Swimming, biking, and running for 13 hours was the furthest thing from my mind a year ago.  Even when I finally understood what an Ironman was, I couldn’t even comprehend it.  Now, I can. 

At this point I believe I could complete a half Ironman.  It would be torture, but I think I have it in me.  That leaves 201 days to double that distance and do it in a way where I am actually happy with my time.  It almost feels like I’ll need the stars to align or something, but I’m trusting the path and trusting that subtle things will change.

I need to start getting to bed and waking earlier.  I need to sleep sounder and eat better.  I need to build strength and confidence.  I need stay focused.  I need to believe.  

So, when I reject workouts, I believe I am doing the right thing for my body.  The last thing I want is injury or burnout.  I want to build slowly, but with a tinge of pushing the boundaries.  I have to build and grow.  Then build and grow some more.  I’m nowhere near ready, but I will be.  And, the bottom line to all of this is, I really want to write a book called, “How I slept my way to an Ironman.” 


Longest Bike To Date

As usual I had a tough time sleeping last night and was “this close” to calling in sick for the morning workout.  On top of no sleep, I ate a terrible dinner last night and was a little worried about what a 3-hour-group-training ride would do to my health.  Not to mention the 20 minute run that followed.

My alarm went off at 6:15 and I laid in bed through a couple snoozes, calculating my next move.  I reasoned a dozen excuses and promised I would do the ride later that morning.  Surely, after a little more sleep and a solid breakfast I could breeze through this workout.  But, something gave me a last minute push and I waltzed into the YMCA around 7:15. 

I had already made the decision I would only ride 2 1/2 hours instead of three.  My apprehension was two-fold.  One, I didn’t really see the point of such a long ride, and on top of it a full hour longer than I’ve ever gone.  And two, I am continually worried about wearing down, especially on low sleep and bad fuel. 

About 2:15 minutes into the ride (that included a progressive scale spin class) I decided I would ride until 10 o’clock, which would have been about 2:40, but the group laid on the guilt. 

“Why would you quit 20 minutes away from the goal??” 

I responded with the logic outlined above, put my head down and kept peddling.  Before I knew it, 10:00 was there and, and while reticent, I decided to go the extra 20 minutes. 

Someone said quitting then would be similar to scaling Everest and going back down a few hundred feet from the top.  “Would you do that?” 

I said it would depend how many cameras were on me 🙂 It’s the journey, right? 

But, seriously.  Sometimes I think that this early in the training (over 200 days out) I will benefit from going a little less on some of these heavy workouts.  Especially in situations like today when I know I can make it.  For me, that’s 90% of the battle.  If I have confidence in the distance, that counts for a lot. 

But I know that races are won and lost on these cold and early Saturday mornings in February.  I used to spend hours on non-glamorous baseball drills that made me a far better player.  I think today was a great example of that, and I’m happy to report, I feel great.  In fact, it’s about 3:30 now and I almost think I could do another 3 hours if I wanted.  But, I’ll just save that energy for tomorrow’s 10 mile run. 

Butter My Balls

Warning: This post is pretty tame, but if you’re easily offended by jokes about bike chaffing and all that goes with it, you probably should go over to this site.

Well, I’m catching a lot of heat from my training partners these days.  Why?  Because I am reticent to partake on occasion.

Tomorrow, we’re slated for a 3 hour trainer ride and my “plan” is to show up an hour late because, frankly, that is an hour longer than I’ve done in my life on a stationary bike.  And while they are calling this the “building phase” I feel like I have a little more work to do on the basement before putting up the framework.

Even mild mannered Kevin got involved in the skewering with this text: “That’s alright, Mike.  I hear all the greats skip the base period of training.  They jump right to peak workouts.”

He has a great point!  But you know what?  The greats will be sucking my d*ck in September!

Okay, sorry.  I had a brief stint of cocky-ridden angst, that I will try to control for the rest of this post because it involves a slippery subject, butter.

Yes, ass butter has changed my life!  (When’s the last time you heard that sentence?).

I finally got on board with “Shammy Butter” last night and am praising the heavens. I relayed my enthusiasm to Jim and he said, “You should try that butter when you’re riding.”  Ha.  Good one!

I was getting a little concerned because the bike is my “strong event” and I was really having trouble peddling for more than an hour, but mainly because of that undefined sensitive area has to really wonder what the fuck I am doing to it every time I jump on this bike!

But now . . .

I rattled off a nice 1:30 ride last night and barely noticed my “spot” (though it might have been partially due to the captivating lesbian-art-film I cued up).  So, yeah, it was a power gear session and I felt incredibly strong (almost like I could have gone for 3 hours), which of course gave me confidence again.

Speaking of confidence, it really takes something to walk up to another dude in a bike shop and talk about spreading cocoa butter on your ass and balls.  It’s a little disturbing how comfortable these types of conversations are becoming.

“Hey man, how’s your rash?”

“Fucking awesome, I lubed up a muddling tool and rolled it around my nuts for an hour.”

“Sweet, that sounds amazing!”

“It was!”

Anyway . . . So, the jury is still out on the morning bike.  I guess I’ll make that decision after TONIGHT’S bike workout.  I am also contemplating an outdoor ride tomorrow, but I know my training partners are too wuss to ride in cool weather.

Motivation from Our Coach

Going from a 5K to an Ironman in a year and a half is tough work.  So much of it is mental and, while our coach offers an excellent training plan and workout advice, one of his best assets is his ability to motivate.  Here’s the latest edition of “Coach Speak” that he posted on the Fab Five Facebook page:

Last week I addressed the team as individuals. This week as a whole.

The Fab Five (occasionally with a +1) is not merely a group. I believe it’s a following, a journey. They follow each other as individuals, they follow the group as a whole, others follow them as individuals, and most follow them as a team.

They follow their dreams and goals as individuals. They are not merely “Crushing Iron.” They aren’t merely training for an epic day of human strength, will power, courage, and endurance in September. They ARE following their destiny and we are all privileged to be engulfed in the first few chapters of this novel.

When we are done reading this life altering novel. We won’t put it away. Well leave it on our coffee table, where we can see it. That way we can relive this journey many days and years after.

Good day.

It’s always great to read words of motivation from someone who has been there and understands the process.  When he’s not throwing quick witted jabs, he is really quite insightful.

Feel free to carry his words with you as well.  We’re all in this together.