Triathlon: Chasing a Dream, or . . .

Below is a picture I posted on Facebook 5 years ago. I was the heaviest I’d been in my life and depression was my new buzzword. I posted this picture as a “carb-loading” joke the night before starting a Couch to 5k running program. We did 6 sets of 60 seconds of jogging followed by 60 seconds of walking that first day. Since then I’ve finished 4 Ironman races and will likely do more. I’m almost positive you could do something similar if you put your mind to it.carbloading

As I reflect on that day, I remember how obsessed I became with the quest, to first, be a runner, then an Ironman.

There were a lot of pictures like the one above.  Posts of my Garmin after workouts, race results, or anything else to do with my new found love of transformation.

But, after about a year of that, I started getting self-conscious of my quest.  I remember how I would covertly steer seemingly every conversation around to Ironman, then I’d launch into a diatribe about how “amazing” everything was in my life because of triathlon.  But it wasn’t.

I was still struggling with many of the same issues and triathlon was mainly an addictive substitution.  My life balance was still out of whack.

I was definitely on a better path, but had to figure out how to balance the incredibly demanding sport of triathlon with other passions in my life.  And more importantly, how to use the momentum for personal growth.

I can honestly say I haven’t quite figured it out yet.  But I have been on a path of finding contentment in the simpler things in life.

I’m feeling more comfortable in my skin and finding clarity in the idea that this process is for myself.  Most people could care less if I just had a kick-ass 8 mile run, or swam 3,000 meters in the pool.

But some do.  And it’s those people I feel most comfortable with.  The ones who take genuine action towards being a better person, not only in triathlon, but business, creative pursuits, and exploration.  The ones that know it’s a long road and change, privilege, and understanding  doesn’t happen overnight.  The ones who realize we’re all flawed and life is a work in progress.

This is kind of the tone for our latest podcast.  We talk about the delicate balance between endurance sports and life.  The price of isolation, addiction, and obsession.  We ask questions like, “How can we trek 138 miles, ache in every inch of our body, and be sad an Ironman is almost over?”

I just love the drive and desire of people who take up triathlon.  I truly believe they are the type of person who wants to get the most of life through action.

Commitment to change is never easy, but it helps to have like-minded people in your corner.  Hope you enjoy this discussion.

Remembering the Fab 5 from Ironman Wisconsin

 

This is actually a re-post of a little addition I tacked on at the end of a story the other guys wrote about me before Ironman Wisconsin.  I have been looking for inspiration triggers tonight and many times they end up being the people closest to you.  Yeah, I’ve already posted this, but it was fun for me to read and I’m guessing millions of people from around the world haven’t seen it yet.  Besides, it’s my blog.  

THE FAB FIVE

fab5I spent a TON of time with these guys over the last year and every minute was inspirational.  Each of them connected with me in different ways and it was truly a blessing to meet them and train together for a goal I thought was impossible.

I’ve said it many times before, but Jim is the reason I am in triathlon . . . and for that matter, not a whale laying around on the couch.  He patiently led by example until I figured out that I should probably follow in his footsteps.  Jim made many sacrifices to make sure I stayed engaged with endurance sports, and I will forever be indebted to his efforts.  Maybe one day I too will be getting up at 3:45 every morning.

Kevin’s gutsy performance at IM Louisville 2012 was the final straw that lured me into Ironman.  Watching my first IM was an emotional and motivating experience.  I barely knew Kevin at the time, but I was so moved by his effort that day, I knew I would sign up to race sooner than later.  We didn’t bike or run together often, but our lake battles were undeniably the catalyst to me becoming a confident swimmer and rejuvenating my competitive nature.

Daniel is one of the most positive and compassionate people I know.  He overcame a lot to get where he is today.  His passion for triathlon shined bright all year and his results proved it.  He embraced every experience like it was his last and smiled before, during, and after each competition or workout.  Ironman was a first for both of us and we loved to speculate about how it would feel to compete, then finish.  We dove into every detail along the way and I think it made us both better racers and people.

Mark showed more guts than just about anyone I’ve ever known as a competitor.  It seemed like he was injured the entire training season, but he kept pushing on.  And I’m not talking about hang nails.  He had a double hernia and a torn bicep, but didn’t let either get in his way.  Despite these setbacks, having a family, and owning a business that was exploding, he kept his eye on the prize and peaked with a great performance at Wisconsin.  He showed a lot of confidence in me and that became a big source of motivation.

It was, is, and always will be the Fab 5 I think of first. We committed to a journey and each other.  We followed through with a major challenge and came away with far more than medals.  We are great friends who shared deep and meaningful experiences that no one can ever take away.

——–

Post script.

Jim has just signed up for Ironman Maryland this year.

Daniel is closing in on Ironman Texas.

Kevin will be getting married soon in Florida.

Mark just did the Country Music 1/2 Marathon and seems on the fence about what’s next, but I sense something is coming.

Me . . . well, you know.  Just plugging along and trying to figure out what’s next.

This is the Stuff That Keeps Me Writing #IMWI

I am blown away by the positive feedback on this blog and especially for my Ironman Wisconsin Race Report.  Along with movement, writing is probably my biggest passion, and I express how far your input goes in keeping this blog alive.  And it will stay alive.  I am bursting with energy and ideas that I want to explore.

Here are a few of the comments people have left about the Race Report and I can honestly say, words like these will push me and Crushing Iron to a higher place.

“Mike, best report I have ever read. Loved Alt. Mike’s take on the race and the battle you waged with him. Congrats. Huge.” – Frank

“This report is amazing! I had chills and tears! I am doing IMWI 2014 and it will be my first, this article has me so pumped already!!!!!” – Jason

“I’ve been reading a lot of race reports and I have to say that you are a good writer.”  – Wendy

“Great report! I am so enjoying it. Agree with Wendy!” – Roman

“Only thing better than your race report was your results.  Well done on all accounts.”  – Tim

“Great job out there and great write up! Your blog has been entertaining all year and this is a great cap to it. Are you in for 2014 too?” – Mark

“Awesome report! A lot of first time experiences going on for you that day! Well done!” – Chris

“Loved the report! Well done!” – Debimage

Crushing Iron – The Ironman Documentary

I’m documenting the training and mental anguish of our road to Ironman Wisconsin and along the way I’ll probably be posting short clips from each of the guys on what it means, why they do it, and what inspired them to get started.  We’ll start with Jim, since he is the catalyst behind this craziness and has already completed two 140.6 races.

Ironman Inspiration, Kona Style

Last night after swimming, I got on the trainer for an hour or so and watched Ironman Kona 2011.  It’s always an inspiration, but no matter how good training is going, watching  professional triathletes collapse can knock you back a bit.


Not only is 140.6 miles an enormous challenge, it’s all relative.  The pros talk about keeping fuel in reserve and it may be one of the most difficult things to do, especially if you’re feeling great.

I am still around 6 months out and I’m already trying to slow down.  The swim has me especially perplexed.

When I start running too fast, it’s easy to slow down.  When you’re in a murky lake in the middle of 3,000 other swimmers, keeping my heart rate under control will be no picnic.  I guess the only way to combat that is to swim a boatload before the race.  And that’s what I plan to do.

IMWCI sometimes get a kick out of friends or family that sort of “write off” the bike as the easy part.  I even used to do it a little, but when you think about 112 miles on the bike, and racing those miles, it’s a game changer.  Not only that, you have to save fuel for the run, which is ultimately the stage that will make or break your race.

On September 8th at 7 am, when the cannon sounds to start Ironman Wisconsin, I will have never run a marathon.  But later that day, after swimming 2.4 miles, and biking 112, I will run 26.2 miles.  For some reason, this seems logical.

To be honest, running a marathon scares me a little.  Not that I don’t think I can make it, but the risk of injury seems too great.  I’m sure I’ll be trained up to 18 or so, but I hear those miles after 20 are the killers.

If you don’t feel like watching the entire video above, this truncated version takes you through the end of Ironman Kona.  Joy and elation from some, but excruciating pain for others.  The scene at  3:00 highlights a remarkable struggle to complete this daunting dream.

Tonight, I prepared for the inevitable pain by skipping the scheduled East Nasty run tackling the signature “Nasty” route on my own.  Six miles of hills, and I had a side stitch from the moment I started.

I tried to talk myself into quitting a dozen times, but used the pain as a testing ground for that inevitable moment when I’ll need the practice.  The pain was relentless, but so was I.  I hammered each hill and tried to recover on the backside.  Still a pain that would have knocked me over 5 months ago, gnawed at my gut.  I knew it had to leave eventually, and just as I hit mile 5, it did.  I picked up steam and finished the six miles, ready for more.  The whole time, Kona played in my head.