Monthly Archives: August 2013

8 Days Until #IMWI

So, I think the real idea behind tapering is to drive you absolutely insane until you’re about to explode, then you unleash that fury on race day.

How is it that something like a race can literally possess such major real estate in your brain?  I think it’s because, training this hard chips away at your heart and soul and forces us to evolve into our truer selves.   8 daysA lot of people wonder why in the hell I would do an Ironman.  Most think it’s to prove something or for the medal, but that couldn’t be further from the truth, and the people closest to me are starting to understand.

In reality, the race is a ceremony that recognizes the work.  The work that is driving us to become better stewards of life.  We push our limits because that is our responsibility as human beings, and sometimes it takes a carrot like Ironman to ignite a fire that’s been smoldering for years.

From a purely philosophical perspective, the more engaged, respectful, and evolved we are as people, the more positive impact it has on the world.  Society has a tendency to focus on the wrong things, like acquiring tangible goods or thinking happiness will come from someone else.  It’s easy to get stuck in that trap.  The longer I train, the more I am able to grasp that happiness truly does come from inside, and the simple things in life. 1236114_502555959835215_1512090986_nThe very idea that I am able to train for an Ironman humbles me more each day.  Yesterday morning, for example, our open water swim group took an adventure out to, and around the island.  It was literally uncharted water.  (For what it’s worth, the backside of that island looked pretty much like the front, but we’d have never known if we didn’t go).   When I finally cruised back into shore, I stood waste deep, looked back into the sunrise and felt incredibly lucky.

What a gift to be able to swim.  What a gift to be able to bike.  What a gift to be able to run.

In 8 days I will combine those activities to cover 140.6 miles.  It will be challenging, painful, and cost more energy than I’ve ever exerted.  And when I’m done, there is no doubt in my mind I will appreciate even smaller things.  Like being able to walk, to stand, and share a beer with family and friends.

The ceremony will fade away, and shortly after, I will be in a deep sleep.  The next morning I will wake up, reflect on my journey, and know that, beyond a doubt, I am living life.

The Quote That Blew My Mind #IMWI

Quotes come and go, but sometimes they hit like a ton of bricks and stick like tree sap on my windshield.

A few days ago I was feeling a little down and lacked motivation.  Here I was, less than two weeks from Ironman Wisconsin and feeling sorry for myself, uncertain, and depressed.  Then, our coach posted this:

“Need some motivation? Put your hand over your heart…. Feel that??? Some day it will stop….Now, go be amazing and do everything you’ve ever dreamed of doing.”Robbie Bruce

Crushing Iron T-shirts #IMWI

Just wanted to put this out there to fans of the blog and aspiring triathletes who are in the process of crushing iron.  We’re getting these cotton shirts made for Ironman Wisconsin and wanted to make them available to you if you’re interested.  I need to place the order today and they will cost $20 plus shipping.  Send me an email with sizes and we’ll figure out how to get them to you.  Thanks.  Image

Emotions of am Ironman Taper #IMWI

Well, we are in taper, and I am officially paranoid. 

Every move I make is accompanied by a small pause and half-eye-roll back into my head analyzing the subtle pain I just felt in my knee, ankle, back, neck, toe, and/or ring finger.  It is not a pleasant state. 

I am also a little grumpy.  Quiet.  Introspective.  I’m internalizing all of these feelings and emotions.  I’m sure many people around me will pay the price for the next 10 days, and for that, I apologize in advance. 

Despite all of the moodiness, I am very excited to race.

I want to feel the cool rush of Lake Monona with 3,000 others who’ve made tremendous sacrifices to be in that water.  I want to find that breathing zone that can only be located on long swims.   I want to spot the swim exit and start gearing up for the bike.

I want to coast down the helix with thousands of people screaming and ringing cowbells as I roll out the first mile of one hundred and twelve.  I want to soak in the sun as I cruise down roads I’ve probably driven, but can’t remember.  I want to climb those big hills with people yelling motivation in my ear.  And I want to see Madison on the horizon as I close in on the bike exit. 

I want to embrace the rush of running out of transition and onto State Street, eyes peeled for familiar faces.  I want to hit the tunnel and emerge inside an empty Camp Randall one day after 80,000 screaming fans propelled my Badgers to a lopsided win.  I want to hear the energy of the finish line, then turn the corner to complete my journey in front of my home state’s capitol. 

I want to hug and high five all of the people who have made this an emotional and spectacular ride.  The Fab 5, friends, and family.  I want to settle down, relax, and reflect on all it took to get there.  Then start planning for the next one. 

Until then, I must simply wait. 


Ironman Louisville Spectator Recap

It’s funny how a race that takes most athletes 12 or more hours to finish can have so many urgent moments.  Watching Ironman is the ultimate hurry up and wait scenario that rattles your nerves and even spectators the most seasoned spectators spend the day flirting with exhaustion.

The entire day is like looking at a field of peacocks.  A flow of visual distractions inject your mind like a with one powerful drug after another.  The potential for obsession is endless, and after spending an entire Sunday in the throws of passion, I feel obligated to make a major confession:  My name is Mike, and I’m an IronTrac-aholic.miketracIronman has officially morphed into hand-held-crack.  Hundreds of athletes, who have worked tirelessly to prepare for the race of a lifetime. fly by on bikes while entire groups of spectators, young and old, are watching swim, bike, run progress on phones.  One guy I talked to said he spent a good chunk of his day “watching” from inside a coffee shop.

But, Irontrac nearly flushed our drug down the toilet.

The night before the race we were trying to set up our IronTrac “watch list” and none of the competitors were showing up.  We were freaking out.  In a panic.  Would we really just have to watch the race??  It appeared certain when IronTrac sent out this message on Facebook:

I have Good News and I have Bad News. Good News – the Athlete List is up and ready to go for Ironman Canada!! The Bad News – Ironman is testing out a COMPLETELY changed version of the Athlete Tracker for Ironman Louisville and unfortunately IronTrac will not work to track athletes racing tomorrow. This is what happens when you pull info from a ‘Giant’ and the ‘Giant’ doesn’t communicate with us. Thank you for your understanding and support. I will update you as we figure out things next week. 

We stared at our phones in disbelief and passed consoling hugs around the room.  Everything would be okay, we reassured ourselves, but the night before the race would be also be restless for spectators.

I was sharing a room with Robbie, who was racing, which added another level of anxiety to my night.  I was quiet and trying to be respectful as possible, but the whole IronTrac thing had me on edge.  Well, that, and the fact that I had some good friends racing in the morning.

I heard Robbie moving around at about 4 in the morning and could already feel the energy.  The last two days he had a very calm focus on this this race.  He coached us hard, but worked even harder.  I knew he was ready to get last year out of his mind.  As we walked to transition for a final check of the bike, he was as loose as I’d seen him and posed for an early morning picture in front of this . . . uh . . . novelty shop.

IMG_0478I watched Louisville last year and can’t tell you how much I love the swim start.  The long winding trail of athletes filing down to the water is an electric sequence.  I parked myself in the front row and texted back and forth to people who were with Robbie, Wasky, and Corey to find out when they crossed under the arch so I could get video of their plunge.  It worked out perfectly and I caught each of them jumping in and swimming up the channel. (Though this is not a picture of that). IMG_0486I watched for a little while longer, then we moved toward the Swim Exit about two miles down the river.  I got a little sidetracked shooting video of the awesome scene unfolding in the Ohio River.  The bridge backdrops were just spectacular and I lost track of time.IMG_0488When I finally got to the Swim Exit, I realized I was trapped on the wrong side and didn’t have time to get around.  I panicked and grabbed a perch about 100 yards away and thought I could catch them with my zoom lens, but it was a madhouse.

Robbie and Wasky started in the back of the line, but they are pretty fast swimmers so by the time they got to the exit, there were tons of people coming out at once.  They were shouting names like rapid fire and I knew I was sunk.

Allison sent me a text message and said Robbie was out of the water in a blistering 55 minutes.  I didn’t see him come up the ramp, so I ran to the other side of the changing tent and hoped I’d catch him, but his transition was less than four minutes and I missed the whole scene.

Then I ran back to catch Wasky and missed him, too.  He was out of the water in 1:04 and I was running around like a wild chicken.  I put my head down and ran to the street so see if I could catch his bike departure, and caught him as he blew out of town.

Corey was right behind them and I honestly can’t remember if I saw him at that point or not.  The fast pace of an Ironman had my heart racing on the sidelines.

I walked back to my car and that’s when I realized IronTrac had fixed the problem.  I was now a junkie on an all-day-tracking-bender that would start in LaGrange, KY.

I had genuine intentions of getting a bunch of good video and did manage to catch Robbie and Wasky go by on the bike the first time, but shortly after that I was ready to throw my camera in LaGrange’s community dumpster.  It’s so hard to recognize anyone on a bike, and when you do, they are gone in three seconds.  It’s fruitless.  I put the camera away for the rest of the bike and simply enjoyed the festive atmosphere and cold $6 cheeseburgers served by down-home-folks in a small Kentucky town.  IMG_0498After the guys came through the second time, it was back to Louisville for a nap.  I figured I had around 2 hours to drive and rest for a few, but I may have slept for 5 minutes before waking up in freak out because Robbie was rockin’ the bike and I suddenly had the feeling I may be underestimating his arrival time.  I still thought I was cool, but two blocks from the Run Out, I got a text telling me Robbie was off the bike.  Damn!  I missed him again.  Just then, I caught him for 5 seconds as he ran by me looking like a boxer headed to the ring.  He was fired up, focused, and off the bike in 5:42.526509_501298223294322_768066529_n

I let Robbie go and stood at the Bike In and waited for Wasky, who was holding his 9 minute swim deficit to Robbie for most of the bike.  He came in at 5:49 and gave me a thumbs up as he coasted into transition, which he cleared in just over 4 minutes.  Here he is checking his watch before serving himself to the downtown furnace.  IMG_0502Now, it was time for Corey.

Corey and I met at the Rev 3 Knoxville in May.  It was a brutal day in the opposite direction.  Temperatures were in the upper 50’s and it was raining the whole race.  The water temperature was 54 degrees and it was Corey’s first half.  I felt bad that such a nice guy had to deal with those conditions as I slinked off after my Olympic.

Corey did a 6:30 that day, and logic would say you should at least double that time for a full Ironman, but Corey had other ideas.

He came off the bike with a huge smile in 6:06.  You always want to say your friends looked great during a race, but he really did.  I stood with his wife, Donna, waiting for him to come out of transition.  Five minutes, six, seven . . . it was taking a while.  His wife was getting anxious.  “What’s he doing in there?”  Eight minutes . . . then, just after 9 minutes, he came running out in his red and black top with the same grin.  He was ready for his marathon.  IMG_0504This is where it gets dicey.

I walked with Corey’s wife to the halfway point of the marathon, which is also mile 1, 14, and 26.  It’s a good spot to catch runners twice in about 10 minutes.

Robbie’s first run split was 7:24/mile at the 2.5 mile mark.  He followed with a 7:38 over the next 3.  He showed me his plan for the race and till this point he was dead on, all the way down to projected transition times.

Wasky started a little slower with an 8:45 first split, then came in at 10:16 for the next 3 mile split.

Corey’s first 2.5 miles were at a 8:37 pace and he followed at 9:03 for the next 3 miles.

For an IronTrac junkie, this is heaven and hell.  Refresh, refresh, refresh.  It’s the perfect drug because it is often an illusion.  You think you’re looking at pure information, but sometimes it’s cut with bad facts.  You start doing math in your head and trying to rationalize what’s going on when you really don’t have a clue.  They also give you weird split distances like 1.6 miles and 2.3 miles that are simply a pain in the ass to calculate.  Then out of nowhere, you get another update.

Robbie’s next split average was 8:52 for 1.6 miles and while it seemed like a bad sign, you just never know if there was a hill or he was just backing off for a bit.  But when the next one came in at 11:05, I knew something was up.  All we could do was wait.

Wasky’s third split was a 12:41 pace and he followed it with a 12:51.  I was with his parents and you could sense real concern in their body language.  Mom and dad, standing helpless as their son is battling a war.  It’s hard for anyone who hasn’t trained to this level to understand that it’s okay, even when it seems like it isn’t.  Wasky was obviously in pain and he knew it was coming, just not so fast.

Corey also came in noticeably higher on his third split, 10:48, but followed it with a 9:45.  It appeared Corey was settling in his groove, but Robbie and Wasky were waging war.

It took forever, but Robbie’s next split was 18:25 for 1.2 miles and, if IronTrac was right, I had a pretty good feeling his achilles nightmare had returned.  I know from experience your achilles is not something to mess with and I pretty much figured he’d reached the end.

I’m still relatively new to Ironman and have always wondered why people wouldn’t just walk it in to get their medal.  But, the more I learn, the more I realize it’s not about the medal.  It’s about where this process of training takes you.  And, especially if you’ve done multiple Ironmans, risky long term injury is a dumb idea, especially when you love to train and race like Robbie does.

By now, Corey had overtaken them both and came rolling through mile 13 like he was on a Sunday jog.  You could just see it in his eyes, he had this thing.  He swept around the block and came back through and nearly knocked me over with a high-five.  He was strong.1236956_436073343174428_1151937084_n

Wasky was next, and he had that determined look I’ve come to know so well, but his legs were harboring a cramp fest.  Every step was painful, but he kept moving.  He came around the block and gave me a vicious high-five as well, then swaddled into the distance thinking about ways he could beat his legs.

I didn’t see Robbie until later, but I knew he had to be disappointed.  So many hours.  So much focus, ripped away by an injury.  It can be a cruel day.

Now, Corey and Wasky were out on the second loop and all we spectators needed was patience.  We charged our phones and refreshed IronTrac at ridiculous speeds.  Corey’s splits stayed solid and we knew he was coming in soon.  I took my place on top of the walkway and pointed my lens and waited.

Around 11:55 minutes after I shot him jumping in the river, I saw Corey’s red and black jersey in the distance.  He had the same bounce in his step and was moving at at sub 9 clip.  Not only would he finish his first Ironman, he would do it under 12 hours with an 11:57.  A remarkable performance on a brutally hot day.  Corey Coggins, You are an Ironman.1149030_10151893079204973_1013265973_n

By looking at his pace, it was obvious Wasky was fighting cramps the entire second loop.  I can’t imagine what he went through, but he was hovering around a 12 minute pace, so I knew that, regardless of the pain, he was still running.  And even with an agonizing run that was surely below his goal, Wasky crossed his first Ironman finish line in 12:28.  John Wasky, You are an Ironman.4febb808-e929-4e1e-970e-23ff8ccd34f3

I was super proud of all three of these guys.  An amazing day on so many levels.  I wish things could have turned out better for Robbie, but in true fighter fashion, he has already signed up for Louisville 2014.

There were other great performances from people I know and/or train with:

Melissa Gomez 13:42
Lisa Kelley: 13:24
Ann Mallin: 13:14
Emily Ryan: 11:06 (5th in age group)Daveed Jaime: 15:20 (Couch to Ironman in 3 months)
Rodney Bice: 13:30
Carrie Haapala: 13:58
Annapurna Slayman: 13:22
Paul Putnam: 15:27
And of course, Wil Emery, who I just met and realized is my neighbor: 9:26 (10th overall, 1st in age group, and Kona bound).

I have to admit, it was an incredible high, followed by a low the next morning.  I’m past the point of being anxious for IMWI, now it’s just flat out impatience.  I know the hardest part of these next 10 days will be calming my mind and beating off negative thoughts as I train less and sit around more.  Clearly I am going to have to spend more time with IronTrac.

Neighborly Advice 14, 13, and 12 Days Out from Ironman

This entire list is here, but since I haven’t posted since Saturday I thought I would re-share some of my neighbor’s wisdom for less than two weeks out from Ironman. 

Day 14 – You gonna think I’m full of corn, but when you two weeks away from ya dance, you gotta forget all the moves.  Sit back with your friends and just talk about shit u don’t care about.  Hell, my boy Mincie talked out both sides his mouth bout that damn Flipper show and I just shook my head and ate biscuits.  Sound crazy, but he kept it real and real is what it is.

Day 13 – Okay, now I’m gonna tell u somethin, but it ain’t what you hope.  You gonna start worryin’ bout everything.  Like nightmare and dream shit that straight out a Stephen King movie.  Like u tryin to spot that swim buoy but ain’t got no eyes or u runnin’ on hot burnin’ coals or u forgot ya swim cap.  But that just ya mind fuckin wit u.  I had a dream once and I was dancin’ on my damn hands.  Ain’t that some Jackabilly?

Day 12 – Not gonna lie.  Day 12 ain’t for nothin’ but lettin’ your nerves calm down from that Stephen King shit.  Nothin else u can do, really.

**Ironman Louisville Spectator Recap coming in an hour or so. 

The Day Before The Race – IM Louisville

Coach Robbie ready to crush iron

Coach Robbie ready to crush iron

Quick note and some pictures from beautiful Louisville, Kentucky, the day before Ironman.

Since I’m not racing, I got up and took a 30 mile ride on the bike course for some 2-week out training for IMWI.  I have to say, the first 15 miles of this IML is a nice ride along the Ohio River with plenty of nice scenery.

Robbie and Wasky

Robbie and Wasky

Like the Dirty Girl 5K run for example, which was going on in a park about 4 miles from the Swim Exit.  If you’re like me and haven’t heard of the Dirty Girl 5K, it is essentially a bunch of women covered in mud, wearing pink tank tops and head bands, walking through a park outlined by pink caution tape all while their mildly aging and somewhat overweight baby-daddies walk along and take pictures with their flip phones.

Church PlansThe first 10 miles shucks and jives like the Louisville native, Muhammed Ali, and is basically a very tempting flat space.  I can imagine most of the athletes will be tempted to hammer it through here (see Wasky) but it’s probably best just to let your legs warm up because mile ten is waiting.

Public BathMile 10 is both a wake-up call and a hallelujah moment.  On you’re way out, it will get the blood flowing those legs a steady climb.  On the way back it will be the beginning of the end and the hill was steep enough for me to ease into a 31 mph coast.

There will be a point shortly after where the beauitful skyline pops into view for about 30 seconds and you think, ahh, I’m home.  But, trust me, you are not.  The city scape seems close enough to touch, but it’s still about 5 miles.

image_9Then you’ll see the swim entrance on your right and be like, did I really swim there today? Today?  Was that today?  Seems like last week, or at the very least yesterday.

So, that’s all I got.  The inside scoop on the first ten out and last ten back.  From what I hear it will be the most enjoyable part of the bike.

Now, here are a few sights without sound from todays walk-thru.  image_3 image_2 image_6 image_5 image