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Ironcrazy/Playlist #2

25 May

There is less than a month (!!!) until the Ironman.

How am I feeling (Zpora asked, so I’m responding here)? Well, I’d say I’m doing okay, except for being a neglectful “father” to our dog, a non-existent sous chef in the kitchen, a sporadic vacuumer and, like George Clooney’s character on The Facts of Life, my days of being a handyman seem like a lifetime ago.

Quincey says, “You haven’t walked me in like months and now you want to like hang out?” (She talks like a valley girl)
Anna says, “Tim? Tim who? Just kidding. Yeah, I know that dude. He takes lots of showers, eats all the time and sleeps in the same bed with me. We occasionally watch TV together while he’s talking about his next workout.”
Our vacuum cleaner says, “Vrrrrrrmmmmmmm.” (What’d you expect, it’s a vacuum? This isn’t a surrealist blog.)
And I’m not sure what George Clooney would say, because no one has asked him.

“Tim’s doing an Ironman? I don’t know about that, but I do know I wear this hairstyle better than you do, Jo.”

Well, It’s that time again. Time for another installment of “What is Tim listening to while he works out?” This is a list, in no particular order, of tunes on my iPod I’ve strategically put on a playlist while I am on the spin bike, on a solo ride or on the treadmill. I would have not even thought about putting together another playlist (for the blog), but it seemed important after my reputation was brought into question recently by a fellow gym-goer.

The situation went something like this:

Tim spinning away on the stationary bike at the gym, earbuds in place. Sweat going everywhere.

Fellow Gym Member: “Can I borrow the TV remote?”

Tim: [Heavy breathing]“Huh? Oh, yeah. Sure.”

Fellow Gym Member: “Thanks. [Takes remote. Takes one step away. Pauses. Turns back around.] Is that N’Sync you’re listening to?”

Tim: “Huh? Oh…uh, it’s on shuffle.”

Fellow Gym Member: [Walks away with a smug grin.]

Ok, so I was busted. No excuses. And most of all, I actually DO embarrass myself each time that song comes on, but when it comes time to update my iPod, I always forget to delete it. So, there’s my weak attempt at creating an excuse. Ok, on to the playlist!

Braids – Peach Wedding
Santigold – Go!
Frank Ocean – Novacane
Cave Singers – At the Cut
Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie xx – I’ll Take Care Of U
Sleigh Bells – Comeback Kid (I do not condone jumping on a bed with a gun, like Alexis Krauss does in this video)
The Hood Internet – Fireworks in the Winter (I’m a sucker for most of their mashups)
Fun – We are Young
Gashcat – Every Summer, Every Spring
Alabama Shakes – Heavy Chevy
Carly Rae Jepsen – Call Me Maybe (ok, I’m busted again)
Lil Wayne – Sorry 4 the Wait
Mr. Mister – Kyrie
Wiz Khalifa and Beirut (mashup)  – Say Yeah

Hope you enjoy, and maybe you’ve found a new anthem that can replace your N’Sync on your iPod too.


Putting the “Fe” in Fervor (or Feeble-minded)

21 May

“Fe” is the chemical element symbol for iron, for those who haven’t memorized the periodic table.

“Confidence is the feeling you have before you truly understand the situation.” I don’t know who said this quote, but I like it. And it seems like a good place to start in terms of talking about where we are in Ironman training. We are about five weeks out from the Ironman in Coeur d’Alene. And it seems that most things are on track. Ryan and I are doing well with our training – sticking roughly to a plan that makes sense – and feeling pretty good about things. Although, as we know from our Bible readings, a lot can happen within 40 days and 40 nights (i.e. Lent can start, the entire world can flood with the exception of Noah and his ark, Jesus can fast in the desert, Josh Hartnett can be thrown back into obscurity, etc.), but I’m not going to go the religious route here.

This past weekend was the IOS 100 (IOS stands for “Inside Out Sports,” a regional store that specializes and has a monopoly on everything triathlon related in NC) in Washington, NC. The 100 total miles are made up of 2 miles swimming in the Pamlico River, 88 miles of biking on the flattest land in NC and 10 miles of running on the same flat land. It went well for me, and it was intended as a training day (call me Ethan Hawke sans goatee), not a race day. The point was to learn a few lessons that can help us in Idaho. Obviously there were aspects of this that don’t mimic the Ironman, like the distance, the terrain, the number of competitors (this race only had 56 racers vs. CDA’s ~3,000) and the accents of the competitors. One woman passed me on the bike at mile 78 and said, “I reckon my tail bone needs a break. I can’t wait to start the runnin’!” It’s always odd to hear a thick southern accent while people are riding $5,000 bikes with $2,000 wheels. Something about that seems weird. It’s like I assume she’ll have a piece of straw hanging out of her mouth at the very least while she’s talking like that. I learned not to judge a triathlete solely based on their accent. And there were some other lessons learned and here are a few.

Only 140.2 miles left!

Take spray-on sunscreen to use in the transition area: No sense in getting healthy (although, it’s arguable that doing an Ironman is “healthy”), if you’re just going to die of skin cancer from all the burns you endure training and doing races. The spray will certainly add a minute or two to the transition, and has potential to add at least the same amount of time to one’s life. This past weekend I lathered on the SPF 50 at 6am before the swim, but after so much time in the water, it’s not as effective. Although that depends on the water you’re swimming in. If it’s filthy enough, it can create a natural film that will protect you from the sun…but again, that might give you cancer from whatever it is that is protecting you. And having had three, restless nights with burns up and down my back, I’m definitely taking this advice for next time.

Eat like your ancestors: It is thought that our appendix was once used as a second stomach, but over many millennia, we no longer needed an extra storage compartment for our food, and now the appendix is simply a waste of space (which reminds me of a story I once thought of writing involving a rich ultra-athlete who wanted to be as effective as possible, and got many of his non-essential or redundant organs removed in the name of dropping weight, but I digress). But I learned during long endurance events, one should eat when you’re not hungry. Once you’re hungry (or thirsty for that matter), it’s too late. The damage has been done. It’s like the old saying goes: Dance like no one is watching, sing like no one is listening and eat like you have a Cro-Magnon man’s extra stomach.

Race against yourself: It’s easy to get caught up in all of the excitement and want to push yourself to pass that person just a few paces in front of you. This is especially tempting in the first half of the bike leg when you know you have the juice to easily knock them off (not literally), and/or they are on a bike that costs the same as your 2009 Toyota Matrix. But it’s important to reel it in and channel the tortoise and not the hare. Let them come to you, because over time, they probably will slow down, and if you’ve truly maintained a solid pace, you’ll be fine. The only time it’s acceptable to pass someone in these situations is if they deserve it. Perhaps they littered. Perhaps they have a cliche tattoo somewhere on their body that has convinced them they are awesome and you’re there to prove them wrong. Perhaps they have a funny gait or stride that just makes you sick to think that person could beat you looking like that. Those are all acceptable reasons to pass said person; you do have your principles, after all.

Ok, I could go on and on, but I’ll stop here for today. The race was good. Lessons were learned. Notes were taken. And we all relaxed afterward by the beautiful Pamlico River. According to some dude on DailyMile, there’s only 33 more days until the race. That’s only 792 hours or 47,520 minutes! That’s not much time; I better wrap this up so I can get back to training.

A Potpourri of an Update

27 Apr

It seems that you haven’t forgotten about me if you’re back here reading. I’ve been inexcusably absent over the past few weeks, and I say “inexcusably” because my excuses have to do with training for this big race that is less than two months away. The whole point of keeping this online narrative going relies on me training at the same time.

Washed out but hopefully not washed up

Washed out but hopefully not washed up

So, the question is, what do I write about that is interesting to you, the reader, while still being informative (and simultaneously trying desperately to be funny)? I could tell you about meeting Kevin in the pool locker room, a 69-year old man who is training for his ninth Ironman and has had an aortic stent in his heart. That might be interesting to you – actually there might be multiple layers of that encounter you might be interested in, like “Why were you meeting old men in the pool locker room?” or “Is it safe for someone like him to be doing races like that after having an aortic stent?” I don’t know the answer to either of these questions, but all I know is he is faster than me in the pool, by about 5 seconds per 50 yards. That’s right, he’s double my age, and I’ve seen him in the water on more than one occasion swimming faster than me. If you’re interested in hearing more from him, here’s his blog. He not only shows more self-discipline in his athletic ability than me, but he’s also a more diligent blogger. I’m finding that everyone seems to have a blog about this stuff and a lot of people blog about the lamest things: “today I ate an everything bagel” or “stretching after a swim is helping” or “check out a picture of me running!” So insightful! Whatever. I’m just jealous I can’t think of interesting things to write about as often.

Or if you aren’t interested in that, I could tell you a story about my second toenail on my right foot named Jack (Jorge’s grandson, for those diehard fans of Ironmannaise), and Rose, the cuticle who is determined to never let go. Speaking of letting go, I could give a little story about how I extricated most of my hair from my legs this past week. That’s right y’all, it’s getting real. There’s nothing like shaving your legs for the first time of the season. There’s an odd set of emotions that accompanies that procedure and deep questioning of oneself, like: “Does this make me more or less of a man?” or “I wonder what my parents would think about this?” or “I’m glad I’m married so I don’t have to explain this too often…wait, I wonder if the same goes for my wife?” My legs remind me of that confusing feeling I remember having when I went on a couple of dates with a woman on the UNC field hockey team in 1998. Her legs were shaven, but they were also like tree trunks made out of muscle and rock. I’m pretty sure her thighs were the size of my torso…which served her well, since she played on the Olympic field hockey team a few years later. I could tell you about that.

Or I could tell you about my first Olympic-distance triathlon happening tomorrow morning at 9:30 in Wake Forest, NC. The water’s going to be cold, and I get to try out my wetsuit for the first time. There’s a good chance my first transition time will be at least 35 minutes: 30 minutes to take off the wetsuit, 4 minutes of sitting in shame and silent weeping and one minute to get my bike gear on and go. We’ll see. I’m feeling very prepared, but not for this particular race. Because this is a short race – relative to the Ironman – I haven’t trained for this distance, so don’t really know if/when to push it. Sadly, I’m doing this race on my own. No support, no friend to race with me, just me and the random intense triathletes of NC. If I drown, no one I know will know. So if that happens, just make sure they don’t tow the car. I wouldn’t want Anna to be stuck with the bill. I doubt any of that’ll happen, but if it does, I’ll blog about it.

Building versus Winning

19 Mar

I’m a risk taker. If you don’t believe me, read THIS previous post. And if you still don’t believe me, I poured some milk in with my cereal on March 16 that had a “sell buy” date of March 7. But taking risks doesn’t necessarily mean being stupid (like in my previous two examples I just cited). So far in this training, I’ve been going with my gut about how much time, quantity, intensity, etc. I should invest into this thing. But as the time creeps closer – approximately three months from now – I need to focus on taking smart risks and not taking stupid risks and following a plan! And I’m finding that stupid risks (as slight as they may be) can include training on what should be rest days, and it means not pushing myself through a workout that is obviously not going well.

In our western culture we focus on end results, outcomes and final products, and often overlook or undervalue the importance of The Process. The assembly line workers often don’t get high praise (ask the Chinese workers who built your electronics). Strength coaches on sports teams aren’t often the ones ESPN flock to after the team won the competition (ask Jackie Manuel).

A phrase we have used a few times recently at work, which was somewhat co-opted by another organization we work with, is knowing the difference and importance of “winning” and “building.” This isn’t a mind-blowing concept to parse out, but one that is certainly worth noting. Those who fund our work are interested in successes and end results, and while those are nice, important and great things to highlight, we also tell them about the important “building blocks” that are happening and ALMOST ALWAYS have to lead up to celebrating a “win.”

You don’t just wake up one day having been married for 50 years. You don’t just wake up one day and speak fluent Spanish. You don’t just wake up one day and your dog is well trained. All of these accomplishments take lots of building.

How many people did it take to build the pyramids of Egypt? This is something we sometimes think about, but mostly we focus on the magnificence of what’s there now. The outcome. Think of your greatest athletic hero. There is probably a chance that person used what Malcolm Gladwell calls the 10,000 hours rule in his book “Outliers.” This is the idea that you need to take at least 10,000 hours of working on something to get good at it. And what happens when you ignore the process? The Leaning Tower of Pisa.

As you can see, I'm not fully impressed

Unfortunately, there are those that are trying to circumvent the process and get the same outcome. Timothy Ferriss is making a living touting his “four hour work week” and “four hour body” to learn how to swim a mile, bench press huge amounts of weight, etc. through some efficient corner-cutting. I’m not sold, and I’ve heard his pitch. You can’t get something great for nothing. And even if you could; is it still considered “great” if you got it for nothing?

One day last week I had a terrible workout. My head wasn’t in what I was doing, my body hurt and I just wasn’t there. So I stopped early. Was I a little anxious about not finishing what I planned? Sure. Then by Friday I was anxious and excited and wanted to do more than what was on my workout calendar, because a) I was feeling good and b) I had the time. But no. I reeled it in, because I knew I had a big bike ride the next day and needed to pace myself. In both of these examples I was trying to be smart, not take stupid risks…and trying to think about the winning and – more importantly – the building.

Unfortunately, no one is going to give me a medal whenever I make a smart decision in my training plan. No one is going to say, “you are ‘building’ so well!” although, sometimes this acknowledgement would be nice. I know for some people rooting for us Iron-persons on June 24, they are impressed by all the training that went into it, but I would assume most people are only cheering for the accomplishment that happens on – and only on – June 24. I guess all that building is mostly for me anyway, most of them weren’t there for that part.


27 Feb

Last weekend I found myself browsing the Ironman Coeur d’Alene webpage. I stumbled across the rules and regulations page and found some interesting tidbits worth sharing. We’re going to take a closer look at some of the phraseology and research what prompted such rules. Okay, if we don’t get to that level of detail, you can do that on your own time.

For a list of all the other rules, click to enlarge, and click on the picture again once it loads.

First of all, there are obviously a lot of rules. I get it. There are jackasses out there who have tried to smuggle floatation devices, like water wings or rafts, into the competition (to give them an unfair advantage?) and/or mopeds, so I understand the need for all of the rules. It did take a couple of times through to totally understand all the potential violations one could commit during the cycling portion of the race. I learned that by simply riding along and minding my own business, I could be in violation if someone passes me, and I don’t drop back (1.f. “drafting violation”). This shouldn’t be confused with the “overtaken violation,” “position violation,” or the “blocking violation,” all of which have names that are very similar and hard to know which rule was broken if you’re slapped with these penalties. The rules for the “Bike Course” made me think they got lazy and just took pages from the football and soccer handbooks.

The most alarming rule came under #7 in the “Bike Course” and #6 in the “Run Course,” which says that a shirt must be worn at all times. I do my best running topless. And does that mean I’m shaving a big “T” into my chest for nothing? Oh well. I guess I’ve got to work “wearing a shirt” into my training plan. After a day or two of ruminating on this new, anxiety-provoking information, I asked myself “who defines what a shirt even is?” Does a bikini count as a shirt? Probably. Obviously a tank top would count. Is it really the Ironman organizational committee to make it their business to define what counts as a shirt? According to some extensive research, it seems that shirts are often defined as having three main criteria: “a collar, sleeves and opens in the front.” Merriam and Webster have obviously not spent extensive amounts of time in the south if they settled on this definition. A tank top does none of these. Nor do most bikinis. At least I have yet to see any that have sleeves.

If anything – upon even further research – it should be a rule to require an “undershirt.” The point is, I will probably just put two pieces of fish line over my shoulder that attach to a couple napkins, like a really awkward necklace and call it a shirt. That’s my point. I should blow their minds with that one.

The other rules I wanted to point out are just a bit silly.

Case in point: “No form of locomotion other than running, walking or crawling is allowed.” Who chose the word locomotion, and secondly, was crawling really important to add here? I can see it now: I’m 10 miles into the run, decide to crawl for a while to regain some energy (because apparently crawling takes less energy?) and then get back up to run. “Dang! Did I just get disqualified?! No, I’m good.” I know this wording is specified for the nut-jobs that literally crawl across the finish line, but if I’m in that state and/or frame of mind, I don’t really care if I’m disqualified or not. Because in my estimation, I should be disqualified from making sound judgment calls if I’m crawling. So, for review: crab walking, moonwalking, Chi walking are all okay, but don’t even think of hiking, strolling, hopping or dancing. Sadly, everyday I’m shuffling…so I guess I’ve gotta cut that out of my training.

Lastly, this one gets me: “It is incumbent upon each athlete to immediately reject any attempt to assist, follow, or escort.  It IS permissible for an athlete who is still competing to run with other athletes who are still competing.” Two things strike me about this snippet from #3 in the “Run Course” rules. First, it seems to have been written by Ayn Rand or Ron Paul. Secondly, this is how people get seriously injured during these races. I would assume that people who look like they need help should probably get help; yet the policy is written that said person is to make sure they push away any assistance.

“Looks like that person is throwing up blood.”
“Yeah, but don’t try to help him, otherwise he’ll get disqualified.”
“Good point. Should we tell him to keep crawling?”

I joke now, but I’m sure to see at least one athlete on race day where I’ll have an aha-moment, and say to myself, “So that’s why that rule is written that way!”

Red means “Go” (or Broke back on the Mountain)

15 Feb

These past few weeks I’ve been concentrating on working my heart rate at about the 80% range for 20-40 minutes at a time. Sometimes I’m even “red lining,” or getting it even higher, to 90% max (for me that’s about 175 beats per minute) for about 3-5 minutes at a time. And often I feel like throwing up very soon after that. Is that the appropriate feeling for someone doing 90% max for 3-5 minutes? Probably. I was telling my coworkers about this type of training, and they asked two appropriate questions: 1) Why? And 2) Can I let my mind wander while I’m doing that? To the ‘why’ question: it is simply to spend less time working out, but working out efficiently or doing more with less time. The latter answer is ‘no.’ That saddens me, because it does require constant focus when I’m hovering around 160+ beats per minute.

But I haven’t always been so focused and aware of what I’m doing with my body. Four years ago this past weekend I broke my back. My L1 to be exact: the part of your spine in the middle of your back. I went on a weekend snowboarding trip in West Virginia with some friends from high school, and, although it wasn’t stated, this was probably the last time we’d all get together in this way as many of us were getting married, having kids, etc. You know, all those other competing priorities were creeping in, and inevitably it was going to limit everyone’s availability for future trips like this. Having just come from three years living in Colorado, I felt it was my unspoken duty to show off all the “skills” I had acquired while living out west…even though many of these guys had been skiing or snowboarding since they were kids.

The gang

We found ourselves in the terrain park and there was a steep hill separated by a 6-7 foot deep trench one had to clear in order to catch the downslope (without sounding melodramatic, think of the Grand Canyon). In other words, if you hit the jump too slow, you’d fall 6 feet into the trench. If you hit it too fast, you’d clear the downslope and land on flat, hard-packed snow. Sage and I were the only two stupid enough to consider attempting this. Sage hit the jump, got back to the top and quickly said, “Don’t do it. It wasn’t fun.” And he meant it. He had overshot the landing and said the snow was hard packed. Sadly I didn’t listen. Even more sadly, because this was a significant jump, everyone wanted to see me do it. And now it’s well documented, see below.

I started towards the jump, didn’t check my speed, overshot the landing, flailed in midair for the ground, and finally caught it…on my tailbone. The shock went up my spine and broke my L1. My doctor said it was like when you put an empty Coke can on the ground and step on it. There is a lot more to the story that involves a three hour ambulance ride, not being able to leave the hospital after three days until I pooped (which I couldn’t) and wearing a back brace for three months. The day it happened, the doctor said “If you severed your spinal cord, you may never walk again.” Luckily that wasn’t the case, and three weeks later a different doctor said “On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being a very traumatic broken back, yours was a 2. Having said that, you still broke your back.”

Take off

This experience taught me that there are other ways to have adrenalin rushes. They don’t all have to come in split seconds. Sometimes they can happen over, say, 12 hours of exercise in Coeur d’Alene. So I’ll probably skip jumping out of a plane, driving excessive speeds a car, and any other ways one can die in split second missteps, but I’m still finding my way to “red line” without being totally over-the-top stupid. Unless you consider an Ironman over-the-top stupid.

The broken L1 is at the top of this xray

Coach Sinbad

27 Jan

Last weekend I found myself lounging on the couch, channel surfing. I stumbled on “A Different World,” and an episode from season one which was entitled “If Chosen, I may not Run.” Regardless of whether the show was talking about running (a sport I enjoy), there was a good chance I would have watched it anyway. I’m admitting that. For those who may not be familiar, this was originally a “The Cosby Show” spin-off featuring Denise and her experiences at Hillman College. Season one was amazing because it featured Bill Cosby, Sinbad, Jasmine Guy, Lisa Bonet, Marisa Tomei and Dwayne Wayne (his real name is Kadeem Hardison, but to me, he is only Dwayne Wayne). The show started out light, like “TheCosby Show” but eventually got really preachy and confused about whether it was a comedy or a drama. That’s what happens when you have a cast made up of people who later did “In Living Color” while also discussing topics like AIDS, sit-ins, unplanned pregnancy and racism. I digress.


Anyway, the particular episode I watched was about Denise joining the track team. Her coach was played by Sinbad. He lets her know that while her legs look like she’s running; her upper body looks like she’s swimming. This seemed to get laughs from the live audience, but it made me consider this technique for next time I swim and/or run. Denise also talks about being sore and tired all the time and even considered quitting the team. Her friend, Virgil, who seems very enthusiastic about running, tells her he thinks about quitting every day. This seems to be good enough for Denise, and she’s comforted to know she’s not the only one who has these thoughts. As a viewer, and someone who is training for an Ironman, I found myself yelling at the TV: “Virgil, what has kept you from quitting?!” For the passive viewing audience at home, maybe knowing Denise’s feelings are normal is good enough, but not for me. WHY haven’t Virgil and Denise quit?! Where’s their motivation coming from? I’ll never know, and I’ll never know for two reasons: 1) the next episode doesn’t follow up, as it is about the female students having a crush on a geology professor and 2) the episode ends with Denise singing “Rockin’ Robin” and dancing around. I thought she was sore. I call BS. She obviously was being melodramatic if should could show off those dance moves.

What happened to realism in TV? That’s what I would like. And no, this is not the same as reality TV.

I guess I should look for answers to keep me motivated from, um…different worlds that don’t involve TV. But what are reputable sources? Magazines like Bicycling, Runners World and Triathlete have agendas…and usually shallow articles. And the articles that are helpful usually just barely scratch the surface of the topic. Why isn’t there a magazine for people that like to process feelings related to exercise? I’m not sure what that would look like, but I’m sure there’s a market for this out there. Sadly, it would probably only highlight diagnosable crazy people who truly have disorders. Ok – let me rethink this – maybe more specifically, I’d like to read a magazine for normal people who like to whine.

Speaking of whining, I’m no longer allowed to talk about how cold it is in Chapel Hill. My friend, Paul, who lives in Laramie, Wyoming, let me know this in a simple exchange of text messages earlier this week.

Tim: I went on a run today and it was warm enough to go shirtless. How is the weather in Laramie?
Paul: Snowed all morn, 14F now. High tom is 39, but -5 wind chill. I don’t ever want to read about it being too cold to train on your blog again.


You, the reader, may think I’m just a whiner all the time. But it’s actually been a good past couple of weeks. I’ve been doing about 8-10 hours a week worth of training. I’ve been concentrating on getting my heart rate up during short workouts – something I’ve never paid all that much attention to before – and longer workouts have been easier because of it. And I’ve lost about 4 pounds. That won’t happen for much longer as I’m assuming that is just the “winter base layer” I’m shedding.