Why Do Ironman?

So, Racer K came out of nowhere and raised the bar for this blog and our training.  Then Coach confessed he’s been slacking.  It’s piercing honesty the world craves, and they delivered.  It’s also a tough act to follow, but I certainly can’t ignore it.

I’ve never been able to come to grips with my age.  No matter how hard I try, I’m always older than I think I am.  Maybe that’s what keeps me young.

I started my quest for endurance last January at age 48.  I couldn’t run a block.  My swim was more or less a breast stroke.  And my bike was hanging in the garage.  Now, just over 12 months later, Ironman is looming.

I’ll racing my first Ironman in the 50-54 category.  What the fuck?  In 2012, the gentleman that won that age group at Wisconsin checked in at 10 hours, 17 minutes, and 19 seconds.  I won’t win, but I will try, because that’s my nature.

I hear it all the time, “Wow, Ironman?  That’s amazing, why would you do such a thing?” And normally, before I can formulate an answer, the person who asked has drifted back to their own problems.  It’s natural, normal . . . very human.  And, as silly as it sounds, I have had a real struggle with being human.

A lot of times I feel like I’ve wasted big chunks of my life chasing illusion.  Something new to rub across my face while dreaming of the next conquest.  And it’s easy to say Ironman is another in a long line of illusions, but it goes much deeper.

Ironman training tears at the very fiber of my being.  It rips me apart and will slowly put me back together.  When it’s done, I simply won’t be the same person, and that is very exciting because frankly it’s exhausting trying to be someone your not.

I played baseball for years, and every time I stepped on the field I lived in fear.  Fear of failure, fear of not rising to the moment, fear of not being the best me.

In baseball you survive in isolation, even though you’re on a team.  If the ball trickles through your legs or you strike out with the game on the line, you stand alone, with no one to blame.  You instinctively pull your cap down to cover your eyes and drift far away from the beauty of the baseball diamond, which is now the ugliest place you can think of . . . and you never want to play again.

But it’s in your blood.

The team depends on you.  You depend on you.  Redemption awaits, and usually comes . . . if you show up.

The more you show up, the more people believe in you.  The more you believe in yourself.

On Sunday, I showed up for my third triathlon.  The fact that it was a “short” Sprint did not make it easy.  Distance is relative, and my stomach churned. I fought back the only way I know . . . by pounding emotions deeper inside.  Shoveling that fear into my psychological furnace and burning it for energy before the fire scalded my brain.

I filed around the edge of the pool and watched as other racers jumped into the water.  I watched them swim into the snake pattern of the ropes and quietly told myself to relax.  “Have fun” was the Fab 5 buzz phrase that morning and I quietly said it over and over to myself while the guy behind me rambled about some bike route he loves because it “seems like one of those roads where they would shoot car commercials.”

Shut the fuck up, man, I’m trying to have fun!

Of course, he was too, I just don’t quite know how to do it yet, but I will.

The swim was 300 meters, a fraction of my training distances, and for the first 100, I felt relaxed and alive.  When I pushed off the wall toward my 5th length (of twelve), I lost my breath and sunk into swim anxiety.

I wasn’t tired, hungry for air.  I pushed forward.  I kept showing up.  Then just before the tenth length, I decided to stop at the wall and stand on the edge to gather my bearings.

I’d never been happier to reach a swim wall and slowed to stand on the ledge. Hundreds of other athletes stood in line no more than two feet away and I wallowed in embarrassment.  I worried what they would think, even though none of them knew who the fuck I was, or likely cared.  But you know what?  I didn’t want to be a post-race “story” that people laughed about at Cracker Barrel.

My chest felt like it might explode and I caved to the humiliation.  I looked away from my fellow racers as I felt for the ledge with my foot.  But I’ll be damned if there was no ledge and I sank like a ton of bricks straight to the bottom of the deep end!  Now I was flailing like a baby bird trying to get my head above water, and surely the laughing stock of every triathlon party for years to come.

Somehow I sucked it up and pushed off to conquer length ten.

Eleven and twelve were no picnic.  Form was gone and I slashed about like a wounded turtle.  Somehow I made it to the end and found the energy to climb the ladder and run through the door into 40 degree rainy weather.  What a fucking great time I was having!

I was dizzy, weak, and shivering.  The trek from pool to my bike was about 40 seconds worth of running barefoot on frigid asphalt before crossing a rock garden covered with carpet.

This was a perfect example of a life situation when, in the past, I’d quickly decide to run to my car and get the hell out of there!  It crossed my mind, but something inside this neural grid is changing.  These are the things I want to face . . . I need to face.

While I may be getting clearer on commitments and decision making, that doesn’t mean I had a clear mind.  I was absolutely flustered.  I snapped my bike helmet tight, then tried putting on my Crushing Iron shirt, but it got stuck on the helmet!  I tried pulling it over, but there was no chance and I was tangled inside like a monkey trying to escape a cargo net.

I took off the helmet, put on the shirt, then ran toward the bike exit hoping I was going the right direction.  At least I was moving.

The bike was rather uneventful, but by mile 4 my feet were numb.  Oddly, it didn’t seem to bother me and I found a comfortable groove in aero position.  I was cruising at around 34 kilometers per hour (I can’t figure out how to get my speedometer language off of “Holland”) when I noticed blue hair and white knuckles as I approached a driveway.  Two cyclists ahead of me whizzed by and sure enough, that big ole’ Ford LTD started pulling right into my lane.  I reached for my breaks, swerved into the other lane and thought about how that little old lady was probably going to church –and how I don’t have a church– and potentially the next time she went to church I could be in a casket in front of her congregation as they dabbed her teary eyes and said it wasn’t her fault.

The roads were slick as ice from the onslaught of rain and she slammed on the breaks stopping just in time, so thankfully we didn’t have to meet in some ethereal world called “the ditch” in Murfreesboro, TN.

Ahh, so the bike ended with frozen feet and thighs, which is a great way to start a run.  It was a legal shot of cortisone that took away any leg pain (real or imagined) I might have had.  I labored through the run and crossed the finish line just about the time my I was warming up — which I suppose is a good sign considering I would have had about 11 more hours to go if it were an Ironman.

There is something about finishing a triathlon that does my body right.  The dizziness from the pool is replaced by the sore butt on the bike and the ankle pain from the run makes you forget about your ass.  It’s really a nice equation.

As usual, the race humbled me.  There wasn’t much fanfare and the scenery was far from electric, but something about finishing is undeniably rewarding.  You show up on a cold and rainy morning to put yourself to the test.  You push yourself to the limits to see how far you can go.  What you’re capable of.  What life is capable of.

When people ask my why I would do Ironman, I never have a clear answer.  It’s obviously the challenge and accomplishment, but I think it’s more about the journey.  About how the training along the way brings out the parts of you that might normally stay buried.  The confidence, the clarity, the humility.  You become more comfortable with your beliefs.  The commitment forces you to appreciate what’s really important and you begin to lose interest in petty distraction and “filler” that sucks energy from your true path.

About halfway through that run on Sunday, I was passing a guy wearing a beard, visor, and big toothy grin.  He looked to be struggling a little and I asked him how he was doing.  His smile grew even bigger and he said, “Well, if you’re gonna skip church, I can’t think of a better excuse.”

Right on, brother.

When Cats Interrupt Ironman Training

90% of the time my thoughts are steeped in training, but occasionally I’ll remember why I am a lover of human behavior and truly crave bizarrity.  The following is a simple, yet highly representative example of why I find life so damn amazing.

My dog plowed through her last bit of food this morning, so I drove to PetSmart on my way to lunch.  As I scoured the rows for a parking spot, a woman walked by in knee high black boots, a tight black dress and a body any red-blooded male would notice.

After parking I walked inside and, low and behold, there she was . . . looking at bird cages.  It wasn’t a blatant red flag, but certainly pink.  I went about my business and picked up a fresh bag of fish/rice delight for Mattie, and slung it over my shoulder like a cowboy on my way to the counter.

While suffering through an extended credit card mishap with the person in front of me, I noticed “Ms. Black Boots” standing in line behind me.  She had a distant and mysterious look, along with several cans of cat food in her basket.  She stared right past me, but  was clearly in heavy thought.

She had a bit of a frown, almost a scowl, but then, in an instant, her face contorted into the biggest smile I’d seen all day. It was a startling transformation that came with a tinge of crazy only the creepiest of clown clown could manufacture.

Her arm shot like a laser at the magazines and ripped an issue of “Cat Lover” from the wire rack.  Without missing a beat, this enigmatic woman started laughing hysterically and spoke in tongue while I leaned back on my heels looking for hidden cameras.

Then, in a move that may be unprecedented in the arena of public behavior, she starts “meowing” in very quick bursts while looking at the cover.

“Meow, meow, meow, meow, meow.”

I inched closer to the door and debated leaving Mattie’s food on the counter, but it was too late.  The situation had officially arrived in “Whacksville.”

She unleashed a bellowing laugh, pulled the magazine close to her face and started planting real life kisses on the “Cover Cat.”cat-fancy-magazine

“Mmmm…. smack smack smack smack….  giggle…. mmm… kiss… kiss….. ohhh….. such a cutie… I love you!”

I’m looking at the cashier and he is completely oblivious to her behavior while waiting for me to pay.  I quickly swiped my card and did my best to focus on the transaction, but all I could hear was, “Yummy….sooo cute… mmm… kiss… kiss… kiss…”  I couldn’t stomach a look but would not have bet against tongue.  She was insatiable.

Much like Bill Murray sauntering away from the destruction in Caddyshack, I abandoned the crime scene and marveled at the blessing I had just witnessed.

Anyway, there must be a lesson here and I am all ears.

Ironman Competition and The Fab Five

No matter how you slice it, Ironman is a competition.  First, with yourself, then against the field.  Everyone sets their goals and hopes to surpass them, all while knowing it’s not wise to tempt fate in one of the toughest races on the planet.  Many things can go wrong, even the pros are not immune. 

The five of us have been training together since January 2nd.  For many of those days, Allison has joined us and we’ve embraced her as our “plus one.”  A couple weeks ago, our “plus two” emerged in the name of John Wasky.  An aspiring Ironman, fast eater, and great guy.  He’s also a Wisconsin boy, which gives him more points with me. 

We’ve hung out, had a few beers and trained with him on several occasions.  Sunday, he joined (and beat) us in our first sprint triathlon of the year and his observations of the day struck a chord with me. 

It may have been expected, but on a very cold morning, the Fab 5 delivered its first race performance as a group and the collective results were very . . . similar.  John took note and etched some intriguing possibilities.  Following is the 3rd straight guest post on Crushing Iron. 

Some Food for Thought – by John Wasky

The new guy… unofficial #2 you might say.  Triathlon nut, recently relocated to Nashville who found the perfect group of guys (and girl) to hang around with, put in ridiculously early morning workouts while most (including our spouses or significant others) are still fast asleep… and then do it again at night. Lastly, and mostly for sanity, partake in a little more fun than should be had on those days off at the 3 Crow or any local watering hole.

Fab 5 . . .

Even with my relatively limited time with the Fab 5 as a whole . . . I think that I can reasonably say that I have found a group of very similar highly competitive, number over-analyzers, much like myself.  Given these facts, I did a little analyzing; which then turned into theorizing today.

Some food for thought . . .

I know that last weekend’s race was only a sprint, and I know increasing distances can greatly effect overall performance in each and every discipline.  Take these unknown variables out and just have fun with it.

Could there potentially be a Fab 5 Wisconsin version of the 1989 Kona Iron War?  All running stride for stride, pushing each to their max potential through the streets of Madison3384293292_a2d1c7b6c8 in some sick, convoluted game of human-running-chess between best of friends, yet fierce competitors.   Finally, with one mustering that extra gear to separate himself on the climb up Observatory Hill with only miles to go on the run course (a la Mark Allen in the Iron War on Ali’i Drive), or push it to the max even after 140+ miles on that gradual climb around the Wisconsin State Capital on Mifflin, State and Main to the finish line.daddf5fc-4133-41e3-95c2-0d78ab1216c2

Given the time set forth by each of the Fab 5 during the ADPiathlon this past weekend, it might just happen.

The total variance between 1 and 5 in bike time extrapolated over the full 112 Ironman distance would be less than 34 minutes (and be reminded that this is very early in the training process for the time gap to shrink even more) . . . ,  or a dreaded flat on race day, back to even in a blink of an eye.

The swim variances applied to a 2.4 mile distance….. a little over three minutes (we know that can be made up if someone has to take piss in transition….. or if T0 just didn’t go as well as planned pre-race for someone like Jim and he might need to make a little extra stop.)  Hell 3 minutes…. If some recent history at Kona serves me right, in 2010, my beloved American Andy Potts excited the water at the pier a full 3 minutes ahead of the next chase group and he was reeled in within the first 20-25 miles of the bike.

Even though each competitor started at very different times, all 5 were within 5 minutes or each other, 3 finishing in nearly sequential order…. Odd I must say for these friendly competitors so closely bonded toward one goal.

1989 Iron War you ask…. This article below refers at length to the battle between two of greatest of all time during the World Championship in Kona while setting the marathon record that year.

http://triathlon.competitor.com/2013/03/features/chasing-the-240-hawaii-ironman-marathon_72334

or the book…

http://www.amazon.com/Iron-War-Scott-Allen-Greatest/dp/1934030937

I pose the question to you all, who will break first?  Gents, good luck crushing it.  I look forward to seeing it all unfold.

An Ironman Coach’s Confession and Breaking News

The fire is getting hotter.  The last post to Crushing Iron by fellow Ironman training partner, Racer K, struck a lot of chords.  His open and fiery call to action got the attention of the Fab 5 and our coach.  The following is an open letter of confession from our coach that includes a late-breaking decision to do something he hadn’t planned on until today.  

By Robbie Bruce for Crushing Iron –

Robbie Still 2Saturday at 7:50pm, something caught my eye on the news feed.  Normally I would just scroll by, but it seemed more of a “life alert” than a simple “Hey, read this and you’ll be pumped for life post.”  I was out with friends watching the NCAA tourney (my bracket is legit btw) and so I began to read . . . read . . . and keep reading.  Hell, I missed almost a whole half of basketball.

Eight minutes it took me to read.  I read a few things over.  Not because it didn’t sink in.  But because I needed to hear it again, and again, and again.  A wake up call.    It was the infamous “Racer K” post (which I believe goes in the Ray Lewis speech category, mind you).

I finished the night off, then woke up Sunday and let it sink in.  What did it mean to me?  Where have I gone wrong as an athlete?  I spend a lot of time being a coach and while focusing on others I’ve become lazy in my athletic mind and endeavors.  Not just lazy.  But fearful.  Fearful of what, you say?? Lend me your ear.

Confession:  After reading Racer K’s “Call to Action” and my IML Race Report, I remembered something I had written that I’ve not taken to heart and lived/trained by.  It was that quitting Ironman Louisville would’ve been a slap in the face to those whose goal was to just finish.  I had a lofty goal but I failed that day.  If I would’ve quit, just because my expectations were different than others . . . nope . . . not doing it.   And that’s why I didn’t.

So what am I changing? What I am doing? Where the hell is this going?

Racer K may believe he is not an “athlete” or that some things are harder for him.  And his times may be slower than mine, but who has been tougher and stronger?  Up to now, he has been stronger and tougher than his coach.  That’s a fact.

I’m in no way trying to drop good deeds on my athletic results but I can swim with anyone and try to keep up the rest. My PR for a HIM is 4:32 and my PR for a full is 10:32.  Yet, I’ve been training wrong and haven’t given as much as Kevin.  I’m far from a super athlete, but I am at least an athlete.  So, it’s time to start to acting like one.

Racer K challenged everyone to be their best, to believe, to go for it.  To dream big and have your goals way out in front of you.  So Racer K, as a coach I’ve failed you the last few weeks and months with my effort at maximizing my abilities.  Well no more.

Eight weeks from today is Ironman Texas.  I will toe the start line on May 18 because I will no longer cheat others, or myself.*

“Be proud of your continuous effort in training, and not just the result.  If the result happens to be an exact representation of your effort, then be ecstatic.”

* The Breaking News

Intense Motivation from a Guest Blogger

I was laying around in the foggy haze last night, trying to come up with a blog post after my Badgers laid an egg against Ole Miss, and just didn’t feel like writing.  Then (as if we need more proof the world works in mystical ways) I got a text message from Racer K that said, “I sent you an email.”  What I found in my inbox was an explosion of inspiration that proved, not only do training teammates pick you up when you’re dragging on the swim, bike, or run, they come through when your brain needs a break from blogging.  The following is an unedited piece submitted by Racer K for Crushing Iron readers.

Running the Ironman and what it means to a non-athlete-  Racer K 

You bother me.  Yes, you- the one getting to second base with the mouse.  Stop that shit.   What is wrong with you?  Is life not satisfactory? Do you find the need to click your way to Nirvana? Do you need to read about someone else to get you out of bed in the morning?  Maybe none of the above and you sleep in late. Well, congratulations for you.  Let me be the one to slowly try and convert you to a new life.

Your lack of desire and will power makes your ancestors weep. Speaking your name fills my mouth with a taste of charcoal.  Harden the f up (That is a trademark I am sad to report- but I have no financial incentive to promote that company-  yet?)  Evaluate your life and live a little.  Chase a dream.  Push yourself.  Bloody hell, what is wrong with you?  I said I would do that slowly.  I lied, didn’t I?  Suck it up. Like so many others in your life, I lied.

If you made it past the first two paragraphs you have already shown that you are a notch above your peers.  You don’t care what people think and you know your own strength.  My berating didn’t phase you.  My words didn’t offend you.  Damn, I like you.  We have weeded out the weak.

So… Who are you then?  Maybe your life is shit now but you aren’t dead yet.   Or maybe it is amazing and your peers want a piece of your pie. Or maybe, just maybe, you are one of those amazing jerks that lie somewhere in between.  Somehow you have everything people want (In this case you are either a jerk or lack imagination). Whatever. Life is a roller coaster.  It doesn’t stop for anyone.  Get ready for the next hill.

I’m guessing that 90% of you (I didn’t do the research-, but then again I don’t care) are not in “jail”.  You live a life where you decide to set the alarm clock.  You wake up.  You prepare. You leave for work… maybe you do a “good” job… and then you go home.  You decide how much CSI you watch.  (Or Matlock) Maybe you think you are the first person that can sing well in Nashville (sucker)?  Maybe you think about the next fast food restraint to try.   You think about the things that make you happy.  We all do.  We all want to be special.  We all have dreams. What are they and what do they say about you?

To most people I am a mediocre individual.   At this point in my life I am a doctor of mathematics who takes a long time to publish, I am an marathon runner who is well behind the average pace, and I am an Ironman that just wants to finish. For those of you who care or put stock in such crap, I am also single with no children.  Am I just average?  Who am I?

It took me several years to answer that.  I had a family. I was settled.  I had my picket fence.  I had a job.  But when I thought about the question I had doubts.  Despite my many low points between asking the question and answering it,  I am now about to build myself up a bit.  And I believe in the things I am about to say.  I am doing this to remind myself.  If you are squeamish or will hate me for self-promotion, skip ahead.  But if you skip ahead know that you are a jerk.

Ironman, marathon runner, and Doctor of Philosophy,

East Nasty,  12 South Runners,  X3 Athlete,  (former) AORTA member,

90% Vegetarian (locals will recognize that as a Carrie style vegetarian)

Published researcher of mathematics,

M.S. student in Strength and Human performance with an emphasis on nutrition,

 former certified Cisco network associate and professional

And I’m sure some other pretty cool things I’m forgetting.

Damn my amazingness.  (say it till you believe it)

If you think that is average then you clearly must be a bad ass and I want to take you to dinner. Or at least ask you out for coffee.

Even these things are in the past. The bottom line is this-

What I am is changing.  I am not a single point in time.  I am getting better every day.

This is what the ironman means to a non-athlete.

These have all been lofty dreams.  To this point (3/22/2013)  I have never raced a race that I knew I would be able to finish easily.  I know my coach hates that last sentence and I do too- but there is a point.     My goals are ALWAYS ahead of me.  I never look back.  I NEVER cut myself short. My goals guide me, change me, and improve me.  Say it again- My goals are ALWAYS ahead of me. I may not be Scott Jurek or Luc Van Lierde.. or any other name that you are looking up right now to figure out what I’m talking about….

Yet… unlike so many people I haven’t stopped trying to race them.  I know I am not there now, don’t laugh.  But damn, I am NOT done yet.  I will race and improve until I cannot walk anymore. When I cannot walk, I will pull myself.  When I cannot pull myself, I will crawl, I will hobble, and when I can not hobble I will roll. (No doubt someone has said that before me, but I do not have the reference.)   My goals do not slow me down.   They are not comfortable or easy to achieve.  I am the under dog.  I am the person with no background.  I am the nerd with asthma that cannot breath. I am the man who could not run a mile three years ago. Sad for you if you think I will not get better.  I am also the one who will crush this race under 13 hours (what we call a 12 hour race.)  That’s right, despite holding back from my friends I do have goals.  And guess what-  I am not done!!!!

I do not push myself towards something I know I can do- I push myself towards something a little higher.    Something some people think I cannot achieve.  And I love it when I prove them wrong.   I love getting better.

I like knowing that I may fail.

I like knowing that I didn’t.

I like changing.  I like being just a little bit better.

What else you ask? I love that Fab 5. They push me, they support me, they make me faster and I believe in them.  My TEAM makes me a better person.   I admit I am not that old and do not have all the answers.  But I have learned this-  no one makes it through this world alone.  My team and the people that I love push me and support me.

I do not race for the approval of others.  I do not race to compete.  (Although, for the sake of friendship, I will say that I will finish a minute in front of Jim Schwan.  Better get than damn ankle healed!)  I race to be a better person.  I race to achieve personal goals.  I race to escape personal problems in my life.  I race to reach Nirvana, not click.  I race to see the world in ways people said I never could.   I will not stop.  I will not back down.  I will get better.  I will surprise all of you and I will thank you for the opportunity to do it.

What are your goals?  What the hell holds you back?  Who helps you and can they help you get past you barriers?  Why do you accept the people that think you will never be on the podium?  Do they deserve a place in your life? My friends helped me.  They are helping me.  I have never been this focused or this confidant.   I have never been this alive.

The only thing that keeps you from the finish line or your time is yourself.  Let that shit go.  Push yourself.  Pain is normal.   Fear is expected.  You must accept and pass over these things.  Trust your friends.  Trust your training.  Trust your coach (or plan?) Race hard.  Train smart. Prove that you are more than people think.  Prove that you are more than people could think.  Prove that you are changing, that you are not a fixed point.

If this seems like a combative post.. well.. tough shit.  You have to be ready to fight to achieve your dreams.  You have to prepare yourself for setbacks.   What are you ready to fight for?  For your sake I hope you have something.

In my humble opinion, fighting for something you love is the best way to improve.

– Racer K.

 

Hotels in Muncie?

Booking hotels used to be an entirely different experience.  My first criteria always used to be nightlife and strip clubs.  Now, I just want a quiet room that’s close to the race.  Well, sorta.  I mean, if you’re going to Muncie, you might as well “go to Muncie.” 

I checked the recommended hotels on Muncie’s site, but they’re booked.  They also seem to be a long ways from the swim start, and I’d prefer to sleep as long as possible and be within walking distance of karaoke after the run. 

The race is Saturday, so I’m guessing we’ll live it up a little bit on the Ball State campus.  Anyone have suggestions for where to stay?

Muncie Here We Come

I used to live in Indianapolis, and rarely left the city unless it was on a highway that led out of state (or to Brownsville for softball) but this July I will sink my teeth into Muncie. slideshow-template I’ll be joined by at least two of the other guys in the Phat 5 (recently changed because these people have already used Fab 5 in connection with Ironman Wisconsin, which bummed me out a little, but doesn’t surprise me and I’m excited to see their film).

Muncie, Indiana, home of Ball State University and 118,769 fine Hoosiers.  I once worked with a guy who went to Ball State and he loved to talk about the rich basketball tradition that included high-flying stars like Chandler Thompson, silky smooth Ray McCallum, and electrifying Bonzi Wells.  Maybe one or all of them will be giving back by working one of the Ironman water stations.

This will be my first plunge into an Ironman event and a great opportunity to meet the Mayor or tell the Ball Corporation founders about my mother’s love for their canning jars and how the the stench emitted from that process has left me scarred as an adult.  If time permits, I’d certainly like to swing by Harrison college or take a picture under Shafer Tower.

Of course, none of this will be possible until I update my license plate tags, which will not be easy considering I failed my emissions test.  Last time I checked, “Service Engine Soon,” doesn’t necessarily mean my car is dousing the environment with toxic waste . . . but I suppose it could be.  Either way, I will surely have to drop another $500 on my car for the privilege of spending another $100 for a little sticker.  I’m sure the Mayor of Muncie will have some wisdom on the topic.

So, what’s the goal for Muncie 70.3?  Well, last year’s race distance was altered, but the year before my new Facebook friend, Ben Hoffman, won with a time of 3:48:14, which is a little ridiculous, but I’m thinking 5:48:14 is about right for me.  That would be exactly two hours behind Ben.

45 minutes for the swim, 2:45 on the bike and two on the run.  The rest in transition.

But, that’s all a long ways off.  This weekend is the first Sprint Tri of the year and the whole team will be there trying to kick my ass, and they surely will if I keep dreaming about Muncie, Indiana.

My Plans for Mental Health Week

I know what you’re thinking.  What is Mike doing to launch “Mental Health Week” in Ironman training?  Let me tell you, that is a great question with some titillating answers.

RACK TIME

For one, I’m going to rest.  I’ll likely get in the pool a couple times for light swims and run on Wednesday with the East Nasty crew, but for the most part, I’m taking pressure off my legs.  I can feel a subtle “tiredness” lurking and it will be great to get a little spring back.

THE WORLD’S WORST CHEF

I’ll also be tweaking my diet.  Over the past couple months I have been working out around two hours a day and consequently eating everything that flies by my face.  I kinda think I know what it feels like to be my dog.  matisseraginmouthI mean, if there’s fuel to be had, I am consuming it to the point where I’m licking pasta sauce off my plate like a little kid, then following up with a major pickle binge.  Nothing is off limits, including the snack bar at work, and this week, I hope to zero in on a more nutrient packed philosophy that doesn’t include time-crunched sell-out trips to Wendy’s.

NO HAPPY ENDINGS

Seems to me a mental health week wouldn’t be complete unless you dropped a massage or two in the middle.  I should really practice what I preach and get this body rubbed at least twice a month.  There’s no doubt the foam roller works wonders, but human hands can turn these muscles into pliable jelly that responds like a new born baby’s skin.  And I’m not really sure what that means, but think you get the point.

STRIKE A POSE

Along that lines, I will certainly be cracking open my yoga books again.  I can sense a lack of flexibility creeping into my body and I am not really cool with this new trend.  Yoga has always lived on the periphery of my life, but it needs to be more of a center piece and peace of my center.

FUELED BY BARLEY

I will also likely drink a ton of beer.  Nah . . . that’s unlikely, but I will encourage some of my teammates to pound them like fish at the East Nashville Beer festival this Saturday, which is the day before our first Sprint Tri of the year on Sunday.  And yes, I do realize this could come back to haunt me do to the “body numb factor” and fearless racing behavior that tends to shine the morning after a bunch of beers.  This is especially true when mileage or heat isn’t a big concern.  In other words, I am not going to let them use beer fest as a crutch, in fact, I think it gives them an advantage!

MORE BUKOWSKI THAN BURROUGHS

I’ll also do a lot of writing.  I’ve known for years that you can write something into reality if you focus on it long enough.  I’ve written my goals down for years, then will spend time “soul searching” in journals to figure out how I am going to bring those targets into fruition.  It’s amazing, but eventually an answer will surface and suddenly you “understand.”  And isn’t that the key to eliminating fear and confusion?

MOVE TOWARD STILLNESS

Meditation can also help.  Nothing like shutting off the noise to help you cut through the clutter of life.  I know one thing for certain.  If I’m sitting at the start line and I’m worried about any number of stupid things that will pop into my head, I am not at my best.  There is simply no room for distraction in a race.  I mean, sure, you can say hi and talk or whatever, but I find it much more productive if you’re focused.  Or, as my coach likes to say, “Hurry slowly.”  These kinds of mindsets are easier when you consistently practice meditation and a calm mind.

SEE IT, BELIEVE IT

I will visualize myself in these races.  I will “see” myself breaking through new time barriers in my mind.  Speed happens naturally, but it can be enhanced if you believe you can move your body at certain paces.  It’s like running with faster runners, but you don’t really have to run with them, because some of them can be dicks and this way you just run along with them while you lay on the coach.  Frankly, it’s easier, and some of those fast runners just don’t really like talking to me about all this nonsense, so it’s a win/win.

If you’re having trouble with the “visualization process” you may want to look at this video I made to help drummers stay focused and in the groove.

BE A GOOD PERSON

And lastly, I will be connecting with friends.  I actually try to listen to what they’re saying instead of being preoccupied with the infamous Monogetti run lingering over my work day.  I may actually stroll along a babbling brook or take my dog for more walks instead of letting her loose at the dog park.  I may actually buy presents for people in my life.  Sweet gifts like writing journals and running socks.  Even take them out to dinner at I Dream of Weenie or the Turnip Truck.

Then again, I don’t want to get carried away, I mean it’s only one week.

How Much Ironman Training Do We Need?

Our coach sent a text last Monday and told us our training schedule was posted for the following week.  He said something like, “and you might wanna check it cause it’s rough.”

I took a deep breath and clicked on the workout schedule.  Other than a short message, it was blank.  He’s basically given us the week off, which couldn’t have come at a better time.  I was running into a wall. 

And so it begins. 

He said we’ve been working very hard and are ahead of schedule.  We should take a week to regroup and mentally prepare for what’s ahead.  Walk the dog, go hiking, sleep in . . . whatever it takes to get our mind right for the grueling road that lies in front of us. 

We also have our first triathlon of the year next weekend.  It’s a short Sprint in Murfreesboro, TN and the Fab 5 +1 will all be racing. 

The ADP is a 300 meter swim, 10 mile bike, and 5k.  Even though it’s short, I’m getting a little anxious about the race.  Not because of the distance, but that for the first time I will actually be attempting to “sprint” much of this distance.  There doesn’t appear to be much room for error and I have set my goal at 1 hour and ten minutes.  (I’m hoping my previously discussed transition prowess bodes well in the Boro).

Anyway, there’s a good chance I may be blogging more than ever this week and the topics could take a great departure from the almighty Ironman.  Gardening, hammock hanging, above ground pools . . . nothing’s off limits.  So, please sit back and enjoy this prescribed week of laziness with me. 

March Madness and Ironman Training

While a few of my training partners were out tackling Natchez Trace again, I was nestled in bed watching my Badgers take down the Hoosiers in the Big 10 basketball tournament.  It was the 12th straight time Wisconsin has beaten Indiana.

I absolutely love Wisconsin Basketball and Football and for a while now I have been trying to figure out why.  Why do I (or anyone for that matter) get so wrapped up in a sports team?  It seems a little silly, but for years I have tried to loosen the connection and can’t do it.

It must have something to do with allegiance and living vicariously through what the team represents.  I can definitely relate with the Badgers’ identity.  They are typically referred to is scrappy, over-achievers and I am perfectly comfortable with that tag, especially when it comes to Ironman.

In sports, I think it’s important to focus on the task at hand and not get intimidated.  Like in the movie Hoosiers, when Gene Hackman took a tape measure to the rim and free throw line to remind his team that the basket was the same height on the big stage as it is in their little gym back in Hinkley.  The field and conditions are the same for everyone.

The other day a friend texted me in the first half of the Wisconsin/Michigan game saying, “The Badgers look terrible.”  I responded with, “Yeah, until they win the game.”

Wisconsin was losing 20-17 at the half.  A terrible offensive exhibition, but scored 51 in the 2nd half and won 68-59.

They key is to stick with your plan.

Swimming is swimming, biking is biking, and running is running.  We do it all the time.  Sure, the courses vary, but the body movements are the same.  It doesn’t matter if there’s an Ironman logo on the fences and buoys, it comes down to performing.  What’s in our body and mind.

The Badgers play their game no matter who they play.  They work on the little things in practice, then execute them during the “race.”  Are they the best team in the country, no, but they are arguably one of the most consistent over the last 10 years.

They believe in their strengths, they work on their weaknesses, and they push all the way to the finish line.  It doesn’t always translate to a win, but they never go down easily.

Consider this quote from a former Michigan State player who made it to the NBA:

“People ask me what was one of the best things about going to the NBA, I laugh and joke and say I don’t have to play Wisconsin again. It’s a chess match with them. They are going to play their style. They are not deterred from what they like to do. So it’s always tough to play them. They don’t back down. They are always strong and tough and they play well together. They play within themselves.  That’s what makes them a tough out whenever you see them.”
– Mateen Cleaves

Not only does that make me proud to be a Badger fan, I think there’s a great lesson there about staying true to who you are.  Play within yourself, don’t back down, and you’ll be a tough out.