Thursday, June 27, 2013

Ironman Coeur d'Alene 2013 Race Report

Sunday, was the single hardest thing I have done in my life. It was a physical, mental and even spiritual conquest that ended in a 16 hour 37 minute and 4 second victory! I’m going to attempt to tell the story of June 23, 2013 through my eyes that day.

The alarm rang at 4:00 AM Pacific time, and I sprang up quickly. One of my big fears was not being able to get a good night’s sleep, but that wasn’t the case. I felt very refreshed. I think part of the reason for this was traveling West which meant my body was feeling 6:00 AM Central. I know for a fact that the other reason was that Sarah sacrificed and slept on the couch since the bed was a queen the night before the race (more on her later). We ate a small breakfast as prescribed by my TriDot RaceX Plan and headed to transition. Tobey took the car and dropped us off as close to possible to our bikes.

The transition area of an Ironman is different than the other triathlons that I had done before. It was quiet! I think each athlete is trying to find their own calm, and I was no different. I had my typical pre-race contemporary worship music pumping positive thoughts into my head about His love and His plan for me and the race of my life (so far). In the midst of about 2800 athletes I was approached by a man asking, “Are you Dr. Stevens?” I said, “I am Dr. Stevens, but I am not sure if I am the one you are looking for?” The man turned out to be Dr. Brett Andrews who I had met on Twitter back in February of 2012. He is a tri4Him member in Oklahoma, we prayed together in transition for safety, perseverance, strength, wisdom and to be His glory through the ups and downs to come. I believe Brett was also doing his first Ironman on Sunday. He persevered through a bike crash and still finished. Encounters like this are just one of the many reasons being a tri4Him team member is so awesome!

Transition in an Ironman is pretty easy because you drop off all your gear for each discipline the day before. Essentially you just add your nutrition and water to your bike, air up your tires and you are done. So it wasn’t too long and Frank and I met Tobey and the Ironmates outside transition for one more talk and words of encouragement. At this point in the morning everything was happening very quickly. We noticed athletes already beginning to “self-seed” on the beach so we got our goodbye hugs, kisses and fist bumps and headed that way. The first smart decision of the day I made was to immediately get in the water once we hit the beach. This was partly because I was well hydrated and needed to pee, but also to acclimate myself. The water was 62 degrees that morning. We had done a practice swim on Friday that was at 60 degrees, and honestly the water did feel warmer. I swam quite a bit and then went to find Frank on the beach. There we stood together after literally miles and miles of training. I was thinking of the many early mornings I zipped by his house to pick him up for those 5:15 AM swim sessions. Here we were together a long way from League City and this was really happening.

A beautiful fog lay just above the surface of the water because of the cool outside
temperatures, Mike Reilly counted us down and at 6:35 AM the cannon boomed! 2800 athletes were to funnel through a small arch, but we were moving fast. There was little time for more than a quick prayer and a fist bump for Frank. My eyes were welled up with tears, and I pointed both hands to the sky telling Him one more time that I trusted His plan and then I plunged into the cold lake. The first 5 minutes I could tell I was overly excited and breathing too hard, but I quickly got into a rhythm. Just another 90 minute swim is all I thought. The swim was two laps and when I glanced at my watch after the first lap I was right on schedule, I jumped right back in and finished the swim in 1 hour 30 minutes and 44 seconds. I was in my first Ironman transition, and I was on schedule!

I took my time in transition to dry off very well, because it was still pretty cold. In my plan I budgeted for 15 minutes, but I was able to head out in fewer than 10 so I was happy. The only bad part was that it had rained so much the days before the race that transition had gotten muddy and I got mud in my bike shoe cleats. When I mounted my bike it was very difficult to get clipped in and over the course of the 112 miles my cleats disconnected nearly 10 times. This really slows you down and makes you work just a little bit harder and in Ironman every ounce of energy counts. The bike was two loops, but really was a quick 14 mile out and back, then a very difficult 42 mile out and back in the mountains. You did this twice. I was really feeling good on the first 14 mile loop, but my heart rate was just a bit higher than I wanted it to be. I tried everything short of stopping to get it down but the slow rollers followed by some sharp inclines didn’t really cooperate. In the end, perhaps this is where I hurt my marathon. Lucky for you my watch is on the truck back from Idaho and I can’t dig into the metrics until later. Otherwise you might already be bored right now. Coming back through town we saw our support crew a couple blocks from our house. Sarah had blown up a picture of Carson in his triathlon racing kit. As I sped by I thought of him and lost it. I cried for about the next ten minutes, thinking of him and all the determination he showed in his first triathlon. One reason I started doing triathlons four years ago was to be a better role model for the boys. I thought maybe I accomplished my mission.

The bike ride in town was very cool, the streets were lined with spectators which gave you that extra bit of adrenaline you needed. The ride over the bridge into the mountains had spectacular views, but it was honestly one of the most difficult 42 mile stretches of cycling in my life, and I had to do it all over again. My heart rate continued to be elevated and although it would drop on the downhill portions of the course, it would spike quickly on the climbs back above what I had planned it to be. I was “burning matches” that I would need later and I knew it. However, I really didn’t have tons of options at this point. I had to start making some decisions. We came back through town and I caught Frank who had about a six minute lead when we had started about 63 miles ago. It was very good to see someone that I knew and talk through the race to that point. We were just 5 hours and 46 minutes into the Ironman. We talked a little strategy for the upcoming second mountain lap and stuck together most of the way around the next 59 miles. At around mile 70 as the first major incline approached I made a mathematical decision. Since I was above my heart rate cap I had to make it back into T2 close to 9 hours to give myself ample time to walk an entire marathon if necessary. After some positive self-talk and prayer I pushed forward toward that goal. In the end, that decision may have been the one that allowed me to finish the race with 23 minutes to spare. It also could have been the decision that derailed my run.

Here is some perspective for us Texas flatlanders on the bike course mountains. What they consider gentle hills are at about a 3-4% grade. The Kemah Bridge is between a 4-5% grade. However the Kemah Bridge is less than one mile long. This course featured a 2 mile stretch of 6-7% grade followed by a 3 mile stretch at 5-6% grade. Some of the inclines took between 45 minutes to an hour of pushing at 6-8 mph to get to the top. Of course, you did get some downhill but before you knew it you were back over one of the “gentle” hills that equated to the Kemah Bridge. Note to self, my next Ironman will be on a more flat bike course! One of the cool moments on the bike was when a perfect stranger told me my tri4Him race kit reminded him of 1 Peter 3:17. He went on to talk most of the way up the mountain about the specific scripture, “Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong!” I think we keyed on the suffering part as were both suffering, but what a blessing to share the gospel during such an incredible moment.
So 7 hours, 39 minutes and 7 seconds later I was done with my first Ironman bike. I again, took my time in transition to make sure everything was in order. I stayed in the tent for 9:42 and so with 7 hours and 30 minutes left to complete my first Ironman (you only have 17 hours), I headed out for my first ever marathon! I walked the first mile before I even attempted to run. I wanted to make sure that I had my legs solid underneath me. I began running a little bit and caught up to Frank around mile 3 of the run. Again, it was good to have a familiar face to talk to. We talked some strategy, but he began to feel better. I told him not to wait up for me that if he wanted to run go for it. He did and ultimately had a great race, I was real proud of how Frank performed in not only his first Ironman, but only his fifth
triathlon! Honestly, the rest of the marathon from about mile 3 – 26 was a complete gut check.  I kept telling myself, just keep moving, just keep moving and you will be an Ironman. I prayed a lot and thought many times of the people that got me to this point in the race.

I can’t overstate what Sarah’s support and love meant to me during training and on race day. You may race an Ironman alone, but you don’t get there alone. She definitely earned her Ironmate title on Sunday. All the signs and words of encouragement were never far from my mind in the many dark cold moments out on the marathon. She sacrificed many Saturday mornings and early alarms along the road to Ironman. In the end, I believe she tasted the Ironman “Kool-Aid” and liked it. She was proud of what I persevered through that day, and I was proud that she was proud. Love you Sarah!
I also thought of Frank and Sherry out on the marathon a lot. At the time I thought Frank would be finishing I was in constant prayer for him that his finish would exceed his expectations and that he was feeling okay and in good health. It is amazing that a meeting at a Boy Scout campfire listening to an Aggie football game has grown so quickly into such close friendships. Frank was an enthusiastic training partner, that truly pushed me to my best and Sherry was a friend to Sarah as we went through this whole process together. Love you guys!

Coach Boo and the entire tri4Him team are such a blessing also. I thought of Ronnie, Cindy, Kelly, Papa Joe and the other team members huddled around laptops and iPhones like I had done for them so many times before waiting on those splits. Every time I crossed a timing mat I envisioned their excitement in the fact that I was still moving and sometime there bewilderment in why I was going so slowly! The mountains!!! If you are reading this I promise you were not far from my mind at all. I appreciate each and every one of you that gave me advice and encouragement along the way. tri4Him!
Mom and Dad, who did their own version of Ironman by keeping Caleb and Carson for six nights! There is absolutely no way that this happens without them. They both instilled in Tobey and me an incredible determination to reach for our goals no matter what they were. They not only provided inspiration, but we can’t forget that the bike I rode over those mountains was their gift to me. I could picture Dad sitting in the study following along, and I was hoping he was okay because I knew I cut it pretty close. Words can’t even begin to express my thanks for all you have done for me, Sarah and the boys. I love you both.

In addition to all the above I thought of Jim, Prella, and all Sarah’s sisters and our countless friends that supported Sarah and I during my training. Sarah was relaying your messages to me out on the course and they were all inspirational in the last few miles knowing people were waiting up to see me finish. I just had to keep putting one foot in front of the other for you.

So there I was well past the 23 mile mark of the marathon and feeling rather alone when through the dark streets I see Tobey approaching. What a welcome sight! Apparently Dad had given him orders to go and find me as the splits were coming into the computer rather slow. At that point I was losing ground and had slowed to 18:24 / mile pace. He walked with me as we picked up the pace. I thought about how in April 2009 I had gone to watch Tobey’s first race and it had inspired me months later in August to get off the couch at nearly 300 lbs. Tobey was the pioneer of this triathlon stuff in our family and it was great to have a 3 time Ironman finisher walking beside me in the final miles. His message was simple keep moving and pick up the pace, I didn’t fly all the way to Idaho to have you not finish this race. He stayed with me all the way to Sherman Avenue where they began to barricade off spectators.

So there I was all alone on Sherman Avenue. I had this scene as my desktop wallpaper for nearly a year, and now I was living it. Right before Tobey and I split off I started crying. I tried to compose myself and put on my tough Ironman face but it was difficult. I did pull myself together as I got close to the bleachers with thousands of loud fans cheering and yelling. Mike Reilly was waiting there waving his towel and working the crowd into fervor. I started to run, pain free, and seemed to glide down the chute slapping as many high fives as I could. Then I hear the words I had been waiting for 16 hours 37 minutes and 4 seconds. “First Timer Chad Stevens… Chad, you did it! You are an Ironman!” Praise be to God!

So, one of the cool Ironman traditions is that the race winners come out late in the day to hand out medals. So I was honored to receive my medal from 2013 Ironman Coeur d’Alene Champion Ben Hoffman and also get to meet Heather Wurtele the women’s champion. They finished in 8:17 and 9:16 respectively. Wow! I felt okay, but shortly after getting my picture and finisher swag I began to vomit. I would spare you all the detail, but we would miss the quote of the week when the nurse said. “Basically, your body thinks you are dying.” I opted to get out of the area to Sarah, Tobey and the rest of the crew which in my opinion could take better care of me. So there is the story of a once 300 lb. obese former athlete turned triathlete turned Ironman in 4 years. I feel great today other than some blisters, and I can’t wait to write Chapter 2!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Ironman Day 1 - Logistics

Today started early with a morning text at 5:15 AM from a fired up Frank saying “Let’s do this!” I couldn’t believe that the first real day of Ironman was here. A typical race for me was nothing more than maybe a drive the day before to drop off the bike or rarely a one night hotel stay. However, Ironman has many more logistics to take into account and based on my agenda that I had been working on for more than two weeks today was jam packed.

We flew from Houston to Tulsa to Denver to Spokane and then drove to Coeur d’Alene. The flights were more or less uneventful, but with each stop you could see a definite increase in triathletes traveling with us. You could just eavesdrop into a conversation, “How many Ironman races have you done?” “What kind of wheels are you running.” etc. etc. etc. I guess us triathletes are pretty easy to spot. I was wearing my tri4Him t-shirt as one of my race goals this week is to shed His light regardless of the situation.

Then we had our first logistical situation. I headed to get the rent car and left Frank, Sherry and Sarah to get the bags but they never met up with me. I was thinking, “I hope they didn’t lose my bag” in my head. This is the first trip where my bag was bigger than Sarah’s as in one suitcase I had packed a small triathlon store I think. When I headed back to the carousel Frank was at the information booth, and Sarah didn’t have her bag. It turns out that somewhere along the way Sarah’s bag decided to detour through Albuquerque and Phoenix before coming to Spokane. I overheard Sarah say while I was waiting in line to talk to Southwest that she was glad it was her bag and not mine or Frank’s so she got to be His light first on this trip. In case you are wondering the bag arrived just before we went to bed on day one so all was well.

We drove to Idaho in a slight downpour, but we were able to meet all our agenda items.  Check in for the race, find the house, get our bikes and go to grocery store. Race check-in was very surreal, but went very smooth. Is this really happening? We had a fun evening of grilling, cooking, eating and watching basketball. The house is perfect! It is very roomy and very nice. It has a huge backyard with a grill, hot tub and deck. Once the weather passes I think we will be out there a lot. We also got to talk to the boys on Skype and they seem to be having fun. I could probably right a whole blog post about there week at Grandma and Granddad’s also. Today we plan to go for a swim in the lake and a run later, go get Tobey and probably drive the bike course. Tonight is a banquet we will be attending for athletes which will probably put me in full on Ironman alert. This dream is close!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

One Month...

Ironman Coeur d’Alene is one month from today! I remember back when this training all started in February, and the concern with priorities that I wrote about in this post. Well by all indications, I have made it to this point having successfully trained for the race while balancing all of these things.

Last weekend was huge for the boys as they both won the League City Championship for their leagues. I was a proud Dad and Coach that day. The two teams combined for a 28 Wins 9 Losses and 1 Tie this spring. I was there for just about all the games and practices. Although I did miss a few for work travel, I missed none while training. In fact, I started city Championship day with a 115-mile bike ride that we started extra early to give time to get ready for the game. It is all about priorities.

Me "catching" Cindy at IMTX
After the games and celebrations were over, I headed up to Ironman Texas to volunteer at the finish line from 9:00 pm to Midnight. What an experience! Whether you are a triathlete or not everyone should go do this once, it will inspire you. In Ironman, you have 17 hours to finish and be called an Ironman. If you are one second past midnight, no medal, no finisher certificate, nothing documented other than a DNF (Did not finish). The emotions at this time of night are so raw. The first guy I “caught” was from Mexico. After I helped him through the chute to get his medal, water, cold towel, etc. he saw his wife. The embrace they shared brought me, a perfect stranger, to tears. I am not sure how many people I was able to help and congratulate last Saturday night, but each had a unique story and brought a unique emotion to being called an “Ironman”.

I will be honest when I sit and think about running down Sherman Ave. regardless of finishing time I get very emotional just sitting here typing. Although official training started in February, this journey has been almost four years in the making. I can still remember that humbling trip to the pool in August of 2009 like it was yesterday and the personal commitment I made to myself not to become an Ironman, but to change my lifestyle. Let’s just say the odds of me crying like a baby at the finish line would be pretty high in Vegas right now.

As I mentioned above I believe I have successfully prepared for the race and tomorrow I begin race rehearsals.  In the morning, I will get up and eat exactly what I plan to eat on Ironman morning and then go swim 1:40 non-stop. This should put me over the necessary 2.4 miles of swimming. On Saturday, I will again do my exact nutrition, then ride 112 miles, and follow that up with a one-hour run. On Wednesday I will have my last “long” run before the race of 2:45 where again I will watch my nutrition and fluid intake very closely. At this point, it is all about execution, I would compare trying to get physically ready for the race at this late stage in the game to cramming for an incredibly hard test 30 seconds beforehand.

I will try and keep writing over the next month as it is a good time for reflection on what has happened and what is coming, one month!

Friday, May 10, 2013

A letter for later...

It is hard to believe that Ironman Coeur d’Alene is just 43 days from today. I am currently in week 13 of my 19-week training plan, and by all accounts, things seem to be on schedule. For those keeping score at home the volume looks like this since February 11th when I started.

Swim – 25 Miles
Bike – 1058 Miles
Run – 209 Miles

All of that has been accomplished in about 118 hours of training, which equates to about five total 24-hour days. As I wrote back before this all started, the training really comes down to priorities. I have been on the road for work 4 of the 13 weeks so far and I have swam, bike and ran in more than a few states. In addition, I have coached Caleb and Carson’s Little League teams this spring and they are both well on their way to reaching the League City Championship (I hope I did not just jinx us).

When you train for so many hours you tend to reflect on many things, but it seems that most of all I have reflected on Caleb and Carson during this block of training. I wonder what Dad doing an Ironman means to them, and I often wonder if it means anything. Certainly, Caleb is old enough to understand the hard work, and Carson is young enough to think all of my triathlon gear is cool. However, the reality is that they will not be there to watch me cross the finish line or share in the joy. I have thought about trying to send them a message during the race or at the finish with a poster or something, but honestly, the logistics of that are probably unrealistic. Therefore, what I decided to do was right them a letter that they can read later, when they do understand, an open letter to Caleb and Carson about Ironman.

Caleb and Carson,

I think that about 8 years ago Granddad Stevens shared with me a quote that really stuck with me. In fact, I have a wooden plaque of this hanging in my office. He said it reminded him of me, at the time I was completing my dissertation for my doctorate degree.

“Some succeed because they are destined to, but most succeed because they are Determined to.”

It sounds simple enough, but in reality, it is your determination to reach for your goals and dreams that will ultimately shape your life. In school, I was not labeled Gifted and Talented, but I set out to earn that degree that less than 1% of the world population has attained and I did it. Certainly, there were smarter people that were perhaps destined to become doctors, but I was just an average student that was determined. I know that in 3rd grade and Kindergarten it is hard to relate to what all that education stuff means, but one day you will read this and understand.

In athletics, I had similar experiences. I think it is sad today that so much pressure is put on you in sports. Like I say, I never have got upset with you for striking out or dropping a ball, but I will get upset if you do not give your best effort. I know it is hard to believe now, but you are not defined by how good of a baseball, football, basketball, soccer (name any other sport) you are when you are 6 or 9 years old. Trust me; I was no star on the Lake Jackson Little League Astros in 1982! Honestly, I was never a star athlete at much of anything. However, Grandma and Granddad instilled in me a work ethic that taught me if I wanted something bad enough and I worked hard at it I would be rewarded. Granddad always says,

“If you keep chopping wood and stacking it neatly someone will notice sooner or later.”

I have found this to be a true statement in almost everything I do. I really wanted to play baseball in college, but did you know that after I was cut from the team at Texas A&M getting another chance was not easy. On top of overcoming some horrible grades (we can talk about that when it is time to go to college), I really did not have a place to play. Instead of giving up, I had the bright idea to write a letter to every single college and university in Texas! Guess what, that was a lot of work but I got one letter back. It was from Tarleton State where I eventually walked on and became a starter before my rotator cuff decided to give out. You guys are lucky you can just e-mail the colleges now! In the end, the motivation of that poor semester in Aggieland drove me to ultimately graduate from Texas A&M 15 years after the fact with a Ph.D.

So, what is the big deal about Ironman? Like most things in life, it is about being determined to reach a goal. I hope you never have to face the fact that you are out of shape. Right now, you are both healthy little guys, and I hope you stay that way. Although, Caleb you might want to diversify your diet a bit! About 6 years ago, I weighed close to 300 pounds and I was not a happy person. Sure, on the outside, things looked okay but on the inside, they were not. I would look at you and think about how if I kept it up I would not even be able to play with you. Most of all I thought about how bad of a role model I would be or was. In late 2009, I signed up for 4 triathlons and paid for them in advance. I was determined to change my lifestyle. I chose triathlon because there was no way I could run every day, because honestly I was too fat and it would hurt my knees. I also chose it because Uncle Tobey had started racing the year before that. I was a poor swimmer and spent hours in the pool trying to get better. Uncle Tobey told me during that 2010 triathlon season that I would want to go further one day. He was right, eventually I privately thought I might could one day be fit enough to try one of the ultimate one day endurance challenges in the world. Ironically, some people say less than 1/10th of 1% of people in the world has ever completed an Ironman. I guess I like challenges.

I knew that it would take several years to achieve that goal of becoming an Ironman. It is okay to have very long-range goals and short-term goals or long and short-term dreams! I spent two triathlon seasons, 2011 and 2012, building up my capacity to endure the long training sessions it would take to live my dream of crossing the finish line. Honestly, I still have several short-term goals to hit over the next six weeks, the main one is to not get injured or sick! I hope and pray that what you see in my training today is a determination to reach for a goal no matter how difficult or impossible it may seem. I also hope that you see that when you want something bad enough you have to prioritize what is important. What I mean is it is important for me to spend time with you at baseball practice and after school and I do that. It is important that I am at your events to share in your moments and I do that at all costs, even if it means I miss some training.

I know that you both have big dreams and goals. Carson, you are too little now to understand exactly what they are. Caleb I know they are forming in your bright mind. Both of you love the Houston Texans and J.J. Watt. He always says “Dream Big, Work Hard.” I think people forget, or choose to ignore, the part of that statement that says work hard. There are very few if anything in life that is worth having without putting in the effort and work to achieve it. There is absolutely nothing that is out of your reach, and I hope both of you know that. I also hope that when you see pictures of your Dad crossing the Ironman finish line on June 23, 2013 75 pounds lighter and transformed you will truly believe it!


Sunday, April 14, 2013

One More Step...

It has been a week since Ironman 70.3 Texas, and as I reflect back, it is what happened the week following the race that may have outshined the personal best time of 6:21:29 on race day. Triathletes have what they call their “A” race and for me in 2013 that is Ironman Coeur d’Alene. However, what a difference a year made at Galveston.

Just a few highlights, the 2:20 / 100m swim pace was my second fastest ever in 14 races, and this includes sprints. The 19.49 MPH on the bike was my third fastest average ever; the only other times I have ridden faster were on two 12-mile sprint races. This was the first race Olympic or Half Ironman I ever ran under 12:00 minutes per mile.

The TriDot Training System had me more than ready for the race, especially when you consider that this year’s race was a part of an almost 11-hour week of training. There was no easing up on my regular scheduled training during the week; in fact, I only took off on Saturday. However, most importantly I was back in the pool on Monday morning after the race focused on Ironman. I did lower my intensity some, but capped off a decent week of training this week with a 68-mile bike ride. So now, everything is in front of me.

In exactly 10 weeks from tonight, I should have completed my first Ironman (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run). Since August of 2009, I have completed 990 triathlon-training sessions, yet less than 100 sessions stand between this goal and me right now. With as much confidence as last Sunday gave me, now I am even more focused and determined to finish strong.

I hope that I can be a little more active on the blog over these next ten weeks with some regular updates. I have so many people to thank for being a part of this incredible journey, and to Him be the glory!


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Gulp, Math, Priorities... Let's Go!

I'll admit it I am nervous! Last week I received my TriDot Training Plan for Ironman Coeur d'Alene. When I first got it I took a quick glance, but with a looming work deadline, I put it on the back burner since the plan kicks off training on February 11th. Tonight I finally took the time to examine the 230+ hours of planned training for the next 19 weeks! Gulp! I quickly had to become my analytical self.

Hours in Week:  168
Avg. Training in Week:  12
Sleep (at least 8 hours/night):  56
Work:  40
Coaching boys baseball teams:  10

Okay, that's still 7+ hours a day to chill, relax, hang with Sarah, pray, go to church, eat, see the chiropractor, etc. Like most things, this is just about planning and priorities. I'm also a little nervous because I have not trained in two weeks. By all accounts, the Endovenous Laser Ablation was a success and tomorrow is the day that I can train again. My plan is to start easy, but I'll need to get pretty comfortable with swimming, biking and running again with the new plan kicking off in 6 days. I am pleased to report that my once 29 cm right ankle is now 24 cm! Obviously I have high hopes that this reduced swelling and increased circulation in both legs can only aid in lower leg recovery from the pounding that is about to happen.

I'm proud of the out season that I have had. I really tried to concentrate on recovering from the season improving core strength and my nutrition. I feel very fresh (other than the EVLA) heading into next week. I dropped over 10 pounds since October 28th and spent an overwhelming majority of my time running. Running is my weakness and if I am going to do well this season, it will be a key. So here we go, the countdown is on. I know there will be good days, bad days, fast days and slow days but the key is to remember I am not the Planner!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Slight Change of Plans

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how sometimes I'm too "laser" focused on the day to day and not my journey or transformation. Ironically, the Planner gave me an interesting change of plans last week via a laser. I've been suffering from some pretty bad varicose veins (c4 level). I was living with the swelling and the fact that one leg was much larger than the other at the calf and ankle. However, after some skin issues last week due to increased poor circulation I went to see a specialist. He recommended Endovenous Laser Ablation and so yesterday and today I had the procedure on my right and then left leg respectively.

Left Leg Day 1, Right Leg Day 2
So, five months out from Ironman Coeur d'Alene today we've had our first slight plan adjustment. Rather than start training officially on January 28th, I'll have to push to February 11th. No worries, Coach Boo feels my base is where it needs to be and I know the TriDot Training System will get me to the start line and ultimately the finish line. No doubt this will be the first of many adjustments the Planner will give me on the road to Idaho! Coach was quick to remind me recently when I referenced my upcoming Ironman training of this:

You’re already “IM training.”  Started long ago.  You’re right where you need to be.  You’ll do very well.
If you come across this post I humbly ask for you prayers of quick recovery, increased patience and nutritional discipline for me as my activity will be nothing but walking over the next few weeks. God bless!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Appreciating the Journey

I've had some internal debate about whether I would blog during the 2013 triathlon season leading up to Ironman Coeur d'Alene in June, but have decided that I will and should. These posts are meant for personal reflection but my prayer and hope is that if you do land on this page you are better for reading it in some way. So, hear we go!

I do a lot of reflecting at church on Sundays. I presume that this isn't unique to me, but nonetheless it happens. Sunday as I entered church I saw a friend that I know is very active in endurance sports.  He had a knee brace on and Sarah asked him what happened, his reply was that he had injured his knee and his doctor said he probably should not run anymore. He then went on to say,"No Ironmans for me." It made me think about how just like that, your journey toward a goal can end. Now, there can and should be new goals but we must learn to appreciate the journey we are on.

I'm a numbers guy and I think sometimes my laser focus on the day to day makes me lose sight of the journey. I'll beat myself up over getting the right amount of protein a day rather than just enjoying the fact that 10k runs are no longer a big deal like they were most of my life or that 60 lb. ago I didn't care what I ate or drank but I was dang sure going to not miss meal! While it's easy to place a tremendous amount of emphasis on the next five months, it's also important to not forget about the journey that even got me to the point where I believed I could swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run a marathon (26.2 miles) in one day!

As we finished worship on Sunday the leader was playing 'All I Am' Phil Wickham.  One of the lyrics goes:

I give You everything, To You I belong
Every beat of my heart, the breath in my lungs
All I am is Yours, all I am is Yours

Sometimes in the midst of all the chaos it's easy to forget that we are on His journey not ours. Really we are just along for the ride, and rather than focus on the little things maybe I need to embrace the big picture and the journey. Every beat, every breath, every stroke, every pedal and every step is already laid out in His eyes.  Perhaps I have been focused too much on the plan and not the Planner!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ironman 70.3 Austin 2012 Race Report

What a birthday weekend! October 28th, 2012, my 40th birthday, I completed my second Half Ironman. This race was much different from Ironman 70.3 Texas seven months earlier. Let us just say that I went into this race with my eyes wide open. I think in your second race at any distance, but especially the longer distances, your pre-race is much different. One big difference is that I know I am registered for Ironman Coeur d’Alene in 2013 so every chance to race is a potential learning experience and I think He gave me some great things to think about going into the out season.

The first thing He gave me was some nagging roadblocks in the last 4-6 weeks of my training to battle through. In early September a very bad sinus infection sidelined me for almost an entire week. Just a few weeks later a back strain kept me down for several days and then finally during taper week I had back spasms so bad that I was taking pain meds and muscle relaxers up until the night before the race. What I learned from this was that you better take care of and listen to your body. On the Ironman journey, there will come times when your body speaks and if you are smart, you had better listen.

The second thing He gave me was cold weather. I know it is going to be chilly in Idaho in the morning and although the water will be much colder, I think the warm-up I experienced in Austin due to the weather will only help. I am not sure the exact temperature at race start, but it was cold. Exiting the water your feet were very cold and heading out onto the bike wet was another good but chilly experience. All these things are stored in my memory bank for next summer. So here are the details.

Swim 51:07

I really thought I had a sub-50 swim in me, but I got off course for a bit and I think I lost some time. There is no doubt that the Masters Swim class I did the last two months heading into the race made me a stronger swimmer. Even though my time was just under my last Half Ironman time I exited the water not tired at all and very relaxed. The one thing that did happen that was a new experience was that I was smashed in the face twice coming down the home stretch. Both kicks were strong enough to knock my goggles off. This was great experience in recovering quickly and getting back to business. The first transition was a little slower than usual because I had to really dry off and clean my feet. The transition was very muddy and I did not want that mud in my socks the entire race. I also wore some arm warmers that took a while to get on wet arms.

Bike 3:15:42

I was very pleased with my bike. I essentially equaled my time in flat Galveston on a windy day in Austin in the hill country. I can honestly say the first hour or so the hills had me doubting my ability, but as the ride settled in things felt very comfortable. This was my first long race on my Blue Triad SL LE and “006” performed great. I think the fit is perfect and the Di2’s made all the shifting in the hills much more manageable. Coeur d’Alene has almost four times the elevation gain as Austin so I do have some work to do before next June no doubt.

Run 3:12:06

After battling the hills and the wind, mostly in aero position, my lower back decided it was about done for the day. I stopped to talk to Sarah in transition and told her it was hurting very bad, but I thought I could walk it off and run eventually. I was partially correct. I did run eventually, but it was not consistent at all. I knew about half way around my first lap that I was in for a long run. I struggled most of the way, but can take pride in the fact that I did not quit. I was also happy the last lap was my fastest of the three loops. Maybe this was because I was ready to get off that course! The take away was that I learned I could battle through 13.1 miles of pain. Of course, here five days later I am still paying my dues on that run as my back is still very sore. The coolest part of the day was as I entered the finishing chute the announcer told everyone it was my 40th birthday, the crowd cheered and it was a great end to a painful day. Thanks to Sarah for talking to the announcer and making the end of my race extra special.

My Ironmate, friends and family

Something else He gave me to think about after this race is the fact that I am blessed to have an Ironmate, Sarah that has embraced my lifestyle change. She worked so hard to make my weekend special from the Swim, Bike and Run cupcakes to the Garmin 910XT she gave me just early enough to use in this race to the supportive “Happy Birthday!” I heard all day on the course. I know that acceptance of the triathlon insanity has taken some time, but I am glad she is along for the ride as we take this Ironman Journey together in 2013. There are many more long training rides and sore muscles to come, but as she always says, “You are the one that wants to be an Ironman.” 

I am also thankful for my new training partner Frank Pistone that has gone Sprint, Olympic, Half Ironman in his first triathlon season. I was very proud of his time in Austin and how quickly he is picking up on the finer points of the sport. He is going to have a lot of triathlon success in the future the more he learns.

One other huge thanks goes out to Mom and Dad who have kept the boys on Sarah and I’s last two race weekends together. I know the boys love going to Grandma and Granddad’s, but without your help, we really could not chase these dreams in more ways than one.  Last but not least, I'm always thankful for Tobey's last second tips and encouragement leading into a race.

So here we are. I’ve now already started an 11 week out season program. I will follow this with a 10 week lead up to Ironman 70.3 Texas 2013 in Galveston and then follow that with 11 weeks of training for Ironman Coeur d’Alene 2013! 32 weeks is going to fly by! I know that with the proper focus, listening to my many mentors and following Coach Booher’s plan becoming an Ironman on June 23, 2013 will be a reality.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Happy Anniversary!

Today is a special day for me, it is my anniversary of getting off the couch.  As I have blogged here before on August 31, 2009 I reluctantly headed to the YMCA to do something very scary, swim.  The thing that was probably scarier was knowing how far I had let myself get out of shape.  I wasn't getting any younger and I knew that the big four zero was looming.  In fact it still is, but I have a new outlook on that number! For the record here are some stats since that day in 2009.

I'll admit it I'm a big statistical nerd, but as they say what gets measured gets done.  Everyone needs some benchmarks in order to mark and show improvement.  Last month I toed the line at my 12th triathlon, and I'll admit that I am now addicted to this sport.  On my 40th birthday on October 28, 2012 I'll race Ironman 70.3 Austin. However, that will just be the beginning of the birthday celebration.  In 2013, I'm also registered for Ironman Texas 70.3 and Ironman Coeur d'Alene in Idaho.  So I guess if I'm successful (which I plan to be) I'll be couch to Ironman in about four years.

If you are reading this and you believe that you have insurmountable odds to get into better physical shape, I hope you see that persistence and consistency will pay off.  I have worked out at least three out of every four days now for three straight years.  The key is taking that initial step.  I still have many things to learn before an Ironman in 2013, but I've put myself in the position to dream that dream.  Quite honestly, it is not somewhere I ever imagined I would be. For those that do not know an Ironman is a 2.4 mile swim, followed by a 112 mile bike and then a 26.2 mile marathon.  This journey must be completed in 17 hours to be considered an Ironman finisher.

Consider this, to this point in my training in year one I averaged just 34 minutes per workout.  In year two just 45 minutes per workout and in year three that number is just at 55 minutes per workout.  I told you I liked statistics!  The average American watches just under 5 hours of television per day and is on Facebook 26 minutes per day. Looking at these numbers makes me frustrated that I didn't start sooner, and makes me think of minutes I won't ever get back. I read this quote recently that resonated with me...

"If our lives can end so suddenly and so arbitrarily, then we need to take our chances when we can.  You cannot wait for the perfect day to arrive because it might not."

I'm really not sure how many perfect days lie ahead, but I'm not taking chances. It's time. I'm really not too sure how often I will blog about my Ironman journey. Right now I really feel as though it's an internal quest. However, I am sure there will be more posts and race reports between now and June 23, 2013.  Of course, I haven't made this journey alone and there are many family members, teammates, coaches and friends to thank.  That is another long blog post for another day.  I hope you enjoy and God bless!

About a month and half before I got serious.
5 Months Ago... 1st Half Ironman Finish

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Ironman Texas 70.3 2012 Race Report

My pre-race routine really went as planned. Mom and Dad were kind enough to loan me there additional bed at the Moody Gardens Hotel so that meant a little extra sleep. I was asleep around 8:45 PM and woke up just before my alarm went off at 4:45 AM. My breakfast was two wheat bagels with peanut butter and two bananas along with a cup of coffee. I headed down to my bike to get setup around 5:10 AM and that all went according to plan.

We walked as a team down to the swim start and all waited our turn to start the race. I was very calm all morning, and really didn't feel the usual nerves I have before a race. As I stood on the shore analyzing the swim buoys thinking of my plan a seagull bombed me and I saw that as a sign that I better pray and get on over to the pier. Cindy prayed for me and some other teammates and I was off on my adventure.

Since I was down with the team I got a late start to the pier so when I got there I had to fight through two waves of athletes to get to my group. As you walked on the pier an Ironman staff member said, "Okay folks no strokes or heart attacks out there, get focused!" How is that for a reality check at 7:35 AM? 

I stood on the pier staring at my IM OK and Epilepsy Foundation wrist bands. I said a prayer for Kaden, and all those living with Epilepsy and prayed that His light would shine through me all day no matter what happened good or bad.  At that point the gun went off for the wave ahead of me and we started moving toward the water, but something else happened.  The song "My Hero" by the Foo Fighters came blaring through the speakers.

This wouldn't seem significant, except for the fact that this was the very first song I put on my playlist when I began working out consistently two and a half years ago. This is when I dreamed of just getting back into shape and being a better example to the boys, not doing a Half Ironman.  This was the song that moved me along 50 pounds ago. At that moment just like the moment when I decided to sign up for this race I felt like God was right there with me. I knew it was His race and this reminded me of that. As I dove into the saltwater I had tears in my eyes and did for a good portion of the swim.

The swim went better than planned. My time was 51 minutes and 35 seconds. To put this in perspective my pace was 2:40 / 100 meters. I have only swam faster than that in a race three times and they were all sprints of less than 500 yards. I had hoped to go under one hour and I crushed that time so exiting the water I was really pumped up. I saw Mom and Dad as I ran to transition and the wet suit strippers got that thing off me fast. The only problem was when they pulled it off I got a huge Charlie Horse in my left hamstring. I hobbled into transition and took some extra time to stretch and collect myself. I spent 5:43 in transition, and then I was off for my 56 mile bike ride.

I mentioned in a previous blog post that I needed to have my "should" bike and not my "could" bike and I think I accomplished this. The first 28 miles had a pretty good head wind with some cross wind. I had a heart rate cap of 145 but as I began on my ride it was stuck at about 155 pushing against the wind.  I made a strategic decision to try and get no higher than 155, but to not let the wind get the best of me. It really became a race to the turnaround knowing that with a little more tail wind my heart rate would go down. I was very disciplined on my fuel intake and really drank more than I planned on the way out.  Once I got to the turn I ate a Clif Bar for "lunch" and just as I predicted my heart rate slowly came down.  When I hit mile 40 everything was right where I wanted it, I thought about making a strong push but just kept my pace and stayed patient.

A few other thoughts about the bike... One of the cool experiences was once I was down the island a bit Lance Armstrong, who was in the lead, came roaring by me in the opposite direction. Seeing the big Timex timing truck, motorcycles and cameras really made me reflect on the caliber of event I was competing in. It was also good to see Tobey on the course.  He caught me 21 miles into the bike ride as I was heading up on the San Luis Pass Bridge. He slowed down to make sure I was well, I gave him a good report and he pressed on. The last thing was this journey was really a trip down memory lane.  Growing up on the coast I had traveled this road many times.  Seeing the Rusty Hook bait shop and the people fishing under the San Luis Pass Bridge brought back some fond memories.

Knowing that Sarah and the boys were going to be at the bike finish was also extremely motivating. When it seemed like I really wanted to slow down I would think of how glad I would be to see them the rest of the day. I predicted my bike split to be 3 hours and 10 minutes a few weeks ago, and it ended up being 3:09:54. That is just 6 seconds from my prediction.

When I started the run I felt very good. I knew that I had put myself in position to exceed expectations and break the 7 hours mark. I was able to hold a good pace for almost 5 miles, but began to experience some pretty severe leg cramps between miles 5 and 7. I made sure to get plenty of fluids and electrolytes at the aid stations and it worked as I was able to actually speed up some between miles 7 and 9. Thank you volunteers for all you do!  The support we had at the aid stations was incredible, praise God for cold sponges! This race course was three loops, so as I hit that last loop I told myself to enjoy it. The cramps were getting more severe and more frequent but I was almost done! I looked at my watch and knew that I would really have to push to break 7 hours. I made a few runs at it that last lap, but in the end I was running on fumes. 7 hours 5 minutes and 12 seconds, it is done!

I want to thank all the many tri4Him members and friends that encouraged me out on the run course. It was a blessing to have each of you in those moments to share this experience with.

This was a special day for many reasons. First, we raised awareness and funding for the Epilepsy Foundation in Memory of Kaden Smith. Through the hard work of my teammates that volunteered Sunday we should bring our fundraising total to well over $2000. This effort is our 2012 tri4Him Houston Mission and we will not stop fighting and raising awareness until our last team member crosses the finish line at Ironman Arizona on November 18, 2012! We will reach our $7,030 goal.

The second thing that made this special for me was that this was a goal I set for myself two years ago. If you know me patience isn't my strongest attribute. Triathlon and getting back into shape has taught me many things about patience. The day I set this goal it seemed so distant, it was only 14 days after I had finished my first triathlon. As I ran that last lap Sunday I spent a lot of time thinking about my next goals.

Last, as I have mentioned before it is such a blessing to share race day with family. Having Sarah, Caleb and Carson there was awesome! I hope as the boys get older they realize that they can do anything that you put your mind to. Mom and Dad continue to become professional triathlon spectators and they are an awesome support crew whether helping getting my bike checked in or providing a soft bed. Racing with Tobey is always fun, how many brothers can say they've competed in a Half Ironman together? His fiancĂ© Kelly and her extended family just make it all even better. Thanks Ronnie and Cindy for all you do for us and for tri4Him!

My next race is April 29th in Kemah. It will be a return to my first race site and race distance, this should be fun!