Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Ironman: The Run

The run was by far the worst leg of the race, which means it has the best stories. Trust me, there are some good ones in here and I promise I'll only discuss body functions for a little bit.

I wasn't feeling terrible at the start of the run, but I wasn't feeling great either. My legs had a little bit of residual cramping, my foot was hurting from the blister I got from the bike pedal, and my stomach was a little bit off. In Coeur d'Alene, I had problems because I was bloated and gassy and couldn't... "expel" anything. In Wisconsin, I was bloated but I had gasses flying out of just about every opening they could find so that was an improvement.

I ran the first two miles pretty well, but my stomach started feeling worse so I started walking. I remembered the advice that Steve gave me in Idaho, which I didn't follow back then. He told me to stick my finger down my throat and I'd feel better. This time, I thought I'd give it a try. At the next support area I went into a Port-A-Potty and put the finger in. I did a little coughing, so then I tried sticking it down farther, and farther. And I gagged. And gagged. And gagged. I felt bad for anyone listening outside because I was making all sorts of horrible noises. I never actually vomited, but I did get some slimey stuff into my mouth to spit out. And you know what? It felt great. My stomach felt better, my legs didn't hurt as much and I was able to run right away. I'm telling you, these bulimics are really on to something.

The course did a loop through the University of Madison football stadium where we ran on ultra-soft astro-turf. After the race, everyone seemed to be complaining about how much we sank in the turf and how tough it was to run on, but I thought it was pretty cool. Frankly, it was a welcome change from the hard concrete sidewalks we had in some sections to run on something soft.

The first loop was fairly uneventful. I ran a little, I walked a little. I didn't care for the course much at all. It twists and turns all over the place, and takes you through back alleys around the campus. It's just not a very scenic course.

The Special Needs stop was right after the start of loop two. I packed some extra body glide in there which I took with me. I also had a big bag of Animal Crackers. I gave the bag to the volunteer and said "these are for you guys if you want to take a snack break. Thanks for being here!" They LOVED me. The one girl said that I was the best runner in the entire race. I am not above bribing people, but I think they were genuinely grateful that I thought to give them something.

My foot, somehow still injured from the bike, started hurting more and more. By mile 14 I wasn't even walking, it was more of a limping shuffle. And that's when I had a revelation: there is an unwritten philosophy among "ordinary" Ironmen that "as long as I can make the bike cut-off, I can always walk the marathon and finish the race." Well I realized that it is very easy to do a 6:30+ marathon. At the pace I was limping, I don't think I would have made the midnight cut-off. I stopped at one of the support areas, sat down and took off my shoes and socks. The funny thing is that I couldn't find the blister that was causing so much pain. It was something else, some kind of pressure point on a bone or something. I slathered my feet with body glide and put a band-aid on the tender spot. That seemed to do the trick. Although my foot was still sensitive, I wasn't getting any sharp pain any more and I was able to run again.


Around mile 16 I came across a bunch of college students who were partying on their front porch. They had speakers blasting outside and were dancing the Macarena. It looked like fun, and it wasn't like I had anything better to do, so I went over to their house and did a few rounds of the Macarena with them. They thought I was awesome, and they were right. One of the guys came up to me and asked "hey, you want a beer?" I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I looked at him and asked "are you serious? YES!" I looked around to make sure there were no race officials around (technically, having a beer along the course counts as "outside assistance", I think) and took a few gulps. Cheap college beer never tasted so good. University of Wisconsin House 132; you guys ROCK!

Shortly after that I saw Ben coming back on his return loop. That made me kind of sad because Ben probably should have been about 2 hours ahead of me and he was only about 1 hour ahead. This meant he wasn't having a great race. Ben Bonked Bad. Boo. Another mile down the road I was saddened again (yet delighted as well) because I caught up with Greg. Greg should have been an hour ahead of me but he was hurting a bit and walking. I asked him if he would run with me for a bit, and he did.

We were just getting to the one really cool part of the run. "State Street" is the main drag through town where all the college restaurants and bars are, so it is packed with people. And let me tell you: people love cheering for Disney. When people see the Disney logo on my jersey, I always get shouts of "Go Disney!" or "We love Disney!" or "Do you know the Jonas Brothers?!" But when you have TWO people in matching Disney jerseys running side-by-side, that's an extra special thing. And frankly, Greg and I were pretty shameless hyping up the crowd for extra applause. It was a lot of fun.

Greg and I spent the next 7 miles constantly negotiating with eachother: "let's run to the next water stop then we'll walk." "we'll walk to the turnaround, then run for the way back." I'm sure I would have walked more if I hadn't run into Greg, and hopefully he felt the same. The big motivator for me (and by extension, for Greg) was that there was still a chance I could beat my Coeur d'Alene time (14:45).

Your brain does funny things to you during Ironman. Our support team was all wearing red Disney Ironman shirts (designed by Old British Stuart, very cool). We saw Ben's girlfriend in the red shirt cheering us on at mile 20, and then - unbelievably - I saw her in the red shirt again at mile 21. I didn't think this was one of those twisty-turny sections of the course where she could have taken a short cut, so I yelled out "you're fast! YOU should be doing this race!"

Well of course, like something out of a Bugs Bunny cartoon, it turns out it was Greg's sister in the matching shirt. It was dark, I had never met Greg's sister and by this point I had been racing for over 12 hours so I think I deserve a break.


The funniest/saddest moment of the entire race happened around mile 23. We had just finished a run segment and started walking again. About 50 feet in front if us, we saw an older gentleman - not a racer - walking down the street carrying a bag of groceries. Basically he was a 60-70 year old local walking back from the store. Greg and I started discussing - nay, fantasizing about what he had in the bag. Maybe he had Advil? Cookies?Mountain Dew? Whatever he had, we wanted it.

But here's the funny thing: as we were watching him, we realized he was pulling away from us. 50 feet... 60 feet... 70 feet... Here was this senior citizen doing some errands and we two Ironman Triathletes couldn't even catch him. That's just sad.

With about one mile to go, I saw Steve again. He took this amazing photo of us. The smiles mask a lot of pain but admit it, we look good.

We had a lot of time (8 miles) to discuss how to handle the finish line. Did we want to have our own individual finish photos, or should we cross together? Since we were wearing matching Disney Uniforms, we kind of knew that a dual finish photo would look pretty cool and would be the kind of photo that would be used in slide shows for years to come.

Being a little obsessive/compulsive, I also wanted to plan the whole finishing-chute protocol (like I said, we had a LOT of time to kill.) Basically we were going to run on opposite sides of the chute giving out high-fives to our throngs of fans, and then we would meet up in the middle and raise our hands in victory for the finisher photo. But the pre-chute chute only had people on one side so I just wound up running behind Greg for the high-fives and then pulled up next to him for the very end. The first person I saw was New British Stuart (who finished about 5 hours earlier, 2nd in age group, qualified for Kona) and then I saw the rest of our gang.

Finishing an Ironman is mostly just a relief, but I was happy to beat my Coeur D'Alene time by 15 minutes. I think Greg was happier than I was to be finished, because he wound up going to medical and getting the IV. Apparently you need to lose 5 pounds during the race to be eligible to get stuck with a needle; Greg lost 10. He was fine.

So that was pretty much it. We swam, we biked, we ran and Ironman Wisconsin is now history. I think we all kind of made a pact that we were finished doing Ironmans (Steve suggested taking up guitar lessons). But we'll see how that holds up.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Ironman: T2

Very uneventful. I ran in saying to myself "don't forget the body glide... don't forget the body glide..." (for the nether regions). I changed into my running shoes and asked the volunteer for glide. They had Vaseline instead. I've never tried Vaseline before and I think I scooped too much out of the jar. But I did my business with it and headed out for the run.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Ironman: The Bike

Ah, the infamous Ironman Wisconsin bike course. For a year now, I have been warned over and over about the hills of Wisconsin. And I will say again that I never questioned the difficulty of the course- I simply questioned the motives of the people who felt compelled to bring up the hills every time I mentioned Wisconsin. To summarize the Ironman Wisconsin Bike Segment: there are NO difficult sections of the course whatsoever. Yet it is a difficult course. More on that later.

Since we had to run up one spiral parking garage ramp to get into transition, we had to ride down a spiral parking garage ramp to leave. It was more dizzying than exciting. And then the first few miles of the course are, for want of a better word, annoying. There's a section along a bike/running path where you have to ride single file around hairpin turns. We had to ride in and out of parking lots and along bumpy, poorly paved roads. There MUST have been a smoother, easier way to get out of town but we sure didn't take it.

Once we DID leave town however, things started getting nice. Every corner looked like a postcard of Heartland America. Farmhouses, corn fields, a few cows here and there... it really was rather nice. And Wisconsin has a somewhat unique course layout: rather than doing two loops that bring you back to the main starting area twice, you ride out 14 miles, THEN do two 42-mile loops, then head back to town. Emotionally, it's kind of a downer to get right back where you started only to have to do everything all over again. And since the looped section is only 42 miles (rather than 56), the ride is broken up better. I really like that aspect of the course.

What I didn't like was all the turning we had to do along the way. If you read the course description, there are nearly 40 turns per loop. That means that on average you have to turn on to a new road about once every mile. That's crazy. And if you're not turning, you're either starting to climb a small hill or coasting down the other side. But at no point during the course can you get into any sort of rhythm and just ride.

We had all been advised/warned/threatened to "take it easy on the first loop, then push it on the second loop." So I spent the first half of the ride worrying "am I going TOO easy? am I not going easy enough?" The reality of Wisconsin is that the course itself isn't very difficult. The biggest hills might be a little bigger than what we do every Wednesday night in Griffith Park; they're certainly easier than the hills in the Malibu Sprint triathlon. And when you get to the 3 "longest" hills of the course, the road is lined with people holding signs and dressed up in inappropriate costumes (several speedo guys) so it's actually kind of fun. If Wisconsin was part of the Ironman 70.3 series, and was a 56-mile ride with only one loop, it would be a SPECTACULAR course.

But a funny thing happens while you are rolling up and down all of those small hills. Your energy reserves are being sucked out of you without you realizing it. The 2nd loop felt VERY different than the 1st loop. Around mile 70, a few miles before the "big" hills, I got a bad cramp in my right leg. Not excruciating, but bad. And unfortunately I couldn't remember what you're supposed to do when you get a cramp. Do you clip out and stretch it? Do you go down to a low gear and use a high cadence to work it out? I wasn't sure what to do so I just did everything. I pedaled fast and I pedaled slow and I stretched it and I kept it still. I DID remember to pop a few salt tablets, so that may have helped. But then a few miles later I got a lesser cramp in my left leg. I was a little nervous about the hills the 2nd time around but they're so short that they really weren't a big deal.

Besides the cramps, I had another problem on the bike. Somehow, I was getting a blister on my foot from pedaling. This never happened to me before. And the funny thing is that when I went in for a bike fitting, the guy told me "if you start feeling pain on the bottom of your foot, then you know that ___________." For the life of me I couldn't remember what he told me. Were my shoes too tight? Was I pedaling too hard? It got to the point that the vibrations from riding over the seams in the road was actually painful for me.

Nutrition-wise, I stuck with my Carbo-Pro and Kool-Aid mixture with gels on the hour. That seemed to work pretty well. There really was no reason for me to stop at Special Needs, but I figured I deserved a treat. That morning I packed up a Mountain Dew in some ice and a thermal bag and hoped beyond hope that it would last until I made it to the Special Needs stop. Well, it it did. The ice cubes were still solid and the Dew was super cold and it was oh-so-very-yummy. Well worth the stop.

Probably the highlight of the bike ride came right as I was finishing my first loop. Some of the pros/age-group leaders lapped me (finishing their second loop) and we met up right at an aid station. So I was riding by screaming out "Gatorade!.... Water!" right in the middle of the pros, and they were grabbing bottles right along with me. For those 10-15 seconds or so, I really felt like I was in the middle of a race. I mean, I WAS in a race, but it just felt like I was a part of "them". It was very cool.

Of course, lest anyone think that I actually was a pro, I struggled for about 60 seconds trying to stuff the new water bottle into the back pocket of my bike jersey. And then it slipped out of my hand on to the road in the middle of a race chute with hundreds of people on either side cheering. Had a race official seen me, I guess it would have been a penalty for littering but I thing I would have caused a huge accident if I stopped to retrieve it. And who knows, maybe the water bottle DID create an accident behind me; I never looked back to check.

The last 10 miles or so heading back to town were a little rough. After I crested every hill, I thought "OK, NOW it's all downhill. But there seemed to always be one more little hill to deal with. And of course, we all had to deal with the narrow bike path with the hairpin turns and the parking lots at the very end. The very last thing you have to do is climb up the spiral parking garage ramp once again.

With the cramps and the blisters and the energy-sucking rolling hills, it seemed like a difficult course at the time, and it was. But when I think back on some of our training rides, we rode worse. I said that 6:30 would be a fantastic bike time for me and I did 6:37, so it was a pretty good ride.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Ironman: T1

One of the highly-promoted features of Ironman Wisconsin is "you get to run up a spiral parking ramp designed by Frank Lloyd Wright!"

I live in a condo with a multi-level parking garage. I drive to work where I have a multi-level parking garage. In the evenings I go to the mall where there is a multi-level parking garage. I don't care if Michelangelo designed it, parking garages don't impress me and the whole running-up-the-ramp thing was a big nothing.

I was ahead of schedule coming out the swim, so I intentionally took it a little easy going through T1: better to go through it smart than to rush through it and miss something. Transition in Wisconsin is a little weird; after you run up the parking garage ramp, you have to go inside the convention center to the actual transition area. So people are running through hallways and slipping in and out of spandex in the same room where the Sisters of Devine Charity will be holding their annual reunion the next day. It just doesn't feel right.

One nice thing about being slow in the water is that it's very easy to find your transition bag. Many of them were already out of the room, so I just pointed it out to the volunteer- THAT one. There were not a lot of people in the changing room, yet it still felt crowded. Something about the flow through the room was just ... off ... somehow. In Coeur d'Alene, I had a volunteer dedicated to me; he stayed with me the entire time, which actually was a little annoying because he was almost TOO helpful. I just wanted to time to focus. In Wisconsin, it seemed like they were taking a zoned-defense approach, with one volunteer supporting 2 or 3 people at a time. Ultimately it seemed to be ok, but I was a little nervous that my gear might get mixed up with someone else's bag. It worked, but it just felt more chaotic than it should have been.

From the Too-Much-Information Department: There's one thing I forgot to do before the race began, and I forgot to do it again in T1. I didn't put any body glide... down there. It wasn't going to be an issue during the bike, but it was going to be VERY important for the run. Let me tell you, for 112 miles I was chanting to myself "don't forget the glide in T2... don't forget the glide in T2..."

When you leave the building to go pick up your bike, there is a long line of port-a-potties. I figured I didn't want to stop along the bike and that I should take advantage of the opportunity. The odd thing was that there was a wall of cheering spectators maybe 20 feet away, and the plastic enclosure does all sorts of weird things with acoustics. It sounded like people were right outside the door, and I SWEAR I thought I could hear people screaming "Go Wedgie!" I knew that I was just mis-hearing things, but I have to say, when you're trying to do your business and you hear people screaming words of encouragement outside, it adds a bit of unnecessary pressure.

11:27 T1 time. That's pretty slow, even for Wisconsin which has a large Transition area and a reputation for slower times. But I didn't care. My Swim+T1 time was what I was expecting my Swim time to be, so I was happy to be starting the bike early.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Ironman: The Swim

I like to think that I was pretty calm race-day morning, although when Ben came to my door at 5am I know I stared at him with a deer-in-the-headlights glance.

Greg's mom acted as Team Mom, giving us suntan lotion and lens cleaners on basically just doing Mom stuff. 90% of all stressful situations are better when Moms are around, even if they aren't your's. So go call your mother.

You may recall about two weeks ago I was worried about a half-inch hole in my wetsuit (which Mentee George fixed for me.) It was stupid of me to worry about it. Because as I was adjusting the fit of my suit, I reached behind myself and felt... the skin of my own back. It took me a few seconds to process what was going on, but basically I had a 4-inch tear in the back of my wetsuit. Apparently the other guys on the team saw it but all agreed amongst themselves: "don't tell Wedgie! He'll just freak out about it!" Well that was a good guess on their part, but honestly I think I handled it pretty well. There was absolutely nothing I could do about it so I just had to accept it. (I don't think it made any difference in my swim, but I could feel water going in and out of it.)

I didn't think I would like doing a water-start, but I actually preferred it over the land-start they had in Coeur d'Alene. It gave us a few extra minutes to stretch out a bit in the water and to even... dare I say it... relax. I assumed that everyone would be packed in nice and tight in the water for the start, but that was not the case at all. There were a bunch of people lined up at the start line, but behind them there were large patches of open water. I don't think anyone was within 20 feet of me at the start,

Of course, about 2 seconds after the canon went off I was being kicked and grabbed from every direction. In sense, the "washing machine" works to my advantage because normally I can't swim in a straight line to save my life. But by banging up against people if I veer off course it forces me to go in the right direction. It was probably my straightest open-water swim ever.

The swim came to a dead halt rounding the first two buoys which was a little frustrating, and the momentum changes made me swallow more water than I should have. (The proper amount of water to swallow being "none.") So I wasn't too happy about that, but I kept at it And I have to say I was totally thrilled with my goggles and the fact that I trimmed my eyelashes so I could wear them. I was kicked in the face - hard - three times. I felt the goggles shift each time but they never leaked, and it was only after the third kick that I stopped for 3 seconds to adjust them. Aquasphere Kaimans. Love 'em.

I knew I was having a good swim; it just felt fast to me. It took me 50 minutes to do a practice loop on Friday, and I thought I might be doing a 45-minute loop. I checked my watch after loop one and it was 43 minutes. This made me happy because a) it was a speedy time for me, and b) I was fast enough that I wasn't looped by the Pros. Yes, it would have been kind of cool to see the front guys zipping past me but psychologically it just good that they didn't.

Going into the race I was absolutely certain I would swim 1:40-1:50, so I was very excited when I got out of the water after 1:33. But the swim was not over; I had to get out of my wetsuit. On Saturday I met briefly with tri-bloggers extraordinaires Steve in a Speedo and Pharmie who were in town volunteering. And let me tell you, they just exude friendliness. Great getting a chance to see them person. Anyway, they were stationed at the swim exit in the morning and I told them I wanted them to be my exclusive wetsuit strippers. As I ran past all the other strippers, people kept yelling at me "here! over here!" and grabbing me to help me with my wetsuit. But I kept screaming "No! I'm looking for someone specific to help me! STEVE! STEVE!" I was so excited when I finally saw them way at the end of the line. And they stripped me down good. It was one of the highlights of the day for me, being able to make that connection in the middle of the race. Thanks guys!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Ironman: Summary Overview

I learned an important lesson at Ironman Wisconsin, one that will save me lots of time and money in the future. As it turns out, I really enjoy BECOMING an Ironman, but I don't actually enjoy DOING Ironman. When I did Coeur d'Alene, even when I was sore and hurting I was always still excited to be a part of the race. In Wisconsin, when I was sore and hurting, I was just sore and hurting. There were many times throughout the day when I was just plain unhappy.

However, I really can't complain too much. By the numbers, I had an excellent race. A month ago I predicted a 15:15 finish, but I upgraded a bit. I told the people who were watching us I would finish in 14-15 hours, and I came in at 14:28. A 1:30 swim would have been a miracle swim for me and I did 1:33. 6:30 would have been an amazing bike and I did 6:37. 5:30 would have been a great run and I did... well I did more than 5:30 but overall my times were good.

There were some lows and some highs throughout the day and I'll be going over them all in the upcoming posts. But as a general overview, I told myself that if I had a great experience in Wisconsin I would update my tattoo to somehow commemorate the event; I think my tattoo is fine just the way it is.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Ironman: pre-swims and rides

There is a small dark cloud hanging over Ironman Wisconsin; a couple weeks ago a local woman drowned in the lake while training for the race. Her photo is on the cover if the local free weekly paper all over town. And then on Wednesday, a second person was either swimming from his boat or fell overboard and went missing. He is presumed drowned.

In addition to that, there is a big algae outbreak which is killing the fish. We saw a huge dead fish washing up on shore Thursday. Today we went back down to the water to do our practice swim and Greg asked one of the lifeguards "did you guys get rid of the dead wish?" The lifeguard misheard him and said "the dead body? No, they still haven't found the body." So we are swimming in a lake with a dead body in there... somewhere. Nope, not creepy at all.

Apparently the water quality is pretty bad because of the algae. Now far be it from me NOT to complain about something, but here's how I see it: we normally do our swims in the Pacific Ocean. The water is cold and we are fighting the surf. We get tangled up in strands of seaweed 8 feet long. There are pools of who-knows-what-kind-of-sewage. In Madison, the lake is warm and smooth as glass so I'm thinking we never had it so good.

We did a complete loop of the course, a 1.2 mile swim. I did it in about 50 minutes, and I suspect with fatigue a second loop would take me 10 minutes longer. So that would put me at a 1:50 swim which is even slower than I was planning on but still way-within the race cut-off. I've convinced myself I'm not going to worry about it.

After the swim we decided to ride the bike course. Dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb. Everything was wrong. For starters, on race day all the streets will be blocked off for us. But when during our ride, we had to hit the traffic lights and stop signs at just about every block. And there is a section of the course that takes us right through the heart of the college campus, so we had to fight our way through crowds of thousands of college students walking between classes. Add to that the fact that the course has many turns along it, and we kept getting lost. So we rode the 13.1 mile course, made several wrong turns, and got back to hotel having ridden less than 8 miles. You do the math. The one good thing about it is that we seemed to confirm that there aren't really any major hills to worry about, unless we skipped them during one of our missed turns.

That afternoon Stacey from EST took us out to Wal-Mart for a supplies-run. This was one of those monstrous "Super Wal-Mart" stores. I don't know if you've heard of the "People of Walmart" site, but while we were there I decided to make my own contribution:

Cheryl went to Walmart with us; she's in Madison to watch her husband race. She picked up a large dry-erase board so she can make signs and then change them throughout the day. Very clever. I may have to consider that for my next spectator race.

Various friends and family members of the Disney Team came into town and He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named suggested a nearby Italian place for dinner. Apparently it is quite amusing to watch me custom-order dinner, but I don't think it's strange to want a plain chicken breast with no coating, no sauce; penne-shaped pasta- no sauce; salad-no dressing. And of course a Mountain Dew.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

ironman: settling in

Today we took a van tour of the bike course. Did you know Wisconsin is hilly? But what seems more annoying is that there are a LOT of turns along the course. Not just curves in the road, but full 90-degree turns. The course certainly seems doable, but the biggest issue may be the cows. Who doesn't love cows, right? One of the first things every human baby learns is "the cow goes 'mooooo'". Our entire lives we are taught to love cows and they look great in storybooks or on TV. The problem is that in the real world, cows smell. Really bad. Perhaps we should teach our children "the cow smells 'baaaaaaad'". But that might confuse them with sheep. We hit a few spots on the road where the stench was unbearable riding in the air-conditioned van, so I can't imagine what it will be like when we're climbing hills gasping for air taking in giant gulps of cow fragrance.

Madison is a big college town, and State Street connects the Capitol (where our hotel is) to the university. It's a 6-block strip of shops and restaurants and seems to be the definitive area to go to eat. We were walking along State Street discussing our lunch options when one ofthe friendly locals overheard us. He asked if we were looking for a place to eat, and I told him "yeah, we're looking for something simple... burgers and sandwiches." He told us "Oh, there's a fabulous Nepalese place just a few blocks from here." Nepalese is simple? We then clarified: "we're doing the big race in a couple days and we can't have anything that has the slightest risk of upsetting our stomachs." He replied "well they have a wonderful Salmon in Mango Sauce." We asked for a burger, and he's giving us Nepalese Salmon? People in Madison are weird. We went to Subway.

Registration seemed a little disorganized. It was essentially spread out over 4 rooms on two floors. There was a woman in front of us holding her 6-week-old baby and she was doing the race (the woman, not the baby). But she's cheating because asshe explained to us, during post-pregnancy women still have increased blood-volume which is great for racing. She didn't explain how she trained for the past four months with a creature growing inside her.

As part of our package deal with Endurance Sports Travel, we have a private mechanic who comes to the hotel to work on our bikes. Oh. My. God. This is the only way to travel. I had 2 flats in 2 days so I had "Dallas" check the wheel and had him adjust the shifting and just do an overall check-up on the bike. He was the MacGyver of bike repair and was giving us a punch of helpful tips. Like using a cotton ball to shim your front derailer. And cutting up a soda can and rubbing the metal along the inside of your tire to find any tiny pieces of glass embedded in the rubber. Or maybe it was the other way around and the cotton ball was for the tire. Whatever. All I know is that having your own mechanic on call is suh-weet.

Stacey from EST took us out for a carb-load dinner Thursday night where we met "Stuart." Stuart is from England and was also traveling with EST. I really enjoyed comparing training plans and race strategies with him. You see, Stuart is doing Wisconsin because he had to give up his qualified Kona slot this year and wants to get qualifying for 2010 out of the way. His best Ironman time is 9:10. We're talking serious zoom-zoom. He explained to us the benefits of how beet root juice enhances endurance by 16 percent; I explained to him how yummy Mountain Dew was during a race. (I am honored to have given him his first taste of Dew.) I don't think he was quite prepared for the hero-worship from the rest of the group, but he handled us with typical british grace.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Ironman: The Travel

I am definitely one of those "nervous flyers". (No surprise there.) But even I have to admit the trip to Wisconsin was rather uneventful.

You would think I would be one of those people who has to get to the airport early. Nope. I had a 6:50 flight out of LAX. I left my home a little after 5, checked my bag a little after 6 and was on the plane at 6:30. I was a little annoyed that the "breakfast snack" on the plane was basically cheese and crackers FOR NINE DOLLARS but they only charged me 3 bucks. Outstanding. And the flight was 99% turbulence-free.

I had to connect through Chicago, so on the flight from Chicago to Madison it was pretty obvious who was going to Ironman. Some people were wearing Ironman shirts, others were wearing shorts with no hair on their legs. And others... well they just LOOKED like triathletes. The guy next to me was in that 3rd group, but apparently he didn't feel the same way about me: during the flight he asked me if I was going to Madison on business. I guess "corporate stooge" is just the kind of vibe I give off.

We made our plans through Endurance Sports Travel and Ken and Stacey picked me up from the airport. Ken Glah, veteran Ironman finisher/winner and the guy behind EST, was holding a bottle of Mountain Dew in his hand when I met him so I instantly liked him.

We're staying in the Official Race Hotel, or at least one of them, and the hotel has an amazing view of the Wisconsin capitol building:

Unfortunately, our rooms our on the opposite side of the hotel so this is our view:

Still, it's about 3 blocks from the race area (or as I call it, "The Olympic Village") and it's all about location, location, location.

Jon Cryer vs. Wedgie, round 5

People thought I was crazy when I said that my arch-triathlon nemesis Jon Cryer was evil. For the record, I DEMOLISHED him the first year I did the Nautica Malibu Triathlon... and then he kinda sorta beat me every year since. I don’t mind losing, but Cryer’s public mocking of me is just plain childish. Even after I posted video of him smack-talking me last year, I still had people doubting that Cryer hated me.

Well he’s at it again this year. I want to thank Paulie for pointing out a recent issue of Runner’s World that featured an interview with Jon Cryer. You can look it up for yourself, but no need; I have it all here for you. You don’t need to read the whole thing, I’ll give you highlights:

First note that he calls me a “terrible rival”. How unsporting is that?

It gets worse:

His trainer told him “Wedgie really, really beat your ass man” obviously referring to my first year with the Tri Team. So Cryer started training (and no doubt doping) “...all to crush and humiliate Wedgie.” I even tried to be nice to him: he admits “I tried to trash talk Wedgie before the 2008 Malibu Triathlon, saying all these awful things about him.” I of course tried to be the bigger person: “(Wedgie) came up to me right before the race and said ‘Hey you’re going to win today.'” But Cryer didn’t care. His pettiness sickens me.

Newbie-Relay-Triathlete Michael sent me this article from Bicycling where Jon Cryer openly admits his obsessive behavior:

Can you believe this guy?

“I create a rivalry with a fellow competitor who doesn’t even know he’s my rival. He’s enjoying his life while I’m fiercely devoted to beating him. A few years ago, it was Wedgie, who is actually a really nice guy. I trash-talked him before the race, even though I’ve never met him. He had no idea we were competing, but I did beat him.”

And now it seems that Jon Crybaby is upset that I can’t do Malibu this year (it’s the same day as Ironman Wisconsin.)

“This will be the first race that I don’t have a rival, so I’m not sure how I’ll do.”

Oh, I know how you’re going to do Jon Cryer... You’re going to embarrass yourself.

NOW do you people believe me?! Jon Cryer hates me!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Time Change?

I've been predicting a 15:15 finish time in Wisconsin. If you're in Vegas this weekend, it's probably not a bad bet. But I'll also give a more optimistic outlook of what could happen this weekend.

If I grab hold of someone's foot and have them tow me maybe I can do a 1:30 swim. But truly, anything under 1:45 will be a gift. With transitions, I'm still saying 2:00 for swim+T1+T2.

I know Wisconsin is a hilly bike course, but that just means more opportunities to zoom downhill, right? And for the uphills, I'm a decent climber and am even better on my new bike. So although I'm saying 7:00 for the bike, I think I can pull off a 6:30.

As for the run, I need to let go of the fantasy 5-hour Ironman Marathon I've thought about for 2 years. Rather than starting out at 10-minute miles trying to build a buffer for when i start slowing down, I need to start slow and keep a steady 12:30 minute-mile pace. That's a 5:30 marathon with the option for a negative split to bring it down to maybe 5:15.

2:00 + 6:30 + 5:30 = knocking on the door of 14 hours, which would be 45 minutes faster than Coeur D'Alene. If my nutrition holds up, the math works out.

Monday, September 07, 2009

True Friendship

You may recall I tested some Aqua Sphere Kaiman goggles from Bicycle John's and loved them. The only issue I had was that the slim profile caused my eyelashes to rub against the lenses every time I blinked. My eyes became irritated very quickly. Well, a while ago I found another flaw: they're not great in rough water.

I was doing a swim in Redondo Beach and since I was by myself I didn't want to wander too far from shore, so I did a lot of ins-and-outs. Unfortunately, the surf was pretty rough and I was being tossed around a lot. The final wave as I was getting ready to leave the water completely wiped me out and ripped the Kaimans off my head. I never saw them again.

Over the past few weeks I've been switching around between other goggles, but none were as comfortable as the Kaimans. I finally broke down and bought myself a new pair. But then I was stuck with my same old problem: would my eyes be able to handle over 100 minutes of brushing against the lenses? For Ironman, do I use less-comfortable goggles that don't irritate my eyes, or go with the Kaimans and hope for the best? Well, I came up with a third option.

Stupid Dutch stopped by for a visit and I told him "I have a strange favor."


"You see, I have these swim goggles that I really like. They are lightweight and very comfortable."


"And they have a very low profile, which gives you excellent vision."


"But the problem is, the lenses are so close to my eyes that when I blink my eyelashes scrape against the plastic."

I could see him starting to cringe "O...K...."

"So I want you to trim my eyelashes."

Stupid Dutch looked like I had just told him I sat on a rattlesnake. Which is pretty much how I expected him to react. But this is how you find out who your true friends are: a true friend will help you bury a body, and a true friend will cut your eyelashes. And you know what? He stepped up to the plate. I sat there while he very carefully cut off maybe1/8"-1/4" of my eyelashes. He only poked me with the scissors once (a bit under the eye.) I admit, the whole experience was a little freakier than I expected it to be because the scissors kind of tugged on my lashes as they made the cuts, and although my eyes were closed I could hear the sound of the metal so close to my eyes.

But now, when I wear the goggles nothing scrapes and my eyes don't get irritated. The strange things we do for triathlon... and the strange things friends will do for us...

The Final Swim

Remember when that shark bit a hole in my wetsuit? (Actually I'm not sure what caused the hole, so I'm saying shark attack.) My original plan was to slap pieces of duct tape over the hole and be done with it. It seems that Kristen recently had a rip in her wetsuit, and Mentee George had a tear in his, so they had experience fixing wetsuits and offered to fix mine For Realz.

I thought that the hole was a major rip, but apparently it was just a little baby tear compared with what they dealt with on their suits. They had this magic goop that looked like tar in a rubber cement can. I admit, I was skeptical but gosh durnit the stuff really worked. The hole is gone. Now I can't blame my swim time on my defective suit.

I've had every other Friday off this summer, and my plan was to use the time to do some lake swimming at Bonelli Park in my wetsuit. Ocean swimming is a good workout, but there really is no better way to train for a lake swim than to swim in a lake. Duh.

Well for many reasons, I never made it to Bonelli. Fridays became my long-run days so I could be free to bike rides and team workouts on the weekend. So today, three days before I fly to Wisconson, I finally went to Bonelli.

Bonelli is the site of my first Olympic Triathlon, and the public swim beach was a lot smaller than I remembered. Specifically, the rope boundary wasn't that far from shore. It's a very "family-friendly" beach, which meant there were lots of kids splashing intbe water but very little actual swimming going on. I started feeling self-conscious about putting on my wetsuit - I would have looked really out of place - so I swam without it. Dumb, I know, what should I care.

The swim turned out not so bad. I swam along the outer rope, and while it might take me 30-40 seconds to do one length in the pool, it took me 3-4 minutes to do one length of the beach. So it was definitely long enough to get a real rhythm going. And I only occasionally had to swim around some junior high boy hitting on some junior high girl hanging off the ropes.

They had a couple of lifeguards on surfboards out in the "deep end". It seemed like overkill to me, but I guess with the number of kids around it's not a bad idea. At one point, one of the lifeguards, recognizing my mastery of the water, asked if I would go retrieve a blue ball that had drifted away from some kids. The ball had crossed the rope and was heading out to sea. Well, as much as you can go out to sea in a lake. Do you have any idea how hard it is to catch a ball in a lake? There were a hundred kids splashing around on shore so there was a definite "current" pushing outward from the beach. And of course the closer I got to the ball, the more I was splashing it away. It was kind of like Rocky chasing after the chicken. Only completely different. But I got the ball and brought joy and laughter back to the children.

So all-in-all, a pretty good swim. Much better than the ocean swims I've been doing. In hindsight, maybe I should have gone to Bonelli more often. Next time. (Ha! There is no next time!)

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Weather Report

Race day is Sunday the 13th:

The Final Playlist

I did my final “long” run, which was more of a medium-run because I’m tapering. The last run needs an extra special playlist on your iPod, and this is what I went with. It’s an odd mix of 80’s bubblegum, old-school metal, and yes, showtunes:

Sunchyme - Dario G
Hold Back the Rain - Duran Duran
The Hand That Feeds - Nine Inch Nails
Together in Electric Dreams - The Human League
Run to the Hills - Iron Maiden
No More Words - Berlin
Stick to the Status Quo - High School Musical
Finale from Fantasmic - Disneyland
The Number of the Beast - Iron Maiden
Praise You - Fatboy Slim
Defying Gravity - Wicked
Groovin’ & Movin’ - London Bus Stop
Situation - Yaz
Heaven - Angels & Airwaves
Everybody Rejoice - The Wiz

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Flight 1199 will be Delayed

We got our race numbers for Wisconsin: I'm 1199.

1199 does not sound like a race number. It's a flight number: Flight 1199, non-stop service from Phoenix to Denver. And it's probably a really bumpy flight and they run out of snacks and there's a crying baby behind you.

1199 evokes 9/11 in a roundabout way. That can't be good. And what if I crash and land on my head? People will think my race number is 6611, which is even dumber.

I think I mostly object to having 4 digits. That's a lot of ink to put on my arms and I don't have a lot of room for it. And since race numbers are given out by age group, everyone will think that I'm old. (That, and seeing me wheezing coming out of the water.)

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Going The Distance

There's a new triathlon DVD out: The Distance: A Triathlete's Journey. It's a documentary about 3 people training for Ironman Wisconsin. Hey, I know of FOUR people training for Wisconsin! So it seemed like an appropriate movie-night and the Wisconsin crew came over for a screening.

Now as you probably know, I'm a big supporter of all-things-Triathlon. I love to support racers and products and funny bumper stickers. But here's the deal with this movie: it's ONE HUNDRED SEVENTY-SEVEN MINUTES LONG. Almost 3 hours. They could cut out an entire hour from this movie, and it would STILL be 30 minutes too long. Doing an Ironman should be a test of endurance; watching a movie about Ironman should not.

The movie does have its moments. I enjoyed seeing one poor slob do a training swim in choppy, freezing Lake Michigan. And of course seeing some the race footage was good. But I think our favorite character was the overweight husband who kept complaining about all the money they were spending: $800 for new wheels, hundreds of dollars on entry fees, 8 bucks on gas to get to the race... Good stuff.

I was carbo-loading that night (i.e. drinking beer) and that certainly helped with my enjoyment. We did a bit of Mystery Science Theater with the film, adding our own snarky commentary. It's nice to see a DVD that isn't about Kona for once, but again: ONE HUNDRED SEVENTY-SEVEN MINUTES.