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.