Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What is the Meaning of Ironman?

My "Bash Bro" Simon Hernaez (a fellow Clydesdale) posted his race report from IMAZ. I am stealing a couple paragraphs and posting them here with a little bit of editing... as the words encapsulate the meaning of Ironman and triathlon in general to me. Though I didn't originally write these words... they explain how I feel.

"The elemental representation of Ironman must be Earth. It is the solid base of your activities for a year, and the rock upon which you repeatedly crush yourself to become stronger. Through the ebbs and flows of life, Ironman training is there: consistent, steady, looming. It takes the edge away when you are down, and sufficiently humbles you when you are high. Days like that were manageable because in the wings were my long swim, long bike, and long run – I had to focus on those. Ultimately I believe that having a quest like this improves your life. Apparently everything is supposed to suffer while you train for an IM, yet I was having fun."

"The great movie Kung Fu Panda had a saying, and it applies here: there is no secret ingredient, it’s just you. Ironman IS you, and it’s the best you. There are so few days in your life where the person you were raised to be, the person you were taught to be, the person you are expected to be, the person who you desperately hope to be, and the person that you actually ARE, are in fact the same person. This is one of those days. And you don’t even need to ask who that person is, because they tell you: “TJ Collins from Silver Spring, MD – you are an Ironman”. Don’t believe me? Try one: It will change you forever."

Sunday, November 23, 2008

IMAZ Results

KDOG IMAZ Race Report

Ironman Arizona

OK, this is it... the last race of the season...

Kirsten Emery-Lewis 2182
Chad Lewis 458
Andy Macdonald 601
Simon Hernaez 710
Guillermo Cabrera 862
Paul Evans 1152

Monday, November 17, 2008

Fog Man

I've been in a fog for a couple of weeks now. I no longer have a goal in front of me... something I'm striving for. I'm also not working out... at least hardly. I'm not keeping track of workouts or planning any upcoming bike or run training sessions. I feel sort of rudderless... like... I'm in a fog.

I don't think I'll have closure on this past season until after Sunday. Sunday is Ironman Arizona. It turns out, a lot of my friends are racing Sunday. I kind of feel left out. I was alone at IMFL and about dozen people I've trained with will be racing Sunday.

Of course, Chad and KDOG are at the top of the list. I really can't close the book on this season until I see them cross the finish line.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

IMFL 2008 Race Report

Desire. Dedication. Determination.

Are all Ironman finishers alike? Of course not. In fact, I think you can break them down into at least four main categories (imho)… none better or more important than the other.

There is the “Uber Triathlete” who probably races in more than one Ironman a year. They can tell you how many calories are in a bagel with cream cheese, how much wattage they can output on a 5% grade at 22 mph in the big chain ring and can run an Ironman marathon consistently under 3:30.

The “Been There, Done That” athlete may have characteristics of the Uber Triathlete, too. But, they do the Ironman, probably excel at it, but then go on to something else like climbing Mt. Everest, exploring the Amazon or doing some other thrill-seeking activity. Ironman is a once in a lifetime thing.

“I Did It… Can You Believe It?” people are often our favorite people to watch when crossing the finish line. They lost a bunch a weight, or are recovering from some illness, perhaps had a baby and wanted to get back in shape, an idea that spun out of control and ended at an Ironman finish line. They did it, and then they move on.

Then, there is the “Ironman Disciple”. There is something in that Ironman finish line that lures the disciple but they can’t quite put their finger on why. They keep coming back, year after year… or every other year. But, they need to have it… like an addict needs a drug. But, it is more than the finish line… it’s the time spent preparing with the people pursuing the same goal. It reminds me of the people who were all seeking Devil’s Tower in the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”.

I am a disciple. I am a follower of this sport and I take it where it leads me. I’d sign up for an Ironman again next year if no one was looking. I would let it dominate my life and interests outside of work and family. My sleep, eating, drinking and bathroom patterns would be centered around getting to that finish line. You’d find me on vacation at the local running store trying to tag along on a workout. I’d know the lifeguards at the beach by name but wouldn’t be able to tell you how much my hotel room cost. My friends would all be fellow participants in an upcoming Ironman or 70.3 race. There wouldn’t be time for anyone else, and besides… what would we talk about?

See, that is what it takes for a normal person to do this on a consistent basis. This isn’t a “I want to finish before midnight” quest. It is also not a “sub-10 hour” effort. There are too many other commitments in the disciple’s life to do that. But, we can hit the finish line shortly after dark. More importantly, we have lived that previous 12 months like we think life ought be lived. In bed by 9 pm. Up at 4 am. Eating to train… not training to eat. Consistent workouts that would leave other fit people in our age group gasping for breathe. This isn’t a sport or a hobby… it’s the way we live our lives. It is as organic to us as the seasons of the year.

So, I knew when I finished Ironman Florida 2006 that I would do another one in 2008. On November 4, 2007, I signed up for Ironman Florida 2008. I set a goal to finish the race in 12:15, a 36 minute improvement on my previous Ironman Florida finish in 2006. Here is how I not only matched my goal, but actually surpassed it and finished in 12:05:00.

2008 was my fifth “season” in triathlon. I’ve been a DC Tri Club member every season and appreciate the friends I’ve made and the lessons I’ve learned by being a member. I participated in the June training triathlon in preparation for the season that was to consist of three races: New Jersey Triathlon (Olympic Distance), Patriots Half (a Half Ironman distance) and then Ironman Florida.

I was able to train consistently on my long bike this year with KDOG and Chad. We had some great Sunday’s together. The Sunday after their wedding stands out… a day when I did a 12 mile run up a mountain in the Berkshires. In fact, that whole weekend (Memorial Day Weekend 2008) was a blast... a wedding in the middle of a marathon training weekend. We also had a training weekend up at Deep Creek Lake in early August. It was the first weekend of the Olympics and I had a great time... like cycling over the Continental Divide two days in a row is something everyone thinks is fun. I’m grinning ear to ear thinking about it. Our last Sunday ride from Capitol Hill to Sugarloaf Mountain and back together in October was another great day. I was not as consistent with my swimming throughout the year although I did have a regular Friday morning swim at the Silver Spring YMCA with Colette. Colette and I also did a long run on Wednesday mornings and I ran most of the rest of the year by myself. The last month of training, my speed run workouts were with Seth, a co-worker who is trying to run a 4 minute mile. The dude is fast. I did a four day training weekend over 4th of July down at the beach. The weather was gorgeous and I got to do it all… open water swim, cycling for hours on end and long runs through the ocean breeze. Good times…

My training schedule basically broke down like this:

Sunday: Long Bike and Moderate Swim
Monday: Lift Weights
Tuesday: Rest
Wednesday: Long Run
Thursday: Tempo Bike and Lift Weights
Friday: Long Swim and Tempo Run
Saturday: Brick – Moderate Bike and Short Run

Things were cruising along throughout the year. I did the Total 200 in July, riding a bike 200 miles in 10 hours of ride time. At the New Jersey Triathlon, I placed 3rd in the Clydesdale division and PRed an Olympic triathlon by 14 minutes. After a great training build up in early August, I was fully prepared to ramp up training to Ironman-levels. Then, “IT” happened. On Tuesday, August 19, after some problems with my vision, it was determined that I had a detached retina in my right eye and tears in the retina in both eyes. I underwent immediate surgery and was unable to train as the surgery resulted in a gas bubble being frozen in place in my right eye. I was down for the count. In fact, I couldn’t work for a week. I was relegated to the couch as I had to sit upright so the bubble did not get disturbed. I couldn’t drive a car. I took three full weeks off of cycling and running. I was unable to swim for eight weeks. The Patriots Half was taken off my schedule (but was cancelled anyway because of a tropical storm). I was concerned I would not be able to do the Ironman and my doctor, Dr. Vu, initially forbid me from even thinking about it.

However, I did get back on the bike after three weeks and I was able to start running again after the bubble in my eye went away. On October 6, Dr. Vu advised me that the eyes had responded to the surgery and were healed. I asked him if I could do the Ironman as it was up in the air at this point if I would actually do it. He said he’d leave it up to me and asked, “would you regret it if you did and your retina detached?” I thought about it a minute and replied that “If I didn’t do it and the retina’s didn’t detach, then I would regret it.” So, at that point, it was on.

So, after August 3, I was only able to get in one hundred mile ride. I swam five times after August 16 and it was over the last two weeks of October. And, because of the interruption to my run schedule, I was able to get in only one LONG run of 17.5 miles… on October 15. Fear set in as race week approached… would I be able to hit my goal?

Race Week
Work had been REALLY busy, my daughter was in her first couple months of middle school and everything was chaos heading into my time off for the race. Then, travel day morning, there was a problem with my flight reservations. US Airways had me going to Charlotte on the 29th… and then back to Baltimore on the 3rd. No flight from Charlotte down to Panama City Beach. After two hours on the phone, they were able to straighten it out but it required a re-route to Pensacola. After renting a car at PNS, I made it into Panama City Beach around dinner time. I headed over to Wal-Mart to load up on provisions. It was humorous seeing all the other endurance athletes pushing carts filled with peanut butter, bananas, high fiber bread, oatmeal and water up towards the checkout line.

As I was alone, it was a little lonely but nice and quiet in my room. I ate out each night having some pasta and greens at various local dining establishments. I drank a lot of water and slept a lot. I did a practice loop in the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday and my 36 minutes time gave me lots of encouragement as I was worried about the swim. We racked up the bikes on Friday and I packed my various bags. I was ready to go. I was in bed by 8:30 pm and drifted off to sleep pretty quickly.

Ironman Florida swim is in the Gulf of Mexico. The tide was very gentle on race morning and the sun was just coming up as the professionals went off. My room overlooked the beach. I was able to stroll down after the pros went off in time to hop in with the age groupers. My favorite band is Van Halen (David Lee Roth-era) and they started playing “Panama” over the PA as our cannon went off. I stayed on the inside of the bouys thinking this would keep me away from the blender of arms and legs. But, it didn’t. It was so crowded. As we got out to the turn buoy, you really could only tread water and wait your turn to get around the bouy. Then, the sun was right in your eyes and made it hard to site the two yellow bouys on the way to the next turn buoy. I made it in on the first loop in 35:27. I drank a sip of water and headed back out. Things were still not thinned out and I was always near another swimmer throughout the rest of the swim. But, I just kept cruising along and very comfortably handled the course. Second loop took 38:38.

Avg HR 143

My transitions suck. It took the strippers five or six tugs to get my wet suit off and then I took my time in the shower to get the sand off. You’d think I was going to ask for some soap and shampoo it took so long. I had to get my T1 bag myself and since I had to pee, I headed overto the porta potties. The one I went into was clean so I figured I could just change in there instead of heading into the tent. I did and was ready to go. I looked for my sunglasses but couldn’t find them. I checked the bag. Checked my jersey. Checked the ground. Went back into the porta potty. Asked a volunteer to help me. No sign of them. So, I just headed over to get my bike. I had to unrack my bike by myself, too. And off I went. I remember thinking, this is so retarded… the ONE PIECE OF EQUIPMENT a person who just recovered from a detached retina should have on a 112 mile bike ride is some sort of eyewear. And I was… heading out with nothing covering my eyes… on a sunny day.


There was hardly any wind and the sun was warm. The day was perfect. The Ironman Florida bike course is very flat and is basically a big lollipop… you go out and back on Front Beach Road and there is a big loop of about 95 miles through pine forests on flat roads. I passed dozens of people on my way out Front Beach Road. When we got out on 79 I really was flying. I was going over 20 mph the whole time. When we turned on 20, the wind picked up a little in our face and this is where I started seeing some of the drafting. In fact, as I was cruising along and as I give a good draft (ask KDOG), some people filed up behind me. One girl, Jamie 25 years old, really rode my wheel. As I was passing riders, she tucked up right behind me and followed along for the ride. She was cute so I didn’t say anything to her. I was averaging over 20 mph going into special needs. I stopped to get my bag. I ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and then peed. I had a plastic bag with ibuprofen and endurolytes in it. When I opened the baggie, all the capsules fell in the grass. I couldn’t find them and actually asked a volunteer to help me find them. She helped half- heartedly and just when I gave up to pick up my bike and start riding again, I found them. I washed them down with water and then was on my way. There is a right turn after special needs and on this stretch of road, the speed was over 25 mph… really pushing it. However, I was light on water and stopped at the water station to refill. Again, I took too long as I was dicking around with water bottles and filling all three bottles. I finally got going again. After you get off this stretch of road, there is the part of the ride where it is real bumpy. They should either repave this road or take it out of the ride. Bike gear was all over the highway although I didn’t lose anything. However, I was losing my spirit and this part of the ride was definitely the slowest part of the whole day.

There is a stretch of road where you ride out a little then turnaround and ride back. It is where the timing mat is. I averaged 19.34 mph on that first 73 miles. Seeing the other riders on the out and back incentivized me to pick the pace back up and I was flying again until I got to the bridge back into town. I was 2/3 of the way up the bridge when my legs cramped. Cramped as in “stop riding and get off the bike, jackass”. I was kind of stretching it out and another rider asked if I wanted any salt tabs. I accepted and then he sped off. I washed down three tabs with water and walked the bike up to the crest of the bridge. Then I got on as the cramps loosened up and I coasted down the bridge. Then I started churning away again. As we got back on Front Beach Road, the wind was back in our face but I was cruising. I passed the salt tab guy and noticed that he had a Steeltown Tri Club jersey on. I asked him if he was as Steelers fan and he said yes. I then shouted, I’m a Redskins fan (the Redskins were scheduled to play the Steelers on Monday Night Football two days after the race). He sarcastically asked to have his salt tabs back and I shouted "you'll have to catch me first!" as I dropped him. Over the final 39 miles, I averaged 20.34 mph and that includes getting off the bike for the leg cramps.

Avg HR 142

So, the misadventure on this transition was as I put on my tri shorts, the string is out to be tied on one side but is inside the shorts on the other. So, I can’t tie the string. I ask if anyone has scissors and a volunteer produces a safety pin. He’s trying to get the string out the little hole while I’m putting on my other gear. I mean, it’s almost comical. Finally, as it is taking so long, I just pull the string out completely. If I ever can get it together during transitions and also with the special needs stops, I might actually get good at this sport.


So, I start off a little gassy and bloated on the run. I think I drank and ate just a little too much on the second half the ride. I probably shouldn’t have made that water stop after special needs. The sun was out and it was pretty warm. The run course goes through a couple of neighborhoods and into a state park for the turn around. Two loops, the run is flat as a pancake. There were a lot more people along the run route than there had been in 2006. I think it was because of the weather. It was a much nicer day than in 2006 and in fact, many veterans had commented about how 2006 was the worst day ever. I stopped at the 2 and 3 mile aid stations to try to get my stomach to settle down and then got into a steady groove. I got the first turnaround after about an hour six minutes. I was hoping I could do 10 minute miles in the first half of the run as I assumed I could do the 12:15 if I did that. When I got into run special needs, I again dropped my ibuprofen and endurolyte pills in the grass. I got another volunteer to help. This time, we were unsuccessful and it was taking so much time I finally just forgot about it and started running again. It was a real party along the run route. Florida was playing Georgia and people had TVs and radios blaring along the road. They had signs posting the score. There were some women dressed in attire meant to arouse the male runners and it was humorous to see them four times on the two loop out and back. I offered encouragment to those I saw walking and when I settled into walks at some of the aid stations, others would return the favor. This year, I thought the Boy Scout aid station was the best and to the other 11 hours+ Ironman finishers reading this, raise your hand if you love chicken broth and flat cola on the run.

After about mile 16, I realized that I was going to beat my goal and that in fact, I may be able to get in under 12 hours. My calf and hamstring would twitch everytime I picked it up, however. A guy named Steve from Ottawa caught up to me and ran on a steady pace with me for a bit, I learned that he had lost 100 lbs. for the race, was 54 years old and had gotten two flats on the bike. But, here he was, on his way to a sub 12 hour first time Ironman. I was impressed. At mile 23, I had to pee again and he said farewell and took off. I got a little choked up at mile 24 and then cruised my way to the finish line. It wasn’t as emotional at the finish line this year as in 2006 but others who have done finished an Ironman probably share this observation… the finish line at an Ironman is a magical place. There are few feelings that match breaking through that ribbon.

Avg HR 130

I finished writing this race report after a bout of “Ironman Signup” again earlier this week. I seriously considered registering for a still open Ironman Lousiville 2009. Then, I thought about it some more. Ironman is such a commitment, for a disciple. It dominates your life. I guess that is why the reward is so great. If I was unencumbered by life commitments, I’d already have a $525 charge from North American Sports on my credit card. But, I’ll have to sit out at least one year. I’ll be back, however. You can count on it.

I love triathlon. I really love the ultra distance course. It is hard but easy at the same time. At no point in the race did I think, I’m not going to be able to do this. But, you really are only a moment away from catastrophe. A kick in the face on the swim, a swerve in the wrong direction at an aid station on the bike, a poorly timed consumption of food or water on the run… you never know what can happen during the day. It’s like a lot of other things in life… if you put the time and effort into the preparation, the race itself is just a formality, although you never know what curve balls are going to come your way. And though there is of course a physical component to triathlon… the mental part is very important, too. And, for a zealot like myself, this is what enabled me to get off the couch after surgery and three sedentary weeks of recovery, get back into the routine and then beat that goal that was set 12 months before.

IMFL 2008: 12:05:00
IMFL 2006: 12:51:39

Desire. Dedication. Determination.

Veterans Day 2008

To those who have served and are serving our great country, I wish you a Happy Veterans Day and I owe you a proud THANK YOU!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Ironman Splits

I didn't register as a Clydesdale for IMFL 2008. However, I qualified as I weighed in at 201 pounds. IF I had registered as Clydesdale, I would have been 7th out of 25 in that division.

Here are my swim/bike/run splits:

Place Swimlap SwimLap Swim
1057 35:27 38:38 1:14:05

Place Bike73 73-112 Bike
894 3:46:31 1:55:01 5:41:32

Place Run6.55 13.1 19.6 RunLap2 Run
1051 1:06:55 2:18:09 3:33:08 2:31:44 4:49:53

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Ironman Florida 2008 12:05:00

Race Entry Fee = $495
Gear from Ironman Store = $500
Setting PR at IMFL 2008 Finish Line = PRICELESS

Goal time = 12:15:00
Finish time = 12:05:00

More detail to come when I get back to DC.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Ironman Florida *2006* Race Report

Race Report from IMFL 2006... written as posted on the DC Tri Club Forum.

Thursday, November 09 2006 @ 12:16 AM EST

I love triathlon. I think I am made for long distance races because I just do not want the race to end. I really do enjoy staying out there all day. For me, it is a blast. The support, the competitors, the friends on the course, being outside… I really enjoy every minute of it. I love the training. Maybe that means I don’t train or race hard enough. But, things have happened in my life that make me extremely grateful to have the opportunity to participate in triathlons. I feel that it is a gift. Ironman Florida was an unforgettable experience for me. It had a spiritual component to it that I can’t really describe in words. You just had to see the smile on my face throughout the day as we “raced”.

I'd also like to express my congratulations to all the other finishers. I am awed by Olwen and Bobby and have a tremendous amount of respect for Bruce. We have a great club. I am proud to be a member.

This was my third triathlon “season”. Training for Ironman started in November 2005 but really kicked in by January. I had scheduled five races throughout the year. Columbia, Eagleman, Pittsburgh, Diamondman and Ironman Florida made up my race schedule. Throughout the year, I set PRs each race. Training was self paced (I didn’t have a coach or do an online program) but was done in conjunction with Chad and then KDOG. I own the book Going Long and read it cover to cover many times throughout the year. We did long runs on Wednesday’s, long bikes and short run (brick workout) on Saturday’s. Long swim at least once a week. Twice a week swim, twice a week run and twice a week bike. Usually only one day off per week although there were some 10 days in a row periods. I lifted weights twice a week until the middle of September. I practiced my nutrition and settled on Accelerade and water to drink, Hammer Gel and Clif bar (chocolate chip/peanut butter) to eat. I also did the ChesapeakeMan AquaVelo and feel that it was a great exercise for Ironman Florida preparation.

Race Week
A buddy of mine who got me into triathlon (Willie) and I stayed at the race hotel. We had a three bedroom condo on the 20th floor. He’s married and has kids, too. We didn’t bring our families with us. Too much stress as it was. However, my mom and sister came down. They stayed in their own place and volunteered. We took it easy most of the time. Ate a lot of pasta and watched a lot of sports. I swam the loop once on Thursday around lunch time, did a 30 minute run that evening and rode the bike for about 30 minutes on Friday. Slept like a baby and really was prepped, calm and serene by the time I heard the cannon go off.


It’s called a blender of legs and arms for a reason. I have never been in such a swim before. I was calm, however, having done one loop on Thursday. Getting around the bouys was tough as it was bunched up each time. My nose clip was kicked off right near the end of the first loop. But, I felt really good even though there was obviously quite a swell and a current that didn’t seem to be consistent with direction. My splits were about the same time and I got out in 1:12.

Tent was packed. I just took my time. I changed into bike shorts and had a thin, long sleeved jacket that I put on. My transition times are notoriously slow and this was no exception. 12+ minutes in T1.


I focused on keeping my heart rate below 140, cadence at 90 and my speed at 18 mph. I took it easy the first 50 miles and really tried to live by the maxim of “race the course, not other riders”. Keeping my MPH, cadence and HR plan together was hard to do on Route 20, or Egypt Road extended as I like to call it. I did not enjoy that road. I also was not fond of the rough stretch of road where it was bumpy. Mostly, I did not appreciate the head wind the final 7 miles back to T2. But, when I got off the bike, guess what my average MPH was… 18 miles per hour. Right on target. I stopped to pee at mile 30, grabbed my special needs bag at mile 50 and rode the last 62 miles without stopping. I packed WAY to much food in my special needs bag. I only ate one Clif bar (had two on the bike and two in the bag), ate about 6 Hammer gels (4 on bike and 4 in special needs) took a bite of the peanut butter bagel and Fig Newton from special needs bag (dumped each after one bite). I did eat the 99 cent bag of potato chips out of my special needs bag. I had two bottles of Accelerade on the bike and two in the bag. I only wound up drinking about 2 ½ bottles. So, I definitely overpacked. The only other thing I did was eat bananas at each aid station and grabbed a bottle of water every other aid station. Bike time was 6:14.

I changed from bike clothes to run clothes. I slathered on Vaseline and then went to a porta potty. I peed and it hurt like I had syphilis. It was very painful. My pee must have been very acidic or something. I went back into the tent to slather on more Vaseline and headed back out to the run course. 10+ minutes in transition.


Support on the run was great. I liked the aid station at the turnaround the best. I did the “walk through” the aid station thing at miles 2, 5, 8, 10, 13, 16, 19 and 23. I ran the rest of the time. At miles 19 and 23, I wound up walking about a mile rather than just walking through the station. I was tired but mostly did not want to cramp up. Quads were tight and on the edge of that cramp feeling so I didn’t want to push it. I loved the chicken soup. Cola was nice, too. Orange slices were good. I ate 99 cent bag of potato chips out of special needs bag. I did a couple of Hammer Gels on the run but that was it. No Accelerade. I changed socks at special needs and put on the long sleeve, thin jacket I had in special needs bag. I peed twice on the run. Once when it was light and once when it was dark. I don’t remember exactly what mile markers. My heart rate did not go above 140 and was under 130 for most of the run. After it got dark, I barely looked at my HRM so I really don’t know what was going on for the last 10 miles. Run time was 5:01.

Finish Time

I will definitely do Ironman again. Not next year but probably in 2008. In 2007, I plan on doing Columbia as a Team in Training mentor and TimberMan with my sister who will be doing her first 70.3.

I would like to give a shout out to Chad. He was a great training buddy and is a good friend. KDOG joined us about three or four months into the training and added a different attitude to the “Maverick & Goose Show” that Chad and I were having. The dynamic after she joined us was different and… well… better. Thanks KDOG. I’m really touched by the genuine love you two expressed in your respective race reports. You two should get married and have tri-freak kids.

Speaking of kids… this year was a big challenge for me and my family. I missed the Saturday and/or Sunday day trips with my daughter Jessica Rose. I am grateful that my wife Linda put up with the mornings and evenings alone as I woke up at 4 am to go run/bike/swim and went to sleep at 8:30 pm so I could get up early. Our yard looks like a wreck because I haven’t been home for a weekend in months. It has been very trying on her and I hope that it didn’t do irreparable harm to our relationship. I very much love my wife and know that I have gotten a lot better than I deserve.

But, I’m kind of like Richard Dreyfus in “Close Encounters”. I am drawn to this sport by something inside of me that I can’t identify. Is it ego? Is it pride? Is it a “mid-life crisis”? Is it an addiction? Are aliens sending me some sort of signal? I don’t know and I don’t care.

I think the DC Tri Club is stuck with me… at least for another season. And Ironman? TJ Collins of Silver Spring, MD is an Ironman. That is something that no one can ever take away from me. I DID IT!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

On Site - IMFL

I am on site at Ironman Florida 2008. I wound up flying in to Pensacola, renting a car and then driving down to Panama City Beach. It's a 100 mile drive.

I checked in to the hotel and though the location is great, the room is very pedestrian. To make it worse, the WiFi in my room sucks so I am going to make this quick.

I went to Wal-Mart to load on up food stuffs. You know... peanut butter, carrots, oatmeal, bagels, Odwalla bars and water. I think I have so much water in this room, I should probably build an ark.

This morning, I went for a swim. 7 am practice swim. THere were about 50 - 75 other maniacs out there when I got in the water. 41 degrees at 7 am. Water was 68 degrees. Did 1.2 mile swim in 36 minutes... average HR 138. I did IMFL 2006 swim in 72 minutes. So... I am pretty pleased as that is not bad time for someone who has only swam SIX TIMES since mid-August.

I picked up my packet and was first person in line for that. I am number 1179. Then, I picked up my bike and did a 23 minute ride which covered 7 miles. I went through the expo and bought some hats, cycling gloves and a new gym bag.

I am going to go for a run here shortly. We need to move our cars away from the hotel as they'll need the street cleared for the race.

Just a quick update. I'm here now and getting ready to go.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Flight Foobar

Well, I'm on hold with Travelocity. When I went to print out my boarding passes this morning, an error message came up advising me to call US Airways. I called. They said, "we have you from BWI to Charlotte... but not to Panama City Beach." Then, they said I had to call Travelocity. "We have you from BWI to Charlotte today. And from Charlotte to BWI on Monday." I had to point out that it is IRONMAN FLORIDA... not IRONMAN CHARLOTTE... So, I'm on hold with them now.

Just another road block on my journey to Ironman Florida 2008. But, obviously, they don't know who they are dealing with here... it is going to take a lot more than this to keep me from reaching that finish line.

BRING IT ON!!! Is this the best you got?!?!?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Trust the Taper

I swam the 3000 meters on Friday morning and did a 5 mile tempo run that afternoon. I did a light bike ride on Sunday with Jessica Rose and other than that, I've been a slug. It has been rainy and cold the past two days. I was supposed to swim this morning but realized I packed all my swimming stuff (goggles, nose clips and ear plugs) and sent them off to Florida with bike transport on Sunday. UGH. I'm going to try and do a light run and perhaps even ride my commuter bike around a little before I leave TOMORROW for Florida. I'm drinking lots of water, coffee only in the morning and trying to stick to fruits, vegetables and pasta throughout the day. Work and "life" are keeping my mind occupied but I assume once I get on the plane and start making my way down to Panama City Beach, my mind will start to focus on being nervous again.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Stir Crazy

I'm going a little stir crazy right now. No workout yesterday and I plan on doing a light bike ride in a little bit here with my daughter. Bike transport will be here at 1:30 pm to pick up the bike. Everything is dialed in on the Cervelo. Looks great and is in perfect working order right now. The race wheels are sweet. My bag is packed and ready for pickup, too.

I'm number 1179 at the race. At Ironman Florida 2006, I was number 1166. Hopefully, the higher number won't translate into a higher time. I plan on re-posting my IMFL 2006 race report here this week so be on the lookout for that.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Ready is as Ready does

Got in a 3000 meter swim this morning. It was 2 x 1500 with a 1 minute rest in between. My calves felt tight the last 750 meters but they never cramped. I did it in 65 minutes. Average heart rate was 122. That was this morning before work. After work. I did a tempo run and though I thought I was going slower, I finished 30 seconds ahead of time last week... but heart rate was 4 beats lower. Go figure. Bottom line... I may not be where I planned on being at this point... I may not be where I want to be... but, I have to conclude that I'm where I'm supposed to be and that I'm ready for what is coming... a week from tomorrow.

I'm going to take my bike in for some final tuning up. it is supposed to rain so I am unlikely to get the scheduled brick in tomorrow. Bike transport picks up my bike at noon on Sunday.

Blue Thunder

I picked up my bike from Conte's yesterday. I took it for a stroll after work at Hains Point. I don't know if the wheels make a difference but mentally, I felt pretty fast. I wish that the colors of the wheels matched my bike.

I can't believe I'm actually going to post that on my blog.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bike Tuneup

I got another swim in this morning. I swam at the YMCA with CB and I did 2500 meters in just over 50 minutes. I did a 1 x 1500 followed by a 1 x 1000. My average heart rate was 121. To be honest with you, it felt pretty easy. The air was very cool and mist was coming off the pool as the heated water touched the cool air. I wore a new nose clip and a swim cap. I'll swim again Friday and hopefully push it up to 3000 meters. Then a last pool swim at the Y on Tuesday and on Thursday, one loop practice swim at Panama City Beach.

I took my bike to Conte's today. They are going to tune it up and put some aero wheels on the bike. I'm getting a pair of Zipp 404s. I've never ridden with aero wheels so we'll see how it goes. I'll try them out this weekend. I need a new cassette and chain, too. I pick up the bike on Thursday. I'm pretty excited. However, I am concerned about the tires going flat and if they can support my big behind. Bike Transport will pick up my bike on Sunday at noon. So, I should be able to get out for a last brick on Saturday and a short ride on Sunday.

I leave for Florida a week from tomorrow. My mind is starting to race. I need to stay busy to keep it from going to NegativeTown.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Desire. Dedication. Determination.

Everyone who knows me knows that I LOVE the NFL. As a result, my favorite TV network is the NFL Network. The "It's Football Season Year 'Round" channel has been running a series this year called "The Missing Rings". It is about the greatest teams that NEVER won a Super Bowl. There are some heartbreak stories from these teams. I've been learning some valuable lessons from these episodes and highly recommend them to those are don't know a touchdown from a home run.

The show about the 1998 Minnesota Vikings, who went 15-1 and then lost in the NFC Championship game AT HOME, IN OVERTIME to the Atlanta Falcons had an underlying theme that was communicated by their coach, Dennis Green. Here it is:

Desire. Dedication. Determination.

That is what it takes to make a champion. And, I must add for the context of this blog... an Ironman.

What do you want people to say about you? What is it that you want? I want to be an Ironman. Of course, I already am an Ironman but I just want to make sure there is no doubt. Earlier this summer, I was with a group of triathletes getting ready for an open water swim and it was revealed (not by me!) that I was the only Ironman in the group. That was a great feeling. Being a TWO TIME Ironman... I think that would feel pretty good, too. I have a strong desire to capture that feeling.

A lot of people have a desire to be an Ironman. But are they willing to pay the price? And there is a price to pay. Nothing worth having in this world comes for free. Becoming an Ironman requires a lot of sacrifice. Food. Friends. Family. Income. Time. Physical stress. Mental stress. I think it can be summed up in a paragraph I read in a book about the Army Rangers. "There are two kinds of officers... those that are are Ranger Qualified, and those with excuses why they are not. Well, cadet... what's it gonna be? Ranger - or EXCUSE?" In my mind, there are two types of triathletes... there is the Ironman... and then there is the excuse. Is this arrogant? Perhaps... but as soon as I started doing triathlon, I was hooked. And when I found out about Ironman, there was no way I was going to do this triathlon thing without becoming an Ironman.

Vince Lombardi had his own way of putting it... "The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will."

Life is not ponies and rainbows. It isn't all candy and cake. I have found it to be often nasty and brutish. For two male relatives, it was also short. One died at 44... the other at 52. Life can throw you a safety blitz and you can take a sack... or you can dodge the pressure and complete the throw... maybe even for a touchdown. The true test of a champion is how you handle adversity. The hurdles will come... you need to overcome them.

My personal quest for two time Ironman status has been very different than the first go around. The first time was pretty smooth. This go around... my training partners have shifted throughout the season... I have not had as much time as was allocated in 2006... I was laid up for three weeks... and I feared that I might lose my vision. But, I am determined to reach that finish line. There are still 13 days left to go and who knows what will happen... what will the weather be like? To be honest with you, at this point, I am EXPECTING the unexpected. Am I determined to handle it? I'm envisioning that finish line right now. There is really nothing like it... that I know of.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Mental Game

I believe that triathlon is much more than simply swimming, biking and running. Nutrition is the "4th Discipline" and then there is the Mental Game. In long course triathlon, you have lots of time for questions to pop into your head.

"Can I do this?"
"Why am I doing this?"
"What did I forget?"
"Did something just touch me under the water?"
"What if I start drowning and the kayakers are looking the other way?"
"How can that gray haired woman with 58 on her calf pass me like that?
"Is something tugging in my calf muscle?"
"Should I have eaten less fried food during this training season?"
"Is my tire going flat?"
"Is this heart rate monitor working correctly?"
"Did I leave the iron on?"

The last one is a joke but this line of reasoning reminds me of a quote I heard recently from a new, good friend. It was also supported by an article I read in this mornings Washington Post about why my Washington Redskins, seemingly on an early season roll, lost last weekend to a winless St. Louis Rams team.

"If your head ain't helping you.... don't use it." - Jim W.

Here is a couple of paragraphs from the article in this morning's Sports section that supports Jim's pearl of wisdom. I believe this piece of sports psychology works for triathlon but can also be applied in my work and personal life, too.

"There's momentum at work, and there's also modeling," Murray said. "You watch your teammate mess up, and you mess up, because for whatever reason you're thinking too much. We need to turn off our brains most of the time to perform well -- not in terms of assignment or technique -- but when you're over-thinking or over-analyzing a situation you interfere with the performance focus.

"When you watch a lion go after his prey, he's not pondering it, he's jumping on it. Over-analysis is good off field when you're developing strategy and goals and getting yourself ready for an event, but once the event begins you should be on autopilot. Getting over-conscious is a precursor to choking. When we start to become aware and analyze our own behavior it's almost like being observed. Rather than stay in a non-self reflective moment, you start to over-analyze things so much you trip on yourself.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Is Swimming Overrated?

The last time I swam 2000 meters or more was on Friday, August 15. It was at the Greenbelt Aquatic Center. I remember pushing it pretty hard that night and I swam 4 x 500 meter sets, with some drills. Total swim time was 40 minutes.

Today? 2000 meters in *42* minutes. I did 2 x 1000 meters and felt fine. I swam in the outdoor pool at the YMCA. The air was cool and it felt very refreshing. I was not gassed at all when I finished and I feel very spry in anticipation of my lunch time tempo run scheduled for today.

This begs the question... is swimming overrated? I mean... I had two months off of swimming. I have done (2) 1500 meter sessions since coming back. I ran over 17 miles Wednesday, rode a bike 30 miles yesterday and was able rip off a 2000 meter swim in essentially the same training time as when I was in peak training shape back in August.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Longest Run

Well, that was nice. Just finished a 17.5 mile run in 2:43... average HR of 128. I got a late start because I couldn't find the chest strap of my HRM. When I finally got out the door, it was already 5:15 am. For the first hour, I only saw two other people on the trail and they were walking their dogs. I met up with CB on my side of the Beltway. It stayed dark for another half hour. We didn't push the pace but it was constant. But, this was it... next week... 10 or 12 miles only and then that'll be it until Ironman.

I managed to swim after work yesterday, too. I swam at the LA Fitness pool, as a last resort. I couldn't get up early for the YMCA swim and tried to break away at lunch but couldn't make it happen. I swam for 32 minutes without a stop, so I felt good about that. However, I really don't like that pool and was there only because I didn't have another choice.

Tomorrow, I'm going to do a little bike ride but it is now official.... I am starting my taper.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Last Long Ride

I got in a 95 mile bike ride yesterday. Capitol Hill to Sugarloaf Mountain and back. Was accompanied by KDOG and Chad. Chad, of course, raced ahead of us and we pretty much followed him by 5 - 10 minutes throughout the ride. It was chilly early but warmed up and was a beautiful day. We didn't stop at the top of Sugarloaf... simply rode up and down, stopping only at the bottom for a porta potty break and refill on water.

At mile 56, we were going through some cornfields and horse farm country... north of Poolesville but south of Dickerson... I was riding by a field of horses and was in a clearing of sun drenched road.... I noticed that I was grinning ear to ear. Definitely a good time...

until River Road. There are about 8 rollers over a 15 mile stretch that drain me every time I ride them. I managed to not fall too far behind but was definitely ready for the ride to end by the time we got to Falls Road. The last 20 miles are always easier than miles 60 - 80. Psychologically, it is comforting to know that the end is near.

Overall, I believe "I'm there". This is the 5th time I did this ride although the first time since August 3. My pace was 17.17 MPH but my average heart rate was only 133. I should be fine for IMFL... which is now less than three weeks away. In fact, the Athlete Guide is already posted on the web site. I think they assign bib numbers on Thursday. So, I should know my number by this weekend.

Friday, October 10, 2008

TJ Gets Wet

After an eight week absence, TJ returned to a pool today. I got in 1500 meters in 30 minutes. I swam 3 x 500 meters. No drills... just freestyle. YMCA Silver Spring outdoor pool was the venue and it felt pretty good. I worked out a deal with the pool manager to use the pool about 6 times before I go to Florida. Believe it or not, Ironman Florida is three weeks from tomorrow.

Swimming in the pool gives me a different thought pattern than running or cycling. Although I have to count laps, I'm not looking at heart rate, cadence or watching out for scenery. This morning, I was thinking about the race and what my strategery would be on the course. This is still coming together, but I think I have a clue now how I'm going to do the course.

I rode my bike yesterday at lunch and was out at Hains Point with Mayor Adrian Fenty and his crew. They are stallions and I was doing all I could to hang on to their wheels. Then, a mechanical problem cut my ride short but fortunate I was able to take it over to Conte's and got it fixed in advance of my two rides this weekend.

Today at lunch... speed run with my running buddy from work.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Confidence Course

Feel a little better this morning. A 16 mile run in 148 minutes at an average HR of 136 can do that for you. I"ve agreed to swim on Friday morning this week. We'll see how it goes.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Feel the Fear... and Do it Anyway

Dr. Vu has left the choice in my hands. My eyes look great, he says. There is still debris in the vitreous gel of both eyes but only surgery or time will clear that up. The retina is re-attached and holding fine. Tears are closed in both eyes and healed. So, he said, the choice is yours. I am cleared to swim. He said, "would you regret if you did it and the retina detached again?" I thought to myself... if I DIDN'T do it and the retina stayed attached, I would always regret it... I would always wonder if I could have done it.

The doctor did say that I could do NOTHING and still get a detached retina. It is absolutely not related to physical activity such as swimming, biking and running. If I was playing football, lacrosse or boxing, that would be a different story. But he made it clear... even if I don't do anything... it could still happen again. We set another appointment for December and he sent me on my way.

So, now the ball is in my court. And, as I said earlier, I believe I would regret NOT starting the race. Readers of this blog know that I have worked extremely hard this year, sacrificed a lot and spent a lot of money. I don't get this close to a goal and not try the final push to attain it. So, I'm going for it. I'm going to do Ironman Florida 2008.

So, here is the rub.... I have not done any swimming since August 16. Today is October 7. The race is November 1. I wanted to get a swim in today, but life got in the way. My swimming was weak this year already up to mid-August. Additionally, I was teed up to do a 100 mile + bike ride on Sunday and I pulled out after 58 miles. I DNFed the training ride. I was sore and tired and quite frankly, was somewhat demoralized. FEAR was creeping into my head and telling me YOU CAN'T DO THIS... WHO ARE YOU KIDDING? I had a ton of excuses in my head... but none of them were good or valid. I DNFed. PERIOD.

Triathlon, especially long distance triathlon, is not just about swimming, biking and running. It is also about MENTAL conditioning and then nutrition plays a big role, too. But, that mental thing is critical. And, the past 48 hours... my mental attitude has not been positive. I have a lot of fear right now.

Tomorrow morning... 16 mile run. I plan on biking on Thursday and I have got to swim here at some point. Perhaps Friday will be the day. Saturday brick and Sunday... 100 mile Sugarloaf Mountain ride. Feel the fear... and do it anyway.

If you were looking for a blog that did not express true feelings, then you are in the wrong place.

Monday, October 6, 2008

What Do the Readers Think?

OK... my doctor has left the choice in my hands. Should I do it? Or, should I not do it?

Retina could detach if I didn't do anything at all. Training and participating in an Ironman *could* make it detach, too.

So, what do you think?

I have been cleared to swim. I can start swimming again. Have not swum since August 16.


D stands for DECISION. I am meeting with Dr. Vu at 2 pm today and a decision will be made regarding my status for participation in Ironman Florida 2008. Honestly, I am a little nervous right now and am trying to keep my mind on work to occupy my thoughts.

It's out of my hands right now and... well... more will be revealed... stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

One Month

Ironman Florida is one month from today. The future is still unclear but I have faith that everything will come into full view soon. I'm planning to succeed. This was evident by my 15 mile run in 137 minutes this morning Average HR was 134. I went a little longer than I wanted but my running buddy, fully recovered from her nearly terminal illness (inside joke), took me on a little detour through the woods of Wheaton Regional Park. Then we beat feet up a couple of hills along Kemp Mill Road. It was joyful.

The first 50 minutes of the run I was alone and in the dark. I did bring my light with me today. There were other runners out there and you could see them by the various lighting configurations they had. I thought to myself that it was sort of like "Close Encounters of the Third Kind". All these celestial bodies passing each other with blinking, flashing and often colored lights. It made me smile.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Failing to Prepare is Preparing to Fail

A few items to note...
1. I went on another epic ride with KDOG and Chad on Sunday. I had a blast. I did comment at about mile 54 that "I'll be happy when this is over but I'm just glad to be out here." We rode through a couple of rain showers and of course hit all the hills. I can't write better description of the ride than what is found here.

Bikes ready to roll

2. My brick on Saturday consisted of a faster bike and run pace. Very nice. I appear to be improving my speed while my heart rate continues to drop. Slowly getting back into shape.

3. I took yesterday off as I definitely had sore legs. I lifted weights today but workout was cut short as I have some soreness in my right wrist and also in my right arm just below my shoulder but above my bicep. It's not muscle soreness but more like joint or tendon pain.

Lastly... nothing like beating those damn Dallas Cowboys in Big D! Loved every minute of it though it was touch and go at the end.

How TJ felt about the Dallas Cowboys when he was a child.

JC: "Tony, I guess you're my punk biotch now." TR: "Anything you say, boss."

Monday, September 29, 2008

Bubble Boy No Longer

The bubble in my eye is gone. I'll miss it. But, good riddance. Saturday and Sunday I wore my contact lenses for the first time on my respective bike rides of 41.5 and 73 miles. It was a good thing too, as it rained both days. Very soggy and humid weekend. I felt really good, especially as the rides progressed and I believe I was stronger towards the end of each ride. This coming weekend, I'm going to push it up to 100 miles and I have a 14 mile long run on Wednesday.

Yesterday was the first day that Chad, KDOG and I trained together since August 9 at Deep Creek Lake. Chad was dropping us on the ride that day and KDOG and I each having extended time off from training only widened the gap in his favor. He dropped us with relative ease and I suspect was going at least 2 mph faster than each of us when we were at top speed.

I see the doctor a week from today and I'll be lobbying harder than Nancy Pelosi in order to get cleared to swim again. Though I still have some blur and spiders, I just can't see how I can be held back from competing on November 1. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Mr. Magoo

I have to get a light. Sunrise isn't until about 6:30 am now and if you're getting in a long run before work, you'll be running in the dark without a light. To top it off, I'm running with glasses as I am not wearing my contact lenses yet. So, it's dark, my glasses are foggy, and I don't see too good right now to begin with. I'm like Mr. Magoo out there.

Ran solo this morning as my Wednesday running buddy caught a cold. She said she was kissing strange guys again. Thank God for the iPod. My Shuffle has been on the fritz lately but I revived it last night and wore it on today's run. I ran silent for about 20 minutes but kicked out the jams for the balance of the run. Got in 12 miles in 107 minutes. Average HR was 141 which is still a little high.

Back in 2006 when I was training for IMFL, I used to run with Chad and KDOG. We were like a little train because Chad had a BIG LIGHT and we would just follow him in single file. I have a little bike light I can use and we'll see how it works out on next week's long run. 14 miles next week.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Duathlon Training

Training in two disciplines continues. I broke the 50 mile barrier on a bike ride Sunday and did my first brick since being "back" on Saturday. I trained with KDOG over the weekend as Chad was in Vegas at a bachelor party. She's just getting back into training too as she was in Africa for a couple of weeks. I think she was nervous about being able to keep up but obviously didn't have anything to worry about as she dropped me on both River Road Sunday and Massachusetts Avenue both Saturday and Sunday. We did all the hills on the MacArthur Blvd. route both days. I believe it was good training for me and my heart rate continues to fall each time I go out.

I've mapped out a training plan that takes me to November 1 and today will be a rest day in prep for the truncated, action-packed 45 days that lay ahead of me. I am going to comply with Dr. Vu's orders that I not swim but I am anticipating that I will be able to swim after our appointment on October 6.

The bubble in my eye continues to shrink, though it is still there. Additionally, vision in my right eye appears to be constricted, especially with peripheral vision. In fact, it almost got me hit at the intersection of MacArthur and Arizona as I thought the intersection was all clear and I rode into it at 21 mph... only to THEN see a car coming from the right. I have a slight blur in the right eye and some "spiders" or floaters that sometimes lead me to believe there is a bug crawling on the wall or my desk... when there isn't.

I was talking to a friend of mine after being back into a training regimen. I was telling her that I was cycling and running again. Regina asked me how it felt to be on a bike again. I thought about it a minute and the only word I could come up with as an answer was... FREEDOM. That is what cycling feels like to me... FREEDOM.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Two of Three Ain't Bad

Do you ever speak in public? Do you use an icebreaker to get your talk going? One that I use is as follows...

"I learned about speaking in public from my Mema. She taught me to stand up to be seen, speak up to be heard and shut up to be appreciated. So, two out of three ain't bad."

What relation does this adage have to triathlon and Ironman training? As my doctor has cleared me for cycling and running, but not for swimming, I've been back in training mode with two of the three triathlon disciplines. Last Saturday, September 6, I ran for the first time since August 17. I essentially had three weeks off. It was rough as my heart rate was high though my pace was slow. I was encouraged by my first cycling adventure the following day, however. Though I did tire quickly, I didn't have much of a problem covering 29 miles in 96 minutes. I purposely took a hilly route, too.

Yes, my first ride after being off ended at the liquor store.

My eye was ok although it was kind of like a snow globe. The running kicked up a bunch of black dots that circled around in my field of vision. I still have the bubble in my eye though it does continue to shrink. It seems like over time, little bubbles break away and then they dissolve into my eye.

On Friday when I was running, I resolved that I believe I can do Ironman Florida on November 1. I felt good on the run and that good feeling was only surpassed on my run this morning. It was hot and humid this morning but I was able to do a negative split and I was really trucking the last three miles. I really felt strong as I did on yesterday's "Hills of the Bay" ride. Yesterday, my fellow riders couldn't keep up with me and I caught and passed a group of people who appeared to be serious riders.

The way I look at it, swimming is only 10% of an Ironman. I know I could swim 2.4 miles at the drop of a hat. It might not be fast but mentally, I know I can get through it. I also believe that I am intelligent enough about this sport on how to get through it without blowing myself out for the bike and run. And, if I'm training for bike and run these last six weeks, with my current fitness base, I believe it is still possible to not only finish an Ironman, but to hit my 12:15 goal time.

The only hang-up to this plan is that I am currently not cleared to swim and my doctor has recommended that I *NOT* do Ironman Florida on November 1.

My next doctor appointment is October 6. At that appointment, I will speak to the doctor and we'll know once and for all if I'm on for IMFL this year or not. I'm not willing to give up on it and I am going to train for cycling and running in the mean time as if it is a go.

I do have to map out a training plan for these next 45 days. More on that later.

We've got clearance, Clarence.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

I Love America

I have only been to one other country and it was on this continent. So, maybe I don't know any better. But, I love America. I am proud to be an American. And I am grateful for the men and women in uniform who served and are serving my country.

“The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender, or submission.”
- John F. Kennedy

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Progress Not Perfection

Great success. Dr. Vu was very pleased with progress. He cleared me to begin cycling and running again. I can't run real long (his quote was, "don't run in a marathon or anything like that") but I can start to run again. He did not give me permission to swim yet. My next appointment is set for October 6, so he won't see me for another month. The good doctor recommended that I not do Ironman in November. I intend to follow his recommendation but I'll put it right out there... I am not giving up on the concept yet and will reserve judgement until our next appointment. However, I will not swim until he clears me to do so. I forgot to ask him about lifting weights so I'll be sure to ask him that via telephone. This includes core workouts, too... don't know if I'm cleared for that and will ask via telephone. I can now sleep on my back again.

I drove a car yesterday for the first time since August 19. I still have a bubble in my right eye, as reported yesterday. The vision is still very "dirty" in that eye, too. Blurry with floaters and little black dots. My right eye is essentially as it was before August 19... there is a small "blur" dot that moves around and a couple of "spider leg" floaters near the top of my field of vision in that eye.

I have been off physical activity since August 17. 19 days without a workout. 8/18 - 9/5 on my workout log reports those days as *OFF*. I did do a great deal of walking last week and my intention is to do something today. I don't know if it is going to be a run or a cycle. It may have to be indoors. Tropical Storm Hanna is coming up the coast and we have a great deal of rain coming into the area. It is going to rain all day and get windy this afternoon.

Lessons learned...

- I've never been through something like this before. Going through a medical emergency puts a lot of perspective on life.
- Friends and family that are with you when things aren't going well is a really big deal. Thanks to everyone for your love and your prayers/positive karma.
- If something is wrong with you, don't wait... go to the doctor right away.

Something I already knew is how things have a way of working themselves out. On Sunday, August 17, I was signed up to do Patriots Half Ironman on September 6 (today). I was talking to my dad on the phone that Sunday and he told me he was going to be sworn in as a judge on Friday, September 5. This put a big crimp in my plans for that (this) weekend. This eye thing came up which forced me to withdrawl from the race and then Tropical Storm Hanna appeared and cancelled the race anyway. I take my plans to God and he just laughs. I can hear him say, "Be still my child, do the next right thing or at least avoid doing a wrong thing, and I will take care of you. You have nothing to worry about. It will all work out." It always does. Every time.

Reminds me a couple of lines of dialog from "The Godfather", my favorite movie.

Don Corleone: Well, there wasn't enough time, Michael. There just wasn't enough time.
Michael: We'll get there, Pop. We'll get there.

Friday, September 5, 2008

In a Holding Pattern

Here is the update on my health status:

- My retina is re-attached.
- The tears have been closed.
- I still have a gas bubble in my eye, although it is slowly being absorbed into my eye.
- I still have floaters in both eyes and my right eye has blurry vision and black dots in my field of vision.
- The doctor has not cleared me to drive a a car.
- I have not done any training since August 17 and have not been cleared to do any physical activity at all, other than walking.
- I have a follow-up doctor appointment today at 1 pm.

So, I am in a holding pattern at this time. I have done a great deal of walking this week. I've walked at least 30 minutes each day this week. I have also been stretching every morning. At today's appointment, I am going to ask if I can be cleared to ride a stationary cycle and also if I can do "running" in a swimming pool.

I was signed up for the Patriots Half Ironman, to be held tomorrow in Williamsburg, VA. I had to cancel my registration last week. However, it appears that the race is going to be cancelled anyway as Tropical Storm Hanna is threatening the Mid-Atlantic region starting late tonight, early tomorrow. So, even if I was healthy, I wouldn't have been able to race this weekend, anyway. Funny how things work out that way.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


I returned to work today. It felt good and kept my mind off all the eye surgery stuff (and politics!). I did get tired towards the end of the day and have just chilled out since I returned home. While laying on the couch at home, I gave some thought to the events of the past week and I kept coming back to one word... gratitude. I have so much to be grateful for... even if I never get to participate again in the sport that I love so much, triathlon, I have gotten the opportunity to participate in over 20 races in 5 full seasons of training. That's a lot of miles logged... I've had more than my share already. I am and always will be an Ironman, even if I never swim, bike or run competitively again.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Top 10 Things About Losing Your Sight

From TJ's perspective... Top 10 Things about Losing Your Sight....

10. Great parking spots at the mall.
9. You no longer have to take a turn as the designated driver.
8. Tourists no longer stop you and ask for directions.
7. No more bike rides over Big Savage Mountain.
6. People don't make fun of you because of how poorly you dress.
5. You always wanted to be like your grandfather.
4. Think of all the time you save now that you can't watch TV!
3. Senses of touch, taste, smell and hearing are greatly enhanced.
2. Something stuck in your teeth... and you don't care.
1. Cruising chicks in sporty designer eyewear.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Follow Up Doctor Visit

The surgery performed on the right eye looked good. Dr. Vu was pleased by the response. Retina is reattached and the tears have been stabilized such that fluid can't get in behind them to detach the retina again. It is likely I'll still see the "spiders" as he didn't clean out the junk. That would require surgery in a hospital. As the blood dries up, it'll clear my vision and should take another week. He said I was lucky... if I had let this go a little longer, I might have completely lost sight in my right eye.

So, we agreed to do the left eye today. The procedure he did was called cryopexy. It freezes the tear so that fluid can't get behind it and cause a detached retina in the left eye. Here is description from Wikipedia.

He says that it'll take a week for the left eye to feel better as it is swollen, has blood in it and has restricted vision now. I go back on Friday for a follow-up. Hopefully, all will continue as it has so far and I'll continue to respond positively. In the meantime, I have very restricted vision, have to take Advil to relieve discomfort and I have to sleep in an upright position.

Bottom line... I'm out another week... at least. But, I fully intend on starting and finishing Ironman Florida. This is just a speed bump.

Down... But NOT Out

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Houston, We Have a Problem

OK, the diagnosis is in. I have a detached retina in my right eye, two retina tears in my right eye and a retina tear in my left eye. IMMEDIATE surgery on my right eye was required yesterday because the doctor feared that delay would result in losing sight in my right eye. More about retina detachments and tears can be found here and here. The surgery I had yesterday is called Pneumatic Retinopexy.

Therefore, I have to sit (and sleep) propped up with my head in an upright position, looking forward. I cannot go into work and I certainly can't workout. Of course, this is happening at a bad time. We are in a crucial time at work. We are reloading and in essence, operating in startup mode on a couple of major projects. I am also at peak training time for Ironman Florida, as readers of this blog already know. My family like having 100% of me around, too. So, the timing really sucks.

But, at least we know now what was wrong.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


I was just pulling away from home, took a right turn on Worth and was coasting down the hill when I hit a speed bump and heard a crash. I had already had to go home before because I forgot my heart rate monitor. I was thinking... what the f**k is it now? I looked back and saw portion of the hydrotail that holds the drink laying on the ground. I stop, circle back and pick it up. Dang if the thing didn't just break off. I don't know if it was cracked already or what. But, I'm going to complain to All3Sports, where I bought it. You would think that it is supposed to hold up to jostling.

UPDATE (8/18/2008 12:53 pm): Both All3Sports and Beaker Concepts have gotten back to me today already via email. I believe Beaker is going to replace the device as it is still under warranty. I have changed the name of this post as I think that I may have been a little harsh with my HydroFAIL title.

Weekly totals are creeping up. Next week will be a big one, too. Really long run. Century ride. Annapolis 10 Miler all on the schedule next week.

The Brick

The training staple... two disciplines in a row in one workout. Today, it was the long bike and then short run. I like to do this workout early... but when today's alarm went off at 5:15 am, I was like, NO WAY. I was up late as JR had a sleep over last nigth and they were up until around midnight.

So, I finally clipped in at 9:30 am. I pulled away from home and remembered I didn't have my HR strap on. So, I went back and got it. Then I pulled away again. Then, my Hydrotail fell off. Seriously... the part that holds the drinks just broke right off. More on that in another post. So, I went back home and regrouped and I took some photos of the damage. I finally clipped in again and it was 10 am. The time delay kind of goofed up my nutrition build and also my mental preparation.

The ride turned out to be 46 miles. I went out north and west again. To Kemp Mill, Colesville, Cloverly, Ashton, Sandy Spring, Olney and then Brookeville. Honestly, i did not feel very good on the bike. I think I need to take a couple of days off. It didn't help that it was sunny and about 88 degrees. Fortunately, it is not too humid. But, my mind started playing tricks on me like, "cut the ride short... don't do the run... pull into Starbucks and have an iced latte."

I would have liked to have gone longer than 46 today but the late start kind of killed that. I get to take JR and her friend to Port Discovery up in Baltimore today, and I can't make them wait forever. Two hours, twenty five minutes for a 19 MPH average. Average heart rate was 138.

When I returned home, I transitioned into running gear, grabbed a cold bottle of water out of the fridge and started running. I took my top off so I ran in just shorts, socks, shoes and a hat. This workout today was definitely uncomfortable which is probably a good thing. It'll make me stronger. I ripped off 3.5 miles in just over a half hour and the run HR was 149, so I was definitely working it.

I am going to post later today about the Hydtrotail and also my weekly total. I think I'm going to chill tomorrow and Tuesday was I have the LONG run on Wednesday, a Century ride on Saturday and then the Annapolis 10 miler on Sunday. Wacky, fun stuff.

Lastly, I have told a couple of training buddies about this... I've had something weird in my left eye for over a month now. It is like a"floater" but it is always there. Well, this past week, it showed up in my right eye and it is much bigger. It is definitely obstructing my field of vision. And, then yesterday, this "field of dots" has showed up too. It is in both eyes. It is like seeing thousands of tiny black spots in my whole field of vision. This is in addition to the "floaters" which are really pronounced in the right eye. So, bottom line... I think I have to see a doctor. I don't want to alarm anyone... I'm sure it's nothing... but better play it safe.

Also... increased swimming my have tweaked out my right shoulder. I feel a twinge in there.

You know what... I'll go ahead and say it before anyone else... it sucks getting older.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Tempo Run

Progress is good. This morning, I got a tempo run in before JR woke up. 8.5 miles in 70 minutes... essentially an 8 minute mile pace. Not bad for a 43 year old Clydesdale. Average heart rate was above 150 so I was anaerobic for most of the run. I drank about 20 ounces of water and had no nutrition at all. I had eaten oatmeal for breakfast and had a cup of coffee. Run started at 6:30 am and the weather was perfect.

I am running in a new pair of Air Max Moto's. This pair is red, so they match my DC Tri singlet and Ironman hat. As you know, it's not how fast you run... but how good you look.

I'll run again tomorrow but it will be on a brick workout so only about a half hour run following a 60 mile bike ride.

Volume has picked way up and my body is cooperating, so far. My mind... well that is a different story. I am thinking about working out a lot. You could say I'm obsessed. In fact, I have not been feeling good when *not* working out but having feelings of bliss while I am working out.

Take this morning as an example... I was totally pushing the pace... average heart rate of 153, which should feel uncomfortable. And, at the end of the run there is a 1/2 mile uphill on Worth Avenue. At the top, I did feel a dry heave coming on. But you know what, it felt really good. I'm already thinking about the tempo swim I'm going to do later today and then tomorrow's bike/run brick.

Mentally, I am so focused on this that it is kind of scary. I have to be careful of a letdown or disappointment.

Something else to note is that the food fight continues. I ate General Cho's Chicken at lunch on Thursday. Yes, that's right... I had the General over and it felt good when I ordered and when I was eating it... like soaking the rice in that sauce and gobbling it with a spoon... but afterwards... not so good. My stomach hurt. And then the remorse set in.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Long Run

I think this morning's long run was the fastest ever. I did a 15 mile run in 132 minutes. Average HR was 138. It was a solo run that started at 5:20 am. I ran without the iPod for 65 minutes. Then I rocked out for the rest of the run. I went through 28 ounces of water and half a flask of Hammer Gel. I was uncomfortable for the first 20 minutes of the run but then locked in and never felt fatigued or uncomfortable. I was wary of this run after the four two-a-days from Friday through Monday. I totally rested yesterday... no weight lifting, stretching or anything. Got an ok night's sleep and then knocked out the run this morning. I have never run that distance that fast and in fact, my 13.1 mile run at Timberman last year was in about the same time zone.

The long run is so peaceful. It leaves me very serene. It is hard to describe in words the feeling after completing a long run early in the morning. Believe it or not, I can't wait to do it again. Next week... going for 18 miles and will probably take 150 - 170 minutes.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Oh, What a State I'm In

Maryland is a very beautiful state. Over the past 8 days, I have biked over 250 miles of it. Sugarloaf Mountain... Savage Mountain and now eastern Prince George's County and Anne Arundel County. What a beautiful day, too. Warm but not humid. Sunny but some puffy white clouds. The one thing that complicated my 57 mile solo ride today was a wind coming from the N-NW. On the way out on the ride, it was behind me... on the way back... oh joy. Still managed to knock it out in 182 minutes. Not bad considering what has been going on with workouts the past few days.

I think I'll stay off the bike until Thursday and do an EZ ride down at HP. Going to try and knock out a swim tonight and then call it a day. Nice training block, the past four days.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


I saw more deer on my 8.75 mile run today than I did in the 48 hours I was out in Western Maryland. I saw three deer on the run and only two on those crazy bike rides and the run. Chad observed that they have more room to spread out there compared to the little sliver of Sligo Creek Park.

I willingly got in the pool today, too. About two hours after my run, I did 3 x 500 at Franklin Knolls. The pool manager observed that she hadn't seen me in a while. It's nice to be missed but... quite frankly, I am shooting for, "geez... you again?"

My legs felt real strong on today's run. I am thinking that the two rides on SavageMan were breakthrough workouts. A detail I left out was the my average heart rate was 136 and 127 respectively on the two rides. I was doing low eight minute miles (8 and change) and my average HR was still only about 144.

I cleaned my bike this morning, too. Looks nice and is ready for another ride... which will come tomorrow. As I planned at being at Deep Creek through tomorrow night, I am off work tomorrow. So, I intend to get in a 60 - 80 miles, if possible. Still trying to figure out a route and who can come with me, if anyone.

A few more random thoughts from the SavageMan workouts...

1. When we were coming down this descent on Friday, I could see this road off to our left that seemed to go up and up and up and had a few nasty switchbacks. Somehow, I knew when we came to the bottom of the hill that we would be taking a left on that road. Chad called out, "LEFT" and I exclaimed, "I was afraid you were going to say that" anyway. That road... Miller Road.

2. We have a buddy in the DC Tri Club named Guillermo Cabrera. I was musing that he has the best cyclist name in the club.

3. The brick run on Friday was more like a chase. KDOG spotted a path in the woods and, well, she never misses a good opportunity for a trail run. I proceeded to chase her for about three miles and I think one time we actually ran in a circle.

4. I would have liked to swum (is that a word) more in the lake on Saturday. But, the swim was a little disorganized in getting away from the dock and then we didn't really have a set course. Plus, a few of the swimmers were new club members and may have been in only their first or second OWS. I was the only Ironman in the group. That is a neat feeling, by the way.


Savage Training weekend was cut a little short. But not before getting in two days of riding the SavageMan Bike Course. I managed to get in a bike/run brick on Friday and then a couple of hours after biking the course Saturday, I got in a half hour swim along the shores of the lake. I had to leave earlier than planned because Ironman training is definitely putting a strain on relationships within my family.

A few random thoughts related to my time up in the mountains of Western Maryland:

1. Deep Creek Lake is very beautiful this time of year. it is cooler than here in the DC area, the terrain is very hilly and the lake lends itself to some attractive open water swimming opportunities.

2. The SavageMan bike course is the hardest bike course I've ever ridden. The first 20 miles are essentially downhill and then the next 30 miles is just murder. On some of the hills I was only going 4 or 5 miles per hour, I had to get out of my bike seat on a number of occasions and often had to weave left and right in order to navigate up the mountains.

3. Two places in particular standout... Westernport Wall and Miller Road. The climbing is the toughest I have ever done. All other hilly rides I have done pale in comparison.

4. A sight I will never forget is on the Westernport Wall climb on Saturday, we encountered DC Tri Club members scattered across the hill. KDOG, Chad and I passed them and I felt pretty good that this was the second day in a row I had done it and managed to scale it both times without stopping.

5. We stayed in a little cabin called the Whitetail. It was very cute. I stayed up in the loft and the hot tub definitely came in handy after the bike rides.

6. My eating habits have regressed. I have been eating chips, drinking soda and even had ice cream on Friday night. I have got to get back on the beam as this is a critical time here and I can't let the diet keep me from reaching my goal.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Silent in Sligo

The Wednesday morning long run. An Ironman training staple for this endurance athlete. The idea is NOT to put a long run and long bike on a Saturday/Sunday and toast you. Do the long run on a Wednesday and then a long bike on a Sunday. This gives you time to recover and also to get other workouts in between the marathon sessions.

Yesterday, I was heading out for a 12 miler. I was to meet my running buddy at around mile 5 of the run and she would stay with me until mile 11. It was still dark when I got out and it was quiet. Definitely humid, however. I was drenched with sweat 1 mile into the run and was glad I had lugged two 8 ounce Fuel Belt water bottles with me. I would be passing water fountains at Dennis Avenue and Wheaton Regional Park, too.

The meeting point was at Dennis but no sign of the buddy. I slipped into Chad's Chambers real quick to pee and got back out on the path in a jiffy. Still no sign. So, I ran off towards Wheaton as the HR had slipped down under 100. Looked like I was flying solo.

Long, solo runs are actually pretty peaceful. And, there are a lot of deer in Sligo and Wheaton Regional. I saw at least 10 deer, some of them little fawns. I wished I had brought a camera as they didn't run off and I could have gotten some nice pix. It was very quiet save for the distant sound of traffic. Quite serene, actually.

The humidity wasn't much of an issue for me other than the sweat. My shoes got squishy and my arms rubbing against the sides of my chest would make funny sounds sometimes. When finished, I had knocked out 12 miles in 107 minutes. Average heart rate was 136.

I'm heading up to Deep Creek Lake this evening to join in some training exercises. I plan on lifting some weights today and I have GOT TO GET IN A POOL. My swimming is already off from 2006 as evidenced by my swim times at the training tri and the NJ Tri. I just don't know if I'll have time today and I'm unclear on the swimming commitment this weekend at DCL. Everyone seems teed up for biking and running... I don't know if there is the same willingness to get time in the water.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Off Day? There are no Off Days in Ironman Training!

Well, there was today. And, a good thing too as according to the calendar, I have not had a truly off day since Thursday, July 17. And, I was definitely shelled after the last couple of weeks... even with the NJ Tri taper. Today, I didn't do anything. No swimming, biking or running. No weight lifting. I slept for 10 hours last night.

This weekend is a go for the Savage Training Weekend. I'm heading up Thursday night and then we'll have at least three hard days of training. So, I need to re-charge the batteries.

But, these workouts don't let up... I am doing a twelve mile run tomorrow morning. And, I have got to start finding time to get in the pool on a regular basis. My swimming has been way to inconsistent.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Withering Workouts

Ouch. I forgot how intense Ironman training can be. I am in a build phase and this week was tough. You can see from the attached that there was very high volume this past week. And, I missed a swim workout. I didn't get in a long swim. That's right... 1500 meters doesn't qualify as a long swim.

Today found me on another epic ride. I rode from my house, met the DC Tri Club gang down at the Washington Monument and rode out to Seneca. Then, Kip and I soldiered on to Sugarloaf Mountain. I felt good for about 60 miles. Then, the suffering began. It was a nice morning but after 11 am it got real warm and the sun was blaring down.

Funny side note... when we were on top of Sugarloaf and resting for a bit. I recognized a family who was walking around... it was the Hunter's from Worth Avenue. They're my neighbors. In fact, their daughter Molly, who is in kindergarten, I idolizes Jessica Rose. Funny to see people out of context.

River Road on the way back was definitely a challenge. Then, Kip and I split at Persimmon Tree and I foolishly chose to ride Bradley Blvd. back into Bethesda. I didn't realize it was just one long three mile hill from River Road into Bethesda. Just what I needed at mile 95. Yuck.

Two bricks this week... bike/run brick yesterday down in Annapolis and a swim/run brick Friday morning. When I was in Annapolis, I bumped into some DC Tri ladies... Julie, AJ and Kimberly. I rode with them for about 45 minutes as they were going back to New Carrollton.

Next weekend is supposed to be Savage Training Weekend up in Deep Creek Lake. I thought I had everything dialed in for this trip but some family issues may prevent me from going... stay tuned.