Country Music Marathon – Nashville, TN

Not many endurance sport activities are more awkward than “running along to support someone in a marathon,” and that’s what I did this weekend in Nashville.

I’ve run exactly two marathons, both at the end of Ironman, and Saturday I jumped on the Country Music Marathon course at Mile 18 to support my friend Mark for his last 8 miles.  By then, he was a veteran soldier and I was a well-rested, baby-faced-rookie dishing my new-aged arsenal of annoying cliches.

“You look great, buddy!”

“You got this!”

“Your tougher than this course!”

“Car up!”

Most of my inspirational quotes were met with a soft grunt or groan, but I know he appreciated my company.

It’s just so weird!

Last year at Ironman Louisville I had a someone join me at the 13 mile turnaround and I literally didn’t remember who it was.  I was telling this story to one of my buddies on our Wednesday night group runs.

ME:  “Yeah, I was so out of it I could barely stand up and some guy was walking with me, asking me all kinds of stupid questions and trying to get me to talk about LIFE when all I wanted to do was lay in an ice bath.”

HIM:  “That was me, you asshole!”


So, that’s how I felt when I was running with Mark.  It’s kinda like trying to cheer up a heavy sleeper the minute they wake.

I’d been running for two miles when he hit mile 20.  A spring chicken cruising at a pace just out of Mark’s comfort zone.  “We’re gonna have to slow down a bit, man.”


In retrospect, it was fine and I’m sure it helped him, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that I felt like a party crasher who didn’t bring a dish to pass.

Three miles from the finish line we saw a woman lying in the fetal position on the side of the road.  She had her left arm in the air with a “thumbs up,” like she was in great shape.  She was not.

I kneeled down to touch her shoulder and asked if she was okay.  She rolled over onto her back with a thud and said, “I’m from Canada, it’s sooo hot!”

I held her hand and her body temperature was through the roof.  My fingers must have felt like ice cube on hers and I told runners to send back help.

“It’s just so hot,” she said in a distant voice, then she said, “I’m gonna get sick,” before turning away to do just just that.

It didn’t look good, but she still had a sense of humor, so it calmed me a bit.  She was also a little salty about bonking so close to a PR.  It wasn’t meant to be.

I ceremoniously removed her race belt and fastened her watch around it. I had no idea what to do other than just be there while we waited.

Two cyclists came to the rescue with full bottles and a pack of ice to hold on her forehead.  Eventually an ambulance showed up and they put her on a stretcher.

As they slid her into the van, I heard her ask, “Can you at least let me run through the finish line?”

The EMT smiled and said, “Let’s just work on standing up first, Jill.”

Her name is Jill Libby and I would love to hear how she is if you know her.


As the ambulance pulled away, I wished I had asked her to cut off her timing chip and let me run it through the finish line.  Hopefully there wasn’t too much worry at home.

And Mark did just fine without me.  Battling the last 3 miles to finish his first of two marathons this year.  I’ll be running his next one, but it will be at the end of Ironman Chattanooga.



Pool Lane Sharing Etiquette

Countless times I have been the guy, standing patiently at the end of the pool, hoping the gentleman or lady swallowing one of the two lanes at the East Nashville YMCA would do the right thing.  Depending on the pool, I learned sharing-offers from in the water can be few and far between.  I vowed quickly not to be that guy.

Today, I was lucky enough to get my own lane (it’s a lot easier when you don’t have a job and go at 3:00).  I’ve been winging workouts lately, so I stared at the water and decided I would simply swim 2,000 without stopping.  Sometimes you just want to see if you have distance.

I warmed up slowly and by lap 10 I felt outstanding.  I mean, it was one of those grooves where I barely felt like I was breathing.  Just cruising along against the odds of gravity and resistance.

This feeling continued through lap 32 and I couldn’t have been more excited.  I was visualizing that river in Knoxville and eating up the downstream assistance on my way to a Challenge Knoxville podium.

Lap 33 was heaven . . . until I hit the far wall to turn around.  That’s when it happened.

Suddenly, the lifeguard was blowing his whistle uncontrollably.  The shrieking sound cut through my ear plugs, but I kept swimming thinking it was some tomfoolery in the play area. But he didn’t stop, so I sighted him in the chair and he was pointing right at me.  I did that little dog-paddle-slow-down, lost my pull buoy, and awkwardly sank under water in the deep end.

“What???, I asked in a confused but semi-salty tone as I came to the surface.

“I need you to share this lane with her.”

“What???,” I asked in a confused but semi-saltier tone as I sunk again.

“Can you share your lane with her?,” he said pointing to the end of the lane.

“Dude, really?  You’re stopping me in mid-swim to ask if I’ll share?  Of course I will.”

I pulled myself together and side-stroked to the end.  My groove was gone, my temper was tested, and my desire to quit the East Nashville pool once again pierced my frontal cortex.

I assured my new lane-mate I was happy to share and pushed off to finish my forty.  Three laps later, I was right back in the pocket.

When I pushed off the far wall on lap 37 I heard the whistle again.  This time it was more urgent, maybe even multiple whistles.  It sounded like the pool might have been on fire.

By the time I surfaced and started to slow down I felt another body swimming right over the top of me.  Now, thanks to my coach’s intense open water training, contact doesn’t bother me, but when I came up for air, I realized it was the other lifeguard.  She kicked me in the head, then jumped the ropes like she was saving someone.

My anger turned to fear as I sunk below the water to see if someone was at the bottom.  I held the edge and scanned the water for someone struggling to survive.  It was a scary moment that humbled me in an instant.

I was dazed, confused, and losing my mid-swim high when the same lifeguard who asked me to lane-share walked up and said, “It’s okay, it’s okay, it was just a lifeguard test.”

I couldn’t believe it and gave him the kind of glare that makes my dog sheepishly wag her tail.  “Seriously??”

I gathered my composure, tread water for a second, then launched my pull buoy the length of the pool at my gym bag.

Yeah, I was that guy and immediately regretted it.

I walked to the end of the lane and waited for my “lane-mate.”  I told her I love to share lanes and wasn’t dissing her on purpose.  She told me it was fine, and that I only swam about 4 laps while she waited.  I must have been in a zone because I have no idea how I didn’t see her, especially because I don’t do flip turns.

I stared at the ceiling and decided thirty six and a half laps would be enough for the day.  I climbed out of the pool, then slowly walked to the lifeguard . . . and apologized.


The Power of Running

I’m sitting here in my home office watching the Boston Marathon and, as usual, it’s blowing me away. The fact that so many people care about running and/or watching this race is a testament to human spirit.

How so many could fall in love with something so painful was always a mystery to me, but now that I am a runner, I understand it goes far deeper than the activity itself. The pain is a prerequisite to growth.

It’s about the feeling, the challenge, the quest.  It’s one piece of the life-puzzle that keeps us on the right side of our dreams.

Yesterday, I took off on a run with no intention.  It could have been 3 miles or 15, but I guessed I’d land somewhere in the middle.  I hit mile 3 as I entered my favorite abandoned-airport and it started to rain.  By the time I was on the lonely runway, the sky drenched me.

My instinct was to turn back and head home, but after a few strides, I was genuinely unsure whether or not I had gone to heaven.  The cool rain washed my skin and I felt unusually clear and in the moment.

I have this tendency to seek childhood feelings, and in the middle of this monsoon I was back on the playground without a worry. Completely alone in the sandbox as I circled the one mile loop.  It was truly surreal gazing into the pouring rain and stomping in warm puddles with every stride.  My mind was free and my body responded with four more miles.

I found a running groove for the first time this year and seemingly floated at a pace far faster than I anticipated.  It was gliding more than running.  No one watched, no one cared, and I imagined the home stretch at Boston with fans cheering my will to dig deeper.

Nothing mattered other than being the best me at that moment, and frankly, I think I was.


Your IRONMAN Videos Are In Jeopardy

Your IRONMAN Videos Are In Jeopardy

Hang with me as I tell this little story about AC/DC, my love for their music, and how their record label Sony Music Entertainment is throwing a wrench in my enjoyment of making free triathlon videos for all of you.  

“Highway to Hell” was one of my first album purchases.  My friends and I would blast both sides over and over for hours in my basement while sneaking beer from the downstairs fridge. It was the first of many times I would buy that album in several formats.

After “Highway to Hell,” I went back in the AC/DC catalogue and bought “High Voltage,” “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap,” “Powerage,” “Let There Be Rock,” and “TNT.”  Then lead singer Bon Scott died and we thought the ride was over, but there was greatness waiting in the wings.

It was a remarkably quick turnaround for a rock band as AC/DC replaced Scott with Brian Johnson and released “Back in Black” one year after “Highway to Hell.”  We waited in line that day at the record store and rushed back to my basement once we secured the golden tracks, all encased behind this black, masterfully simplistic album cover.

We literally wrecked my Pioneer speakers with Back In Black.  It has to be the best “comeback record” in the history of Rock n Roll.  We loved AC/DC (I even dressed as Angus Young for Halloween) and supported them for the next several releases.  I probably bought most of their releases on album, cassette, CD, and mp3.

Last year I made three Ironman Tribute videos and used popular music for the edits.  A few days ago, I tried to play the Ironman Wisconsin Tribute and it wouldn’t load.  Then I noticed a little note next to the video in my YouTube manager that said “Matched 3rd party content.” Essentially that means the publisher says you’re infringing copyright, in this case, Sony Music Entertainment and my use of “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC.

This happens all the time and I followed one of the more popular “disputing strategies,” based on the ground that my use was educational and non-profit.  I have nearly 600 posts on Crushing Iron.  I have traveled near and far to shoot 12-15 hours of video for these, paid for my hotel room, etc . . . all for the love of triathlon and the people in it.

Today I got this email from YouTube stating that Sony Music Entertainment thinks their claim against lowly old Crushing Iron is still valid.



Is it just me or does this reek of the music business’s regretful attempt to bulldoze Napster and mp3’s into oblivion?  I live in Nashville and am all about musicians rights, etc., but I could have picked any song on the planet.  I picked AC/DC (and others) because I’ve always loved the band(s) and believe using it under tastefully produced video from Ironman is more of an homage than theft.

Either way, the point is, this is happening hundreds of times a day and it appears the music industry is once again trying to “control” how people use the internet.  I just think it’s lame and short-sighted.  But, then again, we are talking about a company that once sued itself.

I have probably spent thousands of dollars on Sony artists throughout the years and haven’t made a penny from using “Thunderstruck.”  If Sony was smart, they would come up with a non-profit/blogger, etc. licensing plan that charges, say $10 to use one of these songs in the way I did, but alas, they continually prefer to upset their fans and ignore new opportunities to make money.

Instagram: MikeTarrolly

Watch these videos while you can:


Triathlon Doesn’t Have To Be So Hard

If I’ve learned anything about sports, it is this:  Competition is easier when it’s easier.

When I started running a few years ago, it was like climbing mountains, but running doesn’t have to be that hard. Neither does swimming or cycling.  The hard part is remembering to think it’s easy.

Now, I don’t mean it’s not hard to bike 100 miles or run a marathon, but there are thousands of times within each experience that we make it harder than we should.

I am constantly reminding myself to relax when I swim, bike, and run.  Relaxed muscles are more effective.

The problem is we think too much.

When I was a kid I ran around the neighborhood all day without thinking twice.  But when I thought about running, just to run, it seemed hopeless.  It was fight or flight mode.  I had to PUSH myself.  Dig in and push off the ground.  Throw my arms hard.  Every step was another large dose of effort.

Now, I think of it much differently.

I remember the first time when I realized I wasn’t breathing hard during a long run.  I was about 9 miles in and felt like I could go forever.  It was almost like I forgot I was running.

Eventually a similar thing happened to me in the water.  I call it jogging in the pool.  It’s a relaxed state that seems like floating on a raft.

Which brings me to cycling.

A long time ago I was an aspiring mountain biker and bit off a 40-mile-race I wasn’t sure I could pull off.  One of my friends said something really simple that sticks with me until this day, “Just keep spinning.”

Just keep spinning.

He didn’t say “just keep hammering” or “dig deep or thrash your pedals,” he basically said, just keep your legs moving in the most resistance-less circle as possible.  Sometimes the simplest things are the most powerful.

All of this stuff is relative to your strength level, of course, but swimming, biking, and running are all much easier when you remember to use (and trust) momentum of your body and purpose.  This works in life, too.



Life Isn’t About Getting Stuff

It’s an imperfect science, but I have a new rule:  No Alarm Clocks.

This isn’t always the best plan, like, say, Sunday, when I planned to run the Nashville Running Company’s 6 Mile trail race and woke up 8 minutes after the start time.  But the good news is, you can always run 6 miles on trails – and that’s exactly what I did later that afternoon.

The trails in Shelby Park were an absolute mud bog, and I started by tip-toeing my way around the (less-muddy) edges like most of us do, but eventually found the nerve to start blasting through the ankle deep mud puddles.  And you know what?  A typical run, turned into a rush.

I threw caution to the wind and took advantage of what nature offered.  And isn’t that what life is all about, creating experience?

A couple weeks ago I was listening to Colin Cowherd (who I love to hate) on ESPN radio.  He was on an absolute rant about the difference between acquiring “stuff” versus experience.  He said he was far more about life experience than “things.”  He sees no point in buying expensive clothes, but is all-in on spending $5,000 to see a once in a lifetime event.

I totally agree with that in my gut, but it’s not always easy to for go stuff for an experience.

Not having a steady job for the last 8 months has been slowly adjusting my mind on this theory.  I rarely crave stuff now because I can’t afford it.  In fact, I’m trying to get rid of as much as possible.  What I crave is, passion and experiences.

I just spent way too much money going to the Final Four, but guess what I did?  I went to the Final Fucking Four!  Pretty cool.

Three nights ago I went to a local restaurant and paid $19 for a plate of pasta.  Last night I made pasta at home, by myself, for about $3.  Guess which night was more enjoyable?

I have been stressing about a lot of things over the last 8 months; money, my future, my dreams, etc, but if there is one thing I wish I could remember more often it is:  With right intention, problems have a way of working themselves out.

Life is about exposure to new situations, even (especially) if they make you uncomfortable.  Creating experiences is our way of choosing who we become.




Crushing Iron Wants You

Writing about triathlon has been an important part of my training process.  It’s kinda like therapy because it helps me distill thousands of thoughts that clank around in my brain.  But, I think the biggest thing for me is the connection to so many other inspiring athletes.

I can tell by the site statistics that a lot of you care about what’s going on here.  It really kind of amazes me, but I guess it’s a true testament to being honest with your thoughts and not taking things “too” seriously.

I really believe in Crushing Iron and want to take it to the next level, but need your help.  I know people are reading, but I want to know why.  I want to know what kind of things you like to read.  What inspires and challenges you.

I also want more guest posts and interaction in general.  I love getting to know people who read the blog and sharing stories.

So, if you have been inspired or pissed off or have thoughts on what you’d like to see more of, email me at  Also, follow me on Twitter @miketarrolly.

Thanks for being a part of my journey.  I look forward to this season and want to meet as many of you as possible.




Setting A Major Goal

For the last month I have been following my Wisconsin Badgers on their run to the Final Four (and seriously neglecting training and this blog).  It’s been electrifying, nerve wracking, and draining.  They took me to some very high places, but ultimately I settled into a low after they lost to Duke in the National Championship.  The feeling hasn’t consumed me, but it has lingered and once again reminded me that sports can be a bad emotional investment . . . unless you’re investing that time in energy into something you can control.

I got a couple texts this morning.  One from a friend that said the winning 10K time was sub-30 minutes in the recent ITU race, another that said a 10-year-old girl swam sub 2 minutes in the 200 freestyle.  What the fuck has been going on out there while I’ve been in a hoops-induced-fog?

I’m quite sure these people weren’t spending hours watching basketball and surfing message boards for the latest insight on March Madness.  They were getting up early and crushing workouts, even if it was the last thing they wanted to do.  They were motivated.

My motivational force has to be something big.  Something as big as doing an Ironman was in the first place.  Something that consumes my brain, keeps me laser focused, and takes me to places I can’t imagine possible.

I’ve written a lot about “having fun” in training and taking things as they come.  Living in the moment, etc.  But there comes a time in competitive triathlon when you have to push your own buttons.  For me, that is by setting a frightening goal.

sightsonkonaThat’s why I’ve decided to set my sites on Kona.

This is not about making a statement or some cocky proclamation, it is about finding a way to take myself to the place I want to be.  A jolt of a wake-up call for my body, brain, and soul.

But finishing in the top 4 of my age group at Chattanooga isn’t going to happen by writing about it (though it will have an impact).  This will not be easy, but I have seen enough “normal” people qualify that I have no doubt I can do the same.

I’ve set lofty goals in the past, but kept them to myself.  I have decided to make my goal public as motivation, because frankly, I’m afraid of settling for mediocrity.