Friday, December 25, 2009

IMAZ: The Novelization

Note: OK, Here's the last post. I give you the full "War & Peace" version of the IMAZ Race Report.

Wow! This event was so huge and I have so many thoughts that have gone through my head before, during and afterward, that I almost can't formulate a coherent explanation. To some degree the ironman must be experienced directly by the individual to truly understand the enormity of it all.

Mad Men (Not as in "angry," but as in "crazy," "overly nervous," or "insane")

I'd like to say that the flight from Fort Lauderdale to Phoenix was uneventful, but would ignore the fun event that Southwest puts on with its open seating process. John & I both forget to check in early and end up with dreaded "B" boarding passes. By the time we get to board for our connection in Nashville, the only seats available on the plane are those dreaded middle seats. I end up in the very last row of the plane.

The flight itself was uneventful, but at the rental car building the rental car agent makes the mistake of asking me how my day is going and I go all Larry David on her about the Southwest boarding system. She tells me that she likes Southwest and looks at me like I'm nuts. John chimes in that we are in Arizona for the Ironman and I'm clearly on edge with nervous energy for the event, which is probably a dead on psychological analysis.

We get to the Mission Palms Hotel to check in. We lug our bags across a courtyard, up the elevators to the 4th floor to go to our room. On getting out of the elevators, we can't help but notice that the floor is a dusty mess with crew of about 6 to 8 construction workers tearing out the wall paper in the halls and pasting up new wall paper. We go to the other end of the hall to where our room is to see if its far enough away from the wall paper job in place, but decide this is unacceptable. John has an asthma condition and doesn't want to risk inhaling dust and smelling wall paper paste. I concur. We go back to registration and get a new room in the front end of the hotel on the 3rd floor. Don't get me wrong, the Mission Palms was a lovely hotel and definitely the place to stay for this event, but it was another of those hurdles on our travel day that made us wonder what else could go wrong. I found out soon enough.

We decide to go over to Tempe Beach Park, the site of the transition area, the registration area, shopping tent, and where TriBike Transport has our bikes. We go through the registration area and pick up our race numbers, chip, and sign away our right to hold anyone legally accountable for our choice in doing this event should we become injured or worse. Since this is the first of 2 days to pick up registration packets, the lines are tolerable and we get through the lines fairly quickly. As we mill about the area, you get the feeling that you are at a superhero convention. There are so many extremely fit people on bikes and walking around that you wonder if you even belong in this group. This does nothing to ease our nervous energy.

We stop by the clothing sales tent and browse the goods. There is every conceivable shirt, bike jersey, tri clothing, sweat shirt and tee shirt containing the Arizona Ironman logo. Pretty cool stuff and you could spend a fortune. Unfortunately, John got to the tent a bit before me and informs me that one of the sales staff informed him that there is lots of inventory and that everything will be available throughout the next three days. John suggests that we not waist our time making purchases at this time, but wait until after the event. I think that John is somewhat superstitious about buying logo wear before completing the event. In order to support my buddy, and on his assurances that there will be plenty of inventory in the next several days, we leave the tent without making any purchases.

We go over to the TriBike Transport tent to pick up our bikes. I'm the kind of guy that likes to "pack his own parachute" as they say, so having given my bike to a third party company to ship across the country to the race sight along with my gear bag felt like letting go of a trapeze swing, flying through the air and relying on another high wire artist to catch me on the other side. I'm happy to report that the guys at TriBike Transport are top notch and our bikes and gear bags arrived as promised and in good shape. John & I pump our tires and John has the TriBike guys put on his pedals and check out his bike. Having berried my peddles deep in my gear bag, I decide to walk my bike the 7/10ths of a mile back to the hotel to work on. As I walk my bike back, I hear what sounds like a gun shot and realize my back tire has blown out. I later realize I must have pinched the tube in putting on new tires just before shipping the bike out. Not TriBike's fault, but another in what looks like a series of unnatural warnings regarding the event if I were superstitious, which I'm not.

We go to dinner at Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant at which we do not sample any of the micro brews. John, being single, chats up the young college aged waitress. Not wanting to seem like a deadbeat, I join in on the banter. As the waitress departs with our order, John chastises me for cutting in on his banter with the waitress. Hey, harmless banter is all we married guys are allowed, but I apologise anyway. I got to learn to be a better wing man. After 23 years of marriage, I'm way out of practice. Anyway, the food was good and I catch the Dolphins beating the Carolina Panthers on the TV that I can see over John's shoulder.

After dinner, we head back to our room. I work on getting my bike and tires in order, while John works on sorting out his nutrition bags and starts comparing both his own notes, our friend Jerry's notes and the nutrition section of his "Bible," Going Long by Joe Friel & Grodon Byrn. He starts doing careful calculations of the goos, electrolyte tablets, Cliff Bars, and other assorted food products and drinks he will carry and have in his "Special Needs Bag" at drops on the bike and run courses. When I'm done getting my bike in order, I start to take note of the vast volume of food, drink and nutrition products that John believes we need to ingest in order to survive this event. Its a boat load of stuff that looks like it could sustain a family of four for a month. As I start to question John about such a large number of calories, he starts laying out the calculation of per hour calorie consumption predicted by the Bible and the actual calorie count of each product.

I think it necessary to point out at this time that John & I take different approaches to our training and preparation for this event. John reads everything he can get his hands on, speaks with several people who have done these events to get advice on every aspect of the ironman, and takes copious notes on all of this information. In other words, he is very focused on detail, does thorough research and takes copious notes along the way. Very analytical. Too analytical in my view. I take more of an intuitive approach to the event. I practiced the pieces of the event, tried the level of nutrition I felt I needed to get through the bike and run portions, and planned to repeat this level of eating and drinking for the event as done in practice. But with John showing me hard data, I begin to seriously doubt that we have any idea of what consumption is necessary for an ironman event.

OK, time for panic mode. I start gathering together my food and nutrition products and start to separate the various groupings I'll need to eat during the early portion of the bike, the restock of goods to place in the special needs bag, what to put in my run belt, and what to put in the run special needs bag. We are both overwhelmed by the amount of food it looks like we will need to consume for this event. It suddenly feels like we gathered supplies for the pioneer crossing from St. Louis to California and under purchased. I have my various nutrition parcelled between my various bags. John puts all of his nutritional goods aside to do another set of calculations the next day and reconfigure his goods. Before turning in for the night, I plug my Garmin 305 into the bathroom socket to charge it for the run portion of the ironman.


When we awake Friday morning, I discover that my Garmin 305 appears to be dead. I ask John whether he saw any Garmin booth at the expo the last 2 days, but he reminds me that he noted the absence of one and I had informed him that with Timex as a sponsor, Garmin was probably not allowed to set up a booth at the expo.

After a breakfast of oatmeal and coffee at Starbucks, we pack our triathlon gear bags with our wet suits and towels to go down to Tempe Town Lake to practice the swim. Its not that we need to practice swimming at this point, its that we know the water is supposed to be pretty cold (around 63 degrees) and do not want to be surprised at the coldness of the water on race day. As we approach the water, we start asking other swimmers how the water feels. "Really cold" seems to be the common response. No real help, but about what we expected to hear. I start talking to a woman in a wet suit who turns out to be from Pompano Beach, Florida, a mere 5 miles north of where I live. John & I make friends with this woman named Maria who has previously done Ironman Florida. While changing into our wetsuits, we meet another experienced woman named Kim from Colorado. I jokingly mention that doing the half ironman led us to doing the full and wondered what the full opens the door to doing. Kim replies, "Oh, that's easy: Ultra marathons." "I don't know about that," I reply. "OK," Kim says, "How about the rim to rim run of the Grand Canyon?" I had just read an article from John's copy of Marathon & Beyond magazine on the flight over about the rim to rim run. "Sounds like fun," I say, "but I'd want to go with someone who has done it before as a guide." "Oh, I'm in a group that goes every summer," Kim responds. I give her my card to contact me, but I'm not sure I could handle to rigours of the altitude or temperature change.

After suiting up, along with a dive hoodie, I note that John is still talking to yet more people asking about the water. Assuming that this is simply a delay tactic for what he knows will be unpleasant, I head to the waterfront along and walk down the steps to the water. As I jump into the water, it feels like I've jumped into a glass of ice water full of ice cubes. I swim just to get over the cold. While somewhat startling at first, I start to acclimate to the water. I swim east in the direction of the start buoy for Sunday's swim. I swim 10 minutes out and 10 back. Good enough to get the feel of it I think. As I come out of the water, I can't find John and figure he made it into the water for his swim. I change back into shirt and shorts and spy a guy wearing an Alaska bike jersey. I introduce myself and inquire if he knows any of my Anchorage running buddies (he doesn't). He introduces me to his wife and twin 18 year old son and daughter. He has done one other ironman event, and his wife and son are joining him in this event. I tell him that there is no way in Hell that my 18 year old son would join me in this endeavor.

After dropping our swim gear back to the hotel, we walk over to Hooters for lunch. On the walk over, John announces that he doesn't think he'll join me in my search for a new Garmin. I express my disappointment in his lack of support for my situation. He asks if I'm going to get all teary eyed over the issue. No, I inform him, I just have to factor in his lack of mutual support when his snoring has me awake for another night. Perhaps I'll not resist the urge to smother him with his pillow. This leads to a whole bit about who will smother whom with a pillow first. I tell him he may be doing me a favor by smothering me with my pillow prior to the ironman on Sunday. Our humor this day is based on little jabs against each other that is clearly based on nervous energy and the fact that we've been training together for an entire year. I tell John I've already got training buddy divorce papers drafted to be served on him when this event is over.

After lunch, John decides to rest while I gear up in bike gear to take my bike for a test ride. I ride over to the bike course and hook up with a group of riders from California. As we ride, I note that even in this early afternoon heat, my arms are kind of chilly. Good, I think, it won't get too hot on the ride on Sunday. As we return from the outward portion of our ride, one of the guy riders tells me he did this event last year when it was held in April. He informs me that he did not finish. This causes me a little concern in that he looks like a very capable bicyclist. He explains that he got behind the cutoff time in the swim and was working hard to avoid the bike and run cut off times the rest of the day. Knowing that John is concerned about the swim cut off time, I choose not to discuss this story with him upon my return to the room.

After a few hours rest in the room, we had over to Tempe Arts Park for a welcome dinner that is part of the registration fee and package. We meet other athletes, get our pasta and salad and head over to a large group of tables in front of a presentation stage. There are 2,800 participants registered and along with family and friend support there are probably 3,500 people at the dinner. Mike Reilly, the announcer for all of the Ford Ironman events, is the MC for the evening. Mike informs us that there are over 1,000 participants doing a full ironman for the first time. He informs all us newbies that come Sunday night, we will be ironmen. All us newbies laugh nervously, not so sure that we will get the job done. Mike then calls up the oldest and the youngest participants. The oldest male is a guy named Ed who informs us that "Half of my friends are dead, the other half are in assisted living facilities, and I'm here having fun!" The youngest male turns out to be the 18 year old Alaskan I met that morning. Mike also plays "The Biggest Loser" game by having everyone stand up that lost 10 pounds in training for this event. He then starts to up the ante by 10 pound increments. The winning weight loss ended up being over 110 pounds. When Mike questions the guy, he offers to show Mike his driver's licence showing him the before picture. Of course, we are all amazed and applaud this guy. The prize: a year supply of cookies. Health cookies mind you, but cookies none the less.

Mike then introduces the crowd to Rudy, a double leg amputee that took up triathlons because he started trying to do activities that they said he wouldn't be able to do. He had worked his way up to the ironman distance and had just attempted the Hawaii Ironman in Kona in October. Rudy had failed to meet the 17 hour cut off in Kona and was in Arizona to give it another shot. We give Rudy a standing ovation. After Mike Reilly is done inspiring us, the race director and sub-directors give us briefings on the course and various ways the we can be penalized or disqualified from the event on Sunday. After returning to our hotel, we finalize our gear bags and special needs nutrition bags for drop off Saturday morning.


John heads over to Starbucks for breakfast before me. I take a shower and get to Starbucks a half hours after John. I find him talking to a woman that I think he's just met. After ordering food and coffee, I approach and ask if the other seat at their table is taken. It turns out the woman is Maria from Pompano Beach whom I didn't recognize in normal clothing. People definitely look different in a full wetsuit and hoodie. We get advice from Maria who had previously done Ironman Florida and arrange to meet for an early dinner.

After breakfast, we return to our room and gather our gear bags and bikes for drop off at the transition area. I oil and lube my chain and gears before heading out. I offer John my oil and lube bottles, but he refuses my offer wanting to rely on the professional bike mechanics at the transition area. Suddenly, the lubes and sprays that we have shared over the last several months doesn't seem like a good idea to John. "To each there own," I think. I pass it off as a nervous mistake on John's part. Why rely on your buddy when you've got professionals around? After dropping our gear bags and setting our bikes up, we talk to an athlete that informs us that he was told that what was at the souvenir tent was all the stock that was available. When we return to the tent, we find most of the clothing that is not in odd sizes is gone. Oh well, at least I got a few items the day before.

We decide to go shopping for some extra food and supplies we will need for Sunday. We stop by a bike shop for extra tubes, air cartridges, and a pair of arm warmers for me. We find a pizza joint that serves spaghetti with meatballs, a find a store for food, and a running store where I get a Garmin 310 (the new waterproof ones you can wear during the entire ironman event). On our return to the hotel, I get a call that my family has arrived on their flight out to Phoenix and will meet me in an hour or so. John decides to take in a movie.

When my wife Salome, son Alex, and mother-in-law Kiki arrive, I walk them to the expo and show them the lake we will swim in and the transition area. Salome will volunteer to give out metals to finishers with the hope of hanging one on John & me. We look for the volunteer coordinator, but are unable to locate anyone in charge. I take them to a burger joint for their late lunch and send them on their way to our friends house in NE Scottsdale. I go back to the room and take a nap. I have a short dream in which I am an eagle gliding over the lake course. I feel very confident and awake feeling that this dream is a good omen. John thinks I'm nuts and starts singing "Fly Like an Eagle."

We get a call from Maria to get together for an early dinner that we agreed to schedule when we met at breakfast. We meet and decide to go back to the Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant. As we are sitting down, I note a table of about 10 that looks like it contains several athletes. I ask for show of hands as to who is participating in tomorrows event. Once the athletes reveal themselves, I ask what they ordered for dinner. Chicken with pasta seems to be the order of the evening and John, Maria and I all follow suit. We top it off with desert as we need the calories for tomorrows event. At least that's our story and we're sticking to it.

Back at our room after dinner, John & I lay our gear out for the next morning. John excuses himself from the room so that he can go down to the hotel lobby and review his notes and otherwise get mentally prepared for the next morning. I hang out in the room and channel surf. I prefer trying to not think too much about the coming event. Its just too big to get my mind around. I've planned and planned for this event. I'm ready. Distraction works better for me at this point. After an hour John returns to the room and we turn in for the night.

Sunday-Race Day

We awake at 4 AM and start getting ice and start mixing our bike bottles. After eating oatmeal, bannanas and a power bar, we finish gearing up and head out for the transition area. We drop our special needs bags and go check out our bikes. The transition area is abuzz with activity and pre-race nervous energy. After getting our tires pumped up and our water bottles onto our bikes, its time to body marked. After that, we do the port-o-potty shuffle. As I wait in line for a
port-o-potty to become available, I notice a German athlete who takes off his sweats and starts showing off his condition to his friends just outside the transition area fence. The guy looks to be about my age, but is clearly in much better physical shape that I can ever hope to get into. He has the sculpted body of a body builder, which is only enhanced by his stretching and jumping exercises that he is doing to both warm up and impress his lady friends. OK, enough of that. If I start comparing myself to other athletes in this crowd, I might as well withdraw and go back to the hotel.

After taking care of bodily functions in the port-o-potty, John & I find a bench and get into our wet-suits. Geared up for the swim, we start heading over the crowd of other wet-suit wearing athletes nearing the start mat that we must all cross to register our chips for the event. As we approach the start mat, we down a goo and drink a final bottle of water. My body's immediate response to the goo is to want to vomit. As David Byrne sang: "Warning sign of things to come." I fight the urge to vomit and wash the goo down with water. With 2,800 participants all gathering towards the double-wide gate just feet before the waterfront, I can't help but feel we look like lemmings jumping off a cliff to an ocean below. We had been advised to wait until the last minute before jumping into the 63 degree water, but the crowd kind of forces us all toward the seawall.

Before I knew it, we were on the edge of the seawall. I turn to John and ask "Jump now?" "Jump," he replies. In an instant, we are amongst literally thousands of other swimmers in the dark swimming toward the start area. The water is indeed feels cold as ice, but the fact that we are actually in the water with all these people prevents the mind from event thinking about the cold. This is one boat load of people in the water. A look back towards the seawall only reveals thousands more lemmings awaiting their turn to jump into the icy water. Images of the movie "Titanic" come to mind.

John & I stick together as we swim with this hoard toward the start. When we get about 100 yards from the start, the crowd around me stops moving. As I look toward the start area, I realize this is as close as we will get to the start. I turn around to make a comment to John about this fact, when I realize that he is no where in sight. Little did I know that John had gotten claustrophobic with the crowd of swimmers and had headed back towards the sea wall near the start line to get out of the water and away from this mass of swimmers. I realize instantly that we have come to the end of the line as far as buddy training goes. I'm now in this on my own. I also realize that I have inadvertantly placed myself smack dab in the middle of 2,800 swimmers. Given that the sun is just coming over the horizon and the National Anthem is now being played, I realize that there is no time for me to extricate myself from this start position that I had no intention of placing myself in.

The Swim

Immediately after the conclusion of the National Anthem, the start cannon goes off with a "boom." The previously calm water becomes a sea of thrashing arms and legs. Again, it brings to mind the scene in "Titanic" where all the passengers are in the water trashing wildly about just after the ship finally goes underwater. Except that everyone is moving in the same direction. I put my head down and try to start swimming, but who am I kidding. Its too crowded to actually swim and I'm getting hit from all directions. The close quarters also makes it hard to get fully lateral for proper swim position. I take several strokes, swallow some water, and pick my head out of the water to cough. This is what I call the "What the f#@k" moment of the ironman. Prior to this event, all of my triathlons swims have gone off in waves of 20 to 30 swimmers. If you get jostled too much, you can simply drift slightly back from the swimmers hitting you and find some open water. There is no drifting back and finding open water when you are surrounded by 2,800 swimmers. You just trade off one set of highly motivated and self centered swimmers for another group of highly motivated and self centered swimmers. You also feel like there is the very real possibility that you could drown in this pack of lunatics and no one would take any notice, much less render assistance. You realize the only way you will survive this mob, is to swim for you life.

While I'm in the middle of this human mayhem, John is off to the right near the sea-wall. Thus, instead of getting whacked on four sides (left, right, front and rear), he is only getting whacked from 3 sides. Fortunately, this truly insane portion of the ironman only last about 5 minutes before the crowd spreads out enough for you to find decent room to swim and stop thinking about other swimmers. That doesn't mean the bumping. climbing over the top, and whacking stops, its just that its now at least mentally manageable. The fear of drowning subsides and you can fully focus on the business of swimming.

Once I'm able to focus on my swim and get a decent rhythm going, I note that my new Garmin 310 keeps beeping at me. I'm not sure if its because I'm not wearing my heart rate strap for the swim or if something else is going wrong with the watch. Since I can't stop swimming long enough to get a decent look at the watch, I decide to ignore it for the swim.

I find that my navagation skills on the out-bound leg of the swim is pretty spot on. I manage to keep in a straigth line and watch the buildings and mountains go by on my right. Before I know it, I can see the far bridge we have to go under and then the red turn bouy. I manage to hug close to the bouy and make the turn without getting bumped by too many swimmers. As I swim the short crossing leg north, I also hang a pretty good bee-line for the turning bouy. However, the long return leg west is another matter. The course of the river/lake/resevour that we are swimming bends slightly from left to right. The bouys do the same such that you end up swimming in a slightly northwesterly direction if you swim close to the return bouies. In turning my head to the right to breath, I end up following and hugging the northern bank of the lake. This slowly takes me more to the right. About half way back on the return to the transition area, I note that I've drifted to the right of the bouies. However, since the course bends in that direction anyway, I simply swim a straght line back. I don't know if this added distance or not, but figure it had to add something to the swim. Additionally, the north bank of the lake has fewer landmarks making the return seem longer than the outbound leg. I finally get under the bridge near the start of the swim course and make my turn towards the southern bank and the swim exit. This last little leg seemed like it too way longer than it should, but it probably had to do with seeing the exit area for this last leg. It always seems like it takes longer to reel in a finish line when you can see it from a distance.

I eventually get towards the finish line. I remember that the course marshalls had suggested not grabbing the first step of the stair coming out of the water but to instead try for the third step in so that you could stand easier. However, the volunteers assisting swimmers out of the water are so helpful that they grab your arm before you can reach for the third step in on the stairs. Thus, I'm being pulled upward with no step to be able to get a footing on. I eventually find my footing and am able to stand. I take a quick look at my watch to see how long my swim took and see my watch reads 1:44. First off, I'm thrilled that the Garmin is working properly since its been beeping at me on and off during the swim. I'm also happy with the swim time. Now, that's nothing to write home about for most swimmers, but the swim is my weakest event and I had estimated a swim leg of between 1:50 to 2:00, so I beat my estimate. John came in a few minutes later in 1:48. Given that he was worried about maybe losing time at the crazy start and maybe cutting it close to the 2:20 swim cut off time, he too was very pleased. We get it; we both need more swim lessons. We were pleased with our better than expected swim times none the less. All of you good swimmers out there can stop snickering now and get on with reading this report.

We were warned to be prepared to feel slight vertigo from going vertical after swimming horizontally for so long. Sure enough, my first couple of steps I feel like a drunken sailor. This soon passes and I'm being assisted by the wet-suit strippers. No, its not what you think. Two people grab the top of your unfastened wet-suit and peel you to the waist. They then tell you to lie down on your back and they peel the wet-suit off you legs. You look a bit like one of the dancers in "Animal House" doing the "alligator."

Once stripped of my suit, I run over to the gear bag section. The voluteers in the gear bag section are flawless in calling out race numbers and handing over your gear bag to you. I grab my gear bag and head to the changing tent. Its a large tent with a male and female sections, but no partician. No problem though as no one is doing anything other than paying attention to their gear and trying to change and get to their bike. No time for straying eyes. I find a seat and quickly change out of my swim trunks and into my bike shorts. A male volunteer comes up and offers to help me dry my feet and assist me with my socks. As I work on getting my bike helmet and shirt on, I thank the volunteer for such great assistance. He informs me that he has done ironman events and is simply giving back. I tell him that I'm so grateful for his assistance that I'll be sure to volunteer at an event to pay his kindness forward. After stuffing my bike jersey with Cliff Bars, goos and other assorted food products, I come out of the changing tent. Several volunteers offer to hit me up with sunscreen. Being subject to sunburn, I take the offer and get blasted with lotion on my cheeks and neck. Little do I realize that this lotion doesn't soak in and I look like a Massi warrior on the hunt.

I run towards the bikes. Again, the volunteers do such a great job calling out your number to other volunteers that by the time you get to your bike rack row, a volunteer has your bike pulled to the end of the row and ready for you to grab and run out of the transition area. I run my bike as best I can in bike shoes out of transition.

The Bike

After mounting in the mount zone, you have to hold your bike place for about 300 yards until you exit the park area where the triathlon village is set up. This is a bit tricky as there are a lot of riders trying to navigate this winding wide sidewalk that goes uphill out of the park. Once we emerge from the park, there is room to find a position on the road. The bike course starts with a series of right and left turns over the first five miles before reaching a straight out and back loop of about 27 miles. My math is probably a bit off here, but the bike course is 3 loops of approximately 37 miles each. For the first 5 miles, I'm able to ride between 18 to 20 mph. Once we hit the straight out and back road, I note that we are riding into a direct headwind. On top of that, the outbound approximately 13 miles is mainly an incline. At the beginning of this loop is a set of port-o-potties that I decide I must take advantage of using. I'm in and out of these toilets as almost no one is using them. Once I start riding again, I start trying to eat some of the food I've brought along for the ride. I down a Cliff Bar and wash it down with some of my drink mix. I work on electrolite jelly beans and later down a goo.

I also note on this first outbound leg that my heart rate is not registering on my Garmin. John had forgotten to tell me that I have to sync the heart strap to the watch before using it for the first time. Thus, I realize that I'm going to do the bike and run legs without the feedback of what my heart rate is doing. Oh well, I think, at least I'm getting my overall leg times for each of the swim, bike, run, and transitions.

As I get futher towards the outward turn around point on the bike, I note that my speed has gotten slower and slower due to the headwind and the greater incline. I slow all the way down to 13 mph. I look back at my back break thinking I must be rubbing my break. No such luck. Its at this point that one of the leading pro atheletes comes bolting by me. With their disc wheels, the faster pros sound like a train coming up behind you. The faster pros are followed by a camera crew on a moter cycle similar to the Tour de France. Its pretty amazing to be both a participant and a spectator of an event at the same time.

I was struggling with the outbound uphill into the wind that I almost forget to take a sideward look at the scenery we are riding through. As I turn my head, I'm in awe of the beauty of this dessert landscape. Large gorgeous cacti and wild flowers cover the planes with the beauty of the mountains in the background. If you can do this event, do so for the beauty of the bike course. It takes you through the unmolested landscape of the native American indian tribe that lives in this region just to the northeast of Tempe. Stickenly beautiful.

After making the turn around, which comes after a slight downhill that forces you to brake in order to keep from accelerating into the turn around, we get rewarded for our hard rides out. On the return, we are greeted with both a tail wind and a downward sloping course. You coast at 25 mph. As John & I planned a conservative 17 to 18 mph ride to prevent being depleted for the run, I spend the return downhill trying to do math in my head to figure out my overall ride average. I finally give up and figure as long as I don't feel like I'm red-lining my efforts, the average will take care of itself.

At the turn-around near the transition park, crowds are gathered and you get a bit excited. After completing the turn around and heading back out the right and left turning streets on the outbound again, you realize that you have to do this same course twice more. Of course this whole time, I've been trying to take in food and drink. As I come back to the first set of port-o-potties again, I realize I've got to stop again. No problem. More riders are stopping, but its still not too crowded and I'm in and out pretty fast. As I continue my outbound ride, I think I spy John coming back on the return leg of his first loop. Good. I now know that he make it out of the water and beat his feared swim cut-off. I try to shout out to him, but going in opposite directions, he doesn't hear me.

On my return leg of my second loop at about mile 66 there is an area where you can stop off and get extra food items from your special needs bag. However, by the time I get to this area and get my bag, my stomach is both full and feeling heavy. I reach into this bag chock full of food products and take out only a supposedly frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwich. This was a product suggested to us on Friday by a fellow athlete that we picked up in the frozen foods section of the grocery store. Unfortunately, our room refrigerator didn't work so well, so I don't know how well these sandwiches kept. In any event, the sandwich tasted good, but I was unable to think about eating anything else.

As I complete the second lap, I can hear the announcer call off the names of competitors finishing their bike portions of the race. It made it a little frustrating to make the turn at the park to start my third bike leg. Now, I just want to be done with the bike portion of the ironman. As I finish up the cut back five miles, I witness a near accident wherein a female rider dropped something off her bike and makes an immediate turn around without looking behind her. A pro female athlete shouts "Look out!" and goes flying by both me and the careless rider. That could have been ugly.

I suddenly realize I've got to get to those port-o-potties. Bad! They are a few miles off, but I'm able to make it there without an accident. Unfortunately, there is now a line in front of the port-o-potties. I'm forced to burn 5 to 10 minutes just waiting in line. When I finally get into a port-o-potty, I feel sick to my stomach. I do what I can and come out feeling somewhat better. I down some more electrolite jelly beans and get riding again.

As I near the turn around point for the last time, who do I see up ahead of me but my buddy John. He must have passed me on the bike as I was waiting in line for the port-o-potty. "You are one strong Greek," I call out from behind. We are both thrilled to know that the other guy is doing OK and that our game plan seems to be working out according to plan. We spend the next couple of mile passing each other for no real reason other than one of us gets a bit of energy. No drafting mind you. We seem to gap each other and its all legal. John gets ahead of me at the turn around and seems to disappear down the inclining road. John had apparently gotten a little ahead of me and stopped off at the next set of port-o-potties. I mistook another rider for John and think I'm pulling him in only to realize its another rider. Looking down the road, I can't seem to find a rider that looks to be him nearby. "He just blew my doors off," I think as I ride on.

At this point, I note that the shadows are getting longer and it must be getting closer to sun set. As I come into the final bike turn and see the park, I'm thrilled with the prospect of getting off the bike. I coast into the park, dismount, hand off my bike, grab my run gear bag and head back to the changing tent. The volunteers are not as sharp as in T1, but they offer water and good cheer. As I'm about to finish my change, I hear buddy John's voice. He has just entered the change tent as I'm about to leave. I now figure out that he must have gotten behind me on the last bike leg. I ask him how he's doing. "Good," he replies. I look at him seeing if he wants me to wait up for him, but he waves me on. I leave the tent wondering if he is having a problem. As I leave the tent, I again get offered sunscreen. I again get blasted with war paint and head out for the run.

The Run

Since I've been prone to leg cramps in other marathons, I had a water bottle filled with Pedialite, an electrolite drink for sick babies and small children that I've found helpful in past marathons. As I start my run, I open the bottle and try to take a swig. My body immediately rejects this sweet concoction and I want to vomit. Oops, that's not going to work. I toss the bottle aside. At the first run aid station, I try to sip from a cup of Coke, but get the same violent rejection from my stomach. Oh oh, not good. I try a cup of water. My stomach feels like I've got food poisoning and wants to reject plane water. I'm suddenly seriously worried about being able to run a marathon without being able to take in any fluids.

A mile later at the next aid station, I am offered warm chicken broth. "It can't hurt to try this concoction," I think. Luckily, my stomach seems to accept this warm salty drink. I spend the rest of the marathon mixing chicken broth with as much water as I can without my stomach rejecting the mix. Its a fine balancing act. Too much water and I can't drink it. A 70/30 mix of chicken broth to water seems to work. I'm also able to get in a few pretzels or potato chips. I subsist on this lite fare for the remainder of the event.

After about an hour of running, the sun starts to set. The run course is a 3 loop course that winds around the triathlon village, the surrounding industrial park areas and over to the other side of the lake into residential areas. The volunteers at the aid stations are again most helpful and cheerful bunch of people you could ask for in support. As I run by the triathlon park and surrounding bridges that are near this area, the spectators are very encouraging of all athletes efforts. I know they are probably supporting a friend or family member, but their cheers and encouragement meant the world to me. I literally sick and tired of this event, but I have no intention of stopping. The cheers and encouragement of both the spectators and volunteers at the aid stations were key to getting through these miles.

The confusing part of a 3 loop marathon course is that the mile markers read somewhat as follows: you pass a mile marker that says "Mile 9," shortly thereafter you pass a mile marker that reads "Mile 18," finally you pass a mile marker that reads "Mile 1." A little confusing, but on subsequent laps it becomes a little more encouraging. On the second lap, I see the mile marker that I finished, and in seeing the ones to come for the third lap, I think next time I see this marker I'll be on mile 18. Near mile 5, 14, and 23 was a sign that read "Don't think of how far you have to go, think about how far you've come." This was encouraging for the first 2 laps, but by the time I saw it on the 3rd lap, I thought, "Screw that, I'm thinking about the miles I've got left."

As I pass the triathlon park at the end of my second lap, I see my wife Salome on the side of the course. I yell out to her. She is excited to see me and asks which lap I'm on. I tell her I have one lap to go and she is estactic to know that I'm OK. She goes off to work giving out metals while I run my last lap.

By this last lap, the competitors out on the course are mostly walking. I've been taking some walk and potty breaks, but refuse to simply walk this thing in. I come from a running background and I'm going to run this thing in if its only a shuffle.

As I get to about mile 18, I look over and notice I'm running along side a guy that is dressed up in a Forrest Gump costume. Given that John had completed the Halloween Half Marahton along side a guy in a Forrest Gump costume, I laugh out loud. "You have no idea how ironic it would be if we crossed the finish line at the same time," I tell Forrest Gump. "Sorry, dude," the guy replies, "I don't think I can keep up with you." "Oh well, it would have been funny," I think as I pull away from Forrest Gump.

At some point during the run, John had gotten ahead of me. He was obviously not having the stomach problems that I had and finished about an hour ahead of me in 13:18. Salome did not see John finish, but was able to snap some pictures of him after he received his metal.

Meanwhile, I'm going thanking and high fiving the volunteers at the aid stations as I walk through drinking my last round of chicken broth/water. I keep saying, Thanks for everything, but I'm not coming around here again." Over the last several miles, I'm passing a lot of people who can only walk. At the last mile, I start picking up my pace knowing the finish is getting near. When I get to the turn off for the finish line, I see people heading out for yet another loop and feel bad for them. But not bad enough to join them. I gladly turn off for the last half mile to the finish line.

The Finish

I can taste the finish. As I come around the series of turns to the head of the park, I notice the crowds getting thicker and more animated. As I cross into the park for the last hundred yards, the crowd is screaming cheers and I'm high fiving people on both sides. The crowd narrows in on both side so that you come down an ever narrowing shoot. At this point, the excitement of the moment and the crowd have me picking up speed to the point that it feels like I'm almost sprinting. The fatigue of the last several miles is lifted and I feel elated. As I cross the finish line with tears of joy in my eyes, I hear Mike Reilly call out, "William Parady, from Fort Lauderdale, you are an Ironman!" My time: 14:19. All I can say is "Wow, what a rush!" I felt an almost spiritual sense of elation.

As I came across the finish line, volunteers came up to me to see if I'm OK. "Yes," I tell them, "I'm feeling great now." I am handed a bottle of water and go further down the line to where the metals are being given to finishers. I see Salome, but she is talking to a male volunteer also giving out metals who is standing to her right. As I approach her, the guy tries to hang a finisher's metal around my neck. "Sorry, I've got to take my metal from her," I say as I point to my wife. Apparently, Salome hadn't expected me for a while, didn't hear my name announced as I crossed the finish line, and didn't recognize me as I approached her. She went nuts with joy, kissed me and hung my metal around my neck. She asked me why I didn't seem as excited as her. I told her that I was very excited, but with the passing of the adrenaline rush of the finish line now felt tired.

Salome got me wrapped in a heat blanket and whisked me off to the food area, bypassing the area where additional volunteers handed you a finishers shirt and running cap. She realized this error after the fact and arranged to have them mailed to me back in Fort Lauderdale. In any event, my stomach is still a little messed up and can only manage a small slice of pizza. They have a great deal of food available, but I've got no appetite. We meet up with John and we do a man hug. We both are beaming knowing the other guy made it to the finish and neither one of us needs to feel bad for the other guy.

After messages by yet more wonderfully giving volunteers, John heads back to the hotel and I go off with Salome to retrieve my bike and gear bags. On our arrival back at the hotel, we find John sitting next to a bucket of beers on ice and chips accompanied by congratulatory cards to each of us from John's sister. A very classy move. After Salome's departure back to our friend's house where she, my son Alex and my mother in law Kiki are staying, John & I spend the next couple of hours calling west coast friends that would still be awake at 10 PM Mountain Time. After recounting our experiences to each other, I head to the bathroom to shower. Looking in the mirror, I note that my eyes are quite bloodshot. On my return from the bathroom, I note that John's eyes are also very bloodshot. Its been one long day! I lay down and am out like a light at around 11:30 PM. John remains awake until 1 AM doing I know not what. Probably writing down and analyzing his splits.


The next morning, we awake surprisingly early given our efforts on Sunday. I prep my bike and gear bag for return shipping by TriBike Transport. John & I return to the triathlon village to drop my bike and our gear bags. As we walk through the park we note a long line of people lined up to sign up for next year's event. Prior year participants get the first shot at re-upping for the next year. We also retrieve most of our special needs bags from an area where they've all been placed by the event organizers. One of John's two bags is missing. We go over to the IMAZ sales tent where another line is set up to get in and buy finisher's swag. We dutifully get in line and buy shirts, jackets, and assorted other stuff that announces that we are finishers of Ironman Arizona. I normally hate marathon shirts that has the word "Finisher" on it, but for an ironman, it somehow seems very appropriate.

After we spend mo' money, we head over to the awards ceremony. They feed us a very nice breakfast and put on a great ceremony. Normally, neither of us sticks around for these types of events, but for us, this ceremony is special. While we don't know the names of the age group or overall finishers, we are amazed at their times and their physiques. The training for these events may be a form of the fountain of youth, because we saw some people in their later 50s and 60s that look extremely fit. The biggest ovation went out to Rudy, the double leg amputee who failed to finish at Kona in October. He was able to finish in the last hour at Tempe. He got up and thanked everyone. Of course, the crowd gives him a standing ovation.

After the ceremony, we went back to the shopping tent because John had left a prized warm up jacket there by mistake in trying on shirts. Fortunately, someone turned it into lost and found. Then, John made me help him search what would have been every box of special needs bags (about 50 boxes with thousands of bags) looking for his missing special need running bag. Luckily, I found it before too long and we were able to leave the park before it got too hot.

We met up with Maria for lunch back at the Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant to get her race report. She bested both of us with a finish time of 12:15. We all had meat products and I was finally able to drink one of their seasonal micro brews. It was a delicious wheat beer. We spent the rest of the day lounging around our hotel room calling friends and giving our race reports. We ate at a nice Mexican restaurant for dinner and turned in early for the night.

John left the next morning and Salome picked me up from the hotel. Our family spent the rest of the week with our friends in Scottsdale, we made a day side trip to Sedona, and enjoyed Thanksgiving with our friends, Dave & Sue. I was also able to have a nice brunch with my sister and her grown children on Friday. All in all, a pleasant week after IMAZ relaxing and visiting with friends and family.

I'm sure you'll agree that all this was way more than you needed to know. It was more of a mind dump for me to try to get the feelings down before they fade too much into the past. If you've gotten this far, thanks for you patience.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Where Do We Go From Here?

In the weeks since Ironman Arizona, I've been trying to figure out where this blog is going. It started out as a joint commitment to doing an ironman event between buddy John and me. With a little push from our running friend Wayne from Anchorage, a blog of this joint journey commenced.

Writing this blog had the feel of a natural story arc with beginning, middle, and end. That story ended in Tempe. Our paths forward look to be diverging. John has re-upped for another full ironman. I am focusing on a couple half ironman events for 2010. Thus, the joint venture that has been "A Couple of Wild & Crazy Guys" has ceased serving its original purpose.

Additionally, the wife is starting to complain. I've heard a couple of times now: "All you do are marathons and triathlons." I've always felt ad hominem arguments are unproductive, but what can I say. I think it best to lay low for a while. Continued regular posts to a tri blog may be used against me.

So, I've pulled down the future schedule and stripped the site down to its postings. Where do our blogs go after we are done with them? I guess they become little time capsules floating around the ether-net waiting for future internet surfers to come across them and examine them as historic artifacts. Thanks to all of our regular readers. Its been a fun journey.

Before I go, however, I'll do one last blog entry. I kept working on a long version of the Arizona Ironman race report, adding to it and editing it. I'll post it as a holiday present to anyone who cares to read a very long race report. It may be a present best left unopened.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Rest of the Story

"The Rest of the Story" were short segments at the end of radio news programs I used to hear when I was growing up. The segments were hosted by Paul Harvey. These couple of minute features consists of factual stories on a variety of subjects with a surprise or "twist" saved until the end. The bits always concluded with the tag line "And now you know… the rest of the story." Sometimes the stories were a little corny, but often they were stories of human struggle and perseverance.

I was reminded of these vignettes while watching the Ironman World Championship broadcast this Saturday. Narrator Al Trautwig always provides extraordinary commentary of the leaders and the editing always gives a good feel for how the race lead unfolds. Always an inspirational show.

Other than focusing in on the leaders of the race, the show always covers several age groupers, military participants, handicapped athletes, and athletes coming back from injury. Al and the editors usually do a good job at this, but this year I think they fell a bit short. They kind of left us hanging regarding Rudy Garcia Tolson, the double leg amputee that was seeking to complete his first ironman. As you may know from watching the broadcast, Rudy failed to make the bike cutoff. The show focuses on the incredible effort these athletes give before realizing they are not going to finish. The athletes either are stopped from starting the next phase of the race or are simply unable to continue mid-course. The camera shows these athletes dismounting their bikes on the side of the road or stopping on the run and sitting or lying down mid-run. They are done for the day. Its always sad to watch.

The lingering focus on the reluctant acceptance of failure feels somewhat emotionally manipulative. I guess its done in part to show how difficult the event is and how badly these athletes want to finish. Its also used to contrast failure with the thrill of the people who do finish in spite of hardships. A good example was the woman who was coming back from a stroke. As she crosses the finish line, I'm sure no one had a dry eye. I know I didn't.

But back to Rudy. When he is told he didn't make the bike cut off, the camera lingers on Rudy. Its almost like the cameraman was waiting for Rudy to breakdown and cry. Many do; Rudy did not. In fact, when John & I were in Tempe to do the Ironman, Rudy was there. Rudy was brought up at the pre-race dinner and introduced to the crowd. We heard Rudy's story of growing up with deformed legs, his amputation operation and his subsequent efforts to compete in athletics. We heard about his attempt at Kona in October and his failure to make the bike cut off. Rudy spoke to us and let us know that he wasn't giving up. In fact, he was racing with us on Sunday. Less than two months after not finishing at Kona, Rudy was going to give the Ironman another go.

That Sunday, I didn't see Rudy in the midst of the 2800 swimmers, but I did see him on the bike. Its was inspiring to see him ride. John ran by him on the run portion of the race and said, "You're incredible man." "No," Rudy replied, "You're incredible." Rudy wasn't looking for sympathy out on the course; he was simply another athlete trying to get through the Ironman. Rudy finished in the 16th hour of Iroman Arizona. The next day at the awards ceremony, Rudy was again brought up to the stage. We gave him a standing ovation.

While the program editors may have considered it slightly off topic to mention that Rudy came back and finished his ironman in Tempe, it would have shown the undying spirit which makes an ironman. Rudy would not let one failure stop him from trying again and succeeding. An inspiring message that would have been a good post script to the various scenes of failure shown in the Kona broadcast.

So, as Paul Harvey used to say: "And now you know… the rest of the story."

Friday, December 18, 2009

Death to Smoochy

Death to Smoochy is a 2002 movie starring Robin Williams, as a once famous, now infamous child's program host named "Rainbow Randolph" who is displaced by Sheldon Mopes (played by Edward Norton) whose child's program character "Smoochy" has replaced Rainbow Randolph in the hearts and minds of the kids and parents of the world. While Sheldon is full of good will and is just what is called for, Robin Williams character wants to kill Smoochy for making his character obsolete.

The reason I bring it up is that it seems like a fitting analogy for what e-mails, blogging and Facebook are doing to the holiday card industry. I don't know about you, but in the last two years, I've noticed a steady drop in the number of both personal and business holiday cards that come in the mail. From a business standpoint, perhaps the economy is partly to blame, but I've notice I get more of these blast e-mail holiday greetings from both local and national business I deal with like the one here that I received from USA Triathlon.

I've also noticed the little reminders of my friends upcoming birthdays on Facebook. I try to make sure to post a short birthday good wish to my friends when I see its their birthday. In that respect, Facebook has made us all closer. I certainly couldn't keep up with all of my friends birthdays. Prior to Facebook, I could not keep up with all of my friends lives. Thus, I'm a fan of Facebook. I am able to keep in light touch with the goings on of friends from high school and elsewhere around the country that I would find impossible to do otherwise. With Facebook, it doesn't take up more than a few minutes every few days to have a general idea of what your friends are doing.

However, Facebook and blogs seem to have done away with the need for the year end summary we would get in mailed holiday cards. We also get pictures posted over the year, so there is no need for the holiday family photo. Without those inserts, we are reduced to the social formality of sending out cards to family and friends who send us one.

I knew we were getting into a new social norm when I got an e-mail from an aunt and uncle that said that their e-mail holiday message was in lieu of a mailed holiday card. This e-mail holiday greeting is coming from my parent's generation, usually the last to adopt any new internet based practice. If my parent's generation has abandoned the practice of a mailed holiday card, the mailed holiday card is going the way of "Rainbow Randolph."

I'm not saying that this new "Smoochy" era is bad. In fact, I kind of like it. Its just that I grew up in the "Rainbow Randolph" era and its taking me a while to get used to the new social norms. It was always nice to get a personal holiday card in the mail. Those personal cards preserved a little of that childhood joy of a surprise in the mail in the days leading up to Christmas.

I may be an old dog, but I do my best to learn the new "e" tricks. I've ordered myself a Garmin navigation system for the car. I've upgraded to the new waterproof Garmin 310 watch from the "don't submerge" 305. I'm even finally upgrading to an iPhone. However, the death of the mailed holiday card seems immanent.

This became apparent to me as I tried to retrieve my Xmas mailing list from my computer. It seems that as the operating systems on our computers keeps getting updated and "improved," more and more of our old software ceases to function properly or at all. After upgrading our server at the office and centralizing our data, I can not find my Xmas list data. Furthermore, that mailing list software keeps crashing. If there is a conspiracy here, I think its that the operating system upgrades are a mechanism to keep us buying new software. Yea old planned obsolescence.

The point is that I can't find or use my Xmas list data and I don't have the time to try to reconstruct it from scratch. Don't take it as a personal insult if you send a card to me and don't get one in return. Instead, consider this my holiday greeting to you. I know this has little to do with triathlons, running, biking or training, but I did work in USA Triathlon and my Garmin 310. I'll get back to running and triathlon postings soon enough. In the meantime, "Merry Christmas" to my Christian friends, "Happy Hanukkah" to my Jewish friends, and "Happy Festivus" to the rest of us.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Mr. Sluggo Returns

One of my favorite bits from the early years of Saturday Night Live was the Mr. Bill Show. Mr. Bill was a claymation figure that was supposedly the main character of a kids educational show. Each Mr. Bill episode would start innocently enough but would quickly turn dangerous for Mr. Bill. Along with his dog, Spot, he would suffer various indignities inflicted by "Mr. Hands," a man seen only by his hands. Sometimes the abuse would ostensibly come from the mean Mr. Sluggo, another clay character. The violence would inevitably escalate, generally ending with Mr. Bill being crushed or dismembered while squealing in a high pitched voice, "Ohhhh noooooooooooooo..."

Amongst friends, I've sometimes made self deprecating references to myself as Mr. Bill in some of my road races. "Mr. Bill, surely you can run sub 7 minute miles for the marathon." "But, Mr. Hands, I don't think I can sustain that pace for that many miles." "Oh, Mr. Bill, sure you can." "OK, Mr. Hands, I'll give it a try." Then, along comes Mr. Sluggo and jumps on poor Mr. Bill's back. "Oh, Nooooooo!"

I actually found a Mr. Bill plush toy just before going to Tempe for the ironman. I did little comedy bits for John in which Mr. Hands talks Mr. Bill into doing the ironman. "But that water is really cold Mr. Hands." "That's OK, Mr. Bill. Oh look, here comes Mr. Sluggo to give you a little help getting into the water." "Oh, Noooooooo!" I've been reduced to a prop comic.

My alter ego to Mr. Bill is Mr. Sluggo. I become Mr. Sluggo when my energy levels are off and I don't feel like I can work out. Well, Mr. Sluggo has come back for a visit. This is probably not surprising given that the ironman was just over 2 and 1/2 weeks ago. I've been expecting Sluggo for a while. As I said in my last post, Sundays long run of 10 mile felt much longer. Wednesday, I got up early for a 12 mile run with Tony using the run/walk method. It wasn't a particularly hard workout and felt fine. This morning, I had to get up early again to take my mother in law to the hospital for a routine test. So I got up early 2 days in a row. Well, this afternoon, Sluggo returned in a big way. I feel exhausted.

I guess I should feel lucky. Another tri blogger I read, Missy, just came off of a PR in a half ironman event. A couple of weeks later, she was flat on her back in bed with what sounds like flu symptoms. I guess that no matter how well we eat and sleep, there is a price to be paid for doing these big endurance event efforts. We can get great results from our bodies, we just have to expect Mr. Sluggo to come pay a visit afterward. I just hope he doesn't stick around too long.

P.S. at 10 PM - I just found out that John has registered for the Lonestar 70.3 for April 25, 2009 in Galveston, Texas. So, we now both have pretty full schedules for 2010. "You can do it, Mr. Bill." "But Mr. Hands, that's a pretty full schedule." "That's OK, Mr. Bill. Mr. Sluggo will help you." "Oh Noooooooo!" 2010 is going to be another interesting year.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Rest, Recovery & Temptations

I live on a big round ball. I never do dream I may fall.
And even one day if I do, well I'll jump up and smile back at you.
I don't even know where we are. They tell me were circling a star.
Well, I'll take their word, I don't know. But I'm dizzy so it may be so.
Defying Gravity - Jimmy Buffett

Periodization is a concept in sports training of in which you plan a target big event that you want to prepare for and compete in at your top form. Most endurance athletes are familiar with the concepts: base phase, build phase, peak phase and recovery phase. Within a macro cycle, athletes often place micro cycles of base, built, peak and recovery for smaller events as a build up to a major event. If charting fitness over time, the micro cycles end up looking like a series of upward sloping sine waves in which one's fitness level continues to improve over the course of a half year or year long build up toward a major event.

John & I followed this micro/macro periodization in our build up toward IMAZ. I started my build towards the Ironman by starting the year with a series of half marathons in January and February. John was out of action with his snowboard induced calf muscle tear. In March and April, I did 2 Olympic distance triathlons, with John returning to action for the April St. Anthony's event. We then built up towards June's Seattle Marathon. After a short recovery period, we then began our major base build in July and August, checked our progress with the Clermont HIM in September, and built towards our final peak in October, before tapering down for November's peak in Tempe. A pretty flawlessly executed periodization plan if you discount John's snowboard injury and my getting hit by a car in early September. Whether you can say we "peaked" at IMAZ is up to debate, but in my book completing the event was peaking. We both felt good about our training plan and still are proud of sticking to our plans.

As amateur athletes, however, we tend to violate the last step of periodization: recovery and transition. Most of us have no coach sketching out our training schedules and scheduling in rest and recovery periods. This opens the door for the slightly greedy and egotistical move to tack on another event after our major goal race. We hope that we can add one more cycle to that fitness sine wave and squeeze out another good performance without taking the down time to allow the body the rest and recovery it needs before building for another macro cycle. I am as guilty of this phenomena as anyone.

I only bring this up because in the weeks after completing the ironman, I planned to take it easy. I knew this last year was a big build up to the biggest event I had ever attempted. The couple of days after the ironman , I did some serious lounging around as I vacationed in Arizona. It felt good. My body needed the rest and recovery and I planned to give it just that. Then, I came back to Fort Lauderdale and all my training buddies. My first Sunday back, I go for what I plan as a 6 mile easy run with Salome and buddy Tony. Tony is training for the Miami Marathon as his first marathon. He plans to do the Galloway method. I agree to extend my run to 10 miles if we are doing the run/walk method. At about mile 9, Tony suggest that we tack on an additional mile to the run and I end up running 11 miles. Ouch! That was definitely too far to go on my first recovery run.

John e-mails me that he is registering for the Santa 5K run on Saturday. I decline to join in. I can't do a 5K without running it hard, so best to stay away. Then everyone is signing up for a charity century/metric century bike ride. I plan to start riding again, but at shorter distances. Again, I decline. My plan was and still is to take it easy in December, start a base phase in January and do a couple of half marathons in late January and mid February before getting ready for an Olypmic distance tri in March and the Paris Marathon in April.

Saturday morning, I get a race report call from John telling me how he ran a pretty good 5K time and who of our mutual sports friends he met at the race. He informs me that he plans to do the Miami Marathon and shoot for a Boston Qualifying time. He coaxes me out for a 45 minute swim at the pool. As we talk afterward, he mentions a half marathon he wants to do the following weekend. I say I'll consider it.

The next day, I opt for an easy 10 mile run. It feels like more, which tells me my body wants more light workouts and more down time. Afterward, I check my e-mail and find that John has pulled the trigger on the Florida Ironman registration for next November. I don't think he had even one drink in him when he signed up. I lost that bet. I call Tony and John to find out how the ride went. After giving his report, John informs me that he's also thinking about doing the Naples half marathon in mid January. "Tempter be gone!" I say. I tell him he's over scheduling. He rightly points out that I've scheduled events that take me through the end of October, 2010. Touche, dude.

In all fairness to John, last year he ran a half marathon in Fort Lauderdale the weekend after we did the Maimi Man Half Ironman. He ran it well, so I can't criticize his intent to continue the mega cycle and keep getting more fit. He may pull it off. As I said to him as we came across each other during the bike portion of IMAZ: "You are one strong Greek." I just know I can't follow suit. My body is telling me to take it easy for a while. I'm trying to listen to my body and ignore my buddies' tempting calls to get back in the game too soon. Hopefully, I can hold out until the new year.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Looking Ahead

Letting the days go by/let the water hold me down.
Letting the days go by/water flowing underground.

Into the blue again/after the money's gone.
Once in a lifetime/water flowing underground. Once In a Lifetime - Talking Heads

I thought I was done with this blog. John & I completed our mission of doing IMAZ, and I completed my commitment to my buddy Wayne to blog about this year long journey. However, I like to check in occasionally to see if any of our listed followers posted any comments. When I go to check for comments, low and behold there is a new follower of the blog. Who would be signing on at this late date? I've got to check this out.

It turns out to be a Tri-blogger and Ironman athlete named Anne from Texas. Being curious, I read her most recent blog entry. Since completing Ironman Florida last month, Anne keeps getting asked the same question from people she tells about her experience: "Will you do another Ironman?" Funny thing is that John & I are getting the same question. Now, I put that question right up there with asking a woman just after she delivers a baby whether she plans to have more children. The immediate response is: "Are you mad? That was a long and painful experience that I'll never do again." However, the smile of a newborn infant softens the hardened heart; and you can't ignore the feeling of accomplishment and the sense of joy in crossing the finish line of an Ironman. Thus, we live in a world where couples have second and third children. We also live in a world where athletes keep coming back and doing the Ironman distance.

John already keeps bringing up in conversation that he keeps going to the Ironman web site to look at whether the Community Foundation slots are still open for Ironman Florida for 2010. I'm sure that all it will take is for John to come home from one of these holiday parties and do a little drunken registering and he'll be in for IMFL for next November. As his attorney and training buddy, I've advised him to wait and think about it over the holidays and not commit to a registration until the new year. I'm guessing that he'll register after getting home from a New Year's Eve party at approximately 3 AM on January 1, 2010.

As for me, my wife Salome jokingly states that she'll file for divorce if I register for another Ironman event. At least I think she's joking. I know a guy, who knows a guy, who knows a guy, whose friend actually ended up divorced over his commitment to Ironman events, so I don't take her statement totally idly. So for the time being, I plead my 5th Amendment right not to incriminate myself. More importantly, as stated in my last posting, I already registered for a good number of events for 2010, with half ironman events in mid-July (Vineman 70.3) and late October (Miami 70.3). Thus, I've got what I call "prophylactic registrations" that should keep me from doing an Ironman in 2010. I figure I should take a step back and try to get better at these shorter distances before jumping back in to the full ironman again. Like having kids, it looks like it may be best to have them a couple of years apart. It helps your spouse to forget the long months and special needs of getting ready for that special event.

In any event, I liked what I read of Anne's blog and added it to my list of blogs I follow. We now have a whopping 12 people that will publicly acknowledge that they read this thing. I guess I'll have to update the events I'm registered for in 2010. To my knowledge, John is not registered for any events in 2010 yet, but he did register for a 5K Santa run and a 60 mile charity bike ride, both for this weekend. Perhaps he'll post the next blog entry and tell us how it feels to jump back into the thick of things again so quickly.

Same as it ever was... Same as it ever was...Same as it ever was... Same as it ever was...

Monday, November 30, 2009

On Second Thought

I intended to go into a lengthy review of John & my Ironman experiences. I spent a couple of hours doing a draft over the weekend but only got through the days leading up to the event. The narrative was overly long and really only meaningful to John & me. Thus, I've decided to scrap the long narrative in favor of just going through some bullet points of the overall event. Here goes:

1. Nutrition was the hardest thing to get right for the Ironman. Neither of us had to worry too much about this issue prior to this distance. For half ironman events, we simply took some goos, electrolyte tablets, maybe a Cliff Bar and a sports drink. For the Ironman, we were inundated with other people's and book's advice as to try to consume a load of calories during the bike course. The main result of this force feeding for me was to shut my stomach down completely during the run. I had a hard time even drinking water. The best I could make out was to mix the chicken broth from the aid stations with water and try to get my stomach to accept this mixture. I think I would have been better served taking a lot fewer calories and still having the ability to take in fluids during the run. Live and learn.

2. Man were we nervous. As first timers at this distance, there is nothing to compare it to from our past experiences. We figured we had to double our half ironman times and add an hour. This makes one pretty nervous and keyed up during the days leading up to the event. But, there is really no way to prepare for that first time other than doing it. It made for fun banter between the two of us with an undercurrent of hostility. Nothing serious mind you. After the event, all was forgiven and we were buddies again.

3. The mass swim start is insane! A first time for me. I'm used to 20 t0 30 person waves of swimmers. I found myself smack dab in the middle of 2800 swimmers in the open water. John was lucky to have had a little panic and swam off to the far right side of the large group and hug the seawall giving other swimmers only 3 side to hit him. The first five minutes of the swim, I wondering if I'm going to be drown by this extremely self-centered mob. I'm shocked no one gets knocked out and drowns. After the first 5 minutes, things spread out and settle down, but its a wild 5 minutes.

4. The volunteers at these events are by far the best in any sporting event I've ever participated in. They not only help you out of your wet suit in a kind and efficient manner, but the volunteers in the changing tents are like having your personal butler. "Let me wipe your feet for you and help you get on your socks." I haven't had this much help getting dressed since I was 4 years old. The volunteers at the aid stations were quick to get you what you wanted and cheerful and encouraging. This feature was much appreciated on the 2nd and 3rd laps of the marathon run. I was so pleased with these folks that I high fives them all on my last loop, thanked them and told them I wasn't coming back, but I really appreciated everything they had done for me. What can I say about the volunteer giving out metals. My wife Salome was there to greet me and put the metal around my neck. You can ask for more personal attention than that. Thanks for volunteering Salome. And thanks to all the volunteers for going above and beyond the call of duty to give great service.

5. Pain is a funny thing, but not "ha ha" funny. I wondered whether the pain and discomfort of such a long event would be worse than my worst marathon. Not so much. It turns out that the pain and discomfort don't get worse, it just keeps at about the same as any marathon. You just have to endure the pain and discomfort longer. I guess that's why they are call endurance events. Of course the same can not be said for gastro-intestinal issues. I've never dealt with such a tricky situation as when my digestive track decided it didn't like going 14 hours shut down. I guess that is the main difference between these really long events and marathons and half ironman events.

6. It really helps to have a good training buddy to train for and get through these events. I guess you could do the training and go through the event solo, but that would be a lot harder and less fun. Thanks John for all of your time and mutual support in getting ready and training for this event. We saw each other for the first time on the third lap of the bike course and ended up in T2 at the same time. It felt good to know your buddy was hanging in there and that our game plan was working.

7. There is nothing like going down that final shoot high fiving all the people going absolutely nuts in support of your finish. To hear Mike Reilly call our your name and say "You are an Ironman" is just amazing. If that doesn't bring a tear of joy to your eye, nothing will. It makes all of the struggle of the last miles well worth it. What a blast!

8. It was great to have so many friends and family following us live on the internet the whole day that we were doing this event. When I first crossed mats in the run, I thought about the verification that every runner did the full course without cutting corners. As I continued on, I realized that this was also a signal out to friends and family that we were still out there plugging away. It lifted my spirits knowing you all were tracking us. To hear from some of you that you saw our crossing the finish line live on the net was really amazing.

9. It was also great to get all of your calls, e-mails and Facebook posting congratulating us on our achievement. Thank you all from the bottom of our hearts for your good wishes and encouragement along the way. It meant a lot to both of us. Of course, knowing you were all aware of what we were doing also kept our feet to the training fire and kept us going on the course when things got tough. When you have so many people to answer to, you are not giving up. At the end of the event, John bestowed a new nickname on me: "Iron Will." Well, I am the first to acknowledge that the will is forged by the love and support of those who care about us. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

10. To quot one last song: "What a long strange trip its been!" I thought that running the Disney Marathon for my 50th birthday was my gift to myself. It was only in completing this event that pretty much covered my entire 50th year that I realize the Ironman was my gift to myself. I figured turning 50, I didn't want to wait another year before attempting this monster feat. In completing it, I now realize that training and completion of the ironman was the best gift I could have given myself. I'm probably in the best shape of my life from all this training. You can't give yourself a better gift than that.

Well, that about sums it up for me. "Iron John" may want to chime in with his thoughts and feelings about the Ironman. John's blog handle was "Half Iron John (for now)." Be sure to change that to "Iron John" buddy. I started this blog out of a mutual obligation to buddy Wayne Crayton who was to do his Trampathon abroad in Europe where he would run 3 marathons in six weeks as he toured Western Europe. As you may know, Wayne's plans got pushed back a year due to his cardio surgery, but he is recovered and his Trampathon plans for the Spring of 2009 just got rolled forward to the Spring of 2010. Salome & I will join Wayne as well as several other friends in Paris in April to run the Paris Marathon. It will be his second of the three, the other 2 being Rome in March and Madrid in late April/early May. Well buddy, it looked like your commitment to the blogosphere would end first. You just never know how it works out until it plays out. Keep up the good work. I expect full and entertaining reports from Europe.

Me, I've enjoyed doing this blog the last 12 months, but it is like writing a weekly or semi-weekly newspaper column. You've got to think about something to write and try to make it entertaining. I hope I've informed and entertained you guys with these postings. I don't know if I'll keep it up. My schedule of events for next year is already filling up. I wanted to make sure there was life after the Ironman. John took a different tactic of not scheduling any events until after the Ironman was over. I'm sure that John will end up doing plenty if history is any indicator of the future. The guy is busier than I've ever been, a better athlete (at least at distances over the half marathon), and ends up doing more with his free time than I could hope to do. He just may be the guy that they patterned those Dos Equis beer commercials on. Its either him or our buddy Roger. In any event, our schedules will most likely diverge in the coming year. Thus, if I do continue the blogging, I may need to go solo and think up a new name.

Enjoy the holiday season. I know I will. I only plan to do maintenance and recovery workouts until the new year. I think I've earned the rest. Stay thirsty my friends.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Ironman Arizona was this Sunday. Yours truly and buddy John hung in from sunrise to well past sunset to hear Mike Rielly announce and anoint us by saying as we crossed the finish line: "You are an Ironman!" The quick version is that we survived the human chum that is the start of the swim leg with 2800 other swimmers. The bike leg was interesting in that we tried to maintain our planned average speed amid a strong headwind on the mostly uphill outbound portion of the 3 loop course and a killer tail wind on the mostly downhill portion of the 35 mile loops. Tricky math indeed. The marathon was a bit of a survival juggle for me with my stomach totally shutting down the ability to take in even plain water. Thank God for warm chicken broth and amazing volunteers. Our swim times were better than budgeted; the bikes times a little over-budget. John beat his run time estimates to come in at 13:18. I came in one minute and an hour later at 14:19.

The experience was a blast, a joy and a trial all rolled into one, ending with the epiphany of the finish. I have many thoughts and feelings about this that I will go into in a much longer posting after I return home from a much deserved Arizona vacation. I was simply amazed at the number of you that tracked us online. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I am thankful that I was able to complete this year long mission. I'm thankful for all of your interest and support of John and my efforts in this journey. I'm thankful for John's joint efforts in planning and executing this task. Finally, I'm thankful for my family's love and support. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


In order to participate the ancient Olympic games, athletes were supposed to stop their regular mode of making a living, and undergo a minimum of ten months of intensive training. The idea was that the athlete would train full time to get their bodies to an extraordinary level of fitness. In showing up at the Olympic games, the athlete would have to certify that he had undergone the required level of training in order to be allowed to participate in the games. To some degree, national Olympic committees today require a level of fitness and conditioning to participate in various Olympic events by having qualifying standards that must be met in order to be eligible to compete for a spot on that country's Olympic team.

I am ready to attest that training buddy John and I are certifiable to participate in the Arizona Ironman next Sunday. Yes, I know what you're thinking: certifiably crazy! I'm not sure I'd argue that point. Perhaps it is a bit nutty to connect up a 2.4 mile open water swim with a 112 mile bike ride, and topping it all off with a marathon for good measure. But its been done before. Thousands have done so before us. We call them "Ironmen." In any event, it truly is a crazy and amazing endeavor to attempt and achieve. We both have huge respect for the men and women who accomplished this goal. It still kind of boggles the mind that anyone can complete an event that starts at sunrise and goes on for 10 plus hours.

I'm not exactly sure how we even got to the mental place that got us to think that doing an Ironman was even within the realm of our achievement. I guess its doing the events leading up to this crazy distance. We've both done many marathons. That's about a 3 1/2 hour to 4 1/2 hour endeavor, depending on the course and our conditioning. Then, we started doing sprint triathlons, events that take in the range (for us) from around 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes. That opened the door to the question of which was more demanding: a marathon or a half ironman. The half ironman is about a 6 to 7 hour endurance event (again, for us at least). Of course, there was only one way to answer that question. So about a year ago, John & I did the Miami Man Half Ironman. Low and behold, it could be done. I guess that only opens yet another door of whether we were up to the full ironman distance.

Knowing full ironman events fill up quickly, we registered last November for the Ironman Arizona. We then started researching a training plan, nutrition plans, and questioned all of our buddies that had done ironman events and came up with a training plan. For the last 10 months or so, we dedicated ourselves to training for IMAZ. We threw in a summer marathon, did several Olympic distance triathlon events, and a half ironman in September as a gut check on our training. We did three 2 1/2 mile swims, 3 century rides, and two 2o mile runs in preparation for this event. We have other friends that completed ironman events on less training than this, but this was what we figured was appropriate training for this distance. We did each and every scheduled long training event, never skipping a major workout. Unlike Olympic athletes that train pretty much full time for their events, we did all this while trying our best to maintain our work and family lives. This level of training does suck up a ton, if not all, of your free time. But I'm here to certify that we did all the training we planned to do in preparation for this event. We are ready for this event.

But like all athletes that do all the hard work to get to the Olympic, we can still mess up our event by failing to follow our game plan. John & I both scuba dive and one of the rules of diving is to "plan your dive" and "dive your plan." John is very good at following his game plan to a tee; me, I have a history of going rogue. I usually pay for this mistake. Thus, I plan to not let any feelings that I'm doing well cause me to change the plan. I have no time goal in mind. I simply want to complete this event. In playing it conservatively, I'm budgeting 14 to 15 hours to complete the event. If I do better, great; if it takes longer, that's OK too. At this point, I simply want to get the hoped for payoff for all this hard work: crossing the finish line.

This is probably my last posting before next Sunday's event. I want to thank all of you that have given John & me guidance and advice in preparing for this event. Thanks to all of you who have taken the time to read my somewhat longish blog entries. Thanks mostly to buddy John for all the virtual and actual training together. I know it would have been immensely harder to get all this training in without knowing he was either meeting me for a ride or run, meeting at the pool, or doing a separate workout that I needed to match. Finally, thanks to my family for putting up with this whole endeavor. Now, we just need to fly out to Arizona and get this thing done. At this point, I'm excited, nervous and itching to go.