Day four was laced with . . . well, actually it was quite pedestrian. I got up, had one cup of coffee. Then went to work and sat most of the day.
It’s Friday night and I’m gonna grab some dinner and maybe chill. So essentially what I’m planning is an “off day” during my rest period. Whoa.
Truth be told, I can really feel some shit bubbling. I’m sorta looking at the weekend and thinking, “What the f*ck am I gonna do if I don’t swim, bike, or run?” I guess that’s where yard work comes in.
On the way home I was thinking about how people work through their “stuff.” You have to go inside and deal with suppressed issues. I’m fairly certain most of the world does that, starts feeling uncomfortable, then goes back to their old habits before any of the good shit can start happening.
Bad habits take years to hone and we expect them to be gone in a couple days? That’s a tough pill to swallow.
And what do I mean by bad habits? Well, for me, it’s depending on too much sugar and other stimulation during the day because I don’t sleep that well. But I can honestly tell in the short time I’ve been meditating again, my sleep is definitely better. I wouldn’t call it a podium sleep, but it’s improving.
I’ve been generally more mellow, but with a hint of rage on the horizon. I suppose this is something similar to what we felt in our taper for Ironman. Or any taper for that matter. Shit’s going a hundred miles an hour, then you’re forced to stop and look around. Damn, you can actually see things when you sit still.
I do know one thing. Sitting at a desk is probably the worst thing in the world for endurance athletes. It cuts off circulation in your legs and I’m serious when I say I limp my way out of the office after a long computer spell. Get up and move around a little, Mike.
Sounds like Mattie may get a long walk tomorrow.
Here’s dinner . . . Salmon in parchment with fennel, oyster mushrooms, artichoke hearts, and lemon burre…
I want to be clear, these “10 Days of Rest” are far from passive. Recovery comes in many forms other than laying around (though I’ve done a bit of that, too).
While I remain cautious about over-reacting to how I feel during this stretch, I tend to pay attention to the subtle indicators. Here are three things that I’ve noticed since I’ve replaced intense activity with leg stretches, strengthening exercises, and mobility drills. Along with yoga and meditation.
1. I hear the music
I am notorious for falling into the trap of talk radio, especially sports. Yesterday I spent a ton of time driving and eventually noticed that I was listening to music most of the day. During one commercial break I flipped to sports talk . They were in the middle of some concocted argument about something insignificant and it literally made me feel dirty. I really believe music does heal and is fuel for the soul. Maybe next I’ll start noticing trees and flowers . . . nah.
2. A huge impulse to run
As I was leaving work yesterday, it was a beautiful night and I had a bounce in my step. That’s when I made the solid decision that I would run when I got home. I felt reinvigorated by the thought of a nice sweat and some good hills. I was pumped to wave at the neighbors! But then I remembered I’m resting and resisted. It’s been a while since I’ve been so eager to workout. Is youthful exuberance on the horizon?
3. Plantar Fasciitis
My heel has basically been sore since I ran Ironman Wisconsin last September. I’ve had my moments, but getting out of bed or a chair (not to mention running) has been met with consistent pain. It comes and goes, but has more or less been a constant in my life. I’ve screwed around with foot massagers and icing until my foot turned blue, but nothing gave much relief.
On Day 2 of this experiment, I noticed I wasn’t feeling that stab as much, and on Day 3, the pain was virtually gone, even in the morning. I even tested it by forcing my heel into the ground and jumping up and down. There was a very, very slight remnant, but nothing like I would have felt a few days before.
I have been doing a ton of light, prolonged stretching, and while I’m not fully convinced I’m “healed,” I do believe the heel pain was merely a symptom of something else. Losing this pain in my foot will make these 10 days well worth any sacrifice in aerobic fitness.
1. Madison is great city and well worth the extra money to stay downtown.
2. The Essen Haus has a power packed breakfast on Saturday morning. I had Walleye and Eggs.
3. Starting in the water next to the ski ramp was a good decision.
4. The swim congestion isn’t as bad as you’d think, but you will experience a lot of contact, often when you least expect it.
5. Sighting is difficult and I should have trusted the flow of the masses a little more, especially on the first leg.
6. Stay away from the first two turn buoys.
7. Somehow get to the far end of the course and pick out a sight guide for the long leg of the swim box.
8. Running up the helix is not as hard as it sounds and a great indicator of the crowd support to come.
9. If you drive the bike course, take it with a grain of salt because it seems much worse in a car. The ride is definitely hilly, but if you recover on the downhills it is a very enjoyable ride.
10. The first 20 miles of the bike had a tail wind (and I understand this is common) so you can go fairly fast and not over-extend. But don’t forget to save something for those same 20 miles into the wind at the end, because it’s brutal.
11. The “3 Bitches” are legitimately reminiscent of the Tour de France with people running along side and screaming inspiration. Soak this in on your first time through because the second loop takes a lot more focus.
12. The helix will be a sight for sore eyes after that ride.
13. When you get back into transition, you hand off your bike and basically go straight inside to gear up for the run. I expected a much longer distance and I can’t explain how much of a relief this was.
14. About half of the run loop is awesome and covered with spectators, the other half will test your mettle.
15. The run hills are not monsters, but they are definitely not easy after 112 miles on the bike.
16. There is a ton of energy on both State Street portions, engage with the spectators.
17. The out and back in the park is the worst section of the run, by far.
18. The State Capitol is the most beautiful sight in the world as you corner it for the last time and take a left turn into the Finisher’s Chute.
19. Convince as many friends as possible to come watch. They are guaranteed to have a good time.
20. You’ll be sore, and it could be the furthest thing from your mind, but seriously consider preferred sign up for next year’s race. I wish I would have.
When you grow up in an alcoholic home, you have a tendency to crave excitement. So, when I don’t start the day running through fires naked, it’s worthy of note.
A subtle, but valuable indicator is when I’m not actively thinking of coffee. It’s a sub-conscious decision that I like to interpret as a symptom of balance.
I have to be careful though, because in some ways I fear that this newly concocted “10 Days of Rest” is the excitement. Do I really feel more relaxed, or am I just more optimistic because I have a fresh stimulant?
This thought process is a blessing and a curse, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s a great base for being a triathlete. You crave new challenges and push your ass to the limits. You believe (or want to prove) you can accomplish anything you set your mind to. But, staying committed is the real battle.
On “Day Two,” I eased in without anxiety of a missed or pending workout and I swear the calm was real. I didn’t have my first sip of coffee until I got to work. Often, that is time for cup number two.
The stretching and leg exercises from the day before helped, but I had an underlying feeling meditation was having just as much or more impact on my serenity. I’ve also been reading a book called “Flow” which is a pretty intense dive into consciousness and how your state of mind can be controlled and not left to chance. (More on that when I figure out what the hell he’s talking about).
Over lunch, I repeated the pelvis and hip flexor stretches from the day before. After work, things got a little more physical.
I added push ups, pull ups, some dumb bell work, then swim catch and pull simulations with cords. None of it was overly intense. Simply a wake up call to unused muscles. As the 10 Days build, so will the weight and reps. I also did Beso ball step-ups and can feel it a little in my calves.
Race Schedule Options
After walking the dog, I pulled my new USA Triathlon card out of the mail and found some intriguing race teases in the package. Louisville is my ultimate goal, but if I get done with these 10 Days and decide I’m gonna race short courses I have an alternative plan . . . that coincidentally could all take place in Wisconsin.
June 22 – Rev3 Wisconsin Dells (Olympic)
July 20 – IM 70.3 Racine (Half – most doubtful)
August 10 – USAT Olympic Nationals Milwaukee (Olympic)
September 13 – TriRock Series – Lake Geneva (Olympic)
In reality I will probably only do 3 of the 4, but it feels like a good plan considering I would have convenient lodging for most of it and I love being home in the summer.
If, I decide Louisville is my destiny, the schedule will probably look like more this:
August 24 – Ironman Louisville
Either way is a win and I’m just gonna let it play out naturally. Of course, the third option could be spending a summer in meditative recovery, but that might make a blog about triathlon kinda boring.
I started my 10 Days of Rest yesterday, but that doesn’t mean I’m being lazy. I think it’s important to restate that this will be intense mind and body work to rebuild my foundation. I will be very active in my relaxation.
Last night I performed a fairly intense cycle of stretching and strengthening exercises. The base of the stretching is from Tim Ferriss’s 4-Hour Body book, and can be seen performed by this young man or look at this picture for a sample.
The first thing I learned (which I already knew) was that I am super tight in my pelvis and hip flexors. This is a major problem, and whether it’s true or not, I think it is basically the root of my plantar facetious (not to mention strain and stress in general). It sounds strange, but my heel is measurably better today after spending about 30 minutes with these exercises last night.
I also did a handful of planks only to realize, not only am I tight, I am weak! Crazy how you can workout so much and feel like a you can’t fight your way out of a paper bag.
Triathlon was the perfect cross train discovery for my running woes, now I realize I need to cross train the cross train. Triathlon makes you very straight-ahead-easy-pace-strong, but doesn’t round out the body as much as I need. It’s those same, repetitive motions that build the same muscles. When I was going good last season, I was doing yoga at least twice a week, along with leg exercises that worked unused muscles. But, time is a rare commodity in triathlon and something as simple as 30 minutes to invest in your long-term success becomes expendable.
So, I have no idea if this experiment will pay off, but my gut is telling me it will. It’s a little risky to drop all endurance training for 10 days at this time of the season, but health is the key to fitness and I’m hoping this slight detour will get me there faster.
I’ll probably repeat this routine a couple times today, then add some Beso ball step-ups and balance stuff, along with a full round of yoga. I’m also looking forward to incorporating a bunch of plank varieties along with push ups and modified pull ups.
Obviously this is far deeper than training. Last year’s Ironman training knocked me off a lazy and directionless foundation, and now I’m working on putting these pieces together in a way that makes sense. The “excitement” WAS Ironman. Now, I feel like I’m looking for that deep and genuine place in training (and life) that fuels me on a more natural and consistent level. Pure excitement for the day ahead, period.
I’ve been struggling again. After the high of my Rev3 race in Knoxville, I’ve hit another wall. I’m desperately searching for an answer on whether or not I should do Ironman Louisville, but think my best play is to take a step back.
There are many factors going into this decision, but the biggest is: I want to race it well. Wrong or right, I have no interest in going up to Kentucky to simply finish. With that in mind, the only solution I have at the moment is to take a break from swim, bike and run.
I’ve decided to take 10 days to focus on the “little” things that will allow me to train with a purpose and hopefully race Louisville to my standards. I will be spending a lot of time on the Beso ball, foam roller, and hopefully massage tables. I will be doing yoga, planks, and glute/hip flexor exercises. I will be walking, hiking, and skipping. And quite possibly kicking back in a hammock.
The Clock is Ticking
I already feel behind in my training and 10 days off will put me at around 10 weeks until Louisville. Ten Days for Ten Weeks.
As I contemplated this decision, I scoured the web for info on rest while training and discovered a great article with this reassuring excerpt:
Both Kienle and Crowie rest for four weeks in their off-seasons with a little alternative activity. After that period of inactivity, they build back up. That might seem like enough rest, but for a top-level pro, a six- to eight-week period of rest would be more appropriate, as Allen has shown. Allen also took a full week completely off in early August, just eight weeks prior to Kona, something that would leave most athletes insecure so close to the most important race in the calendar. He would use this week to balance body and mind, and work on his strength of character. Read the full article here.
Triathlon is 90% Mental, the Other Half is Physical
Of course I borrowed that from Yogi Berra and replaced baseball with triathlon, but the point is made, sort of. I think the real point is, just like that quote, this decision is confusing. I realize it sounds a bit ludicrous to take 10 days off right in peak season, but I also know it’s wise to stop building a house if you screwed up the foundation.
I really, really want to do this race, but it’s all coming from the ego. Either to prove I can battle through another ridiculously tough day, or to be a mule on display for friends who will be there watching. None of it is coming from the right place and the more I haphazardly train, the more jumbled the choice becomes.
If I can’t get serious about training, I’m not doing the race. I really think backing off is the only hope I have for Louisville.
Take yesterday for example. I went out for an open-ended run I thought might end up around 8 miles. For the first mile my mind was screaming stop the entire time. Somehow my legs fought it off, but that’s just not how I want this to unfold.
I did finish the 8 mile jaunt, but it felt more like survival than a training run. It seemed just as hard at the beginning as it did at the end. Not even a good hard. And if that’s how it’s gonna go, I’d rather spend a little more time in this bad boy.
If I heard it once, I heard it a hundred times, “Your neighbor is a nice guy.”
Hmm . . . “It’d be nice to meet this nice-guy-neighbor of mine,” I thought.
Technically, he lived about 3 blocks away, but as fate would have it, the day after Ironman Louisville 2013 I finally met him in the hallway of the Expo. He stood in relative obscurity despite having crushed the Louisville course a day before. First in his age group, and 10th overall.
Naturally, I had a few questions, so I introduced myself as his neighbor, then started in about my upcoming Ironman in Wisconsin. It would be my first, and certainly he would have at least one valuable tip? As it turned out, he gave me some of the best advice I’d ever received.
He was indeed a gracious neighbor and delivered the usual, “You’re ready,” and “You’ll do fine,” stuff, but after a few minutes I saw him dig deeper for a Zen reflection. Then he laid it on me.
“The thing I always try to remember during an Ironman is, never put too much stake in how you feel because it will change every 20 minutes or so.”
Hmm . . . “Don’t believe how you feel?” It sounds counter-intuitive, but on race day, it often comes down to survival and your will wears down before your body.
The ups and downs of a race are more manageable if you don’t take them literally. Ironman is the definition of “mind game” and the minute you start believing your pain or your high, you are in dangerous territory.
It’s a battle of extremes and the goal is to stay balanced. Once you jump in the water, your mind is in charge of your body but your soul controls the mind. Notice, adjust, and keep moving.
Nothing is ever as good or as bad as it seems . . . in Ironman, and in life.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t go into Rev3 Knoxville with redemption on my mind. A couple months earlier I drove to New Orleans with a sub 5:30 goal and limped in at 6:20. I went to Knoxville gunning for an age group podium in the Olympic.
Jim, Corey, Marc, and Wasky led the dinner plans on Friday night and was I loving the Market Street vibe. The Holiday Inn was a few short blocks away and re-affirmed my need, desire, and craving to lodge close to the race, preferably near a downtown.
Saturday was spent waiting for the overloaded tech crew to look at my front brakes which started rubbing in New Orleans and, in true ACA fashion, I blew it off until one day before this race.
The transition deadline was closing in and they still hadn’t looked at my bike. Luckily I was talking with the local race director who told me the other guy in our midst was an awesome mechanic (and racing for All3Sports.com). I grabbed my bike and he promptly dialed me in.
A Sleeping Miracle
By 9pm I was in bed and by 9:30 made an amazing discovery. I can actually sleep before a race!
I mean seriously, I am Notorious BAS* when it comes to pre-race rest. I slept maybe 3 hours before Ironman Wisconsin.
My list of poor sleeping performances is legendary. In fact, sometimes I am genuinely afraid of dying because I feel like I will be tossing and turning in my tomb. And trust me, I realize this probably means I’m a self-absorbed a-hole who can’t let go (and has a lot of nerve believing he will actually be buried in a tomb) but I’m working on it . . .
So . . . I slept well then woke up to the awful guitar strumming sound of my iPhone alarm at 5am on Sunday. There is no “snooze” button for me on race day. I suck it up and go. Especially considering I had consciously made that choice the night before.
What happened when my feet hit the floor may have impacted my race more than anything. I calmly eased into some light yoga. I still had 3 hours before the swim, so I let my body wake at a comfortable pace.
I didn’t feel awesome, but trusted the process while moving instinctively to poses my body craved. The intensity was minimal, but soon I was sharp enough to both remember my name, and what the hell I was doing awake at 5am in Knoxville, Tennessee.
I had plenty of time and all my gear was packed, so around 6:15, I slung my wetsuit over a shoulder, grabbed my tire pump, and made the dark and lonely trek toward transition.
Once I’d pierced the inner sanctum, I found my bike and started wondering why in the hell I brought my tire pump. I mean, I seriously asked myself, “What kind of guy brings his own pump to transition?”
Just as I uttered those words to myself the guy next to me said, “Hey, can I borrow your pump?”
I said, “It’s funny you asked that because I was just asking myself what kind of guy brings his own pump?”
“I suppose a prepared one,” he replied in a most serious manner.
You’re typically racked in the same place as your age group, so I watched carefully as what appeared to be a formidable challenger filled his tires. David, who was racing for Grim Reaper (another reason I tread lightly) had an eery calm and a confident look in his eyes that more or less said, “This race is mine.”
We exchanged small talk and I sensed he was sizing me up as well. After about 10 minutes he turned around, looked me in the eye and asked, “Okay, so what are you going to swim today?”
Ahh, the “Crushing Iron” logo was getting into his head.
“Oh, I don’t know, my swim is a wild card.”
“Well, last year I came in around 26 minutes.”
His poker face was impenetrable as we stared each other down in silence.
Finally I asked, “What about you?”
Without missing a beat he flashed a friendly smile and said, “Well, I’d like to do better than that.”
Actually, I hoped to do better than that, too, but it was not to be. I’d like to go into a long and exciting story about the swim, like this one, but it was virtually uneventful. At least (unlike last year) I was in the water when the horn sounded.
The best news of the day was that I swam steady and didn’t stop. I recently read that alone can mean the difference of a couple minutes, so I was pretty well satisfied when I climbed onto the dock and started running up the hill to the boat house.
I am typically a little wobbly out of the water, but as I ran up the ramp, I was ready for the balance beam. Solid feet, solid lungs, solid legs. I picked off a few people on the short hill but as I tried to pass one more before we turned out the side door of the boat house, things got a little dicey.
My body drifted to the left, slowly losing all control, then I slammed into the door jam with my shoulder. I remember thinking, “Great, that’s my bad shoulder,” then hoping by some miracle the collision would somehow fix my other problem.
I started to feel sorry for myself, but remembered there are millions of starving kids and war and poverty and depression and disease and unhealthy relationships and people who can’t walk across a K-Mart. I repented, but solved zero of those problems as I ran up the blacktop path to mount my bicycle.
I had WAY too much crap on my transition towel. My back pack, tire pump, two pairs of socks, arm warmers, leg warmers, two pairs of gloves, a hat, a visor, and a stack of senior pictures. I looked down in disgust, then thought back to the pro transition I’d just witnessed. They grabbed their bikes and ran out of transition naked as j-birds.
I was rolling up arm warmers and jacking around with gloves, it was a mess. I decided to pass on socks and left my arm rollers dangle like the wide wrist bands Ivan Lendl used to rock.
THE WEATHER WAS PERFECT, and I was layering for an ice storm. I was embarrassed, and frankly, a little pissed at myself.
I love the Knoxville bike course. You sorta tool out along the river, then jump on a freeway, then slide into some cool neighborhood roads, then climb a couple tough hills and come back.
My strategy was to attack. The problem was, the legs weren’t ready to party. I did my best to shred the climbs and recover on downhills, but just didn’t have the same juice I was used to last year. It may have something to do with the fact that I’ve only been doing intermittent one-hour trainer rides for a couple months.
I road at just over 20 mph and was reasonably happy with that, but I’ve got a lot of work to do.
The last 5 miles I noticed an age group battle building. He passed me, then I’d pass him. Back and forth. A challenge of wills. A mental game that stretched our limits and would lead to combat in the trenches once our feet returned to soil.
We entered transition mere seconds apart and I beat him to the run. But not more than 15 seconds later he saddled up beside me to say, “Wow, that was a hell of a bike. You kept passing me at the end and all I could think was, I hope he’s not a good runner.”
I was still gimpy, but did my best to smile before saying, “We’ll see!”
For a brief second I got a little boost of cocky adrenaline. I’m thinking, THIS is the challenge I’ve been waiting for. Yes, I will show this guy that I AM a good runner.
I was stiff and shuffling, but mentally ready for the challenge. I had flashbacks of the Ironwar in Kona between Dave Scott and Mark Allen. And today it would be me and this guy! A guy I didn’t know, but soon everyone will know and we will be forever linked to the Knoxville RevWar!
That’s when, and I swear on a stack of religious paper, he smiled at me and said, “Good luck,” before literally leaving me in the dust. He was gone. I mean like two blocks away before I spun my race belt to the front.
So much for the RevWar, but around mile one I felt like I was on my game and slowly picked up the pace. When I hit the 3 mile turnaround, I knew I was golden. I also knew my Pearl Izumi Streaks (which they no longer produce but can still be found) make a difference in the way I run. The lazy shuffle was gone and I was actually running, well.
This was also the first time I wore a Garmin for a triathlon. Corey was nice enough to set me up on Multi-sport the night before. It worked great on the bike, but somehow I screwed it up coming out of transition. The only thing I could see on my watch was a black line. No pace, no mileage, no nothing. So I just ran.
The coolest thing about this run was that I made a decision to force myself to do pick-ups. Every half mile or so I would sprint for about 30 seconds, re-training my legs to move faster. And every time I slowed to my normal pace it felt easier. Sprint, back it down. The reason I did this is because I haven’t been doing speed work and my legs are in a comfort zone. It genuinely makes me optimistic.
I turned the last corner to head down the chute and saw the finish line. I crossed proudly with my arms in the air . . . and that’s when I saw him sitting on the chair in front of me. David, my bike-rack rival, beat me.
He offered the chair next to him and I congratulated him on a fine race. We reveled in the comraderie of sportsmanship for a minute, then I looked at his calf and realized he wasn’t even in my age group! All of that pain, drama, and stress for nothing. Then, a different guy came up to me (this one in my age group) and told me I passed him on the very last stretch. I had no idea.
We all hobbled to the monitor and I punched in my bib number, 817. There were a lot of numbers, but the only one that mattered was “3.” I got third place and would be standing on the podium after all.
On the way to work I listened to an interview on 104.5 The Zone with former University of Tennessee and Dallas Cowboy football player, Dwayne Goodrich. His story is one of tragedy and triumph. Charged with vehicular manslaughter for killing two people, he went to prison and it gave him a lot of time to think.
The interviewers asked all the tough questions, and Goodrich didn’t run away. He has owned up to what he did, but puts all of his energy into being a better person and helping others do the same. In the end, he hopes to get this simple message across to young people: Your choices define your consequences.
As I walked across the parking lot at work I thought, “Hey, I’m a ‘young people,’ I should really think about this.”
How does a young person like myself make the right choice? And is it really possible to control consequences?
He talks about how our habits, giving, reactions, words, work, ideas . . . everything is choice. And they all bring consequences.
For me this all points to being aware and consciously in the moment. Too often I find myself “somewhere else” and doing things on impulse. Mowing down a bag of chips or haphazardly running out the door dehydrated and tense.
Preparing to be Prepared
Triathlon training is a delicate balance and a great way to learn the value of making good choices. Relentless workout schedules and a constant need for fuel can be a good recipe to get off track.
One of the biggest mistakes I consistently make is not being prepared for my workout. Often it’s because of poor diet or hydration, but mostly it’s because I don’t make time to be ready.
I’ve played sports my entire life and every single time I stepped onto the field, I warmed up before the game. Even if it’s “just a workout,” it’s still a taxing event and the body doesn’t go from zero to sixty without consequences.
On the Saturday before my Sunday race at Rev3 Knoxville, I went to the river for my practice swim around 1:00. Without thinking about it, I put on my wetsuit, jumped in the water, and started swimming. Seven hundred yards later I held onto the edge of the pier and floated for 10 minutes. I felt like I got hit by a Mack Truck. I didn’t “think” I swam that hard, but I was breathing heavily and a little off balance. This is what happens to me. It’s always happened to me. I seemingly never learn.
But I did learn.
Preparation Pays Off
Before the race on Sunday, I made the choice to get up earlier than necessary and spent a good 45 minutes easing my body into being awake. I spent time on the foam roller, did yoga, and meditated. I was preparing to be prepared.
When I got to the Swim Start I focused on loosening my arms and getting the blood into my upper body. I kept moving and added light stretches. I jumped into the river as soon as I could and did some easy swimming to acclimate to the water.
I’ve screwed several races by bastardizing the swim, but Sunday was a perfect example of making a choice to be ready, and it paid off. I eased into the swim, bike, and run that day, and the payoff was feeling stronger at the end of each event.
I made one choice and it delivered a string of positive consequences. I’d imagine that can also work in reverse.