Spring Break and a Mantra

Made it! Spring Break is here!

So I know I’ve been absent for a while, save for a post about tattoos and my opinions surrounding them. But, there are some really good reasons for that:

  1. School has been eating me alive. I’m working hard, and the hard work is paying off, but it means I’m having to sacrifice some other facets of my life in order to do well. School is a short-term thing, and doing better there means more, and better opportunities after it’s done.
  2. I’ve been training! You know that whole post about how there is no off-season? Yeah, I take that seriously. This last week aside, I’ve been working harder than ever to get faster and stronger.
  3. I’ve been cross-training! It’s been really nice to get some new and different options into my workout plan, including CrossFit. I’ve really enjoyed challenging myself in a different way than I’m used to, and it’s paying dividends in other areas of my fitness.
  4. I’ve been trying to get my diet under control. I went Keto and did a sugar fast early in the year, and I lost about 20 lbs really fast. Too fast, in fact. The last couple of weeks have been bad in terms of maintaining any kind of diet, as I burned up a bunch of my willpower in the¬†first couple of months of 2017.

Ok, now that you know why I’ve been gone, let me share a little bit of why I’m posting now, and what you can expect as we move forward!

First, I really, REALLY need to regain some motivation. I’ve found it more and more difficult to get on the bike, or to lace up the running shoes, or to go to the pool, or to stick with my diet. It’s not that I haven’t seen results, I’m just struggling with my motivation to do what I know I should be doing.

In furtherance of that, I’m declaring my intentions here: to refocus, to reenergize, and reaffirm my commitment to tri in 2017. I’ve got some big goals, and if I don’t put the work in now, I won’t get there later. One of my favorite quotes in the past has been “The course doesn’t give you what you haven’t earned.” Meaning, if you haven’t put the work in before the race, you can’t expect results to just appear on race day.

Second, I’m announcing a mantra. I find it to be incredibly helpful to have a mantra you can repeat to yourself when things get really hard. What I’ve chosen to do is pick three qualities that I either have but are in need of some work, or that I don’t have but want to have. For me, those are Drive, Grit, and Determination.

When I am in a particularly hard point of a workout, the last two fartleks, the last 30 seconds of a 125% FTP interval, the 600-800 yards of a 1000 yard TT swim, etc., I tell myself with conviction that I AM those things. In my head, whether I’m saying it out loud or not, I’m screaming at myself: “I am Drive, I am Grit, I am Determination!” I repeat it again and again, to get through to where things ease up for a minute.

I would encourage all of you to do the same! Find three things you want to embody or need to embody more of, and tell yourself with conviction that you ARE those things! Tell others that you ARE those things! The more you say it, the more you believe it, the more you become it. And the more you believe it, the more others will believe it too.

Something that’s key about a mantra is that it’s short. It’s definitely no more than one sentence, and it’s best to keep it to 3-6 words. I chose three concepts which can be summarized shortly, but it’s meant as a trigger for you to remember the things you want to be, and why you are doing what you’re doing.

Third, I plan on being more active in this sphere. I am hoping to get a few drafts in the bank this week, and would like to be posting here once per week for the foreseeable future. I’ll need you all to keep me honest, but I understand if you don’t. ūüôā

I’m hoping in the next several weeks to be able to do some reviews of some new products that I’ve been using in training already, and a few that are in the works that I see as vital to this years success. Look out for those soon!

Later on…

Tattoos and Triathletes

This is a pretty contentious topic at times, but one that I happen to consider myself especially steeped in. There are a few general rules that ANYONE should follow when getting a tattoo, so let’s cover those first:

  1. Choose your artist wisely. We have more tools at our disposal now than ever before to check up on an artist and their work. Yelp, Instagram, Facebook, etc., are all fantastic tools to find an artist’s portfolio and reviews from others on how their experience went.¬†This is NOT, however, a 100% replacement for going to talk to the artist in person and seeing their work in-shop that hasn’t yet made it to the internet. ¬†You should pick an artist with whom you get along or can tolerate for the time it takes to complete your tattoo, and whose work you admire and recognize as great. Artists often tend to be better at one style than another, and you should keep this in mind when selecting an artist. Many artists can adequately tattoo in many styles, so don’t fret if your chosen artist isn’t highly specialized in the style you want.
  2. Have an idea of your design, but don’t be married to it. Tattoo artists are experts in their field, and the human body is f*cking weird. We have strange curves and angles, different skin textures in different locations, and differing amounts of “stretchiness” that depends on the body and body part. An artist has a special knowledge of what designs will fit or “flow” where on your body, and it’s in your best interest to defer to them. Some text or font may not read well as a tattoo, or may not flow well in a particular spot on your body. An artist should consider that and either confirm your idea, or suggest a modification that might work better.¬†But, don’t get something you don’t want. While artists have this special knowledge, don’t feel obligated to get a tattoo you don’t want. It may be a result of an inexperienced artist, or it may be that the tattoo you want isn’t really all that feasible. Don’t feel like you have to get what the artist suggests; it’s ok to get nothing, too. Take your time and decide on something you definitely want, instead of settling for something that works.
  3. Be prepared to shell out some coin. Tattoos, and especially great tattoos from great artists, are not cheap. Don’t walk away from a respected artist who has a great reputation, fantastic work, and has put years of work into their business and craft because you can get it cheaper elsewhere. Especially don’t walk away from a tattoo artist to get your friend with a tattoo kit and a bottle of J√§germeister to do it in his garage on a Saturday night. This usually results in poor quality work, and could result in some serious infection.¬†This includes leaving a tip! Just like going out to eat, using a concierge or bell boy at a hotel, tipping is part of getting a tattoo. Cash is always king, and it goes a long way in keeping your favorite artist in business.
  4. Don’t go on an empty stomach. I made this mistake once, and it’s a mistake you will only make once. Eat something before you go, otherwise you run the risk of passing out in the chair and not finishing the tattoo.
  5. Listen to and follow the aftercare instructions you are given. If your artist tells you not to swim for three weeks, then don’t! If you need to wash and lotion the tattoo twice a day, then do it! The point is this: the artist has worked with their particular machines, the particular ink, the particular needles, and their other supplies for a while, and they generally know how skin reacts to their chosen combination.¬†If your artist doesn’t tell you what the aftercare instructions are, ask them. Don’t be afraid to ask your artist what you should or should not do with your new tattoo, they’ll be able to provide an answer.

Ok, so now that those generalities are out of the way, it’s time for a few opinions. Because this is my blog, I am entitled to my opinion. If you don’t agree, that’s cool, let me know in the comments or something. Remember, these are just opinions, not attacks. Please don’t be personally offended if I don’t really like your style of tattoo.

Tri-specific tattoos:¬†Meh. I generally think of the image of a figure swimming, biking, and running. It seems like a cool thing at first thought, but then you tend to realize that just about every other triathlete has had this same thought, and many have followed through. I’ve seen a few that I thought were novel, but not many. It’s just not for me.

Water color: Again, meh. I find these to be a trend, one that will eventually pass, and we’ll end up with a bunch of folks who want their blurry, indistinguishable tattoos covered up with something that will look good for more than 2 years at a time. Again, I think these seem like a good idea, but generally an idea that should be avoided. Watercolors belong on paper, not skin.

70.3 tattoos: Don’t. Just don’t. This is a raging debate on Slowtwitch that surfaces every now and then. My stance is that these are dumb. If you’re planning one of these tattoos, just don’t do it, please. You could get a tattoo with the location or whatever, but don’t include the 70.3 distance, or the dreaded half-filled Ironman logo. Why? Well, to be honest, I don’t feel like a 70.3 is worth a tattoo. That’s just me. Even after I had done my first 70.3, I didn’t think a tattoo was appropriate. It’s kind of a long way, but after a couple of them, it doesn’t really feel like it. Wait until you’ve got 140.6 under your belt, then let the ink flow.

Ironman tattoos:¬†Truthfully, these can be hit or miss. I love the ones that incorporate locations or something more personal into the tattoo. I think this takes an otherwise standard logo and adds meaning to it. Not to say I don’t like the standard M-dot, but use a little creativity and make it personal!

Tattoo location: This is important! I’ve seen so many people with the M-dot on the back of the calf, I just expect that to be the location. Placement can take an otherwise boring tattoo and make it interesting.

Here’s the takeaway:¬†It’s your tattoo, get what you want. I have opinions, but they’re just opinions. Don’t take mine (or anyone else’s) opinion as gospel. Do, however, listen to your artist. Have thoughts? Let me know!

Later on…

Off-Season?

Having an “off-season” is a misguided concept. It would be ill-advised to allow yourself an “off-season,” or to suggest that one even exists.

I know, you’re probably thinking, “But I’m tired! I deserve a break! I did xxxxxxxxx miles this last year, and my body needs some rest!” And you’re right, you do deserve a break, and your body does need some rest, but let’s face it: Overtraining is what got you here.

Pairing these two concepts seems like a silly thing to do, they’re diametrically opposed, right? For one you do way too much, and the other you do absolutely nothing. For one you feel accomplished, and the other you feel guilty. The trouble is, those feelings are assigned in reverse.

Before I dive in and make you upset, here’s my one sentence summary of this post and this time of year:¬†This is the time of year that winners are made.

Assume for a moment that in a season of overtraining you might feel accomplished. You hit a ridiculous number of miles, did a workout or two (or more!) every day for some crazy period of time. This is generally accompanied by a feeling of accomplishment (and often exhaustion) after the overtraining has ceased. But let’s go back to the beginning and look at the driving force behind the overtraining: guilt.

“I didn’t do enough last year and missed my PR, I’m going to really nail it this year and suffer to the max to make myself better.” Or, “I haven’t done anything for a while, and I want to get back into shape. I’m going to go hit it super hard and get healthy and active again.”

Sound familiar? In just a few short years in triathlon, I have heard these things so often it’s nauseating. It’s ok to want to get back into shape, or to work harder to get to that elusive PR, but the answer is never, I repeat NEVER overtraining.

So now you want an “off-season” to relax, eat all the shitty food you’ve been avoiding, have a few (or more) beers and put on some winter weight. You feel a little guilty, but figure it’ll be ok once you start training again in February. Or March. Maybe April…

The fact is that this is driven by a feeling of accomplishment. “I carried my body so far last year and hit a huge PR! I deserve a break!” I listed this crap above, so if you need a refresher, scroll up. But, suffice it to say, your exhaustion is caused by overtraining.

The key is this: rest can be just as important as a workout. If you don’t have a rest day (maybe two, depending on your plan) in your weekly training plan, make one. My coach takes care of me, and understands this concept. Overtraining without rest causes your body to be broken down, and makes you susceptible to illness, injury, and mental burn-out. It can lead you to think, “I’ve really accomplished a lot, I deserve a break.” Then when you take that extended break, you’re left feeling guilty because you haven’t been training, and launch back into overtraining.

Break the vicious cycle!! Don’t let these waxing and waning feelings take over your training. Here are a few tips to know when you might be doing too much:

  1. Listen to your body. If you have a hacking cough, running nose, and are running a fever, maybe going for that 10-mile run outdoors in below-freezing temps and a snow storm isn’t the best idea. Your body needs recovery time to get over an illness, and depleting it of energy is not a good way to encourage recovery. (If you feel like you still need to do something, maybe take a walk on a treadmill, or a light spin on an exercise bike.)¬†Conversely, sometimes what your body needs to kick the illness is the exercise! Learn the cues of your body and know when you need to sweat the sickness out, and when it might not be the best idea. Only you can answer this question.
  2. Listen to your brain. If you’ve been up since 4 am with a crying infant, worked all day on a stressful project, cooked dinner, cleaned the house, ran a meeting in your community, and get home at 9 pm to see you still have a 120-minute trainer session and start to cry, maybe don’t do the trainer session. If you’re mentally drained and the thought of moving one more inch is enough to produce tears, take a rest night. It won’t do much good to¬†do the workout without focusing on it.¬†Conversely, sometimes you need to break through that mental barrier and do the workout anyway. There can be a lot to gain by pushing through, being mentally tough, and doing the workout even when you don’t want to.
  3. Look at your training schedule/log. If you’re like me, you track a lot of data. A LOT of data. You know your macros, your caloric intake, how many calories you burned in your workout, the TSS of your workout, your average heart rate, your power output, blah, blah, blah… The point is, you can readily look at your history and see how many days in a row you’ve worked out over the last few weeks. If you’ve done an intense workout every day for the last 10 days, maybe take a day off. It will do your body and your mind some good to have a little space to breathe. Conversely, it’s important to note the difference in intensity between your workouts. If your last 7 days have been easy days, skipping another easy workout, or that one high intensity workout of the week, could work to your detriment.
  4. When in doubt, check with your coach. I know, this one has a prerequisite, and further qualifiers. I am fortunate enough to have text message privileges with my coach, and he often texts back in a very short amount of time. If I’m having a hard time telling whether I should push through and do the workout or ease up and take a day off, I know I can rely on my coach to help make the decision, even if it’s not what I want to hear.¬†To the same point, don’t bug your coach all the time. If you find yourself trying to decide whether or not to do the workout every week, you probably need to reevaluate more than whether or not you should be doing the workout. This should be a fairly rare occurrence.

The fact is, what most people call the “off-season,” is a significant season of opportunity. It provides the margin that makes itself abundantly apparent on race day.¬†This time frame separates winners from those who didn’t quite make the podium. Now is the time to lose the weight you think you ought to lose, now is the time to increase your FTP, now is the time to improve your swimming/running/cycling form, now is the time to lift more weights, get more flexible, become more mindful. This is prime base building season.

So, it’s all (as usual) up to you. You know you better than anyone else. Only you can check the boxes on whether or not you should work out, whether or not you want to work out, or whether or not you’re in it to win it.

For me, my goals require me to dig in during this time and make improvements. I will engage in suffering all winter and spring so that I am faster in the summer. What are you going to do?

Later on…

A Moment About Suffering

I had the opportunity to answer a question on NYE that I don’t get asked much, but that I contemplate when training: How¬†do you put yourself through all of that pain?

The answer really boils down to two main components:

  1. The suffering lets me know I’m alive
  2. The suffering teaches me about myself and who I am

Suffering is such an odd concept to embrace, because humans are hard wired to avoid it at all costs. We learn at a young age that if it brings pain, we shouldn’t do it. We don’t go back to the stove to see if we can leave our hand on the burner a little longer this time; We don’t touch the stove again!¬†We seek what is comfortable, and so far humans have done a pretty good job at that. We have huge cities, great technology, and we’re pushing that concept further and further every year (OrderUp, InstaCart, Uber anyone?).

So what is it that drives athletes to endure suffering, to abuse our bodies and push the limits of what we can take? The answer will not be the same for every athlete you ask, and I can only give you my answer.

My answer is that I find it cathartic. I find that it is in my best interest to cast myself into the fire to see how, what, and who I am on the other side. There is something about knowing and being known by suffering that allows a person such great freedom.

There comes a point in a race (if you’re running it right in my opinion) where you begin to hear a voice questioning you, why you are doing this and if it’s worth it. You must be prepared to either ignore that voice, tell it to STFU, or answer the questions. If you haven’t prepared, or you give the wrong answer, your day ends there. If you haven’t been there, and practiced your response, it’s extremely difficult to give the right response on race day.

And that’s the often-overlooked value of the training. Aside from just the obvious physical benefits, which are totally a necessary part of what I do, the mental toughness is something learned from pushing yourself to the limit week in and week out. Unless and until you get down and wallow around in the suffering, roll and revel in it, find out who you are in the midst of it and learn how you react to it, you will be unprepared for race day.

When I get into that suffering, when I’m down in the trench wondering if I should call it quits, if what I’m doing is worth it, I know that I have a choice. And making the choice to continue to suffer and to push my body, that’s when I know I’m truly alive. I’m feeling, but I still have a choice. It sucks, but it’s because I choose the suck. It’s hard, but it’s because that’s how I make it. I am directing this moment, and only I say when it’s enough, not the suffering.

I have learned that my body is capable of so, so much more than what I think it is. I have learned that I can endure more than I think I can; That when my body tells me it’s ready to stop, I know better. I have found a new strength, a second, third, sometimes fourth wind. I’ve found the strength to pick the pace up when I thought I could barely walk. I am so much more than the suffering, I just need it to get me to go there.

I wish my response on NYE were this eloquent, this well-thought out. I think I said something more like, “You learn to deal with it and love it.” I got some crazy looks for that one, but fortunately everyone moved on pretty quickly. But to those of you who are familiar with this game, you know what I’m talking about.

For those who are new to triathlon in particular, welcome! Don’t worry, I know everything I said above sounds terrible, but really, you do learn to love it, crave it even. You’ll get there. Start small. Search for it in your training, and know that when you feel it you’re making a break through. When you push through it, you’ve made an accomplishment. Eventually, you’ll know enough about your body to find it and love it, too.

FTP and Perspective

I did my first ever FTP test a couple of days ago now, and I was less than enthused by my results. Maybe it’s the complete lack of training over the last month or so (thanks a lot, finals), maybe I’m just way weaker than I though, but here it is in all it’s lackluster glory: 151 Watts.

Wah-freakin-wah. Not exactly what I was hoping for. That means that I’m generating about 2.1 watts per kg of bodyweight (155 lbs = 70 kg). Ideally, I would have been much closer to 3 w/kg, but that’s what the off season is for, right?

Well, I was wallowing in my sorrow, and headed out for a run to see how much of that had left me since I’ve been so inactive. Not as much as I thought, but still not great: 8:15/mi average. Now, it was a fartlek workout, and there were some pretty icy patches that slowed me down, but still. In the winter months I’m more used to seeing sub-8 average times. Something about that cold air…

BUT, as I passed another person who was walking, they smiled and waved, and I could see that they were breathing heavy, sweat was collecting on their eyebrow, and their cheeks were rosy. Instinctively I waved and smiled back, and I was suddenly smacked with the reality of pace.

First, a brief aside. If you don’t return a smile and wave from another runner, cyclist, or walker, shame on you. In my head, every time someone doesn’t even acknowledge my existence after I’ve waved, I’m thinking (and sometimes saying it under my breath), “Well f*ck you too!” There’s no need to be a dick out there, just freakin’ wave back! You may be the nicest person in the world, but when you don’t wave back, that’s what I think. /rant.

The truth is, “fast” is relative. To those who are huffing and puffing to walk a 20-minute mile, a 15-minute mile is fast! To those running a 15-minute mile, a 12-minute mile is fast! So for me to be bummed because I’m not rocking my usual 7:30-mile training run pace, wishing I was running “fast,” seemed a little petty to say the least.

That said, I want to be faster. I don’t want to settle for my current pace, because I think I can be faster. Is it going to mean a lot of work? Yes. Is it going to mean suffering? Yes. Is it going to hurt? Yes. Is it going to be worth it? Hell yes.

If you’re reading this and thinking about quitting because you’re not “fast,” please, PLEASE do NOT give up! It’s not about reaching someone else’s pace. It’s not about getting to someone else’s definition of “fast.” It’s all about the journey. Embracing that and enjoying seeing the change as it occurs will hold much more value than simply getting to a number.

Later on…

The 2017 Post

I’ve been promising this post, and here it is!¬†Let’s get the big things out of the way first:

  1. I’m excited to be racing under Maverick Multisport this year on their Age Group team!
  2. My A races are Ironman Muncie 70.3, and USAT Nationals (dependent on qualifying)

There is a stretch race that I’ve got my sights set on, but there’s too much work to do to worry you all about that. I’ll address it if/when I get there.

I keep saying I’m excited to race under Maverick, but I really am PUMPED to be racing as a Maverick! I have known a few Mavericks over the years, and I have seen and heard nothing but great things! I’m really looking forward to the community the team has, and to supporting the accomplishments of even more people from all over the world!

I already race as a Renegade, and I won’t be leaving my Renegades behind, nor my OG PCS Multisport team! Just spreading the love between two world wide teams, and bringing it home to the locals.

I have a few things that I need to say about my goals this year. The A races are just the products of a few other goals that I want to see come to fruition, and where I get to go to show off my hard work.

In addition to the races, I have a subset of goals:

  1. Lose 20 lbs.
  2. Build power on the bike (through cross training and through specific bike work)
  3. Get and keep my diet in check – Going Keto!
  4. Do CrossFit to build power in my legs and mental toughness
  5. Run a sub-20 5k in a tri

The first four things are things that I think have been holding me back for the last couple of years. My diet has affected my weight, which in turn has affected my power to weight ratio, which in turn has affected my speed… So I’m going back to basics. Eat fat to burn fat, keep carbs low, plenty of protein for recovery. Operate at a caloric deficit, get lean to go fast. That’s my game this year: GO F’IN FAST.

CrossFit will be a new addition, and will likely not last beyond the spring, but it will depend on how it goes, how I progress, etc. I’ve got a connection to a great box through my wife, and I’m excited to get started with that in the new year.

In order to build more power, I’ll actually start training with power! Now, it’ll be simulated power at the beginning. I’ll be on Zwift training with simulated power, and hoping to make some equipment changes in the new year. We’ll see how that works out.

I’ve been chasing a sub-20 5k in a race for about a year and a half now, but this is the year. I have started to build some consistent speed in addition to adding endurance, and I have no doubt that that barrier will be broken this year. I will have to if I want to qualify for Nationals!

One more thing: This spring is going to be extremely busy. I’ve got a full class load, I’m participating on a national moot court team in Chicago in February, I’m hoping to be working a part time job, and managing¬†a full training schedule. It’s going to be a busy time, but the rewards that potential payoff will be huge!

I’m continuing to search for an internship in the legal field. Colorado, Indiana, California… if you know of an internship that could use a driven, qualified candidate, please let me know!

Look out for more updates as training ramps up, I’ll be doing some baseline workouts in the near future and will post my numbers and thoughts!

Later on!

We did it!

Well folks, we did it!

If you’re not sure what “it” is, no worries. It’s super easy and simple, but it makes a huge difference.

See, almost a year ago, I started a fundraising journey. As I worked toward my goal of completing Ironman Boulder, I decided I would raise money to donate to Tourette Syndrome research. Why? Well, because I have Tourette Syndrome. You can find more info on my story and journey here.

Tonight, we made a donation of $750 to the Tourette Syndrome Association, and earmarked those dollars for research!

What an amazing accomplishment, and we did it together!

At the moment life is getting a little crazy, but be on the lookout for an exciting announcement soon about the coming 2017 season!

 

Ironman Boulder 140.6

Welcome to my new blog! I’m still figuring things out, so bear with me as we continue this journey together!

I thought it would be very fitting to kick off this new chapter with a race report of grand proportions: My very first 140.6-mile Ironman race!

Pre-Race

The build to this race has taken the better part of the last 10 months, and a lot has happened during that time. To fully lay out all the details would take too long, so here are the highlights: Started law school, quit my full time job, totaled my car, wife lost her job, bought new bike, wife started new job, I worked four different jobs, raised money for Tourette Syndrome research. Whew! So much happened in such a short time, and we were very thankful for the trip to arrive.

Natalie and I left on a Saturday, stopped in Kansas City overnight, and continued on to Denver on Sunday. We stayed one night in Denver, had dinner with good friends, then began our stay in Boulder on Monday. I knew that acclimating to the elevation would be a key to my success, and arriving at elevation a full week before the event was a very good head start on that acclimation.

Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 6.12.46 PM

On Tuesday we went out with one of my best friends to do a hike and get some serious elevation under my belt. Rich took us on one of his favorite hikes up Mount Audubon in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. All told, after 7 ours of hiking we gained 2,789 feet of elevation, reaching a peak elevation of 13,223 feet! Fortunately the race would not be at that elevation, we raced at a measly 5,480 feet in Boulder.

On Thursday we headed over to the Ironman Village for packet pickup and a mandatory athlete briefing. I’m not really sure who keeps track to make sure the athletes actually attend these “mandatory” briefings, but I went nonetheless. The Race Director, DC, had done a great job of getting info out to the athletes through YouTube before the race, so there wasn’t much new information to absorb. After hitting the Ironman Village, we made a quick stop at the Ironman store and picked up a couple of souvenirs. We then headed back to the house we were staying at, and crashed out. It had been a long couple of days, and we were more than tired.

My parents arrived on Saturday, and they helped us get my bike dropped off at the Boulder Reservoir (The Res), as well as getting my bike and run gear bags checked in. We ventured up to Rocky Mountain National Park to do a short, easy hike with them before heading back to bed. I packed my special needs back, and I was surprisingly able to get some sleep the night before the race, something that doesn’t happen very often for me.

Race Day

On the morning of the race, I set my alarm for 3:00. Yes, AM. I knew that the shuttles to the Res would be leaving starting at 4, and I wanted to be on a bus by 4:30. We got everything packed up and into the car, and headed down to Boulder High School, which was central to everything but the swim. We parked the car on a side street before the sun was up, and boarded a shuttle headed to the Res. We overheard that the swim would be wetsuit legal, with the water at a comfy 72 degrees.

Once at the Res, things started to get real. It started to sink in more than ever what I was about to set off to do. 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of biking, and 26.2 miles of running in less than 17 hours. I started to get a bit nervous, which helped uh, loosen things up if you will. I hit the porta-potty for a race morning clear-out, and found a good spot to sit down, relax, and get into my wetsuit. Around 6:00, gathered with teammates and family, we had a couple of prayers, took a couple of pictures, and we headed off to the swim start.

Leading up to the race, I had been trying to decide if I would go out with the first wave of swimmers (sub-1:00 estimated time) or the second wave (1:00-1:10 estimated time). After the purchase of a wetsuit, I felt comfortable enough with my time to go out with the first wave. I fully expected to swim in around an hour without a wetsuit, so with a wetsuit I figured it would not be an issue to swim under an hour.

As I stood in the corral waiting to start, I sucked down a gel, and put on my swim cap and goggles. I was really nervous about my cap and goggles, because to this point I had never put them on when dry. I would always get my hair wet and fill the cap with water before putting it on, and then dunk my goggles in the water before putting them on to get a good seal. Fortunately, with the added buoyancy of my wetsuit, I knew I would be able to reposition them in the water if they didn’t cooperate.¬†Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 6.13.01 PM

The cannon sounded (Yeah, we got to start with the cannon!) and we were off! A cannon start is typically reserved for the pro wave, so I was pretty excited to get the honor of going on the cannon blast. I knew that we had to keep the buoys on our left, and that a lot of the other competitors would be staying as close as possible to the line of buoys. I opted to move farther out to the right to try to catch as much clean water as possible, but I still found myself very much in a washing machine of bodies for the first 400 meters. During this time I had what I would call my first real freak out in an open water swim. I was getting beaten up, run over, running over people, having difficulty seeing the buoys, and questioning whether I could continue doing this for another 3+ km, or if I should grab a kayak to catch my breath. I decided to swim farther out to the right to try and get into cleaner water, thinking I might be able to calm myself down enough to be able to continue.  This was probably the best decision I made all day, as I was finally able to get myself into a rhythm and press on with the swim.

After making the first turn, I started to find another gear. I knew that the first two legs of the swim were pretty long, and that the last leg would be fueled by a little bit of adrenaline as I swam toward the finish. I started to pull a little harder with my arms, focusing on all the drills I had done in the pool with pull buoys. Before I knew it, I made the final turn for home.

At this turn we found ourselves in a big patch of seaweed. It was long enough for even a shallow pull to grab a chunk of weeds, and the water became a bit of a seaweed minefield. I found myself at one point fighting to get a chunk of it off of my face so that I could actually breathe. I started to pick up my tempo as I made the swim to shore, being careful not to overexert myself and lose control of my breathing. It was at this point that I noticed how beautiful the mountains were this morning. On our right was the front range, perfectly illuminated in hues of pink and red with a band of fog hiding the peaks. With each breath I took I was amazed by their beauty.

Soon enough I had the tents of the finish line in sight, and I started to push the cadence more. I focused on long, loping pulls with a slower, 2-beat kick. I watched the tents grow larger, and the finishing arch came into view. I swam up the shore until I saw someone beside me stand up. I know I’m one of the shorter athletes, so I took a few more strokes to make sure I could stand up comfortably. Once up, a volunteer grabbed my arm to help steady me as I moved onto shore and toward the wetsuit strippers. After spending 2.4 miles in a horizontal position, you can be pretty loopy when you get upright. Fortunately I didn’t have too many issues with this, and only needed minimal assistance.

On my way to the wetsuit strippers, I saw the family of a teammate along the tunnel, and I smiled and gave them a thumbs up. I quickly checked my watch, 1:05. A little slower than what I wanted, but still very close to being on target! I got my wetsuit pulled off by a couple of volunteers, and moved toward the changing tent. A volunteer grabbed my bag of bike gear, and handed it off to me as I entered the changing tent. I sat down to put my socks on, and as I opened the bag I noticed something was not quite right.I had someone else’s bag! I closed the bag up and headed out to the volunteer to get the right bag. She was extremely apologetic, and I told her it was no big deal. I took my bag back into the changing tent, and got ready to go. A volunteer in the change tent helped stuff my nutrition into the pockets of my race kit, another volunteer slathered me with sunscreen, and off toward my bike I went!

Coming out of the tent and into the bike area, I saw my family cheering for me. I smiled, waved, and shouted my swim time to them. I grabbed my bike and started to walk toward the bike exit. Other athletes were running their bikes out, but I decided to stay calm and walk mine out to the dismount line. Once on the bike, I was off on the first of 3 loops!

I knew I needed to pace myself on the bike, or it would be a very long, miserable 112 miles. I started off going pretty easy, as I knew my own tendency to go hard for the first 3 hours and blow myself up. I took advantage of the downhills and tailwind sections, and spun a light, easy gear uphill; I was feeling pretty good! Around mile 5 we hit a section of road that was under construction, and a bump sent all of my nutrition skittering along the road! I knew I would be sunk without it, and I stopped to gather it all up. I knew I had a choice to either be really upset about this stoppage, or to just laugh it off and stick to my own plan. I decided that getting upset about something so minor so early in the race could ruin the whole day and experience, so I opted to plaster a smile on my face and to enjoy the ride.

This proved to be another great choice, as I continued to move well for the next 30 miles. I was enjoying the scenery, appreciating the speed where it was available, and embracing the suffering of the hills and headwinds when they could not be ignored. I found myself smiling at the spectators and cameras, cajoling with the other competitors, and genuinely having a great time.

Around mile 35, near an aid station, I was faced with yet another challenge. I reached into my jersey pocket to grab some trash to leave with the volunteers, and my tube of BASE salt fell out. Not only did it fall out, it was crushed by a bike behind me. I continued through the aid station, trying to figure out what in the world I was going to do without this extremely important part of my nutrition plan. I knew I had a spare tube in my special needs bag, which I thought was available at mile 40. “No big deal,” I told myself, “you have an extra tube in less than 5 miles, and you’ll stay right on schedule.”

Well, it turns out that special needs stop wasn’t until mile 60, so instead of just 5 miles away, it was actually 25 miles away. That was a very different story, and meant that I needed to come up with some kind of a contingency for sodium and electrolytes, STAT. I knew that if I went 25 miles without any kind of electrolytes or sodium at all, I would be sunk.¬†I passed mile 40 and started to panic, had I missed a turn off for special needs? Did I miss the sign? Would I not be able to get my extra tube of salt until mile 80 now? That would mean 45 miles with no salt, and probably a very bad day. I decided to utilize what the course gave me, and not to worry too much.

At the next aid station, I opted to slow down and take a couple of big mouth-fulls of Gatorade Endurance. I knew I didn’t want to take the whole bottle, and I’m sure I frustrated some volunteers as I took, drank, and discarded the Gatorade all within one aid station. I knew I just needed to keep myself afloat as long as possible, and that the Gatorade was my best option to do that.

I did stop at an aid station to use a porta-potty, and it looked like I was doing okay on hydration. This was encouraging, so I decided that my current plan was working. I started to feel that I was chafing a bit in my underarms, as I started to feel some burning as sweat started to run. I was a little concerned that this would have a big effect on my run, but decided that worrying about that could wait until I got to the run. I hopped back on my bike, and was off again! A few miles later a teammate pulled up behind me, and slowed down a bit to check on me. He asked how I was feeling, we had a quick chat about the swim, how the bike was going, and decided that we would see each other on the run. Just like that, he was off again! Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 6.33.45 PM

As I approached mile 60, I was really beginning to settle into my backup plan of taking the Gatorade in place of the salt. I knew that it was working in a pinch, and that I could make it all the way in that way if I had to. Fortunately, I saw a big flag advertising that Special Needs was coming up. I moved into the pick up lane, and welcomed the short break to take what I needed. I had extra nutrition, including salt, in my special needs bag, and a small tube of extra chamois cream. I only took the salt with me, and left the rest to be donated or recycled. Back on the bike, I took a couple quick licks of the salt, and settled back in for the second half of the ride.

Unfortunately, tragedy struck as I was coming around for my second loop. A cyclist was struck by a vehicle and later died at the hospital. I was fortunate enough not to be near the accident when it occurred, but the image of the bikes laying alongside the road will stick with me. I said a brief prayer for those involved and their families, and continued on.

As I entered the last section of the second loop, I encountered another cyclist who was struggling with cramps. She asked if I had any salt, and I gave her a bit from my extra tube. I’m guessing she was unfamiliar with how the salt should be consumed, because she poured a lot of the salt directly into her mouth. I asked for the tube back, and found it nearly gone. I knew I only needed to have enough for 3-4 more licks, but it was going to be close.

I also had an issue with my shifting the entire way through the course. My rear derailleur was moving to a position between gears, not really seating into one gear effectively. I had to keep constant pressure on the shifter to make sure I didn’t accidentally slip into a harder gear. This had me frustrated early on, since I had the bike tuned up just before leaving to avoid an issue like this. I again made the conscious choice to smile through it, and not let it get in the way of enjoying the day.

Coming into town was exhilarating. The streets were lined with fans and spectators, and their cheers helped wipe away some of the pain of biking 112 miles in unexpected heat. The  high temperature for the day was only supposed to be 84, but we ended up closer to 94 or 95 on the day.

As I came into transition, I knew I wanted to leave my shoes on the bike, so as not to have to run the 1/4-1/3 mile into run transition in them. I was able to get one of my feet out of my shoe coming in, but I didn’t want to risk falling down on a flying dismount. In a shorter race a flying dismount is worth the risk, but not knowing how steady my legs and balance would be, I opted to come to a complete stop with one foot still in the shoe, then take off the shoe and dismount.

I had a huge smile on my face as I jogged with my bike toward the run transition. I was waving at people I kew, and taking in the cheers of all the supporters lined along the tunnel. I saw another teammate who was volunteering and catching bikes, I tried to get my bike to him, but another eager volunteer grabbed it before I got to him. I gave him a high five, and off I went to gather my run gear bag!

On my way, I checked my watch to see my time for the bike: 6:23. I was hoping to be done in around 6 hours, but I would have been happy anywhere between 6:30 and 7:30. A 6:23 meant my average speed was 17.5 MPH, right on target!

I sat down in the change tent and a volunteer came over and asked if I wanted some help. I wasn’t about to say no, and he helped get my fresh socks and shoes ready, laid out my nutrition, and grabbed some body glide and chapstick for me. I got everything on, switched out my sunglasses, put my headband on, and headed out of the tent. I stopped to get sunscreen applied, and boy did those volunteers jump on it! I had 4 volunteers hit me with sunscreen, one on each leg and arm. I got a bit in my hand to rub on my face, and that’s when they told me that the sunscreen had alcohol in it. I felt it start to burn some of the places I was chafed, but it quickly went away as I entered the Boulder Creek Path to start on the marathon.

I immediately ran past Natalie and my parents, along with the family of my teammates, and was feeling great! I saw that I was running a little too fast, hovering around 8:00 miles, and knew that I needed to back it off. I pulled back to around 10:00 miles, and held that pace for the first 3 miles. I made the decision at mile 3 that I would walk that aid station since I was starting to feel sloshy in my stomach.

Looking back, I think I should have pushed through and kept my pace down to 9:00 miles. I knew in my training that I could hold 8’s for at least 17 miles, and then my pace would fall to 9’s. Before the race I had made the decision to start with 10:00 miles and then reevaluate when starting the second loop. Either way, once I broke that pace, I fell off hard. I started to really struggle mentally, and I was not very happy to see my pace falling off so hard.

I walk/jogged as I felt able, but I was struggling with my heart rate. Just a little bit of jogging and my heart rate felt like it was skyrocketing. I had a hard time catching my breath, and I knew that my 10:00 pace was gone for the day. I picked my jog up as I headed back through the crowd of people near transition, and I saw my mom. I was already pretty emotional, and I fought back tears as I jogged slowly and painfully past her. A few hundred yards further were Natalie and my dad, and I was still fighting back tears as I passed them.

I wanted so badly to stop and talk to them, to pull up and just sit for a bit. I was tired, I was in pain, I was now behind my goal and knew I wasn’t pulling it back, and I felt a little defeated. Something my mom had shouted at me stuck though, “You WILL BE an Ironman!” I knew that stopping was not an option. I had put in too much time, worked too hard, come too far, and had too much support and love to stop this close to the end. When I had come off the bike I knew that I could walk the entire marathon and still become an Ironman, I just needed to dig deep and find the iron in me to get to the line.

Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 6.33.58 PMShortly after I passed my family, my day was nearly unravelled by my body. Around mile 10, I took a lick of salt and immediately felt nauseous. There’s a bit of nausea that can creep up on you during a long run, and I’m familiar with that. This nausea came on so fast and so hard, I stopped in a grove of trees, doubled over, certain that I was going to puke.

Fortunately, a familiar face came up, and he encouraged me to walk with him. He kept talking to me, made me laugh a bit, and soon enough I started to feel a little better. I took a bit of water every now and then, but did not eat anything solid beyond one bite for the rest of the race. To those of you who aren’t familiar with this kind of racing, that doesn’t sound like a big deal. Let me tell you, that was probably a pretty dangerous thing to do. I had minimal amounts of water, one more lick of salt around mile 16, a bite of a banana (which was quickly discarded), about two grapes, and a sip of Rocket Fuel, until the chicken broth came out. I did continue to dump a cup of water on my head at every aid station, and dumped a cup of ice down the back of my jersey at every other aid station.

Special needs was accessible at mile 11, and I stopped to grab a packet of notes that Natalie had collected from friends, family and loved ones. To those who sent notes, I cannot thank you enough, from the bottom of my heart. I knew that I was loved and supported not only by those who wrote notes, but those who were present for the race, and countless others watching from afar. Thank you all so much for supporting me and loving me. I needed every bit of it to get through the last 13.1 miles.

The second loop seemed impossible, and like it would never end as I set out. I knew I still had a long way to go, and I had covered every step of it once before. I knew it would be excruciating at times, I knew exactly where it would be hot, where the wind was and was not, and that the number of familiar faces on the course would be thinning out. I had decided that I would try to hold a 15:00 mile pace, in an attempt to keep my finish time around 14 hours total. Fortunately, about 5 hours into the run, a storm started to build over the front range, and the temperature dropped significantly. We even got a little sprinkle! Chicken broth started to appear at the aid stations, and I decided I would give it a try. Wow. Never before in my life has plain chicken broth tasted so good. I was well over 130 miles into my day, and nothing hit the spot better.

As the sun started to set, I was nearing the last turnaround before heading to the finish. I had read some of the most touching notes, and I was in a pretty sappy emotional state. As I climbed a small hill toward the turnaround, I saw the most amazing thing in front of me. At the end of the path were the foothills, the start of the mountains, every bit a mountain in their own right. The sun had set behind the front range, but was still sending enough light to backlight the mountains in a glorious red and blue, with a cloudless sky above. The end of the path was illuminated spectacularly by a generator with four white lights attached to it, also partially illuminating the foothills and forming the perfect picture of peace and completion. I knew I only had 1.6 miles to go to the finish, and that I would in fact, become an Ironman.

I picked up the pace a bit, and headed for home. The tears built as I drew ever closer to the line, and the pain in my legs and chest started to fade. The smile started to come back to my face, and I started to enjoy the race again. I barely felt the hills as I climbed them, urged on by screaming spectators. My mom was acting as lookout, and saw me as I climbed one of the final hills before turning away from the looped course toward the finish. I saw Rich as I neared the chute, and grabbed a high five as I picked up the pace further.

I turned the last corner, and there it was in front of me: the bright lights and loud sounds of the finish line. I jogged down the chute, looking for Natalie and my parents, finally finding them about 40 yards out from the finish line. I got a huge hug and kiss from Natalie, some high fives and hugs from others, and I handed off my water bottle and other items before heading for the finish line.Boulder Kiss

I know Mike Reilly never said my name, but at that point I didn’t care. (Though now I do a little, it’s still a very minor part of a major accomplishment.) Triumphantly, I ran across the finish line, and let out a scream. I had pictured that moment in my head countless times, during training rides, during training runs, and especially in the days leading up to the race. This was a huge moment, and I celebrated it in style.

My total time was 14:07:58, a time that, while not near my goal, represents very accurately how the past year has gone. Things started off smoothly, going well but with a few hiccups here and there. Then, all at once, the shit hit the fan, and hard. To push through it was a choice, and the only way to do it was to keep putting one foot in front of the other. The reward at the finish line was that much sweeter for the suffering endured along the way.

Thank you again, from the very bottom of my heart, to those who have supported me on this journey. Friends, family, teammates, coaches, even casual observers. I feel so very loved, and each one of you played a role in my journey to the finish line.Finish line!