The Story Behind IM Chattanooga Training

Most of my training for Ironman Chattanooga was of the meandering sort.  I didn’t really have a schedule and more or less did what I was feeling on the day.  But about 6 weeks out, I started getting nervous.  That’s when I sent a random tweet to pro triathlete, Jim Lubinski.

I’d been thinking about doing some pro-interviews for Crushing Iron while at Chattanooga, so I asked Jim if he’d be up for it.  He replied with a “Hell yeah!”

He’s also a coach, and after a couple emails, I decided to ask him if he had any interest in “guiding me into Chattanooga.”  I told him I was loosely eyeing Kona and he was all about it.

He asked a bunch of questions about my current fitness, then put together the first week’s plan. One of the things I mentioned was that I was not a fan of super long bike rides, so he said he’d keep that in mind.

I also told him I didn’t use a power meter or heart rate monitor (which I’m sure was great for a coach to hear) so he was forced to use intuition based on my feedback, and if you read my blog, you know my mind can be a little murky.

He was patient, smart, and crafted a plan that gave a lot of bang in a short period.  The workouts were purposeful and I found myself doing a lot of relatively short (2.5 max) trainer rides with power or intensity. They were almost always followed by a run off the bike.

Slowly, my belief came back and I was feeling confident about Chattanooga.  I wasn’t sure if I could get to Kona, but knew if everything fell right, I could be in the ballpark.

Jim had me on a great plan, and I followed most of it to the letter.

One place I slacked was in the pool.  Jim laid out some pretty intense workouts, but I couldn’t rise to the occasion.  I kind of went through the motions in the water, mainly because I was anticipating an “easy” downstream swim.  What I got was a much slower current and by taking the swim for granted, I burned way too much energy in the water.

My longest bike ride of the year was 67 miles.  Chattanooga was 116.  Probably not the best idea.

I’m sure Jim would have beefed up the bike a little, but I was at a point where I was more interested in being “ready” than burned out.  His trainer workouts all included form, technique and mental training.  I built an astonishing amount of confidence in 4 weeks.

I raced the bike on perceived effort and used his race-day-strategy to turn in a 15 minute PR (5:45) on a course 4-miles longer.  There were several things he told me during training that kept me right in the pocket and while I knew I was out of Kona contention at that point, I was ready to tackle the run.

Jim gave me a detailed, yet simple, run strategy and I was running better than I ever had.  I was anxious to execute.

He had me do a bunch of bricks, so the transition was smooth and for the first six miles or so I stayed patient while trying to find my run legs.  I felt “okay” but unfortunately couldn’t find the next gear.  I laid down a decent run (4:20) but never really found my stride.  It was more weakness than pain, and in retrospect I know it’s because I didn’t put on enough bike miles.

This sport is a never ending search for answers and training under a pro triathlete really opened my eyes.  Jim and I finally got to meet in Chattanooga and he was a waterfall of information.  My buddy Corey and I sat with him in Starbucks for about two hours and soaked it in.

His nutrition advice alone was priceless and I believe it was a huge reason why I actually ran the entire marathon.  Not only that, he had a level, yet intense approach that I really liked.  He started triathlon after playing other sports and has proven himself as a top athlete as a coach.

Like me, he’s also a sponge for information and wanting to get better.  I look forward to seeing how our future unfolds.

You can find Jim at or @jimlubinski



Rest and Healing

Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity. – Hippocrates

I feel kinda bad because I haven’t been writing lately, but I think I needed a break.  And what better way to lose your enthusiasm for writing, training, and life, then to get poison ivy!

I’m telling you, God must have been in a bad mood when he laid that plant under our feet.  I mean, seriously, I don’t even have it that bad and there’s been a few moments when I’ve felt like permanent scars may not be a bad option.

The last week has been especially tough because I don’t “have” to go into an office.  It’s been very easy to sulk and feel sorry for myself.

Things can be going just great, but if you get poison ivy, every thought in your brain is laser focused on how to get rid of it.  I’m telling you, I was in the downtown library flipping through medicine journals from everyone from Hippocrates to Ben Carson.  Most of that shit was over my head, but Hippocrates was a smart dude.

I’ve taken baths in apple cider vinegar, gone to psychics, and spread baking soda paste over my body.  Nothing seems to work, other then time, and occasionally Witch Hazel.

I ran a few times, but it kinda flared things up, so I started to think of my plight in terms of a mandatory rest.   Maybe it’s just time I need to chill, sit in meditation, and realize that there are much worse things than a little itch in your life.

Workouts have suffered, but I did get my tires and bike trainer set up tonight, so maybe tomorrow is the day.   There’s nothing like a little time off to get your juices flowing again.  Maybe all of this is what they mean when they talk about God’s mysterious plan.



Food Cravings (or Cake Stories)

I haven’t been working out much since Ironman Chattanooga and think my body is a little pissed.  Especially considering the frequent and intense cravings for those flat “deli-style” pretzels.  Last night was one of those nights.

As I approached the pretzel aisle in Kroger, I made the mistake of lending a friendly eye to a guy perched with his son near the cakes.  I overheard him say, “$24 for a cake?!?” It kinda made me smile, which seemed to ignite his latent comedian.

Fifteen seconds later I’m 10 feet in front of him squinting discretely at the pretzels (I can never seem to distinguish which flavor I’m buying) when I hear him yucking it up.

“24-bucks?  Hang on while I cash in my 401k!”

I tried to ignore him, but in a moment of weakness turned my head in his direction.  He peered at me with one eye; his captive, pretzel-addicted audience of one.

“Hell, son, I might have to sell your mom’s wedding ring!” he said, followed by a belly laugh.

His son gazed at the floor with mild embarrassment.

“Hell, guess you’re not going to college, hahahaha.”

Then he takes out his phone and makes a mock call to his wife, “Honey, I think we’re gonna have to take out a second mortgage for this cake!”

Here I am, sneaking around in my own little pretzel-porn-shop, and this guy is making it tough to concentrate.  Finally I just grabbed “the red one” and made my way to the counter–but Cake Man wasn’t done.

I’m nearly out of ear shot when I hear him raise his voice for the encore.

“I need to be a cake pimp!”

It was truly impossible to ignore and I caved. With a slow turn, uncomfortable smile, and a very weak raising of my pretzel bag, I waived goodbye.

Anyway, my diet has been a little questionable lately.

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Ironman Lessons From The World Series

If you follow me on Twitter you realize I sort of lose my mind during the baseball playoffs. I am enamored by the nuances of baseball and watch for little things with a critical eye.

The baseball season is often called a marathon.  There is no room for mood swings in a 162 game season and the team that best manages emotions, demands, and pain, usually uncorks the champagne.

The Kansas City Royals play baseball as well as any team I’ve watched in my life, and the way they approach the game can teach us a lot about racing Ironman.

The Royals are:  Calm, committed, patient, prepared, resilient, and relentless.


Dozens of things can go wrong during a baseball game, but the best teams have short memories.  Both teams made big mistakes in the World Series, but the Mets seemed to sulk and let errors define their destiny.  The Royals adjusted and moved on with a calm focus that got them back into their game plan.  Shit happens.  The Royals don’t let little things define the big picture.


They Royals know who they are and never waiver.  Their style can be described as aggressive and there were several examples of “risky” decisions (by traditional baseball standards) on the base paths, but it usually worked in their favor.  Why?  Because all season they have committed to be aggressive base runners.  They’ve trained themselves to react instead of overthink, and by default this puts their opponents on the defensive.  Game after game, this is how they play and it has become a habit.


At one point during the clinching game, an announcer said, “It’s almost like the Royals have the script ahead of time.”  And it’s true.  They know their roles to perfection.  They don’t improvise or showboat, they prepare to win baseball games.  Kansas City trusts the script.  And the story always ends with them winning.


The season itself is long, but each game is also a marathon.  The Royals rarely forget this.  They never seem to get rattled because they’ve built a powerful engine they believe will take them the distance.  Just because someone jumps out ahead of them, doesn’t mean the race is over.  During the playoffs they outscored their opponents something like 47-12 in the final three innings of the games.  This is almost exactly like not burning yourself out before you get to the run.  The Royals strategy is to patiently hang around until the end of the race, then turn up the intensity to close out the game.


During the playoffs, the Royals came from behind in 7 of their 11 wins.  Every post game interview was laced with questions like, “How do you guys keep coming from behind?”  And the answer was always the same, “We never doubt ourselves, we play hard and won’t give up.”

Royals’ catcher, Salvador Perez, sets the tone.  Catching is a thankless grind.  Perez took several foul balls off his body and trust me, that hurts.  His first reaction was usually a brief glint of pain, but he seemed to consciously act like it didn’t bother him and almost laugh it off.  He let go of the pain.  He genuinely plays like a little kid in love with the game.  Nagging injuries won’t deter him from doing the thing he loves.  He shakes things off, and gets back to business.  This attitude reflects in his teammates.


The Royals are sharks waiting for blood in the water.  Make one mistake and they take you out of your comfort zone with a flurry of activity that never seems to end, until they’ve secured their place on top.  They leave opponents shaking their heads and asking, “What just happened?” What happened is the Royals built a winning attitude, trusted their training, then seized the moment.  They are a locomotive that will not be stopped and that is exactly the attitude you have to have to race an Ironman.







9 Things I’ve Learned Since My First 5K

I will never claim to be an expert because triathlon is a deep and confusing bag of tricks.  I have been writing about Ironman training almost daily for 3 years and can still be baffled by what it takes.  But, I have nearly 1,000 posts directly related Ironman, and –aside from the fact that Ironman hasn’t followed me on Twitter– it’s been an awesome ride.

I started running in the Spring of 2012. I’ve done four Half and three Full Ironman since then. It’s been a long road of hard knocks, so I thought I’d reflect on what I’ve learned so I don’t keep making the same mistakes.

Thanks for reading and sharing over the last few years!  As always, please follow Crushing Iron on Facebook for the latest in overthinking triathlon.

1.  THE MOST IMPORTANT ADVICE FOR ENDURANCE RACING? – One of my friends ran distance in the epicenter of college track and field for the University of Oregon.  I continually pepper this Guru of Run for tips, and every time he simply gives me a sly smile before saying something like, “The only way I know how to be a better runner is run more.”  It’s like something a Zen Master would say to his student, so I’ve sat in contemplation many times with that thought.  I knew he was right, but wanted something more, so one day when he peacefully stood next to me in his robe and sandals, I begged him for the secret to running.  He gazed into the sunrise and without looking at me he said, “You must stay relaxed.”  At that moment, I felt enlightenment. 

2.  ENDURANCE SPORTS AREN’T AS HARD AS THEY SEEM – For 48 years of my life I thought running a marathon was impossible.  It was the furthest thing from my mind.  Now I honestly feel like I could “jog” forever.  My first half-marathon (3 months after I started running) pretty much put me in a straight jacket, but I’ve run three full marathons, all after swimming 2.4, then cycling 112 miles since then.  I’m no spring chicken, but the truth is, I was remarkably resilient during and after those 140.6 mile workouts.  The difference?  The body and mind adapted and began to view it as normal.  It takes time, proper rest, nutrition, and most importantly, belief.

3.  IT’S TOUGH TO MAKE UP FOR LOST TIME – I played baseball from the day I was old enough to walk and even though I haven’t picked up a bat or glove in years, I could probably outplay 97% of the population.  Baseball is deep in my fiber.  But that’s not the case with endurance sports.  People who haven’t swam, biked, or ran in the past have to work much harder to be competitive.  If you don’t believe me, ask someone who has swam since a kid, but hardly trains before laying down a sub-hour Ironman swim.  I’ve seen this with runners, too.  That said, from day one in this sport I’ve been an above average cyclist because of my mountain biking background.  But that hasn’t made me great and I’m sure many people who don’t have a cycling history kick my ass.  No matter how good or bad we are at something, hard work will win in the end.  Most people didn’t grow up training in all three sports, and that’s one reason Ironman is so intriguing.

4.  MOST PEOPLE OVERTHINK TRIATHLON – Nutrition this, gear that.  It goes on and on.  And believe me, that stuff matters, but I can honestly say that whenever I want to blame my race on something like gear or nutrition, it’s just a cover up for not being in shape.  I remember when I first started running, I would be ridiculously thirsty after a couple miles.  Like dying in a desert kind of thing.  But now that my body is more efficient, I don’t need as much fluid.  That doesn’t mean I neglect it, I’m just saying stronger and more pliable muscles respond on their own without gobs of water or sugar.  Breathing right, embracing pain, and working hard are far more important during a race then the latest training tools.

5.  PEOPLE DON’T WANT TO HEAR ABOUT YOUR WORKOUTS OR RACES – When I started, I was really jacked up and thought everyone would be just as pumped to hear about my two mile run at a 9:57 pace!  Not only did they not want to hear it, it pissed them off.  I can’t tell you how many people have slowly backed away from my quest to tackle life!  People are just more comfortable being around someone like them.   And I totally get it.  I thought you people were weirdos, too.  But, occasionally I hear from people I thought kicked me to the curb who tell me how I have inspired them to get back in shape.  So, the more accurate title of this section would probably be “People don’t want to hear about your workouts or races . . . until they’re ready.”

6.  YOU DON’T GET FASTER GOING FARTHER, BUT . . . –  I put this one in here, but I’m still not sure about what’s right in regard to racing Ironman.  My theory has always been: Try to make your goal-race-pace feel easy in training.  For example, I wanted to make 20 mph feel easy on the bike this year in hopes of holding it at Ironman Chattanooga.  Well, I did hold it, but I didn’t have the long distance training on my legs, so my “easy run pace goal” of 9 minute miles wasn’t attainable.  So, in a nutshell, to me it’s becoming more obvious that my theory is right, and speed work is essential, but it won’t do you any good if you haven’t built strength through long-slow-mileage.

7.  CYCLING IS WAY HARDER THAN PEOPLE THINK – I hear it all the time . . . “I could never swim, or do the run, but I could do the Ironman bike.”  Oh, is that right?  Before getting into triathlon, biking was my only history.  My biking “claim to fame” was completing the Fat Tire Festival, a forty mile off road jaunt in northern Wisconsin.  That kicked my ass and cycling continues to give me the same feeling.  But, after 3 Ironman races I’ve finally realized that being incredibly strong on the bike is the crucial to have a good run.  Cycling is really the weirdest sport of the three because your body remains relatively stiff.  Many times my neck and back give out before my legs.  But what a way to build your run engine without all the pounding.

8.  NOBODY KNOWS WHAT YOU NEED BETTER THAN YOU –  You can always read and learn, but there’s a lot of crap out there (including this blog a lot of times).  There’s a million ideas on how to train, but only you know what works best for you.  The catch is, you really have to be honest with yourself.  What’s “best” doesn’t mean easiest or most convenient.  In Ironman training, there’s simply no substitute for work.  If you’re putting in the effort and miles, you will be fine.

9.  FINISHING AN IRONMAN ISN’T AS HARD AS IT SEEMS – I’m not saying the road of training isn’t hard, but for most, the hardest part of training is motivation . . . and putting in the time. Rarely have I seen anyone finish a long workout and crawl back to their car.  More and more people finish Ironman every year and when you see someone “just like you do it,” you start to believe. Belief is the battle.  Especially your first time.  I honestly didn’t know if I could finish that first time.  But I did it in 11:58.  That’s 5 hours from the cut off.  The range of Ironman finishers is incredible.  Old, young, tall, short, overweight, slim, sick, healthy, anxious, confident.  Ironman’s tag line is, “Anything is Possible,” and while I can’t speak for your desire to do “anything,” I can certainly say, without a doubt, that if you put in the time, you will be able to run through the finish line and hear those incredibly sweet words, “You Are An Ironman.”



IRONMAN LOUISVILLE 2015 VIDEO – Race Day Highlights

Here’s the official Crushing Iron Video for Ironman Louisville 2015.  Please share with friends, family, and training groups.  Also, if you know any Race Directors who may want a professional video, let them know I’m available for hire at very reasonable rates.  Make sure to follow Crushing Iron on Facebook and subscribe to the Crushing Iron YouTube Channel so you’ll get all the race videos, training tips, and unique perspectives on triathlon.  Previous videos from Ironman Louisville, Chattanooga, and Wisconsin are listed below this video.  Hope you enjoy and keep Crushing Iron!  







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More Images from Ironman Louisville

Here are a few more still shots from IRONMAN Louisville.  We’re currently working on the Tribute Video.  Please follow Crushing Iron on Facebook to make sure you don’t miss anything.

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Coming soon:  An interview with an Ironman Louisville Kayaker about what he saw in the water.


Images From Ironman Louisville Swim

Grabbing still shots from video can be a tricky proposition sometimes because of camera shake and interlacing, etc. but we love the view during the swim, so we thought we’d put a few of these out and see if it’s worth doing more?  Let us know!  

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Guest Blogger Program

Crushing Iron wants your input!  We’re looking for guest writers and there could be a FREE Crushing Iron T-shirt in it for you!

The program is simple.  Contact us about a story idea you have that is relevant to Ironman racing, training, or psychology.  Once we agree on the direction for your piece, you write it, the we post it here.  When your story reaches 1,000 views, you get a free and awesome t-shirt like this!  (See below for more details).


Once approved, we’ll happily link your blog or product, or whatever.  Take advantage of the growing audience of and get a sweet t-shirt in the process!  Email Mike at and put Guest Blogger in the subject line.

Please share with your Ironman writer friends.  Thanks for reading Crushing Iron!

8 Thoughts on KONA

Who would have guessed that when I saw a bunch of crazy people on TV doing Kona back in the 80’s, someday, I would want to be one of them.  If I were completely honest, I would even tell you, I’ve had Kona in the back of my mind every time I’ve raced, including my first time at IM Wisconsin.

Yeah, it was a complete long shot, but I felt like, on some level, I was in the ballpark, and during Ironman, anything can happen.  Even last year when I went to Louisville, I was secretly anticipating pulling a miraculous rabbit out of my hat, though I was way undertrained in the run.  This year, I actually put it out there, and once again, it wasn’t really that close.

Anyway, watching KONA really gets me jacked, and here were 8 Things that caught my attention.

1.  THE MASS SWIM START IS AMAZING - The online video coverage of KONA is so incredibly cool.  They helicopter and underwater cameras were great, but for me the coolest thing ever was the tight shots from a boat that rolled along with the pro swimmers.  I could literally watch that scene for hours.  They are just hammering through that water with the smoothest form and power.  The fact that I find that so exciting is kind of weird, because watching swimming seems boring, but not when you have “been in that situation” and understand how it feels.  At one point in the broadcast, the announcers mentioned something like, “It looks like Matt Chrabot is escorting Lionel Sanders through this swim,” and that little line set off a firestorm of debate on the internet.

2.  THE RACE INSIDE THE RACE - About a week or so before KONA, I interviewed Ironman Chattanooga runner-up, Matt Chrabot about what was one of the closest finishes in Ironman history.  That race was two weeks before KONA and Chrabot had qualified and planned on racing.  To mortals, that seems impossible, so I was very interested how he would handle KONA.  Most assumed he would use it as a chance to do recon on the course.  I actually asked him a swim question in my interview:

8.  You’re clearly a great swimmer, do you change your game plan at all for a downstream course? 

Not really. Just get in that front pack and hope the deficit on the other contenders is sizable.

Not much there, but during KONA some accused him of being a Domestique (servant) for Sanders in the swim because they had the same swim time and Chrabot is typically a much faster swimmer.  Drafting in the swim is technically legal, but the debate is over whether or not Matt purposely compromised his race to help Lionel.  I’m not sure what to make of it, but there’s tons of fodder here if you want to dig in.

3.  I GOT TO TRACK FOUR PEOPLE I KNEW - The first couple times I tracked KONA, I knew “of” a few people racing, but this year I actually knew four people.  Dave Richter, Arlo Hartley, Vicki Updike, and Emily Rollins.  Dave is from Wisconsin, and we met through a mutual friend (my race body guard, Pete) while I was watching Chattanooga last year.  Ironically, he wound up scooping the last KONA slot from another guy I know, Brad Rollins (Emily’s husband).  Arlo Hartley was a year ahead of me in high school back in Beloit, Wisconsin.  I actually beat him by a couple places at Ironman Wisconsin, but he came back the next year and kicked ass on his way to landing a KONA slot.  Vicki and Emily are both from Nashville and I see them all over the place.  By all of their accounts, KONA was a completely different beast.

4.  THE POWER OF THE BIKE - I didn’t get to watch much of the bike stuff, but the power these pros drop on the course is mind boggling.  10-15 guys in the front pack going back and forth in devastating heat and wind, holding a 25 mph pace for 112 miles.  The race seemed wide open as they neared the end of the bike, but Jan Frodeno had other ideas.

5.  BIKE FOR SHOW, RUN FOR DOE - Jan was second out of the water and first off the bike.  He then decided to lead the run from start to finish with an average pace of 6:34/mile.  I can barely stand the pressure of holding off friends in training, but here he was squashing dreams of some of the best triathlete runners in the world.  Just an impressive day for Frodeno.

6.  THE CELEBRITY OF KONA - Every year there are a couple celebrity types that pay big bucks to race KONA.  This is always a sticky topic with Ironman traditionalists because most people have to earn their way to Hawaii through other races.  That was not the case for celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay and everyone’s favorite football underdog actor, Sean Astin, otherwise known as “Rudy.”  I definitely have mixed emotions about letting guys like this in, but there is usually a big time charity donation component that’s hard to argue with.  Somewhere in all of this may be the answer to one of my biggest questions about KONA:  How does this race have all the best triathletes from around the world, yet often people don’t finish (see Gordon Ramsey’s result) or even make the swim cut off.  Rudy finished with a 15:30.

7.  THE FINISH LINE CELEBRATIONS ARE A BIT MUCH - I was in Louisville watching random KONA finishers cross the line on my laptop, and had to turn it off after about 20 minutes.  The over-the-top posturing is really kind of embarrassing.  I mean, I get it, you finished KONA, but allegedly most of you have had pretty good success in Ironman races.  Do we really need the “rolling across the ground finish,” or the “fake bow and arrow shooting” pose?  Stand tall, be proud, and act like you’ve been there.  That said, I’ll probably juggle flaming torches or something if I ever get to that point.

8.  I BLEW MY KONA PREDICTIONS - A few days before the race I went on record with my KONA predictions for the pro men.  They were at best random guesses, but non-the-less, I could have done much worse.

Prediction      Actual Finish   Net                               Comments
Sebastian Kienle                      1st                     8th            (-7)            Had a great swim, maybe it took a little too much?
Jan Frodeno                             2nd                    1st            (+1)            Just a solid year and a great race.
Brent McMahon                      3rd                     9th           (-6)            Solid race, really rising in the ranks.
Frederick Van Lierde             4th                     31st          (-27)          Was right there, but obviously had major issues on the run.
Ivan Rana                                 5th                     12th          (-7)            Great run and race, just a little too far back off the bike.
Matt Hanson                            6th                    DNF                            He may have been ready to run, but a bike accident ended his day.
Andy Potts                                7th                      4th          (+3)           May have heard my advice to hold back a tinge on the swim.
Andraes Raelert                      8th                      2nd         (+6)           He’s always there and put together a beauty.
Ben Hoffman                           9th                     36th        (-29)          Had a big target on him this year. Too much on the bike.
Tim Don                                  10th                   15th          (-5)             Right there all the way through.

BONUS:  Here’s a picture my friend Dave Richter sent the day after the race.  Only in KONA.