Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I'm still here, I promise

I just looked at my blog and realized it's been nearly 2.5 weeks since I've posted.   Shame on me!  I have had a bit of a writer's block the last couple of months.   I lost interest in writing every day and really struggled with what to share on this blog.  For the past few years this blog has been dedicated to my journey to become an endurance athlete.  It was used as a way for me to keep track of my training, get people involved in the process, and provide another story for other endurance athletes to relate to when they first took the leap into this sport.  I've had a lot of "firsts" while I've been writing this blog. It started out before I ran my half marathon and has evolved along with me as I now can lay claim to an Ironman finish.

My writer's block comes from the fact that I've always used this blog as a way to lay out my challenges and update people on my progress.  Now that I've been through the process for about 3 years now, I feel like the content may become a little monotonous.   The blog may become boring to some, but I do plan on keeping it updated with my training and goals.  I hope that someone out there will find it interesting and useful too. The main purpose is to provide a journal for my thoughts and training.   This sport has really changed me for the better and I think I owe it to myself to write it down in a place where I can go back and read it at some point in the future.  I hope some of you will stick around and keep reading.   I hope to continue to connect with our other athletes in the blogosphere.  Mostly I hope to really be able to show how much of a positive impact endurance sports can have on a life.   I feel blessed to have found something I love to do and can continue to grow into as I age.   I wish the same for all of those around me.   Often times I feel like we get stagnant as we get older.   Age becomes an excuse to get out of shape.   Watching the Ironman World Championships on NBC a couple of weeks ago was a perfect painting of how I want to be when I get older.  I want to be that guy running into barricades at the end of an Ironman because I had the heart and desire to get out there and do it again.  I want to inspire people young and old to get out and challenge themselves.  If I can do that one time, this blog will be a success.   One time makes years and years of writing worth it.   Until next time, Run Happy friends.  I'll be back soon.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Big 12 Champions and Week One of Marathon Training

After many years of watching very mediocre football, sometimes even awful football, Cowboy fans were treated to an incredible performance last night in Stillwater, Oklahoma.   Oklahoma State proved it was the best team in the Big 12 and won it's first outright conference championship in the history of the program.   It was such a great day in Stillwater.   My little brother was along for the ride as we witnessed history in Boone Pickens Stadium after a 44-10 whipping of the OU Sooners.  Now it's time to wait for the BCS rankings in a few hours to see if we did enough to convince voters that we deserve a shot at LSU.  I'm holding out some
hope, but it looks like OSU will come up just a bit short.

This week also marked week one of marathon training.  I really debated about not going for my "long" run today because I've felt a little under the weather and last night's game caused me to be up way past my bed time.   I made myself get out the door though and I'm really glad I did.  I had a steady and solid long run where I focused on pacing and effort.  I'm trying to stay very disciplined with my training this year where I don't knock off some long run at too fast of a clip and lead myself into an injury.  My training plan will be a 3-day run schedule coupled with cross-training and strength-training.  I've basically taken the Hal Higdon Marathon Novice 3 program and the FIRST training program and meshed them together to make sure I'm getting in enough focused runs each week.   I wish my body could handle more running days each week, but my body just isn't made for it.   I have to work with what I have and that limits the total mileage I can put in each week.

Currently my line of thinking is that I'm going to shoot for an 8:15min/mile average pace for my marathon.   This would put me in the 3:36 time slot and would be a huge PR for me at this distance.   I came up with that pace goal by looking at my past performances at the half marathon and 10K distance.  The past few times I've trained for a marathon I never really focused in on a goal this early in the process.  I think by having the mental mindset of a concrete goal will make training more detailed and tailored for better results.   My tempo runs will be done at 7:45 pace and my long runs will be done at 8:45ish depending on what the FIRST training schedule calls for that weekend.   I'm really excited to try to execute this plan and put it to work.  It's marathon time.   I can't wait!!

Monday, November 28, 2011

The journey begins....marathon #4, err #5 I guess.

I never know whether to say I've run 3 or 4 marathons when someone asks my running history.  I've run 3 stand-alone marathons and one marathon during the Ironman.   Does the Ironman marathon count in my marathon tally?  Well, regardless of the number, I am officially embarking on my journey to my next marathon.   This week is the first week of training for my upcoming Austin half marathon and  OKC Memorial marathon plan.   I am 12 weeks out from Austin and 22 weeks from OKC.  It's a little early to be officially starting my training for the OKC race, but the slower build-up of the half training plan will help ease my legs back into training mileage.  Plus, I'm really in need of some structure at the moment so having a schedule will definitely help the type-A personality wanting to come out and play.   I haven't actually registered for either race, but I plan on registering for the Austin race in the next couple of weeks.
I have no real goals for Austin except to have some fun and use it as a good measuring stick for the OKC full.  I don't plan on a PR there but we'll see how things develop the next couple of months.   The great news about both races are that my friends from Austin are going to run both of them.  It's awesome to see my friends adopting the running lifestyle and when I go visit we have another thing in common.   Although we didn't run much this past weekend, we sure talked about it a lot.  We are officially on board for a great 2012 though.   I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving weekend.  Run happy friends.  

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Ironman - It's hard to not dream

Today I've spent most of the day watching footage of Ironman Arizona online.  It's cold and cloudy in OKC today and I didn't really have much planned so it seemed like a perfect day to curl up on the couch, watch some Ironman racing, and keep track of a friend who's there completing his first Ironman.   Watching the races makes it really hard not to dream.   The World Triathlon Corporation does a nice job of strategically placing ads for the Ironman World Championship lottery and links to races that haven't sold out.  It's easy to get lost in the memories of race day and want to sign up again.   I clicked on the lottery application several times and then closed the window.  I clicked the link for Ironman St. George and read through the website.  I even went to Ironman's main website to see which races were still open for registration.   Each time I closed the webpage and made myself quit looking.  

I'm really, really trying to save some money in 2012 and stay focused on the marathon.  It's not going to kill me to wait out another year before I do another Ironman, but the urge to sign up is so strong sometimes.   Quite frankly, sitting out a year will most likely make me even more motivated for 2013.   I think I will bargain with myself and opt to maybe do two 70.3 races next year.  Redman 70.3 is a definite since my employer pays for the entry fee and I may throw in an earlier Ironman 70.3 race like Kansas or Buffalo Springs since they are relatively easy trips for me.   Another option is to do a later season 70.3 such as Austin.   We shall see how the season unfolds.   We all know I've never been one to stay healthy throughout the entire season so injuries will definitely be my limiting factor.  I'm hoping all this yoga, pilates, core, and strength-training work this offseason will help in alleviating some of those problems.  Keeping this weight off will also go a long way in keeping my joints/tendons/ligaments happy.   If the holiday gathering yesterday was any indication of my ability to avoid overeating at Thanksgiving and Christmas then we are in for some big trouble.  Apparently I decided to make up for 7 weeks of good eating by eating everything in sight.   It's obvious why I can't keep cheat foods in my house.   Out of sight, out of mind.  Back to work tomorrow.  I'll try to be good for 3 days before Thanksgiving II occurs on Thursday.  The good news is that I'm Austin-bound for a few days after that with full intentions of being active and healthy.  It's hard to go to Austin and not want to run and play in the fall/winter.   It's going to be beautiful weather!

I want to wish everyone a very happy and safe Thanksgiving.  I hope you eat well, stay active, and spend time with those important to you.   As evidenced by another horrible plane crash that affected my Oklahoma State family, we are never guaranteed another day.   Embrace life and make the most of it.   We will remember : Kurt Budke, Miranda Serna, Olin Branstetter, and Paula Branstetter.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Ironman Louisville Highlight Video

I was surfing around Facebook today and noticed that someone had posted a highlight video of Ironman Louisville 2011.   Apparently Ironman just posted it to their site within the past couple of days.   As I watched the video it brought back so many emotions:  pride, joy, desire, eagerness, restlessness, envy.  The pursuit of the Ironman tested me on so many levels.  I miss it.  I envy those who are about to do Ironman Arizona.  I'm proud of what I accomplished.   I still get tears of joy when I think about those last few steps.  I'm eager to do another one.  I'm also getting restless.

I'm getting to a point in my "offseason" where I'm ready for more structure.  I'm ready to have a schedule.   Something to help me improve.  The last 7 weeks or so I've been flying by the seat of my pants and just doing whatever I feel like.   It's mostly consisted of shorter workouts and not much swimming or biking.  I've been running at least 3 times a week.  I've been doing some strength-training.  I've tried to swim when I could force myself into the pool.  I've been oddly absent from the bike though.  I don't really have a reason.   It's just kinda happened that way.   My goal is now to get back on a schedule post-Thanksgiving.   I'll pick up my half-marathon training plan for the Livestrong Austin Half Marathon in February and really start focusing on getting back into a regular triathlon offseason schedule.  I'll still do yoga.  I'll still do pilates.  I'll still strength-train as well.  I also will make sure I'm adding back in swimming and biking as I strive to come out of this offseason faster and stronger in all three disciplines.

One area that's been highly successful for me is weight loss/management.  I'm now at a weight that I haven't seen since junior high.   I stepped on the scales on Monday and weighed in at 173 pounds.   I've lost 20 pounds over the course of the year, most of it coming the last 7 weeks as I've really buckled down on my nutrition.  I've been eating lots of fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and low-fat dairy.  I've limited alcohol intake and have virtually cut out all forms of junk food and mindless snacking.   It's been a huge boost to my motivation and focus.  I can see the results and know that when I start training again that running, biking, and swimming with 20 less pounds is going to make a huge difference.   The next month and a half will be a challenge with all of the holiday celebrations, but I'll do my best to come out on the other end in a good spot.   Boston qualifying isn't going to happen if I can't continue to lean up and stay on the right track.   I'm focused and ready.  2012 is really going to be a great year.

Here is the Ironman Louisville 2011 Highlight Video.  Enjoy:

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Oklahoma State is 10-0 ; Early Season Race Schedule

For the first time in school history, Oklahoma State is 10-0 in college football.  It's a great time to be a Cowboy fan!  As a proud alum, it's hard for me not to boast a little about my alma mater.  We are inching closer and closer to a very special season.  Two more games left.  Only two more games.  The tension and anticipation are mounting in Orange Country USA.  Go Pokes!

This week I also have nailed down my first few races of the 2012 season.   I've decided to run the Livestrong Half Marathon in Austin, Texas, on Feb 19, 2012, and the OKC Memorial Full Marathon on April 29, 2012.   I've wanted to run the Austin race for a couple of years and it finally is going to work well in my schedule.  I have a free place to stay in Austin so it will be an easy, relatively inexpensive trip.  I am finally going to run my hometown marathon this year as well.  I'm excited to train and race in OKC next year.  Lately I've been doing some runs on the last few miles of the course to help visualize myself shattering my old marathon time in the first steps towards my goal of qualifying for Boston.   I think my familiarity with the course and local weather conditions will really help me formulate a strong race strategy.   My coach really set me up for success this past year running the half marathon in OKC and I expect to fully utilize his knowledge in 2012.  

The back half of 2012 is coming into better focus.  I think I've decided to do the Redman 70.3 triathlon in OKC next September as a way to effectively utilize the summer months when running becomes less enjoyable. It will also help me continue to improve upon my triathlon base and set me up to tackle another Ironman in 2013.  After Redman 70.3, I may run another marathon if I stay healthy and there are several options that would be relatively easy trips:  Route 66 in Tulsa, White Rock in Dallas, Prairie Fire in Wichita, and Kansas City marathon.   I'll also throw my name in the hat for the NYC Marathon again and try my luck.  The rest of the year I plan to fill in with some local races I normally do like Run for Lucky 5K, Redbud 10K, Route 66 Triathlon, and a couple of cycling tours.   It should be a good way for me to stay active and not break the bank after two pretty expensive years in 2010 and 2011.   This sport can get expensive in a hurry if you don't watch out.  It's time to take advantage of the free race entries provided by my employer.

It's time for me to get back to watching some college football and trying to sift through some old training plans to get some workout ideas for the next couple of weeks.  I'll officially start my training for the Austin half marathon the week after Thanksgiving.  I'm excited to get back into a running training program.   It's been way too long.   Run happy friends!

Sunday, November 6, 2011


During this offseason, I've really had a chance to evaluate my current state of mind as it pertains to endurance sports.  I've been able to do a little soul searching with the extra time on my hands and really start thinking about the future.  I feel like at this point in my endurance sports career I'm at a crossroads.  I've conquered most distances in running and triathlon outside of ultra-endurance events.   I do have a desire to do ultra events in the future, but I feel like I need to get a few more years under my belt before I even think about attempting one.  That brings me to a point now where I need to decide what my goal is over the next few years.  Do I just want to stay active and participate in marathons and triathlons or do I really want to get to work and push myself to reach new heights?   Do my goals become just a desire to complete certain races or do I really shoot for the moon and try to push my body?

I know as endurance athletes we live a life that's hard to keep balanced all the time.   Training takes priority over certain areas of our life and it's a sacrifice to stay healthy, active, and ready to race throughout the year.   It's no secret that to get better you have to put in the time and work.   This is where I decide I'm willing to put in that time and work.   I love this sport.  I love the way it challenges me and pushes me to expect better in all areas of my life.  The confidence I've gained the past three years was something I struggled to gain the 26 years prior.   Before endurance sports, I was constantly fighting an inner battle with myself.  I lacked confidence in many areas of my life.  I knew I was smart.  I knew I worked hard.  I just didn't know how to harness my full potential.  I was scared to make mistakes and scared to fail.  I rarely went out on a limb and threw myself out there to hurt, to fail, to really feel something.   This lack of confidence kept me from realizing my full potential.  I look back now and see many crossroads in my life where I took the safe route; missed opportunities to really do something special.  This time I'm not playing it safe.  I'm going all in.  I want to qualify for Boston.  I know I'll fall down and have to pick myself back up.  I know it won't be easy.  I know I'll put in the work though.  I know I'll make it happen.    

To some, this may seem easy.   Some people qualify in their first marathon.  I didn't have the luxury of a strong running background.  I grew up overweight and didn't run until I finally woke up in Feb 2009.   My current personal best at the marathon is a 4:02 in Chicago last year.   To qualify for Boston I need to run a 3:10 to even have the chance to register.  To actually get into Boston in 2012 I would have had to run a 3:08:46.   You can see I have a lot of work ahead.   I don't expect this to happen overnight.  I actually think it will take me a couple of years.   Realistically I can expect to run about a 3:40 marathon based on my latest half marathon results in 2011.  The road to Boston starts now.   Yes, I'll still be doing triathlons.  Yes, I still plan on doing more Ironman races.  For now, my goal for 2012 is to get faster and start chipping away at that marathon time though.  I'm working on my race schedule for next year as we speak.   I have my early season races pretty much nailed down.  It's the back half of the year that has me still looking.   More details to come soon.  

Dream big.  Work hard.  Make it happen.  - Boston or Bust

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Ironman Triathlon : What They Don't Tell You

A few weeks ago I submitted an article to the Oklahoma Sports and Fitness magazine about my Ironman journey.  The purpose of the article was to capture the ups and downs of the entire process while adding in a sense of humor.   The article was published in the latest issue of the magazine so I thought I'd share it with you guys.  Here is the direct link:

It's on page 12.  I'll also post the body of the article here in case the link doesn't work.  I hope you enjoy!

Ironman – What They Don’t Tell You

Before I began my Ironman journey, I always thought of the Ironman distance as the ultimate test:  the perfect test of mind, body, heart, and soul.  It was the one race that I ultimately dreamed of doing when I got my start in endurance sports.  It was the race that would let me know I had officially made it in endurance sports.  On August 28, 2011, I officially made it.  On that sunny day in Louisville, Kentucky, I crossed the finish line of Ironman Louisville with a time of 12 hours, 45 minutes, and 53 seconds.  It was an experience I’ll never forget.  It was also an experience that taught me a lot about triathlon and myself.  Let me explain:

I’m a relative newbie to the triathlon world.  I’m not even two years old in triathlon years.  Before now, I wasn’t aware of all of its intricacies and odd behavior.  Training for sprint and Olympic distance triathlons only scratched the surface.  Runners are often labeled as crazy by the general population.   Triathletes are a whole different breed.   Leading up to my registration for Ironman Louisville I did a lot of research and asked a lot of questions.  I wanted to know what the experience was really going to be like.  I wanted the dirty details.   I wanted the nitty gritty of what it would ultimately take for me to become an Ironman.  No sugarcoating.  No romanticism.  Just lay it out in front of me. 

I received a lot of great feedback from my coach, on message boards, from fellow triathletes, even from Ironman broadcasts themselves.  I was a sponge.  I soaked in all of the knowledge I possibly could so I’d be prepared for the gauntlet ahead of me.  I prepared for the long hours.  I prepared for the physical and mental stress.  I prepared for the exhaustion.  I even prepared for the costs.  However, there are just some things you can’t prepare for because you never thought you should.  It’s now my goal to help you prepare for what’s ahead as you embark on your own journey.

You will become obsessed.   Everything you do, say, or think will be related to your Ironman or your training.  Suddenly nothing else exists.  You are the only person on this Earth and everything must revolve around your schedule.  Someone’s getting married?  Tough!  They should have scheduled around your race.  Someone’s moving?  Tough!  Hire a mover.  Someone needs to reschedule a meeting?  Yeah right, try again.  The family wants to celebrate birthdays? That’s dumb.  Haven’t they already had 39 of those?   You get my point.  You are the only person who could possibly be this busy and no one else understands it but you and those who are also training for an Ironman.  

Performing bodily functions on yourself, while moving, and in front of other people suddenly becomes acceptable and almost expected.   No longer is it necessary to stop to use the bathroom.  Why waste those precious seconds when you could just as easily go on yourself?  You are wearing moisture-wicking material after all.  Flatulation also becomes a form of propulsion in the Ironman race.   Don’t hold it in and rob yourself of that burst of speed you get for a split nanosecond.  Let it go.  Enjoy the free speed.   

Rashes, sores, sunburns, and other forms of bodily ailments become badges of honor.   No longer do you care that you have the brand of your tri jersey permanently sunburned to your back.  You show off road rash like it’s the most coveted piece of technology that everyone else wants.  You laugh at someone who talks about being sore from doing yard work.  How could they possibly be sorer than you?  You just biked 6 hours and followed it up with a 2 hour run.  They must be weak.  You would even go as far as showing off your saddle sore to your coworkers but you think there might be an HR violation wrapped up in that one.  Instead you decide to describe it in graphic detail so everyone knows how hardcore you really are now.  You will also decide that sandpaper to the groin area is the ultimate test of toughness.  Who needs body glide when your body provides the perfect lubricant of salty sweat?  Good luck with that one.   It burns.

You will cry.  You will cry a lot.  You will hit the submit button on your entry form and you will cry.  You will watch the Ironman World Championships on NBC and you will cry.  You will dream of yourself crossing the finish line and you will cry.  As the event gets closer, you become even more emotional.  You will become grouchy.  You will snap at people for the most random things.  You will start crying and not even know why you are crying.  You think I’m kidding, but it’s true.  Suddenly you are a hormonal teenager all over again.  No one understands you.  No one can comfort you.  All you want to do is talk about yourself, have someone listen, and then have them go away so you can focus on yourself some more.   Your friends will cringe when your phone number pops up on caller ID.  They know you don’t want to hear how they are doing.  You just want to talk about how far you have to ride your bike this weekend and how no one understands how you feel.  Don’t be surprised if you don’t talk to a few of your friends during your training.  Don’t worry though, you’ll realize you were a self-absorbed freak and apologize with meals, alcohol, and an abundant amount of favors after it’s over. 

In all honesty, there is really nothing that can prepare you for the Ironman journey.  You’ll learn things about yourself that you never knew.   You’ll dig deep to find that inner strength that only your parents and God knew existed.  You’ll surprise yourself week after week as you adapt to your new lifestyle.  But most importantly you will come out on the other side a different person.  You will never look at a situation and second guess your ability to perform.  Suddenly anything is possible.  The day after I finished Ironman Louisville I knew I wasn’t finished.  I knew it was only the beginning.  It was the chapter in my life that opened the door to endless possibilities.  Now I don’t think about “if”, I think about “when”.  My motto has always been the same: “Dream big.  Work hard.  Make it happen.”  Now that dream just got a lot bigger.  

Here are a few pics from the day that I bought online.  I haven't shared these yet on here.  I really still get goosebumps and smile when I think about that day. 

I hope you all are doing well.  Run happy friends.   

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

OSU vs Texas Road Trip

I guess I'm doing weekly updates for the time being.  I hope you guys stick around during my downtime.   It's actually been a really busy and really productive start to the offseason.  I have fallen into a schedule that has kept me really busy, really active, and really productive.  It's led to less blogging than I would like, but it's been a fun month and a half since Louisville. 

This past weekend I made a road trip to Austin, TX, to see two of my really good friends and watch the Oklahoma State vs Texas football game.   I used to live in Austin back in 2004-5 so it's great to go back and visit.  I absolutely love it down there.  Every time I visit I can see myself eventually moving back at some point.  I really love OKC too so it's not something I plan on doing anytime soon.  I'll always keep it in the back of my mind if I ever get the desire to make a change.  When I lived there I wasn't very active so I didn't fully take advantage of the area.  Now it would be a perfect fit for my lifestyle.  The weather is generally pretty favorable for triathletes as well.   The summers can be nasty hot, but the other three seasons provide a great environment for year-round training.   While I was in town, I made sure to get in a run on the trails around Town Lake.   We went Friday morning and it was quite amazing to see the number of people out running, walking, and biking on a Friday.  I'm still not anywhere near top running form, but I'm healthy and running is really fun right now.  I generally just go for a 3-4 mile run and have slowly started to get my legs back after the long layoff from running.   I have to remind myself that I really haven't run much since June due to injury.  Besides the marathon portion of the Ironman, I probably didn't run more than 30 miles combined for about 3 months.   It's nice to get back to a semi-normal routine of running 3 times a week and start prepping for my 2012 goals.

The rest of the trip was pretty much centered around football and hanging out with my friends.  It was a pretty relaxing and fun weekend.  Now that I have a place to crash in Austin, I definitely see myself making the trip more frequently.  I also plan to lug my bike down there at some point to ride some of the awesome routes in the area.   I saw more bikes than I could count out on loop 360 on my way out of town on Sunday morning.  Pretty cool to see everyone getting out and being active.  

The rest of the last week or so was spent prepping for my trip and dealing with some car issues.   I had an untimely run-in with an extremely rough railroad crossing that put my car in the shop last Wednesday.  I've been driving a rental since and hopefully will get my car back on Thursday.  It seems like car issues always happen at the most inconvenient times.   Being single and a one-car household makes it even more challenging.   Luckily insurance is going to pick up most of the tab on this one and I can go about business as usual next week.  I think I need to get something bigger to drive though.  Apparently I like to run over things.

It's almost time to retire the bike to the trainer during the week.  I really think the trainer work I did last winter made a huge difference in my cycling progress this year.  I'm actually kinda looking forward to being forced to grind it out and get better.   It's so much easier to put yourself in pain when you are locked into a trainer and can put your head down and get to work.   I plan on coming out of this offseason with even more improvement on the bike.   If my motivation level stays anywhere near it's current state throughout the winter, I'll make some significant strides.   Now it's just time to get a structure and get to work. 

I hope all of you have a great week ahead.  I'm enjoying the cool temps and crisp morning.  We are hitting prime running months. Until next time, run happy!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Inexplicably Absent

I'm not sure why I haven't been blogging.  I've been inexplicably absent lately.   I really don't intend to retire from this blog.  I guess I'm just taking a little hiatus.  Like all things, sometimes you just need a break.  I took almost 4 weeks off from exercise after Ironman Louisville.  I now am back into my 3rd full week of the offseason and am extremely motivated.  I hope I can sustain this momentum through the next few months.  It will really do me wonders when I start tackling next year's goals.  Not only am I biking, swimming, and running now, I've also decided to pick up a few new disciplines this offseason.  I've started taking yoga and pilates one time a week at my work gym and have been able to get in some quality weight-training.  I know all three additions to my schedule will make me a better all-around athlete and produce results in my training.  It's been refreshing to keep the body guessing along the way. 

I  also think the weeks away from the blog will help spur along my creativity.  I actually sent off an article to Oklahoma Sports and Fitness magazine about a week ago and it was very well received by the editor.  I'll share it on my blog in the coming weeks.  It will be a way for me to get back into the game on here.   I also plan to share my 2012 goals and tentatively planned races over the coming weeks.  I've started to piece together my schedule and am excited to try and set some new PRs.

Another great thing about this offseason so far is my dedication to better nutrition and leaning up.  I've always known that losing some more weight would be the key to helping reduce injury on the run and make me faster by default.  I've really focused on eating more fruits and vegetables, eating only lean meats, and cutting back the fat intake.   Now that I'm not training as much I've stopped craving bad food which has been nice.  I've been able to avoid the offseason binge so far, but the upcoming holiday season will be a big test.  If I can come out of the offseason a little leaner, it will go a long way to better results in 2012.

Finally, I want to say congrats to everyone who finished races this weekend.   Following friends at the Ironman World Championships and the Chicago Marathon really made me miss training.  I'm really enjoying the free time of the offseason, but I also can't wait to get back into marathon training.  I've really missed the long runs and the pure joy I get from running.  Sure I've grown to like the bike and the swim isn't nearly as intolerable as it once was, but I love running.  I'm ready to get back to pounding the pavement and enjoying the freedom of running.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Brooks PureProject Release

As a Brooks Fanatic, I've eagerly been awaiting the launch of the PureProject line of shoes for quite some time now.  I first heard about the new line of shoes on the Brooks Running website and it seemed like a perfect opportunity for me to experience the more lightweight approach to running.  I've been a big fan of Brooks shoes since I started running back in 2009.  My love affair continues to blossom as they introduce new lines of shoes and apparel that make my runs more enjoyable.

Luckily my local running haunt, Red Coyote Running and Fitness, was one of the select retailers to carry the PureProject shoes on their October 1st limited-launch date.  In true runner fashion, they also decided to have a little pancake breakfast along with the opening day of the PureProject.  I actually haven't ran since Ironman Louisville so today seemed like a great day to test out the Achilles and run in some new shoes.  I think I earned a new pair after this year's training.  I also wanted to treat my feet to some new kicks as I start my offseason training plan.  No surprise, but the PureProject shoes did not disappoint.  I ended up trying on 3 different models : the PureFlow, the PureCadence, and the PureGrit.  The PureFlow is Brooks neutral version of the PureProject line.  I've generally always run in support/guidance shoes, but I'm slowly trying to wean myself off the full support versions of the Adrenalines.  The PureCadence is the guidance/support version of the PureProject and has a little more support to keep the foot from overpronating.  I am not a big overpronater but I do have some slight tendencies to pronate too much.  Finally, the PureGrit is the trail version of the PureProject line.   I tried on the PureFlow model first so I could get a feel for neutral, more natural feel of the shoe.  The shoe fit like a glove thanks to the NavBand that wraps around the instep.  It also was extremely comfortable and provided a nice ride when I took them for a spin around the parking lot.  Next I tried on the PureCadence model which most closely aligns with my current Adrenalines.  It was not quite as flexible as the PureFlow, but did feel much more supportive without being bulky or restrictive.  It also fit really well and the debate was on about which pair to pick up for my new shoes.  Finally, I tried on the PureGrit model just so I could round out the collection that would fit my gait.  I really, really liked the feel of this trail shoe.  If I was a trail runner, I might have even bought two pair.  The shoe was designed in conjunction with Scott Jurek so you know it's a solid shoe.  It felt like it focused your weight to your midfoot/forefoot so you could get ultimate traction from the lugs on the bottom of the shoe.  I suspect I'll be buying a pair of those when the weather turns a bit colder and I need more traction on the snow.  After consulting with a few runners near me and Kathy, my shoe specialist this morning, I decided to break down and buy both the PureFlow and PureCadence shoes.  My reasoning was so I could put in my long runs with the Cadence when I need more support and then use the Flow for my shorter, speed workouts.  After I got home I took the PureFlow's out for a short 2 mile test run and really, really enjoyed the shoe.  I definitely am ready to give the Cadence a run as well.  I'll test those out on Wednesday when I join up with Red Coyote and Brooks for the Brooks Pure Pint Run.  Our area Brooks rep is going to bring up some free swag from Dallas and we're going to go for a quick 30 minute run followed with giveaways, free beer, and a free Red Coyote pint glass.  Not too shabby!

I really do think you owe it to yourself to give the PureProject shoes a try if you can find them in stock.  Rumor has it that these things are flying off the shelf and they are already on backorder until Oct 19th on the Brooks website.  For more info, go check out the Brooks PureProject web page.  You won't be disappointed!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Ironman Louisville - One Month After

Finally, after one month of travel, reconnecting with friends, the start of college football, and life in general, it's time to write my race report for Ironman Louisville.  Initially I planned to write this race report upon my return to Oklahoma the week following the race.   However, my schedule really didn't allow me the opportunity to sit down and focus my efforts.  It's amazing how vivid that day still is in my mind.  I remember the sights, the sounds, the smells, the emotions like they were yesterday.  This race report will be easy to write now that I'm sitting here at my computer.  The goal of the report is to recap my day, give a little insight about the race, and relive the moments I remember most.  Stick around if it sounds like something that might interest you!

Race Site (Host City, Hotel):

First of all, Louisville, Kentucky, probably isn't on the top of many people's lists of places to visit.  I had only been to Louisville once before this visit and my memories were nothing spectacular.  It had been over 12 years since my last visit so I was pretty sure the area had changed quite a bit.  Overall I really enjoyed the city the five days we were there for the race.  We didn't really explore too much as far as tourist attractions go, but there are a few really cool options for family members who are interested :  Churchill Downs, Muhammad Ali museum, and Louisville Slugger museum. Luckily, I flew to Louisville on Thursday morning before the race and my parents drove from Oklahoma the same day.  It worked out really well for gear transport.  I sent all of my gear, food, and essential items with my parents and I took my other clothes on the flight with me.  It helped remove one of the big stresses of traveling to a race.  I didn't have to worry about my bag getting lost, my bike being damaged, or weight limits in my bags.  I probably ended up taking a lot more than necessary, but it was nice to have options when I was packing my gear and special needs bags.  I also opted to stay at the host hotel, the Galt House, so I didn't have to worry about transportation to and from the race site.   The cost was manageable since we only booked one room, but as we all know, host hotels are never cheap.  One thing I will note is that most rooms do not have a microwave.   I ended up packing my own meals (pasta, marinara, etc) so I didn't have to eat out and risk stomach issues.  Not having a microwave was a minor inconvenience, but the hotel allowed athletes to use the microwave of one of the restaurants on site which was very nice.  The Galt House was central to everything you needed on race weekend except a grocery store.  I'd recommend hitting one before you get downtown if you need to pick up anything like water, snacks, etc.   I ended up taking a trolley from downtown to the theater district and then walked a few blocks to get to a Kroger grocery store on Thursday so I could pick up some fruit, milk, water, and plastic utensils so I could be self-sufficient for meals leading up to the race.   The transition area, finish line, swim course, run course, and banquets are all located within a short walk of the Galt House.  I'd recommend it as a home base for this race.  I do think there may be better options nearby if you want to find somewhere with a small kitchen, but if you just want a room that's close to everything it's a good spot.

Swim:  2.4 miles in 1:19:17

IM Louisville is unique because it's a time-trial start instead of the usual chaotic mass start.  One of the reasons I felt Louisville was appealing was because of this fact.  The downside of the time-trial start is the anticipation and build-up as you are waiting in line prior to the swim.  The line is first-come, first-served so you just line up as you get to the swim area and that's your spot in the starting corral.  I wasn't overly concerned about getting in the front of the line so I took my time getting up and around in the morning.  It allowed me to sleep in a little longer and not rush around trying to get to the transition area right when it opened.  After making my way through transition to load up my bike with my nutrition, I made the walk down to the swim area.  From transition, it's about a 1/2 mile walk to the swim start area.  Once I got to the swim area, I got my body marked with my race numbers and then made my way to the snaking line of athletes waiting for the start of the race.  This is where I made the first of a couple of rookie mistakes during the day.  Once I found the end of the line, I set my morning clothes bag down and left to go join the line waiting for the port-a-potties.  In my bag was my swim cap, goggles, ear plugs, GU, and a few other miscellaneous items I thought might be handy while I was waiting for the swim start.   As I waited in line, I heard someone shout over the loud speaker that they were trying to condense the line and asked for everyone to start moving closer to the start area.  Keep in mind, that the area was dark and I didn't really pay attention to who was around me when I set my bag down.  I just asked the guy next to me to watch my stuff for me while I was gone.  In a panic, I saw the line start moving and realized I had no idea who was next to me in the swim line.  I knew roughly the location of where my bag was dropped, but since it was dark I couldn't see many details.  I decided to wait out the bathroom line since I was almost to the front and then I made my way back to the area where I thought I had dropped my bag.  When I got back to that spot, my bag was nowhere to be found.  Panic began to creep in.  I couldn't do the swim without goggles and my swim cap.  I knew I could get another swim cap, but the possibility of finding a pair of goggles that fit was probably pretty slim.  I started to make my way up and down the line hoping someone would recognize me as the dumb guy who left his bag next to them in line.   Person after person went by and no one knew where my bag was until a sweet voice rang in my ear with the words, "Hey, I think this is yours."  Crisis averted.  I thanked the girl over and over for grabbing my bag.  She said she debated whether or not to grab it, but noticed the race number had fallen off the bag so she decided to take it with her because she was afraid a volunteer might take it and I'd never get it back.  I know I could have made it work without my cap and goggles, but it was not the way I wanted to start my first Ironman adventure.

The next 30-45 minutes were spent chit-chatting with the athletes around me.   Most of us were first timers so we shared the anxiety and nerves leading up to the big moment.   The minutes seemed to crawl by as we waited for the gun to go off for the pro start.   Finally, off in the distance we could hear the national anthem and then the gun for the start of an amazing day.   The time trial start made for an interesting sensation leading up to the swim.  It felt like you were walking the plank.  We just kept getting shuffled forward as athletes entered the water.  I couldn't decide when to put my goggles on and when to put my ear plugs in.  As we got closer to the start, a couple of paramedics rushed to the water and the organizers stopped us as I was about to cross the timing mat to make my entry into the water.  They delayed us about 5-10 minutes as they worked on a guy who had a heart attack about 2 minutes into his swim.   At the time they didn't tell us what was going on, but a local newspaper reported that he passed away.  Very sad news.  At least he was doing something he loved.  After the delay, I made my final walk off the plank into the murky Ohio River.  Instantly my right goggle started leaking.  Crap.  I initially tried to ignore the water in my goggles but after 10 minutes or so I decided to grab a kayak and try to fix the situation.  I tried to dump the water out and create a tighter seal, but it immediately started leaking again so I decided I'd just have to deal with it and move on.  The first part of the swim was upstream in a relatively narrow channel between an island and the river bank.  The current isn't strong, but my legs did feel like they were dragging behind me more than normal.  Despite the time-trial start, I still had to deal with some very physical swimmers.  It still baffles me how triathletes think it's OK to swim over someone, grab someone, or hit someone.  I guess I'm not cutthroat enough to participate.  I had several frustrating moments with my fellow triathletes in the water, but ultimately I tried to stay positive.   As I made the turn around the island and into the main body of water, I immediately started sighting off two big bridges over the river.  I knew from the practice swim the day prior that once I hit the second bridge I was basically finished.  Not shockingly, it felt like the bridges weren't getting any closer.  I felt fairly decent in the water, but my eye started burning from all the river water in my goggle and my legs began to drop in the water as my core got tired.  I definitely slowed down a lot towards the end of the swim and had to stop completely because a guy swam across my body and pushed me under the water.  One of us was swimming in the wrong direction and I'm pretty sure it was him.   After getting my bearings after being dunked, I looked up and noticed I was finally underneath the second bridge.  Home sweet home was only about 400 meters away.  As I got to the dock, I really expected my time to be somewhere in the 1 hour and 30 minute range.  It felt like I had been in the water a long time.   I was shocked to see 1:19:17 on my Garmin when I made my way to transition.  This was the sign of a really good day ahead.

Bike:  112 miles in 6:18:26

My whole goal for the bike was to not overcook myself the first 2 hours.  I talked to several people before the race and everyone told me to take it easy on the bike.  I drove the course with my parents on Friday before the race so I was pretty familiar with the layout and felt confident in my bike training.  I knew I had put in the miles on the bike, the key was staying on top of my nutrition and not going out too fast.  As I made my way out of the transition area, I made sure my bike was in my small chain ring and I made a promise to myself that I wouldn't even think about going to my big ring until I hit the 2 hour mark.  The first mile or two out of the transition was pretty congested since I left with the middle of the pack in the swim.  I settled into my aero position until I felt something hit my leg.   I looked down and didn't really notice anything different so I kept moving.  A minute or two later I felt something else hit my leg.  I looked down just in time to see my food laying on the ground as I pedaled on down the road.  Crap again!  I immediately reached into the side pockets of my tri top and noticed I had lost all my food out of my pockets.   Thankfully I had a bento box on my bike that housed my gels, but all of my Honey Stinger Waffles were now littered across the first 3 or 4 miles of the Ironman Louisville bike course.  Mentally I was in a really good state of mind this whole day.   The minute I realized I was without solid food I just started making an alternate nutrition plan in my head.  I decided to up my gel intake until I could get to my special needs bag and then I'd grab some food there to replenish my supply.   I also decided I'd try to grab a piece of banana or power bar at a couple of the aid stations as a supplement.  Crisis averted again.

After the food situation was put aside, I then just settled into a groove and tried to just focus on staying aero, staying comfortable, and staying confident.  The swim time definitely carried over to my mental psyche on the bike.  I felt strong on the bike and I knew I had a good day ahead of me if I stayed focused.  I kept up my end of the bargain and didn't touch my front gear until after about 35 miles.  It was then that I decided I could finally open up the legs a bit and start being a little more aggressive.  I religiously was taking in calories and never once felt like I had screwed up my plan.  I grabbed a banana from time-to-time and took in a gel every 20-30 minutes.  Along the course, I was also able to see my parents twice in the city of Lagrange which was really cool.  Each time I felt really good and I think my body language was comforting.  On the second loop of the course I made a pit stop for my special needs bag at mile 65 to grab my back-up food that I had packed just in case.  I picked up a few Honey Stinger Waffles, a few more gels, applied some more chamois butter, took a bathroom break, reapplied some sunscreen, and then went on my way.  Overall I probably burned about 10 minutes, but in the grand scheme of things it was time well spent.  I felt fresher than ever after my stop and figured I'd try to pick up some more time on the last part of the bike.  The course was a little breezy, but nothing compared to Oklahoma wind so I used my battle-tested wind expertise to pass quite a few people on the back side of the bike course.   It was comforting to know how great I was still feeling.  It gave me confidence that the run was going to be ok.  I did start to have some stomach discomfort the last 10-12 miles of the bike, but a quick bathroom break in T2 helped calm the situation.   The only other real issue I had was my right foot coming off the bike.  It had fallen asleep on the bike and as it "woke up" I had a really bad pressure point pain on the bottom of my foot.  It took about a mile or two on the run to work it out completely and even then it reappeared late in the run when my lack of run training began to manifest itself.  Overall it was a really great ride for me.  I felt like I rode comfortable and controlled all day.  My goal was to be fresh going into the run.   Mission accomplished.  I felt great coming off the bike.

I thoroughly enjoyed this bike course.   The first and last 12 miles were flat as a pancake.  The course followed the Ohio River for that stretch and then veered off into the horse farm country.  The course is a lollipop type with a two-loop segment after you get outside of Louisville proper.  There is also one out-and-back section you do once on your way out of town before you hit the looped section.  The out and back is about 20 miles into the course and probably is the steepest grade you'll encounter all day.  It's a section of the course where you go down into a creek bed and up the other side.  You hit the turn around and do it all over again.  Both times you are able to get up a ton of speed going downhill and have to throw your bike into the easiest gear to grind up the hill on the other side.   The great thing about this course is that it always keeps you involved.   Besides the first and last 12 miles, you are constantly shifting, analyzing, and surveying the road in front of you.   I felt like it kept me engaged all day long and I never got bored.  I don't think I'd enjoy a pancake flat course where all you did was hammer away.  I liked the fact I had to stay mentally alert and plan  my nutrition intake properly and shift my way up and down hills.   The course is definitely a rolling course.  You never really encounter any excruciating climbs or hair-raising descents.  It's just a nice, moderately challenging bike ride.   The roads were in really good shape throughout the course and traffic was fairly light.  Overall a great Ironman distance bike course.

Run:  26.2 miles in 4:44:56

This was definitely the shocker for the day.   Going into this race, my longest run had been 14 miles at the first of June.   Due to achilles issues that showed up after Kansas 70.3, I basically had to shut down my running from mid-June until race day.  I went into this run fully expecting having to walk a lot.  I was prepared to be on the course for a LONG time.  Thankfully, the day went really well for me all the way around.   Coming off the bike, I knew I had a lot of energy left in me.  I was feeling really great.  My achilles was only moderately sore and I was finally going to get to run!  I had missed running a lot.  It's the part of triathlon that I love.   It's always going to be my favorite discipline.  Finally being able to lace up my shoes and pound the pavement on race day was a huge blessing.   I felt like I was in my element again.  I started my run with the strategy to run to each aid station and then walk through the station to make sure I was taking in enough fluids and calories.  I had packed enough GUs for me to take one every 45 minutes for a 6 hour stretch.  Yes, I thought I might actually be out there 6 hours.

The course makes you do a quick out-and-back halfway over the Ohio River on one of the bridges near downtown and then you go south toward the University of Louisville and Churchill Downs.  The course is flat and very well stocked with aid stations and volunteers.   Each aid station was a mile apart so it allowed me to settle into a really nice pattern of running for about 9 minutes and walking for 1-2 minutes.  Each aid station I tried to take in Perform and water every time.  I also grabbed ice to put in my shorts/shirt/hat and used a couple of sponges filled with cold water to cool off every mile.  Temperatures were manageable in the upper 80s, but it was still warm enough that I wanted to make sure I wasn't going to overheat or dehydrate.

The first half of my run went really well.  I grabbed my special needs bag at mile 13.2 and used the body glide I had in it to try to help with the chafing that was becoming an issue because of all the salt dried to my tri shorts.  It was like sandpaper in my groin area.  I also checked my shoes to make sure I didn't have something in the bottom of my right one because the ball of my foot was hurting pretty bad.  Once I realized there wasn't anything in my shoe, it dawned on me it was because of the bike.  I knew at that point I would just have to deal with it and hope it wouldn't get worse.  Luckily my achilles stayed pretty calm.  It started to hurt about mile 10, but it never got to a point where I felt like I needed to stop running.  It was sore, but there wasn't any stabbing pain.  I decided to soldier on ahead until something in my body told me otherwise.   About mile 14, you get dangerously close to the finish line and it gives you a rush knowing that you'll be back again to see it yourself in 12 more miles.  I also saw my parents at this point which helped give me another added boost as I started the 2nd loop of my run.   It wasn't until about mile 15 that I could tell I hadn't been running much.  My legs started to get really heavy, the bottom of my feet hurt, and my legs got harder to get going again when I stopped to walk through the aid stations.   Luckily I never really had any extremely dark moments where I questioned why I was doing this and whether or not I'd finish.  I stayed pretty calm throughout the run and as the miles added up I started to realize I had a sub-13 hour finish within my site.  A week or two before the race, I would have never guessed I'd finish in sub-13 due to the lack of run training.  The fact that it was still within site about 18 miles into the marathon was very motivating.  I began to calculate in my head what I'd need to do the rest of the way to make sure I made it to the finish before the 13 hour mark.  It was then that my legs started to remind me that I hadn't been running for a couple of months.  Each step started to hurt a little more and each time I walked through an aid station it got a little tougher to get going again.  I started to allow myself to walk past an aid station for a minute or two and then I'd run for 8 or 9 minutes to the next stop.  As I got to mile 23, I told myself I couldn't stop anymore.  I knew at that point that I wasn't going to be able to get back to running if I stopped again.  My hips were tight, my legs ached, my feet hurt, and my body was ready to be done.  I knew I was close though and the thought of seeing that finish line was what kept me running.  No stopping.  No aid stations.  Just running.  My body hurt but my face didn't show it.  I began to smile more and more as each step got me closer to the end.  I could hear the crowd.  I could hear the music.  I could hear Mike Reilly bringing home my fellow athletes.  That moment was about to be mine.  I was about to become an Ironman.  As I turned the corner and saw the finishing chute in front of me, I began to tear up.  I got choked up as I saw all of the people around me cheering.   It was one of the most amazing and indescribable feelings I've ever felt.  I will never forget those last few moments.  The joy.  The pain.  The pride.  As I made my way into the finishing chute, I saw my parents off to the side.  I immediately veered directly towards them and gave them the biggest, wettest, stinkiest hug they've ever had in their lifetime.  Sharing that moment with them was priceless.   The joy on their faces was something I'll never forget.   They were both smiling ear-to-ear.  My mom was screaming with joy.  My dad was telling me I did it.  It was an unbelievably emotional moment for me.  The fact I could share the last few seconds of my Ironman with them was worth all of time and effort put into it.  That's a moment we'll be talking about when we're old together.  That's a moment I'll remember until I die.  That's a moment I wish everyone could experience.  This picture is my favorite picture from that day.   This was taken by my mom as I left their side to cross the finish line.  Priceless moment.   "Lights will guide you home...."

Ironman Louisville 2011 Finisher:  12:45:53

I can honestly say this was truly an experience of a lifetime.  My day at Ironman Louisville couldn't have gone much better.   Everything just seemed to fall into place for me.  All of the training (mental and physical) came together in nearly perfect fashion.  I knew going into it that I'd come out on the other side of it a different person.  I do feel different.   I feel like I was part of something special.  I feel a very close bond to those of my fellow triathletes who took this journey with me.  I feel a connection to those who think anything is possible.  This Ironman journey has brought me closer to several people in my local triathlon community and I look forward to continuing to cultivate relationships with those I trained with this summer.  I also look forward to seeing what's next for me.  I can tell you that the minute I crossed that line I knew it wasn't the end for me.  I will absolutely do another Ironman.  When and where is now the question.  For now, I've decided to reconnect with family and friends I've had to neglect for so long.   I want to enjoy the football season, hang out with my loved ones, and dream about 2012.   After all, we do know my motto : Dream big.  Work hard.  Make it happen.  Stay tuned.

I'd like to end this blog post with a special thank you to my parents.  My parents have been my biggest fan for the last 29 years.  They've shown me unconditional love, regardless of the circumstance.  They've been a rock for me to lean on when I've needed guidance.   They've always believed in me.   They played a huge part in my success at Ironman Louisville.   They hauled my gear.   They heated up my meals.   They catered to my every need.  They fought the crowds.   They battled the sun.   They were on their feet all day long standing and waiting to see me for a few seconds at a time.   They took pictures.   They cheered loudly.   They went and picked up my bike while I was still competing.  They made sure I was comfortable after the race.   They gave up their time and money to help make my dream come true.   I'll never be able to say thank you enough for all they did that weekend.   I am truly blessed to have parents who care so much.  I love you Mom and Dad.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Finally Back at Home

Yeah, it's been a crazy 3 weeks since the Ironman.  I knew I was going to be busy the few weeks following the race, but it's been even busier than I originally thought.  This has prevented me from blogging, writing a race report, or even thinking about starting my offseason plan.  I do apologize for my absence...if anyone is still out there reading.  I promise I'll eventually get a race report out, but it will have to wait even a few more days.   I have friends from Finland in town so I won't have an opportunity to sit down and give it my full attention.  I've also been asked to write an article for the Oklahoma Sports and Fitness magazine about my Ironman journey.  Pretty cool opportunity and I look forward to sharing it with all of you.  I am eager to return to some form of training.  The break has been nice, but I miss it.  It's become such a huge part of my life that it's hard to not think about it.  I'm still planning the next phase of my journey.  I think my next big event will be the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon in April 2012.  I'll most likely run some smaller local races early in 2012, but I think I'll be event free for the rest of 2011.  It'd be wise to focus on saving some money, getting healthy, and focus on improving my speed/strength.  Overall I feel really good at the moment.  We'll see how the first few workouts go next week.  The plan is to start back up next Thursday after the Finns leave.  Until then, I'll keep trying to enjoy the break and hopefully not eat too awful.  I'll report back soon.  Hope everyone else is doing well.  I'll catch up on blogs the next few weeks as well.  Run happy friends.

Monday, September 5, 2011

I still owe you a report....

I know I still owe you a race report from Ironman Louisville.  I honestly haven't had any time at all to work on it.  I want to make sure I have enough time to sit down and do it justice.  You'll get it soon hopefully.

The focus of this past week has been recovery.  I was pretty sore for a couple of days and going back to my office job prolonged the misery.  My hips hated me for days due to sitting at a computer.  My coworkers went above and beyond though.  I returned to the office on Wednesday to cheers, decorations, potluck food day, and a gift certificate for a 90-minute massage.  It was truly a great way to cap off the Ironman journey.  I put the gift certificate to good use on Friday after work and have thoroughly enjoyed a long holiday weekend to ease back into a routine.   

I still haven't exercised since Louisville, but I plan to break that streak tomorrow.  I'm planning on hitting the gym after work to get in some weights and maybe a little elliptical time.  I won't be able to get back into a real routine until late September because I have a lot of travel coming up the next 2 weeks.  I do plan on taking some running shoes with me to Chicago, but I doubt I actually get the luxury of using them.  I'm still trying to nurse this achilles back to full strength so running probably wouldn't be a good idea.  I can always go for a walk though. 

That's it for now.  Sorry it's so brief.  I just wanted to send out a quick update.  I will get a race report together when I get a night free.  I hope everyone had a great Labor Day weekend!

Monday, August 29, 2011

I am an Ironman!

Ironman Louisville 2011 is in the books and I can now proudly say I am an Ironman!!  I'll detail a full race report sometime later this week, but I wanted to send out a quick update.  I ended up having a much better day than I anticipated on all 3 legs and it was about as perfect a race as I could have envisioned.  It's been hard to put what I'm feeling into words so I'll save that for another day.  I want to soak it all in and really appreciate the moment.

My official finish time was 12:45:53.  Unbelievable day in Louisville, Kentucky.   Thank you to all who sent words of encouragement, followed along on race day, and have been here throughout this journey.  I also want to send out a special thank you to my parents who made the trek to Louisville to help make my dream a reality.  It was amazing seeing them out on the course and they really played a huge role in my race weekend.  Dream big.  Work hard.  Make it happen.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Ironman Louisville Preview

Honestly I'm at a loss for words currently.  I really anticipated blogging more frequently this week, but my mind has been a jumbled mess.  The packing, the nerves, the doubts, the last minute tasks, the overwhelming excitement.  It's been very hard to focus.  I flew into Louisville on Thursday morning and did all my athlete check-in requirements before the crowds arrived on Friday.  Thursday evening was very relaxing and my parents arrived with all my gear.  Friday morning I slept in until 8:30 and then went for a short ride on the first few miles of the bike course.  My parents and I then drove the bike course to get a lay of the land before heading back to the hotel for a couple of hours of relaxation before the athlete banquet.   Friday evening we attended the welcome banquet and then I had a mandatory athlete briefing at 7:30PM where they went over points of emphasis about the course, pre-race, post-race, and everything in between.  This morning I woke up about 6:45AM and hit the Ohio river for a quick practice swim at 8AM.  The rest of the day has been spent icing my Achilles, packing my gear bags, and now writing this blog.  My nerves are definitely starting to build.   I've been fairly calm all week until now.  I think it's finally hitting me that it's about to happen.  The atmosphere in town is interesting.  You can feel a lot of nerves.  You can feel a lot of energy.  There is movement all around.  People running, people biking, people swimming.  It's really cool to see all the active lifestyles merge together for one big event.  I've tried to avoid being on my feet all the time.  My Achilles isn't happy with me the last few days which is concerning.  I know it's going to hurt tomorrow.  I just hope it holds off hurting for at least part of the run.

As far as expectations for tomorrow, I do have a few.  I'm fairly confident in my swim and bike currently.  I feel like I've put in the time there.  The big question mark is obviously the run.  I haven't ran since the first part of July.  I've definitely put in the time on the elliptical, but it only goes so far when you are trying to run a marathon.  I'm hoping that physically my legs and Achilles will hold up long enough to make it through most of the run.  My plan is to run/walk as much as I can and hopefully avoid an all-walk fest.  I'll use pain as a guide and alter my plan accordingly.  The big goal is to finish.  Finish before midnight and complete this chapter in my book of life.  I really want to say thanks again for all the support.  Each swim stroke, each pedal stroke, and each step will be powered by the support from all of my friends and family. 

For those of you wanting to follow along.  You can go to to follow me throughout the day.  My bib number is #1001 or you can search my last name : Sloan.  I really have no idea when I'll cross the line, but here are a few estimates:

Swim - 1:30 to 1:45 (All three 2.4 mile swims during training were around 1:30 to 1:35)

T1 - 10 minutes

Bike - 6:30ish (Not sure how the hills will show up in my bike time so this is a conservative estimate)

T2 - 10 minutes

Run - ???  I'm guessing it's going to be a 5+ hour day on the run course. 

Who knows what tomorrow will hold?  I'm hopeful that the race day adrenaline will help ease some of the pain in my Achilles.  I'll control the parts I can (nutrition, attitude, and heart) and let the rest of it fall into place.  Dream big.  Work hard.  Make it happen.  Let's do this.   

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Yes, you can....

Today marked the last long ride of my training schedule for Ironman Louisville.  I'm now at the part of the schedule where my workouts are less than an hour.  This week my full focus will be on mentally preparing for the race, packing my things, and finally going to Louisville to make this dream a reality. 

Less than two and a half years ago I ran my first 5K on April 5, 2009.  Prior to 2009, running never was a part of my life.  I rarely did cardio work and the only time I ran was playing tennis or softball.  I wasn't extremely out of shape, but I wasn't in great shape either.  When I signed up for the OKC Memorial Half Marathon in mid-February 2009, I did it as a tool to get me out of a rut.  I never really knew if it would stick, but one thing I did know was that it would challenge me and force me to be disciplined.  My training started primarily on the treadmill.  The thought of running outside was scary.  I didn't know how to pace.  I didn't know if I could reach the distance of my long runs.  I was scared I was going to fail.  Every day I got back out there and kept challenging myself to get a little further.  I kept telling myself to go a little bit faster.  With every passing day I gained more confidence.  I knew I was falling in love with the sport.  I knew I was becoming hooked.   Running became my passion.  Running become a huge part of my life.  My free time that used to be filled with going to happy hours or watching mindless TV was spent on the running paths.  I met people who inspired me and made me smile.  I met people who I wanted to be like.  I wanted to be that guy or girl who could run a marathon every few months.  I wanted to be that person who ran every day.  One thing I didn't want to be was a triathlete though. 

Triathlons were even scarier.  I couldn't see myself doing an open water swim.  Heck, I couldn't even see myself swimming at all.  I never took swim lessons as a kid and swimming wasn't something I enjoyed.  As spring turned to summer and my first marathon came and went, I gained even more and more confidence.  The marathon made me realize that I really could do whatever I wanted.  Triathlons started to become a little less daunting.  I took a leap of faith and attended a Team-in-Training info session on a whim in January 2010.  I had no real intentions of signing up, but I wanted to at least leave the option open.  I took a swim class at my work and got chewed up and spit out by the pool and the instructor.  I left swim class thinking I was a year or two off before I could even think of doing a triathlon.  I even told the Team-in-Training staff that I wasn't going to be ready to do a triathlon in 2010 and told them I wasn't signing up.  Thankfully, the staff at TNT didn't let up and told me that I'd be fine.  They reassured me that most people who sign up rarely can swim well and they'd make sure I was ready before I hit the open water.  Thankfully I decided to join up with the TNT crew for the Capital of Texas triathlon.  I never fully embraced the triathlon lifestyle until after my first triathlon.  Triathlon made me miss running.  I hated swimming and viewed it as a distraction from my running passion.  I went into my first triathlon with nowhere near the zeal and fire I had for my first marathon.  I viewed the Olympic distance race as a great way to end my training, but I didn't fall in love.  I knew I needed something more to make me fall in love with triathlon.  After CapTex, I decided to focus my efforts on increasing my bike mileage and run a couple of marathons to build my base.  I had a goal.  I had a goal to do an Ironman.  I started thinking about the Ironman almost immediately after leaving the CapTex triathlon.  Originally I had planned on doing it in 2012 as a way to celebrate turning 30.  As the summer of 2010 passed, I grew more and more passionate about doing the Ironman.  I knew 2012 was too far away so I decided that 2011 would be the year of the Ironman.  I eagerly started scoping out locations and dreaming of where my first Ironman attempt would take place.  I ultimately decided on Louisville due to timing and location.   I pulled the trigger and signed up on November 16th, 2010, a little over a week after my third marathon.  Since then, my whole focus has been on training and getting ready for August 28th, 2011.  The last few weeks, people look at me and tell me they could never do it.  They tell me they can't imagine doing 140.6 miles in one day.  They say the could never swim 2.4 miles.  They say they could never bike 112 miles.  They say they could never run 26.2 miles.  I look back at them and say "Yes, you can."  I'm a firm believer that we're all capable of much more than we give ourselves credit for.  Now it's time for me to go prove it.  Three years ago, I never thought I'd be doing an Ironman.  Three years ago I was one of those people saying I couldn't do it.  Now I can't imagine not doing it.  Dream big.  Work hard.  Make it happen.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

One Week to Ironman Debut

Time just keeps ticking away.  Now I'm 7 days away from the big race.  I've really tried to stay out of my own head and focus on getting everything done before I leave.  Focusing on work and prepping everything for the trip has allowed me to stay relatively calm.  I say relatively because this week has had it's fair share of nervousness, anxiety, and doubts.  As I've stated before, the roller coaster continues.  I'm not sure there's any real way to avoid it so I've embraced it.  Whenever I have doubts, it makes me focus on mentally going through the race.  I take the doubts and try to turn them into something positive.  So far it's helping, but I know each day that passes will bring even stronger feelings of anxiety and doubts.  Race week jitters are going to be in full force.

On Thursday I had my pre-race doctor visit with my sports med physician.  He's a multiple Ironman finisher so the real focus was checking to make sure my Achilles was going to be able to withstand 140.6 miles and give me some meds/advice along the way.  As expected, he said my Achilles had gotten worse.  I was pretty aware that was the case judging by the way it has felt the last couple of weeks.  It has always hurt after my long bikes, but every week I was able to get it back to comfortable by Thursday/Friday in time for another long bike.  I would then proceed to tear it up on the bike and repeat the process each week.  Each week the recovery was a little slower though.  He acknowledged the fact that I had more signs of wear and that we really needed to discuss options post-Ironman  He gave me a steroid pack to take next weekend to help relieve inflammation and told me to make sure I wore heel lifts and compression socks on the run.  He told me it'd help get me through the run and then we'd revisit when I return to Oklahoma.  I've scheduled a follow-up appointment on Sept 8th where will begin discussing if therapy will work or if I'll need to look into platelet rich plasma (PRP) injections into my tendon.  I've done a little research on the PRP injections and results have been positive, but it's a fairly new procedure.  Since it's so new, it's considered more experimental and most likely won't be covered by my insurance.  He did say he's used it on a few patients and the results were positive.  The nutrient rich plasma helps speed the recovery process by targeting the region where healing needs to occur.  The injection directly into the tendon gets the healing agents to an area where blood flow is limited.   It's an option I'll consider when I get back home.  I definitely don't want this to be a chronic issue and if this procedure looks promising, it's worth a look.  I'll have to decide if the out of pocket expense is something I'm willing to stomach.

So for now, my focus is on knocking out my last few training sessions and get my Achilles to cooperate.  I've been icing off and on all day and doing some light stretching.  Currently I have my compression socks on and feet elevated.  I also have the 2010 Ironman World Championships on in the background.  It's great motivation to get up and ride in the AM.  Tomorrow will hold a 3 to 3.5 hour ride with the Redman training group followed by a lot of reading, research, and maybe some packing.  I've decided to go ahead and rent some race wheels from my local bike shop and I'll have those put on my bike on Tuesday evening.  I didn't plan on it, but my coach thinks it will be a nice added boost on race day.  If he hadn't recommended it, I probably wouldn't have even considered it.   Now it's time for me to get ready for bed.  That 4:30 AM alarm clock comes really early!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Odd Shopping List

Taper week has started really well.  I started the week with an open water swim where I met a fellow Ironman Louisville participant and finally got a chance to relax and hang out with friends.  I joined up with our Team-in-Training tri group and ended up hanging out and relaxing in the parking lot until the sun set.  It was nice to catch up with friends and also get some really good advice from some Ironman veterans.  No amount of advice is too much at this point and it's reassuring to know that everyone goes through the roller coaster of emotions.  One guy told me that if' I've been moody, emotional, and flat out mean sometimes it means I'm ready.  I'd say I'm pretty ready then!

I took the opportunity to go do my shopping for the Ironman Louisville trip tonight.  It seems like I have a million things to do before I leave and knocking out this task will save me some headaches next week.  Initially I had a pretty short list of items to get, but then I found a checklist for an Ironman trip online and immediately realized I wasn't thinking through the entire situation.  Being my first attempt at this distance, there is a lot I don't know.  There is also a lot I would never think of on my own.   Before I went shopping I decided it would be a pretty good idea to talk to my coach as well.  I stopped by my local bike shop where he was working today and chatted with him about some items I should pick up.  My main concern was my special needs bag for the bike and run.  We talked about having it as a resource for anything that might arise along the way : gastro issues, chafing, blisters, hunger, bonking, rain, cold, heat, motivation.  We wrote down a list of things I'd need and off I went to the store.  I know the people at the checkout must have thought I was crazy.  Here are a sample of things I purchased:

Chewable Pepto-Bismal
Chewable Gas-Ex
Wet wipes
Nutter Butters
Fig Newtons
Starbucks VIA
Ear Plugs
Gallon-size Ziploc bags

You get the picture.  Pretty random and it makes me look like I suffer from chronic gastrointestinal issues.  I do think I wrapped up my shopping for this trip though which was a relief.  I ended up buying pasta and some tupperware containers so I could cook it and send it with my parents.  My coach said it'd be a good idea not to eat out the night before the race so I'll plan on making my own pasta dish at the hotel.  I also decided I'd throw in a few treats in my special needs bag so that's where the Nutter Butters come into play.  Does anyone else have anything to add to the bags?  Am I missing something?  I'll have the usual : tubes, co2, socks, gels, contacts, etc.

I also just got my bike back from the shop after a final tune-up.  I'll take it for a spin tomorrow to make sure everything is working well and will knock out one more long ride this weekend before I send it on it's way with my parents.  I can't thank my parents enough for lugging all of my gear to Kentucky.  It saves me so many headaches and allows me peace of mind that it will show up in one piece.  My parents are a huge piece of the puzzle next weekend.  I hope they realize how much it means to me.

The rest of the week will be pretty tame.  I'll ride tomorrow, swim Friday, and use the weekend to read through the athlete guide, ask questions, and start prepping my gear.  I also have my last doctor visit before the race tomorrow afternoon.  I'm curious to see what he thinks of my Achilles condition and if he can give me any tips/advice on easing the pain during the run.  Hopefully he'll have some magic potion I can rub on it before I leave T2.  I'll report back again soon.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

It's Taper Time

It's finally here....the beloved taper.  I've had this day marked on my calendar for a while now.  It was the date that kept moving me forward when my Achilles was sore.  I just told myself I needed to make it to taper.  If I could push through and get in my training, the taper would be when I could let off the gas pedal and focus on getting healthy.  Well folks, it's finally here.  I'm proud to say that I've made it through the bulk of my Ironman training and it's now time to mend some wounds, get some rest, and mentally prepare for the juggernaut of August 28th, 2011.  In two weeks I'll be toeing the banks of the Ohio River ready to test my body, heart, and mind.  In two weeks I'll make my Ironman debut.

As you can see, the last 2 weeks have been pretty hectic for me.  I've had almost zero opportunities to sit down at home and write a blog post.  It wasn't the smoothest two weeks for me either.  Training began to catch up with me and I was physically and emotionally drained.  It was humbling to admit to myself that I was tired and overwhelmed.  I generally stay pretty calm and even-keeled.  I rarely get upset and I'm pretty good at masking my fatigue.  It finally caught up with me though.  I was moody. I was emotional.  I was exhausted.  I can't really explain what the tipping point was, but once I stepped back and examined the situation I knew it was a combination of training, work, and life.  My sleep pattern was off, my schedule was off, and my body was off.  Thankfully I was able to right the ship and fix my problems.  I missed a workout or two along the way due to work and bike issues which was probably a blessing in disguise.  I don't willingly skip workouts very often.  Well-timed, uncontrollable missed training sessions tend to be the ones that help the most.  A quick trip to Austin also helped take my mind off training for a couple of days as I kicked back at the lake and sat poolside without goggles in hand.  Overall, I felt like the last 2 weeks were a big picture look at what I'll feel on race day.  Cram all those emotions, stress, fatigue, and unpredictability into one day and you get the Ironman.  It was a good primer and another chapter to add to the journey.

Another important thing to note, during my absence I also received my bib number (#1001) and my athlete guide.  Both brought about emotions that ranged from queasiness to relief.  It's amazing how this process teases you every day.  Some days you feel ready and some days you feel grossly unprepared.  Some days you feel so excited you can't contain yourself and some days you feel scared to death.  The whole maiden Ironman voyage is one I'm not really sure I'll be able to replicate anytime soon.  It's not until I decide to continue to up the ante to something even more extreme that I'll be able to match this whirlwind.  It's no secret that endurance athletes are adrenaline junkies.  We feed off the race day atmosphere and the nerves.  It's what drives us to continue our pursuit of new challenges.  The nerves make you feel alive.  The nerves make you feel like you are being tested.  Conquering the nerves and fears is what make us grow.  It's the growth we experience physically, mentally, and emotionally that keeps us coming back for more.  I know I'll be back for more.  This endurance sports world has me hooked.

Finally, I want to say thank you to those who have stuck around this summer.  I haven't posted as much.  I've been hampered by injuries.  I've complained a little about the heat.  One thing that has always been constant is the support from those around me.  I know I've said it before, but I'll say it again.  The people in my life who make up my team are the ones who keep me going.  My family, friends, colleagues and the blogger world are all sources of motivation when I'm tired or second guess myself.  You all have never doubted me.  I'll do my best to make you all proud on race day.  Two more weeks and I'll lay it on the line for you.  Dream big.  Work hard.  Make it happen.  

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

Is that true?  Have you missed me?  Sorry for the extended absence from the blog.  Last week was interesting.  I can honestly say I felt overwhelmed.  Work bled over into training, training bled over into personal life, and training just wasn't what I wanted it to be at this point in the game.  I was very moody and just genuinely felt exhausted.  I was tired.  Motivation was low at points.  I just kept telling myself that I only had a few more weeks.  At the moment I'm in Austin, Texas, spending a few days at Lake Travis.  It's been a nice break and I'm ready to get home and hit the home stretch.  As of today, I'm 18 days away.  I'm extremely nervous, emotional, and anxious.  I just have a few seconds before I have to head to the airport but I wanted to let you know I'm back.  I'll report back soon.   Dream big.  Work hard.  Make it happen.  Ironman Louisville or bust.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Race Prep Week - Swim and Bike

As I inch ever closer to Ironman Louisville, my training is now shifting to race rehearsal type workouts.  The week itself is a stepback week for the run so I haven't had to endure the countless hours on the elliptical which has been nice.  The brief respite came at a great time because I was growing weary of the elliptical after the last 2 weeks.  Thankfully I only have a couple more weeks of really long sessions to put in on the elliptical.  I really wish I was running, but I know it's not time.

Overall this week has been pretty productive on the training front.   I knocked out a really nice bike ride after work on Tuesday.  It was 105 degrees and 15-20mph winds which normally would have put me in a bad mood, but I've gained some confidence on the bike the last few weeks and I enjoyed the challenge.  The bike is a funny instrument for me.  All year I've really felt like my bike has the most room for improvement and most potential for time improvements in triathlon.  I'm pretty happy with my run when I'm healthy and my swimming is what it is.  I'm never going to be a fast swimmer and even if I was I think there are minimal time benefits in the grand scheme of things.  The bike to me is where I'll focus my efforts on becoming a faster triathlete.  Riding by myself I tend to underestimate my pace potential so I've played it pretty safe all summer.  Riding with the group the last few weekends has allowed me to step out of my normal comfort zone and realize I have a lot more in my bike than I previously envisioned.  While I still plan on not killing myself in Louisville and play it safe with my pace, the last few weeks have allowed me to see the potential of better things to come on the bike.  I like the fact that through this training season I've continued see areas that need my attention and give me something to focus on during the offseason.  As all endurance athletes know, I'm already thinking about what's next.  We are definitely a strange breed.

Thankfully this week I also managed to get in my first open water swim without a wetsuit.  The local triathlon club hosted a Splash and Dash on Thursday evening.  I snuck in my elliptical workout before work so I could head out Arcadia Lake for some open water fun.  There was probably a group of 50 people or so at the "race" and the course was a 500m swim with a 2 mile run afterwards.  Due to the Achilles, I opted to do the swim course twice and skip the run portion.  I was pretty pleased with the results from the swim.  I felt calm and controlled in the water.  The water was a bit choppy due to the wind so it was good practice even though I don't expect to have to worry about that in Louisville.  I'll probably try to get in a few more open water swims the next few weeks, but if the schedule doesn't allow I won't be too overly concerned.  Friday after work was also my trial run for the 2.4 mile swim.  I have to be at work between 7 and 7:30 AM so doing my workouts before I head to the office isn't realistic sometimes.  Due to this, I headed to the pool after work and basically had the pool to myself.  I popped a gel before I hit the water and then just tried to keep my mind focused for the duration.  To me, the biggest challenge with this swim was keeping count of my laps.  It's hard to keep your mind from wandering when you are staring at a black line for an hour and a half.  The swim went about as expected.  It took me 1 hour and 32 minutes to get in the full 2.4 miles.  Pretty much right where I expect to be in Louisville.  Mentally it's nice to get that swim in the books and know that the hardest part will be to stay focused on form and sighting in the water.   I can definitely say I'll never want to be an ultra-endurance swimmer.  I can't imagine staying in the water much longer than that and actually enjoying it.  Ultra-marathoner?  Sure, I can see that in my future.  It's no secret where my true allegiance lies. 

Tomorrow is the big 6 hour adventure on the bike.  I'll report back tomorrow after it's over and let you know how it went.  The plan is to get out and riding by 6 AM for a lap around Lake Hefner by myself before joining up with the the Redman crew for 3 or 4 hours.  I'll tack on an extra hour or two by myself after they finish up and hit my 6 hour goal.  Thankfully the next time I need to ride 6 hours I'll be doing one of the local century rides with a big group of people.  It always helps mentally when you have others with you the entire ride.  Tomorrow will be a good test.  I'm looking forward to the challenge.