You Have No Upcoming Workouts

Since November 2009, a big part of my life has been ruled by an email appearing in my Gmail inbox: My Training Peaks scheduled workout.  My coach, Gerardo Barrios, dutifully updated my schedule each week and sometimes two or three weeks in advance.  I planned my work day, outings with Stephanie and our friends and family, and my own "free" time around whatever my Training Peaks update left room for.

But since the conclusion of Ironman Coeur d'Alene, my update has read the same: "Ryan Schneider: You have no upcoming workouts."

It's taken all of one week since IMCDA to become sick of seeing that statement.  Sure, I've swam a bit and spun on my trainer.  But it's just not the same.  Strangely, now I feel guilty with all my free time -- though I'm savoring every minute.  I've gotten so much done around the house, spent a LOT of quality time with Steph the past few days, caught up with friends, finished my next Lava Magazine column and am finally present with all my outstanding work-related emails.

Ahhh, productivity!

Still, deep inside, I can feel my fitness slipping away.  All the work I did to become a bonafide Ironman triathlete is dissipating.  And that's frustrating.  I didn't work this hard to become a slouch.

What am I going to do about it?

This is my plan, for the moment. Plans can change, as I've learned all too well from this sport.

  • For the next two months I'm focusing heavily on all things wedding.  The Big Day is less than two months away and there's still much to do.  Steph has been phenomenal shouldering such a heavy load, and I'm going to ease that burden significantly.  The countdown for the wedding is becoming just as exciting as any athletic event, and I think it will surpass anything I've felt before come Wedding Day.
  • While Steph and I are focused on The Best Wedding Ever, I plan to swim a couple times a week, either with Fortius or on my own. I also plan to learn what I can to significantly improve my swim technique.  I don't know if that means Total Immersion swimming or improving upon my existing mechanics.  I'm undecided here, so any advice would be super appreciated!  I won't participate in a triathlon until at least October (though I did flirt with showing up last-minute to Strawberry Fields Triathlon in Oxnard on July 16), so I have plenty of time to see how I can break major new ground in the water.
  • Next, I'm planning to purchase either a Computrainer indoor computer trainer system OR a power meter to measure power output on the bike.  If I want to make big leaps on the bike without spending more time training then either one of these tools are going to become quite important.  I'm still trying to decide which tool represents the better investment.  Please let me know if you have an opinion.  In the meantime, I'm going to spin on my trainer a couple times a week while watching the Tour de France, possibly going on a few-hour ride one day during the weekend.  If anyone reading this wants to go riding for a few hours, let me know!  (Brennan, I'm looking at you!)
  • While I'm training simply to maintain a basic form of fitness, I'm planning to thoroughly read Joe Friel's "Your Best Triathlon" book.  I need to find a way to train within the 10-15 hours a week range, with few exceptions.  I figure more focused, more intense training spread out over more recovery might help.  That's why I'm leaning towards purchasing the Computrainer, as it immediately cuts down on commute time, gives me all sorts of data to analyze and lets me ride simulation courses from most Ironman or 70.3-distance events.  From what I'm reading, 70 miles on a trainer equals 100 miles on the road.  I like that, if I can grind it out mentally.
  • That's everything on the training front. I still need to find better balance with my writing.  I've got some plans to turn the Ironmadman blog into a book project and self-publish through Kindle. This is a long-term goal though I'm starting to work towards it now -- thinking of an outline is the first step and is officially under way as of today.  Next, I'm considering an offer from the LA Tri Club to be its official blogger.  I'd write one post per week on pretty much anything I want.  However, time is going to be slim for this so I may have to opt out.

Where does this leave my blogging?

I don't know, to be honest.

I don't know if I can continue to blog every day, especially without any races coming up.  There's simply not a lot of "interesting" triathlon related news that's going to come from me.  I do owe people more info from my Chris McCormack interview, and I haven't forgotten about that.  Otherwise, I think we're winding down on the Ironmadman daily blog for the time being.  I'll continue to post, just not nearly as often.

Of course, last time I wrote that I went back to heavy frequency.  Perhaps this whole writing thing is more a part of me than I realize!

I do plan to write a somewhat temporary/unofficial "farewell" post in the coming days.  Something to wrap up what I consider to be two huge chapters in my triathlon journey -- completing my first Ironman and taking the lessons learned to complete a second within seven months.  There are lots of people to thank and acknowledge, and I'd like to write a letter to my future children (NO, none are on the way any time soon mom!) so they can have some real context to what I hope this blog can teach them one day.

Just because I don't have any upcoming workouts on my schedule doesn't mean I'm going to stay idle.

I hope I'm just warmed up now.

IMCDA Race Report Part 3: A Runner Today

Once I got off the bike, I had an eerie sense of deja-vu.  I could feel the light heat of the afternoon, and I could feel my tight and slightly wobbly legs. Memories of Ironman Arizona crept into my head.  Stomach cramps during the first mile of the run. IT bands locking up almost immediately.  Med tent visits.  Running alone.  Darkness setting in.  Goals slipping away with the moonrise. I walked into T2 unsure what to expect of myself, taking my time in transition to make sure I had everything I would need for what might become a long, long walk.

After the kindest trio of volunteers slathered me with sunblock, I exited T2 and walked along the crowd-infested corridor out to Sherman Avenue.  The noise and energy was incredible. Everyone seemed to be imploring me to stop walking and to get a move-on.  I noticed that the Timex official event clock struck 8:00 almost on the dot as I passed under it.

Breaking 12 hours was not meant to be today.  But breaking 12:30:00 was a real possibility -- if I started running.  Still, that would be a 30-minute personal best time if I could pull it off.

Thirty freaking minutes.

Like a jockey kicking the sides of a horse, I slapped my right thigh to pick up the pace.  "Let's see how this goes," I thought, scared that my legs would lock up just like in Tempe.



I felt good?!


I exploded out onto Sherman Avenue to thunderous cheers for all the athletes.  It didn't matter I was a middle-of-the-pack triathlete, the crowd didn't care.  They just wanted me to believe in myself and smile.  So I did, thanking people who called out my name because of my race bib and even high-fiving a few people along the way.  This was glorious, what every weekend warrior dreams of. That one moment in time where you're not watching the Tour de France, you're riding in it.  You're not watching the World Series, you're starting Game 1.

That is what Ironman is all moment in time where it's your name on the back of the jersey, not MJ's, not LeBron's, not Jeter's, not Brady's.

I kept a strong pace through the first mile until I reached the Fortius team tent.  Steph, Coach Gerardo and my teammates were all there to encourage me.  I stopped to give Steph a brief kiss and told her I felt really good.

It was on.

Those first six miles, I assaulted the course.  I ran motivated, fearless, and angry.  See, my strength trainer told me weeks before the race that "my body simply isn't cut out for running" and that I should quit altogether after Ironman.  Thanks to Steph's guidance, we came up with a mantra that funneled my resentment and hurt: "I may not be cut out to be a runner.  But I'm a runner TODAY."  I repeated that phrase out loud the first six miles, along with another choice statement: "I am fucking invincible today."  I'm not sure where the latter one came from, but I know what sparked it.  I knew my Fortius teammates and LA Tri Club buddies were behind me.  I also knew they probably figured I'd do what I had done at Wildflower Long Course triathlon this past May -- bonk hard on the run after a hard bike.

Heck, I thought I was going to as well!

But I just couldn't let that happen. I couldn't stand the humiliation of proving once again that I'm all bike and no run.  I needed to be more than that.  I had set up my race all day for the run.  I had stayed within myself on the bike, calculating my nutrition by feel and pace by instinct just so I would be in this position.

I was NOT letting go of my lead.  Not today.  Because today, I'm a runner.  Plain and simple.  Runners don't lose their lead.

I had no idea how fast I was running, but I knew I was following my walk-the-aid-station plan and running faster than I had during my training sessions.  I felt amazing.  Around mile 12, I found my buddy Chris, who kicked my ass on the bike by about six minutes.  I gave up trying to catch him early in the bike race, hedging my bets for this moment.

When I ran alongside Chris, I told him to run-walk with me, that we could finish together if we did.  I really meant it.  Chris has been a good friend and training partner the past couple years.  I didn't want to see him suffer, and he was clearly bonking.  Chris gave it a valiant effort to keep the pace but fell back.  I saw him once more as I started my second loop of the marathon at mile 13.5 and he was just starting his second loop.  I didn't see him again.

This is where I got into trouble.  I lost my head when I saw Team Fortius around mile 14.  I was having the run of my life, or so it felt.  I demanded that my teammates not tell me my pace or what time of the day it was.  I didn't want to know!  I was so locked into my own mental space that it didn't matter.  I could feel my heart-rate rise though as I saw Steph, Gerardo and Christina.  I started screaming, "I MAY NOT BE A RUNNER, BUT I AM TODAY!!!" Later, Christina would say her hand still hurt from my high-five as I rushed past.

That heart-rate and adrenaline surge would cost me a few miles later.

I started to bonk around mile 17, two miles more than my longest run of the past six months.  There's a long half-mile uphill climb and it ate me alive.  I had stopped repeating my mantra and was simply focused on reaching each aid station in the best condition possible.  Stomach cramps started searing my midsection, though I had made a smart tactical gamble five miles prior when I picked up a Pepto Bismal tablet package that someone had dropped on the course. Just like at Ironman Arizona, I thought I might need it.  I surely did.

Mile 18 came, and this is where it gets a little gross.  I apologize in advance, but in the spirit of honesty and sharing what happens to the body during an Ironman, I pissed myself.  I had to use the restroom, my brain was tired, I didn't want to stop moving and I didn't have the willpower to wait any longer.  I walked through an aid station as urine poured down my leg. Nobody could tell as I took water sponges and drenched the back of my neck and head to make it look like water was soaking my whole body.

Sorry mom.

The next four miles were the hardest.  The hills continued to whittle my legs out from under me, and the hamstring cramps kicked in.  I remember running and looking at my shadow just as I pulled up lame with a shooting flame locking my right leg up.  I limped for about 10 steps and continued to run while breathing straight to the pain. Cramp gone.  This happened two or three times along the way.  My strong pace had crumbled completely, going from what I later learned was a 9:36 pace to a 11:53/mile pace for those four miles.  I had bonked HARD.

The drama and finality of finishing my second Ironman kicked in around the 24th mile.  The crowds of neighbors peeking out from their homes in the residential neighborhood could tell who was on their second loop and which runners were starting their first.  They seemed to pay special attention to those of us who looked the most wounded.  That would be me. "Come on Ryan!  Finish this!  Don't stop!"  One house had the Rocky Balboa theme song blasting from its driveway.

That's all I needed.  I had worked this entire year for this moment.  It was the 15th round.  I had punched hard, been punched hard, knocked this race down and been knocked down by it.  But now it was time to FINISH.  No excuses. No pain.

Mile 25. One final round of cramps just for good measure on the final hill before reaching Coeur d'Alene City Hall.  I ran through the parking lot, still oblivious to whatever my time and pace had been to this point.  Then, I saw the City Hall clock before making the final turn onto Sherman Avenue and seeing the absolutely endless finisher's chute -- fortunately all downhill from there.

7:25 p.m.

I was going to break 4:30.  I did it without a watch.  I did it without a clue on timing.

I did it all on heart.

The final quarter-mile felt quite different from Ironman Arizona.  I wasn't giddy this time.  I was exhausted.  I felt like the Memphis Belle from the 1980s movie with Matt Modine and Eric Stoltz.  Landing gear gone.  Wing shot up.  No fuel in the tank.  Gonna land on my belly, if I land at all.

Just. Get. Me. To. The. Finish.

Gerardo high-fived me.  "You PR'd!"  Too tired to acknowledge it.  Just keep running, I thought.

The final chute.  The cheering is actually a roar.  Somehow, I spot Stephanie to my left.  My arms raise, and I point to her emphatically.

This moment was for her as much as it was for me.  WE did this.  We did it!

I promised myself throughout my training that when I crossed the finish line of my second Ironman, I'd make the famous "V" sign with both hands to indicate two completed Ironmans.  Oh it felt good to raise those arms!

"Ryan Schneider, from Sherman Oaks, California!"

"You're an Ironman!"


I predicted 12:26:00 or better in my pre-game mental strategy race document.


My race ended with me standing alone in the chilly lake waters, coaxing the lactic acid out of my legs.  The water was calm and lapped around me so gently.  The sun was nowhere near setting.  The temperature was perfect, and if someone told me that this is what heaven would be like, I'd be quite content.

I wasn't really thinking anything in that moment.  Just totally present.  Totally at peace. Once again, I was thrown some pretty major curveballs on one of the toughest physical days of my life.  I didn't panic.  Instead, my attitude reflected the calmness in that lake at that very moment.

I couldn't help but beam.

I may not be a runner.  But I was a runner that day.

And I was a two-time Ironman too.

IMCDA Race Report Part II: Making Friends With Pain

As you'll recall from Thursday's blog, at the end of my Ironman Coeur d'Alene swim I looked down at my wrist to check my split.  No Garmin. NO GARMIN!!!!

Believe it or not, the race photographer shooting all the swimmers exiting the water caught my expression the moment I realized I was going to have to bike 112 miles and run a marathon by instinct alone.

This is what my first boss out of college affectionately labeled "The Very Concerned Face."

I remember two things about that moment: 1) "OMG! My day is over!" and 2) "Calm down!  Don't panic!  You're going to do this by feel.  Let's move on."

If IMCDA had been my first Ironman, I would have listened to my first thought and not my second.  Instead, I calmly gathered my transition bag and settled into the changing tent to put on dry clothes for the bike ride.  It took me a while to put on my tight sleeveless tri jersey and zip the cycling jersey I wore over it.  I just didn't have warm enough fingers to do it quickly and precisely, losing precious minutes in T1.  Then, as I was about to retrieve my bike, I had to pee again.  Remember how strategic I thought I was by peeing in the lake before exiting the water?  Well, that became more wasted time as I spent another two minutes waiting for the urinal trough inside the changing tent.

Finally, ELEVEN minutes later, I was on the bike course. I felt great physically except for a massive knot in my left calf from the previous swim cramps, but my mind was spiraling out of control.  "How will I know when to hydrate and eat?"  "When will I ingest my Endurolytes without knowing what time it is?"  "How will I keep my heart rate in check?"  "How will I make sure I don't ride too hard?"

It was at this point that I reminded myself of my recent conversation with Chris McCormack and trusting your instincts. We're not robots and we shouldn't race like them, focused purely on numbers and tracking data.  I calmed down and decided that I'd play it conservative from a nutrition standpoint.  I guessed that I'd average between 16-17 mph on the hilly course, so that meant counting every 16 miles and popping two or three Endurolytes at that point.  I'd drink at what felt like every three miles, and eat when I hungry, or approximately at every 10 miles.  This approach turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it kept my brain engaged in the moment and didn't allow me to wander mentally. I had to stay focused and totally in tune with how my body felt.

I also had to contend with wondering and reacting to how I did in the swim compared to my Fortius teammates.  I knew that David, Richard, Kelly and Eddie were all faster than me in the water. Where were they on the bike?  How much ground would I need to make up to catch them?  I got my answers within the first 10 miles of the bike.  I saw Eddie, David and Richard a few minutes behind me, which made me feel real good that I didn't have as poor a swim and T1 as I thought.  If they were near me, then it was a tough swim hands-down. Then, I went on the lookout for Kelly, whom I met up with around mile 12.  We were both climbing the first big hill, trading some stories for a few minutes and I continued on.

The first loop of the bike really breezed by.  I never climbed out of my saddle on the many hills, concentrated on my breathing and nutrition, and took in the amazing scenery around me.  I briefly pushed when I saw my buddy Chris approximately 10 minutes ahead at a turnaround point -- he must have had an amazing swim, I thought.  Then, I remembered that PATIENCE had to be my mantra. I'd have to find him on the run.

As I rolled back into town, I checked a couple of outdoor clocks blinking from banks or shopping centers.  To my surprise, I was right on schedule to reach the half-way point around six hours and eight minutes -- exactly where I would have wanted to be pacing based on watch data.  I couldn't believe it.  How did I time it just right?

I was invigorated.  The day was not only salvageable, but I was feeling great -- no sign of cramps, no nutritional issues and a wave of confidence.  I decided to play it conservative for the next 10 miles with a well-timed potty break (one rest stop before special needs pickup knowing traffic would jam there) and subsequent special needs bag pickup of my own for a sandwich and mini-can of Coke.  I ate half of my peanut-butter English Muffin on the bike, felt full and pounded away.  Here I also got lucky as I threw off my cycling jacket to the Fortius team at their hangout tent just before race officials rounded a corner, I later learned.  Had they seen me, I would have received a four-minute penalty for ditching equipment illegally -- but I honestly didn't know this would be a big deal which is why I was so brazen about doing it.  This small unintentional gamble saved me from overheating on the much warmer second loop of the bike.

Around mile 75, my ride started to go south.  I experienced my first bout with adductor cramps, my leg literally froze mid-pedal stroke on a hilly climb.  It was bent almost at a 90-degree angle and wouldn't budge.  There was no choice here of getting off my bike as I couldn't move my leg or unclip my foot from the pedal -- that's how badly I cramped.  I would have tumbled over and been in even more pain.  Normally, I would have panicked, but I just didn't have that option in the heat of the moment.  Instead, I told myself to JUST BREATHE THROUGH IT.  I tried a yoga trick that had never worked for me in my practice -- focusing all my energy on the pain point and breathing straight to it.

It worked!  My leg unlocked as I continued to pedal slowly up the hill.  I was ecstatic.  Never before in all my training or racing had I simply breathed through a cramp and kept going without losing time.  I couldn't believe it. It truly was going to be my day.

Then, my right leg locked up on the next hilly climb.  Clearly something was wrong -- I was bonking.  Even though I hadn't felt dehydrated, clearly I hadn't taken on enough liquids or electrolytes.  I went into full borne self-protection mode. At each mile that I counted off in my head for the next five, I popped three Endurolyte pills.  I even accepted aid from a man running alongside me in a helmet adorned with moose antlers!  He offered Ibuprofen pills and an ice slushy that looked like a Freeze Pop.  I hadn't had one of those since I was a kid!  Sure, why not, I needed the simple sugar rush.

BAM.  Over the next 10 miles or so, no cramps, an energy surge and I'm back on my game.  Now we're at mile 90.  I can do this, I thought, only 22 more miles to pedal.  I figured it would take me 1.5 hours based on my slower pace and more conservative approach.  I settled in and rode on.

At this point, my arm warmers are long gone and my cycling jersey unzipped, revealing my sleeveless tri jersey underneath.  It's a battle between me, the heat of the day (which wasn't that hot), nutrition, my cramps, my goals, and no real knowledge of how I'm tracking against them.  Each time my hamstrings or adductors would scream in the form of a cramp, I'd slow down just a bit, breathe through the pain, wait for the muscle to unseize itself, and continue on.  I knew I had broken through a new personal pain plateau and that was deeply satisfying.  Chris McCormack, in his "I'm Here to Win" book, wrote extensively about making friends with pain.  I did that on my Ironman Coeur d'Alene bike ride.

I saw my first clock heading back to Coeur d'Alene, right around the 100-mile mark.  It was 10 minutes to six hours on the bike.  OK, I can do this.  I can be back by around the 6:20 mark -- exactly as Gerardo had predicted all along.  The cheers from the throngs of townspeople lining the road brought me back to the race site.  I felt like a pro with all the cowbells clanging and everyone shouting at me to continue on -- total strangers!  It fueled me and I arrived back to the bike-to-run transition at the 6:24 mark -- a little slower than I would have liked but a conservative ride that left my legs mostly intact.  My butt hurt, my legs ached, my left calf was still tight from the morning swim cramp, and my adductors were clearly going to be a problem the rest of the day.

I still had to run 26.2 miles before calling myself a two-time Ironman.

I knew I had room in the tank to complete a marathon.  But I had no idea how much of it I'd run or walk.

More on that tomorrow.

IMCDA Race Report Part I: The Water Blender

It's Thursday, four days since Ironman Coeur d'Alene.  I've been sleeping at least eight hours a night and it hasn't been nearly enough. I'm typing the beginnings of my race report here still in a mental fog.  My brain feels heavy, and sluggish.  My body has recovered to where the swelling in my legs and feet has subsided -- revealing the true aches and creaks in my right hip and left Achilles.  Neither hurt during the actual race, which is either attributed to other parts hurting, willpower to overcome pain, or a combination of the two. I'm going to focus more on the physical side of my race here, saving some of the more mental in-depth stuff for the upcoming Lava Magazine column.  I will share that incorporating several of the lessons from the past six months -- intentionally and unintentionally -- saved my day.  You'll see why below.


I woke up quiet and focused around 4:15 a.m., feeling more tense than I recall for Ironman Arizona.  What's worse, the pain you don't know or the pain you know is coming?  Steph lightened the mood in the hotel room by turning on iTunes and playing the Rocky soundtrack, specifically the "Going the Distance" song I love listening to over and over to fire myself up.

All it took was one playthrough to be locked in for the day.

We arrived at the race site around 5:15 a.m.  You'd think this is enough time but I barely made it to the crowded swim start by 6:55 a.m.  Special needs bags need to be dropped off.  Tires needed to be pumped and water bottles needed to be filled for the bike ride.  I had last-minute changes for my T1 and T2 gear bags, and by the time I did that the port-o-potty line was at around 30 minutes.  Add it all up and I'm frantically applying Body Glide before putting on my wetsuit around 6:50, while the announcer is forcing everyone out of the transition area because it is now closed.

I prefer to be in my "happy place" by this point.  On the shore, splashing in the water, focused and ready.  Instead, I'm wedged between at least 1,000 of my new friends, funneling our way to one pinch-point of a beach entrance.  Shuffling.  Elbowing just a little.  Smiling just a little too. Mostly quiet.

I made it onto the sand with minutes to spare.  Being a little guy, I wormed my way to the front of the pack and put my feet in the water, splashed it on my face and kept my hands in it until they started to get numb.  Better to acclimate then than in the mass race start, a tip I learned from my buddy Rusty just the day before.

Then I realized that water was probably filled with urine from everyone peeing themselves in their wetsuits.

Thanks Rusty!

No time to chuckle then.  The race was about to start.


This is what the race start looked like from afar:

It almost looks orderly and peaceful, right?  Rows of obedient swimmers plunging into the depths, like an Esther Williams movie.  Oh, how I wish it was that simple.

This swim start, running into the lake and swimming for dear life, was harder than a mass start from a floating position.  With the latter, you can ask around to see what pace people are aiming for and float forward or backward depending on what you learn.  Not here.  Not in the chaos.  Especially not at the front of the pack.

My thinking at the time was that if I could hang with the fast pack for the first 300 yards, I could pause, catch my breath while swimming more slowly and regain my normal T-pace.

Poor theory, poor execution.

I rocketed out into the water, though I instinctually kept my head out of the water for fear of being kicked and punched.  This was totally involuntary but as I saw the rupturing explosiveness all around me -- a white churning hurricane of arms and feet, I realized I didn't want to put my precious head into that blender.

Three hundred yards out (I'm guessing), I was panting for breath.  Breast-stroking.  Being passed by the second wave of fast swimmers, swimming over, around and through me.

It honestly felt like my day was over before it even started.  I've got to become faster and more aggressive in the water.

I managed to rally myself forward, still mostly breathless.  I knew if I could just remain calm and not panic, I'd be OK.  Eventually this proved to be the case.  Despite being kicked in the groin, ribs and head, I found a pace, some free water space, and a nice rhythm.  Before too long, I could hear the announcer's voice welcoming back the swimmers from their first of two loops, and then I could see the archway for exiting the water.  I did it. I survived the first swim loop of Ironman Coeur d'Alene.

My watch read 38:47 when I climbed out of the water blender known as Lake Coeur d'Alene. I figured my first loop would be between 35 and 40 minutes, so I was right on line.

Loop two got wicked though.

Swimming in 54 degree water can harm the body, no matter how warm you think you are.  Honestly, the cold never bothered me in the water.  However, the grabbing, punching and kicking from other swimmers took its toll.  A third of the way into the second loop, I got grabbed on my calf, and as I wriggled free my legs locked up.  Cramps. Both of them.  I went from being horizontal to completely vertical in the water, bobbing helplessly like a cork top.  Waves of swimmers in my pack lurched ahead.  Was my day over now? I had hardly ever experienced a cramp in the water before in an open-water swim.

Cramps became a problem throughout the remainder of the swim.  I overcame them by not panicking and employing various mental exercises that helped me visualize a successful swim from a different vantage point. I'll get into that in my Lava column.  My goggles were also knocked loose, which proved difficult to fix because my hands were not too dexterous due to the cold and because my goggle straps were tucked in underneath my latex neon green swim cap.  I lost two minutes adjusting my straps there, and another two minutes late in the swim peeing. See, at Ironman Arizona, I refused to pee in the water during the swim, thinking my urge would go away once I got on the bike.  And I was so focused on having a great swim I didn't want to bother stopping.  Not this time.  I knew better, bobbing in the water and peeing roughly a quarter-mile from shore knowing I'd save time in T1 while everyone else peed before cycling.

According to the Timex clock above the archway, I exited the water in 1:19:43, just 17 seconds faster than my predicted 1:15-1:20 duration.  I looked down to see what my Garmin watch indicated.

It was gone. Victim to the thrashing, scraping, kicking and punching in the water.


How am I going to pace myself the rest of the day without a watch?

More on that tomorrow.  Part II: Racing on Instinct.

No More Counting

Post-Ironman has been a whirlwind, hence no race report blog post just yet.  Stayed out until close to midnight after the race, celebrating with teammates and cheering on late-night finishers.  Monday, we left beautiful Coeur d'Alene in the early afternoon and didn't return home until late last night. Today, I worked from 9 to 5:30 in the office, caught up on 500 emails and then helped Steph and her girlfriends prepare our wedding invitations.

I can barely keep my eyes open.

I can barely drag my legs forward to walk.

I can barely wait to begin training for the next Ironman!

So much to say about my second Ironman.  So much to share.   Please be patient with me the next few days.  Here's my initial plan of attack:

-- Lava Magazine column is due in a couple days.  My article will focus on wrapping up everything I learned from my Mind Games columns and how I applied it at IMCDA.

-- Race report for the blog will focus on the day itself, more the physical side of the event and everything that went into it.

-- Then, I'm excited to share with you my initial plans for 2012.  And with my writing.  Though I only have one race on the calendar so far (Oceanside 70.3), that will change in the coming months.

Finally though, for the first time in a year and half, I'm about to write a sentence that symbolizes not the end of a journey, but rather the beginning of a new phase in my life and training.  That sentence is: "No more days and no more counting."

No more events for the rest of the year.  No more scheduled workouts for at least the next couple months -- just fun "playing."  No gels. No heart-rate zone monitoring (easy considering my Garmin got ripped from my wrist in the chaotic IMCDA swim!). No huge clunky tri bags to pack every day of the week.  No brick workouts.

No regimens planned for me other than those that I plan for myself.

I cannot wait to get started.  First, I need to get my energy back. So I bid you good night. Race report and Lava Magazine column brewing.


(For a while at least.)

Gear Bag Prep Walk-Through & A Tear-Jerker

I believe this will be the last blog post I'll make before the race tomorrow morning. The gear bags are packed.  Below is a video of what's in them:

This morning, I made what I consider to be the smartest choice in my time here so far.  I skipped the final Fortius team 7 a.m. swim.  I slept instead, and didn't make the team breakfast either.  It's not that I don't want to hang out with my teammates.  I love them!  I can't wait to race with them tomorrow and celebrate after.  It's just that I needed some "me" time and space -- alone -- to focus the way I typically do before a race. It's just that time in my preparation to get quiet, think about the plans I've made, the journey to getting this point, and simply shutting out as many other distractions as possible.

This led to a very special moment during my own breakfast this morning, at a small restaurant called Shari's next to the Amertiel Inn where I'm staying.  It was a little after 8:15 a.m., and the restaurant was quiet.  I sat alone at the counter, and the waitresses were near their station chatting about how much they love Ironman.  Then, they looked over at me and saw I was smiling.  One woman, Tara, asked me for my race number and told me she was going to make a sign to cheer for me the next day.  It's her family's tradition to support athletes whom she either knows or who visit the restaurant in the days preceding the race.  I was ecstatic -- I needed some motherly TLC and excitement and that's what I got. I just never expected it to be in a restaurant diner.

Tara went on to tell me a story why she loves Ironman so much.  She and her daughter watched an older man in his 70s struggle to finish last year.  They were two blocks from the line and the man's legs were buckling.  He looked weak and disoriented.  Tara's daughter started to cry and asked her mom what they could do to help -- it was clear this person wasn't going to make it two blocks.  Tara had an idea.  She told her daughter to go to the other side of the sidewalk chute.  Then, Tara went to the other.  They both started talking to the man from the chute, asking him if he saw the amazing bird in the sky they were trying to find.  He said he hadn't.  Then, Tara and the daughter started describing the bird in detail while walking ever so slowly towards the finish line.  The man was asking about the bird while walking slowly, making progress.

Finally, Tara and daughter stopped.  The man stopped.  He was exasperated.  "Why are we stopping?" he asked, exasperated.

Tara said, and she had a tear in her eye in the restaurant when she did: "This next part is only for you to walk."

He had made it to the finish line, thanks to the help of a concerned resident and her daughter.

THAT is awesome.  I believe I was meant to meet this person today.  She was put in my life for a reason.  She reminded me how special Ironman is to so many people, what I love about it so much.  The people.

I can't wait to see her tomorrow.

Less than one day to go.  It's time.

All Mixed Up

The past few days were supposed to be chill.  I arrived early, intent to relax, acclimate at my own pace, and enjoy the moment.

Truth is, I don't know how or why the time has passed by so fast.  I'm practically exhausted.  I took a two-hour nap today and it wasn't enough. I haven't trained that much either -- swam on Wednesday and a light bike ride.  Swam and ran for a combined total of 40 minutes yesterday.  Biked easy for an hour today and ran a half-mile after.  But it's everything in between that can sap your energy.  Registration.  Bike Transport pick-up.  Expo.  Shopping.

Combine that with every athlete looking like a cover model for Lava Magazine, and suddenly my nerves have kicked in.  It's not whether I belong here -- I know I most certainly do.  It's more will I embarrass myself compared to these beautiful specimens all wearing the best compression gear and sporting the hottest bikes?  Everyone just looks so damn fast!  Have I trained enough?  Will those niggling injuries in my calf and Achilles hold up?  Am I eating enough?  Am I eating right?  Will the cold water of Coeur d'Alene Lake devour me?

Questions, questions, questions.

And for answers, all I have is the knowledge I've been through this before.  I've been through rain.  I've overcome wind.  Cramps.  Illness.  GI issues.  Pain.

I can do this.

It's just that sometimes, we're all human.  Especially when we're not competing for a Kona slot and everyone around us seems like they are.  It can eat at your confidence just a bit.  That's where I'm at right now.  Perhaps it's the danger of hanging out with the team near the race site.  Everything is so visible.  There's no escaping it.  The M-Dot is everywhere.  Almost to the point where I'm sick of seeing it.

So how am I coping?  Believe it or not, I'm reading my old blog posts. I'm seeing the same nerves two days before the race from last year.  Though I will admit that the excitement level going through this the second time is far less.  I'm nowhere near as giddy.  I wouldn't say I'm grim either, just filled with a strange mixed-up feeling that's part anxiety, part exhaustion, and part pride.

It's time to start focusing more on the pride part.  I have to remember all the solo workouts I've done this year.  How this year has been harder than last year due to a tougher work-life schedule.  But yet I'm still here.  And ready.  I know I'm ready.

I'm especially ready on the mental side, despite my confessions above.  See, my second Ironman has a huge advantage over the first -- Coeur d'Alene is absolutely beautiful!  We drove the course today and every mile is filled with little postcard memories that will make this the most beautiful place I've ever ridden (ahead of Malibu in Pacific Coast Highway).  And the run course is the most beautiful I've ever encountered too.

How is this an advantage?  Last year, I slogged -- and I mean SLOGGED -- through session after session in desolate, smelly, windy, barren Fillmore.  And I raced in windy, desolate, plain-looking Tempe and the surrounding areas.  I didn't realize how numb my mind had become to the pleasure of being on a bike ride or a run. Here, in gorgeous Idaho, I realize how well Ironman Arizona prepared me for IM CDA.

In Arizona, there's nothing to distract you from pain and suffering -- unless you count the In N' Out burger on the run course!

So no matter what happens beginning 7 a.m. on Sunday, I know this much: I will be at the starting line.  Next to the pretty people and tbe frigid water and pretty scenery.  And I will be ready to race.  I will be nervous.  Everyone around me will be nervous.  But, thanks to Chrissie Wellington, Sam Warriner, Andy Potts, Chris McCormack, Mirinda Carfrae and several others, I've learned a lot about how to meet the race head-on. With my head screwed on straight.  Acknowledging and respecting what's in front of me but never fearing it.  Storing positive memories in my memory banks, accessing them the way Macca does, like computer file folders.  I will call on several folders for 12 hours.

One of those folders is you, Mr. and Ms. Reader.  I know you're out there.  I know you're cheering for me too.  I won't let you down.  I'm racing for all of us -- Kona qualifiers or folks like me just happy to call ourselves Ironmen and Ironwomen.  We are age-groupers, but we are not average in any way.  We are IRONMEN and IRONWOMEN.

That is what we are.  That is what we're made of.  And that is what I'm about to become again on Sunday.

2 days and counting.

Bags are Packed

So much for my detailed plan about my race week. I'm leaving tomorrow, not Thursday, for Coeur d'Alene!  I couldn't resist the temptation from my teammates to join them a day early for some fun and getting an early preview of the course.  So, $155 later and I'm on a plane tomorrow at 8 a.m. instead of on Thursday at 6 a.m.

That decision led me to a whirlwind of a day.  Highlights included visiting my local bike shop for one more cram session on flat tire fixing, since I haven't had to deal with one since last year really.  I'm getting better, but the mechanics at Santa Monica Mountain Cyclery have little to worry about in terms of job security.  Johnny, the shop's lead mechanic, taught me how to quickly drop the back wheel in and out by turning the bike upside down.  Unfortunately, this approach won't work with the horizontal stays on my tri-bike, but I remembered the motions and process so I think I'll be fine.  Just needed to re-tool the muscle memory.

Tonight, after one final swim at the local pool (VNSO is back open!), I packed late into the evening.  However, this packing session was far quicker and less stressful than last year.  I remember laying EVERYTHING out on the floor of my office den, double-checking my Fortius travel checklist twice, and then packing into bags.  This time, I really knew what to bring, and NOT to overpack.  I know I'll be buying lots of merchandise!  So, packing probably took half as long, was far more relaxed, and ya know what?  If I forgot something I'll buy it at the Ironman Store.

Because I'll be there a day early!

Next post will be from Coeur d'Alene!

Good night all.

5 days and counting.

Dialing In...FINALLY

First things first, I've calmed back down and am back to my normal, relaxed self.  Sorry for the freak out the past couple days. Work, life, wedding, taper all collided.  Steph and I had a great talk about how I can take control of my stress and figure out how to minimize it.  Simply focusing on the fact that I had control over my mood greatly helped.  I definitely will do that more in the future.

Today has been the first relaxing day I've had in the past couple weeks.  No big errands.  No big drives.  No huge training days.  No wedding stress.  That allowed me to sleep nine whole hours.  I woke up refreshed, and with enough time to participate in my first yoga class in several months.  Boy, am I rusty!  And creaky for that matter.  However, I willingly sacrificed flexibility for added power and weight.  I believe this was the best decision I could make given my limited training schedule, though it's clear I've taken a step back with my flexibility compared to last year.  As my family likes to say though, "with one tush you can't dance at everyone's ball."

This afternoon, I'm taking time to write a couple important documents that I recommend you do too.  First is a mental race strategy document.  I included things like my goals overall, but specifically how I want to feel at every stage of the race.  I'm really trying to put into practice what I've learned the past six months from the leading pros in the sport.  In other words, I'm beginning to dial in to the race in a relaxed, focused manner.

My second doc is just a checklist of what I plan to pack.  Coach Gerardo gave us a detailed sheet but it's so huge that I wanted something more specific to me.  So, I'll cross-reference the two but at least now I have a running start.

Overall, my goal for the next week (outside of a hectic work day tomorrow) is to stay calm, and have a plan for every day of the week in terms of race preparation.  Here's mine so far:

Monday: Final day of work and tying loose project ends together.

Tuesday: Sleep in as late as possible.  Light training, packing, including pre-packing transition bags. Learn how to use new Kindle! Add more salt in diet.

Wednesday: Sleep in as late as possible. Add more salt in diet.  Begin carb-loading.  RELAX!!! No work. No stress.

Thursday: Travel!  Pick up bike.  Settle at hotel.  Meet teammates.

Friday: Bike/Run/drive course.  Begin to taper off carbs.  Hang out with team.  CHILL.

Saturday: Swim course.  Meet Steph when she arrives. Team lunch and dinner.  Early bed time.


I am rejuvenated. I am ready for the week ahead.  I am ready to run MY race.  I am ready to have a great time.

People, it's go time.  Probably my last full-distance Ironman.  I'm going to soak it all in.

Now that my head is screwed back on straight.

7 days and counting.

Cranky Taper

Last year before IMAZ, I remember Coach Gerardo warning me about tapering.  I'd be irritable.  Short-tempered.  Tired.  Moody. Honestly, it never happened. I was so excited to participate in my first Ironman after a year of training that I could hardly wait.  I knew I belonged with the other competitors, I was excited to be in Tempe, and I was flat out ready to rock.

For my second Ironman, it's a little different.  I'm downright nutty right now.

Short-tempered? Check.  Steph and I have been snapping at each other for days.

Stressed?  Check.  Wedding planning is building to a crescendo.  Work is busy with two game titles close to ship and a third just getting off the ground.

Tired? Check.  I'm having a hard time getting out of bed in the mornings.  Today, I woke up with Steph at 6:30 a.m., hung out for a bit, tried to rally to get on my trainer and instead slept until 8:45.  It's 9:40 p.m. now and I'll probably go right to bed after this post.

What's wrong with me?

Note to all engaged people out there...or engaged to be engaged people out there... NEVER do an Ironman within three months of your wedding.  There are so many deadlines to contend with -- budgets, seating charts, floral arrangements, event planning, venue contracts, invitations and others I'm missing -- that it's impossible to focus on the race at hand.  Not to mention work.  At this point, I'm honestly thinking of changing my flight to Wednesday and getting the hell out of LA a day early, costs be damned.  I need space and time to focus on this race!

I hope everyone else's taper is going well, for those of you fellow IMCDA'ers reading out there in space.  As for everyone else, apologies in advance if I snip at you unintentionally.  It's nothing personal.

It's just an Ironman taper.

9 days and counting.