Triathlon 101: In The Beginning

Triathlon 101: In The Beginning

It was the morning of my first triathlon and I was understandably nervous. So many fears:  My first open-water swim, the unknown of running off the bike, and walking around in public wearing head-to-toe spandex.

It was actually lycra, but the self-awareness was frightening.  I stood on fast-warming concrete and waited with about 600 others to enter the water. Truth be told, I still didn’t really know how to swim and I was about to jump into the fast moving Cumberland River in downtown Nashville.

We filed down the pier and soon my number was called.  With an exhilarating (and fearful) scream, I plunged into the murky water for a 300 yard swim.  Six minutes later I fought the current with all my might just to get to the ladder with a VERY high step.  I couldn’t get my foot on there and did more of a pull-up-to-body-flop onto dry land.

Everything about that day was a trip.  The feeling of running to my bike was wild.  Gasping for air as I tried not to lose my balance.  Trying to remember what to take off, leave on . . . and put on.  I didn’t know anything about transition and started running out without my helmet, of course.

We hear all this stuff about nutrition, aero bars, race wheels, and on and on, but so much of it is overkill in the beginning.  If I had to do it over again, I would probably do everything in my power to think of my first time as a practice race.

Again, this was a sprint, so the run was 3.1 miles, but it was . . . um . . . weird. I wasn’t yet used to the feeling of running off the bike.  This feeling stayed with me for a few races, but now I almost look forward to running after loosening up the legs.

I finished the race that day and it was genuinely one of the best feelings I’ve ever had.  I thought I’d just scaled a mountain but it was just the beginning.  I was hooked.

I’ve gone on to do many Olympics, several 1/2 Ironman, 4 fulls, and yes, more Sprints.  I love them all.

I think the key is to keep moving forward is to have patience with our development.  It doesn’t happen overnight, but it eventually happens.  You will fall in love with the sport and hopefully with how it makes you feel.

In today’s podcast we talk about the most important things to consider before doing your first triathlon and how you can stay in the game for a long time.  We also share ways to make starting triathlon a LOT less expensive.

Here’s an outline of our podcast:

  • Things to consider before signing up for your first race
    – location
    – brand
    – race management
    – time of year
  • What made you want to do a “triathlon” in the first place – Finding your “why”
  • Gear: Items you HAVE to have, would be nice to have , and items that are just  because you WANT to have them
  • How to set up a plan for success
  • How to know if you are ready to go to the next distance 

New Crushing Iron Video Trailer

New Crushing Iron Video Trailer

Tomorrow marks the 19th Crushing Iron podcast.  With that, I thought I’d make a little trailer showcasing some of the comments we’ve got from listeners.

Thanks to everyone who is listening and there are a lot of you!  If you haven’t please check one out and let us know what you think at

You can listen to any of our podcasts here or better yet, subscribe and comment on iTunes.

From Couch to Sub-12 Ironman at 50

From Couch to Sub-12 Ironman at 50

I don’t look at this as a big big deal, but a lot of people are curious about how I got off the couch and finished an Ironman at age 50.  It wasn’t easy, and definitely took a major turning point, but I really believe almost anyone can do an Ironman.

Coach and Mike
This is me culminating my Couch to 5K training

I started running for the first time in 2012.  I was 48 at the time and probably 30 pounds over my ideal weight.  A party video changed my life and I knew it was a now or never moment.

After about 8 weeks of walk/run training I finished my first 5k.  In some ways I still feel like that was a bigger deal than finishing my first Ironman.  It was the turning point that sort of shoved me into working out again.  I loved it and kept going.

I went straight to a 5 mile, a 10k, then a 1/2 marathon two weeks later.  It was probably an excessive path, but I was bitten by the bug.

But later that year the big bug bit me when I went to watch my friend Kevin do Ironman Louisville.  It was truly a remarkable experience, and even as a spectator, I didn’t want to let go.  I ran around with Jim for 17 hours and I knew it was just a matter of time before I was lining up to do Ironman.

The next weekend I almost drowned in an Olympic, but I was in too deep.  One week later, along with four other guys, I signed up for Ironman Wisconsin.

From there it was just a matter of wrapping my brain around what it would take to get ready for a mass start swim, a hilly 112 mile bike ride, and a marathon, which I would never come close to running in training.

The swim was the biggest mental obstacle.  The Wisconsin mass start intrigued and intimidated me at once.  I couldn’t stop thinking about it, but the bottom line was I had to start working or I would be embarrassed . . . or worse.

A couple months after my decision, I met Coach Robbie and he patiently answered a million questions, guided my workouts, inspired me, and jumped my ass when I needed it.

We worked together from the beginning of January 2013 all the way through Ironman Wisconsin 9 months later.  It was a bumpy road at times and often I wasn’t sure if I could pull it off.  But the incremental growth kept coming.

Have you ever seen a coach so proud?
Have you ever seen a coach so proud?

Along the way I had 4-5 breakthrough moments that convinced me I could be an Ironman.  They were mental victories that I believe pushed me over the top.  I started with the hope of finishing under 13 hours, but as the summer went on, I started looking at the idea of sub-12.  That decision was far more mental than physical and in this podcast I talk about how my mindset changed and what I think was the key moment.

We also talk about:

– The importance of recovery as you get older
– Turning points in Mike’s belief system
– How Mike went from a 42 minute Olympic swim to a 1:20 Ironman at Wisconsin
– How to virtually guarantee a solid Ironman run
– Why Mike’s longest training run was only 14 miles en route to a 4:20 marathon.
– How Coach Robbie kept him focused over a long 9-month-plan
– Overcoming mental and emotional burnout
– The mind game Mike played with himself to assure a sub-12 Ironman

*** And here’s a great recap from Coach Robbie from his day as a spectator/coach for my first Ironman at Wisconsin.

Please review our podcast on iTunes




Triathlon Trends: Fraud or For Real?

Triathlon Trends: Fraud or For Real?

Everyone’s looking for an advantage, and that’s certainly true of triathletes.  But sometimes you have to wonder if we’re taking placebos.

There is an endless supply of accessories, nutritional options, and advice, but where should it stop?  Or should it keep going?

That’s the topic for today’s podcast, and it will certainly ruffle a few feathers, but it is genuinely an open and honest discussion about which trends are fraud and which are for real. There’s a lot of gray area in this stuff and we address most of it.

Fraud of For Real?

  • Compression Socks
  • Chocolate Milk
  • Stretching
  • Ice Baths
  • Altitude Training
  • Heat Training
  • Oxygen Masks
  • Coca Cola
  • Pull Buoys
  • Wind Breakers
  • And all of the intricacies that could actually make some frauds for real.

Here are the reference links discussed in the podcast:
Chocolate Milk
Ice Baths
Compression Socks

24 Hours: From Sleep to the Ironman Finish Line

24 Hours: From Sleep to the Ironman Finish Line

Going into my first Ironman weekend I had a million questions.  From rest, to nutrition, to tire pressure, to pre-race meals, to breakfast, it’s almost impossible to turn off your mind.

The entire weekend has a bit of a “festival feel” and my natural instinct was to soak it all in.  Hit all the booths and meetings, do all the dinners, meet as many people as possible.  Frankly, it wore me down a little.

The other thing I “over-did” was pack everything and anything even remotely related to my race.  I mean, I loaded up the car with 6 brands of nutrition, 3 pairs of cycling gloves, a back up tire pump, 4 different kits, two helmets, 3 pairs of running shoes, toe covers, arm warmers/coolers, thigh covers, you name it.  I had two hotel carts worth of stuff and my transition bags were overflowing.  It was ridiculous.

Since my first I’ve been through 3 more Ironman race weekends and if I’ve learned anything, it’s that keeping things simple goes a long ways.

It’s pretty crazy to think that most people get into town on a Thursday and feel like two and a half days aren’t enough time to get ready for a race.  I like to check in as early as I can to avoid lines and put it behind me.  Same goes with checking my bike and dropping off transition bags. The later it gets, the more everything feels rushed, and you always have race morning to put an extra Gu in your bag.

So, what happens after all that’s done?  Where’s pre-race dinner?  What’s a solid breakfast race morning?  What should we be doing 30 minutes before the swim?

Coach Robbie and I explored all of those questions, plus many more in today’s podcast 24 Hours: From Bed to the Ironman Finish Line.  Other topics from today:

• Night before Race Meals
• Sleep strategies
• Wake up calls
• Morning of race meals
• Last hour before the swim thoughts/nutrition
• Tactics for the Swim
• Nutrition for first 10 miles of bike
• Gastro challenges
• The biggest mistake people make on the bike
• Prepping for run while on the bike
• Nutrition/Hydration strategies for the run
• Post-race fuel
• A great way to clean your top, shorts, and shoes after the race

Tackling Your Bike To Save Your Run

Tackling Your Bike To Save Your Run

When I think back to training for my first Ironman, there’s one word that always pops up: uncertainty.  It’s just such a great unknown that there’s no way to really assure yourself you’re going to finish.  And yes, while I floated in Lake Monona that cool Fall morning waiting for the Ironman Wisconsin cannon there was a lot of doubt.

I mean, how can you know?  I never came close to completing 140.6 miles in one day of training.

But there were signs along the way.  Doing an Ironman 70.3 in Muncie definitely gave me a glimmer of hope.  Even still, that was only HALF of the distance.

Then, shortly after that 70.3 I rode my first Century Ride to the tune of 120 miles on the challenging terrain of Natchez Trace in Nashville.  It was also raining much of that day, and while I was absolutely fried, I began to “see” the possibilities in my mind.

And I think that’s the key.  Something has to click.

Going into that first Ironman, my furthest run of my life was only 14 miles, but for some reason I instinctively knew that I could slog my way through the marathon.  Especially if my legs were strong from riding.

I was still building base in every discipline, but spent a ton of hours on spin bikes and the trainer.  Ultimately, I believe it was the purposeful 1.5 – 2 hour trainer rides that made the difference for me.  The hard crunching big gears and the sweat dripping high cadence rides not only produced a strong bike at Wisconsin, but a solid run despite never coming close to a marathon beforehand.

I feel like the marathon looms in everyone’s head, but the true anxiety of Ironman is in the swim and bike.  To me, that is the exact reason the swim and bike should be the first two priorities, especially for age groupers doing their first Ironman.

That’s exactly what we talk about with fellow age grouper, Blaik, who was the first guest on our Crushing Iron podcast (embedded below).

Blaik was training for Ironman Lake Placid (his first) and putting much of his faith in Coach Robbie, who didn’t seem to be prescribing enough running.  Blaik isn’t a huge fan of running, but was still a little unsure why his training was so bike heavy with very few long runs.

As it turned out, Blaik ended up negative splitting his marathon at Lake Placid, and while it wasn’t his best time, he felt like it was his best marathon performance to date.

On this podcast Blaik walks us through how he responded to a full year off due to injury and turned up his swim and bike on the way to his first Ironman finish in Lake Placid.

Here are just a few of the things we talk about:

  • Breaking your bike into two in one day
  • Cycling workouts that are best for your run
  • The best way to attack your trainer workouts
  • The great cadence debate – high rpm or low rpm?
  • From Injury to a negative split run at Ironman Lake Placid.
  • How to “use” your 70.3 effectively when 140.6 is next
  • Is your long weekend run overrated?
  • Finding that breakout moment to give you confidence.
  • Single leg drills

Simplify Training for a Simpler Life

Simplify Training for a Simpler Life

How does simplifying our triathlon training help our lives?  That’s the question that immediately popped into my head after watching the documentary “Minimalism” on Netflix the other night.

Minimalism goes deep into commercialism, along with how decluttering your life genuinely helps you be happier and healthier.  One woman even claimed paring down her belongings was a major reason for her MS going into remission.

I’ve long been fascinated by legendary people like Einstein and Steve Jobs who more or less wore the same thing every day to take that decision process out of their lives.  But fascination doesn’t always translate into reality for me, even when it totally makes sense.

So, how does this concept relate to an ongoing barrage of triathlon articles on the internet, hundreds of different coaching philosophies, and a general workout/life balance?  Will simplifying how we look at training make us better performers?

Even though I like to think of myself as a student of simplicity in my training, I continually over-think it.  I look for the latest “hack” or quick fix then wonder why I can’t find consistency in training or my life.

Today’s podcast goes into that dilemma, plus:

– Decluttering your workout routine
– Running with your dog, spouse, friends more often
– Simplifying your diet for more consistent results
– Getting faster by going slower
– How cleaning your environment reduces stress
– All time favorite personal moments in triathlon (they’re not the races)
– The 80/20 rule for successful training
– 3 Keys to life according to Adam Robinson from the Tim Ferris podcast.

The Holidays and Rest

The Holidays and Rest

Two weeks ago I got a head and chest cold and have been battling it ever since. It’s been a tough pill to swallow because I wanted to keep my swim, bike, run routine tuned up, and hit the new year with a solid base.  But I’ve been worn down and bummed out.

The other day I stumbled onto this article, and it gave me hope.  And let’s face it, what’s more powerful than hope?

It’s a piece by the Urban Monk that talks about the seasons being a conversion of yin and yang. As the Winter Solstice begins, Yin energy is at its peak but will soon be replaced by Yang energy which we should should ride with new projects and a return to workouts.

Sometimes this stuff is a little hard to explain, but essentially they’re saying not only should we be resting at this time, it is essential if we want to attack the next wave.  From the article:

“So why rest? Here’s the rub. Winter is for hibernation. It is a time to be introspective and to gather all of our Qi so we can recover from the previous season…so we can have the energy and wherewithal to consciously participate in life through the next season and fulfill our heart’s desires. So where’s the rub? Look around you. People spend the tail end of the year getting drunk with coworkers in ridiculous red sweaters and frantically racing through shopping malls looking for plastic things made in China that promise to make our loved ones happy. Nobody actually rests. Any wonder why most Americans are sleep walking through their lives?”

I’ve always had a little trouble with holidays because they seem to hit right when I want to be crushing all my dreams, but in reality they are a great “forced” rest and recovery time.  And holidays should be experienced without guilt.

Guilt is a powerful motivator but, like anything else, too much can derail the best of plans.  So much of living right is about living free.  Harboring workout-guilt can be poison.

With all the crazy-over-hyped “workout motivators” in this world it’s easy to get sucked into the 24-7 “crush it mentality” but sometimes is more important to crush a nap.  And that’s exactly what I plan to do now.

Coach Robbie and I would like to thank everyone who’s listening to the podcast.  It’s really gaining steam and we appreciate all the feedback.  Please help us spread the word by sharing and from everyone at Crushing Iron, have a Merry Christmas.  Be back with you soon.

Triathlon: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Triathlon: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Triathlon is a process.  We start with blind exuberance then evolve.

There’ve been many times when I’ve reflected and cringed.  I used to “say” I was doing it to become a better person, and that’s somewhat true, but not in the beginning.  I was doing it for my ego.

I wanted to feel a new excitement in my life . . . to feel relevant again.

It was a re-kindling of an earlier life in sports.  I was moving, thrashing, and looking in the eyes of my competition.  It fueled me like nothing had in years.  And I think that’s natural.

But, it was just the beginning.  After several months, and certainly after my first Ironman, the thrill wore off.  I was staring at emptiness in the mirror.  What now?

Well, “what now” was another Ironman that I felt obligated to do a year later.  A lot of it had to do with the fact that I had a blog and created a monster I didn’t want to tame.  The other reason was because I thought triathlon was the key to reviving my life.

Right before that second race I quit my corporate job of 14 years.  I was finally free to pursue the life I wanted and triathlon was right at the center.  And of course that was the problem.

Triathlon isn’t my life, but it’s definitely a vehicle for getting me to where I want to go.  That’s the challenge, and today I had a great discussion about that topic with my coach.

It’s all in the new podcast embedded below.  It’s a very open and honest discussion, which reminds me of something that would make my good friend Dr. Oz proud.  (You can read the semi-hilarious story behind this Dr. Oz interview here, and read Dr. Oz’s response to my post here.)

Below is the podcast where Coach Robbie and I talk about how we started, how we’ve evolved, and how we believe triathlon will fit into our lives in the future.

The Good: Friends, family, Fitness.
The Bad:  Ego, Arrogance, Excess.
The Ugly:  Regret, lies, and suffering.

Triathlon: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

How To Not Suck At Swimming

How To Not Suck At Swimming

Like many triathletes I could barely conquer two lengths of the pool when I started swimming. That was 2012 and I was 49 years old.

My first Olympic (1500 meter swim) was in September of that year where I swam 42 minutes (2:48/100) in a wave-start river-swim.  Shortly after that race I connected with Coach Robbie and followed his swimming strategies for the 5 months leading up to my second Olympic, Rev3 Knoxville in May.  It was a very similar wave-start river-swim and I clocked a 26:35 (1:46/100).

Later that year I did my first Ironman at Wisconsin with Robbie as my coach.  It was a mass start, heavily congested, and the water was rough.  I swam a 1:20.

There are no short cuts when it comes to swimming, but there are definitely “long-cuts” like wasted time and effort.  I’ve learned a lot of things the hard way, but have come to love swimming and nothing drives the quest to get better like seeing progress.

I think a lot of times people underestimate the value of the swim because it’s a short percentage of the overall time, but being a strong swimmer and not having anxiety at the start of the race huge advantage.

Coach Robbie and I just recorded a detailed podcast on swimming where he goes over 8 strategies to make you stronger, faster, and more efficient in the water.  The podcast is embedded below, and as always please subscribe, rate, and share.

These are the topics we cover:

1.  Why drills are a waste of time.
2.  Why building swim fitness should be powerful and purposeful.
3.  The bigger your mesh bag, the slower you are committed to being.
4.  The correct and most effective way to use paddles.
5.  Why pool swimming and open water swimming are two different sports.
6.  What an expensive wetsuit really does for your swim.
7.  The power of the Pull Buoy.
8.  The tools you need and the tools you don’t need.

We also talk about why Coach Robbie thinks IRONMAN should change the swim cut off from 2:20 to 1:40. He also gives two excellent (and customizable) workouts you can start using now to be a better swimmer next season.

HOW TO NOT SUCK AT SWIMMING – 8 Strategies For Being Strong In Open Water

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