Turning To Triathlon When Life Turns On You

Turning To Triathlon When Life Turns On You

A while back on the podcast we started asking for stories from listeners. What got you into triathlon? Why do you love it? How does it make a difference in your life?

We knew people were listening, but really didn’t know how (or if) we were connecting. Then we got an email from Ross Kaffenberger and it pretty much defined why we keep doing the podcast.

He said he loved listening and left a review on iTunes, then unceremoniously dropped a link to his blog, “Out and Back.” The next day I read his latest post and was blown away. Robbie said the same thing, and we made plans to get him on the podcast.

His words were heart wrenching and optimistic at once. I’ll let Ross tell the story, but it crystalizes why I think so many of us get into triathlon. It’s either to get us going, or keep us going. In Ross’s case, it has been both, and I’m really happy we’ve connected.

He’ll be doing my favorite race, Ironman Wisconsin, and he unveiled the incredible reason why in this podcast. If there’s any doubt triathlon can have a profound effect on our lives, please listen to this podcast and follow Ross on Twitter: @rossta

Images from Ironman Wisconsin

Images from Ironman Wisconsin

Nothing says Madison like this.  A beautiful scene just up from the Ironman Finish Line.  image1

The Finish Line going up.


This has me seriously contemplating watching the swim from my hotel room.


Lake Monona in all its glory.  Just a crisp, blue (with a hint of an orange ski jump) a far as you can see.


Another shot of the state capital on a beautiful Fall day in Madison.


Say what you want about Ironman, but they get $35 for a shirt while most races give them away.  I definitely like this year’s version in black.


Follow Crushing Iron on Facebook.  

9 Things That Are Improving My Swim

Three years ago I could barely swim and vowed to get to respectable levels before IM Wisconsin. Last year, with Louisville a non-wetsuit race, I got even more serious.  I put a lot of time, study, and reflection into swimming and this is a list of stuff that seems to be working.

1.  It’s easy to forget how to swim.  Before my 10-day vacation, I was dialed in pretty good, but this morning it was a flopping baby.  After 1,000 or so meters, I “sorta” had it back, but why can’t it be just like riding a bike?  When I’m not on vacation I swim shorter distances more more frequently.

2.  Form isn’t everything.  While form is definitely something, once you get it “close” upper body conditioning is the key, and that too seems to fade fast.  Paddles really seem to help me relax and focus on using the strength of my lats, and I also use a pull buoy 80% of the time.

3.  Flexibility matters.  Today, there was a girl next to me with fins doing that crazy on-your-back thing up and down the pool.  She looked like she was made out of rubber and when she turned around to swim freestyle, she was unbelievably smooth . . . and fast.

4.  Work on your turnover.  For the longest time I was all caught up in my reach and glide and thinking about all kinds of BS, but if you get decent extension and turn your arms faster (with comparable catch and pull) you will pick up several seconds in your 100.  Of course, you need to build conditioning to do that.

5.  Relaxing isn’t always easy, but . . . it is crucial.  When you’re relaxed, your form and flexibility improve because you’re not thinking about it as much.  So much of relaxation is repetition, but I often repeat mantras like, “breathe, relax,” on each stroke and it puts me in a better state.

6.  Don’t hesitate.  My left arm doesn’t have the same range of motion as my left (nor is it as coordinate) so I’m constantly telling myself to “let go” with my left arm.  Just let it flow in a rotation that is perfectly timed with my right arm pull.

7.  Clear the fog.  I used to have problems with foggy goggles until I started letting them soak to adjust to the water temperature before I swim.  I just lay the pull buoy on my strap and do arm circles or whatever for 5 minutes and my goggles are gold.

8.  Pull yourself.  A lot of people refer to it as pulling yourself over a barrel or a wall instead of pushing water backwards.  When my hand enters the water, I try to find that pressure from my wrist to my elbow (the wall) and literally pull it back.  The key here is pulling with your lats, but also using the other side extension as leverage.

9.  Drink.  I never used to have a water bottle at the pool, but now it’s mandatory.  It definitely keeps my energy level a little higher and, maybe more importantly, lowers risk of dehydration/exhaustion, which I always used to battle after long swims.  I typically put a scoop of some kind of electrolyte powder with the water because it’s easier on my stomach.

I have fallen in love with swimming because it used to scare the crap out of me but it’s morphed into a fun challenge I chip away at every day.  For the record my IM Wisconsin swim was 1:20, IM Louisville was 1:06, and I fully expect the Chattanooga current to whisk me under an hour.

3 Triathlon Articles of the Day

3 Triathlon Articles of the Day

Here are three quick articles (and a short video) about swim, bike, and run to get you in the mood for something other than sex.

SWIM – Here’s a sweet swim drill that would certainly build your confidence for the Ironman Wisconsin Swim Start.

BIKE – I hesitated to post this one because the title is “How to Become A Cyclist” and the first tip is “ride more frequently.”  My first thought was, “Wow!  That is great advice!”  But, then I remembered that’s similar to the schlep I was doling out the other day.

RUN – This is an awesome article for 3 reasons.  One, it’s offered as a way to heal/strengthen your achilles (my nemesis).  Two, it’s run cross training, which I love.  Three, it has me thinking about getting a heavy bag for my garage again.

The “Voice of Ironman”

Someone once told me, “Everywhere you go, there you are.”  Lately it’s been, “Everywhere I go, there HE is.”

Over the last 5 weeks I’ve driven to Louisville, Wisconsin, and Chattanooga for Ironman.  Once to compete, twice to spectate, and within minutes of arriving to these wonderful cities, a powerful voice of inspiration floods my ears.

As of Ironman Chattanooga 2014, Mike Reilly has announced 138 IRONMAN races and if you haven’t seen one, you have no idea how impressive that is.  His voice rings in the air from 6 am until midnight and the pitch never waivers.

I didn’t make it to the Swim Start in Chattanooga, but Mike was there, pumping everyone up and calming nerves at the same time.  When you nervously await the start, as an athlete or a spectator, his voice is omnipresent and the words always seem to be right.

I had a brief meeting with Mike at Louisville pre-race as I was noodling around near the sound board.  I was about to walk into a furnace and Mike knew it.  He likely knows more about IRONMAN than most.  On this day I was trying to impart my strategy when Mike politely stopped me and simply said, “Take it easy out there and try to have fun.”

He was right, of course, but I didn’t listen.  I went after the run like a dog in heat and it ate me alive.

Yesterday, he stood high above the crowd in Chattanooga as the last swimmer battled to get out of the water.  He did everything in his power to help her get home.

It was one of those moments that stops you in your tracks.  She was alone in the water, battling demons while hundreds watched her labor to reach shore.

“Keep going, we’re all here waiting for you!”  “Doggy paddle if you have to, you can do it!,” said Reilly with a combination of compassion and the tenacity of a father.

His day started before sunrise and he was still going as I watched the live stream from my hotel room until 12:15 am.  His energy and passion for what he loves was just as enjoyable to watch as the finisher.  He danced, joked, shouted encouragement, and dished high fives as the last runners crossed the finish line.

At 12:16 the lights went out and Mike Reilly was gone from my sight, but his voice was ringing in my core.  “You are an Ironman!”

People always ask me why I write about Ironman and travel around to races and I think the simple answer is, I love it.  I love to surround myself with optimistic people who stop at nothing to push their limits, and Mike Reilly has certainly been a great representation of that lifestyle.

Here is Mike Reilly from this morning after handing my new buddy, Dave Richter his award and Kona slot.



Doubt, Divorce, and Ironman

Doubt, Divorce, and Ironman

Ironman Wisconsin was inspiring enough, but to be walking around with a camera and have random people grab me to say they read Crushing Iron blew my mind.  One of those guys was Brad Garrison, who was with a big support group, and ready to tackle his first Ironman.  He yelled out, “Crushing Iron!” and that moment landed him in this Ironman Wisconsin Swim Start teaser video.  Below is the story of how watching Ironman, then going on simple run became the catalysts for making Brad believe, anything is possible.  

Sportscry and Inspire for the Rest of Your Life — Brad Garrison 

Having been a fan of “Crushing Iron” for quite some time, it was an honor to meet Mike Tarrolly at the top of the Monona Terrace helix prior to the start of Ironman Wisconsin on September 7, 2014.  Being a recent resident of Nashville and East Nasty runner, I knew of him through, Daniel Hudgins, another one of the “Fab Five.”

I jumped at the opportunity to guest-blog and offer a brief glimpse into my journey to become an Ironman, hoping to offer some inspiration and insight related to my pursuit of such a challenge.  I vividly remember watching in amazement as my brother, Brian, became an Ironman at Lake Placid in 2011 amid the unraveling of my marriage.  Witnessing his journey caused me to turn to running which helped alleviate the stress of my divorce, the hatred I had for the person I was divorcing and the City of Madison where we had moved together.  This was the beginning of a positive change in my life.

2011 IM WisconsinBrian and Crystal, his wife who became an Ironman at Louisville in 2010 while they were dating, became a source of inspiration for me, not only to begin running, but throughout my journey.  Had they not displayed a potential for challenging their limits, I might not have known that I could find happiness in movement, and in challenging my own limits thus making positive life change.  It’s the journey and transformation that’s really awesome.  Although much of the training for Ironman is directed towards a once unfathomable goal of 140.6 miles within a single 17 hour period on a particular calendar date, it’s the incredible emotional change that occurs over that period of training that is truly remarkable, awesome, and inspiring.

I will tell you that I thought Ironman was impossible for somebody like me.  Compared to my brother, I’m four years older and have always been a little shorter and quite a bit thicker.  If you look at pictures from 2011, I wasn’t what could be described as athletic.  Brian has always looked fit, so the fact that he became a runner and transformed into a triathlete and an Ironman wasn’t terribly surprising, but I remember thinking he was crazy and that only “fit, athletic people” were capable of taking on such challenges.

The impossible started becoming possible with a simple jog on August 20, 2011.  That simple jog led to running.  Running led to friends.  Friends led to biking.  Biking led to interest in triathlon.  Interest in triathlon led to swim lessons.  And after spending 2013 trying to put it all together, 2014 became the year that I would become an Ironman!

2014 IM WisconsinThat’s what’s great about running and triathlon.  You don’t have to look athletic or be any certain size to begin making forward progress.  You only have to be inspired to start moving forward, and through that movement, you can find further inspiration.

Training provided days when the thought of 140.6 miles seemed somewhat attainable, usually followed by humbling days where the idea of biking the 112 miles alone seemed completely insurmountable.  That’s what’s awesome about the relationship between the human body and the mind.  The body is willing and able to respond to crazy ideas that the mind has, once the mind has been afforded the opportunity to strengthen its capacity for challenging fear, limitations, and negative thoughts.

While working to train my body and mind, I also learned the power of “#sportscry.”  Have you ever felt #sportscry?  Maybe you’ve experienced it when you watched Rudy or Miracle, when you crossed a finish line for a PR that you worked hard for, or witnessed a “physically challenged” athlete cross a finish line.  Perhaps you felt #sportscry for a friend or family member like I did watching Brian become an Ironman in Lake Placid, as it typically anoints itself related to the accomplishment of a goal or hearing an inspiring story.  #sportscry truly embodies everything that running and triathlon has meant for me and is a connection I feel towards my fellow athletes, becoming a personal mantra that I even wore on my tri kit for Ironman Wisconsin.

Finish Line3Ironman’s slogan is that “Anything is Possible” and it truly is.  It’s also said that once you swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, and run 26.2 miles, you can “brag for the rest of your life.”

What I hope is that I will never forget my motivation and inspiration to begin moving along on this emotional journey to become an Ironman and that instead of bragging to others, I can channel the power of #sportscry to inspire for the rest of my life.  I hope you’ll do the same!

Tweet me about your own #sportscry experience at @BradleyGarrison

Brad Garrison
Kansas City, MO
Ironman Wisconsin 2014 Finisher – Bib #1684

IM finisher jackets

The Most Beautiful Run Ever?

Lake Geneva TrailI’ve been recuperating.  My first Ironman had me floating for a few weeks, this one dragged me through the mud.

A 350 meter swim was the only exercise I’ve had since the race . . . until today.

I’m in Wisconsin, and will be on the sidelines with my video camera for Ironman if anyone is looking.  But today, I’m in Lake Geneva, potentially the best kept secret in the US.

It is absolutely beautiful and allegedly Al Capone’s weekend getaway spot.  The homes on this lake are absolutely breathtaking and there is a public trail that runs through the backyard of each right along the lake.

I found out the trail, which goes the entire way around the lake is 21 miles long.  There was a part of me (a very small part) that considered ripping off the whole deal, but part of the reason I came here was to get back in touch with moderation.  I opted for about 5 miles.

Surprisingly, my legs felt alive as they glided across the crushed cinder, grass, dirt, and stone.  There is ample shade, and nice little hills to keep you honest.  There are roots and single tracks with overhanging trees, then perfectly manicured lawns that beg you to take off your shoes.image_5

Let me tell you, this is one of those trails that screams, “Keep going!”  Every corner offers a surprise and a stunning view of this picturesque lake.  I simply can’t remember a more beautiful run in all of my runs.  I may have to come back tomorrow.image

If you’re convinced and have a couple million laying around, I’ve done some leg work for you.

Running Is Freedom

running is freedom The only thing better than running six miles on a beautiful day is  . . . knowing that you can.

I was just back in my hometown for a few days and woke up to mid-70’s with a partly sunny sky.  I sat on the back patio with dad for a while before contemplating what I would do next.  That’s when I remembered, “Hey, I could run.”

It sounds simple, but as recent as two years ago, the words that would have likely popped into my head were, “Hey, I could take a nap!”  Instead, I went into route-planning-mode and my body was a race horse anxious to get out of the gate.

I could go anywhere I wanted.  A buddy’s house across town, Big Hill Park, my old grade school. So many options and each of those seemingly benign treks became electrifying because I had never explored Beloit, Wisconsin by run.

The thought was new.  It was fresh.  And I couldn’t wait to see all of the simplest little things I’d experienced a thousand times before, but from the window of a car.a80d028c-eb1f-4529-883f-f95225a3a28b-boating-on-the-rock-river-in-beloitI cruised by the Boy’s Club on the bike path next to our vividly green neighborhood golf course.  I fearlessly dove into “the hood” and discovered progress in the form of yet another new bike path.  I crossed the bridge to the east side and ran along the immaculate riverfront into downtown.  I was amazed by the run and bike luxuries that never existed when I was a kid.

I chugged past my childhood church, the sight of my first Little League practice, and the middle school that is no longer there.  The memories flourished as I passed Tommy Johnson’s childhood home then lumbered up Lincoln Heights to my parent’s driveway.

Before I knew it, I was back on my patio, sitting in peaceful meditation as sweat dried from the backyard breeze.  It was one of the simplest, yet most gratifying hometown tours I’d taken in my life.

Running is freedom.  Just grab your shoes and go.  It’s an expression that reminds me of how I felt tearing through local fields on my dirt bike as a child.  Nothing is off limits, and more than ever, I understand how running is an art of being one with the soul of a city.Big Hill Park Beloit, WisconsinSubscribe to this blog by email or follow me on Twitter @miketarrolly