Ironman Wisconsin – What’s Got Me Excited

In today’s Ironman Wisconsin training news, some white trash family stole my backpack while I was swimming at the lake. I’m out there helpless and it’s just like the that old travel checks’ commercial. Total BS by them.  “Hey, how about we take the kids to the lake today and steal some shit?”

Anyway, I hope they put my extra goggles and paddles to use to change their lives for the better.  In the meantime, if you see some loser wearing my glasses around Nashville, feel free to punch him in the nose.

Correction from yesterday’s post: I’ve been informed by Steena at Swim, Bike, Run, Roar, the new hill at Ironman Wisconsin is not “Barton” road, but “Barlow Road,” and have made the change in my previous entry, but still stick to my point that I’m more worried about the lack of fan support there than I am the hill grade.  Not that I’m taking the grade lightly, but you know what I mean.

Now, onto the meat of the Ironman Wisconsin post.

TOP THING I’M EXCITED ABOUT:  The Madison Vibe

I love getting to Madison on Thursday to enjoy the city and the pre-race hoopla.  It’s so cool just hearing the stories.  2700 racers in town that have all been through the same grinding work schedule to get there.  All these people with the same goal.  It’s just a celebration of positivity.  Not to mention my Badgers play on Saturday, and while I’m not going, I love the energy a football game brings to that town.

2nd TOP THING I’M EXCITED ABOUT:  Seeing the lake.  

It’s quite possible I think about Lake Monona more than anyone in the country that lives outside of Wisconsin.  I’ve watched so many swim videos from Ironman Wisconsin over the years and the very sight of the water gives me chills.  I remember when the put out the buoys on Saturday.  It was my first Ironman and I’d never seen how f*cking far it actually looks from the shore.  I was kinda blown away and a little intimidated, probably because you can barely even see the farthest buoy when you’re way down by that bike shop, which is also a pretty awesome place, but they won’t make this list other than right in this little part.  That said, they were in full swing and super helpful giving my bike a last minute tune up.IMG_0580

3rd TOP THING I’M EXCITED ABOUT:  Laying out gear.  

Something about laying all the gear bags out in the hotel room kinda makes it real.  I say to myself that I’m going to keep it simple, but in the end, I always load up extra crap I don’t seem to use.  Especially in Special Needs bags.*  I put like sandwiches, pizza, Tums, a salad, etc.  And it always seems to go to waste because the last thing I feel like doing at Special Needs is stopping to have a meal.  That said, for the Run Special Needs bags, I’ve put extra socks inside and actually stopped to change them because the other ones were so wet from dousing myself with water for 13 miles.  And, you guessed it, the new dry socks were wet in exactly one mile.  Not to mention I could barely get up off the curb after changing them.

4th TOP THING I’M EXCITED ABOUT: The Race Meeting.

Not really excited about the race meeting, but I’ve been missing a lot of important information at my races this year, so I think I’ll be checking it out.  Wait, do they have these for Ironman?  I think they do.IMG_0579

5th THING I’M EXCITED ABOUT:  The Race Expo

To me, this is sort of like hanging out in the clubhouse before a round of golf.  Everyone checking out the gear and thinking trying something new that day will make them better.  There’s shirts and about 8 million other Ironman Branded items you can take home and give to friends that don’t give a rat’s ass about Ironman.  “Hey, I got us an Ironman door mat and candle holder!”  It’s kinda crazy how much stuff they sell, but some of it is cool and it’s sort of the last place you can talk shit, but don’t, really, because you’re more anxious than cocky at that moment.

Of course the race itself excites me, too, but the entire experience is the gem.  It’s Spring Training and everyone has high hopes.  It’s friends, family, and teammates.  It’s a Super Bowl pre-party and, on this particular Sunday, you’ll be out on the field in front of 75,000 fans.

Ironman Wisconsin Helix

This is a wide shot of the helix from near the Swim Exit

* Special Needs Bags are “extra things” you can have about halfway through the bike or run.  Usually it’s stuff like extra tire tubes or water bottles full of your favorite nutrition drink so you don’t have to use the Gatorade they hand out.  I’ve heard of everything from Advil to Beef Jerky.  It’s also a place where people give themselves a little treat or something . . . kinda like an incentive.

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Biggest Concerns About Ironman Wisconsin (20 Days Out)

We’re 20 days out from Ironman Wisconsin and I have committed to publishing my thoughts every day up to the race, so follow along if you’ll be jumping in Lake Monona with me September 11th.

BIGGEST CONCERN:  The swim. 

I always think about the swim and have been working hard to make sure I’m ready.  I’ve also watched a lot of videos to see if I can figure out where I’ll start in the water.  It’s a tricky decision because I’m not a fast swimmer, but don’t consider myself slow.  The start line is about a hundred yards wide and the only truly clear water will be in front.  So, do I start in the first row again and get swam over by a dozen people, or take a more conservative approach?  I’m leaning toward the former.

SECOND BIGGEST CONCERN:  The bike.  

There’ve been a lot of rumblings about the bike course changes, specifically the new Barlow Road hill (what is it with these streets called “Barton or Barlow?” . . . see Ironman Chattanooga run) which is allegedly steeper than anything on the course.  I have to be honest, my biggest worry isn’t the hill itself, it’s the fact that they’ve taken away two other “fun” hills in the process.  Those missing hills represent the first two of the 3-Bitches and were an amazing source of spectator energy.  One of the main reasons I love the Wisconsin race is the fans, so I hope they rally and figure out a way to make the new bike course even better.  Knowing how my Wisconsin countrymen (and women) like to party, I have faith they will still bring the energy.

THIRD BIGGEST CONCERN:  I have to wait three weeks to do this race.

I don’t know about you, but there comes a time you’re just ready to get on with it.  I’m feeling anxious now and will be in overdrive the next 20 days.  I’m still doing hard workouts this week, but after next weekend, the TAPER will really crank up the emotions.  You start to feel those creaky phantom injuries, you start to question simple things like . . . will I remember how to ride a bike?  I’ll worry about every stupid little thing until I finally just lay on the couch stare at the ceiling.  This is no longer fear, it’s all about the energy that wants to release itself on that course.

FOURTH BIGGEST CONCERN: Sleep

I’m really bad at falling asleep (which I realize means I’m an ego-maniac) so I’ve been practicing by getting in bed earlier, which typically means I just spend more of my waking hours in bed.  I’m not looking for recommendations here because I’ve tried everything and know the ultimate solution, but I think the only real strategy I have here is to get up at a crazy early hour on Saturday before the race.  Resist caffeine and spend a very long, uneventful day with my eyes open.

SUMMARY:  I’m not really concerned.  

As a blogger I’m obligated to write semi-organized entries that, to some degree, make relevant points.  While I acknowledge these “concerns” I should also point out that they could just as easily be “My Biggest Exciting Challenges.”  What I’m really most concerned about is staying in this moment.  Being here with the workout today.  I can plan and plan, but if I don’t address what’s here in front of me (much like the unexpected situations that will face me on race day) all of this obsession will be for naught.

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Father’s Day And An Ironman Son

Ironman And Living Young

Ironman Wisconsin is less than a month away, and I’ve decided all of these crazy thoughts, this obsession, and this excessive planning can only mean one thing: Ironman makes me feel like a kid.

Lake Logan Half

Race morning at Lake Logan Half. Photo: Rebekah Shulman

I’ve heard the average 4-year-old laughs 400 times a day.  They have no pre-conceptions, they just feel and respond to life around them.  What a beautiful thought.

That’s exactly what happens to me when I’m swimming in the lake these days.  It’s just so free and in touch with the core elements of life.  The oxygen, the water, the sunshine.  What is purer than that?

Ultimately, that’s what I love about the Ironman experience.

The other day I listened to a podcast with Tony Robbins and he was on this rant about the difference between achievement and fulfillment.  He used the example of Robin Williams, who was arguably loved by most people.  Williams achieved everything he set out to do as a comedian and actor, but in the end, for some reason, he wasn’t fulfilled.

Robbins also spoke about growth in the context of, if we’re not growing, we’re dying. Sometimes I struggle with how that relates to money and business, but ultimately his point was the more you grow, the more you have to share, and for me, that’s the driving force behind my Ironman training.

When I decided to start training, the ultimate goal was to find a more consistent, healthier self. To be able to be free with love, healthy, and laughing like a 4-year-old.  I wanted to figure out what was important and share with those around me.  It comes in waves, but ultimately I think I’m on the right track.

This will be my fourth Ironman and I may be more excited for this one than any before.  The first was great, but there was a major fear factor.  The next two felt like something I “had to do.”  This one has renewed my enthusiasm.

It’s a learning cycle in so many ways.  The newness perks you up, the reality bites for a while, then you start to do it naturally.

The other night I watched a ton of Ironman Wisconsin Swim videos in effort to figure out my starting spot.  From the outside it probably seems like the dumbest thing ever, but for me, it was fun like playing whiffle ball with high school buddies.

Mostly, I think I’m excited about this race because I have been working hard (and it gives me legitimate reason for massages).  I feel like I’m ready to take it to a new level.  And that’s the kind of thought I want to translate into life, work, and relationships.

In the end, Ironman is a very long race on one day, but it’s the preparation and patterns we create along the way that are most important.  My implementation of those patterns has been intermittent but I feel like this long, 4-year-journey is starting to make sense.

So, as I think about floating in the cool Madison water on the morning of September 11th, I also think about today and what comes after the race.  Will I continue to put myself through this grind?  I don’t know, but if I keep feeling younger than I did yesterday, I’m pretty sure the answer will be yes.

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Lake Logan Half – Race Report 

First things first:  The Lake Logan Half bike is absolutely awesome.  It’s an open course with occasionally weird traffic situations, but the ride is stunning, challenging, and (as much as a hilly 56 miles can be fun) a blast.

Photo Credit: Rebekah Shulman

Photo Credit: Rebekah Shulman

The setting for this race is right out of a Kerouac novel.  Nestled in the mountains about 20 minutes southwest of Asheville you’d be hard pressed to find a prettier stage to swim, bike and run.  I raced as an Ironman Wisconsin prep, and it is absolutely perfect for that purpose.  Wetsuit swim in a lake with moderate congestion, 3400 feet of elevation gain and a couple gnarly hills on the bike, and a sneaky tough run that is 50% uphill with a minor, yet challenging grade.

MIKEBACKLIGHT

That said, I’ve come to the conclusion that races like this should only be an option for me if I find a group of people willing to spend a few days near the race sight in a cabin or something.  We had to stay 25 minutes away and it made for a super early (4 am) morning, a dark transition load, and sketchy dining.

True story:  Pre-race meal, Corey, Rebekah and I went to restaurant next to the hotel called Sagebrush.  I said, “Three for dinner,” and a couple kids who clearly didn’t want to be there told me “it would be a 30-minute wait because their power had been out for a while.”

I glanced over their shoulders and Rebekah was on a covert stroll around the shady 4’x4’ salad bar and the look on her face was doubtful at best.

Just then, Corey said, “Hey, Mike, check this out.” I walked back into the entryway where he pointed at the “72 Health Score Rating.”  My first thought was “power out, mushy salad, and spoiled meat.”

We both started laughing and a guy in a navy blue polo shirt coming out of the restaurant said, “What’s so funny?”  Corey said, “Oh, we’re just looking at the health score.”  The guy kinda smiled with a hint of pride and said, “Ah, that’s somethin, idn’t it?”

We sat down for maybe a minute and decided to drive closer to Asheville for dinner.  As we walked out of the restaurant we noticed the guy in the polo shirt smoking with a couple other people in polo shirts.  They were employees and I’m pretty sure he was the cook.

The Swim:

The Lake Logan Swim is A-plus.  It’s a wave start with ample warm-up space at a little beach next to the start pier. It’s just a gorgeous view of the lush green mountains that frame calm water and orange buoys which create a somewhat daunting 1,931 meter swim (which Katie Kedecky could probably do in 19 minutes).

Photo Credit: Rebekah Shulman

Photo Credit: Rebekah Shulman

My wetsuit dangled from my waist and when I pulled it up, I ripped a 6 inch hole in the side near my hip.  I mean, it was a gash that delivered an internal freakout.  I’m far from a physicist, but my scientific mind started imagining water, fish, and snakes leaking into my wetsuit.

WARMUPSWIM

Photo Credit: Rebekah Shulman

I tested the hole with a quick practice swim and it seemed fine, but standing on the shore I could feel water sagging in the butt and leaking down my legs.  I was in a precarious situation, but not quite as bad as the guy who showed up to the swim with his wetsuit inside-out.  Luckily someone told him.

Your wave waits in waist deep water with toes tangling with the mud and sticks below.  It’s a little creepy and I tried not to think about what else could be down there . . . or my wetsuit filling like a water balloon.  I found a relatively stable perch on top of some limbs and took a few deep breaths before the wave of 60 swimmers lurched forward.

We were to keep the buoys on our right and I started in the front on the far left of the wave.  I’ve been swimming well lately, but my races are always a crapshoot.  More than anything I’d rather have a relatively clear and relaxed start.  Positioning wide did just that.

After 300 yards I was confident the wetsuit wouldn’t be a problem and found a nice stroke.  I’ve gotten better at relaxing and realizing it normally takes me about 1,000 yards to really feel good in a swim.  By the time I hit the first turn buoy I was comfortable and looking forward to cross the lake and turn back toward home.

I felt so good at this point I made a conscious effort to start looking at the scenery.  As I breathed to my right I took in the unbelievable picture from far end of the lake and wished I had a GoPro on my head because the water forefront with the mountains in the background blew my mind.  (This gives some idea of the view).

Photo: Rebekah Shulman

Photo: Rebekah Shulman

Before the race, they told us (no less than 100 times) that “As you go under the bridge, the water temperature will drop dramatically.”  The lake itself was around 76 degrees… and the water at the bridge was 64 or something, which is how they average-out a wetsuit legal number.

I could feel the cool water begin to surround my face, and when I got to the bridge it was an ice bath immersion.

Once you get past the bridge, the water also gets very shallow and my hands started hitting the round rocks on the stream bottom.  You could probably walk the last 50 yards if you didn’t mind breaking an ankle, instead I started “pulling” under my chest instead of to the side.

When I got to the dock, I knew it was my best swim to date.  I felt great and was excited to get to the bike.  I reached for a lift from the water and as I jumped, my calf felt like it exploded. I let out a loud, “Fuck!” right in the middle of wide-eyed Episcopalian spectators (sorry, Mom) and still feel bad, but the pain was tremendous.

Here you can see me on the pier in upward dog with a strapping young gentleman punching my cramp and assuring me a lot of other swimmers had felt the healing power of his fingers that day.

Lake Logan Half Swim Exit

Floppy Seal. Photo: Rebekah Shulman

Then me with a stiff leg hobble.

Lake Logan Swim Exit

Stiff Leg Hobble. Photo: Rebekah Shulman

The pain was one thing, but selfishly I was upset because I couldn’t move, and my fastest swim time was eroding as I flopped like an wounded seal a mere 50 feet from the timing mat.  I couldn’t stand and the guy furiously rubbed my calf.  Finally, I hobbled off the pier and down the grass toward my bike.

Official swim time was 35 minutes, but I’m certain it was closer to the high 33’s.  Either way, it was a great confidence boost on my way to the beastly mass start at Ironman Wisconsin.

The Bike:

I saw exactly 7 spectators, two illegible signs, and two guys putting up a 6 foot cyclone fence around their lot while on this bike ride.   Aside from that, the Lake Logan bike course is phenomenal.

Tons of fast descents, tough climbs and a lot of turns, all of which I love.

You wind through mountains, over creek beds on rustic bridges, and through small towns on nice roads.  Some of the intersections are a little dicey, but in general, it was a highly enjoyable two hours and fifty minutes of my life.

I had mixed emotions about how to handle this ride.  Part of me wanted to take it easy . . . while another wanted to crush it.  I sided for taking it “moderately easy” because I “thought” I drove the last 10 miles the day before and what I “thought” was the end of the course scared the crap out of me.

The reality, however, was that the course broke down like this:

A pretty fast first 30 miles, then some moderate to big climbing till mile 42 or so when you hit a monster mile-long rise.  Then, in my mind I’m thinking it will be hilly the rest of the way, but instead it was about 10 miles of super smooth and flat terrain until the very last mile when they decided to insert the second toughest climb of the day before you scream back into transition.

If I had known the real course I would have rode it differently and probably been able to cut 8 minutes.  I most certainly would have gone out harder and taken advantage of that early speed instead of trying to save my legs for the non-existent last 10 miles of hell.

Side note:  I find the contrast of super-expensive bikes and skin tight lycra very intriguing when compared to the culture of the neighborhoods we ride through in these races.  They’re often unincorporated towns that likely have no appreciation (or angst) for triathlon.  I have to laugh when some of these guys in massive pick-ups fly by with Skynyrd cranked and oversized tires making a mockery of my race wheels.

The Run:

I spent a lot of time on the bike stretching my cramped calf in preparation for the run.  I didn’t anticipate a problem and running out the gravel road of transition, it felt pretty good.

MIKERUN

Gravel Road. Photo: Rebekah Shulman

The plan was to average 8:30-9 the first half and pick it up a little on the second half.  Unfortunately the nature of the run course didn’t really lend itself to that kind of strategy.

The first 3.2 miles were uphill.  I knew this going in, but it was a gradual climb I didn’t anticipate a problem.  The climb wasn’t too bad, but it got old pretty quick and the second loop started to remind me of Barton Avenue at Ironman Chattanooga.

There’s actually a lot of shade on the run course, I’d guess about 50% is under trees, but that second loop got really hot.  The aid stations had super cold towels, but weren’t handing out ice.

I didn’t wear a Garmin and was restarting my watch every mile.  The fist mile was just under 9:00, so I picked it up a little and got mile 2 down to 8:40, then mile 3 came in at 9:25 even though I thought I was on the same pace.  Mile 4 was mostly downhill and my watch said 9:45.  Frankly, that kind of pissed me off and I thought they must have the markers off, so I dug deep and ran hard to the next marker where I read 7:47.

Now, I’m completely screwed up with no plan other than getting the hell off this run course.  Mile 5 went back up to 9:05, then 9:15 and blah, blah… I kind of stopped paying attention but knew it wasn’t going to be a great run.  My half marathon time was 1:57, about 7 minutes slower than I’d hoped.

The bottom line is, I “ran into” the same problem I had at Chattanooga last year.  My hamstrings felt weak.  Not really sore, just weak.  I’m sure 3-mile climb right out of transition didn’t help, but I just don’t know what’s going on here . . . other than, obviously, my hamstrings are weak.

I understand this is a common problem with triathletes because our quads become the dominant muscle group and create an imbalance.  It’s too late to make any huge gains before Ironman Wisconsin, but I’m gonna focus on body-weight-hamstring stuff and overall muscle balance in my legs until race day.

One note of interest to the first time racer (and watcher) at Lake Logan.  When you come around for the second run loop, the turnaround is built in the cruelest of triathlon lore.  You run back down the gravel transition road, then turn into a grass field, then run right at the finish line before turning left and running across more grass on your way out the gravel road, and, of course, uphill for the next 3.2 miles.

The turnaround is fantastically sadistic in a great kind of way (which is ironic considering it’s on religious property) and about the most redeeming factor for those watching because it’s not the most spectator friendly race . . . unless you bring a camper or a rent an onsite cabin, which I understand sell out the day after the race.

Small Beef:

The run course was basically contained on the left lane of a two lane road that was open to traffic.  On the way out, they tell you to stay to the left, which means (or should mean) that on the way back you stay closer to the center line.  Well, I can’t tell you how many ass-wipes ran right at me as I was climbing that hill.  To me, every one of them seemed like they were hopped up on EPO or something.  Snarling with a loud, messy breath, and eyes spun back in their heads.  They barreled down with no intention of moving, so, even though I was doing harder work and they were cruising with natural momentum, I would slide out to my right and let them take the inside before saying something like, “Nice lane, Dick.”  But, when I was on my downhill portion, I noticed people all over the place.  It was kind of a cluster and I just played the nice guy shuttling back and forth to avoid a head on collision.

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Below, Corey and I celebrate our glorious mid-pack finishes.  He turned in a 5:22, I clocked a 5:33.  This leaves us even in our head-to-head battles and he keeps baiting me for the money match at Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga, which I am currently debating while eating Pop Tarts in an ice bath.

Photo: Rebekah Shulman

Photo: Rebekah Shulman

 

Lake Logan Half Is On Deck

Tomorrow I’ll embark on a new race: The Lake Logan Half, which is just outside of Asheville, NC.

2013LLSwimInProgress

Lake Logan Half Swim.  Photo Courtesy http://gloryhoundevents.com

I stayed in Knoxville last night at my Rev3 headquarters and will soon be heading to fine city of Canton, NC, which is conveniently 30 minutes away from the race site, and let me tell you there’s nothing I like more than waking up 30 minutes away from a race site!

Not really, I hate it.  I’m a huge fan of rolling out of bed and walking over to transition.  But my bitching will get me nowhere and at least it forces me to wake up earlier and get blood pumping before the race.

From what I can tell about Lake Logan, we have a cold-ish wetsuit swim that goes clockwise (which is good for a right breather like me).  Then we get on the bike for a hilly 56 mile ride, the first 20 miles of which appear to be downhill, then hit the toughest climb around mile 40 just when we’re getting warmed up.  The run is a two loop course where the first 3 mile are uphill, then we return on a downhill slant and do it again.

My strategy is undetermined.  With Ironman Wisconsin 5 weeks away, the last thing I want to do is crush myself to the point where I need a week off.  On the other hand, it is a race.  The way I see it, I have 3 options.

Option 1:  Create an organized training day and race at my desired Ironman pace.  This will give me some confidence going to Madison, but in reality, training is supposed to make you stronger and faster.  What sense does it make to race at a pace I think I can already do?

Option 2:  Start each segment at Ironman pace, then pick up the effort for the second half of the swim, bike, and run.  This will force me to be patient, loosen up, then test my limits.

Option 3:  Go after it like I want to win my age group.  This means taking what I get when I can get it and the first half of the bike seems to be in a giving mood.  As much as I want to stay under control, there’s no chance of winning my age group if I don’t take advantage of what appears to be mostly downhill out of the gate.

The reality is, it usually comes down to how I swim.  If it’s a crappy swim I typically go crush the bike to redeem myself (if I can).  If I swim well I feel like I can be a little more patient, but I typically go out and try to crush the bike.

So, I guess I’m gonna swim as well as I can, try to crush the bike, then run as hard as I can. Which is option 4, and usually how I race.

 

 

 

Ironman Wisconsin 2013 – 2016

I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting lately–mostly on how things have changed since the decision to do my first Ironman.  It’s been a rocky road, but ultimately it was exactly what I needed to loosen the rocks inside so I could discover what’s truly important.

I was digging through the archives of Crushing Iron and found this (which was one of my first posts) and it’s interesting to note how I felt at the time vs. where I am now.  It’s a reminder to be patient in life because (though I could “see” the future) I genuinely feel like I’m only now starting to understand what is possible.  Ironman training can be a pain in the ass, but it’s a long, slow grind that can have a major impact on many areas of our lives.

Ironman Wisconsin: Registration Day  (first posted in 2012) 

Let me tell you, if Ironman Wisconsin is anything as stressful as “registration” for Ironman Wisconsin, I am in deep shit.

Registration opened the day after the race at noon and I was reading stories around the web that said it could sell out in as fast as 15 minutes.  There were five of us signing up and I was a wreck thinking that I might be the only one to not get in.  It didn’t help that my boss called an 11:00 am meeting out of the blue.

Like most bosses, he is a big fan of hearing himself talk and this strategy session had me glued on the clock.  I thought I was good, but he opened a can of worms at 11:47.  It wasn’t much of a stretch to act like I was sick and run out of that office at noon, because I was getting queasy.

His can of worms was flying right over my head, and at 11:59 I stood up and declared the meeting over.  He looked at me like I was crazy (I probably was) and asked where I was going.  I said I had something to do and I was confident the rest of them were more than qualified to finish the meeting.

It was a bold move and I’m sure there was probably enough subordination to get fired, or at least a red flag in my file, but I didn’t care.  I would have quit at that moment and, as it turns out, still might.*

It’s not just the Ironman that has me thinking about walking from the corporate world, it’s what the quest stands for.  Getting to the point where I actually believe I can do a full Ironman is a major change in my thought patterns.  I am turning into a different person, and that person is me.

* I finally left corporate America about a year later.

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Media, Politics, and Triathlon

For nearly 15 years I worked as a marketing director in local television.  My job was to get people to watch our station, primarily the news because that’s where the most money was generated. Essentially I would write, produce and oversee the promos that were designed to keep you tuned in after the show you were watching: “Tonight at 10, neighbors are stunned by the shocking discovery police made in this quaint little house on their quiet dead end street.”

I spent most of my day figuring out how to seduce you into watching something you probably didn’t care about.  My strategy was to find the most “compelling” (read salacious) piece of a given story, then share just enough to create fear, curiosity, or outrage.  Or, as one consultant explained it to me, “Basically, you want to figure out how to make your promo say, ‘Watch tonight or die!'”

Eventually it was just too much.

I had to get out of that atmosphere, and for the most part I have avoided further pollution.  But this political circus makes it difficult.

I got into running, then eventually triathlon because I wanted to be a more consistent version of who I believed was the real me.  That person is happy, passionate and compassionate, but when he was buried in the muck of manipulation and negativity he lost his way.

At the core, the quest is my favorite thing about triathlon.  It’s an open admission by human beings that they want to be better people.  They want to get the most out of their mind, body, and soul by pushing the limits of themselves.  They face with their demons.

Occasionally, I’ll get caught up in my own game of tricks and fall down a rabbit hole of headline-trickery.  Next thing you know I’m knee deep in slander, aggression, and negativity.  I can feel my mood shift, my body tense, and my outlook get trampled.

The irony is, the people sucking me down these rabbit holes are every day people who have learned the tactics once reserved for “experts” like marketing professionals in TV news.  These people, often friends of mine, will write a delicious looking headline (maybe like the one for this post) that makes me salivate for more.

I’ll click their links and join the angst-party for 10, 15, or 60 minutes before I start to realize it was all a hoax.  It’s all one big trick to suck you into their bitter thoughts; not unlike a drug addict looking for a partner in self-destruction.

During periods when I’m not reading or watching news a funny thing happens.  I start thinking the world is a pretty good place.  I have a great family, good friends, and freedom to do just about anything I want whenever I want.  I also tend to believe this is true for most people I know.

Watching news (or reading someone’s Facebook rants) has little if anything to do with being informed.  It’s typically a disguised ploy to get attention . . . or make money.

TV news perfected the outrage-seduction technique, probably around the time OJ Simpson was on trial.  People couldn’t get enough of the scandal, power struggle, and devisiveness.  It was a mountain of sugar and our teeth were craving the sweets.

But it’s out of control.  In triathlon terms, we’ve desperately overtrained and need to relax under a tree and look around for a minute.

How else can we explain the fact that while we swim, bike or run, the world seems like a perfect place?  There’s simply air, water, and oxygen.  The problems fade away and we bask in the moment of that experience.

Momentum is a powerful thing.  The media knows this and exploits it on a daily basis to please their stockholders.  They will unleash just about anything with little thought under the protection of “freedom of speech” with no regard to responsibility of those words.

Next time you’re training, think about momentum and use it in a positive way.  Let it whisk you to a better place with calm, clear, and constructive thoughts.  Swim, bike, or run as far away from “news” as possible.

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Ironman Wisconsin Videos

The closer I get to my race, the more I look at Ironman videos.  Here are a couple from Ironman Wisconsin that I’ve done with the help of my brother.

The first one was made as trailer to promote a documentary with the the Fab 5 on our journey to Ironman Wisconsin 2013, but with training and some life detours the project hit a wall.  Lately, I’ve been energized to make something happen with the footage, so we’ll see.

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Ironman Wisconsin Bike Course Thoughts

In 2013 I did Ironman Wisconsin and drove the bike course the day before.  That was a mistake, but it definitely convinced me not going to take the course lightly.

Hills always seems worse in a car for some reason and while I’m sure there are some flat sections, I don’t remember many.  Just up and down up and down.

There were also lots of turns, which I wound up liking as a distraction.  There’s nothing worse to me than laying in aero for hours on end.  In the end, that hellacious bike course treated me to my favorite ride of my life.  Here’s why.

Ironman-Wisconsin-Helix

Coming down the Helix at Ironman Wisconsin www.active.com

Warning: I don’t wear a Garmin and describe most of this by memory and feel.

The Stick

The “stick” is roughly 13 miles and takes you out to the “lollipop” or loop of which you circle twice.  The loop is where the hills are, but the stick plays an important part, especially on the way back.

When you wind out of the Helix, you ride along the lake for a few minutes, then roll onto a bike path (which I believe is a no-pass zone) for a short stint.  Then you’ll pedal through the Colliseum parking lot, cross over the Beltline and weave your way to a country road around mile 5.  This is where (according to elevation maps) you’ll start your first climb of the day, but honestly I don’t remember it being a big deal.

Around mile 10 you’ll hit the top of that climb and this is the point when you should make a mental note of what the backside of that hill will look like when you’re closing in on home.  In some ways it felt like the toughest 3 mile stretch of the course around mile 100.  The wind was right in my face which I hear this is common for that point of the race.

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One of many scenes like this on the IMWI Bike Course

The Loop

Before the race, a friend of mine promised that the crowd support on the bike would shock me . . . and he was right.  As soon as you hit the loop, you’ll start seeing little parties all over the place.  People sitting in front of their homes grilling out and allegedly sipping beer.  Then you’ll experience small towns like Mount Vernon, Mount Horeb, Cross Plains, and Verona, all with with people lining Main Street.  You’ll also see the swarm of spectators lining the sides of the “3 bitches.”

The 3 Bitches is the nickname for the three big climbs on the course, of which you do twice.  These hills are genuinely in the middle of nowhere and it amazes me how many people come out to cheer you up the climbs.  They dress in crazy costumes, run alongside you, and party with you all morning.

www.patrickbradycoaching.com

www.patrickbradycoaching.com

After the 3rd Bitch you’ll be ready for some relief and Verona will satiate that demand.  It is genuinely packed 4 deep for two blocks and it’s your moment in the sun . . . enjoy it before you head out for loop two.  Rejoice as you go through the second time knowing you’re almost back to the stick for your return to the Helix.

Aside from the great spectator support, the course will offer classic farm country including a lot of barns, silos, and cows to calm your nerves.  It will also offer a lot of turns, short and long climbs, and screaming descents.

The day I tackled it I was having trouble with my big chain ring and literally rode the entire course in my small front ring.  I think it may have hurt my time a little, but in retrospect I also think it saved my race, especially the run.  The truth is, the small ring actually felt fine, especially because I coasted most of the downhills in recovery.

Many have told me this is probably the one course that could be ridden just as successfully with a road bike.  At the time I was terrible in aero and Wisconsin kind of lets you get away with riding in an upward position more often.  The climbs for sure and the fast descents had me a little nervous about not being close to a brake.

I’ve read anywhere from 3500 – 5,000 feet of gain on this course.  And most grade estimates range from 1.5 – 2.2 % on the big climbs.  I suppose that seems about right, but I in general be ready to gear, be ready to climb/descend and be ready to enjoy incredible support from my home state people who come out like it’s their very own Tour de France.

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Here’s a link to the Map My Ride I used.

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Ironman Wisconsin Swim Course Thoughts

Being a part of the Ironman Wisconsin Swim is probably the coolest sporting energy I’ve ever felt.  Nearly 3,000 triathletes bobbing in the water before a canon blast unleashes mayhem.

When I raced IMWI in 2013 I was obsessed with the swim.  It intrigued and scared the shit out of me.  I watched every video I could find and tried to imagine myself in the middle of that madness.

Eventually, on a perfect Fall day in my home state, it happened . . . and this is how it felt.

I had an odd sense of calm that morning, probably something to do with facing the no-turning-back factor.  But the reality was, I had only swam the full distance once before in my life and my history of freaking out in swims was well documented.

The best thing I did that morning was get into the water early.  It’s a floating start, and, with the Fab 5 nestled around me, I breast stroked to my position 20 minutes before the gun.  There is nothing like getting used to the feel of a wetsuit and water temperature to calm your nerves.

www.wildrivertriclub.org

www.wildrivertriclub.org

The scene is incredible.  I swear I looked at the shoreline and shed a tear.  There are literally thousands of spectators hanging from the rafters of the Helix.  It’s a mind-blowing sight and amazing that so many people will come out that early to support friends and family.  It’s a moment that will soften your heart.

sallyshadle.blogspot.com

sallyshadle.blogspot.com

I settled into the middle of the group near the ski ramp.  My guess is that the expanse of people fills a rectangle around 100 yards wide and 50 yards deep.  Starting position is a big deal in this race.

I felt like my swim was “pretty” good at this time and my logic was to start in the front row, but 50 yards away from the fastest swimmers near the buoy line.  It meant my swim would be 15-20 yards longer to the first turn, but avoiding the chaos of aggressive swimmers seemed well worth it.  The goal was to start slow and gradually settle into my race pace, which I hoped would be around 2:00 per 100 meters.

My strategy worked . . . for about 10 feet.  That’s when an avalanche of swimmers from behind me started pummeling my body.  They swam over me, collided with my ribs, and kicked in and around my face.  It was a free for all and I had no choice but to flip a switch.

The main goal when swimming a mass start is to locate open water and the only choice I had was to swim faster to get there.  I dug hard for about 200 yards, deflecting other swimmers most of the way.  Finally I found some breathing room and settled down.

The swim course is a rectangular box with the buoys on your left.  I breath to my right, so using the buoys for sighting my direction was not really in play.  In hindsight I think sighting too much was probably my biggest mistake on this day.

Just after the first turn. triathlon.competitor.com

Just after the first turn. triathlon.competitor.com

I should have just trusted the flow of the crowd.  The more I sighted, the less I seemed to see and the more I self corrected instead of moving forward.  Correct left, correct right, etc . . . is a recipe for zig-zagging and it’s probably what I did most of the day.

The first turn is to the left and there’s a tradition of “mooing” as a tribute to the cows in Wisconsin and I had a weird angst about that as a home-grown boy.  In a way seemed like screaming “Yee-ha” cornering a buoy in Tennessee.

Anyway, it was all I could do to breathe at that point, but I begrudgingly “moo’d” under the water as kind of a “fuck-you-but-I’ll-play-along-sort-of” and scrambled my head in the direction of the next buoy.

The problem with sighting buoys is that unless you can see the second one in line, it doesn’t do you much good because you need a long-range angle.

I wanna say it’s about 200 yards from the turn buoy to the second turn and that’s when I started noticing how choppy it was.  I was bobbing up and down as I swam and my sighting paranoia made me stop to gather my surroundings 3 or 4 times.  That short leg wasn’t too bad, but it was also really crowded, so I drifted away from the straight line again.  As I hit the second turn buoy I knew I was in for a battle.

The backside of the rectangle is about 1700 yards long and there is not much to sight from, so I tried a trick.  I went to the inside and kept the buoys on my right.  It’s perfectly legal, but I felt like a loner.

The waves were really throwing me around and it was all I could do to locate buoys.  “Just get the next one” I repeated over and over.  But this is exactly why sighting one buoy at a time is a problem.  Occasionally I realized I was taking a 45 degree angle to the buoy instead of going straight.  At one point I literally t-boned another swimmer.  One of us was really off course.

Once you make it to the third turn you have about 500 yards left and adrenaline alone will carry you.  You’re swimming right at the huge crowd.  You start to hear the music.  The energy just feeds your body and sighting is easy because of the Helix in the background.

I have to say, my hand hitting the shore underwater might have been one of the best feelings of my life.  A huge part of me wanted to bypass the rest of the race and run across the street to the hotel bed, but when you stand up and see the crowd, hear the screams, and feel the energy, it’s like a vortex sweeping you away.  You run toward the swirly helix and it’s lined with people dancing, playing drums, and throwing you high fives.  It’s impossible not to be pumped for the brutal ride that lay ahead.

Here’s a short video I made of the Wisconsin Swim Start in 2014 as a spectator.  Follow Crushing Iron on Facebook.