Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Looking Ahead - Pondering Future Races

It's been 2 1/2 weeks since the big race.  As much as I'd love to just sit and re-read my race report over and over again, the idea of just living off my past successes sounds pretty lame.  It's time to look forward.  

Over the last week, I've gotten back into a groove again with training.  I'm not doing anywhere near the time or mileage that I was this summer, but it feels good to move and to have fresh legs.  Basically, I'm on an every-other-day type of routine.  I'll take one day to work out, and the next day to catch up on all the home projects that I put off during the summer.  The homestead was starting to get a little white trash-y.  It's nice to have a clean garage and trimmed shrubs again. 

On the training side of things, I've spent a very small amount of time in the pool.  Maybe it's the lingering flu symptoms, but pool workouts just feel weird.  After getting used to all those open water swims leading up to the Ironman, the pool just feels too dang warm.

I've only done one bike ride.  That was last weekend.  It was nice to get around town again and enjoy some gorgeous weather.  But, since the days are getting shorter, there just isn't enough daylight left on a weekday to get a good ride in.  I have a feeling that I'll be hitting the trainer before too long.  Blech.

Running has actually been going pretty well.  When I was training for the Ironman, I depended on my heart rate monitor to dictate my pace for the runs.  Anything over 165 beats-per-minute meant that I should slow down.  I have since ditched the heart rate monitor, at least for now, and have been focusing more on pace.  Since the run has always been my weakest discipline, I want to learn how to run fast.  I should probably mention that a year ago my workouts averaged about 11:00 per mile.  Now I'm down in the 9:20 range - so I know I'm going in the right direction.   But it sure would be nice to keep pushing those numbers down.

I think that my biggest problem is that, in order to stay motivated, I need to have a goal.  Some people can just train and train and train, just for the heck of it.  Not me.  Without a goal, I get lazy. 

So, now the big question is: what do I do next?  The Minnesota Tri season is done.  Shoot.  In a month, there could even be snow on the ground.  It's happened before.  There are a few indoor tris sprinkled throughout the winter, but for the most part the calendar is dominated by running events.  I haven't done a running-only race since high school, and those were all 5Ks. 

I kind of like the idea of trying out some middle-distance races.  You know, anything from a 10K to a 1/2 marathon.  5Ks are all fine and good, but sometimes it takes me that long on a training run just to get my legs warmed up. 

There are a couple cool races on the horizon that I'm considering.  Team Ortho has the Monster Dash at the end of October - there are options for a 5K, 10-mile and 1/2 Marathon.   Plus there are all kinds of races around Thanksgiving.  I've got my eye on the Drumstick Dash 10K over at Lake Harriet in Minneapolis. 

I'll see how the next week or two go with running training.  I'll try to do a longer distance run over the weekend and a couple interval workouts during the week.  If things go well, I'll probably bite on one or both of those races.

Now, when I look waaaaaaay ahead into next year, things get a little more dicey.  There's no Ironman to look forward to - that is unless I can convince The Wife to let me sign up for Ironman Florida.  Her dad lives down there, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a November, 2011 race.  If the Ironman isn't a go, then I'll probably focus on doing more smaller local races.  Of course, I'd love to do the Liberty 1/2 Ironman and the Chaska Tri again.  I love those races. But there are also plenty of other popular races out there that I'd love to take a stab at.  Ahh, decisions, decisions.

Granted, I'm not sure how I'm going to be able to AFFORD all of this fun.  When I add to all this the fact that I'd like to invest in a real honest-to-goodness tri bike, rather than my mutant Trek,  I start to get the feeling I'll be checking the black market soon to sell some of my redundant organs (anybody wanna buy a slightly-used kidney?).

Ah well.  I'll keep you posted as the plans come together.  If anyone has some recommendations for quality running events in the Twin Cities through the fall and winter, by all means, drop me a note in the Comments section.

Later gators. 

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Product Review - Ryder's VTX Sunglasses

Okay.  So this is my second go-around with doing a product review.  By the way, if you're in the market for some new swim shorts, check out my review of Speedo Endurance+ shorts.

This time, I'll be taking a look at Ryder's VTX sunglasses.  Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, unlike the Speedo shorts, I did not pay for these shades.  I won these in a drawing put on by Steve in a Speedo. Prior to winning the VTXs, I was wearing Tifosi Slip sunglasses.  Both the VTXs and the Slips retail for $59.95.  So, were I to buy myself a new pair of shades, the VTXs would be right in my wheelhouse on the price side of things.

Here's how the glasses appear on the Ryder's website:

I got the sunglasses in the mail and ripped open the box to get to the goods.  They come in a standard hard case, with zip closure.  This model has 3 swapable lenses - Clear, Brown and Orange.  There are sleeves inside the case for storing the lenses you're not using.

All tucked in.
All spread out with the orange, brown and clear lenses.
The first thing that I noticed was that there wasn't a customary cleaning/storage bag included.  I thought this was a little odd as every other set of sunglasses I've owned have come with this handy little bag.  If anything, I know that I can use it for cleaning the lenses without worrying about scratches. 

The second thing I noticed was that they looked a little different than the photos on the Ryder's site.  As you can see in the photo above, the arms and nose-piece are a gunmetal gray color.  However, on the set I received, these parts are red.  Now, personally, I prefer the gray-on-red motif, but red-on-red isn't a deal breaker.

Okay.  Enough about the looks.  That's a personal preference thing anyway.  What you want to know is, are the sunglasses any good?  Let's take a look. 

It's nice to have 3 lenses to choose from.  Although, I find myself using the orange lenses for 80-90% of my workouts.  They're dark enough for bike rides in the middle of a sunny day, but I can still see clearly at dusk.  I've only used the clear lenses a handful of times for night-time and early-morning training.  The brown lenses are really just for sunny days, but they do look pretty bad-ass.

Practicing my 'bad-ass' face.

Changing out the lenses is fairly straight-forward.  Just bend the frames up and out come the lenses.  Insert the new lens outside-first and pop them back into place.  At first, I was worried that the lenses wouldn't hold solidly in the frames.  There was just a little wiggle room, even after they clicked in.  Though, once I'm wearing them, they feel solid.  After over 2 months of cycling and running, a lens has never popped loose.

The most unique thing about these Ryder's is the material out of which the arms and nose-piece are made.  This stuff is pretty cool.  It's bendy enough to get a nice snug fit on your temples and the bridge of your nose, but solid enough to keep its shape.
Bendy arms.

Bendy Nose.
I really dig what they're doing here.  One of my biggest issues with my Tifosis was their tendency to slide down my face, especially when I was on my bike in the aero position.  I constantly found myself looking through the space between the top of my shades and the bottom of my helmet.  With the Ryders, I could adjust them to sit nice and snug, right up against my face. 

They're bendy.  Like. REALLY Bendy.

Comfort for the lenses is outstanding.  Once they're on, they're on, and they stay put.  I've never had to push them back up on my nose, even after 112 miles in the aero position.

Here they are during the beginning of the Ironman bike leg.  I chose the orange lenses for that day.

Here they are during the run - no longer necessary in the dark, but the coolest part of this photo nonetheless.

So, let's summarize. 

The Pros: 
Comfort - One they're on, they disappear, and they stay put. 

Price - You get a good set of shades for $60.  In my opinion, it's a better deal than most other $60 shades out there.

Style - This is a personal thing, but I like mine.  If you don't like the VTX style, try one of the other Ryder's models. 

The Cons:
No Baggie - Call me picky, but I really miss this - not so much for storage, but definitely for cleaning.

Availability -  According to the Ryder's website, there isn't a dealer in my state.  The closest dealer is in Madison.  So, if I wanted to buy a new pair, I'd either have to order on-line, cross my fingers and hope that I look good in them, or I'd have to start drivin'.

In the end, I'm really pleased with these shades - not just because they were free, but because they work. 

Incidentally, if you have a product that you'd like me to try out, I'll be happy to work with you and your company (I'm looking at YOU Porsche). 

Friday, September 24, 2010

Back in the Saddle

One of the nice things about completing an Ironman is that you can take any amount of time away from training that you like and nobody will say 'Boo' about it.  It's one of the few times that you can really rest on your laurels and take it easy.  Before yesterday, the closest thing to a workout that I've done since the race is pulling the handle on my recliner.

Now, before I go any further, I should also mention one of the unforeseen negatives about completing an Ironman.  Going through that amount of work in one day pretty much nukes your immune system, making it REALLY easy for you to get sick.  So, while I HAVE been getting some well-deserved rest, I've also been fighting the flu since last week.  Blah.

But I digress.  Yesterday was my first 'official' workout since the big race.  I walked over to the gym during lunch and swam casually for 1000 yards.  This took about 17 minutes give-or-take.  Heck, I didn't even bring my Garmin with me, so you KNOW I wasn't taking it that seriously.  I still felt a little oogy from the flu, but it felt good to get moving again.  I missed the 'feel' of the water.

Today, I did my first run.  This time around, I did bring my Garmin, but didn't bother with the Heart Rate strap.  Screw it.  I just wanted to run and have it be fun - not have my pace dictated by my heart rate.  The weather was PERFECT for running - about 62 degrees and cloudy.  Nice. 

Since I haven't run in almost two weeks, my legs felt fresh when I took off.  Not just fresh - but REALLY fresh.  I actually MISSED running.  Figure that.  It's the sport I'm worst at and usually enjoy training at the least.  But today it felt great. 

Now, I'll remind you again, I'm not a world-class runner.  Heck, I'm usually thrilled to place in the middle of my age group for the run.  So, while an 8:50/mile pace doesn't sound that great, for me to hold that average for just a training run is freakin' awesome.  In fact, it was the first time I've ever done that 4.5 mile route in under 40 minutes.  So, yay me.

I'm not sure what I'll do tomorrow.  I may run, I may bike.  Who knows.  Sunday looks like it'll be a good day for a ride, so maybe I'll tour around and just soak in the day.  For now, I'm just going to enjoy whatever workout I like without being controlled by a training plan.  Good stuff.  Good good stuff.

For those of you who come here for more meaningful content - worry not.  I'm planning for my next post to be a review of my training shades - the Ryders VTX sunglasses. These are the shades that I won last July from one of 'Steve in a Speedo's' giveaways. 

So, if you're in the market for some new sunglasses, stay tuned. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Oh Happy Day

I'm so happy.  Tonight, a routine trip to the grocery store turned into a reminder of how sometimes life gives us exactly what we want. 

What am I talking about, you say?  How could something so mundane turn into something so wonderful?  I'll tell you what, and I'll tell you how.

They're in season again.

Honeycrisp Apples

Oh Happy Day.

You see, apples fall into two categories: Honeycrisp, and Other.  Red Delicious?  Granny Smith?  Macintosh?  Impostors.  Mere placeholders for the rest of the year serving only to remind you that there's something better to be had. 

Honeycrisps though.  Well, they're tree-born joy.  Happiness in fruit form.  They're crunchy and juicy and tart and sweet and all kinds of other awesome adjectives that I can't even think of right now because I'm so psyched that they're in season again. 

But a star that burns twice as bright, burns half as long.  These heavenly orbs are only in season for about one month every year.  That's okay though.  If they were available year-round I'd start to take them for granted.  Besides, absence makes the heart grow fonder.

So if you don't mind, I'm going to leave now - to be alone with my lover.  Don't tell The Wife.

I love you.  I want you inside me.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Ironman Wisconsin - Thanks

It's been over a week now since I became an Ironman.  The afterglow of race day has faded and I'm slowly starting to get back into the swing of things.  You know - starting to have a normal life again.

However, I don't want to get too settled until I can thank all of the people that helped me get as far as I did. In the end, triathlon can be a very selfish sport.  It can take you away from friends, family, work and church.  It can be expensive, especially for something without a return.  After all, this isn't real estate or a 401k.  The rewards can be great, but they won't pay the bills. 

Here are some of the many things that I am thankful for:

1.  The man playing the Chariots of Fire theme on the run course - with bagpipes.  Pure awesomeness.
2.  The two men dressed in drag that I saw at least 4 times on the bike course - so you know they were traveling from point to point.  Now THAT'S commitment.
3.  Kathy and Chris, my two angels at the finish line.
4.  All the creative signs out on the course, including "Show me your calves", "Chuck Norris never did an Ironman", "Ironman Chicks are hot - and the men are above average", "Free High-Fives", and this one that my wife caught.  I'm inclined to agree:

5.  Every single cold sponge that I could squeeze over my head.  
6.  Taking off my running shoes at the end of the day and not finding any blisters.  Not. One.  Yippee.
7.  The lady with Vaseline at the aid station.  My armpits thank you deeply.
8.  Feeling invincible coming off of the swim.
9.  My first real food after the race.  By the way, that would be a #2 - Super Sized, with an extra Sausage & Egg McMuffin.
Oh yeah.  Best. Breakfast. EVER.
10.  No flats and no mechanical issues on the bike.
11.  Hearing about how many people followed my race progress on-line.
12.  Finding out that sometimes a Trek 1500 can beat at Cervelo P3 to T2.
13.  Friends that drove all the way to Madison to watch me race, even though they knew they couldn't be there to watch me finish.  I'm lookin' at you Pat, Steve, Rem, Doc, Mork, Jim, Sarah and Madeline. 
14.  People that tell me that I inspire them.  I'm not looking to be anyone's hero.  But hearing that more folks are getting into tris and racing feels pretty sweet.

Speaking of fans, I want to thank some people specifically:

Jim - For getting me off my butt and inviting me to do RAGBRAI in 2008.  It got me into the whole endurance thing again.  Thank you.

Tim, Don and Cory - Some of my homies from the Twin Cities Spoke.  You pushed me to keep up my investment into training.  You know - putting in the consistent miles.

Beginner TriathleteA great site, with lots of helpful, supportive people who won't judge you, even when you have no idea what you're doing.

The folks at the Start Line and Gear West - Two great gear shops that take extra time to get you set up right.

Mom - For always cheering.  Oh and for watching the Bark 'n' Sniffer while we were out of town.

Dad, Kristi, Patsy, Ross and Becky - My parents and in-laws - for all their support even though it's not always easy to cheer for a grown man in spandex. 

And Finally - to The Wife, Megan:  You tolerate more than you should.  You scratch my back at night.  You wax my legs.  You let me hug you when I'm sweaty.  You take care of things around the house when I'm out for long bike rides.  You even woke up with me at 4am on race day.  I love ya Honey.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Ironman Wisconsin - Part 4

Here we go folks.  The final stretch.  For those of you who've stuck with me so far - thanks.  For those of you just getting to the party.  You may want to check out my earlier posts for the pre-race, swim, and bike.  Or, you can skip to the finish to find out how this all ends.

My goal for the bike had been 6:40 and I ended up finishing the 112-mile course in 6:45.  That's close enough to make me happy - plus I still felt like my legs had something to offer up on the run.  I scooted into the Terrace, quickly found my transition bag - right at the end of the row where I left it.  I asked a volunteer if I could use the other changing room because the last one 'had a bunch of naked guys in it'.  No?  No.

I took my time in transition, making sure to apply a liberal amount of Body Glide to my special places.  I wasn't about to let friction abuse me the way it did on the bike.  I peeled off my bike jersey, applied some more Body Glide to the ol'l high beams and threw on my running singlet.  I velcroed on my Garmin wrist strap and then my stomach hit the floor.  I had left my Garmin on the bike.  Crap.

Since my running pace was going to be determined by my heart rate I NEEDED to get that back.  I waded through more nude dude and out of the Terrace back to the bike hand-off.  The volunteers weren't going to let me in to the racks, but one offered to grab it off my bike and meet me by the run-out area.  Okay. That'll have to do.  I turned back around and jogged through the Terrace again, out the back and to the run-out.

I saw the timing mats and stopped.  I didn't want my run time to start until I had my Garmin in hand - I'd rather have a long transition than a long run.  I don't know.  It made sense at the time.  So, I waited by the fence.  And waited.  And waited.  After what seemed like hours, I still didn't see a sign of my volunteer.  I made a decision, said to myself 'Eff it.  Let's do this thing'.  I crossed the mats and ran out onto the course.

Shuffle shuffle shuffle.

The crowds were amazing.  People lined the streets and sidewalks all over town, waving signs, ringing cow bells and screaming their guts out.  The first mile went quickly - you'd be surprised how a good crowd will help you run faster.  By the second mile though, I started to feel nauseous.  I think that six hours of gel and shot bloks was finally catching up to me.  My legs were fine, but all the bouncing from running was making me sick. 

By mile 3, my guts couldn't take it anymore.  I had to walk. Ugh.  Now, I know that there shouldn't be any shame in walking during an Ironman.  But, after months of training, it's never easy to adjust your goals mid-race.  My spirits were down for the first quarter of the race.  I wanted to run, but couldn't.  I knew I needed calories, but everything at the aid stations tasted like poo.

The good news was that, after doing a little Minnesota High School math in my head, I knew that I'd be finishing.  In the end, it was the hope of finishing that kept me going. 

For better or worse, without my Garmin, I had no idea how I was doing on time.  I knew that a sub 5-hour marathon was now out of the question, but everything else was a mystery.  By about mile 10 I actually started to just enjoy the experience.  Ironman puts your first name on your bib number, so a runner never goes more than a minute or two without someone cheering for them by name.

Running through Camp Randall Stadium.  Not pictured: me singing Minnesota Gopher Fight Song.

For those of you familiar with the run course, you know how excruciating mile 13 can be.  Runners are lead within less than 100 yards of the finish line, only to make a u-turn and head right back out onto the course for lap two.  I had to hold back tears as I watched one of the front-runners sprint to the finish line, knowing that I still had a long run ahead of me.  Dang.  I wanted to cross that line SO BAD.

During the 2nd lap, the sun began to set so the temperature started to drop.  My stomach finally started to settle down too.  I was able to release some pressure, by um, you know, 'lettin' 'er rip'.  Hey.  Don't judge.  I wasn't the only one out there grunting them out.

Photo Credit: The Wife.  Least graceful running photo posing credit: Me

For the last 10 miles of the course, I was also able to adjust my mix of running and walking to one with, well, more running and less walking.  I would just pick some landmarks, like traffic cones or street lamps, and walk one span while running 2 spans.  This had a few effects.  First, I was able to run faster and actually started to pass people.  Second, it helped me focus more on running and less on how miserable my body felt.

As I got into the last few miles, my emotions were all over the map.  I knew it would be over soon, and I could finally cross the line.  That mad me about 12 different flavors of happy.  I also saw many runners still heading out to do their 2nd laps and knew that a lot of them didn't have a chance to finish.  It was truly heartbreaking.

During the last couple of miles, I was running more and more.  I wanted to leave it all on the course.  If my calves cramped up or my quads locked, I'd walk a bit, but then get back into a jog again.  Then, I heard it.  The crowd was going crazy.  I ran through the last aid station, telling the volunteers 'Thanks, but no thanks.  I've got somewhere I need to be.' 

I ran the last 1/2 mile.  Enough of this jogging baloney.  I was RUNNING.  I made the final left turn and into the final stretch.  There were HUNDREDS of people on either side of the street.  I 'Hulk Hogan-ed' the crowd and they went bananas.  You've never Hulk Hogan-ed a crowd?  It looks something like this:

This was it.  I lifted my arms into the air and hit the finish line in full stride while race director Mike Reilly yelled 'Eric Bergstrom....You are an IRON MAN!'.

The next 30 seconds were a blur.  I was literally 'caught' by a volunteer - Kathy - at the finish line.  I put my weight on their shoulder and my legs went all noodle-y.  Another volunteer - Chris - grabbed my other arm and the two of them walked me over to a chair.  These volunteers are freakin' ANGELS.  Kathy got me wrapped up in a tinfoil blanket while Chris got me some Sprite, or Sierra Mist.  Whatever.  All I know is that a couple of sips got my stomach settled.  It was like liquid gold.  The cure to what ails ya.  Sex in a cup.  I wish they would serve this stuff out on the course.

My legs came back to me and they walked me over to get my finisher photo.  Now.  I don't usually toot my own horn.  But I looked back at some photos from the times before I started training.  Let's just say that Ironman has been very very good to me.

Packing on the pounds.
And After:

Evidently, modesty and humility weren't the first things on my mind after the race.

After the finisher photo, my volunteers angels did their most important task of the night.  They brought me to meet The Wife.  I love my wife.  She takes good care of me.  We hugged, grabbed some more Sierra Mist and went for a content, albeit slow, walk.  I was now an Ironman.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Ironman Wisconsin - Part 3

Okay.  It's time to continue with the most epic-y of epic race reports.  Let's dive into the bike now, shall we?

The bike starts out with a descent down four levels of the parking 'helix'.  Somewhere in the middle of my third 'WEEEeeeee!!!' I caught a glimpse of Jim and Sarah cheering for me from the other end of the barricade.  I'm glad I got to see them before mile one of 112.

The course is laid out like a lollipop with a 12 mile 'stick' that goes from Downtown Madison out west to Verona.  Then we did 2 loops around the countryside. 

The first miles of the bike were uneventful.  Most of us were taking it pretty easy.  There were 6+ hours of cycling ahead of us.  It was pretty crowded out on the course, but I have a feeling that the race marshals were turning a blind eye to any drafting.  At least for the first 25 miles or so.

Heading out of town.

I stuck to my nutrition plan to a T.  Every 20 minutes, I took a gel, or 3 shot bloks.  Then, every 60 minutes I'd take some Endurolytes - essentially salt pills to keep me from cramping up. This was the same plan that worked pretty well for me during the Liberty Half Iron back in June.

The crowds along the route were nothing short of amazing.  You could never go more than a mile without seeing a line of folks cheering, a backyard party, or someone at the end of their driveway with a cowbell. 

The most interesting crowds were along Timber lane heading south into Verona.  This is where we encountered what are affectionately referred to as 'The Three B*tches' - three steep rollers in rapid succession.  Each one individually wouldn't take too much out of you.  They were very steep, but not terribly long.  However, having these 3 in a row was crazy. 

Fortunately, the crowds along these hills were crazy too - something close to what you would see on an ascent in the Tour de France.  You had your mandatory 'Man in Devil Costume', folks dressed up as farm animals, and lots of guys in Speedos and wigs.  You know - if you're into that kind of thing.

The first 60 miles or so went by fairly quickly.  There was always something to keep my mind distracted from the work my body was doing.  I kept the pace slow, but steady - constantly reminding myself that I still had a marathon to run later.  By mile 70, things started to drag a little bit.  The nutrition that had served me so well for a 56 course was starting to get tired.  The vanilla gel started to taste a little 'oogy', and my shot bloks got harder and harder to chew.  The sport drink still tasted good though, so I took in more of that for calories.

At about mile 80 I was beginning to wish that I would have paid more attention to applying Body Glide to my sensitive areas prior to the bike.  During an Ironman, friction is no man's friend.  I promised not to make the same mistake in T2.

Thank goodness my legs still felt great.  Even climbing the B*tches a 2nd time wasn't too terrible.  Although, I did have to shift a much lower gear to keep from straining up the hills.  I could tell that my average speed was dropping, but I was still scared to push too hard for fear of blowing out my legs for the run.  Once I crested the last bee-yotch, I knew it was mostly downhill back to Madison.  There were still plenty of fun-loving crowds in Verona to push us through.

Heading back on the 'stick' portion of the course, I started to feel anxious for the run.  Of the 3 disciplines, it was the one I was least confident about.  My body was starting to fight back against my nutrition telling me 'enough of this gel crap, gimme some real FOOD!'. 

Finally seeing the lake and the Monona Center again felt great.  It was strange.  After over 6 and a half hours out on the course, the swim was starting to feel like something I had done WEEKS ago.  I spun up John Nolen drive and up into the parking structure, unstrapping my shoes and hopped gracefully functionally down to the pavement.

I jogged through another crowd and into the Terrace to peel off my bike jersey, strap on my running shoes and tackle my first marathon.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Ironman Wisconsin - Part 2

Alright then.  It's time to swim. 

There's a funny thing that happens at the beginning of an Ironman swim.  You have 2900 closely packed, mostly vertical objects (floating swimmers) that rapidly turn into forward moving horizontal objects (swimming swimmers).   Space runs out.  Quickly.

You may have heard that swim starts are analogous to being in a washing machine.  This is absolutely NOT true.  Washing machines have a gentle cycle.  Now, I know that there aren't any athletes out there that are TRYING to injure other swimmers, but that's cold comfort when you're getting punched in the head, kicked in the face, pulled backwards and subjected to impromptu (and uninvited) prostate exams.

Believe it or not, this is one of the calmer photos.

Remember the ski ramp from yesterday's post?  The green horizontal arrow would be sitting right on top of it.

The most violent part was the stretch leading to the first buoy.  The worst of it came when I was kicked in the left eye just before the turn.  Fortunately, I had my goggles strapped UNDER my swim cap, so they weren't knocked off.  If anything they were forced deeper into my eye socket. 

In fact, at the end of the day, back at the hotel, I was looking in the mirror and had to do a double-take.  Was I wearing eyeliner?  Nope.  It was just the world's weirdest bruise.

Now that just ain't right.

Anyway.  Back to the race.  I rounded the first buoy and participated in one of the more unique racing traditions.  As swimmers make the first turn they all let out a loud 'MMOOOOOO!'.  It sounds awesome and hilarious all at the same time.  I did my best to join in, but I have a feeling my effort sounded more like 'MMOO-gurgle-glubglub-gurgle-ackackack'.

As I crossed the far end of the course and rounded the 2nd buoy I encountered one of the last acts of violence for the swim - a swift heel to the um...'Captain's Privates'.  I'm not sure how someone could catch me between the legs and through a rubber suit, but the assault on my 'low hanging fruit' was hard enough to knock all the air out of my lungs.  Fortunately, I didn't inhale any of the lake trying to catch my breath.

I tried to shake off the pain in my 'family jewels' and get back into a swimming rhythm when I experienced what would end up being my FINAL act of violence on the swim - another firm kick to the 'twig and berries'.  Okay.  This is getting ridiculous.  It better not be the same guy (or gal) who is intent on relentlessly pummeling my 'speed bag'.  I stuck my head up over the water and yelled 'NO MORE KICKING IN THE SEEDS!'.

But I digress.  The back stretch of the swim course was much more peaceful.  For one, with so many swimming abilities, the pack had already stretched out considerably.  Also, with such a long stretch to until the next turn, I could afford to take the course wider and get into a nice rhythm.  I like a nice, long, smooth stroke (get your head out of the gutter - I'm looking at you, Mom). 

I kept my line a little bit wider heading into the 2nd lap and really got to stretch things out.  I never pushed the pace and kept things easy and relaxed.  But, I could tell that I was making up ground on those that chose to swim in the pack.  I'll take it.  On the 2nd back stretch, I pushed the pace a little more, but never stopped being relaxed.  The only time my heart rate started to climb was when I could start to hear the crowd on shore.

Honestly, the swim felt great, despite my aching HonorĂ© de Balzac, I could have gone another couple of laps.  But that crowd was too hard to pass up.  I picked up the pace and trucked it towards shore.  As it turns out, I ended up finishing the swim in the top 25% of racers.  Not bad for a noob.  I was just over my goal of 1:12 with a time of 1:14.  I'll take it.

On the left.
On the left again.

I hustled onto shore and over to the strippers.  No.  Not THOSE kind of strippers.  These are the nice folks that whip your wetsuit off quicker than a coed's top at Spring Break.  They literally sit you down on the ground and peel off your suit while you sit there with your legs in the air hoping that your tri bottoms don't come off with the rest of the outfit. 

I trotted through the crowd and caught a glimpse of Doc - one of our friends visiting to watch me race.  That meant that The Wife was close by.  Nice.  There wasn't time to talk though.  I jogged up the helix at the Terrace and into the conference rooms.  The T1 bag was easy to find - right on the end of the row, remember?  Then, I found a seat in the changing room to get my cycling gear together.

One of the volunteers, Mike, upended my bag and its contents spilled out.  He actually said 'That's the most organized transition bag I've ever seen'.  That made me feel good, especially considering how meticulous I was in packing.  I threw on all my gear, while trying to avert my eyes from all the nude dude around me.  Seriously, that place was a sausage-fest.  In hindsight I should have taken a couple extra seconds to apply some Body Glide to my 'baby factories'.  I would live to regret this later on in the day.

I hoofed it outside again and down the concourse towards my Rusty Steed.  Another volunteer de-racked my ride and pointed me towards the start of the course.  I strapped on my shoes, hopped into the saddle and descended down the helix.  There were only 138.2 miles left to go.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ironman Wisconsin - Part 1

I don't care who you are.  4AM is too dang early to be getting up on a Sunday.  I had been battling butterflies in my stomach all night, and probably got around 4 hours of sleep.  Not in a row, mind you, but 4 hours total when you add together the 15-20 minute chunks of unconsciousness.

I hopped, okay, stumbled out of bed and staggered over to the shower.  A couple of minutes under the hot water did wonders.  I suited up into the two items that I'd be wearing all day - my tri shorts and my heart rate monitor.  Over those went a comfy pair of warmups and a long-sleeve t-shirt.

I snarfed down a bagel, some peanut butter and a banana while The Wife freshened up.  I checked my special needs bags one more time and then we hit the road.

Special needs on the left..uh, my left, your right.  Morning clothes on the left, uh, right, um.  You get the idea. 
All things considered, we were pretty early to the Terrace on race morning.  There were still a couple more things to do before the race started.  First, I had to drop off the special needs bags so that they could be transported to the course.  These held some basic necessities for mid-race.  You know, things like fresh socks, Vaseline and Aleve.

Bye bye stuff!
Then, we headed over to the bike racks where I filled up my aerobar-mounted water bottles with sport drink and water.  By this point it was getting pretty crowded.  It took an uncomfortably long amount of time to find the body-markers - the people who write your race number on your arms and your age on your calf.  It seemed that everyone we asked thought that these maestros of the Sharpie were in a different place.  Not to worry, eventually we tracked them down.

There were only a few more minutes left before I would have to start heading down to the water.  I took a sharpie and wrote a few things on my arm.

First, I put some key words up on my wrist.

Just a few reminders to keep me from flying off the handle.
Then, I dedicated some of my run miles to a few special people.

Yep.  Mile 26 was for you Wife.  Oh yeah, and mile #19 says EXACTLY what you think it does.
Then it was time to pour myself into my wetsuit.  There's just no graceful way to do it.

Struggling with my superhero suit while the sun rises in the background.
Once suited-up, we followed the mass exodus down from the top level of the Terrace and onto the shore.  As we neared the shore line the music got louder and louder.  Soon, we hit the end.  It was time to say goodbye.

And one with help from a stranger.  The guy behind us looks like he's never seen a camera before.
Before I turned to head into the water, The Wife gave me a kiss and said "be careful, and listen to your body".  I said, "Why?  Did I fart again?".  Ah yes.  I combat anxiety with humor.  She picked a spot up on a hill and I got in line with 2900 other nervous athletes clad in rubber and neoprene.

Soon, the cannon went off and the pros started their day.  That meant it was 6:50 and there were only 10 minutes left until it was my turn.  The only problem?  I was still on shore with at least 1000 other athletes.  You see, before any athlete could get into the lake, they had to walk over an electronic 'timing pad' so that the timing chip strapped around each of their ankles would activate.

These timing mats were only about 6 feet wide, causing an anxious bottleneck.  The clock continued to count down.  With 5 minutes to go, I was really starting to get nervous.  Then, with 3 minutes to go, I finally squeezed my way through, heard my chip chirp, and dove into the lake, right in the middle of the national anthem.  No.  I did NOT remove my cap for the anthem.

I swam slowly out to the crowd.  Before I knew it, I was smack in the middle of what can best be described as a 'floating mob'.  I didn't want to get too close to the front of the pack.  I figured that would just make me available for more people to swim over.  However, the more that swimmers were packed into the mob, the closer I was pushed up to the front.  I turned around, drew an imaginary line in the water with my hand and yelled "Okay.  THIS is MY SPACE".  I only got laughter.  Oh well.

When I heard U2's 'Beautiful Day' come on over the loudspeaker.  I knew that there were only seconds to go.  I could feel my heart beating in my neck.  I took one more glance towards land to see thousands of spectators lining the shore and climbing to the top of Monona Terrace.

Then,  BOOOOMMM!!  The cannon went off.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ironman Wisconsin - Pre-Race

Two Days to Go

The Wife and I were up early on Friday to make our trip over to Madison.  I was already packed, so after a quick shower, we hit the road.

The sun rising over Eastern Minnesota.

The drive went quickly.  We spent most of the time trying to plan out the day once we got to Mad-Town.  I drove and The Wife snapped some photos.

Here's me practicing my 'serious face'.
Since we got moving so early, we ended up rolling into town before lunch.  The first thing on my to-do list was final registration, so we headed straight to the center of the action - Monona Terrace.  For those of you who haven't been to Madison, the downtown area is situated between Lake Monona and Lake Mendota.  Naturally, Monona Terrace is on the shores of the former.

Everything, and I mean EV-ER-Y-thing related to the Ironman happens at Monona Terrace. If you're in downtown Madison and you want to find the Terrace, just follow a really fit person.  They're probably on their way there. 

Looking through the outdoor expo and up towards the Capitol.

There were all kinds of cool things going on when we showed up.  I really wanted to buy a Cervelo, but then The Wife reminded me that my allowance was cut off until I finished at least one Ironman.  Okay.  Fine.  I guess I had better check in.

Believe it or not, it was actually pretty crowded.
There were almost 3000 people to check in, but these Ironman guys run their show like a well-oiled machine.  Before I knew it I had signed all my forms, gotten weighed and picked up my swag bag. 

We took a little time to walk through the Ironman store.  I was tempted to buy some gear.  Oh, man.  I was tempted.  But, in the off chance that I wouldn't be able to finish the race, I didn't want to have any clothes in my closet that I was ashamed to wear.  On a side note, they will slap the Ironman name and logo on any product, and it'll sell. 

Get used to seeing this guy - AKA the 'M-Dot' -  EVERYWHERE. 
Now that I was checked in, we headed back to the hotel for some rest.  There was still a day and a half left to go before the race started and I didn't want to spend all day on my feet.  Later on, we headed back to the terrace for the banquet and athlete meeting.

Athletes were allowed into the banquet for free, but guest tickets were all sold out.  There was no way that I was going to attend the banquet without The Wife, so we decided to explore our options around town.  Luckily, there was a great Irish Pub just down the street.

Sure, I wasn't absorbing the FULL Ironman experience.  Honestly though, would you rather be crammed in a room with 2900 people snarfing down the same pasta, or would you rather hang with your lady-friend in a pub while eating bangers 'n' mash?

Correct Answer: Bangers 'n' Mash!  Bangers 'n' Mash!

Accidental artsy-fartsy picture of the Bangers 'n' Mash.

Oh yeah, and what better way to carbo-load than with everybody's favorite carbs....BEER.

Okay, so after dinner we hoofed it back to the terrace again for the athlete meeting.  There wasn't enough room in the main ballroom, so we ended up watching all the presentations on a screen in one of the other conference rooms.  That's fine.

It was cool to have the oldest and youngest athletes up to the podium along with those that had lost the most weight.  Shoot.  One guy has lost 167 since he started training.  That's a bigger accomplishment than any kind of racecourse they can throw at us.  In the end, most of the presentations just reiterated what we all could have read in the Athlete Guide, but it was still nice to hear the messages from live bodies. 

With that, we made one more trip back to the hotel and turned in early.  Exciting?  No.  But there would be plenty of time for excitement later.

One Day to Go

The nice thing about hitting the sack early is that getting up at the butt-crack of dawn gets to be just a tad easier.  Just a tad.  The big things to do this day were dropping off my transition bags and saying a temporary goodbye to my bike. 

First, we met up with Jim and Sarah, some friends of ours that had come into town to watch me race.  Jim did the first Ironman Wisconsin back in 2002.  I'm glad that they came.  My wife was taking pretty good care of me and it felt good to know that someone else could be around to take care of her.  You know.  Just in case.

After breakfast with our friends.  We headed towards Monona Terrace again to hand in my bags for T1 (swim to bike) and T2 (bike to run).  This went SUPER quick.  Plus, since my bib number was #699, my bag ended up on the end of the row - which would make it easier to find later. 

The T1 Bag Room.  Bye bye bike shoes and helmet!
A similar scene in the T2 bag drop off.
He shoots, he scores!
The only mandatory thing left at this point was dropping off my bike.  They use the entire top level of the parking structure for bike racks.


And After:

I walked my Rusty Steed down to the racks and snugged it right up between numbers 698 and 700.  Incidentally, it was parked between two rocket bikes.  Hopefully, some of their speed would rub off onto my ride.
That Zipp wheel on the left.  Yeah.  It costs more than my entire bike. 
I took one more moment to tuck my bike in for the night.

Until later, My Sweet.
Okay.  Great.  The hard work was done.  I peeled myself away from my bike.  Then, The Wife and I strolled down the shore from the Terrace to the swim start.  I thought it would be a good idea to take in a quick swim - nothing crazy, just 10-15 minutes to stay limber. 

Come Sunday morning, the start line would be at the ski ramp.
Look!  There I am!
Well, after the swim, I had done everything that I wanted at the Terrace.  As much as I wanted to stick around and absorb all of the Ironman atmosphere, I was already fighting off some serious butterflies in the stomach.  The best thing for nervousness is distraction.  So, The Wife and I met up with some more friends.  Yay.

Now, I don't have any photos of Saturday afternoon.  The reason?  Well, as it turns out, when you've got a 140.6 mile race the next day, you tend to be a little absent-minded.  How absent minded?  Well, enough to leave your digital camera in your swim trunks as you go for a swim in the hotel pool.  Yes.  I drowned my camera.  Ugh.

The Wife was gracious enough to stop at the local Target and pick up a new camera.  As luck would have it, the pool spared my data card, so none of the photos were lost.  Whew!  Crisis averted. 

Once we had the camera situation under control, we met up with even MORE friends and walked over to the Quaker Steak and Lube near our hotel (Imagine Buffalo Wild Wings and NASCAR had a love-child).   It gave all my *ahem* 'adoring fans' something nice to eat.  I stuck to a light meal - a beef gyro with cole slaw - thankyouverymuch. 

Why yes.  We DID have a Bucket of Fun.
Jim, Sarah and baby Madeline.  Jim points to the flavor of wings he enjoyed.  Sarah points to how she thinks I look in a Speedo.

Jim then points to his opinion of mass swim starts with 2900 racers.
Doc, another friend, even showed up bearing gifts...well, gift:
Strangely, 'Jet Blackberry' was also my stage name when I was 'working my way through college'.
After dinner, we headed back to the hotel and I turned in early.  Sunday WAS going to be a big day after all.  Before I hit the sack, there was one more thing to do - remove some hair.  My wife had waxed my legs earlier in the week.  Yes.  I said WAXED my legs.  I'll probably post about that process later on.  Suffice it to say, REAL men wax.

With the legs already sexy and silky smooth, I focused on my noggin:

Yes.  I shave my head, but not my goatee.  Don't ask for it to make sense.
Then, I did the ol' 'Double-Pits to Chesty':
That is one hairless dude.  Oh, and nice tan lines too.
This all left a rather distasteful mess in the hotel bathroom.
Now that all the unwanted hair was gone, it was time to go to bed.  I was exhausted.  I set the alarm for 4am and hit the sheets.  Sunday was going to be a BIG day.

G'Night everybody.  I'll see you in the morning.