Dog Days Of Spring

When you’re talking Spring in Nashville, you can’t leave out allergies.  And as a guy who has continually tried to figure out how to rid myself of the the symptoms, I’m continually perplexed by the complexity.  Along with itching nose, eyes, and throat, comes a pounding head, sore muscles and joints, etc.

Trust me when I say I understand that allergies are an over-reaction by your body which tends to mean you’re out of balance.  With me, that can be an understatement, and I know the source is likely related to manufactured stress and unreasonable concern about the future.

The good news is, we just finished our full-length documentary called “Saving Banksy.”  If you’re not familiar, Banksy is a street artist from England whose work is prized by collectors, who often cut it out of walls (brick, concrete, wood) to sell the paintings at high-end art auctions around the world.  Here’s the trailer:

This has been a labor of love on parallel with training for my first Ironman.  It has completely taken over my life and most everything else (including swim, bike, run) has been an afterthought.

So much of the burden revolved around the idea of “not knowing.”  It was my first feature length film, and you don’t just throw these things on the internet. There are hundreds of variables, including having professionals sound mix, color correct, make Blu-Rays, etc.  Much like training, you just keep plowing ahead until you figure it out, and hope nothing goes wrong.

So far, so good, but it takes a toll when you get out of the moment.

Sure, we’ve made a film, but how do we make it a success?!  What if no one shows up?  How will we market?  And those are the kinds of questions that will never end, which is why I’m literally trying to take it day by day.

The same goes for IRONMAN Wisconsin.  It’s out there lingering, but instead of falling into my old traps of using Tri-Calc every day to figure out my road to success, I’m focusing on the little wins.  Like my mountain bike ride yesterday, which looked nothing like a typical IRONMAN workout.  It was living in the moment, and felt good.

This has become increasingly important to me with the evolution of recent back pain.  Muscles spasms from the insane amount of allergy sneezing, and a nagging crick in my neck that refuses to go away.  I don’t feel like it’s anything too serious, but it’s a constant reminder that I AM LUCKY TO EVEN THINK ABOUT DOING AN IRONMAN.

I went to a premiere party the other night for a TV show and had a short talk with a very optimistic guy who was in a wheel chair.  He genuinely seemed happy to be alive and that’s the kind of shit that always makes me feel like an idiot for complaining about a crick in my neck or a sore IT band.  I mean, what the hell?  I’m on my way to covering 140.6 miles with my legs and this guy has to sit down the rest of his life.

For me, it always points back to the moment.  This moment.  I can’t focus on my IRONMAN time, future success of the movie, or even training I “promise” I’ll do in the future.  It’s about appreciating today, and taking small steps in the right direction, even if they’re interrupted by a few sneezes and a sore back.

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@miketarrolly for video, life, etc.
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What Ironman Has Given Me

Five years ago I couldn’t run a mile.  I could barely swim one lap in the pool.  And while I am a natural cyclist, I had no idea what real riding meant.

I was lost, sluggish, depressed.

I knew things were out of control, and it took a video of myself to realize it.

Something had give and it turned up in the form of a Couch to 5k Challenge.

I didn’t particularly like running, but somehow I stuck with it through all the pain.  There was a lot of pain that first year.

Soon, I began to understand that pain, even embrace it a little.  I’m not talking about broken bone pain, but broken spirit.  Four years later, I am amazed at the power of the body and mind to battle through pain.

This September, I will compete in my 4th Ironman.  I cannot begin to explain how impossible this sounded to me only four years ago.  Even with my cycling background, I had only ever ridden 50 miles and that took me most of the day.  Now I would add a two and a half mile swim and a full marathon around 112 miles on the bike?  Absolutely no fucking way could a guy like me do this . . . especially at 50 years old.

I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to everyone, because it was hard.  Really hard.  Four hour spin bike rides followed by 40 minute runs in February?  Who wants to do that shit?  100 mile rides through hilly terrain?  It can really suck.

But somehow it all came together on a beautiful Fall day in Wisconsin about a year and a half after I started running.  Only one and a half years after I started running I finished an Ironman.

I don’t say that to brag (although I’m proud of it) I say it because it amazes me.  It plants an incredible seed of potential in my mind (your mind) about what is possible in life.

These last few months have uncovered a different kind of funk.  I’m sure it’s a familiar feeling for a lot of multiple Ironmen.  The challenge is no longer “can I do it,” but “how fast?”  That can be disconcerting.

I honestly feel like it’s time to take the lessons I’ve learned in Ironman, patience, belief, etc. and put that energy into becoming a more balanced person.  Maybe cutting those 10 milers in half and using 5 miles of running energy to create films, books, friendships.  Life experiences.

A lot of us have the habit of changing paths and dumping everything before it.  I really think the key to growth is to “transcend and include,” so I’m living with a new direction, but I’m not kicking Ironman to the curb.  There are too many valuable lessons and people in that world to walk away.

The more we see people “just like us” doing amazing things, the more we believe in ourselves. That’s really the thing about Ironman . . . it exposes us to endless possibilities, both on and off the course.

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Building Confidence For Your Ironman

Whether your goal is to crush Ironman, or just finish, you have to believe it’s possible.  But there are always little voices of doubt running through our heads.  So, how do we keep getting better, believe, and stay on path?

After college I started playing softball in my hometown with a bunch of talented friends.  We had big designs on dominating the local scene and taking our show on the road.  We were good in the small tournaments, but whenever we left the city, we’d crumble under the pressure.

At the end of our season, a traveling team from a nearby town picked up me up for higher-level tournament in St. Louis.  As we walked into the park with our gear, I saw some guys from a team that always beat my local boys and told my new teammates how good they were.  I’ll never forget our new coach’s reaction.

“Oh, those wimps?”

I was stunned because “those wimps” always pummeled us. But my new team was at a different mental level.

In reality, my small-town-team may have had more raw ability.  We were younger, faster, and more athletic.  But the new team had one thing we were missing:  real confidence.

There were 90 teams in that St. Louis tournament (most better than any I’d ever played) and my new team got 5th place.  That was the weekend I learned how to win.

There were three things different about my new team:

1.  They left their comfort zone to get better.
They played a lot of tournaments out of town against better teams.  They put in the work and challenged themselves in situations that were intimidating.  They’d get to the park early and warm up, take batting practice, etc.  They knew the only way to get better was to work on weaknesses.

2.  They didn’t panic when things when wrong.
My old team always struggled to score runs in tournaments.  When the pressure was on, everyone pressed, and if lucky we’d score 2 or 3 runs.  In the first game with my new team, we were losing 8-0 after the first inning!  I was demoralized and mentally packed my bags for the long trip home. But when I looked around the bench, the guys were laughing, seemingly without a care.  We promptly put up 6 runs and eventually won 26-10.  It all seemed impossible until I saw it with my own eyes.

3.  They stayed with their plan.
The guys on my new team knew their roles and limits.  Some guys were to get on base anyway possible, others were just supposed to hit the ball as hard as they could and trust it would find a hole.  They knew the odds of putting relentless focus on detail.  It didn’t “always” work, but 90% of the time, the little things paid off over the long haul of a game.

These are the simple principles I apply to triathlon.

Be Uncomfortable.
Whenever I train, I always try to do something new.  Something that takes me out of my comfort zone.  It could be wearing bad socks, veering off to tackle a steep grass hill, or riding in a harder gear for a while just to feel it.  It could be sprinting for 10 seconds to force a recovery, holding my breath under water, or experimenting without nutrition.  Nothing prepares you for the unexpected like challenging your comfort zone and trying to find peace in a new place.

There’s really no way you can be 100% prepared for an Ironman, and understanding that goes a long way toward remaining calm.  Whatever happens is just a temporary situation.  It’s like a friend told me once, “Never trust how you feel at anytime during an Ironman, because 20 minutes later it’s likely to change.”  Regardless of what’s going on, there’s usually a solution. Staying calm is the best plan.

Don’t Waiver.
I’d venture that 90% of triathletes screw up their race on the bike because they are nicely rested, amped up, and feel great that day. But, none of us ever cover the entire Ironman distance until the race.  Taking risks too early is why you see so many football or basketball teams kick the crap out of their opponent in the first quarter, only to watch their lead disappear over time while the other team sticks to their plan.  Keeping a “negative split” mentality* (though very hard to actually do) is probably the best approach to racing Ironman.

Winning is rarely about beating your opponent into submission.  The competition is always with ourselves.  It’s about preparing for the unexpected, remaining calm, and staying the course.  It’s a long race and understanding how to win it starts with removing voices of doubt.

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* Making your second half of each segment faster than the first.



IMWI 011 – Running Through The Pain

One of my favorite topics regarding Ironman (Wisconsin) is pain. Specifically running with pain. Today I talk about a few strategies to practice pain and be prepared for the inevitable meltdown on the Ironman Run. I share a great run training tip from Dominant Woman Spartan Racer, Amelia Boone and talk about a few things I work on to prepare for the pain of an Ironman run.  Make sure to follow Crushing Iron on Facebook and @crushingiron on Twitter.

IMWI 010 – Breaking Down Ironman Wisconsin Swim Course

I raced Ironman Wisconsin in 2013 and spectated (and made a tribute video) in 2014.  Today, I break down the swim course with race video to show:

– How much time you need to get into the water pre-race
– The mysterious HELIX transition
– Sighting
– The energy of the crowd

Till this day the Ironman Wisconsin swim is probably one of the favorite memories of my three Ironman races.  I loved the energy, the fan support, and the spectacle of a mass start.

This video also reveals the first guest in my upcoming podcast series and offers you a free t-shirt.

Follow Crushing Iron on Facebook and @crushingiron on Twitter for tons of Ironman training updates.

IMWI 009 – Getting Back Into Swim Shape

The swim at Ironman Wisconsin can be daunting, but not because of the distance.  The mass start offers tons of unwelcome contact and the lake water can be very choppy.  I also found it tough to sight.

With that in mind, my swim shape goal is to be 100% confident with swimming for an hour or so.  As I get back into shape I’m totally focused on time in the pool.  I’ll work up to three times a week for an hour.  But for now, I’m not even close, so I have to make compromises to get there by adding breast stroke intervals to lower my heart rate.

Over time I’ll likely improve my pace, but that won’t be a focus.  It’s very hard to become a faster swimmer and the effort (for me) isn’t necessarily worth it. I’ll move that extra time to the bike.

Feel free to follow Crushing Iron on Facebook or @crushingiron on Twitter.


IMWI 008 Push-ups, Planks, and Carbs

If you like to watch TV, use the commercials for push-ups and planks so you core is crispy for Ironman Wisconsin.  I more or less pay $150 a month to watch Badgers’ hoops and an occasional Seinfeld re-run, so it’s the least I can do to get my money’s worth.  Other than that, I’m climbing back on the pasta train with my sights set on some bike-trainer-intensity a couple times a week.  Following Ironman Chattanooga, the first thing I said to myself was, “That marginal run I just put in was all about the bike.”  Yeah, the bike felt decent, but my hamstring and hip-flexors were too tired to run.  Follow Crushing Iron on Facebook or @crushingiron on Twitter.

Here’s my list of 50 Ironman Wisconsin race reports.

IMWI 007 – Staying Optimistic When Your Diet Crumbles

I’m starting to wonder if this video series is a good way for people to learn how NOT to train for Ironman Wisconsin.  Today was a snow day in Nashville and it didn’t do much for my training or diet as I wound up running around the block and eating stuff like chips, salsa, PB&J, and soup.  BUT, I’m still optimistic about the race and have added a couple new things to the video including a preview of the new triathlon moving called “TRI” and an invitation for you to claim your free Crushing Iron t-shirt.  Please follow Crushing Iron on Facebook or @crushingiron on Twitter for the latest low-tech triathlon gadgetry.


IMWI 006 – Falling Off The Diet Wagon

I’m telling you, the Super Bowl can really jack up a guy’s flow.  This basically covers my weekend and a major fail on the Ironman Wisconsin game plan.  The weekend itself was a wake up call for my overall strategy and I’m doing a little more regrouping.  This idea of combining theories from multiple people is never easy.  And neither is avoiding nachos.

To stay on track for this video series, please like Crushing Iron on Facebook and/or follow @crushingiron on Twitter.  Tell your friends, it’s a long road to Madison.