Monday, October 31, 2011


Hey all,

I am currently in Finland. The trip over was a brutal 20+ hours of travel. I despise flying mainly for the desert-like lack of humidity. I hate drinking constantly and staying thirsty. Obviously the problem is exacerbated if the trip is interminably long. But, I did get a chance to read which I never seem to make time for when I am staying in one spot and have endless amounts of free time.

I am nearly finished with Iron War, the new book chronicling the 1989 Ironman World Championships. It is one of the best races of all time, with Dave Scott and Mark Allen slugging it out with the decisive move happening at mile 24. It is literally insane to watch/ hear about. The book is definitely not a disappointment as the subject is too good to ruin. It’s sort of like baking…generally if the food has enough fat and sugar in it, it will taste good. It’s hard to mess it up.

The writing is not exactly spot on but the angles the author takes on mental toughness, perception of fatigue, and the background of Mark and Dave are pretty interesting. I love Dave Scott. He has the biggest balls in history and, in defeat, you see truly how deep he can take it. He ties up completely like a 400m runner down the stretch in the last 2 miles and his form breaks down. Any other athlete would slow down, but he forces his body to accelerate despite a complete systems failure. He is so tough he literally can will his body to do things he shouldn’t be able to do. In the end he loses but in the most bad ass way in history. I like to watch people who race like animals and don’t cave mentally no matter what.

The race in my opinion is bittersweet as I don’t think it is indisputable that Mark Allen was the strongest on the day. I think he raced a tactically perfect race and did what he needed to do to win as he shadowed Dave Scott. But the bottom line is Dave Scott dictated and did the all the work until mile 24 in the marathon. Mark Allen drafted his way to the win but Dave Scott raced arrogantly and that’s what happens. Either way, both of those guys are hard as hell.

Back to real life, I am looking forward to exercise in Finland as it is just like Michigan. Fall is my sweet spot for training. I ran last night at 8pm and again today at 4:30 am and I am starting to feel excellent. There is a pool 5 minutes away from my hotel so I swam after work. I got done, took a nap (damned jetlag) and went for another run. I found a track midway through and decided to cruise an aerobic mile. To my shock, I finished it in 6:12 and felt SO easy. I decided to open it up and run some 400's. I came around feeling super easy and looked down to see a 71 on my watch. Whoa. That was stupid easy so I shifted gears. The next one was 65, then another, then another. I couldn't believe it. I was ticking off 65 second 400's like it was nothing and then I finished with a 63. I felt like I was on fire. I am actually a bit suspicious that the track was off... I don't know why but I am just going to have to verify that workout on a good old-fashioned American track. I don't know what the meter to meter exchange rate is in Europe. Eh, just means another speed day.

After today, things are looking good for the December Ironman. Still up in the air, but I should be able to decide by the weekend which is hyping me up so much.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Kona: Aftermath

‎"In truth, the pleasure comes less from the suffering but from the knowledge that we overcame the impulse to relent."

No idea where that quote came from. I snaked it from my buddy Ken. It is excellent and I think it sums up how I feel about Kona. However, I take no pleasure in my performance athletically. The bottom line is that it was a death march that was about damage control and not speed.

In the weeks that followed, I chewed over this and, honestly, I am bitter about it. I feel like I wasted some good run fitness on an Oprah speed marathon.


I am thinking I may go after another Ironman before I take a year long hiatus. The HITS triathlon series is putting one on in December basically in my backyard. The roads are licorice and I like the area. I may just get one more bang out of my fitness buck before the year is out and take a crack at running a fast marathon.

I know I am a stubborn mule. I don't care.

The decision is still to be made. I am off to Finland on Saturday and I will probably make the call when I am traveling depending on how I feel. It's also my birthday.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Kona part III: conclusion

To be honest, at the point we left off, finishing was a huge question mark. I started running and the wind and cloud cover allowed me to move again. I couldn’t believe it! I was running again and feeling ok. Not much to say about mile 13-22 except that I kept the recipe the same. Minimize time losses and keep temp down. I was running much faster though. I kept looking up, preparing mentally for the energy lab. This is theoretically a soul sucking stretch of the course that takes you through a solar energy field in the middle of the lava fields. What a heinous place to run. However, I found that the energy lab is way over hyped compared to Ali’i. I will take 4 miles of heat vs. 10 miles any day. I blasted through it. I saw Matt after the energy lab, hugged him and said, “I love you buddy, get through this and we don’t have to do this shit anymore for a long time.” He was in full-on stagger/death mode but he had come too far and the fastest way back to town was to run. People who know Matt know he can take it deeper than just about anyone. He nearly killed himself doing three lengths of a pool underwater… he chose to black out rather than to come up short and not get to the wall and he nearly died. Ridiculous, I know, but it is a story for another day.

I looked at my watch at mile 22 and it seemed possible to get under 10 but I would have to book it. I was still stopping at each aid station but running 7:15- 7:30 pace between them which was way closer to my projected pace. I was officially off death’s doors. However, the renewed quest for sub 10 put me back on the doorstep very quickly. I hit mile 24 completely smashed as I headed up the final hill. On my limit, I tumbled down Palani and nearly fell over. I was completely ragged as I headed towards the pier. Words can’t describe how out of control I was during the last 2 miles. I threw up bile 6 or 7 times and ran into a side railing as I staggered into the finish. My buddy from MSU, Greg Boyd shouted that I had two minutes to go sub 10 and I found a small pathetic burst but it was something. My vision kind of blurred and I lost focus on everything aside from the clock, blinking in the distance. I hit the finish chute and saw 9:59:55 ticking and was too far out. Damn it. I eased up the final 10 yards and crossed at 10:00:09. I swayed and collapsed into the volunteers. They tried to put one of those stupid flower necklaces on me and cover me in thick towel. I refused both. I was completely fried. I did not need a thick towel and flowers are just pretty trash in my opinion. The volunteers dumped ice water over my head as my vision flickered in and out. I was carried into the med tent and hooked up to an IV. My family (Caitlin, Rachel, Dad, and Mom) wasn't allowed into the med tent to see me but sent a note saying they were proud of me and loved me. I teared up as I spilled hot chicken broth on my chest. I sat up and hobbled out of the tent to see my family. They are the best.

I felt much better for the next hour and saw Lauren, Kiplinger, Boyd, and the Inch clan. They all came in for the race and were ridiculously awesome super fans. Boyd, Kiplinger, and Lauren even made tricenter at the Hawi turnaround!

Things started to go south after that. I wandered into the transition to collect my things and headed back must have been 5 minutes total. In that 5 minutes, I went from chipper back to black out mode. I was using my bike as a walker when my Mom saw me. She and Eric carried me back to the car. I was having trouble keeping my eyes open again as I was ushered into a bed. I was third-spacing electrolytes and swelling like a pufferfish. This made it tough to poke a vein but we finally got an IV started. One liter later and I was still in and out. We popped in another and I drank a couple sips of tea and broth. Finally after another liter, I was back in business... It was a long day.

After a couple days of thinking about the race, my overall thought is that I made good decisions the whole day and I don’t think I made any glaring mistakes. The pacing was dead on, the nutrition was too, and when I went into system failure mode, I did what it took to minimize my losses. Like I said, the one thing I would change is wearing a long sleeve shirt like Thunderbear. I think this may have saved some problems on Ali’i but hindsight is annoyingly accurate or however the saying goes. I wore sunscreen and was ready for the heat but the sun was something I hadn’t fully comprehended. Overall a 10 hr Kona on the first go around is pretty satisfying, especially considering it easily could have been an 11 if I had allowed it. I am not buying into the ‘oh woe is me’ perception that this is an impossibly difficult course with a mind of its own. It is a problem and all problems have solutions. I was very close to nailing it and I will next time.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Kona part II: the gates of mordor

After getting a bad split down to Matt at the halfway point of the ride (see part one), it was a good time to get aggressive as the downhill back from Hawi was a bit sketchy due to the crosswinds. I figured this would make him slightly cautious. That part of the course rewards risk and I decided it was the time to take it as it wouldn’t really require much effort just some nerve. I bombed down and as we turned back to the Queen K, I was only a minute down! I had pulled back 2 minutes in around 15 miles and I was happy again as we started the tough section back into town. The headwind was constant on the way back and I put the pressure on as the 1st half heroes dropped like flies. Matt came back to me around mile 85 and was looking ragged. I figured he was in trouble and was a victim of the 1st half pace. I took off hoping to drop not just him, but his pack. If one person stays in contact, chances are the whole group will, which means he would get a free ride back into town. No chance. I hit the gas and looked back 10 minutes later to see a big gap.

I rolled into transition clocking in at 5:03, which was dead on my projected split.

The bike course was ready to get smashed as was proven by the pros. It was mild and the roads are like licorice. It actually is a relatively easy course outside of two factors that everyone knows: the wind and the sun. The wind wasn’t too bad on our day, which was unbelievably fortunate. The heat isn’t noticeable but the sun is an absolute killer and the exposure derailed my race. Literally the only thing in the entire race I would change if I could go back is to wear a long sleeve shirt on the ride. I nailed nutrition, nailed pacing, nailed power spikes, but did not realize sunscreen wouldn’t be enough for me.

I moved off the bike feeling fresh in the legs but rotten in general. I couldn’t figure it out. The pace out onto the run was slower than normal but I still ticked off a 7:30 first mile. The second mile was completely torpedoed and I staggered to a stop. I was like a beater car, dying on the side of the road. I saw my Dad and said, “I am completely fried. I'm overcooked.” He said it would come around, but I was convinced it was over. It was the first time in a race where I nearly pulled the plug. I had concrete thoughts of the dreaded letters DNF. For those of you not of the triathlete persuasion, this is the abbreviation for “did not finish” and is a source of incredible shame for us. I prayed again for anything.

My core temp was through the roof and Ali’i drive was well into the 90’s, with no moving air, and completely exposed to the sun. I had visions of Norman Stadler, a former world champion, pathetically hiding under a telephone pole for shade and kept thinking, “you are Norman now, you idiot.” I walked a half-mile to an aid station and drenched myself in ice water, put ice down the shorts, ice on the palms, took water, took coke, and had a gu. Anything. Desperation move. I started running again thinking, “What the hell. I’ll be in the med tent anyway, can’t hurt to give it another go.” I was moving, albeit slowly and getting to the next aid station was the only focus so I could lower my core temp again. The ice on the palms was starting to kick in and my pace was starting to slowly come back to me. I was still moving gingerly as coming back from the grave is not something you can rush. Every aid station was the same. Four cups of ice, 3 to the groin, and 1 for the palms. I was moving again! The heat had really poisoned the system and my gut had shut down. I was in the john for the first time in a race. Still moving though. That’s all that mattered.

After the pit stop, I saw Matt and yelled for him to bridge up to me so we could get through the day together but he was a mile or so back and looking as bad as I was. No dice.

I hit mile 8 and was nearly off Ali’I drive. I looked to the sky hoping the clouds would roll in. I prayed again and turned up Palani drive at mile 10 to see dark skies. My family and friends were on the side of the road, screaming, as I was unconscious on my feet but still moving. I started walking up the massive hill on Palani and talking to my sister. I had this in my head from the moment I saw Palani. Walking is the only thing that would make sense. Spiking your heart rate in a race like this is a death sentence and anything faster than walking would spike mine. In my damage control mode, I was particularly keen on this plan. Walking sounded excellent. I told Rachel that the walking was an investment in the back half of my race. I wasn't sure if that was true. It sounded smart but it hinged on whether I could get my head on straight and run.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Ironman World Championships

The day started out great. I woke up super easily as 4 am felt like 7 am to me. In that respect racing in Hawaii is great… not so much in a variety of other respects. Matt and I made our way to the pier and ticked all the routine transition items. I racked the QROO and headed over to the swim start.

We also made it into the slowtwitch gallery which was pretty cool…

For the first time in about 3-4 years, I was actually nervous for a race. It wasn’t uncontrolled nerves, but I was itching to get the race going. The wind looked super calm when we walked into the water. As we waited for the cannon, I took it all in while doing some floaty backstroke. It was unreal. The crowds were enormous. Cameras everywhere. Mike Reily blathering about God knows what. Needless to say, the energy of the racers was off the charts.

I lined up on the inside as I was trying to read the surf a bit. Turns out everyone else read it the same way and I quickly realized I had made the first positioning mistake of my Ironman career. The gun went off and I was completely molested throughout the first kilometer of the swim. Shockingly, I was intentionally dunked by a highly aggressive and unstable woman! Some guy took a swing at me for hitting him in the legs… I finally realized what people were whining about in Ironman swims. I usually get clean water but when you are around people, they lose their ever-loving minds. No matter, as it strings out eventually. I just tried to stay calm and patient.

The swim was a long out and back and I rounded the boat that marked the halfway point feeling comfortable. I was swimming well and feeling pretty relaxed. I started to get a bit weak and tight in the lower back towards the end of the swim as my core started giving out a bit but no worries and I hit the pier clocking in at 59 minutes. Just a tick under an hour. I was in and out of transition super quick and excited to start the meat of the day.

Overall the swim was sort of choppy. You can generally tell if you are swimming well or not and I was, so I was satisfied. Triathlon isn’t done on a track or in a pool so time is a tough gauge, even year to year, which makes things frustrating to track and measure performance but also makes the sport not stupid and boring. I digress.

The first part of the bike felt very poor. The power was not coming very easily and my heart rate was quite high. It happens sometimes to me in Ironman so it didn’t freak me out and I just rode without thinking. I saw Matt only 2 minutes up the road and got a bit of a boost as I thought I would roll him up pretty quick. Wrong.

I got out onto the Queen K highway and the wind was completely dead! I was praying it would stay that way as I started hitting my stride. I tried to stay in my zone as people just blasted through me. I couldn’t believe it… through 40 miles I was averaging 24.2mph and I was getting dropped by pack after pack. Welcome to the world championships. I was figuring not everyone passing me was going to ride a 4:40 bike split so I just kept things under control and waited until the nastiness would start as it inevitably does in every Ironman.

The climb up to Hawi was really rough for me. The trademark head and cross winds were there but definitely milder than usual, but I just was struggling with the power at that moment in the race. I hit the halfway point and had lost time to Matt for the first time since I started riding a bike back in first grade. I was now 3 minutes down and furious. What to do?

Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion to our hero's incredible journey to the gates of Mordor and back.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Hey all,

So this is my third day in Kona. It is crazy. The energy here is something unlike any triathlon I have ever seen. It is the superbowl. Quite frankly, it feels like being on a movie set for me. I have watched nearly every year’s race so seeing the Lava Java, the Queen K, Waikaloa rd., Kawuahae, and the climb up to Hawi is surreal.

I have also seen basically all my idols in the sport. Jan Frodeno, Javier Gomez, Macca, Rinny, Julie Dibes, Crowie, Marino, Norman Staddler, Tim Don, Jordan Rapp, Chris Lieto, The Raelerts, Conrad Stoltz, Dan Hugo, Paula Findlay and I am sure I am forgetting some. I am probably more of a fan of this sport than I am a racer quite honestly so I have been basically star struck since I got here. Ironically, it doesn’t happen in Calabasas where Britney Spears, the Kardashians, Ozzie, and Will Smith live. I guess it’s cuz none of them could run a 30 minute 10k. Well…maybe Ozzie in his prime.

Anyway, we swam at Dig me beach yesterday. Great swim out to the floating coffee bar. My stroke is feeling really smooth and I don’t think the non-wetsuit swim will bother me so much. The water is clear and super salty so buoyancy isn’t too much of an issue. After that we went to the Rudy Project booth and got free Aero Helmets!!! Just for racing on Saturday! I couldn’t believe it… the Rudy Wingspan helmet was my choice for the cross winds/ ironman distance due to the ventilation and short tail that is ideal for the side gusts. I couldn’t swing the cost prior to the race but I can definitely swing FREE!

We then headed out to ride up to Hawi. The wind…. Wow. I have never felt anything like it. Truly out of control. I have never felt so unsafe on a bike. Riding into it is scary as it is so unpredictable and comes at different speeds and from different angles. Riding with it is terrifying as you pick up speed and experience the same thing. I nearly lost control of my bike at 45 mph… it freaked me out. Pray for a calm day out there, bloggers. Our hero isn’t prepared to pin it in the aero bars and hang it out in 30+ mph gusts… I don’t mind a hard ride but I mind dangerous. Guess I’ll figure it out on Saturday.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

New's bananas.

Hey bloggers,

I missed all your smiling virtual faces. I guess you deserve an apology for my lack of blogging consistency. You aren't going to get one. I dropped off the blogging grid due to large training and better things to do. I know that is hard to fathom.

What I can do is give you a quick update before I head to Hawaii for the Ironman World Championship. I have obviously been training a good deal to get ready for a full day of frolicking around in the lava fields. The training has been going immaculately. No sickness, no injury (more or less), just consistent work.

I am flying in my test workouts and I think I could absolutely annihilate the Ironman Florida course. I am demolishing the times I put up last year in my test sets. Bigger watts, faster running, same heart rate. Sadly this is not the same course and I have no real understanding of how the conditions will impact my race. I only know that they will. Another thing I know is that I am the fittest I have been in my life and that is the best I can do. I am putting out watts so easily it's stupid. I would list the stats but you would think I was lying. I am actually running well too which makes no sense to my small brain. I am literally trying to slow myself down and I can't...It would have been suicide pace last year. My swimming is coming around to the point where I am not terrified of a non-wetsuit swim which I didn't expect. Perfect storm... now I just have to rest and not get sick. I can't believe the race is almost here.

Just to put this on the record, Jill Savege is the best coach in the world. I have been her worker bee and I am suddenly tearing my own legs off without even thinking about it. It's insane how well she has this dialed in. If this race goes poorly, it will be on me.

I fly out on Monday.