Category Archives: Competition

March Madness and Ironman Training

While a few of my training partners were out tackling Natchez Trace again, I was nestled in bed watching my Badgers take down the Hoosiers in the Big 10 basketball tournament.  It was the 12th straight time Wisconsin has beaten Indiana.

I absolutely love Wisconsin Basketball and Football and for a while now I have been trying to figure out why.  Why do I (or anyone for that matter) get so wrapped up in a sports team?  It seems a little silly, but for years I have tried to loosen the connection and can’t do it.

It must have something to do with allegiance and living vicariously through what the team represents.  I can definitely relate with the Badgers’ identity.  They are typically referred to is scrappy, over-achievers and I am perfectly comfortable with that tag, especially when it comes to Ironman.

In sports, I think it’s important to focus on the task at hand and not get intimidated.  Like in the movie Hoosiers, when Gene Hackman took a tape measure to the rim and free throw line to remind his team that the basket was the same height on the big stage as it is in their little gym back in Hinkley.  The field and conditions are the same for everyone.

The other day a friend texted me in the first half of the Wisconsin/Michigan game saying, “The Badgers look terrible.”  I responded with, “Yeah, until they win the game.”

Wisconsin was losing 20-17 at the half.  A terrible offensive exhibition, but scored 51 in the 2nd half and won 68-59.

They key is to stick with your plan.

Swimming is swimming, biking is biking, and running is running.  We do it all the time.  Sure, the courses vary, but the body movements are the same.  It doesn’t matter if there’s an Ironman logo on the fences and buoys, it comes down to performing.  What’s in our body and mind.

The Badgers play their game no matter who they play.  They work on the little things in practice, then execute them during the “race.”  Are they the best team in the country, no, but they are arguably one of the most consistent over the last 10 years.

They believe in their strengths, they work on their weaknesses, and they push all the way to the finish line.  It doesn’t always translate to a win, but they never go down easily.

Consider this quote from a former Michigan State player who made it to the NBA:

“People ask me what was one of the best things about going to the NBA, I laugh and joke and say I don’t have to play Wisconsin again. It’s a chess match with them. They are going to play their style. They are not deterred from what they like to do. So it’s always tough to play them. They don’t back down. They are always strong and tough and they play well together. They play within themselves.  That’s what makes them a tough out whenever you see them.”
– Mateen Cleaves

Not only does that make me proud to be a Badger fan, I think there’s a great lesson there about staying true to who you are.  Play within yourself, don’t back down, and you’ll be a tough out.

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My New Claim To Fame

Training for an Ironman can really take a bite out of your social experience, so I guess this is how I spend my Saturday nights these days.  I’ve been sitting here doing calculations for how fast I need to go to make certain times in races I have planned this year and I made an interesting discovery about my first (and only) Olympic triathlon.

The story of the race is not a pretty one, but I was trying to figure out how and where I can improve my times.  My swim was absolutely horrid, 41 minutes for 1,500 meters, but the good news is, most of the swim times were 29 minutes and up, so I don’t feel quite as bad in retrospect.  It really was a rough swim.  Cold, rainy, and very choppy.

My bike was actually pretty strong considering it was raining the whole time and I was using cages instead of clip pedals.  Time was one hour and twenty minutes for 25 miles.  That’s close 19 m.p.h.  I’m pretty happy with that, but think there’s a little room for improvement.

The run was very soft, but I know I can likely cut 8 minutes off of the 56 minute 10k fairly easily if I’m not such a pussy next time.

Okay, so I know you’re dying to hear the good news and why I am now thinking about giving triathlon lessons in one small, but very important niche.

As I was combing through the results for the Nashvegas triathlon, I started sorting by individual disciplines to see what the fastest times were in swim, bike, and run.  That’s when it dawned on me . . . you can even sort by transition time.  As I was looking at the fastest T2’s I noticed that I had the fastest transition of the day from bike to run.  Thirty one seconds!

My T1 time from swim to bike was only 1:39 and it would have been much faster if I didn’t forget where my bike was.

That’s just over two minutes of transition time and if I could have just knocked a minute off that total I would have finished under 3 hours.

Note to self: let’s work on that transition, oh, and the swim and run.

Anyway, the point here is, I had a pretty crappy race, but there is a glimmer of hope in my triathlon future.  And for now, I am the reigning Transition 2 King of Nashvegas Triathlon!

Introducing the Fab . . . 6?

Well, yesterday, I noticed a cryptic post on our Crushing Iron Facebook page from our coach that simply said, “Totally forgot to mention that Coach is doing this race with you guys. Sorry. Totally slipped my mind.”  Since it was so random I assumed he meant the sprint triathlon we’re doing next Sunday.  Nope.  All of this time, he was holding in a secret.  Coach Robbie will be racing with us at Ironman Wisconsin!robbiebruce_1354578921_28

My head spun a bit, then I had three reactions:

1. This dude can keep a secret!
2. Who will give me guidance and encouragement on the course?
3. I guess I will have to publicly humiliate my own coach

We’ve known all along that he would be in Madison on that fateful day as the Fab 5 scurries through the water in Lake Monona,vfiles9740 but I’d always assumed he’d be stripping my wet suit and dishing out GU.  Registration was full months ago, how could he hold that in?  How will he bounce back from Ironman Louisville and tackle the farmlands of Wisconsin in two weeks?  And I thought Racer K was enigmatic.

I didn’t really expect much coaching while on the course, and, if I don’t know what to do by race day, a Sergeant Carter type scream will do nothing for this lycra clad Gomer Pyle.  Now, I picture his coaching on September 8th will be something along the lines of “Good luck, boys.  I’ll catch you later,” as his shark-like swim techniques leave us in wake of seaweed.

Yes, he will be coming off an Ironman on August 25th and rebounding with another couple weeks of tapering.  Does this make him ripe for picking off?  Highly doubtful, but I know him well enough to know he’s throwing it out there as a challenge and one I will gladly accept.  I’ll take anything that helps push me to my goal, which is . . . well, I’m not quite ready to reveal that one yet, but I don’t expect coach Robbie to lose any sleep.

The bottom line in all of  this is . . . awesomeness.  The more the merrier and I am looking forward to this experience more than ever.  Our +1 Allison will be there as well, but if she surprises us with phantom entry to IMWI, I will be totally shocked.  Say it’s true, Allison!

Our coach’s work will be done.  It’s time for  the players to execute.  I anticipate dozens of people we know along the route and an entire army of cyber based Fab 6 supporters to push us up the hills and down State Street with energy we’ve never experienced.  Good luck, coach.  We’ll be gunning for you.

Ironman Inspiration, Kona Style

Last night after swimming, I got on the trainer for an hour or so and watched Ironman Kona 2011.  It’s always an inspiration, but no matter how good training is going, watching  professional triathletes collapse can knock you back a bit.


Not only is 140.6 miles an enormous challenge, it’s all relative.  The pros talk about keeping fuel in reserve and it may be one of the most difficult things to do, especially if you’re feeling great.

I am still around 6 months out and I’m already trying to slow down.  The swim has me especially perplexed.

When I start running too fast, it’s easy to slow down.  When you’re in a murky lake in the middle of 3,000 other swimmers, keeping my heart rate under control will be no picnic.  I guess the only way to combat that is to swim a boatload before the race.  And that’s what I plan to do.

IMWCI sometimes get a kick out of friends or family that sort of “write off” the bike as the easy part.  I even used to do it a little, but when you think about 112 miles on the bike, and racing those miles, it’s a game changer.  Not only that, you have to save fuel for the run, which is ultimately the stage that will make or break your race.

On September 8th at 7 am, when the cannon sounds to start Ironman Wisconsin, I will have never run a marathon.  But later that day, after swimming 2.4 miles, and biking 112, I will run 26.2 miles.  For some reason, this seems logical.

To be honest, running a marathon scares me a little.  Not that I don’t think I can make it, but the risk of injury seems too great.  I’m sure I’ll be trained up to 18 or so, but I hear those miles after 20 are the killers.

If you don’t feel like watching the entire video above, this truncated version takes you through the end of Ironman Kona.  Joy and elation from some, but excruciating pain for others.  The scene at  3:00 highlights a remarkable struggle to complete this daunting dream.

Tonight, I prepared for the inevitable pain by skipping the scheduled East Nasty run tackling the signature “Nasty” route on my own.  Six miles of hills, and I had a side stitch from the moment I started.

I tried to talk myself into quitting a dozen times, but used the pain as a testing ground for that inevitable moment when I’ll need the practice.  The pain was relentless, but so was I.  I hammered each hill and tried to recover on the backside.  Still a pain that would have knocked me over 5 months ago, gnawed at my gut.  I knew it had to leave eventually, and just as I hit mile 5, it did.  I picked up steam and finished the six miles, ready for more.  The whole time, Kona played in my head.

Manti Te’o and Believing in Yourself

The more I hear about this Te’o story, the more I tend to believe he was genuinely duped. I think — just like we wanted to believe his story– he wanted to believe this relationship was real. Against all logic, he kept rolling with the unthinkable twists and turns because he truly felt comfortable with the image she presented.

She said the right things. Pushed emotional buttons. And, as a Mormon, maybe it was just easier for him to be in a relationship removed from religious anxiety.

He likely had a huge pool of female possibilities on the Notre Dame campus, but was conflicted by the temptation of it all and chose to recede into a safe world of fantasy. It doesn’t make this cover-up right, but I can see how it all spiraled into a big mess he simply hoped would go away.

Regardless of the outcome, I think Te’o’s story is more proof that we can talk ourselves into anything.  He wanted comfort, love and understanding so badly that he ignored blazing red flags all around him.  He was all-in on this relationship and it was fueled by hope and faith.

Or maybe it was all a big cover up.

Regardless it got me thinking about the power of the mind with regard to training.  How much can we talk ourselves into?  How much of an affect can visualization have on our finish times?  I believe a lot.

If so, how do we find the right mindset?  Can we talk ourselves into confidence or does confidence drive the train?  Which comes first?  I kinda think it’s fluid, and like meditation, takes practice.

Some days I feel so good about a workout or have so much energy I look up qualifying times for Kona.  That’s when I get this Jekyll &Hyde thing going on.

Mr. Mike Hide says, “What the fuck are you doing?  You haven’t even done one Ironman yet.”

The honorable and soft spoken Dr. Michael Hyde starts calculating splits and devising ways to pay for the trip to Hawaii.

The frightening part is . . . both sides are right.

I respect Ironman more each day.  While it is becoming less intimidating for some triathletes, it is still a monster quest.  A year ago I couldn’t run a mile without stopping, now I’m concocting ways to blaze through 140.6?  It seems as illogical as having a serious girlfriend for 3 years without meeting.

But you try to keep the faith.  You want to believe you can crush it . . . or kiss it.

Consequently my Kona qualifying target time for Wisconsin would be anything under 11 hours.  How ridiculous of me to even think about that kind of time, and that’s the problem . . . the more I think about it, the more I talk myself out of the possibility.

The other night I had a discussion with one of my training partners, Jim (who is looking eerily close to Einstein these days) 882_4614175104691_258020759_nabout the intensity of the training schedule so far away from the race.  I was concerned about getting too deep too fast.  The last thing I want is burnout.

Jim’s been through this and knows what it takes to finish an Ironman.  He’s completed two.  Essentially he said he didn’t think the workouts were that difficult and asked me if I wanted to “do okay” or “crush it.”

So, like most things, it’s better to make a decision and be wrong than never make a decision.  The first decision was made when I signed up for Ironman Wisconsin.  The second one I have to make is, how will I approach it, with questions and doubts, or confidence?

You can’t have doubt.  Te’o played at an elite level while leading Notre Dame to a 12-0 record.  Then his world came crashing in just before the National Championship and he was invisible in that game.  He was thinking too much.  His confidence was gone.  He did “okay.”

If I really pay attention to my life, I can see that confidence is built through action.  By tackling fears and showing up for the tough workouts.  It’s one thing to plan and plot strategy, it’s another to over think.  With Ironman training, I need to believe in myself, trust the workouts, and not let my mind fall into a pattern of doubt.

Swim, bike, run.

Save it, or Shave it? Video

The other day I posted about fellow Ironman Wisconsin teammate Daniel Hudgins and his quest to raise money for the homeless by using his controversial hair as bait.  You could vote (by donating) to “save or shave” the hair and the tally came down to the wire in a tension filled finish!  He raised over $3,000 dollars and all proceeds will be given to Room In The Inn.  The excitement was captured in my latest video: