Monthly Archives: October 2013

Ironman Louisville 2013 Video #IML

Ironman Louisville has always had a special place in my heart.   The last two years I’ve watched it, and will finally be racing this course in 2014.  I shot this video and finally got around to cutting it to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.”  It’s focused on my friends Robbie, Wasky, and Corey.  Hope you enjoy.

Here are a few screen grabs of the stars of this video.  Wasky above, Robbie and Wasky below.  Corey in the third frame.

Ironman Louisville 2013 Ironman Louisville 2013Ironman louisville 2013

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Bob Babbitt Inspired #IMKona

From that day I watched my first Ironman race in Louisville, I was hooked.  But it seemed so strange —  3,000 people putting themselves through what seemed like torture.  There must be something more.  Why?  What was going on here?

The deeper I got into my own training for Ironman, I began to realize the stranglehold it can have on you.  It literally changes your life and dozens of friends have told me what I was doing motivated them to start running or get a bike or get back in the pool.  The lifestyle is contagious.

And Ya know, sometimes you just get the feeling you should be doing more with your life.

This morning I woke up way before the alarm and got out of bed naturally.  The first thing I laid my eyes on was Twitter where I saw a link to a story about Bob Babbitt who has been involved with Ironman for 35 years.  They had me at hello.

Babbitt grew up in Chicago as an outdoor lover, got tired of the winters and moved to San Diego.  He started a gym class in one of the local schools, and became good friends with Tom Warren, who won the second Ironman in 1979.  Babbitt decided to compete the next year and essentially dedicated the rest of his life to bringing triathlon to the average guy.   Along the way he also co-founded the Challenged Athletes Foundation, which he says is, “his proudest accomplishment.”

He also was the co-founder of Competitor Magazine.

When I read stories like this, it touches a place far deeper than I can explain.  It’s about purpose and passion, not simply going from point A to point B.  Babbitt spent many of those early years around Ironman covering local races for free, but he got far more than money can ever deliver.

It’s more than times and racing up and down roads, it’s a vibrant approach to living.  It reminds me of the feeling I had when I started Creative Pig Minds.  I had a dream and nothing would get in my way.  I “worked” 15 hours a day and was completely engaged.  It was hard work, but incredibly Zen, “in the moment” kind of stuff.

That is exactly how I would describe my first Ironman experience.  Completely in the moment for 11 hours and 58 minutes.  I was flooded with purpose.  I knew exactly what I was doing and literally lost myself in time.  To me, that is the epitome of living.

When we trudge through life with jumbled thoughts we are bound to be unhappy.  Our subconscious doesn’t like to be thinking one thing and wishing it were doing another.  It’s a recipe for conflict and a perpetual flight mode.

Babbitt went with his heart and created a lifestyle he couldn’t resist.  He embraced a direction that was engaged and filled with purpose.  It sounds simple, but going where you really want to be takes a lot of courage because most people, including yourself, don’t want you to leave.

My Great Ab Workout Revealed

This was from way back in the beginning, but it proved to be a staple over the course of my Ironman training.  It’s also a great example of how to keep your dog occupied during those long winter nights.

Goosepond Half Triathlon – Race Report

I’ve had a difficult time pulling myself together to write a Goosepond Race Report.  Frankly, I wasn’t ready for this race, and it showed.  It was a painful day and I’d rather forget most of it, but I’ve learned that these are exactly the kind of races you need to remember.

Goosepond was my first race after Ironman Wisconsin and I have concluded it’s similar to a band playing Red Rocks, then sitting down for an open mic the next night.  It can be fun, but it’s a completely different motivational challenge.   That said, the best bands (and athletes) put out the same energy whether they’re playing in front of one person or a packed house.

Wasky, Corey, and me looking marginally hungover before Goosepond 946028_10202117501570057_429856629_nMy only other 1/2 was Muncie and the night before, I could barely sleep.  Before Goosepond, I was out like a light.  I just did a damn Ironman, 70.3 would be a breeze!

As we checked into transition it really made me think about how much goes into putting on a triathlon.  The logistics of an Ironman are staggering and here were a bunch of people who likely didn’t know much about triathlon doing their best to make Goosepond work.  It was more of a small town feel, while Ironman was New York City.

I was in auto pilot and kept forgetting stuff back at the truck.  My socks, my timing chip, my helmet.  It was a weird, zombie-like feeling and eventually, coach Robbie jumped my ass about getting my shit together.  It was 10 minutes before the race and I wasn’t in my wetsuit.

The Goosepond swim is actually in Lake Guntersville, which is gorgeous and full of seaweed.  My swim wave was old men and young women (which could have had something to do with my elevated heart rate) and I flopped around the water for a few minutes before they shot the gun (or quite possibly just said, “go”).  The first 15 or so meters were great, but I was quickly transported back to my bygone panic-mode-days.  It really wasn’t as much panic as I couldn’t find my breath and literally thought I had forgot how to swim a mere six weeks after swimming 2.4 miles.  What the f8ck was going on?

As I rounded the first buoy (maybe 500 meters in) I slowed to a stop and tried to catch my breath.  Why didn’t I warm up?  I will never learn.

I watched as the rest of my wave slowly pulled away and there was nothing I could do.  It was a jail break and I was the lone prisoner wedged in the escape tunnel.  Stay calm, you’ll catch them.

Wasky coming out of the water top 20 and oblivious to the trouble ahead.   2013 Goosepond Tri (307 of 503)-X3* All good photos courtesy of We Run Huntsville

A couple minutes later, I eased back into my stroke but I was someone else.  The wetsuit felt tight, my sighting was blurred, and my energy low.  I took at least three breaks on that first loop and was a little stunned by the fatigue in my arms.

Corey, daydreaming about Tahoe in the morning glow of Lake Guntersville2013 Goosepond Tri (348 of 503)-X3By the time I got to the end of my first loop I officially hated two loop courses.  Even though it was just water, and all looked the same, I didn’t want to see lap two.  Later, Robbie would tell me I took a really wide turn around that buoy and I’m pretty sure it’s because I was thinking about swimming to that pier, getting out of the water, and cheering for Wasky and Corey from the comfort of a portable hammock.

But I put my head down and cranked out lap two, which turned out to be much easier once I loosened up.  I really need to get serious about my pre-race regiment.

Swim Time:  42 Minutes (Muncie was 37, Wisconsin was 1:20).

T1 – I was actually a little disoriented going into transition, but pulled it together, grabbed my bike and ran across the mount line.  That’s when I noticed I was still holding onto my gloves.  I stopped and patiently put them on while Robbie watched shaking his head.  “Good thing you got those gloves on,” he said as I wheeled past him with a smile.

Redemption on the Bicycle

I didn’t know my time, but when there’s a group of you racing and all your spectator friends are waiting for you at the Bike Exit , it’s a pretty good indication your swim sucked.  But, as soon as I clipped in, my remorse was gone and I had one focus . . . crushing the bike.

The initial plan for Goosepond was a relay.  Robbie would swim, I would bike, and Season would run.  But, a twist of fate landed Robbie in a swim race that would change his life and I told him I might as well do the whole damn Goosepond by myself.  So, bad swim aside, one of my sub-plots was to ride like I would have ridden in a relay.  I was also curious to see just how hard I could push the bike.  It was on.

Here’s me drafting and looking like a jack-ass with my chrono watch2013 Goosepond Tri (187 of 585)-X2I had logged a mere four hours on the bike since I raced IMWI and had no idea how riding a hard 56 miles would feel.  I came out and tried to stay around 19 mph for the first 5 miles and it was pretty easy.  I tried to lose myself in the scenery, but kept taking peeks at my bike computer, where the miles seemed to be turning over more like a calendar.  Seven miles, eight, nine . . . ugh.  This was going to be hard.

Since I was so late out of the swim I was picking off people like flies.  About 20 miles in I had yet to be passed and that became my new goal.  Don’t get passed on this bike.

I was busting down a country road and noticed a guy on the side changing his tire.  “Shit, that’s Wasky!”  I slowed a bit and asked if he was okay, but immediately wished I would have slowed more.  I “thought” I heard him say, “Yes,” but I wasn’t positive.  I hoped he didn’t need a tool or a tube.  I briefly entertained turning around, but eased my fears by reminding myself that Wasky is the most prepared man I know.

I settled into aero and dreamed about the finish.  I felt bad for Wasky because I was pretty sure he had a good swim and now I was going to beat him off the bike.  It had been five minutes since I’d flown past him at 21 mph; I figured I was at least two miles in front of him now.  My thoughts drifted back to not getting passed on the bike and I thought that was a real possibility.  Not more than 30 seconds later, I heard someone breathing hard to my left.  Damn!  I was getting passed!

Who did this person think they were passing me?!?  I was NOT getting passed on this ride.  But, his tire broke the line and I started falling back out of the draft zone.  I wasn’t even going to look up, but they said something like, “Keep pushing.”  I glanced over to say thanks, and it was Wasky!  Before I could even ask how the fuck he caught me, he said, “Two flats, brotha.”

Damn, that was his second flat and somehow he got from corpse position to downward dog in a mili-second.  He shouted, “Stick with me and we can pace each other on the run.”

“Stick with me???”  What the hell was going on?  I was crushing this bike and Wasky is telling me to stick with HIM!  He was in beast-mode-squared and all I could do was shake my head.

It took about 2 minutes for him to lose me, then around mile 30 (which also doubled as the ONLY bike aid station) I caught him.  His mood was a combination calmly livid, mixed with a case of the beat downs, and topped with a dose of, “I’m gonna kill this course.”

I passed him about a mile later and he slowly fell into the distance.  I honestly thought he might be toast.  Then at mile 45 or so, he flew by me again.  “Come on man, let’s bring it in.  Ten more.”  I just shook my head.

He rode a good hundred yards ahead of me for a while, then I passed him, which he immediately countered with pass of his own before pulling away for good at mile 54.  Two miles to go and I was feeling my legs.  It was a flat course, but I didn’t stop peddling for more than 10 seconds the whole ride.

I cruised into transition and Robbie kinda gave me one of those, “Damn, dude, you crushed that bike looks,” before actually saying, “Nice bike.”  All I had to do now was run a solid half marathon and I would surely be on the age-group podium.  Easier said than done.

Bike Split:  2:40:26 (and tack on a very questionable 4:00 drafting penalty).  One of two penalties handed out to my training club.  I have decided not to go into it, but let’s just say this is a very suspicious chain of events.

T2 – Yep . . . it happened.

“Trust Me, This Run is Pancake Flat”

I’m not a great runner, but thought I could easily put down a 1:50.  I felt surprisingly good as I left transition and patiently waited for my running legs to show up.  Spectator support was a non-issue, so I picked out a woman with good pace and ran behind her for the first 1/2 mile.  Then, I made a very unusual decision for me, I ran up next to her with the intention to actually talk for a few minutes.  Talking on a jog is one thing, but I am just not a fan of it in a race.  I kinda like to focus on pain.

I was just about to say something when she says, “Hi Mike.”  I was like, huh?  It was Ann, who also races for RxE, the Knoxville crew.  And that’s when they snapped this picture of me about to blow out my ankle.  2013 Goosepond Tri (354 of 585)-X2I have to admit, I was a little stunned.  We actually started in the same swim wave and she was saying how slow of a swimmer she is, etc.   Clearly she’s not that bad of a swimmer because I knew I hammered the bike and here she was still in front of me.  Ann is a really strong cyclist.

Then there was this guy rubbing it in my face 2013 Goosepond Tri (418 of 585)-X2As engaging as Ann can be, I had a race to win, so I plowed off into the rolling hills, followed by a charming campground, and then a tricky little cut-thru trail onto the first of many roads that would break my heart.

That’s when I started hearing Wasky’s voice again, but this time it was in my head.

“Trust me, this course is pancake flat.  You will crush it.”  And I really did trust him, but for some reason I was standing at the bottom of a 1/2 mile climb.

I told myself this must be “the hill.”  Every course has “its hill,” and this was Goosepond’s.  Ah, no problem, I love hills and this isn’t really that steep, but it was kinda long.

It was getting hot and I was dying for water.  I didn’t hydrate well the week before and my mouth was burning for liquids.  As I crested “the hill” I saw a right turn ahead that dropped me on the road to nowhere.

Another slight climb to an aid station before a very long descent that nearly made me cry when I saw people running back at me.  I made a mental note of the climb-to-come and then, for the second time in one race, broke my no-talking rule with a woman who looked like she knew the course.

“I thought this was supposed to be a flat run,” I said with that awkward, yet undeniable bond runners have as they waltz through hell and think they own the place.

“Oh, you must not know the Race Director,” she replied with that “I’m an insider” attitude that outsiders like me, Wasky, Corey, and Robbie detest.

“Ummm… well… I… uhh…. sorta…. No, I don’t,” I said knowing full well that I had exchanged dicey emails with him earlier that week.

“Yeah, he’s notorious for putting together tough run courses,” she roared with a half-out-of-breath masochism.

“Awesome!  Can’t wait to see what’s ahead,” said no one ever.

We hung together until the start of a sub-division, which also meant the beginning of another hill.  Now, mind you, none of these hills were “tough” but when you think a course is going to be flat, it’s sort of like facing a pitcher who doesn’t throw that hard, but has a great change-up.  His fastball always seems like it’s harder than it really is.

Adding to my unruly disdain was the fact that they had zero mile markers on the course.  And yes, it’s my fault for not going to the athlete’s meeting, I suppose, but give me a bone.  Even the aid station volunteers seemed unsure about their location, and since I wasn’t wearing a Garmin, I literally had no clue where I was on the course.  At one point, I thought it was mile 9 and it turned out to be mile 7.  When I hit the “real mile 9” I was toast.  That’s when my running became simply something that would get me off that god-forsaken course sooner.

This was also about the only time I saw Corey during the race and neither of us seemed particularly talkative.

Soon thereafter, I re-engaged with the treacherous cut-thru and headed for home.  Just as I cleared the scattered brush, I met with aid station volunteers who excitedly exclaimed, “Only one more mile!!!”  I looked at my chrono watch and realized I had 10 minutes to run that mile and finish under 2 hours.  Sweet!

So I pranced off at a decent clip knowing, if nothing else, I would secure a sub-2-hour half marathon after all that other crap we do in triathlons.  And I ran . . . and ran . . . and ran . . . and watched the clock tick past 2 hours . . . then 2:02, 2:03, and finally end up on 2:05.  I just ran a 15 minute mile?  Awesome.

Turns out it was about 1.5 miles, but who’s counting?

——————

Epilogue:  The setting for Goosepond was beautiful, but I haven’t perfected checking out scenery during a race.  I much prefer people yelling and challenging me to keep pushing on.  I forgot to mention the gut cramp that seized me for most of the run and the sharp knee pain I felt around mile 10, but if I hadn’t been so un-prepared I would have totally enjoyed the swim.  The bike was pretty sweet and most of the roads were nice, though I wish they would have had another aid station.  The run was tough at the back half of a triathlon, but I think it was fair.  My mind and body weren’t ready for the challenge but we all had a good time . . . I just wish we would have brought our tents and camped out for a while doing Twitter.

—————–

This is me, Wasky, and Corey celebrating after Goosepond.  CMWkona

The “Middle Half” Marathon

Before I headed down to Goosepond for an a** whoopin, I shot a video for the Middle Half in Murfreesboro.  Great little race put on by a friend of mine, Melinda Tate.  I road around on my mountain bike shooting video from different locations and edited this piece later.  Let me know if you want one to help promote your race.

My Ironman Kona Race Report

This past Saturday, I sat in a hotel room in Huntsville, Alabama and watched the live stream of Kona on my computer, and let me tell you, it felt like I was there!

Well, not really.  But it did get me pumped for the Goosepond 1/2 triathlon I was doing Sunday.

Didn’t really do that either, but it was kinda cool being in Rocket City.  Umm . . .

Yeah, so, it was me, Robbie, Corey and Wasky in two hotel rooms running back and forth with the latest gossip on the pros at Kona  all while throwing in a bit of Gordon Ramsay and Hines Ward snark for good measure.*

“Holy crap, Starykowicz is on pace to break the bike course record.”

“He’s the dude that beat us in Muncie.”

“He’ll never hold it.”

“Hines would crush you, Wasky”

“Whatever.”

“Where’s Kienle?”

“He’s around.”

I kept throwing out Ben Hoffman splits, but nobody seemed to care.  They’ll learn.

“Is that Chris McDonald commentating?”

“Yeah… he tweeted with me the other day about Spyoptic.”

Freshmen gushing at the varsity.
——————-
Robbie was basking in the sore-arm-glow of “Swimming the Suck” earlier that day.  Ten miles of open water on 5 Days notice.

Me, Corey, and Wasky were digging for energy and motivation to race Goosepond the next day.

“What’s the run course like?”

“I’m telling you, it’s PANCAKE FLAT!”

“You sure?”

“Book it.”

“I haven’t done shit since Wisconsin.”

“Join the club, brotha.”

I was NOT ready for a half triathlon but suspected Wasky and Corey, who did Louisville, were in better form.
———————-
We lounged with our laptops and watched as Frederik Van Lierde blew through the tape in 8:12:28 for his first Ironman World Championship.  That’s close to 4 hours faster than I did Wisconsin and damn near as fast as I’d do Goosepond the next day.

Well, sort of.  I did 5:35 ish.

Van Lierde’s bike was 4:25 for 112 miles.  My bike split at Goosepond was 2:36 (actually 2:40 because I got a 4:00 penalty, which I’m still steaming about . . . not really, but you can read about it here).  That 2:36 was about all I had and it felt like I was re-writing the record books.  IF I could have done that for another 56 miles (which is more than highly doubtful) I would have dismounted after 5:12, a pretty f-ing amazing time, but dude rocked a 4:25 in the crosswinds before running at 2:51 marathon?  Who are these freaks?

Then, there’s Mirinda Carfrae, who got off the bike around 10 minutes back and casually threw down a 2:50 marathon?  I’m sitting there on that comfortable ass bed in Huntsville, Alabama watching her float on air at mile 25 thinking . . . that’s the babe that tweeted at me about Brittany Spears tickets a few weeks ago.  Small damn world.

Then we gathered the backpacks and went into Goosepond for our ass-kicking.

CMWkona*  Just getting into the race is an accomplishment. Each year, more than 80,000 athletes vie for a shot to be on the starting line, but only 1,900 men and women make it.  (Source, and crappy article by the LA Times about Ramsay’s Ironman that anyone in the world with a computer could have written)

The Dreaded Drafting Penalty #triathlon

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The difference between 1st and 3rd degree murder is a big one.  One premeditated, the other absent of malice.  After some genuine deliberation over the weekend, I have decided the same degrees should be assigned to bike drafting.

I didn’t realize it until the next day, but I got my first drafting penalty at Goosepond this weekend.  I had a terrible race, so it didn’t really matter, but the ONLY thing I felt good about that day was my bike.

(Full Goosepond Race Report coming soon)

My swim sucked (not to be confused with “Swim the Suck“) so I thought, hell, let’s see what kind of bike time I can put on the books.  It was a flat and fast course and, even though I hadn’t trained much since IMWI, I felt serviceable.

I wasn’t wearing a Garmin, but my bike computer hovered around 21 mph and I wanted to average at least that for the whole ride.*  I’m not much for flat courses because, even though fast, you have to pedal the whole time . . . and my legs were burning.

So, to find out later, I had been accused of first degree drafting really sucked the wind out of me.   In all honesty, I am a little salty about this situation, but am truly interested in whether or not the people handing out the penalties understand the nuances of racing.

Here is the official USAT definition of drafting:

Drafting: Drafting–keep at least three bike lengths of clear space between you and the cyclist in front. If you move into the zone, you must pass within 15 seconds. Position–keep to the right hand side of the lane of travel unless passing. Blocking–riding on the left side of the lane without passing anyone and interfering with other cyclists attempting to pass. Overtaken–once passed, you must immediately exit the draft zone from the rear, before attempting to pass again.
Penalty: Variable time penalty  (In my case this was 4:00)

This is a picture of me drafting (photo courtesy of We Run Huntsville). 2013 Goosepond Tri (185 of 585)-X2I’m not saying I never entered that “space” at Goosepond, but I was certainly not alone.  In fact, most riders creep in and out of that 3-bike-length zone at some point during a race.    Sometimes it’s just very difficult without slamming on the brakes, which can easily put the person behind you into the draft.

I like the rule, I just think “drafting” and ending up in “no man’s land” are two different things.  One is intentional, the other victim of circumstance.  It’s one thing to “move into the zone” and quite another to “end up in the zone.”

If you are tucked in aero and rolling behind someone for an extended period, that is first degree drafting.  If you come around a corner and get stuck in a tight line of cyclists going up a slight incline, what else can you do?  Draft-slaughter.

At Ironman Wisconsin for instance, there were so many people around at times it was almost impossible not to get wedged in an illegal zone for short periods.  We weren’t on each other’s wheel, but 10 – 15 people going up a long incline or descent 2-3 bike lengths apart (I believe Ironman has a 4 bike length zone) was not uncommon.  Passing that many people is just unrealistic, and probably not the best idea.  My natural tendency was to slip out of the line to the left, but then you put yourself at risk for 2nd degree blocking.

I really believe they should hand out a warning first because, not only is it that “7 meters” a judgement call, most often it’s not what the drafting penalty is really trying to stop.   In essence, what I likely did was 3rd degree drafting at the worst and should have warranted a far shorter sentence.

I’m not complaining, I’m just curious to hear about some of your experiences with drafting and the dreaded penalties that often seem so random.

*  My bike split was 2:40:26.