Dickson Endurance Triathlon – Spectator Report

EDIT: I wrote this about a week ago, but forgot to post it.

I’m sure it adds to my odd-ball-status, but I genuinely love watching triathlons. So much pain, so much exhilaration, so much, uh, down-time.

On this day, I got up early to watch my coach race the Dickson Endurance Challenge, and judging from the roads driving into the swim, “challenge” was an understatement.  I mean, gauging a road in your car can be misleading, but whenever you have to floor it to climb a hill, you know it’s legit.

The Dickson Endurance Challenge is legit . . . and it starts with the swim exit.


I am not even kidding when I say I was sucking gas walking up that hill after taking a few pictures at the swim.  I’m guessing 500 feet of 4% grade?

While driving in, I noticed multiple aid stations along the course and they were all stocked with staff and supplies long before the anyone needed them.  They were also gracious in giving me directions.  I’m glad I went this year because I never would have made it on time for the start if I were racing.

Before I go any further, I would like to say this race is really well done . . . with one exception . . . the music.  And I know you’re asking, why would you even bring up the music?!?  Okay, I’ll tell you.

When I first got into triathlon it took me at least 9 months to explain it to my dad.  He didn’t understand, nor really care and I totally get that.  But, the first time he saw me race was at Ironman Wisconsin and the one thing he always talks about is the music.  For months after the race he would literally start singing “Let’s get it started” out of the blue, followed by, “I loved that music at Ironman.”  Why is that so important?  Because I honestly think it gave him a multi-month shot of adrenaline and made him a fan.  See, he was a spectator, just like I was today.

Anyway . . . so, yes, the race was really cool, but playing the entire side of Billy Joel’s “The Stranger” was a bit much.  They almost saved the day, with Britney Spears’s “Work, Bitch,” but for some reason they played the G-rated version that doesn’t say Bitch.  I don’t know.

Ah yes, back to the race.  My coach won, and here are the pics I took, many with hard-hitting captions:

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Challenge Knoxville – Race Report

The evening before Challenge Knoxville, I ran into David, who I met at last years race when we had a guarded pre-race conversation in transition.  We played a bit of cat and mouse intimidation but eventually figured out we were in different age groups.   We became good friends over the year that followed.

Now, a year later he was in my age group, and I knew he was the one I had to beat if I intended on winning. We chatted casually while listening to the mandatory athlete meeting and I wanted to see if I could get into his head.

“How are you recovering from the Boston Marathon?,” I asked.

“Oh, I’m feeling good,” he replied with his standard confidence.

“Well, those marathons have a way of creating deep fatigue.”

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

“I mean, DEEP fatigue you may not even be aware of.”

He just laughed.

Later, on my way back to the hotel, I saw him walking the other way and asked where he was headed.

He said, “Grabbing some dinner.”

“Don’t you think it’s a little late to be eating?”

The seeds were planted.


After another crappy pre-race sleep I sauntered to the start line around 7:30 with my wetsuit.  As usual, it was raining as I stood along the Tennessee River warming up before the horn.  The water temperature was 73 degrees and I had serious doubts about wearing my wetsuit, but it was a little chilly and decided I would rather risk using it.

I ran into David and, not expecting an answer, asked his swim strategy.  Without missing a beat he said, “I’m going to start in the front, get to the turn buoy as fast as I can and be the first one out of the water.”

Our strategies were quite different.

I planned to ease into my swim as usual then hope for a mid-swim-burst to finish strong. I too started in the front, which was a mistake.

I always forget how hard people swim at the start of a race.  I was getting the shit beat out of me by overzealous age-groupers.  Slamming my left, my right, even swimming over the top.  The best is when they swim past you, take 3 strokes, then stop to sight right in your path.  I was bred to embrace contact, but it makes finding a groove difficult.

I expected to be out of the water in 25 minutes or less.  But for some reason I couldn’t find a pocket.  I’m sure it had something to do with not being used to my wetsuit but that’s just an excuse.  I didn’t have it that day, but it could have been worse.  Actual time was 28 minutes (1:57/100), which burns my asshole, but whatever.

Later, I found out David swam a 22 minute leg, so I didn’t know it, but I was already 6 minutes behind.


I didn’t feel “bad” leaving transition, but definitely sluggish.  I had the same strategy on the bike.  Start under control, be nice and warm by the first hill at mile 7, crush the climb, then kick it into gear.

My stomach was acting up in the swim, to the point where I thought I might get sick in the water and that feeling continued for a while on the bike.  It’s always something in these races and I knew I couldn’t think about it too much or it would ruin my race.

I walked a fine line with hydration and sour stomach.  Sipping as much as I could versus big gulps.  Somewhere around the halfway mark of the ride, I started to feel better, but my legs were far from explosive.  I climbed under control and used the big ring to build speed off the top before coasting the second halves of downhills.  My run was a BIG question mark.

Around mile eighteen I saw another guy I met in transition last year named Cliff.  He was on the side of the road messing with his bike.  I passed him climbing the hill, then he passed me two minutes later only to pull over again.  I saw him after the race and he was a bloody mess.  Just after that climb, we hit a long and fast descent.  I passed a cyclist laid out on the ground, who I later realized was Pro Triathlete Eric Limkemann.  It was in that very spot that Cliff took his spill.  I’m sure they both were well over 30 mph.

The last leg of the bike was fairly routine.  I drank as much as much as could stomach and following my coaches orders to push my cadence for the last two miles so my legs were ready for the run.

(1:13/20.3 mph)


I always chuckle at the feeling I have off the bike while tap dancing in bike shoes back to the rack.  I had no idea what to expect and hadn’t ran well in 3 weeks or so.

In a spur of the moment decision I opted for no socks on the run and threw on my Pearl Izumi Streaks for the second time this year.  I’ve kinda decided that they are not the best training shoes, but I love to race them.  They are light, responsive, and make me feel faster.

Short, ginger steps were the name of the game for the first mile until I realized I felt pretty good.  My legs were moving fast and my breath was under control.  That’s when it happened.

I couldn’t believe my eyes, but David was walking toward me on the right hand side.  He was obviously out of the race and I yelled, “What the fuck are you doing?”

He said, “I’m done.  Injured.”


As I passed him he yelled, “You look great, go get it.  Only two guys in front of you!”

For a brief moment I felt guilty about the Boston fatigue comment, but quickly forgot when I saw my first age-group-victim 20 yards in front of me.  I lurked for about a 1/2 mile before making the decision to pass.  I fixed my hair, zipped my top, then gave him a big smile as I blew by with immaculate form in hopes of sucking the wind from his aspirations.

For the next mile I stayed strong, but kept waiting to bonk.  I kept repeating, “Just run your race and breathe” to myself.  I wasn’t wearing a Garmin, but my chrono watch estimate was that I was sub 8 minute pace through 2.5 miles.  And that’s when I saw the other guy I was chasing.  He was at least a mile ahead of me, so I knew first place was out of contention.

Second place sounded good to me, but the guy I passed was hanging on.

I stayed within myself and told myself that if he passed me at this pace, more power to him.  By mile five I felt like I held him off.  I looked back a couple times and knew he was too far away if I could just stay true to my plan.

The run course ends with a long hill to the finish line and I got a tad delirious as I pushed the incline.  I was breathing harder than I had all day and thought for sure he was going to make me sprint to the finish line.  But he never did.  I would cruise down the finisher’s chute for an easy second place.

The crew dropped a medal around my neck then graced me with a soaking wet Gatorade towel.  I limped through a few handshakes, then walked over to print my results.  It was all an illusion.  I was not 2nd, nor 3rd, nor even 4th!  I had perfectly executed my 2nd place plan into a 5th place finish.

Karma is a bitch.

(47 min/7:43 pace)


Follow me @miketarrolly on Twitter and sign up for Crushing Iron by email to get many more reports from Challenge Knox including hotel and restaurant reviews, new friend stories and a disastrous tale from a first time triathlete.

Challenge Knoxville Finisher Photo

My reaction to my split times.






Challenge Knoxville – Friday

I came up early to Challenge Knoxville for some reason, possibly because I don’t have a job. The first person I saw was Cameron Dye in the Holiday Inn lobby and I tweeted my appreciation, but I haven’t heard back from him . . . yet.

Next was off to check in.  It was likely the earliest check in of my career for anything.  I’m number 817 if you want to track me in the Olympic.

Here are some beautiful photos from my day.


I thought I was the first one to check in, but this was actually the Tennessee Book Festival set up.


This is Cristina from PowerBar. I tried to talk her into a Crushing Iron sponsorship, but it didn’t go very well.


Beautiful sky above the Challenge Knoxville finish line. Let’s hope it comes back on Sunday.


Remember the World Fair in Knoxville? Me either.


This is exactly where I will be taking a bath after the race.


This girl in the backpack pretty much slammed the door in my face.


This is the haunted ghost tour machine and it’s legit.


Does this even need a caption?


Always a lot of biscuits around this weekend.


This is Challenge Knoxville’s new swag

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Challenge Knoxville is Official

I’m officially in for Challenge Knoxville.  I’ll be doing the Olympic as has been my standard the last couple years and look forward to defending my PowerBar crown along with this outlandish 3rd place medal!


Me, Wasky, Jim, and Corey in 2014

Unfortunately the rest of this crew won’t be joining me, so if you’re going and need a friend with outlandish viewpoints on triathlon or feel like having some good old fashioned Knoxville fun, let me know.  I’ll be staying at the host hotel.

I’m really excited to see how the Challenge experience differs from Rev3.  I thought Rev did a great job and expect Challenge to take it up a notch.

If they do one thing, I hope Challenge delivers an international flavor to this race, and by that, I have no idea what I’m talking about.  Narrow roads with overly aggressive spectators, maybe?  Cornetto and cappuccino in the rooms?

It’s my first race of the year and I sit here in Beloit, Wisconsin with an anticipation-buzz.

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After a 10 hour drive to Beloit, Wisconsin

In some ways, this race has made me as a triathlete.  It was my warm up race for IMWI two years ago and it was likely some of the worst conditions possible.  I loved it and really grew as an athlete that day.

Last year they moved the date back a couple weeks and racing conditions were solid.  It’s a great city to host and I love downtown Knoxville.  Read my 2014 Rev3 Race Report.

Coming next is a list of 10 ways I believe Challenge can take a dent out of Ironman in the 70.3 distance.




Country Music Marathon – Nashville, TN

Not many endurance sport activities are more awkward than “running along to support someone in a marathon,” and that’s what I did this weekend in Nashville.

I’ve run exactly two marathons, both at the end of Ironman, and Saturday I jumped on the Country Music Marathon course at Mile 18 to support my friend Mark for his last 8 miles.  By then, he was a veteran soldier and I was a well-rested, baby-faced-rookie dishing my new-aged arsenal of annoying cliches.

“You look great, buddy!”

“You got this!”

“Your tougher than this course!”

“Car up!”

Most of my inspirational quotes were met with a soft grunt or groan, but I know he appreciated my company.

It’s just so weird!

Last year at Ironman Louisville I had a someone join me at the 13 mile turnaround and I literally didn’t remember who it was.  I was telling this story to one of my buddies on our Wednesday night group runs.

ME:  “Yeah, I was so out of it I could barely stand up and some guy was walking with me, asking me all kinds of stupid questions and trying to get me to talk about LIFE when all I wanted to do was lay in an ice bath.”

HIM:  “That was me, you asshole!”


So, that’s how I felt when I was running with Mark.  It’s kinda like trying to cheer up a heavy sleeper the minute they wake.

I’d been running for two miles when he hit mile 20.  A spring chicken cruising at a pace just out of Mark’s comfort zone.  “We’re gonna have to slow down a bit, man.”


In retrospect, it was fine and I’m sure it helped him, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that I felt like a party crasher who didn’t bring a dish to pass.

Three miles from the finish line we saw a woman lying in the fetal position on the side of the road.  She had her left arm in the air with a “thumbs up,” like she was in great shape.  She was not.

I kneeled down to touch her shoulder and asked if she was okay.  She rolled over onto her back with a thud and said, “I’m from Canada, it’s sooo hot!”

I held her hand and her body temperature was through the roof.  My fingers must have felt like ice cube on hers and I told runners to send back help.

“It’s just so hot,” she said in a distant voice, then she said, “I’m gonna get sick,” before turning away to do just just that.

It didn’t look good, but she still had a sense of humor, so it calmed me a bit.  She was also a little salty about bonking so close to a PR.  It wasn’t meant to be.

I ceremoniously removed her race belt and fastened her watch around it. I had no idea what to do other than just be there while we waited.

Two cyclists came to the rescue with full bottles and a pack of ice to hold on her forehead.  Eventually an ambulance showed up and they put her on a stretcher.

As they slid her into the van, I heard her ask, “Can you at least let me run through the finish line?”

The EMT smiled and said, “Let’s just work on standing up first, Jill.”

Her name is Jill Libby and I would love to hear how she is if you know her.


As the ambulance pulled away, I wished I had asked her to cut off her timing chip and let me run it through the finish line.  Hopefully there wasn’t too much worry at home.

And Mark did just fine without me.  Battling the last 3 miles to finish his first of two marathons this year.  I’ll be running his next one, but it will be at the end of Ironman Chattanooga.



Pool Lane Sharing Etiquette

Countless times I have been the guy, standing patiently at the end of the pool, hoping the gentleman or lady swallowing one of the two lanes at the East Nashville YMCA would do the right thing.  Depending on the pool, I learned sharing-offers from in the water can be few and far between.  I vowed quickly not to be that guy.

Today, I was lucky enough to get my own lane (it’s a lot easier when you don’t have a job and go at 3:00).  I’ve been winging workouts lately, so I stared at the water and decided I would simply swim 2,000 without stopping.  Sometimes you just want to see if you have distance.

I warmed up slowly and by lap 10 I felt outstanding.  I mean, it was one of those grooves where I barely felt like I was breathing.  Just cruising along against the odds of gravity and resistance.

This feeling continued through lap 32 and I couldn’t have been more excited.  I was visualizing that river in Knoxville and eating up the downstream assistance on my way to a Challenge Knoxville podium.

Lap 33 was heaven . . . until I hit the far wall to turn around.  That’s when it happened.

Suddenly, the lifeguard was blowing his whistle uncontrollably.  The shrieking sound cut through my ear plugs, but I kept swimming thinking it was some tomfoolery in the play area. But he didn’t stop, so I sighted him in the chair and he was pointing right at me.  I did that little dog-paddle-slow-down, lost my pull buoy, and awkwardly sank under water in the deep end.

“What???, I asked in a confused but semi-salty tone as I came to the surface.

“I need you to share this lane with her.”

“What???,” I asked in a confused but semi-saltier tone as I sunk again.

“Can you share your lane with her?,” he said pointing to the end of the lane.

“Dude, really?  You’re stopping me in mid-swim to ask if I’ll share?  Of course I will.”

I pulled myself together and side-stroked to the end.  My groove was gone, my temper was tested, and my desire to quit the East Nashville pool once again pierced my frontal cortex.

I assured my new lane-mate I was happy to share and pushed off to finish my forty.  Three laps later, I was right back in the pocket.

When I pushed off the far wall on lap 37 I heard the whistle again.  This time it was more urgent, maybe even multiple whistles.  It sounded like the pool might have been on fire.

By the time I surfaced and started to slow down I felt another body swimming right over the top of me.  Now, thanks to my coach’s intense open water training, contact doesn’t bother me, but when I came up for air, I realized it was the other lifeguard.  She kicked me in the head, then jumped the ropes like she was saving someone.

My anger turned to fear as I sunk below the water to see if someone was at the bottom.  I held the edge and scanned the water for someone struggling to survive.  It was a scary moment that humbled me in an instant.

I was dazed, confused, and losing my mid-swim high when the same lifeguard who asked me to lane-share walked up and said, “It’s okay, it’s okay, it was just a lifeguard test.”

I couldn’t believe it and gave him the kind of glare that makes my dog sheepishly wag her tail.  “Seriously??”

I gathered my composure, tread water for a second, then launched my pull buoy the length of the pool at my gym bag.

Yeah, I was that guy and immediately regretted it.

I walked to the end of the lane and waited for my “lane-mate.”  I told her I love to share lanes and wasn’t dissing her on purpose.  She told me it was fine, and that I only swam about 4 laps while she waited.  I must have been in a zone because I have no idea how I didn’t see her, especially because I don’t do flip turns.

I stared at the ceiling and decided thirty six and a half laps would be enough for the day.  I climbed out of the pool, then slowly walked to the lifeguard . . . and apologized.


The Power of Running

I’m sitting here in my home office watching the Boston Marathon and, as usual, it’s blowing me away. The fact that so many people care about running and/or watching this race is a testament to human spirit.

How so many could fall in love with something so painful was always a mystery to me, but now that I am a runner, I understand it goes far deeper than the activity itself. The pain is a prerequisite to growth.

It’s about the feeling, the challenge, the quest.  It’s one piece of the life-puzzle that keeps us on the right side of our dreams.

Yesterday, I took off on a run with no intention.  It could have been 3 miles or 15, but I guessed I’d land somewhere in the middle.  I hit mile 3 as I entered my favorite abandoned-airport and it started to rain.  By the time I was on the lonely runway, the sky drenched me.

My instinct was to turn back and head home, but after a few strides, I was genuinely unsure whether or not I had gone to heaven.  The cool rain washed my skin and I felt unusually clear and in the moment.

I have this tendency to seek childhood feelings, and in the middle of this monsoon I was back on the playground without a worry. Completely alone in the sandbox as I circled the one mile loop.  It was truly surreal gazing into the pouring rain and stomping in warm puddles with every stride.  My mind was free and my body responded with four more miles.

I found a running groove for the first time this year and seemingly floated at a pace far faster than I anticipated.  It was gliding more than running.  No one watched, no one cared, and I imagined the home stretch at Boston with fans cheering my will to dig deeper.

Nothing mattered other than being the best me at that moment, and frankly, I think I was.


Your IRONMAN Videos Are In Jeopardy

Hang with me as I tell this little story about AC/DC, my love for their music, and how their record label Sony Music Entertainment is throwing a wrench in my enjoyment of making free triathlon videos for all of you.  

“Highway to Hell” was one of my first album purchases.  My friends and I would blast both sides over and over for hours in my basement while sneaking beer from the downstairs fridge. It was the first of many times I would buy that album in several formats.

After “Highway to Hell,” I went back in the AC/DC catalogue and bought “High Voltage,” “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap,” “Powerage,” “Let There Be Rock,” and “TNT.”  Then lead singer Bon Scott died and we thought the ride was over, but there was greatness waiting in the wings.

It was a remarkably quick turnaround for a rock band as AC/DC replaced Scott with Brian Johnson and released “Back in Black” one year after “Highway to Hell.”  We waited in line that day at the record store and rushed back to my basement once we secured the golden tracks, all encased behind this black, masterfully simplistic album cover.

We literally wrecked my Pioneer speakers with Back In Black.  It has to be the best “comeback record” in the history of Rock n Roll.  We loved AC/DC (I even dressed as Angus Young for Halloween) and supported them for the next several releases.  I probably bought most of their releases on album, cassette, CD, and mp3.

Last year I made three Ironman Tribute videos and used popular music for the edits.  A few days ago, I tried to play the Ironman Wisconsin Tribute and it wouldn’t load.  Then I noticed a little note next to the video in my YouTube manager that said “Matched 3rd party content.” Essentially that means the publisher says you’re infringing copyright, in this case, Sony Music Entertainment and my use of “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC.

This happens all the time and I followed one of the more popular “disputing strategies,” based on the ground that my use was educational and non-profit.  I have nearly 600 posts on Crushing Iron.  I have traveled near and far to shoot 12-15 hours of video for these, paid for my hotel room, etc . . . all for the love of triathlon and the people in it.

Today I got this email from YouTube stating that Sony Music Entertainment thinks their claim against lowly old Crushing Iron is still valid.



Is it just me or does this reek of the music business’s regretful attempt to bulldoze Napster and mp3’s into oblivion?  I live in Nashville and am all about musicians rights, etc., but I could have picked any song on the planet.  I picked AC/DC (and others) because I’ve always loved the band(s) and believe using it under tastefully produced video from Ironman is more of an homage than theft.

Either way, the point is, this is happening hundreds of times a day and it appears the music industry is once again trying to “control” how people use the internet.  I just think it’s lame and short-sighted.  But, then again, we are talking about a company that once sued itself.

I have probably spent thousands of dollars on Sony artists throughout the years and haven’t made a penny from using “Thunderstruck.”  If Sony was smart, they would come up with a non-profit/blogger, etc. licensing plan that charges, say $10 to use one of these songs in the way I did, but alas, they continually prefer to upset their fans and ignore new opportunities to make money.

Instagram: MikeTarrolly

Watch these videos while you can:


Triathlon Doesn’t Have To Be So Hard

If I’ve learned anything about sports, it is this:  Competition is easier when it’s easier.

When I started running a few years ago, it was like climbing mountains, but running doesn’t have to be that hard. Neither does swimming or cycling.  The hard part is remembering to think it’s easy.

Now, I don’t mean it’s not hard to bike 100 miles or run a marathon, but there are thousands of times within each experience that we make it harder than we should.

I am constantly reminding myself to relax when I swim, bike, and run.  Relaxed muscles are more effective.

The problem is we think too much.

When I was a kid I ran around the neighborhood all day without thinking twice.  But when I thought about running, just to run, it seemed hopeless.  It was fight or flight mode.  I had to PUSH myself.  Dig in and push off the ground.  Throw my arms hard.  Every step was another large dose of effort.

Now, I think of it much differently.

I remember the first time when I realized I wasn’t breathing hard during a long run.  I was about 9 miles in and felt like I could go forever.  It was almost like I forgot I was running.

Eventually a similar thing happened to me in the water.  I call it jogging in the pool.  It’s a relaxed state that seems like floating on a raft.

Which brings me to cycling.

A long time ago I was an aspiring mountain biker and bit off a 40-mile-race I wasn’t sure I could pull off.  One of my friends said something really simple that sticks with me until this day, “Just keep spinning.”

Just keep spinning.

He didn’t say “just keep hammering” or “dig deep or thrash your pedals,” he basically said, just keep your legs moving in the most resistance-less circle as possible.  Sometimes the simplest things are the most powerful.

All of this stuff is relative to your strength level, of course, but swimming, biking, and running are all much easier when you remember to use (and trust) momentum of your body and purpose.  This works in life, too.



Life Isn’t About Getting Stuff

It’s an imperfect science, but I have a new rule:  No Alarm Clocks.

This isn’t always the best plan, like, say, Sunday, when I planned to run the Nashville Running Company’s 6 Mile trail race and woke up 8 minutes after the start time.  But the good news is, you can always run 6 miles on trails – and that’s exactly what I did later that afternoon.

The trails in Shelby Park were an absolute mud bog, and I started by tip-toeing my way around the (less-muddy) edges like most of us do, but eventually found the nerve to start blasting through the ankle deep mud puddles.  And you know what?  A typical run, turned into a rush.

I threw caution to the wind and took advantage of what nature offered.  And isn’t that what life is all about, creating experience?

A couple weeks ago I was listening to Colin Cowherd (who I love to hate) on ESPN radio.  He was on an absolute rant about the difference between acquiring “stuff” versus experience.  He said he was far more about life experience than “things.”  He sees no point in buying expensive clothes, but is all-in on spending $5,000 to see a once in a lifetime event.

I totally agree with that in my gut, but it’s not always easy to for go stuff for an experience.

Not having a steady job for the last 8 months has been slowly adjusting my mind on this theory.  I rarely crave stuff now because I can’t afford it.  In fact, I’m trying to get rid of as much as possible.  What I crave is, passion and experiences.

I just spent way too much money going to the Final Four, but guess what I did?  I went to the Final Fucking Four!  Pretty cool.

Three nights ago I went to a local restaurant and paid $19 for a plate of pasta.  Last night I made pasta at home, by myself, for about $3.  Guess which night was more enjoyable?

I have been stressing about a lot of things over the last 8 months; money, my future, my dreams, etc, but if there is one thing I wish I could remember more often it is:  With right intention, problems have a way of working themselves out.

Life is about exposure to new situations, even (especially) if they make you uncomfortable.  Creating experiences is our way of choosing who we become.