Triathlon at Beaverdam Recap

6 May

Let me start by saying I hope everyone had a Happy Cinco de Mayo. Now it’s time for your Sies de (Iron)Mayo!!!

The American Evaluation Association is holding its annual conference this November. In honor of that – and if they’re looking for any unconventional and non-boring presenters – allow me to introduce you all to my geeked out approach to slicing and dicing last weekend’s race. To paraphrase Fred Barnard from about 90 years ago, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” The second part of that quote, that most people omit, is “and a bar graph, histogram, line graph, table or other visual representation of data is worth two nickels.” That may not sound like much, but factoring in for inflation, that’s at least 50 cents by today’s standards.

That’s not the point, the point is that instead of giving you a race report, I’ve put together some bell curves (I just learned how to do this on Microsoft Excel) to show where I fell in the overall field. I came in 13th overall and feel pretty good about that (all the results are HERE), especially since I took enough time during the transitions to watch a couple YouTube clips on how to make bell curves and histograms using Excel. (The dot on each of the lines represents what my time was for this particular piece of the race)

If you cannot figure out what the numbers mean, please go to the American Evaluation Association conference in Anaheim, CA in early November. If you don’t see my name and presentation on the agenda to ask specific questions during my session, just print out these graphs and take them with you. At that point, I’d suggest walking around asking people what the numbers mean. After a while, they’ll notice how incredibly brilliant these graphs are, and they’ll invite me to present the following year, I’m sure.

One more thing, I felt really confident after this race. But that confidence waned a bit when I realized I did pretty well in a race distance I’m not training for. That’s like training for a marathon and, during the training, killing a 5K. It’s not that impressive when that’s not your goal.

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Abby Nearly Dies, Tim Wins Big, Ryan Disappoints: Your Monday News Roundup

30 Apr

I see that Tim finally blogged. Thanks for joining the party, Tim! Last week was a down week for training. My bike rides, swims and runs were all shorter and easier rel

Movin' on up (in elevation, distance and time)

ative to the week prior. I am

hoping that this means I will have more energy to take on the workouts scheduled for this week. Tim and I are biking 85 on Saturday and I have to run 16 miles on Sunday. I also have to swim to Raleigh at some point. Luckily I think the down week did me some good. I no longer feel as though my life has been distilled down to exercising, sleeping, eating, and cussing at Tim for talking me into this. Now my life feels as though it consists of exercising, sleeping, eating and cussing at Tim for getting faster while I hover at about the same ability as when I started. Seriously, my swim, run and bike times haven’t budged in quite some time. I’m hoping I begin to get faster during my taper week.

I have an urge to tell you all about Abby’s race this past weekend but I think I will resist for several reasons: 1.) Abby is the only person who reads this blog

so she already knows what happened, and 2.) Abby may want to blog herself about her experience and she is a much better story teller than I am. If she doesn’t blog about her near-death experience, make sure you stop her in the lunchroom and have her recount the details in that low-pitched, staccato style of hers. Goosebumps.

Okay back to me. Tim did a triathlon this past weekend. He came in 13th overall. I will let him tell you what happened. I don’t want to steal his thunder.

Where was I? Rambling. I suppose this is what happens when my readers demand that I blog more. The posts get more useless, less informative and even more anticlimactic. Kind of like the ending here.

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.

For all the Doubters Out There…

23 Apr

I did it! I made it a whole week without falling off the blogging wagon. I am blogging at you right before your very eyes! Don’t look now or you might get some blog on you!  Okay down to business: This past week’s training was a mixed bag. Tim and I biked 82 miles on Saturday but then I failed to do my workouts on Sunday. This is not how things are supposed to work. The whole point of working out on consecutive days is to learn to workout while tired, to train one’s muscles by taxing them when they go all Tea Party on you. Apparently I was too tired to realize this. Despite my insolence this past weekend, this will be the first long run I have missed since I began training. And my longest run was 16 miles several weeks ago, and I plan on ramping up to 20 miles in a few weeks following a 100-mile bike ride. And I have been generally consistent following my training plan overall. And, and, and…

At least that is one side of the debate going on in my head right now. The other side of the argument recognizes that I am entering a phase of training where I am tired most of the time and training is not as fun as it was, say, four months ago. For some strange reason four to five hours on a bike just doesn’t do it for me anymore. Even with Tim accompanying me on a long ride or Abby on a training run I can still think of about one hundred other ways I’d rather spend my time on weekends. After a fitful night of sleep last night spent thinking about this week’s training, Abby remarked that, “Ironman training was ruining [my] life.” I wouldn’t go that far. But I am walking a fine line between enjoyment and obligation at this point.

This is not to say that I am giving up on the idea that the next two months cannot be enjoyable. With each building week I am entering new training territory with respect to the amount of time spent exercising. The egoist in me is excited about pushing myself to see how successful I can be at sticking to my plan as things get more challenging. And that ego is strong, mind you. It does not like to fail. It still remembers that time it had to deal with all those bullies and asthma and spent hours on end fantasizing about what it would be like to fight its enemies alongside Chuck Norris. *

Time to double down is my point. About two months to go till race day. I’ve come this far. I think I can go a bit further.

*This may or may not sound faintly similar to the plot to the 1992 buddy film Sidekicks.

Just for Today…

16 Apr

So I haven’t blogged in months despite consistent training over the past 10 weeks. I guess I’ve been too busy biking, swimming and running to sit down and write a blog post. More accurately, I’ve just been trying to see how long I could go without blogging and still maintain a friendship with Tim. I think we have reached a breaking point as things have gotten kind of weird lately. There is this far-off longing in his eyes every time we hang out. It’s as though he wants to ask me when I plan on putting ironman training ideas to web-based paper, but he just can’t stomach the disappointment of my inevitable response. He knows that I will make some empty promise of getting around to it. He knows that I will tell him I have ideas (oh I have ideas!) only to produce nothing. It’s like I am an alcoholic parent who keeps promising little Timmy that we will go to the baseball game only to pass out on the couch in my boxers at 2:30 in the afternoon. Those kinds of memories leave scars.

I am having a moment of sobriety so I am back to making promises that I truly believe will stick. Here goes: I will try to produce some useful material for Ironmannaise at the rate of once per week. 1 entry! Can you even stand the excitement? I realize this is me talking big here. In the alcoholic community they call us king babies. We boast and moan and whatnot and then complain and blame others when it does not happen. I don’t plan on doing that, but I also didn’t plan on not taking Tim to the baseball game on Saturday.  Whatever. I am on a truer path now! I am going to stick with this! Please, please just give me another chance! I can change! I promise to follow through!

I want to update you, our one reader, on my training over the past 10 weeks. Where to begin? Well, I am up to around 12 hours per week. My swimming is still the weakest part of my game at this point, although I am improving slightly. I can now make it to the other side of the pool without lifeguard assistance. Despite some fit issues with Guru and an almost exclusive reliance on my road bike, I feel strong and reasonably fast on my long rides. And my running is as good as it has ever been. In short, I feel right on schedule.

With one small exception I am also injury free. If I hadn’t crashed my bike yesterday and tweaked my elbow I’d have nothing to talk about.  So that’s about it. Nothing more to report here. All is good. Thanks for stopping by!

 Oh you are too crafty to fall for that one, aren’t you? Okay, you caught me. I crashed my bike yesterday and sprained my elbow. I was riding along minding my own business when I encountered some road construction near my house. My tire caught a groove and I lost my balance and toppled over onto my shoulder and elbow. It doesn’t bend right now, although I don’t think it is broken, although it is sore and I will probably not be swimming for a few days. I hope that is the only consequence of this.

 Alright. Don’t want to dampen an otherwise cheery blog post with my news of doom and gloom. I’m off to my AA meeting. And let’s all mark our calendars in anticipation of my next blog installment. Cheers!

The Other (Iron)Wo(man)

20 Mar

Dear Ryan,

In reference to Tim’s last post, part of being a risk-taker is being associated with a blog, and basically putting your life up for grabs on the internet.  That being written, confronting you on this blog may be part of what you signed up (i.e. registered) for.

What I had chalked up to as self-doubt now seem to be a constellation of suspicions, all of which make sense.  I don’t think you can keep this from me any longer.

You have been absent lately, both mentally and physically.  When we talk, I feel like you are not fully there.  You seem preoccupied.  Other gears are shifting in the back of your mind, namely Dura-ace.  You seem to avoid discussions of the future, at least beyond June.  You have been coming home from work later and later, smelling suspiciously of chlorine.  On the weekends you tell me you are with Tim or watching UNC basketball.  When did a UNC game last upwards of 4 hours?  When did Tim ever show up for hanging out with you?  Why do you reek of a combination of chlorine, sweat, and sunscreen?  Hours later, when you do finally decide to come home, why are you ravenously hungry?  And what is this newfound interest in exotic foods such as hardboiled eggs, turkey lunch meat, and baked chicken?  Why have you suddenly developed a “taste” for these when we rarely have them in our home?

I always fantasized that we would grow old and dumpy together, revelling in both losing our elasticity with age.  But lately, you keep mentioning your “glamour muscles” and spend evenings doing crunches and push-ups.  You have started shaving your chest and wearing spandex.  You’ve developed a new interest in calorie counting and your sugar intake.  Your co-workers hint that you weigh yourself on the scale at the nurses’ station.  You seem preoccupied with amino acids and sleeping.

For the past four months, I have known something was up.  Our bank account has been slowly hemorraging hundreds of dollars at a time.  I had fooled myself into thinking those credit card balances were a suprise vacation or jewelry.  You are in bed by 9:45 every evening and complain about aching hip flexors.  I told myself that your job was stressful and your hips hurt from sitting all day at the office.  Somehow you keep getting inexplicable infections and rashes, like swimmer’s ear or chaffed thighs.  I convinced myself these were due to the changing seasons and a compromised immune system from working with chronically sick clients.  It is a blessing I have yet to catch anything from your indiscretions.

Ryan, lately, you have been cavalier, careless, or arrogant.  Or a combination of all three.  I can’t deny it any longer.  You have come home with pure evidence of her on your body – the goggle imprints around your eyes, the bikechain grease on your calf.  Last week I found a tube of chamois butter in your nightstand.  And your frequent activity on the www.dailymile.com.

I don’t really know what to say.  I thought that my joyful attitude, healthy diet, and frequent exercise would keep me fit enough and you interested enough.  But, I have come to realize that no matter how hard I try, I will never be carbon fiber.

Don’t call –

Abby

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.