Ironman Louisville 2013 Video #IML

Ironman Louisville has always had a special place in my heart.   The last two years I’ve watched it, and will finally be racing this course in 2014.  I shot this video and finally got around to cutting it to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.”  It’s focused on my friends Robbie, Wasky, and Corey.  Hope you enjoy.

Here are a few screen grabs of the stars of this video.  Wasky above, Robbie and Wasky below.  Corey in the third frame.

Ironman Louisville 2013 Ironman Louisville 2013Ironman louisville 2013

Bob Babbitt Inspired #IMKona

From that day I watched my first Ironman race in Louisville, I was hooked.  But it seemed so strange —  3,000 people putting themselves through what seemed like torture.  There must be something more.  Why?  What was going on here?

The deeper I got into my own training for Ironman, I began to realize the stranglehold it can have on you.  It literally changes your life and dozens of friends have told me what I was doing motivated them to start running or get a bike or get back in the pool.  The lifestyle is contagious.

And Ya know, sometimes you just get the feeling you should be doing more with your life.

This morning I woke up way before the alarm and got out of bed naturally.  The first thing I laid my eyes on was Twitter where I saw a link to a story about Bob Babbitt who has been involved with Ironman for 35 years.  They had me at hello.

Babbitt grew up in Chicago as an outdoor lover, got tired of the winters and moved to San Diego.  He started a gym class in one of the local schools, and became good friends with Tom Warren, who won the second Ironman in 1979.  Babbitt decided to compete the next year and essentially dedicated the rest of his life to bringing triathlon to the average guy.   Along the way he also co-founded the Challenged Athletes Foundation, which he says is, “his proudest accomplishment.”

He also was the co-founder of Competitor Magazine.

When I read stories like this, it touches a place far deeper than I can explain.  It’s about purpose and passion, not simply going from point A to point B.  Babbitt spent many of those early years around Ironman covering local races for free, but he got far more than money can ever deliver.

It’s more than times and racing up and down roads, it’s a vibrant approach to living.  It reminds me of the feeling I had when I started Creative Pig Minds.  I had a dream and nothing would get in my way.  I “worked” 15 hours a day and was completely engaged.  It was hard work, but incredibly Zen, “in the moment” kind of stuff.

That is exactly how I would describe my first Ironman experience.  Completely in the moment for 11 hours and 58 minutes.  I was flooded with purpose.  I knew exactly what I was doing and literally lost myself in time.  To me, that is the epitome of living.

When we trudge through life with jumbled thoughts we are bound to be unhappy.  Our subconscious doesn’t like to be thinking one thing and wishing it were doing another.  It’s a recipe for conflict and a perpetual flight mode.

Babbitt went with his heart and created a lifestyle he couldn’t resist.  He embraced a direction that was engaged and filled with purpose.  It sounds simple, but going where you really want to be takes a lot of courage because most people, including yourself, don’t want you to leave.

Goosepond Half Triathlon – Race Report

I’ve had a difficult time pulling myself together to write a Goosepond Race Report.  Frankly, I wasn’t ready for this race, and it showed.  It was a painful day and I’d rather forget most of it, but I’ve learned that these are exactly the kind of races you need to remember.

Goosepond was my first race after Ironman Wisconsin and I have concluded it’s similar to a band playing Red Rocks, then sitting down for an open mic the next night.  It can be fun, but it’s a completely different motivational challenge.   That said, the best bands (and athletes) put out the same energy whether they’re playing in front of one person or a packed house.

Wasky, Corey, and me looking marginally hungover before Goosepond 946028_10202117501570057_429856629_nMy only other 1/2 was Muncie and the night before, I could barely sleep.  Before Goosepond, I was out like a light.  I just did a damn Ironman, 70.3 would be a breeze!

As we checked into transition it really made me think about how much goes into putting on a triathlon.  The logistics of an Ironman are staggering and here were a bunch of people who likely didn’t know much about triathlon doing their best to make Goosepond work.  It was more of a small town feel, while Ironman was New York City.

I was in auto pilot and kept forgetting stuff back at the truck.  My socks, my timing chip, my helmet.  It was a weird, zombie-like feeling and eventually, coach Robbie jumped my ass about getting my shit together.  It was 10 minutes before the race and I wasn’t in my wetsuit.

The Goosepond swim is actually in Lake Guntersville, which is gorgeous and full of seaweed.  My swim wave was old men and young women (which could have had something to do with my elevated heart rate) and I flopped around the water for a few minutes before they shot the gun (or quite possibly just said, “go”).  The first 15 or so meters were great, but I was quickly transported back to my bygone panic-mode-days.  It really wasn’t as much panic as I couldn’t find my breath and literally thought I had forgot how to swim a mere six weeks after swimming 2.4 miles.  What the f8ck was going on?

As I rounded the first buoy (maybe 500 meters in) I slowed to a stop and tried to catch my breath.  Why didn’t I warm up?  I will never learn.

I watched as the rest of my wave slowly pulled away and there was nothing I could do.  It was a jail break and I was the lone prisoner wedged in the escape tunnel.  Stay calm, you’ll catch them.

Wasky coming out of the water top 20 and oblivious to the trouble ahead.   2013 Goosepond Tri (307 of 503)-X3* All good photos courtesy of We Run Huntsville

A couple minutes later, I eased back into my stroke but I was someone else.  The wetsuit felt tight, my sighting was blurred, and my energy low.  I took at least three breaks on that first loop and was a little stunned by the fatigue in my arms.

Corey, daydreaming about Tahoe in the morning glow of Lake Guntersville2013 Goosepond Tri (348 of 503)-X3By the time I got to the end of my first loop I officially hated two loop courses.  Even though it was just water, and all looked the same, I didn’t want to see lap two.  Later, Robbie would tell me I took a really wide turn around that buoy and I’m pretty sure it’s because I was thinking about swimming to that pier, getting out of the water, and cheering for Wasky and Corey from the comfort of a portable hammock.

But I put my head down and cranked out lap two, which turned out to be much easier once I loosened up.  I really need to get serious about my pre-race regiment.

Swim Time:  42 Minutes (Muncie was 37, Wisconsin was 1:20).

T1 – I was actually a little disoriented going into transition, but pulled it together, grabbed my bike and ran across the mount line.  That’s when I noticed I was still holding onto my gloves.  I stopped and patiently put them on while Robbie watched shaking his head.  “Good thing you got those gloves on,” he said as I wheeled past him with a smile.

Redemption on the Bicycle

I didn’t know my time, but when there’s a group of you racing and all your spectator friends are waiting for you at the Bike Exit , it’s a pretty good indication your swim sucked.  But, as soon as I clipped in, my remorse was gone and I had one focus . . . crushing the bike.

The initial plan for Goosepond was a relay.  Robbie would swim, I would bike, and Season would run.  But, a twist of fate landed Robbie in a swim race that would change his life and I told him I might as well do the whole damn Goosepond by myself.  So, bad swim aside, one of my sub-plots was to ride like I would have ridden in a relay.  I was also curious to see just how hard I could push the bike.  It was on.

Here’s me drafting and looking like a jack-ass with my chrono watch2013 Goosepond Tri (187 of 585)-X2I had logged a mere four hours on the bike since I raced IMWI and had no idea how riding a hard 56 miles would feel.  I came out and tried to stay around 19 mph for the first 5 miles and it was pretty easy.  I tried to lose myself in the scenery, but kept taking peeks at my bike computer, where the miles seemed to be turning over more like a calendar.  Seven miles, eight, nine . . . ugh.  This was going to be hard.

Since I was so late out of the swim I was picking off people like flies.  About 20 miles in I had yet to be passed and that became my new goal.  Don’t get passed on this bike.

I was busting down a country road and noticed a guy on the side changing his tire.  “Shit, that’s Wasky!”  I slowed a bit and asked if he was okay, but immediately wished I would have slowed more.  I “thought” I heard him say, “Yes,” but I wasn’t positive.  I hoped he didn’t need a tool or a tube.  I briefly entertained turning around, but eased my fears by reminding myself that Wasky is the most prepared man I know.

I settled into aero and dreamed about the finish.  I felt bad for Wasky because I was pretty sure he had a good swim and now I was going to beat him off the bike.  It had been five minutes since I’d flown past him at 21 mph; I figured I was at least two miles in front of him now.  My thoughts drifted back to not getting passed on the bike and I thought that was a real possibility.  Not more than 30 seconds later, I heard someone breathing hard to my left.  Damn!  I was getting passed!

Who did this person think they were passing me?!?  I was NOT getting passed on this ride.  But, his tire broke the line and I started falling back out of the draft zone.  I wasn’t even going to look up, but they said something like, “Keep pushing.”  I glanced over to say thanks, and it was Wasky!  Before I could even ask how the fuck he caught me, he said, “Two flats, brotha.”

Damn, that was his second flat and somehow he got from corpse position to downward dog in a mili-second.  He shouted, “Stick with me and we can pace each other on the run.”

“Stick with me???”  What the hell was going on?  I was crushing this bike and Wasky is telling me to stick with HIM!  He was in beast-mode-squared and all I could do was shake my head.

It took about 2 minutes for him to lose me, then around mile 30 (which also doubled as the ONLY bike aid station) I caught him.  His mood was a combination calmly livid, mixed with a case of the beat downs, and topped with a dose of, “I’m gonna kill this course.”

I passed him about a mile later and he slowly fell into the distance.  I honestly thought he might be toast.  Then at mile 45 or so, he flew by me again.  “Come on man, let’s bring it in.  Ten more.”  I just shook my head.

He rode a good hundred yards ahead of me for a while, then I passed him, which he immediately countered with pass of his own before pulling away for good at mile 54.  Two miles to go and I was feeling my legs.  It was a flat course, but I didn’t stop peddling for more than 10 seconds the whole ride.

I cruised into transition and Robbie kinda gave me one of those, “Damn, dude, you crushed that bike looks,” before actually saying, “Nice bike.”  All I had to do now was run a solid half marathon and I would surely be on the age-group podium.  Easier said than done.

Bike Split:  2:40:26 (and tack on a very questionable 4:00 drafting penalty).  One of two penalties handed out to my training club.  I have decided not to go into it, but let’s just say this is a very suspicious chain of events.

T2 – Yep . . . it happened.

“Trust Me, This Run is Pancake Flat”

I’m not a great runner, but thought I could easily put down a 1:50.  I felt surprisingly good as I left transition and patiently waited for my running legs to show up.  Spectator support was a non-issue, so I picked out a woman with good pace and ran behind her for the first 1/2 mile.  Then, I made a very unusual decision for me, I ran up next to her with the intention to actually talk for a few minutes.  Talking on a jog is one thing, but I am just not a fan of it in a race.  I kinda like to focus on pain.

I was just about to say something when she says, “Hi Mike.”  I was like, huh?  It was Ann, who also races for RxE, the Knoxville crew.  And that’s when they snapped this picture of me about to blow out my ankle.  2013 Goosepond Tri (354 of 585)-X2I have to admit, I was a little stunned.  We actually started in the same swim wave and she was saying how slow of a swimmer she is, etc.   Clearly she’s not that bad of a swimmer because I knew I hammered the bike and here she was still in front of me.  Ann is a really strong cyclist.

Then there was this guy rubbing it in my face 2013 Goosepond Tri (418 of 585)-X2As engaging as Ann can be, I had a race to win, so I plowed off into the rolling hills, followed by a charming campground, and then a tricky little cut-thru trail onto the first of many roads that would break my heart.

That’s when I started hearing Wasky’s voice again, but this time it was in my head.

“Trust me, this course is pancake flat.  You will crush it.”  And I really did trust him, but for some reason I was standing at the bottom of a 1/2 mile climb.

I told myself this must be “the hill.”  Every course has “its hill,” and this was Goosepond’s.  Ah, no problem, I love hills and this isn’t really that steep, but it was kinda long.

It was getting hot and I was dying for water.  I didn’t hydrate well the week before and my mouth was burning for liquids.  As I crested “the hill” I saw a right turn ahead that dropped me on the road to nowhere.

Another slight climb to an aid station before a very long descent that nearly made me cry when I saw people running back at me.  I made a mental note of the climb-to-come and then, for the second time in one race, broke my no-talking rule with a woman who looked like she knew the course.

“I thought this was supposed to be a flat run,” I said with that awkward, yet undeniable bond runners have as they waltz through hell and think they own the place.

“Oh, you must not know the Race Director,” she replied with that “I’m an insider” attitude that outsiders like me, Wasky, Corey, and Robbie detest.

“Ummm… well… I… uhh…. sorta…. No, I don’t,” I said knowing full well that I had exchanged dicey emails with him earlier that week.

“Yeah, he’s notorious for putting together tough run courses,” she roared with a half-out-of-breath masochism.

“Awesome!  Can’t wait to see what’s ahead,” said no one ever.

We hung together until the start of a sub-division, which also meant the beginning of another hill.  Now, mind you, none of these hills were “tough” but when you think a course is going to be flat, it’s sort of like facing a pitcher who doesn’t throw that hard, but has a great change-up.  His fastball always seems like it’s harder than it really is.

Adding to my unruly disdain was the fact that they had zero mile markers on the course.  And yes, it’s my fault for not going to the athlete’s meeting, I suppose, but give me a bone.  Even the aid station volunteers seemed unsure about their location, and since I wasn’t wearing a Garmin, I literally had no clue where I was on the course.  At one point, I thought it was mile 9 and it turned out to be mile 7.  When I hit the “real mile 9” I was toast.  That’s when my running became simply something that would get me off that god-forsaken course sooner.

This was also about the only time I saw Corey during the race and neither of us seemed particularly talkative.

Soon thereafter, I re-engaged with the treacherous cut-thru and headed for home.  Just as I cleared the scattered brush, I met with aid station volunteers who excitedly exclaimed, “Only one more mile!!!”  I looked at my chrono watch and realized I had 10 minutes to run that mile and finish under 2 hours.  Sweet!

So I pranced off at a decent clip knowing, if nothing else, I would secure a sub-2-hour half marathon after all that other crap we do in triathlons.  And I ran . . . and ran . . . and ran . . . and watched the clock tick past 2 hours . . . then 2:02, 2:03, and finally end up on 2:05.  I just ran a 15 minute mile?  Awesome.

Turns out it was about 1.5 miles, but who’s counting?

——————

Epilogue:  The setting for Goosepond was beautiful, but I haven’t perfected checking out scenery during a race.  I much prefer people yelling and challenging me to keep pushing on.  I forgot to mention the gut cramp that seized me for most of the run and the sharp knee pain I felt around mile 10, but if I hadn’t been so un-prepared I would have totally enjoyed the swim.  The bike was pretty sweet and most of the roads were nice, though I wish they would have had another aid station.  The run was tough at the back half of a triathlon, but I think it was fair.  My mind and body weren’t ready for the challenge but we all had a good time . . . I just wish we would have brought our tents and camped out for a while doing Twitter.

—————–

This is me, Wasky, and Corey celebrating after Goosepond.  CMWkona

The “Middle Half” Marathon

Before I headed down to Goosepond for an a** whoopin, I shot a video for the Middle Half in Murfreesboro.  Great little race put on by a friend of mine, Melinda Tate.  I road around on my mountain bike shooting video from different locations and edited this piece later.  Let me know if you want one to help promote your race.

My Ironman Kona Race Report

This past Saturday, I sat in a hotel room in Huntsville, Alabama and watched the live stream of Kona on my computer, and let me tell you, it felt like I was there!

Well, not really.  But it did get me pumped for the Goosepond 1/2 triathlon I was doing Sunday.

Didn’t really do that either, but it was kinda cool being in Rocket City.  Umm . . .

Yeah, so, it was me, Robbie, Corey and Wasky in two hotel rooms running back and forth with the latest gossip on the pros at Kona  all while throwing in a bit of Gordon Ramsay and Hines Ward snark for good measure.*

“Holy crap, Starykowicz is on pace to break the bike course record.”

“He’s the dude that beat us in Muncie.”

“He’ll never hold it.”

“Hines would crush you, Wasky”

“Whatever.”

“Where’s Kienle?”

“He’s around.”

I kept throwing out Ben Hoffman splits, but nobody seemed to care.  They’ll learn.

“Is that Chris McDonald commentating?”

“Yeah… he tweeted with me the other day about Spyoptic.”

Freshmen gushing at the varsity.
——————-
Robbie was basking in the sore-arm-glow of “Swimming the Suck” earlier that day.  Ten miles of open water on 5 Days notice.

Me, Corey, and Wasky were digging for energy and motivation to race Goosepond the next day.

“What’s the run course like?”

“I’m telling you, it’s PANCAKE FLAT!”

“You sure?”

“Book it.”

“I haven’t done shit since Wisconsin.”

“Join the club, brotha.”

I was NOT ready for a half triathlon but suspected Wasky and Corey, who did Louisville, were in better form.
———————-
We lounged with our laptops and watched as Frederik Van Lierde blew through the tape in 8:12:28 for his first Ironman World Championship.  That’s close to 4 hours faster than I did Wisconsin and damn near as fast as I’d do Goosepond the next day.

Well, sort of.  I did 5:35 ish.

Van Lierde’s bike was 4:25 for 112 miles.  My bike split at Goosepond was 2:36 (actually 2:40 because I got a 4:00 penalty, which I’m still steaming about . . . not really, but you can read about it here).  That 2:36 was about all I had and it felt like I was re-writing the record books.  IF I could have done that for another 56 miles (which is more than highly doubtful) I would have dismounted after 5:12, a pretty f-ing amazing time, but dude rocked a 4:25 in the crosswinds before running at 2:51 marathon?  Who are these freaks?

Then, there’s Mirinda Carfrae, who got off the bike around 10 minutes back and casually threw down a 2:50 marathon?  I’m sitting there on that comfortable ass bed in Huntsville, Alabama watching her float on air at mile 25 thinking . . . that’s the babe that tweeted at me about Brittany Spears tickets a few weeks ago.  Small damn world.

Then we gathered the backpacks and went into Goosepond for our ass-kicking.

CMWkona*  Just getting into the race is an accomplishment. Each year, more than 80,000 athletes vie for a shot to be on the starting line, but only 1,900 men and women make it.  (Source, and crappy article by the LA Times about Ramsay’s Ironman that anyone in the world with a computer could have written)

The Dreaded Drafting Penalty #triathlon

Follow me @miketarrolly

The difference between 1st and 3rd degree murder is a big one.  One premeditated, the other absent of malice.  After some genuine deliberation over the weekend, I have decided the same degrees should be assigned to bike drafting.

I didn’t realize it until the next day, but I got my first drafting penalty at Goosepond this weekend.  I had a terrible race, so it didn’t really matter, but the ONLY thing I felt good about that day was my bike.

(Full Goosepond Race Report coming soon)

My swim sucked (not to be confused with “Swim the Suck“) so I thought, hell, let’s see what kind of bike time I can put on the books.  It was a flat and fast course and, even though I hadn’t trained much since IMWI, I felt serviceable.

I wasn’t wearing a Garmin, but my bike computer hovered around 21 mph and I wanted to average at least that for the whole ride.*  I’m not much for flat courses because, even though fast, you have to pedal the whole time . . . and my legs were burning.

So, to find out later, I had been accused of first degree drafting really sucked the wind out of me.   In all honesty, I am a little salty about this situation, but am truly interested in whether or not the people handing out the penalties understand the nuances of racing.

Here is the official USAT definition of drafting:

Drafting: Drafting–keep at least three bike lengths of clear space between you and the cyclist in front. If you move into the zone, you must pass within 15 seconds. Position–keep to the right hand side of the lane of travel unless passing. Blocking–riding on the left side of the lane without passing anyone and interfering with other cyclists attempting to pass. Overtaken–once passed, you must immediately exit the draft zone from the rear, before attempting to pass again.
Penalty: Variable time penalty  (In my case this was 4:00)

This is a picture of me drafting (photo courtesy of We Run Huntsville). 2013 Goosepond Tri (185 of 585)-X2I’m not saying I never entered that “space” at Goosepond, but I was certainly not alone.  In fact, most riders creep in and out of that 3-bike-length zone at some point during a race.    Sometimes it’s just very difficult without slamming on the brakes, which can easily put the person behind you into the draft.

I like the rule, I just think “drafting” and ending up in “no man’s land” are two different things.  One is intentional, the other victim of circumstance.  It’s one thing to “move into the zone” and quite another to “end up in the zone.”

If you are tucked in aero and rolling behind someone for an extended period, that is first degree drafting.  If you come around a corner and get stuck in a tight line of cyclists going up a slight incline, what else can you do?  Draft-slaughter.

At Ironman Wisconsin for instance, there were so many people around at times it was almost impossible not to get wedged in an illegal zone for short periods.  We weren’t on each other’s wheel, but 10 – 15 people going up a long incline or descent 2-3 bike lengths apart (I believe Ironman has a 4 bike length zone) was not uncommon.  Passing that many people is just unrealistic, and probably not the best idea.  My natural tendency was to slip out of the line to the left, but then you put yourself at risk for 2nd degree blocking.

I really believe they should hand out a warning first because, not only is it that “7 meters” a judgement call, most often it’s not what the drafting penalty is really trying to stop.   In essence, what I likely did was 3rd degree drafting at the worst and should have warranted a far shorter sentence.

I’m not complaining, I’m just curious to hear about some of your experiences with drafting and the dreaded penalties that often seem so random.

*  My bike split was 2:40:26.

Swim The Suck Race Report – Guest Blog

Swimming has quickly become the most fascinating event of triathlon for me, and this story blows off the roof.  It’s written by my coach, Robbie Bruce, and is just another example of how he pushes the limit and inspires me to do the same.  Most people train all year for something like this, but Robbie signed up on a whim 5 days before the race.  His longest swim of the year was 2.4 miles.  On this day, he would swim 10. 

How a simple “Retweet” led to me swimming 10 miles: Swim the Suck Race Report

Robbie Bruce – October 14, 2013

Almost at this exact time last Monday I had finished my first official “rest week” trying to recover from a year-long achilles injury that had me either sidelined from training or racing all together. At the most, it was allowing me to rack up not just my first DNF ever but also my second, third, and FOURTH of my career. A slight intervention from basically everyone I know had convinced me to shelve my bike and run training and just rest and prepare for 2014. So I did and just decided to swim a bit. Thats when I came across a “Retweet” from my good friend Mike. It was from Blue Seventy offering up a slot to the prestigious “Swim the Suck” 10 mile OWS race in Chattanooga if you could be the first one to answer a question:  Below is a summary of how that retweet turned in to me swimming 10 miles 5 days later. (Feel free to skip down to the bottom of the page and just read about the “race” if you like)

Mon-Tue-

I answered BlueSeventy’s contest hoping I would win. 50% because as my sister can attest I NEVER win anything. Kind of a running joke in our family. The other 50% me thought it would be pretty sweet to win and what an awesome experience it would be to be able to participate in such an incredible event. I actually  thought I had a legit chance to win bc A. I was the 3rd person to respond. B. Who would be stupid enough to do something that crazy on 5 days notice C. I live in Nashville so my travel costs, logistics, etc would be minimal compared to pretty much anyone. A few hours went by and I checked, checked and rechecked the BlueSeventy twitter feed to see if an announcement had been made. Nothing. At least I still had a chance. The afternoon came around and as I was sitting in my office I got the following message:

My first thoughts were “I can’t believe I won! This is going to be so sweet!” Then it turned into “S#*t. What have I gotten myself into. How am I going to do this” I made a few phone calls to let some people know before I responded to BlueSeventy so they could check my sanity but I had already decided I was doing it anyway. http://crushingiron.com/2013/10/07/two-tweets-lead-to-a-10-mile-swim/.

You cant enter a contest like this and win and then not do it. That would be bush-league. I called the guys at BlueSeventy and then got ball started rolling. I swapped emails with Blue Seventy and Karah. I spent a majority of Monday evening and Tuesday morning memorizing the Swim the Suck website. There were a lot of logistics to figure out. My first and most important issue was to find a pilot. I posted on my athletes FB page asking if anyone would be willing to pilot for me. As luck would have it (as if I had not had enough already) Ed Rusk, who lives in Chattanooga said he would do it. We swapped a few messages and he was committed to devoting his Friday night and Saturday to pilot me. We were both entering uncharted territory. I was already heading up to Chattanooga on Wednesday to participate in the Snail Dart 1 miler and we agreed we could meet there and chat for a bit. I seriously debated doing a long OWS on Tuesday as a confidence builder. My longest swim since Ironman Louisville was 4200 meters the week before. I opted for rest and figured just do the 1miler then rest again for Saturday.

Snail Dart 1 Miler

I made it up to Chattanooga for the 1miler. Before winning the entry I was determined to go up and sprint it as hard as I could. I had never done an open water race so I was excited. Plus knowing some of the COWS members I knew it would be at least a great event and a good time after. One of my junior athletes actually invited me to the swim so my real goal was not to get beaten by a 12yr old:). About an hour or 2 before the race I decided sprinting it was not the best option as I would likely still be sore on Saturday morning. 75-80% was my best bet so that was the plan I was sticking too. I hopped in the water with Addison who is probably 25lbs soaking wet. She had to sprint upstream just to stay behind the start line. I thought to myself “Please sweet baby Jesus let it be like this on Saturday.” The race started and was over in a blink. I felt ok in the water but it was far from a confidence builder. Even the ridiculous time I put down thanks to the current did not erase any doubts I had about Saturday. Bottom line. I suck at short races. I have always said- The most painful part for me is the first 500-1000 meters. After that it just feels the same. I also got dusted by Addison:). On a happier note she took home a sweet trophy featured below.

After the race I made it over the the Springhill Suites to hang out with some of the COWS and hopefully meet some new people that would give me some advice on how not to totally drown and embarrass myself on Saturday. I have to say. I was incredibly surprised at how welcoming and outgoing the group was. I am usually surrounded by triathletes at such events and they can be “a bit less friendly” to put it mildly. Everyone I met was so nice and I basically sat for an hour like a sponge trying to get as much info as I could. Ed and I sat together and discussed a little it of “strategy” but lets be honest. We were incredibly clueless. My main objective at this point in the week was “respect.” Respect the distance. Respect the opportunity. Respect the people. Respect their views. Most of these people had been training for months and spent a good deal of money to do this race. It would be incredibly disrespectful of me to take this lightly and basically undermine the experience and opportunity afforded to me. Coming from an endurance background I always know to respect the distance. I went to bed Wed night feeling much more informed and a bit relieved from a logistics standpoint. As far as covering the distance… Not so much. I can’t thank everyone for all the advice they gave me. It was truly invaluable. You guys rock.

Thur-Fri

Thursday was more and more “planning.” My biggest fear was nutrition. How in the hell was I going to fuel for this. Outside of the distance. I knew nutrition would be my biggest obstacle. I had no idea how long I would be swimming, what my effort would be or how many calories I should take in and when. I let Ed know my “loose” nutrition plan but I figured it would change. Friday rolled around and I woke up more anxious than I have the day before any race I have ever done. I will readily admit that I was fearful. I cant remember the last time I entered a race just “hoping” to finish. I packed up my truck and headed to Chattanooga. Registration was at 5 and then the pasta dinner and mandatory meeting at 6. I usually skip both of these at races because it is usually just bad food and nervous energy. But as one of my friends put it , “Its a  good thing you are going. This is more a “life or death” kind of meeting.” I totally agreed. I also thought it would be disrespectful to just grab my packet and jet.  Ed and I both checked in and we were lucky enough to sit at a table with not only some familiar faces and friends but some Swim the Suck veterans. I can come off a bit “chill” sometimes but the longer I sat there, the more I felt like an impostor. Karah rattled off a list of names with swimming resumes that seemed like fairy tale. I felt totally out of my element. On the plus side, the food was wonderful and the company was great. If it hadnt had been for that I probably would have just driven back to Nashville. The meeting and dinner concluded and it was time to get some rest and prepare for the day. I made it back to Ed’s house and got settled in. The last thing I thought before I closed my eyes was, “If someone dropped you in the middle of the ocean and you HAD to make it 10 miles to shore. Could you do it?” The answer was “yes.” 

Race Morning-

“Fear.” That was my first thought when I opened my eyes. My heart was racing and I was incredibly anxious. I barely ate anything. I was too nervous. I piddled around quietly in the kitchen while Ed was totally under control. He had done probably a years worth of research in 3 days. Turns out Ed and I think a lot of like but in different ways if that makes sense. I hopped in my truck to follow Ed the the start line. I was still fearful and questioning myself. I spent the next 20mins trying to distract myself with my nutrition strategy. That didnt work. As we rounded a corner close to the start I saw this:

My fear was gone. My anxiety disappeared. I have always felt more at home in the water than on land. I looked at the landscape that awaited me and thought, “How can this be scary.” It was beautiful. I was in amazement. I knew at that moment I would finish. I just had to swim. What an incredible opportunity at an amazing venue. I felt incredibly lucky and blessed. I parked my truck and Ed and I met to scope out and grab our vessel for the day. Ed had made a sweet “08” fin for the back of our kayak. Here was Ed’s home and my escort for over 4:00.

After I got body marked I just meandered around. Talked with some friends. Met some new people and just tried to stay as warm as possible.

It was quite chilly.  I spent a lot of time just standing around alone looking around. It was a pretty cool scene. I had told myself I would take this as slow as possible. It was uncharted territory and failing was not an option. As the start time drew nearer my competitive side came out and I started to look at it as more of a “race”. If anything it would be a race of attrition against myself. I thought to myself, “do not let this opportunity go to waste.” We all lined up as the kayaks seemingly colored the water like a bag of skittles:

We all stripped down and got in line. It was straight up freezing. Rebecca grabbed this shot of me standing in line (very sneaky by the way) preparing to get in the water. I was not focused on the race right here I was merely focused on not shivering:

We finally hit the water to prepare for the start. Thank GOD!! It felt like a warm bath compared to the chilly air I had been standing in half naked for 10 mins. I took a few strokes to warm up and positioned myself at the very very back. I would let everyone else get out in front so I could just chill. I figured it would be easier to find Ed that way and also keep me from getting caught up in starting to fast.  The countdown started at 1:00…..

The Race-

“Everyone has a plan till they get hit in the mouth.” That is one my favorite quotes. Funny thing is that I had no plan when the gun went off. I actually thought that was an advantage. I would not know if anything was going wrong or off. I started off VERY slow. I wanted to pace myself very slowly the first 2ish miles I thought and just get in a slow “lets just finish” groove. I only had one thing on my watch, that was average pace. I did not want to know time or distance. Just swim until it was done. The only instructions I gave Ed was to let me know when 30mins was up so I could decide to feed or not. I went about 500 yards, took a breath and spotted Ed. I yelled out at him and kept swimming until he found me.  I was taking it very slowly. He let me know when 30mins was up and I turned over and called out what I wanted as I backstroked. Rolled back over and kept swimming until he came up with my nutrition. I went for some Perform drink and gel. Lets just say my first feeding was a total debacle. I tried to drink, spit it out. Tried to take in my gel spit it out. Then I peed. So basically my first feeding was a net calorie loss:). I looked to my right (towards the start), into the sun and could not see anyone. I thought, “dude. Your are in last place….”. So I went on. I began to pick up the pace around what I thought was about an hour in. I felt pretty good but was scared to pick it up to quick. The current was going strong so I thought just go slow and let the current do the work because if the current stops or slows and the wind picks up I will need the energy to just finish. Every so often Ed would pull up and point to his watch and I would either let him now the fuel I wanted or shake him off like a pitcher to a catcher and keep swimming. I packed solids, gels, and liquid for the swim. I ended up only taking in Perform, gel and coke. No solids and did not take in near as much as I thought. All in all I think I nailed my nutrition. I swam for about what I though was 2.5hrs. I popped up for a feeding and finally looked at my watch “1:09” You have GOT to be kidding me!! Ive only been swimming for a freaking hour and nine minutes. Ahhhhh. This is average pace. Thank the lord. Ed informed me we were a little over half way through. That was a big relief. I knew then I would finish. I looked ahead and saw what look like a fleet of kayaks and then back and saw about he same amount. I asked if I was about the middle of the pack and Ed said yes. I told him to aim for that pack in front and I would try to catch as many as I could. Now it was a race. My arms, chest and shoulders were on fire but I knew it could not hurt any worse than it already was so lets just get it over with already. I pushed very hard for the next hour and began to pass people up until I think mile 7-7.5. I could tell the current had slowed and the water began to get fairly choppy. I shook off Ed for a feeding bc I was trying to stay even or pass the guy next to me. Plus the water was choppy and feeding would be hard anyway. The chop died a bit and I stopped for some more coke. Thats when Ed said “Yea. The current died.” I knew the last 2.5 miles would be grueling. He told me my time and I knew I had a chance to break 4hrs which was my goal. I put my head down and just swam. Then I began to feel incredibly lonely. Breathe right. No Ed. Breathe left. No Ed. Backstroke and look behind…. No Ed. I thought well, he has either bailed on me to watch the Kona coverage or mother nature had called. Luckily enough I had a guy right in front of me with green kayak and bright green life vest so I followed him until Ed returned. I felt I was getting pretty close and kept chasing the kayaks/balloons in front. Let me just say. I love and hate those balloons. It gave you something to chase but they always seemed about 200 meters closer than they actually were. I rolled over on my back and called for what would be my last feeding. I was gassed. Totally. I almost didn’t stop in fear I would not be able to get going again. I snagged some coke and thats when Ed informed me “The finish is just right there.” Music to my freaking ears. I asked for time and he said 3:30. I decided to sprint all I had to the finish. I was determined to crack 4:00. Ed guided me on a perfect line towards the finishing buoy. 400. 300. 200. I could see the orange clearly. I was still trying to catch the balloon in front of me. Every time I took a breath and I would see Eds face. I could not tell if he was smiling or laughing at my futile attempt to catch the kayak in front of me. 100 meters.

Done. It took every bit of energy just to get my arm out of the water to slap the buoy. 3:46. I did it. I was absolutely toast. I looked on land to see all the finishers before me and thought, “All of you people are freaks of nature. Crazy and ridiculously athletic. ” By far the most difficult race I have ever done. Anyone that does that race regardless of time is an absolute stud. It is physically and mentally incredibly challenging. Finally made it out of the water to towel off and get warm. Sat around for about an hour. I cant thank Ed enough for volunteering his time to help me out. Ed. You are the man.

Cheered on fellow swimmers and talked about the experience while admiring the beautiful landscape. Here is the view from where we finished.

My Take:

One of the best sporting experiences of my life. The backdrop was incredible. The people were amazing. The course was majestic and the event itself was run perfectly. I told myself before the race this would either make me want to do more races like this or never do another one. Doing this race only once in the manner in which I lucked out this year would be like an inexperienced poker player sitting down at a high stakes poker table, playing one hand, getting lucky, then getting up and cashing out big. Thats the definition of bush-league. So having said that, I will be back next year to race for sure. Hopefully with a full deck of cards.

HUGE thank you to BlueSeventy for the entry and all the free gear. Thank you to Karah and everyone who put on Swim the Suck and all the COWS who made me feel right at home and gave me so much great advice! Last but not least Ed Rusk for piloting me!

A Half Marathon, 10 Mile Swim, and 1/2 Triathlon Weekend

This weekend will be action packed.  I’m sitting in a Murfreesboro hotel preparing to shoot video for the Middle Half Marathon in the morning.  Robbie is in a hotel in Chattanooga resting for his 10 Mile Swim.  After that ridiculous feat, he’ll drive to Huntsville to meet with me, Wasky, and Corey where we’ll spend the afternoon watching a live stream of the Ironman World Championship in Kona. Then Sunday, it’s Goosepond.  

This will be the second time I’ve shot a video for the Middle Half.  The first was two years ago and I was stressed beyond belief because running was foreign to me.  I was amazed that these crazy people were actually running a half marathon.  Sunday I will do that after swimming 1.2 miles and riding 56.  In two years I have not only overcome my fear of running, but blown it out of the water.  

The thought of swimming 10 miles blows my mind, and I’m totally stoked Robbie is doing it.  I never even heard of such a thing.  He’s a great swimmer, but ten miles?  Damn.  And it’s not like he trained for it, he signed up this week.  I don’t know what the equivalent would be in running.  I’m thinking at least two marathons?   You tell me.

Kona.  I am so stoked to watch it online.  I’ve never done that before, but hear it is awesome because the commentators know what they’re talking about and it’s not a bunch of personal stories.  More about the race.  It will be a great way to get jacked for Sunday.  

I’m very curious to see how Goosepond will play out.  I haven’t really done much of anything since Wisconsin except sleep and drop in an occasional swim, bike, and run.  They certainly weren’t long, although I did run 10 miles last weekend and can still feel it.  I haven’t decided if I am going to go after this race or let it come to me.  I guess I proved I have some patience in Wisconsin, but one of my faults (or strengths) is that I don’t do well with going slow.  It’s almost easier for me to go fast and just get it all over with, so I just hope my body feels strong on Sunday.  

The other thing that’s different is two years ago on this night I was in the hotel lobby sucking down beers the night before this video session.  After videotaping I went back to the Pub and drank the rest of the day away.  Now I’m blogging a good friend and coach who will swim 10 miles in the morning and my HALF TRIATHLON on Sunday.  I guess I really am impatient.   

5 Winning Insights for Kona from My Neighbor James

If you follow the blog, you know that my neighbor James has been a huge inspiration in my triathlon “success” over the last year, especially leading up to IM Wisconsin.  He always knows how to cut through the BS and get to the real point.  Last night, we were hanging out front and I asked him if he had any advice he could pass along to the athletes doing the Ironman World Championship in Kona.  He didn’t miss a beat. 

Guest Blog – by my Neighbor James

Look, Mike, I ain’t never been to Fiji or whatever, but competition is always spelled the same..  I been through it, bro… basketball, street fights, spellin bees, winnin ova my lil lady…  Ya feel me?  I got 5 things I always tell people like yaself and you can pass em to ya friends on the internet or Twitter or whatever the hell you do when u ain’t mowin’ ya yard.

First thing you gotta know is who you is….  If you Michael Jordan, everybody gonna be watchin.  If you John Paxson, they gonna fall asleep on u.  If you Jordan, you gotta do what you do, and shit gonna come all natural. but if you Paxson, you gotta be patient… that shot gonna come… just make sure ya ass ready.

Two.  Like dude said in Hoosiers… a Basketball court is a basketball court.  Rims the same height and you playin on wood.  Unless u grew up in my hood… and I ain’t lyin, Mike, we played on grass… but no matta… you all got the same damn court so quit talkin bout the track.

Three.  Man, I been on the beach before and u got young women all up in ya face wit them bikinis tryin to get you off ya game.  All I got to say to that is, the beach still gonna be there after u run that damn race.

Four.  Mike, I don’t care who you is, you gotta understand the game.  Man, Yogi Berra said 90% of the game is half mental and dude himself is mental, but he right as hell.  Hear me?  Cause when you up against dudes you know as good as you, talent ain’t got nothin’ to do with it.  Everybody get tired, and feel that pain, but if you don’t stop at the drug store, u gonna get home faster.

And Five.  If I was gonna look you in the eye and tell you, or James Jr. what it take to win, it would be this…  You know how sometimes you get to the place you goin and forget how you got there, or why you there in the first place?  Don’t do that shit.  Remember, man.  You came all this way and just gonna show up on some sand and forget bout that time you was in the rain thinkin bout the sand?  Man, think about the rain cuz that’s how you got ya ass on the sand.

So drop that in the bank and leave it in there till you ready to retire ya ass on a beach for a different reason.