Category Archives: Wisconsin

Rolling Start at Ironman Wisconsin?

Edit:  I’m now being assured there WILL be a mass start at Wisconsin.  Let’s hope this holds true.

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I’ve heard a couple rumors that Ironman Wisconsin is changing to a rolling swim start this year and have mixed emotions.  Fear can be a great motivator and I can honestly say the looming mass swim start at Wisconsin has pushed me to work harder in the water.

It’s not that I think a rolling start will be easy, but the thought of battling my way through a sea of humanity has crossed my mind nearly every day since I signed up.  I’ve watched dozens of online videos and am always captivated.  I imagine myself right in the middle, fighting for position, trying to keep calm, then emerging to settle into my race.  It has literally been one of the most exciting thoughts in my life.

Check out this video where you can even hear Mike Reilly (The Voice of Ironman) in the background around the 40 second mark say, “You are witnessing one of the greatest spectacles in sports today, the mass swim start of an Ironman.”

I definitely understand their safety concerns and don’t want to criticize the decision, it’s just that I really wanted the experience.  I can talk about the bike course all I want, but when I show friends and family the swim start, they are typically in awe.

The truth is, doing Ironman has a certain level of danger and I completely understand the anxiety of the swim.  Earlier this year I had to stop and catch my wits in the middle of a 300 meter pool leg of a Sprint.  But, I have worked very hard to be a better swimmer and get past my fear.  It’s part of the deal.  When someone signs up for Ironman, they know what they’re getting into and have to realize a mass start is not a little picnic down by the beach.  I have worked very hard to keep my cool in the water.  To me, it’s a big part of the training.

It’s really no different than flying down a hill at 45 mph on the bike.  If someone is afraid or anxious about that, they use their brakes, and I feel like the same should be true of a swim start.  If you’re not feeling up to a scrum, start in the back or off to the side and slow down.

I was reading a forum on Slowtwitch.com and someone brought up an excellent point about mass starts, in particular Wisconsin.  They said people will typically get in the lake 15 to 30 minutes before the start and tread water, which helps you warm up, get acclimated to the water, and relax.  On time trial and rolling starts, you just jump in and go, which I think is a lot tougher on the anxiety meter.

It’s not the end of the world, but a mass swim start was definitely one of the factors that had me fired up about Wisconsin.  The lake is wide and perfectly suited.  While many talk about fear of the “washing machine,” I’ve heard and read plenty of reports that there was plenty of room.  I’ll be there either way and it won’t take away from the accomplishment, but I truly wanted to be amidst the swell of humanity that makes for one of the most amazing visuals in sport.  IMW-swim-chaos

Oversleeping or Listening to Your Body?

I have never been a morning person.  It’s not that I don’t like them, I love to wake up slowly and naturally with the world.  I can also get a lot more done when I’m up with the birds (or my crazy dog).  It’s just very hard for me to get moving and I have a theory on why that may be to my advantage in the later phases of Ironman Wisconsin.

I used to love playing football with my buddies as a kid.  My best friend was the quarterback for our high school team and we spent hours in the summer playing six-on-six sandlot games in a local field.  In retrospect it was pretty dumb because we played tackle without pads and there were some vicious hits.  I was fearless and would stick my head into any play, and anyone who knows me will surely acknowledge that this has had an effect on my thought process.

My friend, the quarterback, spent most of those summer days trying to convince me to go out for football.  He’d claim that I was the best wide receiver in the school.  I’d be his favorite target and would catch a ton of passes (and get even more girls).  There was only one problem . . . I could not talk myself into getting up for the early morning summer practices.

So, while I slept in on those late August days, my friend would be sweating his ass off and puking at 7:30 in the morning.  It was the first of two practices a day and, in between workouts, he’d come by and wake me up around 10 o’clock.

He was wide awake and prodded me for about 15-20 minutes before I’d get out of bed.  Then, without fail, by 11 o’clock I would be alive and ready to go.  But it was too late.  I couldn’t be on the team if I didn’t go to the early practice.

When the season started I was right there on the sidelines rooting my buddies as they tackled their way through the Big 8 Conference in Southern Wisconsin.  The pads crackled in the crisp Fall air, and I would drift to a place of regret.  I knew I could play for this team, but why couldn’t I get up and go to early summer practice?

Sometimes I think it’s a cop-out to say I’m not a morning person.  But years of evidence don’t lie.2013-01-22_13-40-34_730

At the core of this problem is the fact that I am just “slow to warm up.”  There is something going on with my body chemistry that always makes me want to ease into things.  It is very evident in my workouts, whether they are at 7 am or 10 at night.  The warm up makes a huge difference in my performance.

I have seen it in every race.

The one that really stands out is my first Olympic, the Nashvegas Triathlon.  It started at 7 am on a cold, rainy, and mucky Saturday morning in September.  I stood on that river bank shivering before diving in and nearly losing my mind.  I was tense, tight, and still wanted to be in bed.  I nearly panicked and quit two hundred yards in.  But instead I tread water for about 5 minutes and decided to keep going.  Slowly, but surely I woke myself up and by the time the swim was over, I wanted more.

It was still raining when I got on the bike, but I was awake and embraced the 25 mile ride with confidence. I had the same feeling on the run course.  I was a relative novice, but felt like I had a much more in the tank when I crossed the finish line.  Slow to warm up, fast to finish.

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I  had a great 5 mile run last night with the East Nasties.  The route was 4.3 miles in and out of Shelby Park, but Mark Scviner and I added an extra loop around the lake that included sprints.

I had a great 5 mile run last night with the East Nasties.  The route was 4.3 miles in and out of Shelby Park, but Mark Scviner and I added an extra loop around the lake that included sprints.

This was the second morning in a row that I over slept a workout and once again, I feel okay with it.  I don’t particularly like the idea of “slacking” but I am listening to my body and what I’m “hearing” is a re-birth.   I can literally feel my legs warming up and building strength.  They have been through a lot lately and I see nothing wrong with giving them an occasional break.

I have a serene peace of mind that is hyper focused in the moment.

In some ways, I almost believe I could finish an Ironman right now because of how good my body feels.  It would be a struggle, but if I “feel” good, I believe I can do anything.  Something about getting closer to your accomplishment gives me a huge surge of energy.  It’s that feeling you get when you’re a kid.  That ability to play sports all day and night.  That ability to suck it up for one more deep post route or fast break.  I don’t know where the energy comes from, but you dig deep into the reserves and do what needs to be done to finish.

A Flattering Look at the Ironman Wisconsin Team

If you’re on Facebook, please feel free to like our Crushing Iron page.  We’ll be posting as a team and it’s likely to be full of fireworks that won’t be posted here.

This is Mark’s proud grin after being elected team captain for post-workout beer parties.  MarkSmileMirrorCoach Robbie wondering what the hell he got himself into.CoachRobbieStillKevin’s recovery program in action.  KevinPBRDaniel raising $3,000 for the homeless with his hair.  DanielshaveJim fighting a “mysterious illness” in week one of training. 738376_4554311608141_2035216167_oShot of Mike from an emotional scene in one of his earlier movies. 773713_424826614256787_1102624456_o

Ironman Wisconsin Training Video

Here’s the first in a series of Ironman Wisconsin training video from members of the “Fab Five.”  Jim kicks it off with a reflection on the excitement “just signing up” for an Ironman can bring.

It should be noted that Jim is the only Fab Five member in this video.  I shot it while he was doing tempo runs with another group in preparation for the Huntsville Marathon.

Fab Five Predictions for Ironman Wisconsin

Jim kicks it off with his prediction for which of the Fab Five will cross the line first at Ironman Wisconsin.

Running is King

I hated running and could fake a cry with the best of them if it would help me avoid jogging in gym class or later in sports.

But I loved biking, and did a bunch of mountain bike races, including Chequamegon Fat Tire 40 in Hayward, Wisconsin.  And while I have you, I’ll drop a reminder that I placed 1,500th out of 3,000 racers.  Exactly in the middle and 1,499 places behind Greg Lemond.

I swam a little bit, too.  My parent’s house was half a block away from the municipal pool in Beloit, Wisconsin and I spent loads of time hitting on girls and hiding boners in the shallow end. I love water, and while I was never a distance swimmer, I’ve always made time for a few laps at the local Y.

But running was a nemesis.

Frankly, it hurt.  My ankles have always been fragile and anything more than a dash to first base or out to play shortstop was too much.  In baseball we mainly ran sprints to loosen up and the teams I was on never overdid such tomfoolery.

Now, though, I realize that I missed the boat.  A little bit of distance running would have made me a better athlete, especially late in the game when the legs go south.  If I were ever a coach again, I would have to pull some hocus pocus out of my bag to convince the kids they need to run more.

Running is still hard.  It still aches the most of the three sports, but it is without a doubt the reason I have started triathlons.

Once I erased the mental baggage of running, everything else fell into place.  But I could have never done it without the Couch to 5K program.  I always went too far too fast and quit.

If you hate running, but have a perverted desire to do it anyway, I suggest you take it very slow and follow a Couch to 5K program to the letter.  No more.  No less.  Stay within yourself and let your muscles build naturally.

Without those seemingly inconsequential 60 second jogs back in January, Ironman Wisconsin never would have crossed my mind.  Running can be a bitch, but in my triathlete world, it is the real work.

A Picture is Worth Dozens of Pounds

My good friend Roger is 5 weeks away from running his first marathon and has a photograph of me to thank.  Actually he was in the picture too, and what happened to us that blurry night was an undeniable catalyst for change.

Our friendship started innocently enough around two years ago when Roger and I (Both Wisconsin natives) hatched the grand plan for Badger Nation Nashville at the Village Pub in Inglewood, TN.  Wisconsin football was on a roll and we wanted to capitalize by using beer and cheese to seduce local residents into our social circle.  After several PBRs we penned these highly sophisticated, yet simple bylaws that have Constitution-like staying power:

Official Badger Nation Nashville Bylaws

1. No rooting against the Badgers.
2. Spread word of the Badger.
3. Don’t shoot badgers. (Ben’s Law)*
4. Don’t diss Jeffrey Steele.
5. Meet at Village Pub & Grill when you can make it.

Fast forward two years after the “bylaw meeting” to my house, where a nice group of Badger Nation Nashville kids are celebrating another big victory.  Roger and I had been drinking for about 8 hours and decided to give everyone a treat by singing Wisconsin’s Alma Mater song, “Varsity,” which was quickly caught on video.  The playback was astonishing.

I had always felt pretty good about my body, but when I watched the video all I could see was a blubbery seal flopping around on a leather sofa.  I begged fellow BNN member, Brian, not to post it on the web and thankfully he didn’t know how.  I went silent and may have even retreated to my bedroom to sulk. What I didn’t realize at the time was, the video had a similar impact on Roger.

It didn’t happen immediately, but our minds shifted to training mode.  Roger joined Weight Watchers and started running.  I laid around for a few more weeks before Jim convinced me to do Couch to 5K training.  I really didn’t want to run, but that video looped in the back of my mind. For the first time in my life I felt like a fat ass!  I had no choice.

I have told this story a bunch of times and I’m convinced that taking a picture of yourself is the best form of motivation.  Preferably late in the night after a drinking or eating binge.

Now, Roger and I are hatching different plans.  Five short months after that fateful photography, we did the Country Music Half Marathon together and the ante continues to rise.

What started as a 5K for me has turned into Ironman training.  Roger is ready for his full, with aspirations of a Half Ironman next summer.

It has been a dicey journey that started on a bar napkin and evolved into something etched in stone.  And even though the Badgers suck this year, I think Roger would happily join me for an encore rendition of Varsity after the last game of the season.

* Montana Ben is a Pub regular who spends his summers in Montana shooting badgers so they don’t fuck with his cattle.