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.