Gambling on Ironman?

Endurance sports are intriguing because the competition is typically with the individual.  Our competitors are the course and the clock.  But, whenever guys and girls toe the start line in any sport (even with friends), part of us wants to win.

That said, this is meant to be (at least for now) a light-hearted post about the guys I’m training with for Wisconsin and others who have taken a financial interest in our demise or success.  Our training is serious, but thankfully it’s usually laced with absurdity and nowhere is that more evident than our Crushing Iron Facebook page.

The other day, I gave posting clearance to our coach, Robbie Bruce, and he wasted no time stirring the pot.  Here is his first edition of “Coach Speak.”

Coach Speak:
This is my first weekly installment of “Coach Speak- A more in depth look at the Fab Five from the outside looking in.’ I will keep this first one simple with giving you an insight into how I see each of these merry men. Buckle Up. You are about to know your neighbor better.

Marcus, “Im already down 15lbs” Scriver- This will be Mark’s first full Ironman. But I have been assured he is not going just to complete it but he wants to compete. He also says he hates the other 4 guys, which I thought was weird. But whatever.

Jim “I’m more than just my hair” Schwan- Schwannie is the seasoned vet of the group. A blistering runner I am looking forward to seeing him own this race. Which he will.

Kevin “Im there one minute and gone the next” Gammon- I like to refer to Kevin as an “enigma riddle”.  Its hard to wrap my head around the atmospheric pressure that is Kevin. I do have this feeling that he is on a ninja mission to crush the other 4. Which I applaud obviously.

Daniel “Im so freaking happy all the time” Hudgins-I dont really care about his training right now. Im just glad he is injury free and finally cut his hair.

Mike ” The Darkhorse” Tarrolly- The Crushing Iron founder I believe.  I consider Mike a major Darkhorse among the Fab 5. With his athletic background in college and his overwhelming desire to sleep in. He is a threat. He told me so too one night at 3 Crow. I think.

Next weeks post will be about training. Possibly. – Coach RB

Coach has observed with a keen eye.  His post generated a lot of discussion and ultimately led to the following addition by Jeff Stokes, who can often be found knocking out 3-4,000 meters in the downtown YMCA pool in preparation for “Swimming with the Sharks” in the Alcatraz Classic.  Jeff swears he got this information from Vegas, and I have no reason to doubt his connection to the underworld.

This just in from the MGM GRAND Sports book!!! Opening odds for the Fab 5…. Currently Daniel Hudgins is a strong 3:1. What Vegas says ” this kid has it all … youth, heart, passion…plus the fact that vegetables make you fast…and with his current aerodynamic haircut strong headwinds down the finish could work in his favor”
Jim Schwan 4:1. What Vegas says ” this crafty veteran has experience and a mean stache on his side, some people say his power comes from his hair… He is not called the Silver Fox for nothing folks”…
Kevin Gammon 4:1 What Vegas is saying ” after a strong marathon finish after his struggle on the bike at IML, he is a force to be reckoned with… rumor has it he has tweaked a knee recently and Dr. James Andrews was seen at Nashville International yesterday ”
Mark Scrivner 5:1 What Vegas says ” this guy is a wild card and has kept a low profile in the tri world but his Running experience is a strong factor, plus the freakish fact that nobody has ever seen Mark and Batman together in public is worth noting”
Mike Tarrolly 5:1 What Vegas is saying ” don’t let his ‘ just happy to be here attitude fool you’ he is competitive…a recent investigation has revealed a large donation to the Live Strong Foundation, and multiple sources have noticed a lot of UPS Deliveries at Tarrolly Hills recently… this guy could be your winning Lotto ticket”…. More updates as the Season begins this spring!!!

Now, it should be noted that both Robbie and Jeff’s insights were heavily edited for punctuation and spelling, but at that crux of all this discussion and prognostication, is a brewing competition.  Who will be the first of the Fab Five to cross in Wisconsin.  Do they really care or is it all about racing our individual bests?  Time will tell and we’ll be watching Vegas closely to see if sports books are paying attention to how oversleeping is causing me to miss many of the workouts.

Possibly The Most Important Part of My Training

I had to make a quick note about this, because at my age the only way i remember anything is to write it out.

This is the simplest thing, and we have all known it forever, but unbelievably, I forget it every day.

It’s important to eat. 

Now, that is the most obvious statement in the history of mankind, but it’s often tricky because we are fooled by our reserves.  Or, at least I am.

Some mornings I will get up, start running, and feel great.  I’ll eat like a pig afterwards, take a nap, and wake up fresh.  But, some mornings I am running on empty before I start.  Like today.  I had been grazing this building in a state of malaise and confusion.  Then I went to lunch and I’m a different person.  I mean that literally.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

I have probably heard or thought that 10 thousand times in my life and I either, don’t remember it, or forget the reason WHY it is the most important meal of the day.

And why is that?  Because breakfast stabilizes your body chemistry. 

I know this!  I believe this!  But there is one problem.  It’s not the best feeling to eat a big meal then workout, which means . . . I have to get up even earlier if I’m going to put this practice to work.

At the very least I just need to eat.  If even just for my sanity.  I’m telling you, there is something pretty cool about feeling comfortable in your own skin.

Sometimes it Feels Overwhelming

It’s days like this when I worry about burn out. 

Last night I hit the pool to attempt 40×50 hard laps and barely got off the edge of the pool.  I spent most of my time working on form and couldn’t catch a good rhythm.  The total swim time was about 35 minutes and instead of beating myself up, I felt good about even showing up.

After the swim I added another notch in my string of cluster-fuck sleep attempts.  It’s just crazy because I was definitely tired after the swim, but then ate a little and drank a bunch of water and I felt like I was ready for another workout while I tossed and turned in bed.  I woke up three separate times and finally got up for good about 6:40 to go do my leg workout. 

When I got  to the gym I wasn’t feeling it at all.  I explained my woes to Daniel who was already in the middle of his workout, and he was gracious in his understanding.  I did a couple sets of walking lunges and my knee gave me some funky feedback, so I stopped.  I meandered a bit, then did some upper body stuff, before calling the workout a fail. 

It’s such a strange feeling preparing for an Ironman.  There is still over 7 months left, but you always wonder if missing a workout is going to haunt you later.  How do you know?  I don’t, but I know enough to realize it is a long road and I believe it’s more important to build and keep your energy than burn it to the ground. 

I’m not in the mood for the bike workout tonight, but we’ll see how I feel after my writing class.  I feel very busy right now with work, training, and all of my other interests.  My next focus is on simplifying my life so I am not bogged down or distracted by extra baggage.  I’ll keep you posted on that process. 

Couch to 5K Progress in One Year

Today was right around the one year point from when I started my Couch to 5K with the Nashville Running Company.  I am honestly shocked by how far I have come and 90% of me is putting this out there in hopes of inspiring other people to push their limits.*

Coach and Mike
This is me culminating my Couch to 5K training

I have been in a serious contemplation mode for while now and something else happened today that reminded me that life moves fast and you should spend it doing the things you love. (Or as Charles Bukowski put it, “Find the thing you love and let it kill you.”)

Around 2:00 this afternoon I found out my best friend from childhood’s father died.  I was very close to his dad when I was young, but hadn’t seen him for years.  I immediately felt guilty that I didn’t stop by when I was home for Christmas.  Another missed opportunity in life and all the more reason to “just do it.”

I tend to beat myself up for stuff like that, but we are human and can’t do everything.  That said, most of us can certainly do more than we do.  Death is a powerful motivator and as you grow older the reminder comes far too often.

In reality, I have made huge strides in the last year and am following through more often.  I immersed myself in becoming a healthier and better person.  The catch is, often we are too close to the process and don’t realize the progress.  Yes, one year ago today I couldn’t run a mile.  Today I did a tempo run (with Jim pushing my ass again!) of 5 x 5 minute splits with a one minute jog between, plus a 20 minute warm up and a 30 minute cool down.  Here’s the breakout:

Warm Up – 20 mins at around 9:30

1st 5 minute split pace – 7:37
2nd 5 minute split pace – 7:26
3rd 5 minute split pace – 7:18
4th 5 minute split pace – 7:25
5th 5 minute split pace – 7:47

30 Minute cool down at 8:44

Total running time around 1 hour 20 minutes.

I feel really good about that performance, especially considering we did a bike/run brick yesterday and at least two of those splits were on a legitimate hill.  Next month I will be running the New Orleans Half Marathon and am pretty confident I will hit my goal of 1:45.  That would be a 1/2 hour faster than I did the Country Music 1/2 last April. twitter-bkgrnd-copy.png

As my legs burned during the cool down today, I was talking with a woman in our group about how a lot of people tell her she’s “lucky” she likes to run.  And how she’s “lucky” she’s good at running.  I completely understood her point because a year ago I would have told her the same thing.  Not only did I hate running, I didn’t think I could do it.

The truth is, we can do almost anything we set our minds to and my mind is now set on an Ironman.  I haven’t come close to swimming 2.4 miles, the most I’ve ever biked is half the distance, and I’ve never ran a marathon.  But now is the time to live and push the limits of what life has to offer.  It’s free and anyone can join.

* The other 10% is ego.

What Ironman Wisconsin “Feels Like”

Sometimes I’ll sit here watching Ironman Wisconsin videos and get chills. It’s surreal to think I will be on that course in seven months.daddf5fc-4133-41e3-95c2-0d78ab1216c2

I can already see the eyes of the Fab Five as we enter the water, a symbolic beginning to the end of training. Five guys focused on the same goal for over 8 months – and it all comes down to this.  Once the swim starts, I may not see them for the next 10 – 12 hours, but in many ways we’ll be connected as one.7976247757_9ace6d5bcc_z

Tonight, I am there.  I hear the screams from hundreds perched on balconies overlooking the water.  I hear the encouraging words of athletes floating around me.  I hear the cannon explode, sending me into mystery.

I feel the water splashing in Lake Monona. . . the mass of humanity pounding me with no regard . . . the serenity of a place humans weren’t meant to go.

I feel the slippery shore as I exit the water . . . my bare feet slapping concrete as I climb the winding road to the top of the transition helix.

My ass hits the seat for the first of many times that day.  My thighs burn as I roll through picturesque farmland.  Cheering fans slap my back while they hug the narrow climb in Verona like a Tour de France.

The loop through Camp Randall stadium, home of my favorite football team, takes me back to players I idolized as a child.   A gauntlet of familiar faces wave signs and give high fives as I recall college memories from State Street.

My ankles ache as I turn the final corner and feel the rush of the finish line.  I glance at the majestic state capital,  embrace the tunnel of fans, and culminate the biggest physical accomplishment of my life.

It’s in my bones and won’t release me.

Oversleeping or Listening to Your Body?

I have never been a morning person.  It’s not that I don’t like them, I love to wake up slowly and naturally with the world.  I can also get a lot more done when I’m up with the birds (or my crazy dog).  It’s just very hard for me to get moving and I have a theory on why that may be to my advantage in the later phases of Ironman Wisconsin.

I used to love playing football with my buddies as a kid.  My best friend was the quarterback for our high school team and we spent hours in the summer playing six-on-six sandlot games in a local field.  In retrospect it was pretty dumb because we played tackle without pads and there were some vicious hits.  I was fearless and would stick my head into any play, and anyone who knows me will surely acknowledge that this has had an effect on my thought process.

My friend, the quarterback, spent most of those summer days trying to convince me to go out for football.  He’d claim that I was the best wide receiver in the school.  I’d be his favorite target and would catch a ton of passes (and get even more girls).  There was only one problem . . . I could not talk myself into getting up for the early morning summer practices.

So, while I slept in on those late August days, my friend would be sweating his ass off and puking at 7:30 in the morning.  It was the first of two practices a day and, in between workouts, he’d come by and wake me up around 10 o’clock.

He was wide awake and prodded me for about 15-20 minutes before I’d get out of bed.  Then, without fail, by 11 o’clock I would be alive and ready to go.  But it was too late.  I couldn’t be on the team if I didn’t go to the early practice.

When the season started I was right there on the sidelines rooting my buddies as they tackled their way through the Big 8 Conference in Southern Wisconsin.  The pads crackled in the crisp Fall air, and I would drift to a place of regret.  I knew I could play for this team, but why couldn’t I get up and go to early summer practice?

Sometimes I think it’s a cop-out to say I’m not a morning person.  But years of evidence don’t lie.2013-01-22_13-40-34_730

At the core of this problem is the fact that I am just “slow to warm up.”  There is something going on with my body chemistry that always makes me want to ease into things.  It is very evident in my workouts, whether they are at 7 am or 10 at night.  The warm up makes a huge difference in my performance.

I have seen it in every race.

The one that really stands out is my first Olympic, the Nashvegas Triathlon.  It started at 7 am on a cold, rainy, and mucky Saturday morning in September.  I stood on that river bank shivering before diving in and nearly losing my mind.  I was tense, tight, and still wanted to be in bed.  I nearly panicked and quit two hundred yards in.  But instead I tread water for about 5 minutes and decided to keep going.  Slowly, but surely I woke myself up and by the time the swim was over, I wanted more.

It was still raining when I got on the bike, but I was awake and embraced the 25 mile ride with confidence. I had the same feeling on the run course.  I was a relative novice, but felt like I had a much more in the tank when I crossed the finish line.  Slow to warm up, fast to finish.


I  had a great 5 mile run last night with the East Nasties.  The route was 4.3 miles in and out of Shelby Park, but Mark Scviner and I added an extra loop around the lake that included sprints.

I had a great 5 mile run last night with the East Nasties.  The route was 4.3 miles in and out of Shelby Park, but Mark Scviner and I added an extra loop around the lake that included sprints.

This was the second morning in a row that I over slept a workout and once again, I feel okay with it.  I don’t particularly like the idea of “slacking” but I am listening to my body and what I’m “hearing” is a re-birth.   I can literally feel my legs warming up and building strength.  They have been through a lot lately and I see nothing wrong with giving them an occasional break.

I have a serene peace of mind that is hyper focused in the moment.

In some ways, I almost believe I could finish an Ironman right now because of how good my body feels.  It would be a struggle, but if I “feel” good, I believe I can do anything.  Something about getting closer to your accomplishment gives me a huge surge of energy.  It’s that feeling you get when you’re a kid.  That ability to play sports all day and night.  That ability to suck it up for one more deep post route or fast break.  I don’t know where the energy comes from, but you dig deep into the reserves and do what needs to be done to finish.

The Guy Who Got Me Into This Mess

Okay, so if you’re looking for a culprit in all of this Ironman business, it is Jim Schwan.  Last year at this time he peppered me for weeks about getting into the Couch to 5K program he was coaching and I finally gave in.  He ran by my side for the 5K and lied about our speed the whole way, leading me to a sub-27 minute finish.  Jim is the Ironman veteran in the bunch.  He’s done Louisville, Beach to Battleship, and several Half Irons.  I would never never tell him this, but he has been a true motivational force in my life.  He is also an original card carrying member of my Whiffle Ball Golf Country Club, Tarrolly Hills.  Dig deep into Jim’s complex mind with 20 questions (below the photo).

1.  Where are you from? St. Louis, MO, but have lived in TN since I was 11.
2.  What are your favorite running shoes?  Current Favorite are Mizunos
3.  What kind of bike do you ride? I have a Cannondale Caad 9 road bike and a Cannondale Slice TT bike.
4.  What’s your age group for Ironman Wisconsin? 45-49
5.  What’s your go-to workout meal? Don’t have a go to workout meal but my go to pre-race meal is Carmela’s Chicken Rigatoni and a glass of Chianti from Macaroni Grille.
6.  Favorite beer? It changes with the seasons. Right now it’s Terrapin MooHoo.
7.  What was your favorite race to date? This is probably the most difficult question because I like different races for different reasons. Maybe Hell or High Water 5k because I went sub 20:00.
8.  What are you most looking forward to on this journey.  Training with the Fab 5 + 1.
9.  What are you least looking forward to?  The chaffing.
10.  What is your strongest discipline? Running.
11.  How would you respond to the criticism that endurance athletes are self-centered because they spend so much time training? I’m sorry, did you ask me a question?
12.  What 3 words would you use to describe yourself?  Motivated, Social, Competitive
13.  Aside from triathlons and working out, what is your favorite hobby? Poker
14.  If you could go anywhere in the world, where?  And why? The Galápagos Islands. Looks fantastic and unspoiled.
15.  Favorite Nashville Restaurant? Depends on mood.
16.  Favorite sport other than endurance? To watch – football. To play – hockey.
17.  Favorite band? Foo Fighters
18.  Which Fab 5 member will cross the finish line first? Daniel
19.  How do you think doing this Ironman will change you?  It will bring me closer to some really great people.
20.  Are you racing for anyone?  No. 305255_2335727744931_2099028503_n

Sleep, Training, Ironman, and Dogs

So, I woke up at 6 am today.  The workout called for a fairly intense run with 30, 45, 60, and 90 second sprint intervals.  I was actually looking forward to running in the chilly 20 degree weather, but promptly proved I can talk myself out of anything by falling back asleep.  I got up at 8:30, power-showered and was out the door with a tie on my neck at 8:50.

But, if you’re my coach and happen to be reading this, there is also some good news!

I feel better today than I have all year.  I am alive, clear, and anxious for tonight’s workout.  The plan calls for a bike ride, but since I biked last night, I think I’ll do the run I bagged on this morning.  That cool, coach?

Man, I know sleep is important, and I think most of us believe and understand this, but we don’t realize just HOW critical rest is for the mind and body.  Not only did I get in the hours last night, I slept soundly.  I mean, I’ll occasionally sleep a lot on the weekend but that doesn’t always mean I’m refreshed.  It’s a delicate balance.  So, the obvious question here is, why did I sleep so well?


1.  I ate a light meal for dinner.  In fact, I don’t even know if I would really call it a meal, it was a potato with cottage cheese on top.  I finished the bike workout around 11.  Messed around with the blog until midnight, then went to bed.

2. My dog slept in her own bed!  She is usually trying to negotiate unfathomable real estate in my bed and often laying all over me when there is clearly tons of room for her to sprawl.  I wish I knew what gave her the urge to sleep in the living room, but she is more unpredictable than then most women I know.

3.  I was simply relaxed.  This, of course, is easier said than done.  It was actually the first night of the week when I DIDN’T meditate, so I cannot for the life of me put any of this together.

I think this mystery is synonymous with the core of all Ironman training.  I am on a roller coaster between confidence and doubt that consumes my waking hours.  And, maybe this whole post proves it seeps into your non-waking hours as well.

Mike Tarrolly – Crushing Iron

Multi-tasking at The Gym

Okay, what the hell is going on inside the modern gym?  Today’s Ironman training program called for weights and I was quite amused by the things I saw at our local YMCA.  I can only imagine what happens at the fancy spas.

It is especially startling to the new “Ironman Monk” inside of me that likes to put 100 percent effort into the exercise with the least amount of distraction.  I’ve even read arguments that say music during a workout takes away too much focus.  But today, I ran across a few examples that were a little more blatant.

For example, Daniel and I are working our legs this morning and he says to me, “Check out that guy on the elliptical.”  Dude is wearing baggy royal blue sweats, a white sleeveless t-shirt and drinking a coffee during his workout.  I watched in awe as he pounded the beans and added texting to the mix.

Then, there is another guy that baffles me.  He reminds me a bit of Ray Lewis because he is always fired up and walks around with a bandana on his head and a hands-free phone.  He strides around the weight room with Tony Horton-like enthusiasm, talking non-stop into his phone and half the time I think he’s saying something to me.  I mean, who would sit on the other end of a phone call listening to a guy workout?  I am starting to wonder if he is the East Nashville Y’s version of Manti Te’o.

Then, for good measure, I’m taking a break between sets of box step-ups and I admire a woman tucked into a beautiful pigeon pose on her yoga mat.  I felt the tension melting from my hip flexors as I gazed at the glorious pose.  She was lost, deep in the stretch, focused on mind, body, and intention, all while reading email on her phone!

And all of this in one morning.  Amazing!

It got me thinking.  I’m sure there are hundreds of other stellar examples of tomfoolery at the gym.  What the hell is going on out there?  I’m sure you have some great stories to tell!