Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Destructive Cycle

The inaugural Ironman Chattanooga was on Sunday, and I had a truckload of friends doing it. It was a blast tracking everybody and watching the live webcam to see three of my friends hit the finish line. In particular, local training partners Brian and Randy both broke 12 hours for the first time. And I got a great screen cap of B.O.B. finishing her first Ironman with almost exactly the same finish time I pulled at IMFL (my 13:06:24 vs her 13:06:45, but she had to bike 4 extra miles). Even my buddy Jason finished in 10:15, he RD's my favorite series of local tri's. Baha pulled a straight up 11 hour ironman - incredible. 

Everyone did really well. PR's were shattered, expectations were met, training plans were executed to reach the goals that were then achieved. It was very inspiring! I wish I could have been there, either racing with them or volunteering.

And that brings on the cycle of doom.  I have narrowed down the Destructive Cycle to this:


Let's examine this downward spiral into depression.


I'm still riding high from finishing Rev3 CP just a couple of weeks ago. Recovery is going really well, and I'm starting to really feel better, like I could start training again. The chafing from the last training cycle has healed, and the memory of discomfort on the last half of the bike ride is distant in the sunset. And now I get to pick up the energy generated by all of my friends from them having great races too!  Yippee, who needs to stop doing Ironmans? These things are great and everybody loves them!


Then today, I stare at this all afternoon at the office like an alcoholic checks out a bottle of whiskey.

Stage 2 is usually where I get into trouble. This race sold out in 9 minutes last year! So suddenly at 12:09 my jaw hit the floor.  And now here it is 9 hours later and it still hasn't sold out! It's got to be some kind of sign.  This is crazy talk. How is it still open? pull. that. trigger.


This is where the rubber hits the road. Literally. Get a training plan and do the same crap I've done the last 3 times. IMChoo is only 116 miles of biking, but there are plenty of nice climbs and descents.  That's my terrain. Surely it will be different this time.  It's Tennessee for goodness sakes.  c'mon man. It's a swim with the current, that's just going to help my strong suit.  And the marathon is always my favorite part of the race, it would knock TN off of my 50 state list.  I'll be ready for it.  Let's train hard this year! It's going to be a great summer.


At this point I think I know how the story ends. I spend the entire summer indoors on the stationary bike and the treadmill, again. I put in countless (but logged) hours thinking I'm going to get better and following some hairbrained training plan that I farted out before it all gets too late. I run enough sub-4 hour marathons in the spring so I think I can come close to 4 hours after the 116 mile bike ride too. Mentally I convinced myself that I'm trained well enough to finish somewhere around 11:xx or 12:xx or at least beat my 13:06 pr. Then I cry on the bike course and finish well north of 14 hours, glad the day is done and I claim to retire from Ironmans again.

The Result

Well I will not be signing up for IM Chatt next year. Yes I would love to and today it is a very difficult thing to avoid. But the proof is in the pudding.

Sure I finished Cedar Point with a big smile on my face. I tell myself that anytime you see an Ironman finish line it's a good day. The #1 goal is always "finish, don't die".

But the truth is that the race sucked. Sure it was very well organized and the volunteers were amazing and the weather was perfect. But I mean I sucked at that race. The swim was so violent and disorienting I really wanted to quit. and I love open water swimming, and that was horrible, and I was horrible at it. I puked in Lake Erie. The bike course was rolling and I was totally under-conditioned. If I had actually put some time into bike training this summer or ridden on the roads more than once maybe I would have had a decent day riding. If my ass didn't chafe so much it might have been more comfortable. and by the time it was over, I felt like I was running the marathon with a gunshot wound in one foot. Which is pretty possible.  Sandusky is this dirty, strange little town with a weird vibe. We stayed at this horrible filthy hotel that was just weird. The run course was very pleasant, the aide stations were great, but I just had nothing left to give at that point in the race. and that is just as disappointing as the rest of the race was.

I turned in a personal worst times in every sport, and my worst finishing time yet. The only slower marathon was my very first one in 2009. Every year I feel like I'm training harder, yet I keep getting older and slower. It's depressing to be a fast swimmer and see a third of the field fly past you on the bike. It's sad to put in a 3:46 standalone marathon in the spring and a 4:49 marathon in Ironman. If the proof is in the pudding, my pie is slimy and gross.

I see it as a fork in the road.  Obviously what I have been doing is not working anymore. I found a good training plan and followed it in 2011 to a decent IMFL. Since then I've been on my own plan and getting worse every year. So the fork, the decision I am faced with, can go two ways.

I can buy a tri bike instead of just racing on a road bike and actually get over my fear of riding on the road. This might involve joining some kind of bike team/club/group ride, but those also make me pretty uncomfortable because I don't want to draft or get left out in the middle of nowhere. And I have a tough time keeping a schedule of regular group rides. I have to train whenever I can fit it in around my family and work obligations. I should also hire a good coach since I can't trust my own training plans anymore. And they will force me to do something besides just the same zone 1 & 2 workouts over and over. I've finished 3 ironmans using primarily the Random Hill program on the stationary bike at the gym (seriously, 95% of my bike training).  And I haven't done any running speedwork since before I injured my foot last year. Coach can fix that.  Coach might even be able to motivate me to enjoy biking again.

The other side of that fork offers walking away and doing only what I enjoy. Open water swim racing (not in Lake Erie). Marathons and trail ultras, all that I can handle. Maybe running some 180 mile months and prepping for a 100 mile ultramarathon in 2016? maybe? Maybe 30 hours of running through the woods will make me want to ride a bike again. And I can still sneak in some shorter triathlons next summer too.

Today I know the smart decision is to take the latter option and walk away. It is incredibly depressing not just to witness the downward spiral I've put myself into over the last 2 years, but to not be able to feed off of the energy from the last two days.... ugh. I want to eat it up like a sandwich, then get right into the middle of the whole picture next year - which will only lead to more disappointment unless I do it the right way.

So for now I'm just going to grow the beard back and let my hair grow out again, so I'll have something to hide behind. On a positive note, I have really been enjoying yoga and strength work during the recovery period, and have some great news behind that for another post. Here's to looking forward, and celebrating the successes of the 2014 triathlon season with my friends!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Why no more Ironmans?

Now that I'm coming up on 3 weeks post-Revolution3 Cedar Point Full 140.6, the recovery is going pretty well. I can kind of run again, but the parts that aren't stiff are still falling apart. During an Ironman, all of the joints in the body sort of expand and inflame, so you literally start falling apart. It takes about a month for everything to really come back together. My first run I could still feel that my hips were totally blown open, ankles were loose as a goose, and every muscle was still stiff. That was almost 2 weeks after the race. Last night I ran 5 miles easy, and there is still some inflammation in my arms/hands that gets uncomfortable. And I can tell my immune system is still very depleted as well. So recovery is going pretty good! Doesn't that sound awful?

So why exactly am I walking away from something that has been a goal, a dream, for the last 4 years?  Well, that's a complex answer.

  • Long recovery periods aside, I will be turning 40 next year. And I don't know how I'm going to feel, everybody says the after-40 athlete is completely different from what I feel now. Ironman training takes a huge toll, and I don't want to put my body and my family through it again.  Maybe after I give it a year or two then my feelings will change, but who knows.
  • Cycling sucks. I don't care if I ever ride 112 miles again. This year I really wasn't motivated to put in the long training time on the bike. I rode about 1000 miles less in training this year than I did last year, and the race day difference only turned out to be 6 minutes slower. But since I wasn't conditioned, I also was done and ready to get off of the bike by about mile 65. So when the last 52 miles of a bike ride really suck....
  • I keep slowing down. My first ironman is still my PR. Last year's swim at B2B was faster than my IMFL swim, but other than that every sport has gotten slower every time. At Rev3 I had a personal worst time in every sport and my worst time overall - I trained for a sub-4 hour run split and turned in my slowest marathon since my very first one in 2009! Even my training runs this year were all considerably slower than the steady 8 minute pace I put up last year. If I was seeing improvements in any aspect of any sport I might have a reason to continue. But every race gets slower and more painful, not to mention harder to recover from.
  • I can run more!  Back in the spring I volunteered and ran 31 miles at the Umstead 100 ultramarathon, and it really made me want to get back into trail ultra's. I have to chase this slowly, and it deserves a post of its own. But I am looking forward to logging some high mileage months in the future. Starting with the New River 50k coming up October 11!
  • I can swim more! Open water swim racing got to be really fun this year, with the Lake Erie exception. I absolutely loved the weeks where I got to practice 4 times with the RAM team. Doing lots and lots of swimming only makes me want to swim a lot more. Again, biking gets in the way.  My teammate Dani finished the 12 mile open water Swim Around Charleston in 5:06 this past weekend, so I've kind of got my eyes on that for next year with another teammate. But that's another post for another day.
  • Next year we'll have to see how it all plays out. I bet I will still do some triathlons, maybe (probably) a half iron. And maybe even some charity rides when the weather is nice in the fall, or spring. But I can reliably assure you I will not be training for a century ride.

Specifically, statistics show that most people who love doing Ironmans tap out after only 3. I've done 3 ironmans in the last 4 years, and it has been very rewarding and incredibly fulfilling. Knowing the statistic, I really wanted to do at least 4 ironmans total. But swimming and running are so swipe right these days, and biking is just so scary, I can't see doing a 4th ironman anytime soon.  I'm not going to completely rule it out in case I suddenly start loving the bike again, but mentally a lot of things will have to change for me before I ever agree to do another one.

For now, I added the last link onto the Iron Leg this past weekend. I got the Rev3 logo with a roller coaster car from a finishers visor added below the Battleship from last year.  I'm actually a bit disappointing with how it turned out, which is completely inline with my performance in the race itself. The coaster car is a pointing device, and those should be pointing towards the front of the body. The R3 should be smaller and to the left. As it turned out, this one is actually wider than the battleship when they should be the same width, and they kind of created a V with some open space. I might fill in the open space with a Ferris wheel like the race medal, or maybe put the 140.6 in block letters. so the effect is there and the art is good, but the composition needs to be salvaged.

The entire Iron Leg

The roller coaster car

Big, bloody, blue R3
I'll put up more pics after it heals up. For now it means another 2 weeks out of the pool.

Ironman has been a very worthy and fulfilling journey, but it is a journey that has now come to a close. Now we'll have to figure out what kind of fun adventures I'm going to tackle next!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Recovery Wordless Wednesday

My mom made the awesome Frozen costumes! I picked them up while Ella and I were at Rockmont, and as soon as we got back from camp they both threw them on and went nuts.  Halloween is done this year.

Evil Genius's Indian Princess tribe kicked off their program year the same night Ella and I got back from Rockmont. It was at a really cool store called Science Safari where the kids got to hold some of the animals.  Here is the rest of the tribe playing with a Ball Python.  EG, of course, was terrified of the entire setup they had and refused to enter the same room as the animals. Ha! It was still great to see everyone. The girls all seem bigger this year, they really grew over the summer!

And this is a Carribean Red Hot Pepper, the first one coming off of the bush. It is the second hottest pepper in the world to only the Ghost pepper, and I have to admit I thought it would be hotter. Still pretty good, but I didn't cry.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Rockmont Rocks!

Camp Rockmont is only for Trailblazers, the 4th grade and older kids that have completed the 1st through 3rd grade years of the Indian Princess program with the YMCA. In a way, this is kind of the swan song for Ella's Indian Princess journey with me; it's the culmination of the program. Of course we enjoy doing fun things together and that will continue for as long as she wants to do fun volunteer stuff.  We may or may not go back to Rockmont next year, it is an incredibly expensive trip. But the point of the program is for us to enjoy spending time together, and that goal has been achieved a million times over.

We just got back from the Revolution3 Cedar Point full iron trip late Tuesday night. Wednesday I had some stuff to do around the house, just unpacking and recovering.  We did go to the Farmers Market for a sampler meal that I'm calling the "Ironman's Revenge".  Witness:
Ironman's Revenge - the ultimate ironman recovery meal

Thursday I got everything packed and Ella and I headed to Black Mountain, just northeast of Asheville NC. We rode with my buddy Carl and his daughter. I've enjoyed getting to know the other dads in the tribe as much as Ella has enjoyed getting to know the other girls.  After getting unpacked at the camp, we grabbed dinner at a local mexican restaurant, and my parents drove up from Greenville to drop off some costumes mom had made for the kids and hang out for a bit!  The girls all had a blast hanging out as well.

Checked into the cabin!

I love taking my girl to camp!

We cut them off after a few margaritas
One of the other dads had a genius idea that worked out great on Thursday night. We hung a sheet on the wall outside of the cabin, and had a projector that you could plug an iPad into. So we all sat out on the porch and watched Secretariat. I had never seen it, and that was a great horse movie!

The cabin we got was brand new and in a primo location. And it turns out my buddy Keith from work was staying in the very next cabin with his sons tribe! Too cool.

Friday morning we got up nice and early for a good breakfast before going whitewater rafting! Yes we were about to tackle the French Broad river with some nice class II and class III rapids.  It sounds intense to take 4th graders out like that, but they had a blast and were completely safe the entire trip.

Beautiful day in the mountains!

Ready to hit the river
We had about a 50 minute bus ride out to the river company, Blue Heron Whitewater. From there it was another 20 minute bus ride to the put in location, and time to meet up with the guide and get in the water.

Photobombed by a Yeti!
At Blue Heron waiting to board
One of the other girls in our tribe and myself.  The raft in the background is the rest of our tribe.
We stopped at one point to jump off of this rock into a swim hole. Ella didn't want to jump, but I didn't want to miss out! It was about a 10' jump, but I'm 6' tall. and from 16' up, that water looks intimidating.  It was awesome.
Finally after a big stop at the swimming hole and some good rapids, we stopped for lunch.  One of the other dads had a camera there, so he sent a few pics over.

Ella with the other 2 girls in our boat

They grow up so fast

Dads - they grow up so fast!
This trip was one in a million. It was a beautiful day to be out on the river. The water was high and the rapids were hard.  It was a lot of fun for everyone involved. Friday night we went into Asheville for dinner after some quick showers back at camp. I also totally took a nap on the bus ride back while Ella played on my phone.

This may have been breakfast before we hit the river

After rafting back at the cabin

Wicked Weed's Black IPA - amazing!

Taking kids to a brewpub didn't turn out to be a good idea. Dads loved it, them not so much.

The Orange Peel is a small concert venue in downtown. Kelley and I saw G. Love and Special Sauce there when she was pregnant with Ella! So of course I had to tell her all of those crazy stories.
We ended up getting pizza at a place in Black Mountain, it was wood fired and amazing.  Then it was back to camp for a peaceful night before getting into some serious camp activities on Saturday.

Have map, will navigate camp

Archery - she did really good this year!

 We started with the dry land activities.  Archery, the climbing wall, riflery, canoeing, all of the fun camp stuff. She really enjoyed all of the activities, and got higher on the climbing wall than she's ever gone before. It was also her first time shooting a gun larger than a BB gun (but we shot some BB's too) when we got on the range with some .22's.  She handled it really well even though she was a bit afraid of the sound! The morning activities were a blast.

Getting in the harness

ready to climb

size reference - the green tape to the left is about her height

Going up!

And up! over the green tape now

Making her way up!

.... and swinging freely after falling out.  Might have scared dad a bit.

Holy crap she's still going!

And this was as high as she got.  Higher than anyone else in the tribe!


BB Guns

Very excited she hit a pie plate this year!

playing on a hillside - that girl loves the mountains!

Ready to shoot rifles

The girl is a pretty good shot!
After lunch we changed into the swimsuits and hit the water sports.  Not nearly as many pictures of these, but I did start by tackling the Gully Washer, the giant green slide in the lake shots above. This thing drops you about 150 ft and sent me crashing into the lake.  it was pretty awesome, certainly not something I've ever tried before.  It also shows how much Ella has grown; in the past I would have to stay right next to her the entire time. This time I handed her my stuff to carry (inc phone and shoes) and she went down to watch me slide. That means she had to navigate her own way around the camp, find the lake, carry the stuff without dropping anything, and be down there by the time I got through the line and made it down the slide.  By 5th grade maybe she'll be able to get a picture of me coming out of the slide, but still this took a lot of trust for me.  so cool.

Next we hit the Kayaks, then got to swim around in the lake some until it was time for the blob contest.  Now, a blob contest might sound like something I'd do before I lost all the weight, but check this out instead:

Now who wants to see Daddy incur some serious pain? That was one of the other dads in our tribe sending me about 15 feet in the air.  We got points for height and pain factors, but not much style. Still put us in the top 20% or so of all of the dads participating in the blob contest.  That high dive was 12' off of the water and I got bounced higher than that.  Then I panicked and wiggled like a fish some before falling on my side and practically hitting the blob again. Ouch!  That was a ton of fun.

Before I knew it, we were at the saturday night dinner and then heading home.

The whole tribe now as 4th graders

Hanging out by the lake

Child stuffing her face

She didn't want to leave! We already had the car packed up so she's hanging in an empty bunk. :(
We headed out Saturday night instead of Sunday morning because the guy we rode with had an early flight on Sunday afternoon. So we could have spent one more night not sleeping in those humid swampy cabins, eaten a sad breakfast then driven home, or gone saturday night and slept in our own beds.  I think we totally won Rockmont, we only had to spend 2 nights there, got to do the rafting and everything we wanted to do at camp, and this way I got to spend 2 days at home instead of only 1 during my vacation.

This was a very fitting finale to the Indian Princess program for Ella, even though I didn't really tell her that we don't do anything else specifically with her tribe.  We'll still do crafts and volunteer projects together. And we'll still get together with the other kids and dads in her tribe whenever we can. We had a wonderful time at Camp Rockmont and on the river and I wouldn't change a thing.