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!