Saturday, September 25, 2010

The end?

Recently I saw an article claiming that 90% of people who try triathlon become "hooked for life". That article is here.

On the surface that seems to make some sense. After all even a sprint tri, the shortest distance requires something between one and two hours of continual exertion. This is not baseball or hockey, where the action is intermittent, broken up by longer rest periods. And, this is the kind of sport that would seem to attract those with "extreme" personalities -the over-determined, goal-oriented, personalities.

Having said all that, I just recently talked to one of my long-time tri buddies who is announcing his retirement. It's been pretty clear from his emails and communications this year that he's got a massive case of burnout. He's married-with-no-kids in an age group just above mine and he has basically dedicated his life to this sport. In his six-year career he's acquired three bikes, a CompuTrainer and has turned himself into something of an authority on swimming and bike training. He has three Ironmans on his resume, multiple halfs and Olympics and at the half-iron distance he's regularly within ten minutes of the four-hour mark. To put it simply, he's an absolute monster on the race course. Now that hasn't come without issues. He readily admits to gastrointestinal issues at the Iron and more recently the half-iron distance. I always figured him for a guy who, once he got the nutrition dialed in, would be an absolute lock for a Kona slot whenever he decided he wanted one.

And now, it looks like all that is on hiatus. In his last communication to me he says he "just doesn't have the interest anymore".

I got started in this sport about six years ago, around the same time as my buddy, although I didn't know him then. I meandered my way through short races and half- and full marathons, including of course IronMan Lake Placid three years ago and IM Canada this year (no really, look at my race times - I really just meandered). I've gone through multiple IT band incidents and other incidents. I bordered on some GI issues at IMC this year, going through a spell of dizziness on the run that resulted in a 10-15 minute walking spell to clear that up. I also spent most of the first half of the marathon asking myself, "okay, should I just force myself to throw up or not?" It was about that severe.

I've had days (sometimes weeks) when training becomes work, when it's a chore to get to the pool in the morning. Sometimes it's too much of a chore to be bothered, and that day slot on the training log gets left blank.

But I'm still here. Going into IMC this year, my hope was to just finish uninjured. The base work just hadn't been there this year. I didn't think I had "respected the distance". After finishing I'm almost 100% certain I'll do the distance again. Certainly not next year - I don't think I'll ever ask Team Ironhead to support an Ironman-per-year habit. But, there will be at least one, and probably a few more.

Why? I don't know the answer. I know that my support crew is awesome. I know they support this on race day, even though they roll their eyes at me throughout the training season. I know my bud has an excellent support crew as well. Pancakes and smoothies are not uncommon after long race days. I think part of the difference is balance. This is not the only thing I do - the kids and their stuff see to that, as well as do my other actiivities - you know, the whole "earning a living" thing. I also think that perhaps I'm a little more relaxed on the course than my pal - he goes full out from the gun, while at the longer distances I'm just keeping it under control.

Maybe he needs to gear down on the course. Maybe a race or two without a stopwatch, or split times would help reset the compass. I don't know. I just hope the dude comes back. I don't know if I'm expecting him next season, but I know that season is still a long way away.

Come on back, D. Whenever you're ready. You know you want to.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Back in the, shoes again

Well, today was the first day of the end of the off-season. I slacked off big-time after Ironman Canada, and today was the first tippy-toe, dip the running shoe back into the asphalt-and-trails in a long time.

I went out for a 10k run, on a nice sunny day with just the perfect hint of a breeze. Now I've got just the slightest hint of the "good pain" going on. Don't have a plan, don't have a goal or even an objective right now. Just getting back out the door with the objective of just getting out the door. I haven't even put the pedals back on my bike after retrieving it from its shipment.

Well, there was one other thing. I booked the appointment for the IMC tattoo today. I went out expecting to have to wait a month or thereabouts. Not so - I have an appointment for Wednesday evening this week. Pictures to follow.


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Ironman Canada -race report deluxe

You expect a lot of things a week after an Ironman. You expect to still be hurting somewhere. You expect to not want to see Gatorade, Clif Bars or anything similar for quite some time. You expect to be very happy to not be sitting on your bike saddle, and you expect to not be thinking about exercise for quite some time.

I didn't expect that not many of these statements would be true (figure out that sentence).

I went into the start at Penticton with extremely modest rules for myself:

1. You must expect to get kicked in the face on the swim, probably several times.
2. You must stay relaxed in the water - don't burn out in the first hour of the race.
3. You must keep the heart rate low on the bike and the wattage in the area of 200 - 220 watts.
5. You must have no expectations for the run.

One week later, I've gone back and looked at this year's Ironman vs. the 2007 Ironman Lake Placid splits. Further proof that I just don't seem to understand this sport.

In 2007 I was in awe of this sport. Perhaps more accurately, I had a healthy respect for the distance and what it could do to someone if they went in unprepared. I was fully trained, had joined a masters swimming group, rode my bike to work, often got up (okay, occasionally got up) at 4 a.m. to ride long, and hardly ever missed a workout.

This year, with the employment fluctuations I was very well-trained, up to about the beginning of July when the new job started. Longest swim was 3600m, not continuous and not in open water. Longest ride was 5.25 hours for ~155 km. Longest run was 24km. I expected to go into this year and have the course hand me my bike shorts for lunch.

A split comparison:

2007 swim: 1:15:34
2010 swim: 1:14:34

I can't explain this. I must have drafted somebody somewhere, but I don't remember consciously doing it and I was never really that close to another set of feet to do so.

2007 bike: 6:12:01
2010 bike: 6:06:57

Admittedly the bike courses are different, and I rode a different bike but Lake Placid doesn't have anything that compares to Richter Pass or Yellow Lake, and that includes a one-minute stop to chow down the Pringles in my special needs bag at 120km.

2007 transitions: T1 7:16, T2 5:51
2010 transitions: T1 6:08, T2 5:23

Even here, I wasn't rushed. I moved with purpose, calmly. I sat down to catch my breath and to get slathered up in sunscreen.

2007 run: 4:28:43
2010 run: 4:51:09

Okay, here's where the difference was. I didn't have the run base, and I don't think I had the nutrition completely figured out either. I was dizzy and nauseous through the first half of the marathon, but around the half-way point all that had just about disappeared. I was taking in everything salty at the aid stations (coke, chicken soup and pretzels) and that seemed to do the trick.

Overall 2010: 12:24:08 (1150 overall, 183/328 in age group)
Overall 2007: 12:09:23 (616 overall, 143/415 in age group)

With any run base I could have broken 12 hr.

All that by the way, is not enough to convince my wife for a "do-over" to come back to Penticton next year, even though the race is still open for registration on-line.

A few shout-outs: to the house crew: Warren, Ellen and her mom and the Moogs. And to the world's greatest Ironcrew, Team Ironhead who once again hung out all day waiting for daddy to finish his foolishness. They are the best crew, and without them I wouldn't be able to do any of this crazy stuff.

PS. A 5/8" wrench in your carry-on at the airport is good for "special" conversation, good for inspection and good for getting to know the security crew. Not good for the people lined up behind you, as they'll be lined up for quite awhile as your bag is exhumed for inspection.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Ironman Canada race report lite

Real report to follow:

12:24:08 - given the absence of structured training, not bad. Sometimes I really wonder what I could do in this sport if I had the time and discipline to stick to it.

Full report to follow.


Monday, February 1, 2010

3rd annual Alton Half

From humble beginnings the Alton Half has rolled on, now through it's third anniversary. The Half has endured through snowstorms, windstorms, last-minute flu/illness that moved it to a temporary site in Caledon. This year's enrollment was up 67% over last year's, showing remarkable growth for a third-year enterprise. Time to issue the IPO!

This year the half returned to its original home base in Alton, home of hills, hills and more hills. The morning started in the pool at 7 a.m. in two separate groups - Darren, and everybody else. After watching him churn up the water, nobody wanted to get in the same lane with Darren for fear of being swamped. The rest of us - Larry and I - set up in a vacant lane and went about our longish set - 5 x 400's on 20-30s rest. Little did we realize that we had moved into what later became the "breast stroke and floaties" lane. We were requested to move by the kindly guard. In the second lane it quickly became apparent that we were the only ones who knew how to signal lane changes in the pool, necessitating another quick lane change. Three different lanes to finish what ended up being a brisk 2100m.

After the swim we headed up the road to Alton base camp. On the way the snow began to fall, a harbinger of the run yet to come. The group grew to five at base camp with Geoff and Daryl joining in. All five racked up and rolled out for 2 - 2.5 hr of spinning/mashing in the basement. Fueled by gatorade, trail mix, raspberry chewy cookies, gels, pretzels and lots of water the ride passed uneventfully.

On to the run. The course really needs no description. Three laps of a 7 km course with 100 m elevation increase in the first 1.5 km definitely gets the blood flowing, and early. For interest's sake the route is linked here. Making the turn at the 2k mark takes runners into the teeth of the wind. The earlier harbinger of snow turned into horizontal flakes at this point. Running three laps called into question the very sanity of the participants only three of whom finished the trifecta. In keeping with the belief that no matter how dumb/determined/dedicated you are, there is someone else out there who's worse we saw a dude balaclava'd up mountain biking up the road as we made the turn on the third lap.

Returning to base camp we were greeted by hot showers, smoothies, pancakes, bacon, sausage, oranges and possibly the best muffins to ever pass through Alton.

Once again, cheers to the Alton Base camp crew - Sally rocks! To Daryl, Larry and Geoff who gutted it out with the rest of us. To Darren for setting this up one more time. And to Team Ironhead, who turned me loose for the day to participate in the madness without the slightest complaint. Awesome!


ps. 210 days to go.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Day 7

The new work schedule is not really helping the training schedule at all. It's a constant juggle to keep up some semblance of training while jumping back and forth between day and night shifts. This will be the last training post for a few days as I get ready to go in on night shift over the weekend.

Wednesday: good run, 4 X 1 mile - repeats at 6:30/mile.
Thursday - long swim, 7 X 500m with rest enough to keep the form good. Could barely lift my arms at the end of that mashfest.
Friday - planned to swim again this morning, but barely got in 1500m before I could hardly move - I guess the long day yesterday took more out of today's early season arms than I thought. Also doubled up this afternoon - 90 min spin, with 2-3 5 minute sessions in 53x12 gear standing. Good leg burn, although I'm not sure how wise this was right before a 12-hour shift.

233 days to go.


Thursday, December 31, 2009

Another new/old year to begin

On the verge of starting another year (and another decade). This will be another Ironyear, the second. It's always a little daunting to realize the workload required to complete that task, and to hopefully complete it without injury and as before, "upright and smiling". That was the goal for Lake Placid in 2007 and that'll be the goal for Canada in 2010. We'll be shying away from putting any time goals out in public for quite some time.

The rest of the 2010 schedule will follow in some time, but I'd say that's the grand-daddy, wouldn't you?

I'll also be looking for training partners. If anyone's looking for a little extra motivation to get out for the runs/rides in the not-so-perfect weather, let me know and I'd be happy to do the same for someone.

Day one really started today: got in a good ride this morning, even on the trainer in the basement. Hey, it is Canada after all.

240 days to go. Happy New Year to all.