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.




Crushing Iron Wants You

Writing about triathlon has been an important part of my training process.  It’s kinda like therapy because it helps me distill thousands of thoughts that clank around in my brain.  But, I think the biggest thing for me is the connection to so many other inspiring athletes.

I can tell by the site statistics that a lot of you care about what’s going on here.  It really kind of amazes me, but I guess it’s a true testament to being honest with your thoughts and not taking things “too” seriously.

I really believe in Crushing Iron and want to take it to the next level, but need your help.  I know people are reading, but I want to know why.  I want to know what kind of things you like to read.  What inspires and challenges you.

I also want more guest posts and interaction in general.  I love getting to know people who read the blog and sharing stories.

So, if you have been inspired or pissed off or have thoughts on what you’d like to see more of, email me at mtarrolly@gmail.com.  Also, follow me on Twitter @miketarrolly.

Thanks for being a part of my journey.  I look forward to this season and want to meet as many of you as possible.




Setting A Major Goal

For the last month I have been following my Wisconsin Badgers on their run to the Final Four (and seriously neglecting training and this blog).  It’s been electrifying, nerve wracking, and draining.  They took me to some very high places, but ultimately I settled into a low after they lost to Duke in the National Championship.  The feeling hasn’t consumed me, but it has lingered and once again reminded me that sports can be a bad emotional investment . . . unless you’re investing that time in energy into something you can control.

I got a couple texts this morning.  One from a friend that said the winning 10K time was sub-30 minutes in the recent ITU race, another that said a 10-year-old girl swam sub 2 minutes in the 200 freestyle.  What the fuck has been going on out there while I’ve been in a hoops-induced-fog?

I’m quite sure these people weren’t spending hours watching basketball and surfing message boards for the latest insight on March Madness.  They were getting up early and crushing workouts, even if it was the last thing they wanted to do.  They were motivated.

My motivational force has to be something big.  Something as big as doing an Ironman was in the first place.  Something that consumes my brain, keeps me laser focused, and takes me to places I can’t imagine possible.

I’ve written a lot about “having fun” in training and taking things as they come.  Living in the moment, etc.  But there comes a time in competitive triathlon when you have to push your own buttons.  For me, that is by setting a frightening goal.

sightsonkonaThat’s why I’ve decided to set my sites on Kona.

This is not about making a statement or some cocky proclamation, it is about finding a way to take myself to the place I want to be.  A jolt of a wake-up call for my body, brain, and soul.

But finishing in the top 4 of my age group at Chattanooga isn’t going to happen by writing about it (though it will have an impact).  This will not be easy, but I have seen enough “normal” people qualify that I have no doubt I can do the same.

I’ve set lofty goals in the past, but kept them to myself.  I have decided to make my goal public as motivation, because frankly, I’m afraid of settling for mediocrity.







Rock/Creek River Gorge Race Report

I don’t consider myself a runner, so against better judgement I decided to take on Chattanooga’s mountains and am probably a better man for the experience.

Trail running has a different language.  Registration, course maps, and time tables are much looser, almost like the routes themselves.  They sort of expect you to figure it out.

I had no hotel, no understanding of where packet pick up was, and absolutely no clue on where the race started.  It’s all about trusting that infinite sunshine will guide you to the right place.

And, you know, it works.

On Friday night, I followed my GPS to the packet pick up and landed at Whole Foods in North Chattanooga.  I sheepishly walked through produce, avoided the olive-bar temptation, then asked the information desk girl if she knew anything about the race.

She looked at me like I had slithered out of the Tennessee River.  “Sir, this is Whole Foods, what are you talking about?”

But I wasn’t as far off my rocker as she thought.

I had typed in Rock/Creek along with a strange address like North 2 or something like that and the GPS pin pointed to Whole Foods.  Little did I know, Rock/Creek isn’t a district or a creek called Rock Creek, it is the name of the outdoor store sponsoring the race!

Anyway, registration was two doors down and I got there just in time to hear, “Yeah, they were here but just left 10 minutes ago.”  It was from 4 – 7 and I got there at 7:10.  So much for loose and laid back trail running!

The employees were super cool and gave me some ideas for rooms, one being the Crash Pad, which I had heard a lot about.  Curiosity got the best of me, so I drove into town and plunked $30 on table for the top of a bunk bed.

Essentially, the Crash Pad is a boutique hostel built for endurance athletes, climbers, and general outdoor enthusiasts.  It was very clean, had great amenities, and oozed that Chattanooga-laid-back-hipster vibe.  I’d highly recommend it to anyone who doesn’t have sleeping disorders like me.

I woke up at 6:30, had a bagel with peanut butter, and prayed my printed directions would get me to the race.


While driving up up the mountain, I noticed my gas tank was on “e” which is always nice.  As I turned into the Prentice Cooper State Forest, the first thing I saw was a mobile home with seven pickup trucks in the driveway.  Then I barreled by a Big Game Hunting check-in station, followed by a shooting range and deer crossing signs . . . all of which put my mind at ease.

The bumpy gravel gave way to a smooth dirt and I flowed through the dust left by the Subaru wagon in front of me.  Empty pine trees lined the road, trying to come back to life as I glanced at the 4X4 truck in my rear view mirror.

The sun rose to my left, but it felt like I was driving north.  I had no comprehension of direction, but was on top of a mountain, and that’s always a good place to start.

It was a cold sun and I sacrificed fuel for heat, sitting in my car as long as I could before walking up the road for a 10-mile race on 3 hours sleep.  I told myself I would take it easy, as if this was possible in mountainous terrain.


The race began on a gravel road with a short climb to get your blood pumping.  The road turned left and was downhill-ish for the next mile or so.  I feared I wasn’t ready for this run, so I started in the middle and let people pass me for a while.

Once we hit the single track, I was overwhelmed by the serenity of the setting.  I had one eye on the trail and one on the stunning scenery of the valley to my left.  The sun rose over the mountains and the river flowed peacefully below.  I think you’d be hard pressed to find a more beautiful place.

The course was easy to follow, even for a rookie like myself, but it was a continual challenge of climbs and descents, both of which taxed my untrained legs.  I walked a lot of the steep uphills and probably walked 2 miles in all.

There was a particularly ridiculous ascent around mile 7 that led to an aid station.  I refilled my water bottle, took a deep breath, and kept walking.  It was more like hiking at this point, and I knew my 1:45 goal was toast.  (I finished around 1:57).

The rolling single tracks continued and were paved with roots, and rocks.  At one point there were A LOT of rocks, and I thought I was crossing the infamous “Rock Garden,” but it was yet to come – and there was no mistaking it when it did.

By the time I hit the Rock Garden (around mile 8.5) my biggest concern was injury.  My legs were fried and it was literally climbing up and down loose boulders.  I’m sure some of the elite runners “ran” this section, but I tip toed with my eye out for little yellow directional flags.

For the last 3 or 4 miles I was running “with” a woman and we took turns leading each other’s pace.  At one point she fell and wrenched her ankle.  I stopped and made sure she was okay.  She was, and toughed it out.  It was a team effort of sorts, and while we didn’t speak more than a couple words, I felt that special running bond emerging.

Over the last mile, I found a boost of energy and pulled away, but decided I would wait for her at the finish line for a glorious high-five that would commence our tandem struggle through the brutal terrain.  War comrades celebrating joint victory.  I stood at the finish line looking for her baby-blue shirt, confident it would be a reunion for the ages.  A few minutes later she emerged from the tangled nature.  I stood proud, put on my best “great-job-smile” and waited for that powerful hand slap.  She ran up to the line in pain, looked in my eyes, then walked right past me and gave my high-five to some other guy.

P.S. This Gu drink is amazing and I will gladly be one of their endorsed athletes.  For some reason I wasn’t very sore the next day and I am loosely giving credit to two post-race water bottles of this New Pomegranate/Blueberry Gu Brew.




Rock/Creek River Gorge Trail Race Awaits

I joined Nashville Running Company’s trail running group in January and ran with them twice.  Now I am officially unprepared and a day away from tangling with the beast.

The Rock/Creek River Gorge Trail Race in Chattanooga is “only” 10.2 miles, but the terrain is a little dicy as shown in this video.

I’m not scared, but this 10.2 miles is supposed to be as much effort as a 1/2 marathon and I haven’t run more than 8 miles since Ironman Louisville (if you want to call that running). Adding insult to insecurity is the fact that I ran “The Nasty” (6 miles) two days ago as “a test” of my running fitness, and am still  little sore.

As I sit in my coffee-shop-office a day before the race, 90% of the bones in my body are telling me not to do it.

“It will hurt.”

“You might get injured.”

“Why kill yourself when you could relax all day and wait for your Badgers to roll Arizona in the Elite 8?”

All of these excuses flood my vulnerable brain and I know that is exactly the time I shouldn’t listen.  Steven Pressfield calls it “resistance” and it can take over your life if you let it.

I like to use the triathlon “transition analogy” to battle these moments of non-commitment.  It’s hard to be in a bike-state-of-mind and “want” to go running, but 90% of that fight is just taking the steps.  Eventually you adjust and forget about the bike.

In this case, the transition will be from a warm and cozy bed to a cold and lonely mountain. Talk about blasting through your comfort zone.  And when you boil it down, I think that’s what growth and life are all about.

9 Things That Are Improving My Swim

Three years ago I could barely swim and vowed to get to respectable levels before IM Wisconsin. Last year, with Louisville a non-wetsuit race, I got even more serious.  I put a lot of time, study, and reflection into swimming and this is a list of stuff that seems to be working.

1.  It’s easy to forget how to swim.  Before my 10-day vacation, I was dialed in pretty good, but this morning it was a flopping baby.  After 1,000 or so meters, I “sorta” had it back, but why can’t it be just like riding a bike?  When I’m not on vacation I swim shorter distances more more frequently.

2.  Form isn’t everything.  While form is definitely something, once you get it “close” upper body conditioning is the key, and that too seems to fade fast.  Paddles really seem to help me relax and focus on using the strength of my lats, and I also use a pull buoy 80% of the time.

3.  Flexibility matters.  Today, there was a girl next to me with fins doing that crazy on-your-back thing up and down the pool.  She looked like she was made out of rubber and when she turned around to swim freestyle, she was unbelievably smooth . . . and fast.

4.  Work on your turnover.  For the longest time I was all caught up in my reach and glide and thinking about all kinds of BS, but if you get decent extension and turn your arms faster (with comparable catch and pull) you will pick up several seconds in your 100.  Of course, you need to build conditioning to do that.

5.  Relaxing isn’t always easy, but . . . it is crucial.  When you’re relaxed, your form and flexibility improve because you’re not thinking about it as much.  So much of relaxation is repetition, but I often repeat mantras like, “breathe, relax,” on each stroke and it puts me in a better state.

6.  Don’t hesitate.  My left arm doesn’t have the same range of motion as my left (nor is it as coordinate) so I’m constantly telling myself to “let go” with my left arm.  Just let it flow in a rotation that is perfectly timed with my right arm pull.

7.  Clear the fog.  I used to have problems with foggy goggles until I started letting them soak to adjust to the water temperature before I swim.  I just lay the pull buoy on my strap and do arm circles or whatever for 5 minutes and my goggles are gold.

8.  Pull yourself.  A lot of people refer to it as pulling yourself over a barrel or a wall instead of pushing water backwards.  When my hand enters the water, I try to find that pressure from my wrist to my elbow (the wall) and literally pull it back.  The key here is pulling with your lats, but also using the other side extension as leverage.

9.  Drink.  I never used to have a water bottle at the pool, but now it’s mandatory.  It definitely keeps my energy level a little higher and, maybe more importantly, lowers risk of dehydration/exhaustion, which I always used to battle after long swims.  I typically put a scoop of some kind of electrolyte powder with the water because it’s easier on my stomach.

I have fallen in love with swimming because it used to scare the crap out of me but it’s morphed into a fun challenge I chip away at every day.  For the record my IM Wisconsin swim was 1:20, IM Louisville was 1:06, and I fully expect the Chattanooga current to whisk me under an hour.