Wait, how many?

“Aaaaaand there’s baby number two.”

Yeah, twins. I thought one baby was going to be tough, but two? Well, we’re going to find out.

We had scheduled the appointment for our 6 week ultrasound and it fortunately fell on a company holiday. I got to take the day off and join N for our very first peek. It was a morning appointment, so we got to the office just a few minutes early to fill out all the paperwork required for first visits.

To this point, N had been experiencing some nausea and exhaustion, but nothing that felt too out of the ordinary. We hadn’t really thought too much about the degree of the changes, and had no expectations of anything other than *a* happy, healthy little sprinkle.

Now, you have to know, N and I have joked together for a long time that we actually hoped we would have twins on our first shot. We wanted a max of two kids, and twins would be the best case – a one-and-done! Twins run in our families, so we knew there was a chance, and the joking was at least half serious.

If you didn’t read my last post, or if you didn’t read the manic emotion in that post, let me just remind you: I’m petrified. I’ve been working to settle in to the idea of little humans running around, and just the fact that it’s “humans,” plural is enough to cause shortness of breath. I was just settling in to the idea of having a baby, and maybe only one kid period. I was starting to feel like it would be ok if we only had one kid, and then called it good. That plan is officially out the window.

So, back to the visit. Once we got back into the room, N got a minute to change and things felt like they were about to get really real. We chatted briefly, and reassured each other that everything was going to be ok. We also decided I would not stand beside N during the ultrasound, and I would instead sit in the chairs behind her.

Just a couple of minutes into the ultrasound, we heard the first sentence above. A few expletives and exclamations later, and I was beside N holding her hand. We got some pictures, some measurements, and that was that. We had a visit with the doc, got some good information, and scheduled an appointment at a specialist since we now have a higher risk pregnancy.

Heartbeats were solid at 136 and 128 bpm, which is good. Apparently anything over 100 bpm is safe territory, so we’re in a good place! They’re still small, measured in mm, but I think us triathletes/cyclists can appreciate the difference a mm can make!

Interestingly, they’ll be identical twins. This kind of twins apparently only flows down the mom’s side, from her mom. They’ll share a placenta, but they each have their own gestational sac – less shared is lower risk.

It’s been hard to not tell people already that we’re expecting, but now that we’re expecting twins, it’s even more difficult. I think before, it was more about sharing the excitement and joy, but now it’s more that we feel like we need support. Now it feels like we need people to be aware so that when we start freaking out or panicking, that one one is there to tell us it’s going to be ok. I know that time will come, but boy does it feel like a long time to be so scared.

Who knows, maybe it’ll settle in like the idea of just one baby. Maybe it’ll all feel ok in a week or so. I suppose it doesn’t matter, they’re coming now! I know it’ll get easier eventually.

It still doesn’t feel quite real. I know, cognitively, that it is (in fact, I’ve seen the pictures), but it doesn’t quite feel like it. Maybe it’s because N isn’t showing yet, maybe it’s because they’re just white blobs in a black grain of rice on an ultrasound, but it’s not 100% real. I’m working on connecting the dots by force, but I’m hoping it’ll happen a little more naturally soon.

We’ve got an appointment in a couple of weeks to check in again, get some bloodwork, and make sure progress is trending the right way. I’ll keep updating as I can, hoping this is cathartic.

A Dad?

Yep – I’m gonna be a dad! 2020 has been one hell of a ride, huh?

We found out on N’s birthday, in fact she work me up with the news! We were planning a birthday excursion to The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, somewhere N and her mom (who was in town at the time) had always wanted to visit, so it was an appropriate birthday celebration. It was the first thing I saw when I woke up, and it was quite the shock.

At first, I wasn’t sure what to say or do. It was not something we had been planning, though to be fair it wasn’t something we were actively preventing. We had discussed, and planned to wait until January to really start trying in earnest to get pregnant, so this was a little on the early side.

As I’ve sat with it these past couple of weeks, I’ve really begun to settle into the idea of fatherhood. The idea of having a little one to love and discover is exciting. I get to shape and mold a human being, share a life with them, and watch them become their own person. Someone to share my interests with and develop interests together with N. It’s really a special feeling!

As you’ve maybe guessed by now, I’m writing this at the current time, but publishing much later. Announcements have to be made at the right time to the right folks, so this news is a bit delayed to most of you. I figured it best to write while feelings were fresh, rather than trying to recall the moments later. I suppose I’ve learned a thing or two after a two-year hiatus…

So yeah, shocked. Excited. Terrified. Definitely terrified. I’m reading that this is a fairly common feeling. In fact, I know for certain that I’m not the only googling “my wife is pregnant and I’m terrified”. Fortunately, the internet is full of self-absorbed wannabe wordsmiths like me to give a bit of soothing advice. So, here’s my best shot for what I’m feeling a week after discovering I’m expecting to have a new life to care for.

It’s gonna be fine.

Really, it’s honestly going to be just fine. Convince yourself of that, because it has to be true. It doesn’t feel true right now, but it will be. We’ll find the way to make the right cuts and space and everything will fit. You’ll find a way, you always do.

Besides, you’ve got a massive support system. Sure, they’re a little far away, but they’ve got your back. In fact, more people have your back than you think. There are random strangers on the internet who have never met you who are happy to give you advice and encouragement, and who genuinely mean it. Guys who you only know through Facebook are going to be there for you. Friends from church and who you may have only met once or twice will lend an ear and a shoulder to cry on when you’re scared. Just do this: ask. Just remember to ask.

If you’re reading this and, like me, you’re terrified of how this is all going to fit, I’m one of those random internet strangers willing to help. I’m here. And although I’m not perfect and I don’t have it all figured out, I will help however I can.

Yeah, this is all going to be fine. I’ve got a lot of research to do, things to find out. How do I support N? How do I be the best husband right now? What things do I need to look for? How do I continue to be active with a baby? What questions am I missing? I have no idea. But I’m damn sure gonna find out. I’ll read the whole internet if I have to. I’ve already found some books (thanks to the aforementioned google search), so next up is definitely running strollers. Right? That’s the right next step, isn’t it?

Later on.

Two weeks into 100/100

We are now two weeks into the 100 runs in 100 days challenge, and I’m relearning some things that I had forgotten about running. Not only that, but I’m running in new places, and with a different focus than before. All of that to say, it’s been an interesting last couple of weeks. Let me explain.

First, I’m finding that the pre-run dread is real, and I’m finding that it’s not necessary. At times, changing clothes, lacing up my shoes and getting out the door is the furthest thing from my mind. In fact, I’ll find every excuse I can NOT to go out and run. Just yesterday, I was cranky, and hungry, so I obviously couldn’t go running. I ate some food, and felt better, but still obviously couldn’t go running until I had allowed my food to settle. Eventually, at the strenuous urging of my wife, I got my ass out the door. What I found was that yes, the food bounced around in my stomach for a while, but it was only 30 minutes, and damn, did it feel good. I came back refreshed, and wondering how many runs I could do the following day.

Second, I’m relearning that finding speed and distance are a function of consistency. The more consistent I am in my running, the better I feel, the faster and farther I can go. When I started this challenge, I was struggling mightily to maintain a pace under 10 minutes per mile. This is a far cry from my former ability, where I could crank out a 17-ish minute 5k, and have enough energy to do a hard ride later in the afternoon. Thankfully, through some consistency and persistence (and a bit of spirited running through higher heart rate zones), I’m slowly coming back to form. Just today I averaged less than 8 minutes per mile while maintaining a (mostly) zone 2 heart rate.

Third, I’m rediscovering the joys of running. My family spent the week in Estes Park, Colorado last week, and I took the opportunity to get out and explore some new areas. There are few feelings more freeing than exploring a new area by the power of your own legs, especially when that new area is as beautiful as Estes Park. I ran past herds of elk, families of deer, towards snow-capped mountains and past partially frozen lakes and streams. To say it was scenic would be an egregious understatement. The other thing to note about Estes Park is that it sits around 8,000 feet above sea level (I live in Lakewood, Colorado, no slouch at around 5,400 feet above sea level), and has virtually no flat running available. I was up and down hills, and at an elevation I had never run at before. I felt good, and I have noticed the difference coming back down to my home elevation.

Fourth, the runner’s high is returning. The feeling post-run of exhausted and cloudy bliss brought on by a naturally-induced rush of endorphins had been a long-forgotten old friend, but no longer. That intoxicating surge has returned (likely thanks to a few tough uphill pushes at the aforementioned 8,000+ feet of elevation), and after a shorter distance. I’m looking forward to continuing the hunt for that feeling, even (and especially) as I am forced to run harder and longer to get to it.

Finally, I’m relearning that the body is capable of so much more than we think. Because I’m a few runs behind the 100/100 pace, I’m having to do multiple runs in a single day. Previously, my number of daily athletic activities would max out around 2 (with the exceptions of races and the 4x4x48 challenge). Today, I put in 3 runs totaling more than 11 miles, at paces that I haven’t seen consistently for over a year, and with a strong zone 2 heart rate focus. I’m continuing to listen to my body, but I’m hearing more and more that it’s ready for whatever is next.

This has been, and continues to be, a great way to get some fitness back that I feared was gone forever. I’m loving that I’m more consistently active, and improving. The search is on for a coach for the 2021 season, and it’s highly likely that I’ll be looking virtual, probably a low-level plan while I continue to rebuild fitness and get my legs back under me. I want 2021 to be as successful a return to racing as possible, and I’m pushing myself to bring that vision to reality!

Later on…

Catching up – 2019 (pt. 2)

Did you make it through the last post? Since you’re here, I’m assuming yes. So, you’re all caught up on the crash I had at Ironman Texas. If not, then… surprise?

The bad news coming away is that I had a few injuries appear and disappear in the days following the race. My hip, elbow and wrist all swelled up and became painful, but everything checked out. Everything that is, except for my right shoulder. There was a consistent, nagging pain in my shoulder that stayed persistent no matter what I did. I finally got into a physical therapist to try to get it sorted out.

I’ve dealt with shoulder pain for several years now, though after a while it just becomes normal. You start to not notice that it hurts after swimming, that it bounces funny during running, and that it limits your mobility and power in certain ways. After several sessions of PT, it was still not better, so we did an MRI.

The MRI showed some interesting (though not surprising) results. My labrum was in terrible shape, major bursitis throughout the shoulder, and (at least what we thought at the time) some arthritis. We could either begin a regiment of cortisone injections (despite my crippling fear of needles) or we could opt for surgery. After discussing with N and consulting folks who had the surgery and the shots before, we opted for surgery.

I had a biceps tenodesis – meaning that we detached the biceps tendon from the labrum (soft cartilage in the shoulder) and reattached the tendon underneath my pec. The doc also cleaned up the labrum, and re-profiled my AC joint (chopped about 1cm off of my clavicle). What we thought was arthritis ended up being bone spurs, so all of those were ground away as well. Surgery was supposed to take an hour, but took more like 2 due to the number of bone spurs to grind away. Fun stuff.

I worked my way through recovery physical therapy, but by the time we had figured out was was going on it was August, surgery in September, so I finally recovered enough to be active in November. No races left, so we continued with recovery hoping 2020 would be the year to go fast (lol).

Near the end of my treatment, my PT tested my newly-fixed right shoulder against my left, to see if I was back to full strength. What we discovered (already knew, really) was that my left shoulder had all of the same issues. Her reaction was “Did you already have this shoulder done? No? Then when are we going to do this shoulder?” That happened to be 2020’s plan.

Despite knowing that surgery was looming, I did get to race in 2020. Most people who had signed up for races found them cancelled, but I happened to race the first race in the state of Colorado for the 2020 season: The EPIC Warrior Triathlon in Fort Collins. It was a combined event (EPIC and Warrior tris are usually separate), but everyone was just glad to get out and race!

I had some expectations for the race, but they were limited. I hadn’t had a proper training plan, and I hadn’t put in an adequate amount of work to expect an overall podium, but I felt confident in shooting for an AG podium.

Morning of the race came early, and the drive was quiet. I prepped my transition area for the first time in about 2 years, and found myself getting jittery. I did a quick warmup run and ride, and made my way into the pool for a warmup swim. I was quickly reminded of the difference between my shoulders, but knew I could push and find the pain cave for one race.

The swim came and went – slower than usual, but access to pools had been nonexistent for months, so not a surprise. T1 was slow, turns out that happens when you’re out of practice. Still managed a decent transition and got out onto the bike.

Two loops of five miles go pretty darn quick when you’re going at redline. I just didn’t want to get passed, and managed to keep it to one guy who was CRUSHING it. I wasn’t exactly going slowly, and he cruised around me like I was on a Sunday stroll. Managed to keep it just below blowing up for the rest of the ride, and managed a 23mph average. Not bad.

The run was BAD. I mean, I moved fairly quickly, but it FELT bad. I did not feel fast, and I was on the verge of blowing up the whole way. It was only 2 miles, so I was able to just ignore most of it and push, but it was miserable. Not thrilled with my time, averaging 6:59/mile, but all things (COVID) considered, not a bad outing either. At least, good enough for 2nd in an extended 30-39 age group. Looking forward to a better prep and trying that course again in 2021.

Also, real quickly, the event was extremely well-run for being so experimental and high stakes in the midst of a global pandemic. Kudos to Breakaway Athletics for putting on such a class event.

The next week, I called up the doc and we got prepped for left shoulder surgery. Even as I type this, I’m still recovering. I had all of the same things done in the left shoulder, so I’m feeling pretty well-versed in what I have coming at me.

Just a week before surgery, we moved! We’re now living on the west side of Denver in Lakewood, and much closer to the mountains. Lots of good training ground around here, so I’m looking forward to getting the all clear to train again.

Whirlwind of events, but I feel like that’s been 2020 for everyone. This year has had its ups and downs, but I feel very much on the up right now. Hoping it continues into 2021 and that I’ll be able to put that energy into training and racing. Looking forward to seeing you on the course, and keeping more up to date here – no more 2 year breaks.

Later on.

100/100 Challenge!

*Pre-publishing edit: I’m now on day 3 of this challenge, with 2 runs in the bank. Follow along on my Strava.

I’m driven by challenges. Like many, a goal really gets me moving. I saw a Slowtwitch email come through with a link discussing shoelaces (because what else do data-driven type-a control-freak triathletes discuss in an online user forum but shoelaces), which included a link to the famed 100/100 challenge.

I’ve been eyeing this challenge for the last couple of years, but given that I had major races I was training for, I didn’t feel as though I could devote enough energy to that particular challenge in addition to my others, I steered clear. In fact, I steered clear of the leaderboards, the discussions, and anything that might make me feel as though I’d missed out by not signing up.

So, this year, I decided to jump in. This race season is going to be my first one back with no asterisks, and in a new market. I had a pretty good outing in Fort Collins, but I want to really make a statement next year. I’ll be racing shorter, so getting a good base early in the season gives me the best possibility to build speed throughout the summer. I threw my name in the had, and we start on November 15.

What is the 100/100? 100 runs in 100 days. That doesn’t mean one run per day for 100 days. Doubling up is allowed, in fact you can do multiple runs on a single day that count. Two ways to make a run count: 30 minutes, or 3 miles. An honest run/walk is technically fine, though that’s debatable. There are ways to split these up, but you can read Slowtwitch for the full rules.

Kicking off on November 15, I’m shooting for all 100. I’m also hoping to hit a minor weight loss goal, as well as not take more than one rest day at a time. I think these are reasonable targets, even through the winter months. I need to find a few things to keep warm as I’m running through the winter, but I should be prepared!

I’m excited to see where this challenge takes me! I’m sure there will be difficulties, and dark hour runs. I’m excited for the physical and mental challenge to come!

Catching up – 2019 (pt. 1)

Well, it’s been a minute, huh?

Last time I updated, it was 2018, and that year really wasn’t. Then, in 2019, I raced Ironman Texas, and that led to a 2019 that really fell short of expectations. Now, we’re in 2020, and everyone is having a year that isn’t.

So, let me give you a couple of key updates, and a kinda-sorta plan for the future.

2019: Ironman Texas. It was supposed to be Ironman Florida in November of 2018, but, hurricanes. So, we adjusted, and deferred to Ironman Texas. That also meant I had enough time for a full training block, but man was I burned out. I had worked so hard prepping for Ironman Florida (amongst all the other garbage going on in life at the time), and I just wanted to survive Texas. I still put in some good effort in training, and was in great shape, but my mental toughness was not where it truly needed to be.

We got an AirBnB for myself and N, as well as mom and dad and one of my sisters, and an aunt, uncle and cousin who live about an hour from The Woodlands (Houston) – the race venue. It was awesome to be surrounded by family during race week, and to have that support immediately after the race. I’m sure N appreciated not having to be the only one schlepping my smelly, sticky gear back from the finish line.

The swim was not what I was hoping for, I definitely left time on the course. I kept having fogging issues with my goggles, and having to fully pop up to find the next buoy. One of my focuses on the swim this next year will be to get better at spotting. I’m a strong swimmer already, and if I can get better at spotting (or more comfortable trusting my direction) I’ll be a formidable force in the water. I will say, swimming through the canal to the finish was one of the coolest experiences – amazing to have that much support and visibility in the swim.

T1 was uneventful. Found my bag, was moving very well through transition, and had a really decent time. Other than being a bit disappointed with my swim time, I felt like I was on track for a really good day.

This was the maiden race with the new bike, and with some new 90mm deep wheels. I had done a shakedown ride the day before, and felt like everything was fairly well-adjusted. I was watching my power closely, and felt like I was really flying for my output. Well, until we hit the interstate.

Turning onto the interstate, we turned straight into a 20mph headwind. For 20 miles. Totally exposed. I did my best to stay tucked, and was staying well within myself. But, something felt off. I felt like I was having to compensate for something just out of alignment on the front end. I stopped and fiddled with the head cap and steerer for a few minutes, trying to see if I could find a better alignment, but eventually decided I was better off dealing with a slight misalignment than breaking something and having to get a ride back. I climbed back aboard, and continued on.

That headwind was nasty. The good news is, after 20 miles it turned into a tailwind as you completed the loop. I’ll gladly take an easy-feeling 30mph stretch, and I was really staying on top of my numbers. Nutrition was on-point, though I was having splashing issues with my btb bottle. After the glorious tailwind, it was time to turn back and do it again – back into the headwind. This time, it was much harder to stay aero and stick to my numbers. I dropped my goal power to avoid burnout, and to preserve my run. Even if I finished the bike around 7 hours, a 4 hour marathon was well within my fitness, and I could walk away with a PR. So, I settled in and got to grinding.

Finally getting off of the interstate was a great feeling. There were very few spectators on the interstate (for obvious reasons), so it was nice to be not only on the home stretch, but to finally have smiling, cheering faces around me. I was looking good for a 7-hour bike, definitely not what I wanted, but given the conditions, still a solid time. I was focusing on getting in the last of my nutrition and hydration, trying to stay cool, and spin the legs out a bit to get ready for the run, when it happened.

Mile 107, I was dumping water over my head and back to stay cool, and hit a bump in the road with only one hand on the bars. After 20-30 feet of swerving and counter-steering to try to regain control, I finally came crashing down at 22 mph. I landed on my right side, taking it hard on my right hip and shoulder. After skidding to a stop and swearing up a storm, I got myself out of the road and sat on the median. Fortunately, a police officer was nearby and called for paramedics immediately.

I sat on the median for a good 10 minutes trying to collect myself. I had already moved over 100 miles on the day, and still had a marathon to go. I didn’t know for sure if my bike was rideable to get back to transition. I was cut, bloody, tired, and sticky from my nutrition exploding all over me. Fortunately, I didn’t hit my head, and nothing was broken. A race official checked my bike quickly and declared it safe to ride. He offered to put the bike in the back of his pickup if I wanted to call it a day… and I almost said “Yes.”

In that moment, I made the decision to at least make it back to transition. Get back where family was waiting, where my stuff was, where I could make a more calm decision about the marathon. I took my chances riding the bike back to T2.

Once in T2, I handed off my bike and started the walk into the transition area. I saw my mom and N, and started welling up with tears. They were excited to see me, but concerned. We walked and I told them what happened, and decided I was at least going to try to make it to the finish. If I couldn’t, then so be it; at least I had tried.

Once out of the changing tent (quite the experience, trying to guide volunteers past my open wounds as they applied sunscreen), I caught up with N and my dad and sister. A quick discussion, relaying the gist of the crash and my intended plan, and I was off again. I started jogging, just trying to get blood flowing though the legs, but after about a mile my hip decided that was not going to happen. I started to swell up at the hip and running became excruciating. Turns out this was going to be a walk to the finish.

It turned into a long day, and I missed almost all of the goals I had set for myself. But, I made it my race – nothing took that from me. It was still my day, and I still made it happen. I did manage to hit one goal: I didn’t need a glow stick. I wanted to avoid a glow stick so badly this year, and I just barely made it. Coming through the finishing chute was an overwhelming wave of emotions, but different emotions from the first Ironman. I was just glad to be there and finish. I was only about 20 minutes slower than my first Ironman despite my difficulties, so not bad overall.

This is getting pretty long, and I don’t have any fun pictures to show you. I’ll follow up with more on why 2019 only sort of happened, and another follow up on why 2020 actually sort of happened.

Later on.

Carmel Marathon Recap

The Carmel Marathon was this last weekend, between early-spring snow storms here in Indiana. Despite the race being bookended by terrible weather, the race itself was blessed with overcast skies and moderate temperatures for the end of March.

This year the course had undergone some significant modifications, not the least of which was the design of an overall flatter course. I haven’t run the race in prior years, but my understanding is that this course was a marked improvement over the previous course.

I had a pretty short build-up for this race, only an 8-week timeframe. I already had some good base miles on my body, especially after completing the 4x4x48 challenge (which I suppose I ought to do a post on, I’ll get to that) in December. But, the build-up was still less than ideal for running a marathon PR. Ramping up into higher mileage weeks quickly while not making it to the kind of mileage you would typically see in a “serious” build-up meant that the runs I did had to be extremely high quality, every time.

As you may also be aware, I do CrossFit, and the later half of this training cycle coincided with The Open. I was a bit concerned that doing The Open and getting high quality training runs in would be in conflict, but that’s one of the lessons I learned in this cycle: Strength training and cross training in the midst of high quality endurance training seemed to improve the quality of the long runs and their effect. Even if I felt as though a run was of middling quality, the fact that it had been preceded by strength training meant that it was still of higher quality due to the existing fatigue in the muscles.

My early cycle runs also took place heavily on a treadmill. January and February in Indiana can be a strange time to run outdoors, and adding in a limiting schedule meant that it was too dark outside, or I was in a place where outdoor running was not an option. So, cue the dreadmills. As a rule, there are 3 things I do when treadmill running: 1. Stretch more than I would for outdoor running; 2. Air squats and deep squat stretching to properly activate the glutes; and 3. Set the treadmill at 1% incline as a minimum, typically earlier training would be 2%, backing off to 1.5% for runs over 10 miles, then 1% during taper.

Outdoor runs were primarily focused on 2 kinds of running: Slightly above race pace, and race pace. That is to say, I didn’t run any “junk miles” in this cycle. I did a bunch of runs at 8-15 seconds faster than race pace mixed with some about a minute slower than race pace in between interval sets. These days were almost always followed by a minimum of 5 miles at race pace.

All told, 8 weeks of high intensity running, mixed with strength training and winter weather was a lot, and at times I got run down physically. At one time I caught the flu, and was unable to leave the couch, let alone get out and run. School and work get crazy, and at times I simply didn’t have time to run.

Coming into taper, I was a bit concerned about the mileage. My longest runs had been 18 miles, a full 8 short of the marathon distance. My biggest weeks had gotten just over 40 miles, and my average felt low. Nonetheless, I trusted that my coach knew what he was doing, and I settled in to the taper crazies. Thanks to N for putting up with me during my incessant cleaning and obsessing!

I tend to forget how much easier it is to prep for a single-sport event. Then night before I did minimal prep, just making sure my watch was charged and the clothes I might want to wear were in fact clean. Got a great night’s sleep, and got everything around in the morning before leaving.

We parked at my office, about a 12-minute walk to the start/finish line. It was about 36 degrees when we arrived, and it felt every bit of it. I was cold, and grumpy because I didn’t have all the coffee I thought I needed. I was trying to stay calm and relaxed, and maybe got a little too relaxed. I went to use the port-a-johns for the last time before the race and dropped my bag at gear check about 20 minutes prior to the start.

While I was in the port-a-john, the race started. I was assigned to corral A, the first corral to leave, but by the time I was ready to go, I left with corral D, the final corral. As such, the first 10 or so miles were spent passing and dodging in and out of other runners. This was the first race I’ve ever seen other runners trip, and nearly take others out in the process. It was sketchy at times, but seemed like everyone was ok.

The plan was to negative split in halves, to run about 7:40 for the first half, and then run closer to 7:30 in the second half, feeling out the final 4-6 miles for speed. I had to work hard to keep myself near that 7:40 pace on the first half, because I felt good and wanted to go faster. But, I knew that to run a successful second half I needed to hold back in the first half.

My first half was around 1:40, Right where I wanted to be. Incidentally, this also matches my PR for a half marathon, in fact it set a new PR (1:39:50). I’m looking forward to running a half marathon sometime soon to see how fast I can go.

With the first half going exactly to plan, I got a little excited. I felt fresh, my heart rate was in check, my legs felt good, and I was on to the second half! But, I got a little too excited. The pace was supposed to be around 7:30 for 13-18, not going faster than 7:30.

This is where things went off the rails. Or more accurately, where I laid the ground work for things to go off the rails. I pushed the pace a bit too high, running about 7:20-7:30 for miles 13-20, including one at 7:19. I started struggling around mile 20, and realized the mistake I had made. I tried backing the pace off to more like 7:40, but the damage was done.

The pace slowed further and further from 20-24, and at 24 my legs decided they had had enough, and I started cramping up. A knot about the size of a half dollar formed in my right calf, and would not go away, moving up and down the calf with every step I took. When I stopped to try to massage it away, my quad would start to cramp up, so I needed to keep moving.

Eventually these cramps went away on their own, marking another new thing I learned: my cramps have changed. It used to be that my muscles would cramp and I was debilitated. I couldn’t go anywhere with any pace, and I was reduced to walking only. This race showed me that by keeping my body in motion, despite the pain, the body would recognize that I wasn’t stopping, and take care of the muscle cramps on its own. This is going to be really valuable in Florida in November.

The last miles of this race were tough, especially knowing that I wasn’t going to get my goal time of 3:15. But, I continued my walk-jog all the way to the line, which came after an up-hill climb for a mile into a gusting wind. I was happy to get across the line with most of my dignity intact, still with a PR.

My official time was 3:25:05, marking a nearly 25-minute PR for me. Average pace was 7:50, despite my average pace up to the 20-mile mark being 7:30. The final 10k pace was what killed me, but I know I did the damage in keeping that pace too high too early.

I learned an awful lot in this race, and in the build-up. I also learned a lot about post-race activity, and the importance of getting into dry clothes right after finishing. I spent some time in the massage tent trying to get my muscles massaged, but was unable to stop shivering long enough for the massage to do any good. After I changed out of my race gear, I was able to get warm much more quickly, and stop shivering.

A big PR, a lot of lessons learned, and a training cycle done. Cognitively it feels good to have gotten the marathon mileage in before November, to know it’s in my legs. That will help fuel my training later this summer/fall, and in the race it informs my abilities. I learned a ton, and I’m really looking forward to a little time off before we start a big build to Ironman Florida.

Later on…

2017 Roundup

It looks like all those promises to do better with writing more and blogging went nowhere. So, here I am to give you as good a recap as I can from 2017, now that my 2017 race season is in the books.

What happened before race season?

Good question, I’m glad you asked! It was a busy, busy time. Finishing up 2L year, taking summer classes, finding work (including a trip to Colorado for an interview), trying a new diet, training (duh), hiking, and CrossFit. Natalie was instrumental in making it a great build-up to a great season, as she was doing her own dieting, CrossFit, working, and a full time masters program. We’re a little busy.

I tried a Ketogenic diet building up to the season to reduce my weight, so that I could achieve a higher power-to-weight ratio. For the non-inducted, a Ketogenic (or keto) diet is really high in fat, very low in carbs, and allows a moderate amount of protein. It’s goal is to become “fat-adapted” so that your body burns fat (and thereby its fat stores) for fuel, rather than carbs.

For the super-neophyte, the power-to-weight ratio in triathlon is very nearly everything. The less you weigh, the farther and faster your power will take you. To lose weight and build power will make you faster, quickly.

I did end up losing the weight I wanted to, but my performance suffered for it past a certain point. Plus, I found that most of the foods on keto I was not a huge fan of. I don’t like coconut anything, and it seems that 90%+ of the available recipes online used coconut oil, flakes, or something else as a key ingredient. Blech. It worked for a bit, but long term, it’s not for me.

Oh yeah, at some point this spring/summer, as a strength workout, I ran a 17:16 5k, so I was pretty stoked about that. Not sure the distance was 100% accurate, but pretty darn close. I plan on testing this time in a race soon.

What races did you run this year?

My race season changed dramatically from what was planned, due to varying circumstances. Maintaining flexibility is what makes life fun, and the ability to roll with the punches is critical to being joyful in all circumstances. That said, here are the races I participated in:

Carmel Sprint Tri
Eagle Creek Sprint Tri
Rock the Quarry (Sprint)
Tri Lakes Triathlon (Olympic)

So not exactly a long or glamorous season, but I did end up with some pretty great results. I’ll give you a brief rundown of how these went, as best I can remember.

Carmel Sprint Tri

This one was a bit of a mixed bag. My time was just a touch faster this year, my placement was the same in my Age Group, but higher overall. I wasn’t super thrilled with my performance, my swim especially. I had been focusing heavily on the bike and the run, and neglected my swim workouts leading up to this race. Add that to the lack of a warmup swim, and I struggled mightily to swim a decent time. The bike was pretty good, but I suffered a mechanical failure that caused my rear brake to drag on my rear tire for the duration of the ride. The run was so-so, I struggled to find a pace and get my heart rate down. Despite all these challenges, I still wound up with a decent time and place.

Screen Shot 2017-09-28 at 2.24.01 PMThe real joy with this race was in who was there. Some friends came up from Cincinnati, more friends came down from Kokomo, more friends were out on the bike course, and a teammate (and new friend!) came down from Chicago! With all of these awesome people hanging around, it was impossible to have a bad day. Plus, we got Giordano’s pizza after the race and hung out, and generally had a fantastic time.

Finished in the top 20 overall, and took 3rd in my age group.

Eagle Creek Sprint Tri

Learning the lessons from Carmel, I was more well-rounded in my approach to Eagle Creek. I knew it would be a different crowd than Carmel drew, and more competitive. This time I was able to get all my warmups in, even though I fell over on my bike while trying to warm up. I felt pretty dumb.

The swim was wetsuit legal, so I opted to swim with the wetsuit. Being only the second time I’ve used this particular wetsuit in a race, I was still getting a feel for the fit and placement. I did get a warmup swim in, and felt ready. The swim went pretty well, not my fastest, but a good day in the water. I maintained a good pace, decent form, and finished strong.Screen Shot 2017-09-28 at 2.24.49 PM

The bike was a bit more of a struggle. I thought I had fixed my mechanical situation from Carmel, but discovered about 3 miles from the end of the bike that I hadn’t. I had done well to ride at the pointy end of the race pretty much the whole time, but at the turnaround I was feeling sluggish and defeated. Then finding my mechanical was still causing issues, I was on the brink of a bad mental race.

Fortunately, I knew I could have a really strong run. I had run the course before, and I knew I could have good legs if I rested for the final mile or so on the bike. I had a goal of running a single sub-6:00 mile in a race this season, and I planned to set myself up to make that my last mile. I was running a solid 6:30-6:40 pace for miles 1 & 2, and ramped it up for mile 3 to shoot for that sub-6. As I came down the hill to the finish chute, my watch beeped signaling that mile: 6:01. I was so close! Later, looking at Strava, my Grade Adjusted Pace gave me a 5:50 mile for that mile, so the terrain played a role in the time, but I’m carrying that goal into next season (probably – depends on my race schedule).

I finished in the top 20 overall, and won my age group! This one was a pretty good accomplishment, as this race is almost always very competitive, so to win my age group is a good sign of things to come.Screen Shot 2017-09-28 at 2.25.04 PM

Rock the Quarry

I traveled up to Goshen, Indiana for this one, staying with Natalie’s parents the night before. This course was a little longer than a “traditional” sprint tri, but offered a unique opportunity on the swim: a quarry swim. I had done some course recon, so I knew generally what to expect on the bike and the run.

The swim went pretty well, except that I played cargo truck to the eventual winner of the race. He drafted off my feet for the first 3/4 of the swim, then kicked it up to overtake me coming into the shore. I was frustrated, but didn’t want to give my own kick so I could save some energy for the bike and run.

This was an extremely long run into transition, up a hill, across a gravel path, across a field, and then into the transition area. Nearly as long as the run at Muncie 70.3, so a pretty long run. I tried sitting down in transition for the first time, and going without socks on the bike for the first time in a race. I had been riding my training rides with no socks for over a month, and knew once I was on the bike it wouldn’t be a problem, but trying it in a race I was still a little nervous.

Well, the bike ended up being the best bike of my career so far. I averaged 24.5 mph for a 13-ish mile ride, mostly flat, with a few small hills sprinkled in there. I was in 2nd place overall coming out of transition, and knew a strong bike leg would be laid down by the leader, and to hold off 3rd I would have to ride strong. I pushed my legs to accept the pain, and knew that I had the strength and power to ride hard and still put down a good run. I managed to hold off 3rd, and came into transition still in 2nd overall.

T2 was pretty good, though now I had to put on socks. I was a little scattered, but managed a decent T2 time, though I would like to be faster here in the future.Screen Shot 2017-09-28 at 2.25.57 PM

The run is where I lost it a bit. After a mile, I started having some cramping in my abdomen. I went from running a 6:40/mile pace down to running about a 9:00/mile pace, and even that was a struggle. I ended up having to walk a bit to get myself stretched out, my posture back in order, and the cramping stopped. After that, I was able to once again run about a 7:00/mile pace, but mentally I was out of the game. 3rd place caught me after this brief walking stint, and I found myself even further out mentally. I just needed to finish strong, and see what happened.

Since this was a wave start race, I knew later age groups would have an opportunity to overtake me without physically overtaking me, so there were a few minutes after I finished where I was awaiting the results of other finishers. In the end, I got bumped out of 3rd place overall by six seconds, but won my age group. Having gotten to see Natalie’s family and enjoy a race, this was a great weekend!

The race organizers could do a little to make the race better, but they acknowledged that this was a young race, some things had happened that left them without port-a-johns, but overall it was pretty well organized. Closer parking would be the only remaining request.

Tri Lakes Triathlon

This tri took place just outside of my hometown, in a really small community around a lake. This was the third year for the event, and knowing the area, and that it was a young event, I had some concerns about the organization going in. Unfortunately my fears were realized on the morning of the race, but I tried my best to plan around it and not let it affect my race.

I made the drive after class late on Friday night, and got in with enough time to shave and go to bed. Packet pick up was supposed to start at 7 am, so I made plans to be at the race site to survey everything around 6:45. I pulled in at 6:45, and another of my fears came to pass: no port-a-johns. The race was being held in conjunction with a tavern, and participants and spectators were expected to utilize the two restroom in the tavern. Not a great idea when you have 100 triathletes all trying to do one thing before the race starts.

21752833_1318633168266032_5626442420060002168_oNotice above that packet pick up was *supposed* to start at 7 am, but I know most competent race directors are ready to distribute at least the night before, and can start again as soon as they arrive in the morning. Not so here. Packet pick up didn’t start until 7:30, with the gun scheduled to go off at 8. I figured, “Ok, since packet pick up was delayed, surely they’ll delay the race, and my 20 minutes spent waiting in line to use the restroom will not be an issue.” Wrong. They plowed ahead, and the sprint tri participants started right at 8 am. I had just enough time to get a very brief warm up run in, scramble into my wetsuit, and get to the line.

The good news is, I had a great race. This was the first time I had raced an Olympic distance in 4 years, where I finished around 2:51:xx. I didn’t really know what to expect in terms of pacing, fueling, or fatigue, so I made some educated guesses and winged it.

The swim was pleasant, and the water was clear. It was a 2-lap swim, which is always disarming, as you have to swim through a wake three times before you’re finished. I came out of the water somewhere around 6th place, and made my way to T1. I had a great T1, marking one of the fastest times of the day. I got minimal nutrition into my pockets, slipped on my shoes, helmet, and sunglasses, and off I went.

The bike course was a 4-lap, 10k loop, with constant hills. There were two stretches of about 1/8-1/4 of a mile each that were flat, but other than that the course was constantly rolling. This made it difficult to find a rhythm, but I set out a plan in my head on lap 1. 21640799_1318650628264286_3439430941111777514_oLap 1 would be a relatively gentle lap to get the legs warm and survey the course, Laps 2 & 3 would be hammered, then hammer the first half of Lap 4, cruise the second half into T2 to prep for the run. This plan worked out pretty well, but in the future I would hammer Lap 1 as well if I had the opportunity to preview the course before the race.

I was picking people off, and came into T2 in 4th place overall. The Olympic distance had about 35 ish competitors, and after looking at the times from the previous year I was pretty sure I had a good shot at an overall podium, unless an uber-biker or uber-runner showed up and could really put some time in. Coming into T2 I had no idea what position I was in, so I just made my transition as fast as possible (fastest on the day!) and got out of there. Socks and shoes on, grabbed my hat and number belt and took off.

The run was another 4-lap course, 2.5k per lap. I planned nearly the same for the run as the bike, except that instead of cruising the last half of lap 4 I would dig in and empty the tank. While that worked pretty well on the bike, it did not work out so well on the run. I ended up dropping my hat and having to go back for it, and later my earring fell out of my ear, and it took me a bit to find that as well. Not a stellar run, but not half bad either.

21616133_1319581378171211_5157722778962641209_n

I wanted to keep my pace close to 7:00/mile, and then see if I could hit that elusive sub-6 mile in the last mile. The first two miles were right on target, 6:55 and 6:58. I’ll chalk up mile 3’s time of 7:24 to having lost my earring and spending valua

ble time searching for it, which again took me out of the race mentally. I had picked off two guys in front of me fairly quickly, so I knew I was near the top, but with no motorcycle in front of me I also knew I was not the race leader. The guys I passed looked like they were suffering, so I knew they were dropped for good. I saw the leader, and he was looking strong, but at the turnarounds he was getting closer and closer.

By lap 3 I was hurting pretty good. I walked the turnaround, grabbed a drink, and off I went again. The hills were starting to take their toll, and I realized that I was not going to have enough gas in the tank to shoot for that sub-6 final mile. In fact, I would be lucky if that final mile was close to 7. I kept my pace as high as I could, and put my head down to keep plugging away. Being the last race of the season, I wanted to give my best effort, and go into the “off” season on a good note.

It’s a good thing I kept moving too, because the guy behind me was an uber-runner. He put down a 38:xx 10k, but I held him off to the finish. I wound up taking 2nd overall, and had in fact been gaining on the race leader. If I had been able to keep the pace I had started at, I would have caught him and won the race. Time was 2:23:xx, nearly a 30-minute PR at this distance! I was pretty happy with my performance, despite the rushed morning and challenges I created for myself along the way.

So that’s it! That’s my season! I didn’t hit the races I had planned, but I made the most of the races I did. I hit a podium in each race, and I’ll be looking for more podiums next year.

Next season I jump age groups, and move up to the 30-34 age group. I am at a significant disadvantage, because I race a year ahead of my actual age. I’m only 28 right now, but my “race age” is 29, because my birthday is in November. The 30-34 age group is significantly more competitive, though my results this year say that I will remain competitive even when I age up.

This winter I’ll be focusing on mental toughness, as it cost me in a few places this season. I’ll continue going to CrossFit and building strength, and focusing on my diet to maintain a lower weight and higher power. I’m hoping to get a few new toys this winter as well, and I’ll keep you updated if those come to fruition. I’m excited by my results this year, and I’m excited to see what next year brings!

Later on…

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. 🙂

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 Jägermeister 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…