Ironman Louisville 54 Days Out #IMLOU

 

Ironman training ebbs and flows, often leaving you with doubt.  I’m almost certain I was further ahead at this time last year and yesterday’s run was a wake up punch to the gut.

That said, two weeks ago I felt like I may have been ahead of last year’s training, certainly from a mental standpoint.  So, which indicator is accurate?  How much stock should we put in a workout?

One thing is certain: My speed is down.  Just over a year ago I ran a 1/2 marathon at 7:38/mile and a 10k at 7:10.  Yesterday, it was all I could do to mix in two miles at 7:30 over the course of six.

So, how do I move the meter?

The difference seems to be in my lungs and for me that signals a need for more swimming.  Probably more running.  And speed work.

My legs feel healthy and strong, but I have to move my aerobic threshold, and quickly.  Especially if I want to make Louisville a special day.

It’s weird thinking back to how I felt last year.  The following is from a post I wrote 67 days before my first Ironman:

What I have learned in this relatively short period of time is that you should never doubt your potential.  I have transformed from a couch potato into a spirit that believes he can complete 140.6 miles of swim, bike, and run in one day.  If that’s possible, what isn’t?

So, I stare down the Ironman barrel again.  I am no longer a couch potato, but I have my doubt.  Doubt about whether or not I can tackle this beast on my terms.

Ironman mirrors life as an exercise of patience and belief.  I may not feel it now, but I have to have faith my path will allow me to be ready in 54 days.

I will stand in that line ready to do something most would never consider.  I will swim 2.4 miles, bike 112, then run my second marathon.  I will do it on my terms.

I am slower than I was a year ago and my goal is to be an hour faster.  The ultimate test awaits.  Am I willing to do what that takes?

With the right momentum, and right mind, the human spirit is unstoppable.

HUMANSPIRIT

 

 

 

Vegas Can Throw A Wrench in Training #IMLOU

I’ve been back from Vegas for two days and haven’t written in six.  It was a long week of hanging out in a hotel, listening to Power Points, and eating banquet chicken.  Time to regroup and focus on Ironman Louisville.

Mirage Las Vegas Pool
That’s me on the far left of the hotel billboard.

I flew home Friday and capped it off in style with a pizza and no workout.  I spent one day on a spin bike in Vegas, but other than a little floating in the pool, I made no progress on my triathlon skills.

Saturday I hit the Nashville YMCA pool and it was underwhelming.  I may have hit 1,200 meters before throwing in the towel.

I did, however enjoy my new Roka SIM shorts and even gave a sales pitch in the men’s shower, which is always a great place to ham it up with fellow inmates.  The gentleman was fascinated by the neoprene shorts and said they looked like they wouldn’t fill up with water like his current brand.  I assured him they wouldn’t and pointed to my ass logo when he asked where he could get some.

“See this?  It’s a Roka SIM short.”

“Oh.”

So, either ROKA made a sale or he got a cheap thrill.

Saturday afternoon I climbed on the Gary Fisher and rolled out for my infamous 6-6-6 trail ride.  Six miles on trails, 6 beastly hills in Shelby Park, then six more on trails to home.  It’s about 18 miles and kicked my ass.

It’s now Sunday and I’ve basically laid around like a sloth again.  I was ready to get up and knock out a road ride, but it started pouring.  Now I’m contemplating the bike trainer and many, many other things that are weighing heavily on my mind.

Louisville is 55 Days away and I couldn’t feel more unprepared.  Hopefully there will be a dramatic change this week.

 

Training for The Heat of Ironman Louisville

 

Yes!  I know it will be hot, and if you have been reading, you surely understand that I will stop at nothing to figure out ways to deal with pain and difficult conditions.

Yesterday was a perfect preparation day for Louisville.  Sticky humidity and temps in the mid-80s.  I took full advantage.

My legs were nice and cooked after Saturday’s 77 mile bike on Natchez Trace, so Sunday was a good test.  I was sorta thinking a morning run, but opted for rollerblades.  It was around 10 am, sunny and heating up fast.

I rolled into the Energy Lab and did some relatively easy recovery work, then added a couple hard intervals at mile 8 and 9.  I cruised back home after about an hour and 15 minutes.

But the real fun happened later that afternoon.

About six hours after my skate, I yanked on my Yankz and went out for a tempo run.

I was sweating hard at mile one and noticed a slight problem.  My feet were burning up!

For some reason I wore thick, high-ankle hiking socks and stopped to take them off.  But as I stood there, feet burning, I decided to indulge the suffering.

It was, after all, a training run, and here was a good chance to feel and work through the inevitable burning feet.  Let me tell you, it was not easy, but about three miles in, I became “accustomed” to that pain and it no longer distracted me from the mission.

So, those three miles were a “warm up” before launching into my first 5k pace tempo mile.  It lasted about 800 yards.

Combined with everything else, the heat was too much.  I backed off and and tried to keep what I hope will be my race pace at Louisville for the rest of the run (9 miles total).

It was difficult to keep that pace, but it always got easier if I relaxed.  You see it all the time.  People breathing so damn hard, fighting their run.  Pushing off with force, just trying so hard to make one more step.  But like my favorite poet always said, sometimes it’s better when you “Don’t try.”

I consciously let go of resistance and focused on letting tension leave my body.  I shortened my stride and controlled breath.  It’s an odd juxtaposition, but if you can figure out how to relax while you’re running (or swimming or biking) it’s often easier to go faster.

This is what I call training.  It’s not fun.  It’s not easy.  In fact, it can suck.  But the whole goal of preparing for an Ironman is to be ready for these tough moments.  You beat up your legs, push yourself to the edge, then see if you have what it takes to go over.

Working out on tired legs in less than optimal conditions is how you get better.   It’s how you build strength, toughness and speed.  It’s how you finish Ironman on your terms.

Now, I will recover for a bit and repeat.

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Ironman Bike Training

 

My college roommate called me Friday to see if we could connect in three weeks when he takes his daughter to Bloomington, Indiana.  He was a hockey and baseball teammate of mine and a really good athlete.  He still plays adult hockey on occasion, and pretty well, but I think that’s the extent of his activity.

I suggested maybe we could meet in Louisville because I’m thinking about going to ride the Ironman bike course before the race.  He thought that sounded great, then casually added, “I could probably just do the bike with you.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this or something similar from people.  “I don’t think I could do the swim, or run a marathon, but I could do the bike.”

I used to be nice, but now my stock answer is, “No you couldn’t.”  And that was the exact response I gave my friend.

“I love you, buddy, but you can’t hang on that ride.”

“Oh, come on, man, I ride my bike sometimes.”

“No.”

I have a semi-legitimate biking history, and over nearly two years of Ironman training, I’ve come to believe the bike may be the hardest of the three.  Or certainly the most deceptive.  Riding 25 miles or maybe even 50 is reasonable for someone who doesn’t bike a lot, but after that, and especially if you are really riding, it’s gonna crush you.

I have a lot of good friends who are in excellent bike shape and it still takes up to 7 hours to finish 112 miles.  It’s just a grueling road and if anything goes wrong it can be miserable.

Frankly, if you’re not in shape, it hurts.  Your ass hurts, your legs, your back, etc and your body screams to get off that hard saddle.  You can only coast so much.

The good news is, I rode 77 hard-ass miles on Natchez Trace with my coach on Saturday.  Even better news was, I felt good enough on Sunday to rollerblade 13 miles in the morning then run 9 later in the day.  It was sweltering hot and both days were a great prep for Louisville.

Cycling on Natchez Trace

 

 

4 Things I Learned About Swimming Today

I’ve always loved swimming, but for some reason can only “figure it out” in very short stretches — and rarely remember what I’ve discovered.  Sometimes it feels easy, but way too often it sends my pulse through the roof.

Today at the lake was one of those days when everything clicked.  I just hope I can remember this stuff.

The Pool Tricks You

It’s very hard for me to relax in a pool, but today I was completely chill as I glided through a 7-800 yard warm up in the lake.  It felt amazing from the beginning:  I eased in, found a groove, and just kept going.

In between the drills that followed, it dawned on why a pool feels different.  Likely because I’m always turning around then scrambling to re-find the stroke I just found.

I guess I knew that, but the even bigger discovery is this: Short laps in a pool have a tendency to deceive me into thinking I’m close to the end, which subconsciously pushes me to “finish” each length.  I think this totally explains how I can occasionally be gassed after my first 200 meters.

Not only that, if you think about it, swimming in a pool is like running a 5k on a football field by doing 50 laps to the back of the end zone and back.  It would probably be a great workout, but tough to find a running rhythm.

Swimming is Not Diving

Every time I hit the pool, there is always some A-hole effortlessly gliding by while I fight the water.  I’ve always suspected drag and it finally occurred to me that I may be diving too deep on my entrance.  Ie… my hand goes too far down after it hits the water.  That pretty much means my entire arm, shoulder, head, and chest go under water, which is not good when you’re trying to stay on top of it.

I’ve heard that a lot of people do this because it “feels like” they are working more productively.  But we’re fighting the water and it’s really hard to get a higher stroke count because you’re pulling with far more force than necessary.

So, I focused on keeping my hand and elbow higher in the water, which can also be a problem because you get sucked into “gliding,” so I made sure to work a quick stroke count.  It seemed to click and I was moving smoothly with a quick and effective pull.  The best part was, it also felt easier to keep my breathing under control.

Lake Water Feels Better

Cialis-Bathtub-Commercial-380x227Is it just me or does walking into a lake on a warm summer morning feel like a Cialis commercial?

The very second my to hit the water, I felt like a different person.  Something about the fresh air and the water being in tune with nature changed my entire perspective.

Being in a lake is like exploring.  No rope, no concrete, and no chlorine.  The sun re rejuvenates your body with each stroke and I honestly feel like lake water forms around your body differently.  Like it’s not as heavy or something.

New Gear is Like Crack

As a bonus I wore my new ROKA SIM shorts and they really felt nice.  They simulate the effect of a pull buoy, but let you swim naturally.

For some reason new gear always pumps you up and I can really see how they will help me learn to relax and get a better rotation in the water.  If you decide to get some, please let them know Crushing Iron sent you.

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Photo by Sarah Shearer

 

 

 

New ROKA Swim Gear!

If you didn’t think I was serious about Louisville . . . think again.  I am on another spending spree, and this time I voluntarily paid to endorse ROKA.  Yes, so if everything works out right, they will be riding the Crushing Iron wave all the way to Ironman Louisville.

Pictured below are the amazing SIM shorts and Viper Swimskin.  I’m planning on using the shorts at the lake in the morning . . . if I wake up in time.  I’ll probably post a review soon.  ROKA’s newest athlete, signing off.

 

SIMshortsswimskin

You Know As Much As Your Doctor

 

I used to play competitive softball.  Yeah, I know, that sounds like an oxymoron, but this shit was intense.  Our team had a tour bus and we’d drive all over the Midwest to drink cases of beer at night, then shake off hangovers to face the best of the best.

Our home field was in Rockford, IL, but our weekends took us to Detroit, Minneapolis, Louisville, Cincinnati, St. Louis and many points in between.  Most of our team was made up of ex-minor league or college baseball players.  I played shortstop, and we won a ton of tournaments.

One summer we drove 6 hours to play in the USSSA Regional tournament in Louisville with 69 other teams.  It was double-elimination and even if you didn’t lose, you still had to win 6 games in two days, and that’s exactly what we did.

We were called the Shockers, and we absolutely rolled through the bracket that weekend winning every game by 10 runs or more.  Everything was clicking.  In the semi-final, I took a throw at 2nd base to turn a double play and felt something go wrong with a finger.  I pulled my glove away and the ring finger on my left hand fell limp.  It didn’t hurt but was clearly jacked up.  I thought it was dislocated so I jammed it back into socket.

While we waited for the next game, my finger started to swell.  It was hard to put on the glove and even tougher to hold a bat, but I played the and celebrated a regional championship.  We boarded the bus with our big trophy and headed home with about 5 cases of beer, many of which went in my belly to subdue the pain in my finger.

By the time we got home it was midnight, and I had been sleeping for the last hour.  My entire hand was swollen, but I was so tired, I didn’t really care.  By morning it was the size of a softball.

I went into an Immediate Care type joint where the “doctor” took some x-rays and concluded it was sprained.  He gave me a splint that reminded me of a Popsicle stick and I was on my way.  By the end of that day I was pounding Advil and icing the shit out of my “sprained” finger.

This went on for about a week until I decided something was seriously wrong.  I drove to the emergency room and by great fortune one of Rockford’s best orthopedic surgeons was on shift.  He took x-rays and came back in with a very long face and said, “We need to get into surgery as soon as possible.  Like tomorrow!  You have a torn tendon and a shattered knuckle!”

I was like, holy fuck.  No wonder this hurts so bad.

We scheduled surgery for that week and I coped with the pain.  Then he called and told me we’d have to push it back a few days.  Then a week.  And another week.  I didn’t flop on the operating table for nearly 4 weeks after the injury and to make a very long story short, my tendon had atrophied to a point that I still have a curl in that finger.  It works and doesn’t hold me back from much, but there has been a constant, subtle nagging ever since.

I was never a big fan of doctors and that was the nail in the coffin.  That was probably 15 years ago and I have only been to the doctor a couple times since then.  Once for a broken foot, the other for something I can’t remember.  I just don’t trust them much and feel like illness is something we innately understand.

Back in college I had a business professor from London.  He used to rant and rave about American health care and offered this in defense of socialized medicine.

“You see, if someone goes into the doctor’s office in England with the sniffles, the bloody doctor will kick him in the behind and tell him to go drink some fluids.  They don’t put up with psychosomatic illness.”

That always resonated with me, especially several years later when I watched my grandmother squander a small fortune on pills over the last 5 years of her life.  Her doctors literally turned her into a junkie.  She’d sit at the dinner table pulling out pill after and I wondered when she would be healed.

It never happened, of course, and eventually she fell prey to years of poison.  A sad ending to one of the most caring people I’ve ever met.

Grandma was also depressed at the end, and who wouldn’t be when your nutrition comes from a pill box?  The older I get, the more I realize that it’s okay to be depressed.  People get depressed.  The problem is, we don’t realize that sad can be a good thing.  It’s telling us something.  But society wants it to mean everyone is fucked up.

This is one of many reasons I am strongly opposed to health care as we know it.  One misleading “study” after another is broadcast like gospel from any media outlet that can get their hands on it.

“It’s gold, Jerry!”

My theory on health has always been pretty simple.  Pain is your friend.

If something seems wrong, change it.  If you are tired all the time, cut back on sugar and coffee, exercise and eat lighter foods.  If you’re cold, move around and eat something that burns hotter in your body.  If you have a fever, rest and let it work its way out.  If you drank 12 beers last night, it will probably affect how you feel for the next several days.  Just because your head hurts, doesn’t mean you need surgery or “meds” that will make you more dehydrated.

These are the kinds of things I always try to remember with endurance training.  We’re always on the verge of extreme dehydration, so I drink more fluids than I think I need.  I never underestimate rest and recovery.  I focus on the cause of my nagging injury, not just the symptom.

I stay in the moment.  I visualize success.  I keep the faith.

In short, I think about the body and mind as one, and rarely trust someone who wants to give me drugs.  Oh, and if I think I broke a bone, or something more serious, I go to the emergency room.

 

 

How Far Should I Run Before Ironman?

The longest run of my life before Ironman Wisconsin was 14 miles.  Now that I’ve signed up for Louisville, I have to decide if that was a solid plan.

When I got off the bike at Wisconsin the Finisher’s medal was 26.2 miles away and step one would be just as painful as the last.  That run was 90% mental and my real goal is to bring that percentage down to 50.

I have to be confident

Having never run a marathon, I was skeptical and concerned about going that far.  But now I believe I can run an Ironman marathon at a 10 minute pace and that confidence is critical.

I made the decision not to run the distance while training because I thought it would hurt more than help, but in the back of my mind I was pretty sure I “could” do it when faced with the ultimate challenge.  Especially with the energy of the race and I’m putting a lot of stock in the crowd again (although the people that talked me into this are moving now).

I have to be patient

A guy I know absolutely crushed Ironman Louisville (tenth overall) last year and ran the marathon in 3:21 with an average pace of 7:40.  But what stood out was his first split.  Off the bike he averaged 9:17 for the first 2.5 miles.  That’s all confidence . . . and patience.

I think a lot of people get caught up in the “race” part of Ironman.  Sure, it’s timed and you’re racing, but I don’t want to confuse that with shooting out of the gate like a loose cannon.  The excitement can sweep you away and most of us should really ease into each event.

Our bodies are amazing, but we have to be patient with their design.  We are using different muscles for each discipline and it takes a while for our system to figure things out.  For me that means at least 500 yards in the swim, 15 or so miles on the bike, and at, oh, let’s say 2.5 miles on the run.

I must  have faith

I know a lot of really good runners who’ve been obliterated on the Ironman marathon.  I don’t care how good of a runner I am, if I don’t navigate the bike course at my desired time with a lot left in the tank, my run is “screwed.”

How much more can it hurt?  At some point the body just says, “Okay, as long as you keep it right here I’m good for unbelievable lengths.”

My gut is telling me to go crazy on the bike and skates for the next couple months and take my chances with the run.  When you’re training for Ironman there are a million questions, sometimes you just have to believe.

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Ironman Louisville?

These were some thoughts I was having before I signed up for IM Louisville.  Nothing amazing here, but interesting to see where I was with this decision about a month before I made it. 

Memorial Day weekend, and time for a decision.

I have been stewing on this for months.  Do I bring it back with Ironman Louisville or rest a year and sign up for Chattanooga or Wisconsin again?

Sometimes you have to write it out and that’s what I’m doing right now.  As I look at that above paragraph it suddenly sounds stupid to do Wisconsin again before I try another race.  I mean, I loved that race, but there is a major draw to Louisville.

It will be hard, hot, and painful.  It will change my summer.  It will force me to ride the Trace, which I love and hate.  It will tease me every day.  It will change how I make decisions.  It will seep into my veins.

There’s a lot of things at play here, but the key variable is that I just don’t feel like racing for the sake of it.  I don’t want to go there and be slower.  I fight with that on several levels, especially when I’m trying to be more and more Zen in my lifestyle.

I did 11:58 at Wisconsin and if I sign up for Louisville, I would likely have a much loftier goal.  With that, of course, comes pressure.  Or not.

I just did an Olympic and it felt pretty awesome, but Ironman is 4 times that distance.  Four.

Ironman Louisville Swim Start

 

Today You Have A Chance To Be Great

A coaching friend of mine has always seemed to connect to endurance training on a different level.  It’s a more inclusive approach that goes beyond assigning workouts and mileage.  I’ve recently asked him to contribute to Crushing Iron with a regular voice that will surely motivate and inspire with simple, yet powerful concepts that resonate on a more integral level.  Below is the first edition of Crushing Iron Coach’s Corner. 

Coaches Corner: Today You Have A Chance To Be Great

In a world where we obsess and over-analyze our past races, or races a year away, the biggest casualty is today.  And today is your chance to be great.

Giving our best right now isn’t nearly as glamorous as “talking” about an event we haven’t completed, but it’s how we get there.  What is attractive is what happens when you put days, weeks and months of “today’s” together.

Do your best today.  Then forget about it and be your best tomorrow.  Repeat and stay present.  That’s where improvement lies.

percy priest lake