Caffeine and Training

Sometimes I feel like a real jackass writing about Ironman training.  I mean, who am I to figure like I know stuff?

But then, I start to rationalize . . . “Hey, maybe I do know stuff.”  Well, at least I know what’s going on in my own mind and body.  That counts for something, right?

Today, what’s going on in my mind and body is a little more stillness than usual.  Last night I ran with the East Nasty crew, then had pizza, a salad, and a Schlitz tallboy before heading home to bed at 10.  When I woke up, I felt rested for the first time in weeks.  Sleep matters.

Monday through yesterday afternoon of this week I was on edge.  I wasn’t sure why, but love to speculate about my health.  This morning it came to me.  I haven’t had caffeine for the last two days.

This is a sticky subject with me.  I have a natural lean toward having a buzz and being a tad compulsive about it.  During my college years it was beer.  For hangovers I drank water.

I used to give my buddies a lot of shit for slamming down soda (we called it pop).  I never drank coffee, either, unless it was to be cool on all night exam crams.  But a few years after college, I started a business and became a Mountain Dew whore.

I pounded yellow juice all day long and was typically short tempered, though I knew that wasn’t acting like “me.” I never openly associated my crankiness and lethargy to the drug.  In Alcoholics Anonymous they say that “Alcohol is cunning and baffling,” but now I’m starting to think the same can be said for caffeine (or any addictive substance).

Of course, this isn’t for everyone to hear.  I have a tendency to overdo things.  Like pound not one, but two large coffees in search for that edge.  I’m not even sure if I’ll stop or not, but have decided to turn that one over to a higher power.

Inspiring Quotes from People I Follow

I’m following more and more swimmers, bikers, and runners every day.  Each of them say things that make me think, create discovery, and inspire.  Here are a few of the latest with links to their blogs.

This from a couple of guys from Budapest who decided to quit their jobs and go on the ultimate cycling adventure.  This is an excerpt from their latest ride in France that highlights the random hospitality I often hear shared by endurance travelers:

We had a first great surprise at sunset : a motorcyclist started riding with us and chatting on the road. He was also a keen cyclist and traveller, and asked us few questions about our project. After few minutes chatting with Nico (Yves was ahead), he hit the accelerator and left us. But then, at the next traffic light, he was there, waiting for us. “Where do you stay tonight”, he says. “We don’t know!”. “Ok, come to my place if you want. It’s up in the hills -a place called Eze, I have some wine, bread and saucisson. We can have dinner à la bonne franquette’”. “Sure, excellent. Let’s go!”. – Cycling Further

It just makes me want to hit the road and see what’s out there in the world.

One of the greatest things about reading other people’s training blogs are the constant reminders that help us learn how we can be better triathletes.  Iowa Tri Bob has helped remind me that technique in the water is not honed by laps alone:

“As I’ve focused more on technique and drills I’ve become much more efficient in the water.  I love watching swim techniques on YouTube or on the blogs I come across and I’ve come to really love the drills in swimming.”

Read more about the his favorite drills and techniques here — Iowa Tri Bob

I think one of the biggest questions triathletes ask themselves is, “Why?”  Why do we put ourselves through all of this?  I found an interesting analogy about life, fulfillment, and self-worth in the breakdown of a scene from Rocky at Tri Fatherhood.

“I wondered why Rocky didn’t have confidence in himself. But now I’ve come to understand that winning in life is relative. Winning wasn’t what Rocky needed. He just needed a chance. He needed a chance to stand up after being knocked down. Again and again. He needed a chance to still be there when the bell rang. Just the chance was enough. And survival.”

And here’s another from a woman who loves swimming more than southerners like corn cakes and hones her passion in open water.  She offers these tips for swimming in the sea.  I was especially intrigued by her “kelp” insight:

  • Learn to love your wetsuit – it is your anti drowning, warm, speedy friend.
  • Do not put Vaseline on your hands then touch your goggles
  • Put anti chafe on your neck and other hot spots – chafe is not your friend and you will scream in the shower.
  • Sharks don’t like kelp so you are safe in there but it is scary so head up and motor it
  • Sight! If you don’t, you can end up in the middle of nowhere
  • Swim with a buddy and be aware if in the sea – conditions can change quickly.
  • Have fun and don’t fight the water (or people in the water).
  • And for the ladies, stay away from guys in the water, they are notoriously bad sighters and will swim right over you in all directions (sorry boys).

There is tons of good stuff out there and I’m excited to be connected to fellow swimmers, bikers, and runners on my quest for Ironman Wisconsin.


Winning Your Race

The story of my early life was team sports.  I was lucky to have a neighborhood full of kids who wanted to play football, basketball, baseball, whiffle ball, and even backyard hockey.  We made it happen, and after school or weekends weren’t complete unless we spent countless hours on some kind of imaginary field or court.  I think this background may be one of the reasons I’m so energized for triathlons.

There had been a long void in my life after I hung up the baseball glove, hockey skates, and lacrosse stick. I did play competitive softball for several summers after college, but that ended 10 years ago. Now, it’s multi-sport endurance, and I’m trying to figure out how thinking like a team-sport-athlete can help.

Exposure to competition is the first thing that comes to mind.  I have ranted many times about how running and/or triathlons are, for most athletes, personal competitions.  Quests for better time, performance, or post-race feeling.  But there is a deep-seeded competitor inside me who wants to win and I’m doing my best to channel that energy in a constructive way.  Learning to win is best done by winning, and winning in this case can be however we define it.  Celebrate and remember what it took to get that time or that feeling.  Then repeat.

Finishing the game is another advantage a competitive history brings.  Not all games start well, and it’s surely the same for athletes that tackle Ironman.  I heard John Calapari say something to his thoroughbreds at practice one day, and I think this sums up what I’m talking about.

He said something like, “You have to play defense here.  And I don’t even care if you get beat, but don’t give up on the play.”   He was referring to a play in the national championship when one of his players got beat on a backdoor play, but the kid (I think it was Michael Kidd Gilchrist) turned and hustled to block the shot, which kept them close enough to eventually win the game.

That play was about digging for something deeper.  Realizing the situation didn’t look good, but finding the will to win, or set a new PR, or simply finish the race.

Pre-game preparation is also a major factor (although I constantly forget or ignore this lesson).  A couple weeks ago, I ran about 4 miles with Jim and he was 3.5 miles in before we met.  His pace
was stellar when I saw him and I didn’t want to slow him down.  Mistake.  We went right to a trail at
sub-9 minute pace (which seemed faster) and hit the road a mile later at sub 8.  I never felt quite
loose and I really have to remember that I am a second half player.  Negative splits win the race.

I’ve been forcing myself to warm up slow, find a groove, and be fast to the finish.  I know this, but have to remind myself every time until it is habit.

Learning how to win is about setting attainable goals and hitting them.  Digging deep when things aren’t going well by trusting that you have more inside.  And preparing with purpose.  Winning is a state of mind and perpetuates more victories in training, life, and your next race.

Ironman Wisconsin Training Video

Ironman Wisconsin Training Video

Here’s the first in a series of Ironman Wisconsin training video from members of the “Fab Five.”  Jim kicks it off with a reflection on the excitement “just signing up” for an Ironman can bring.

It should be noted that Jim is the only Fab Five member in this video.  I shot it while he was doing tempo runs with another group in preparation for the Huntsville Marathon.

Post Black Friday Run

Went out for dinner last night at a shoo shoo place and wracked up a huge bill, which Scott graciously paid for, but I’m not sure I’m gonna let him get away with it.  The food was great, but limited, so we all went to Family Wash for another beer before I agreed to run with Jim in the morning.  His plan was to meet at the Shelby Bottoms Nature Center, run nearly 3 miles to LP Field where he planned to do 8 one mile laps at his marathon tempo, then run back to Shelby.

It was a beautiful and very crisp morning (read freezing).  I followed through and we ran 3 miles to LP field where I promptly video taped him running.  There were about 10 people in the group and 7 of them were blazing at a sub-3-hour marathon pace.  Jim’s running the Rocket City Marathon in Huntsville and looking to qualify for Boston at around 3:25.  He said most of his laps were under his needed pace and hopefully that’s a good sign.

He passed on running back to Shelby, so I gave him a ride, then interviewed him for our Ironman Documentary.

After the interview he felt guilty and decided to run 3 more miles.  I joined him and we casually knocked out a 23:30!  Ha.  I guess it really does help running with faster runners.

Music City Thanksgiving Day 4-Mile Run

If you had any doubt about my life being a complete cluster-f*k at times, this morning should cement your opinion.

I was up early and ready for the Music City Thanksgiving 4 Miler and carrying my new “smile attitude” for good measure.  I went through a short warm-up routine in the basement that includes running in place, some push ups, and foam rolling to one of my go-to albums, “F*k This Shit We’re Outta Here,” by The Pimps.  My dog circled me with her squeaky toy and my legs felt good, even after a 3.8 mile run with the East Nasties last night.

I left home at 7:30 for the 8:00 race and found myself in the back of a huge line of traffic around 7:40 at LP Field.  I couldn’t understand how a 500 person race could cause this much back up at an NFL football stadium with thousands of parking slots.  I found out soon enough.

After ten minutes I finally pulled into the ONE section they opened for race parking and a lady walks up to me and asked if I paid yet.

“Um, paid for what?”



“Yeah, it’s 5 bucks?”

“You’re kidding, right?”

“Don’t blame us, it’s the race organizer.”*

“I don’t have any cash.”


So, ten minutes to race time and I’m scrambling through the scrap yards and back alleys near LP Field looking for a parking spot, but there are cops everywhere screaming, “You can’t park there!”

I spin around the corner, and cut through the actual race course, loop all the way around the stadium and find a lot that takes credit cards.  But, of course, the machine wasn’t working.  I had to risk it and started running toward the start line.  I turned the corner and saw the lead runners tearing off into the sunset.  I missed the start!

Five hundred runners tore past me and I played Frogger to get through them and find the registration tent.  The nice lady gave me my bib and ripped off my timing chip which I put on my shoe.  I circled back around the start line, hit my watch, and raced after the racers.

I didn’t catch the first walker until point 3 miles into the race.  Then it was navigation time as I slipped and slid through the massive throng of people in front of me.  We curled through the “infamous parking area” and landed at the bottom of the imposing Shelby Street Bridge.

My hands and legs were cold, but my pace was blistering (for me).  I hit the first mile mark around 7:15 and flew down the backside of the bridge with my goal of sub 30 minutes in tact.  We weaved through the downtown construction, past the Rescue Mission, then up to the new roundabout near the spectacular Music City Center.  It was a short steep hill that caught me off guard and hurt.

At the top of that hill we turned right onto Demonbreun and it was a four block downhill, so I trusted my ailing knee and pounded onward.  I was cooking pretty good and passing people left and right.  I used my new smiling technique coupled with parking anger to fuel my time, which was right on pace.

I staggered mid-way up the Shelby Bridge, but kept a steady 8 minute pace.  Once on top, it was on again and I blasted down the backside feeling strong as we turned left toward the home stretch.  I didn’t look at the race clock, but clicked stop on my watch as I crossed the finish line and it read 28:51.  A solid minute under my goal and a 7:15 pace.

Like a turkey that escaped the kill, I proudly walked to the finish table where I saw fellow Fab Fiver, Daniel, who was time keeper for the race.  I asked him to look up my number but he didn’t have a time for me.  His buddy looked at my shoe and noticed I wasn’t wearing the right timing strip.  It was still on my bib and didn’t register.

Okay, so lessons did we learn, kids?

1.  Show up early to races flush with cash to grease unexpected parking officials.
2.  Never trust nice old ladies to tie on your timing chips.
3.  Listen to the Pimps to get you pumped up.
4.  Smile in the face of it.

* Edit: I now see an email warning us about parking and evidently it is LP Field’s policy.  Note to LP Field: Just because your football team sucks doesn’t mean you have to.