What the heck do I do now?

Ironman Wisconsin: the part we’ve all been waiting for. The day where the season of dreams turns into a magnificent reality. The day where race-day visualizations manifest themselves with vivid colors, sounds, and smells. The day that ends with blaring music and blazing lights at midnight.

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And then silence. Stillness. All the time in the world to think about it.

These big events deserve decompression time. We meticulously write out training plans that span 6, 9, maybe 12 months, gradually building up to the big day… what happens afterward? An aero helmet has a tail in the back because it’s not just slicing the air that makes the ride smooth, it’s putting it back together at the end.

I’m reluctant to snip off my wristbands; here at the race venue I’m someone special. Finishers should wear their medals when they return to work and “regular” engagements, because there are only a few days when it’s socially acceptable.

We begin to thumb through our photos, and share our stories. (I try to frame them in terms of gratitude, avoiding undue comparisons and what-ifs). The event lives on in these memories, and our own successes are reignited whenever we go to the races and see someone else achieve the same. Fortunately, good race karma works for both the racer and the fan: we don’t have to race every time for our race successes to live on.

Still, the post-race emptiness leaves us asking: what the heck do I do now? Maybe another new goal. Maybe more time with my family and other hobbies. Maybe another Ironman?

Of course, there are two parts to the season. First is race day – the triumphant celebration and the ultimate test of fitness, perseverance, and adaptability. Second, and more importantly, is the entire rest of the year, filled with long hours and hard work. When considering “maybe I should do it again,” it’s important to remember both.

Here’s wishing you peace, amidst the satisfaction that the goal has been met, mixed with the necessary post-race melancholy. Welcome the quiet rather than rushing on to the next thing – give yourself the chance to decompress and consider all that you’ve accomplished. Let it be big. Let yourself be proud. And let this victory permeate deeply into your life and give you great confidence and satisfaction.

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Good advice for Ironman

Ironman Wisconsin is getting closer! Those who are participating are now really anticipating.

As the race approaches and the training volume decreases, the chatter-volume tends to increase. Those of us who have done it before are lurking on the interweb and at the tri-shops, bursting to give you our two cents. Some of it is worthwhile, some not so much.

Your mind may be entering the pre-taper contemplative period. Caution, this can be a vulnerable time. In some cases, this gives way to a phase I call “iron-melt,” in which athletes second- and third-guess everything they’ve done the entire training season, resulting in emotional meltdown. After that, there will be a confidence renaissance, followed by taper-madness, then race-week elation, then pre-race jitters, then race-day euphoria.

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So here’s my unsolicited advice: don’t take all the advice people are giving out. What works for one person would be a disaster for another. Put up a quasi-shield so you can enjoy the race excitement, but deflect the notion that you have to wear certain stuff, go certain paces, eat certain things, and perform certain tricks to have a successful race. Ask questions about what you need to know, and weed out the relevant information from the commentary.

Example:
You: “What’s the temperature like on race day?”
Alaskan: “Blazing hot. Wear shorts.”
Floridian: “So cold. Wear your arm warmers and jacket!”
Bummer: “Terrible. The weather always sucks at this race.”
Hardcore: “It was so hot at Kona last year I puked three times”
Expo: “These Newtons will help you excel in all temperatures”
Answer: average 54 – 75 degrees, mean 65; check your training log for a day like this and what you learned from it.

You already defined your “success” at the beginning of the season. That’s your “goal” that you set long ago. All these other voices are race-chatter; you be the editor, and ultimately listen to yourself.

100_1490One of the many cool things about Ironman is how long it is. It’s long enough to be weak in one discipline and strong in another and still end up strong; it accommodates different strengths and weaknesses among its participants. It’s long enough to take a moment to collect yourself when you need to, for the benefit of your race overall. Seconds gained in one part of the race can translate into minutes lost in another: take care of yourself and your own needs. Race like you train; don’t try anything new on race day.

Meanwhile, there are still weeks to go. Don’t forget to enjoy the summertime – you waited for this. Have confidence that all the training you’ve done all year will do its job and guide you to the starting line, right where you need to be.

But hey, that’s just my advice.

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This is leisure, you know.

Summer is in full swing. The 5:20 sunrise helps make it easy to get up early, and the late sunset gives us plenty of time to play outside after work, too.

For many, training is in full swing. Some of my friends are setting out early this Sunday morning for a 100-mile bike ride; for a couple, it’s their longest ride ever. It’s a time for anticipation, excitement, and accomplishment.

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Especially at this point in the season, I’m offering a reminder:

This is our leisure.

This is the time of year you’ll hear remarks like “I have to do this __ mile ride.” Well… not really – it’s on your training calendar to serve a purpose: it will help you toward a goal. If you loathe a workout, ask yourself about its purpose, and whether that’s still important or relevant to you. Your training plan can say pretty much anything and it’s up to you to choose whether to follow it. Smart, experienced athletes develop knacks for knowing what they need; sometimes that means swapping a session for rest, switching a solo session for an opportunity with a group, or taking advantage of great-weather days.

Ask yourself, “what do I need right now?” Maybe it’s focus and intensity. Maybe it’s food, contemplation, rest, yoga, hill repeats. It’s a great skill to develop for race-day, when conditions will undoubtedly vary from how you envisioned them. If you’re not sure, try coach Jackie‘s wise advice: “commit to the warm-up” – to help distinguish between lethargy or indifference and actual fatigue. Practice listening to yourself and being compassionate to yourself – these skills will benefit you far beyond your A-race. And perhaps developing yourself as a person – beyond your A-Race – was part of what you set out to accomplish.

Let’s keep it in perspective, friends: We do this for fun. This is how we choose to spend our spare time. We signed up for these races of our own free will; we live in a country that’s rich in resources and freedom. We are very much embodying life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

My buddy Luke recently remarked: “I don’t hesitate to set lofty athletic goals. I don’t hit them every time, but this fuels my personal drive to train hard, try again, and again if needed, and meet my goals.”

For me, this is a peak week – the Door County half-iron tri is approaching. And my goal for the week is to make training something I can’t wait to do. Every minute of it is not going to be entirely fun – that’s part of it – but every minute is going to count. I’m not going to tell you about every one of them, but I’m going to look for lessons in the low points, and celebrate the high ones. I’m looking forward to seeing my friends and greeting strangers too: I see sport as an opportunity to spread some kindness. I also look forward to some alone-time. And in the evening, I’m going to put on my compression socks and pick strawberries. Because it’s summer.

Strawberries

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7 tips for making goals

IMG_2819Happy New Year! January 1st invariably brings resolutions and goals. They seem so obligatory, but also daunting – to create, and to maintain. So here’s my perspective on goals, for your consideration:

  1. Dream Big 

    If you really want to do something, set your mind to it and start heading there. Let it be big: set aside time to single-mindedly pursue it; talk about it, write about it. Recognize that failures will be part of it and you’ll work through them. Don’t be bashful or tentative – let yourself get immersed in it. After all, you’re about to spend a lot of your life pursuing it. Spend it with all your your senses open, and it won’t be just about the goal, but all the amazing things you’ll discover along the way.

  2. Do it for you 

    photo by Melody Berry

    photo by Melody Berry

    Your goals and dreams are your own, don’t let anyone else tell you (or imply) what they “should” be. If it seems like all your friends want to do Ironman, that doesn’t mean that Ironman is the be-all and end-all gold-standard to which all fitness is measured. (I’ve done it three times now and loved it – now this year I’m curious about how fast I can go in a shorter course). People who train because they feel like they “have to” end up resenting their own hobbies. Do it in the pursuit of happiness. This is all optional, after all.

  3. Make it bigger

    DSC06934This goal you have in mind – why are you doing it? What or who will be better off for your doing it? How does it support your life’s goals? Many goals are inward-focused, which is essential because you are the only one you can change. But if pursuing a goal will make you stronger, more confident, more capable, and happier, those will radiate out into your life’s interactions and achievements. Your attitude will be contagious. Think about how your goal will help you be who you want to be. Make a plan … then make a training plan.

  4. Start Here 

    Dream big and dive in, but be realistic with yourself. Remember that all your friends and people you see out there come from different backgrounds, have different bodies, and have different goals. Set aside what they are doing and be very honest with where you are, and start there. Identify your limiters and address them in a way that works for you. I’m a fan of occasional reckless abandon, but there’s no use getting hurt on account of trying to fool yourself. Capitalize on your strengths to gain momentum. Look: there are your feet, you are at the starting line.

  5. Adapt

    by Focal Flame

    photo by Focal Flame

    To get from where you are now to where you want to be, I recommend mapping out the whole season.Yep, all at once: that way, you can see the building and the rest, the intensity and recovery, the ebb and flow. You can determine if, by the numbers anyway, your goal is reasonably within your reach (see #4.) BUT, this will only work if you understand that things are not going to go according to plan. Promise yourself that when unexpected changes come up, you will fall back on your overall priorities and re-assess (see #3.) Don’t decline your daughter’s wedding because you scheduled a bike ride last January. After all, on race day, things will not all go as you planned. Training is about becoming adaptable.

  6. Post Conspicuously

    Now, write a few things down, and put them on your calendar. They don’t have to be perfect – you’ll learn as you go – but they will die if you do nothing. Create a ritual that includes looking at where you are and where you are going. Schedule checking-in and re-writing your plan, maybe visiting with a coach for extra perspective. Stay accountable by recruiting others: blog to the world how it’s going, join a class or a team, or raise money for a charity and update your donors. Write down that goal and stick it to your door. Then,

  7. Start!

    We start the year with a joyful “Happy New Year” – but honestly, it began with waking up to another new day, just like any morning. You can bring the “Happy New Year” approach to every new day – any run can be a birthday run. Today is all you’ve got; it’s nothing short of a miracle.

Make this exactly the year you want it to be – starting today.

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The birthday run heard ’round the world

I run with a fascinating crowd. “Runners,” many of them – who run for lots of reasons, but give them another reason to do it, and they’ll run some more. Like birthday runs: a great way to get friends together and celebrate, while taking on outlandish feats like “one mile per year!” – just because.

Well, my 33rd year – which started with a 33k run – was a great one. Published Tri Therapy, got engaged, coached marathon-runners, finished my third Ironman. Got offered a new job and declined because I like mine more.

But with the miles underfoot, something went wrong with my knee. I believe in sport supporting a healthy, balanced life – not sport taking over everything to the point of physical peril and mental exhaustion. In my 6-year journey from novice to “athlete,” I’ve always been good at backing off when it’s time to heal. But this year, it just wouldn’t heal. The doctor recommended an MRI, to have a look inside and get some answers. They scheduled it for 8:30 pm… on my birthday.

So in the spirit of a proper off-season – one dedicated to resting and healing – I’ve taken some time off running, and counted myself out from my own birthday run. Or did I?

I put out an invitation to my friends: build my birthday run with your collective miles. Run solo, run when you can, or do something other than running if you must – and be part of the group even if it’s not physically in front of you.

What happened next was the best birthday present I could have hoped for. What do I really want – for my birthday or otherwise? Kindness. Interaction. Inclusion.

It was an international birthday run; it felt like everyone showed up. Rather than running with a handful of local friends then going home, the updates one after another made the whole day feel very special.

Garmins

The Garmin people hit the road and reported back, with solidarity in data. Extra credit to TPG, who brought in a 3.40-mile run in 34:00 exactly. This kind of friend.

Outside Runners

It was a great day to run outside. In Wisconsin… and Colorado, New Jersey, Quebec, Illinois, Minnesota, and Texas. And London, thanks to Roz! Some people ran in the morning, some after they got their kids to school. Eric knocked out a 10k at lunch time, and others – safely reflective and illuminated – hit the road to shake off the day’s work.

Dogs

Dogs got in on the fun, too. They are certainly some of the most eager running partners.

Treadmills

At least three runners hit the mill. And don’t blame the snow – Angela participated from Florida. Runners who refuse to “not have time” logged miles while minding their kids and their baking. These are the kinds of people you want around you in a happy life.

Leaps

Not everyone did running. It was choose-your-own-adventure after all. Paula ran 5 “Canadian miles” before leaping into a giant leaf pile (and submitting a video of the feat). Melody hung from the ceiling for 35 “incline sit-ups” (one extra for submitting on the 22nd). And Susan, after completing 34 pliés, soared through a fabulous grand jeté.

IMG_2908A couple other friends were also rehabbing injuries, so they walked, spun, swam, did yoga, and taught fitness classes. Personally, I may have been avoiding running, but I was no slacker – I did two yoga classes. Plus 30 minutes in the MRI, a perfectly still but bafflingly intimidating device.

All told, 47 of my friends chipped in 131.29 miles – more than enough to cover my 34th birthday.

Coaching with Team In Training, I’ve been close to a lot of people who have come close to death, and who have lost love ones. We hear stories of the exceptional, selfless support people show one another when time runs short. And I can’t help but say people: why wait? Show ‘em that you love ‘em – now!

And that’s what you did for my birthday. Something is keeping me from running for now, but it’s not like we were organizing the Dano memorial fun run. And yet you got out and traveled the miles, and it was the best birthday present of all. Thank you!

 

As we had breakfast together, Dione noted that many of the things people do to celebrate a birthday are regular parts of our daily life. Breakfast. Dinner. Nice little notes. Time for relaxing, time for playing. It was a reminder of a key accomplishment from my 33rd year: I’ve spent most of its days embracing the little things that make life good.

When you wake up each morning, a miracle has occurred: everything behind you is finished. Wake up and know: “this is it – this is today.” Share it. It’s like rebirth, really. Might as well live every day like it’s your birthday!

 

Just maybe not run 34 miles every day.
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Iron Love

Some relationships are born in the fog of bars, only to be painfully exposed in the light of day. While the rest of the world seemed to chase those simple dreams, we turned off the lights and headed to bed; we had to get up early.

You said you wanted two rings - I asked you to be my companion; for 112 miles, and many more.

Annika Swenson, Driftless Living Photography

Annika Swenson, Driftless Living Photography

It came from a special House – a place we know as a home, from a wise and kind man whose sage advice guides our days. He would later prophecy that completing the race together would ensure our ongoing happiness.

What is a ring anyway, but a commitment?

Many mornings we rose before the sun and embarked on one adventure after another, together.

Sometimes I thought I had made a great sacrifice. I thought I had generously given you something so dear to me - I thought I had given you my season.

The first time, I took 14:11. The second, 13:06. Extrapolate the dots and some would say that my next step “should” be the coveted 12:00.

But in 2013, I knew I would watch the sun set on a new PR or a daylight finish, a rare chance that only comes around once a year. Every two years if you’re an odd man.

Photo by Art Saffran

Photo by Art Saffran

It was in that very darkness that I stumbled upon a deeper love, a new respect for your determination, adaptability, and generosity that I could not have seen from the sidelines. Isn’t it amazing how the most impressive strength doesn’t boast? Isn’t it amazing what’s in people’s hearts? Isn’t it amazing how the toughest times bring us the closest together?

I believe in triathlon. I believe it has transformative power, and I know that behind goals linked to the time of day are more important motives: it’s the expression of our best selves that make this day sacred.

It’s pretty easy to stand in a church for 20 minutes and say some words. It’s even pretty easy to stand in T1 for 31 minutes anxiously praying that you’ll emerge from the rough water, let out a sigh, and join me for a ride.

God blesses the choppy, windy, hilly, dark, painful journey that brings us close to the beautiful mastery of creation: our human body and our human spirit, and the communion of a narrow road to travel, mysteriously individually and together.

A tiny part of me yearned for a faster finish. But today a much bigger part of me hears the notable eruption of fans’ delight as we took hands and did a little turn at the 13.1-mile turnaround, and understands that in an individual sport residing in a little bubble within a greedy world, our racing together had a much bigger impact on my true desires: to demonstrate kindness, that my example might help people be nice to each other.

What some might consider “sacrifice” was little more than a digit on a portable clock, and in exchange I got a year-long training partner, a common goal to share and cherish, and a companion for some of the year’s darkest hours.

I began the day with a song from my heart. With our best friends and family gathered from near and far, while dressed in our finest uniforms, we made our way toward the photographers through the lines of onlookers shouting their support, down the long carpet and across the hallowed threshold, while a man whose proclamations hold the highest authority announced us to the world as “husband and wife.”

Dano & Dione finish Ironman Wisconsin 2013

No, puzzled family-member, we are not yet married in the eyes of the State; but perhaps by the authority vested in Mike Reilly, we are now married in the triathlon world! We learned so much about each other through the season together; we sealed those intentions with the celebration of the race. They say Ironman takes time off your life, and it does. It was worth every second.

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And now for something completely different

Another day closer, but still days to go. Last night, at one of the numerous course talks I’ve attended this year, I heard some good advice: go home, rest, and think about something else. My body is feeling rested as taper does its magic. But our minds need a rest too. So at least for today, I’m taking a breather from x-days-till-race-day.

Cat Vomit. Maybe that’s where I’ll start. These sweet old kitties have generated a small backlog lately. The carpet cleaner makes quick work of it, but takes some set-up time. Today may be one of those days. If I get to it.

The guest room. Because Mom and Dad are coming this weekend! Further reason to tend to the cat vomit.

The lawn. I’m so glad we actually had rain this summer – unlike the last – but august was dry, and the grass mostly stopped growing. Fortunately, it’s still pretty green, but I’ve had a reprieve from mowing. Maybe tonight.

Laundry. Because the same wonderful dry air makes for great outdoor-drying. And there’s plenty of feet-up time while the laundry is washing.

Come to think of it, I bet these ideas don’t sound like much fun to you. If you’re like me, certain simple tasks are relaxing. If not, maybe tonight’s the night for a visit to the Pope Farm sunflower field with a picnic? May I suggest someplace not “on the loop” - just for today.

Oh yes, and a day at the office. There are plenty of projects calling for my attention.

I’m going to try to focus on a few of these today. Getting a few “other” things taken care of might just help us feel more prepared to entirely focus on something else over the weekend.

It won’t hurt to set the race down for a day. A little mind-taper.  I guarantee it’ll all be there in another day when you pick it back up again.

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Inside of a month to go

Less than a month to go!

Ironman returns to Wisconsin on September 8th. But we all know that – we’ve been thinking about that date since the moment we signed up, almost a year ago.

IMG_2227We’ve covered a lot of ground since then. There were days back in the spring when we wondered whether we were doing enough – but planning and patience have paid off. This weekend we’ll do out longest single session, then the mega-rides will give way to periods of rest, peak, and finally taper.

Friends who were once unsure whether they’d be able to do it are now feeling confident. The training is working. It’s also taking its toll – we’re tired. Little things make us nervous. We’re ready for the race to be here. We’ve put in the hard work, and we’re ready for this party.

But we still have a month to go. And the last thing a Wisconsinite wants to do is wish the summer away. Recall those icy winter days when we yearned for summer, or those chilly and rainy spring days we anticipated its arrival. Now it’s right in front of us: long days, shorts, warm open water, grills and bands and picnics.

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The same sensation will likely occur during the race. By the time you’re on the second half of the marathon (OK, probably also before that), you’ll be looking forward to the finish line. Part of you will want the thing to just be over with – while another part remembers that it’s what you’ve dreamed of for so long, and you don’t want it to slip away. Race like you train: these mixed emotions we feel during the season prepare us for what we’ll feel during the race.

Look at your training schedule for the next month, and look at your life. What do you still need to do – to prepare for the race, and to be confident that when fall comes, you won’t feel like you’ve missed the summer? When the training schedule calls for a one-hour swim, how about packing a picnic to refuel after, while the sun sets? How about inviting a new friend, or an old friend, to join you for a run?

Create moments of stillness: to consider how far you’ve come, to visualize yourself succeeding at your goals, and to simply feel yourself immersed in summertime. Resist the urge to overbook and rush. Through each day, look for the “summer” in everything you do. Open windows. Fresh smells. Farmer’s markets. Warm sunshine. Hilltop vistas of green. These are not mutually exclusive with training.

It’ll all be good practice for race-day. There will be so much to take in, it’ll be useful to have practiced looking around. You’ll be engulfed in positive forces to help get you through the tough patches: the international field, the unconditional fans, your diligent training.

And then suddenly, you’ll turn left onto MLK and be in the finish chute, and this whole training year will come down to one glorious minute. You’ll slow to slap high fives but simultaneously want to sprint to that banner you’ve been craving.

With a single step, you’ll be on the other side of the finish line, and this will all be behind you. Inside you. Conquered forever, confirmed by an epic voice pronouncing your new title to all the world. And in that moment and all the ones after, you’ll be glad you didn’t rush a second of it.

What will you do this month to celebrate your training while enjoying your summer?

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Race Report: Door County Triathlon

Door County in July – it’s the perfect vacation destination. Can it get any better? Sure: add a challenging but really fun event, and a bunch of friends.

What comes to mind when I think of the Door County triathlon? The festive atmosphere. An A-frame cabin and friends around a camp fire telling stories. Stories about races and tales of anticipation from those preparing to do their first.

So when it came time to write a race report, I asked a handful of friends: what was their experience? What did they learn? What made them happy? I encourage you to ask these of yourself after every race.

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DSC06752John

A long-time friend and TNT marathon-runner this spring, John tackled his second half-iron triathlon in Door County. He appreciates the kind of family that triathlon builds:

I always enjoy swapping stories about events and training. Having 2 days to listen to others and share my own experiences was a true delight.

There were constant reminders of human resolve and the uniqueness of the endurance community (My Team Triumph, participant with a prosthetic leg, TNTers, people of all ages, shapes, and sizes going after the finisher medal).

John did the Door County half last summer, and a few shorter triathlons. His perspective has changed as his relationship with the sport develops.

For the first time in a triathlon event, I felt the competitive fire. In running events, I often want to compete against others, in addition to competing against myself and the course. I had never had that feeling in triathlon; in the past I just wanted to finish.

The last 20 miles of the bike; I felt like I was towing a Mack truck filled with boulders. Maybe this should not be a surprise, my longest training ride was 25 miles.

Patience is important, even during a race.

And, one last tip:

The Pick n Save in Sturgeon Bay had surprisingly good fruit.

DSC_0315-001Spencer

An Ironman finisher and veteran of triathlon, Spencer is a good friend and training buddy of mine. I respect the perspective he keeps on the races, and his consistently good demeanor.

Saturday evening into pre-race Sunday morning was a ton of fun hanging out and chatting with everyone. It’s funny how much difference a year can make. Last year I only knew a handful of people. This year our [Endurance House] team was huge plus all the alum from previous years made it seem like a big family reunion with a race in the middle… The excitement and energy were fantastic.

Spencer’s report included some of the time-honored woes of triathlon. No matter how many years you do it, every race is different; things are always changing. From one race to the next, you can always modify your game plan. And from one moment to the next, you can always pick how you express your life.

Had a bit of trouble in t2. Brain wouldn’t focus and I stood 2 feet to the left of my spot trying to find it. Finally got the bike racked and shoes on. Took a bit more time to get them laced. Next time speed laces.

Then the hill. Walked up it and started jogging again but was now feeling the distance. Did what I could to keep my heart rate at the target and that effort seemed to be good. My times were slowing but the end was near… did a burpee at the line in honor of Jenny [our late triathlete friend]

DSC06728Melody

I met Melody at the aforementioned camp fire. She was one of those racers who had a friend suggest she try it, then there she was, at her first sprint-distance triathlon. When I asked about her race, her focus was much like many novices’: the swim.

I feel like I’m repeating the obvious; probably every triathlete has had similar feelings, minus the drowning part.

(No Melody, a lot of them mention the drowning part, too.)

Going into the race, I was most concerned with the swim, since I only learned how to swim properly within the last two months. The distance seemed very doable, as long as I remained calm and kept to a slow, methodical pace. But once in the water, having not anticipated waves, I panicked and forgot most of what I’d learned, and basically just swam from lifeguard to lifeguard.

A key takeaway: swimming from lifeguard to lifeguard is one of many ways to get exactly where you need to go: from the start to the finish. Melody had an interesting insight about the length of the race, and the difference between a single sport and multisport:

Last year I completed my first half-marathon, and even though my race times were comparable, the triathlon just seems to fly by much quicker. I didn’t anticipate how much weakness in one activity would affect performance in another in which one ordinarily feels more confident; I spent the first half of the bike just trying to recover from the swim. Even still, at the end of the race, I didn’t feel nearly as exhausted or sore as after my half-marathon, perhaps because the muscle groups vary.

DSC06755Dione

Dione conquered her first half-iron triathlon in Door County, well on her way to her first Ironman Wisconsin in September. Her race summary doubles as great race advice.

  • Use Body Glide on areas you never imagined need it.  They do.
  • When you farmer’s blow on the bike, come out of aero, unless you like snot on your shoulders.
  • Green freezy-pops can turn your race around.
  • When you want to give up, just keep moving forward.  I had a woman come up to me after the race thanking me for keeping her going during the last few miles.  I was having a real tough time during those miles, and unbeknown to me, was actually motivating someone to keep going.  Be the person who can inspire others by never giving up!
  • I love my tri friends, and their friends and families.  Triathlon is an individual sport, but it wouldn’t be any fun alone.  Both on the course and off, these friends motivate, inspire, and support me.

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As for me, I had a few things to offer the race. I went to Saturday’s sprint race to support all those racers, share my sunscreen, hold their stuff, and listen to what they had to tell someone. I rang my cowbell, took photos and hollered. Sunday morning I kicked off the half-iron race with the National Anthem, and then settled into my own race-day with a modest but fun pace.

Although my finish time was nearly the same as last year, I improved in the swim and the run – which is gratifying since those are the places I’ve focused my training. (I also had a blazing T2, of which I’m particularly proud).

Triathlon continues to be an individual sport, but its community gives it life, which shines brightly each July in Door County.

Posted in Race Reports, Triathlons | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

You can’t pick the weather on race day

We took another trip to Devil’s Lake this morning, looking for a repeat breakthrough swim in this small, calm, clean park. We picked up our friend Heather who decided to join us for her first attempt at 2.4 miles – why not?! And we met up with our friends from Tri-Swim Madison: the group goes to Devil’s Lake monthly for a long swim and picnic.

It was nothing like two weeks ago.

DCIM100SPORT

Little strips of white dotted the choppy little lake as the north wind blasted into our faces. We sat in our cars for a few minutes, communicating with motions through the windows, then reluctantly emerged and put on our wetsuits quickly to help stop the shivering. The temperature on this late July day was in the 50′s.

It reminded me of what training is about, after all: training is about becoming adaptable. Because if training is preparation to succeed at a race, you’re going to have to be able to take whatever the race gives you and turn it into your success.

It’s perhaps the most fundamental truth of racing:
You can’t pick the weather on race day.

On a day when a summer-morning’s swim is bombarded by an arctic gale, I’m likely to hear someone say “this weather is bad,” or “it was terrible out there.” But I challenge you with this: you might show up at a swim that’s windy and cold; you might arrive at a run under a rainbow at 100 degrees and just as humid; you might get on your bike with sleet pelting you in the face. These are the conditions of the day.

And you get to pick whether it’s good or bad.

Maybe you can reschedule a workout, but the race for which you are preparing is unlikely to budge. Those who are ready to embrace whatever the day might bring are better ready to find their version of success.

I’ve devoted a year to preparing for Ironman Wisconsin on September 8th, and much as I hope the weather will be my version of “perfect,” I’m planning for the day to be a celebration. What are you getting ready for? And are you planning to enjoy it only if it’s sunny?

DCIM100SPORTWas this weekend’s swim terrible? No way. It was windy. I modified my breathing and changed my pacing: fine practice in recognizing what I can control, and how I can adapt to the conditions. The kayakers probably endured more than us swimmers – the water felt warm. We swam across, and then back, for another long 2.4-mile swim. A few in the group completed the distance for the first time.

Just like a race director will reluctantly cancel a race if things get really dicey, I’m not suggesting you endanger yourself. But you might find that when conditions look tough, but you stop calling them bad, a whole new level of resilience and enjoyment awaits.

[update: strong winds and wavy water met us on Ironman morning. Thank goodness for those training days in similar tough conditions!]

Posted in Philosophy, Swimming | Tagged , , | 3 Comments