CIM Race Report Part I: Rang the Bell, Had My Bell Rung


The second day after an intense endurance race is always the worst. Gone is the adrenaline high, while cortisol levels have come crashing back to earth. What lingers is the physical soreness that feels closer to the onset of rigor mortis… and looks like it too. You’re just plain tired, physically, mentally, emotionally. And that glorious moment when you truly believed you’re once again young and invincible has cruelly vanished without the decency of a Dear John note.

I like writing a race report during this window. The event is still fresh in my mind, but I’m not so over-stimulated as to miss key moments that led to the race result. The balance between pain, insight and pride is just about even. Plus, I can’t really move…so what else is there to do but write and eat junk food?

I chose to run the California International Marathon because I wanted to qualify for the Boston Marathon. That’s it. Success would be measured in “yes” or “no”, not personal bests or beating a rival. I wasn’t on some metaphorical journey to prove something to myself, or even to inspire others in the same way I tried to at Ironman Vineman this summer. This was about me, plain and simple. I accepted that earning a top-five age-group placement for an Ironman World Championship slot was likely not going to happen in this lifetime. So I moved to the next item on the Bucket List: From “KQ” to “BQ.”

Unfortunately, sometimes life doesn’t always allow for binary outcomes. If my Strava and Garmin race data were the sole determinant for entry into the 2018 Boston Marathon, I’d likely be guaranteed to go. My watch data says I ran 26.2 miles in 3:12:21. Last year, the Boston Athletic Association cutoff time for Boston Marathon qualifying times in my age group was 3:12:32. So, while any time faster than 3:15:00 in my age group qualifies a runner to be Boston-eligible, only runners with times faster than 3:12:32 actually earned a place on the starting line in April. Close to 4,500 age groupers earned BQ times but were not invited to participate in the actual event.

We goin’ to Boston! We goin’ to Boston! We goin’ to…wait…what? My chip time at CIM was… 3:13:07? Why the difference? When you’re running around and through people during the race to avoid traffic, or veer to the aid stations for a quick drink, you’re likely adding subtle amounts of distance to your race. So, in the end, I ran *26.3* miles. I should have noticed this during the race, as the distance grew between miles registered on my watch versus the actual mile markers on the course. In the heat of racing, I figured the course markers had been moved or were positioned slightly off – I never imagined I was dooming my own race.

How easy it is to think the world around us is flawed, without first looking within!  And haven’t we all at some point run unnecessarily farther to reach the same finish line? In this case, those extra 44 seconds will likely spell the difference between “yes” and “yes…but no.”

I guess my race performance was kind of like winning the popular vote but losing the Electoral College. (Too soon?)

As I continue to reflect on the overall race experience, it would be easy to grow bitter. I’ve done that before. In college, I earned an internship to write for Sports Illustrated, directly through the magazine (how that happened is another story for another day). Except my university’s journalism department didn’t participate in the Time-Life internship program, so I wasn’t allowed to accept the opportunity. I thought to myself, “Well, that’s as close as I’ll ever get to my dream job. I guess it’s not meant to be.” I wrote for the college newspaper sports section for one more semester, and quit. My soul had been ripped out – I believed my own mopey narrative.

What a crock! I wish I could go back and talk to my younger self. How weak-minded and self-pitying. Failure is not what defines us. How we respond to failure does. I’ve since vowed never to make that mistake again. So, I already signed up for CIM 2017, and I’m not going to leave any room for doubt next time.

That’s the big-picture look at my race. And yes, there's a small chance that maybe the Boston Athletic Association gods will smile upon me and a 3:13:07 will be enough to squeak into the race in 2018.

For more in-depth “runner-focused” insight and analysis from CIM, I’ll post a separate entry tomorrow. I learned some valuable lessons the hard way for better and worse, hopefully so someone else won’t have to.


There Are Two Kinds of Cyclists...

If you're an avid triathlete or cyclist, I'm sure you've heard this phrase at least once on a group ride: "There are two kinds of cyclists; those who have crashed...and those who haven't crashed yet."

I remember the first time I heard that phrase. It was a group ride with the San Fernando Valley Bike Club, a crusty group of veteran cyclists who didn't have much interest in teaching a new kid like myself how to ride properly. I was mostly ignored...and dropped.

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Feelin' You?

In LA sports broadcasting, there's a laughable legend named Vic "The Brick" Jacobs.  Thick Noo Yawk accent.  Dresses in bizarre fashion.  Jewish Buddhist.  Laker fan for Life.

I love the guy.  I'll admit it.

His catch phrase is "Feelin' You!"  It's what he practically yells into the radio mic when fans call in to his shows.  It's his way of acknowledging his fans' presence, energy, and support.

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IM California 70.3 Recap Part II

It took me about a week before I cut off the participants' blue wristband from my right wrist.  I don't have a set amount of time I wait before doing something like that -- usually it depends on the race and my feelings about the experience.  For IM California 70.3, I really basked in the achievement.  Who knows how many races I have left?  Why not soak it all in a bit longer before setting ahead on the next big challenge?

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Bandit Trail Run Race Report

What does it mean to "get better" in triathlon?  Does it mean "go faster?"  I think that would be the obvious response. But there's something else, something deeper.

No, to me getting better in triathlon means being smarter.  By "smarter," I mean developing an innate sense of body awareness that transcends the data we gather on our sophisticated training devices.

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Reflections of IMAZ 2010

One year ago today, I arrived in Tempe, Arizona, scared and excited to reach a yearlong quest to become an Ironman. My feelings then are still so vivid now.  The unabashed pride entering the Athlete Registration tent and Body Marking tent.  I never wanted that paint to wear off my arms and legs.  I remember how I knew I belonged in that tent and there was no place else on the planet I'd rather be in that moment.

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Losing My Fitness

So this is what it's like to be a "retired" athlete. Now that the Official Wedding Countdown Clock is ticking loudly, I've noticed that my workouts are becoming fewer and farther between.  What used to be a 1.5 hour trail run has become a 30-minute jog around the block.  A 1.5 hour bike ride at Griffith Park has become a one hour (albeit quite intense) session on my new CompuTrainer.  About the only thing I've kept up with is my swimming, on strict orders from Coach Gerardo that I get in the pool four times a week to work on improving technique.  I've even failed at that, hitting three swim sessions a week appears to be my ceiling at the moment.

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Why Not What

Midway through my Sunday morning bike ride with my fellow Ironman Coeur d'Alene finisher Richard, I realized something pretty important: Two hours of road cycling is plenty! In my first outdoor ride since IMCDA, the biggest thing I noticed was how happy I was to enjoy the rest of my day AFTER my ride.  No bricks.  No pre-ride swims.  Just a nice bike ride, no Garmins attached.  Done by 1 p.m., not 5.

What does that mean?  Am I burnt out?  Do I need more rest?  Was it a bad idea to buy that Computrainer after all?

The answers: Maybe a little, I don't know, and I hope not!

The way I felt after my ride has started affecting my desire level to train more actively.  I'm starting to feel the onset of a rather satisfying laziness.  I've accomplished what I set out to do.  I hit my goals. In the process, I've deprived myself of my favorite foods, favorite drinks, sleep, time with friends and family.

I want a break!  I want more balance.  And I've been taking it, eating literally whatever I want, drinking some beers and generally becoming rather sloth-like while hanging out more with my crew.

At the same time, I hate how I feel!  I'm feeling my fitness melt away daily.  That sense of guilt is making it very hard to relax during what's supposed to be a recovery period.  It's almost like being on a treadmill at an uncomfortably high pace, yet unable to hit the "Stop" button to get off.

There's a fine line between a lifestyle and an obsession. Sometimes I can't tell which is which.  One person who does know the difference is pro triathlete Marino Vanhoenacker -- who recently broke the 14-year-old world record for fastest Ironman result with a 7:45:52 before Andreas Raelert beat that mark one week later by an astonishing four minutes.  While I won't go into details since I'm saving them for my upcoming Lava Magazine column, I will note that he believes age groupers have lost sight of how to enjoy the sport of triathlon -- instead focusing too much on attaining PRs.

I can't really argue with that.

In fact, for the rest of this week, I'm going to focus on WHY I'm continuing with triathlon.  What am I enjoying about this sport?  Why do I want to consider Ironman Canada next August?  Why am I going to keep pushing myself to my physical and mental limit?

This is a worthy challenge.  One I'm up for though.  Have you done the same lately?

I will write soon to let you know what I find out.

Ironman 1 vs Ironman 2

There's much to reflect upon in the final few days of Ironman Number 2.  Today, I think I'm going to write about the differences between training for my first and my second Ironman. -- During my first Ironman, I trained exactly to specifications prescribed by my coach.  During my second Ironman, I shaved roughly 10-15 minutes off many or even most workouts to preserve energy overall.  I also trained less in general due to injury and some illness.  In fact, I completed merely 76% of my workouts this time, compared to 90% for my first Ironman.

-- During my first Ironman, I obsessed over my diet.  I avoided red meat.  I essentially counted calories.  In so doing, and through the very aspect of obsessing over food, I raced at 127 pounds -- my lightest weight since college.  This time around, I ate what I wanted, when I wanted (within reason).  I'm eight pounds heavier, look better and think I'll perform better with some extra fat to burn!  (At least I keep telling myself that.)

-- During my first Ironman, I stressed about every detail of the race -- yet didn't prepare a mental plan going into it.  I freaked out all the time, pretty much about everything you can freak out over.  In case you don't believe me, just pick a post from mid-2010 and read away!  This year, while I've certainly had my doubts and moments, I'm a lot more relaxed.  What will be will be.  However, I DID write a mental race strategy plan, as I noted in last night's post.  So, perhaps the stress level is the same, but I'm managing it differently.

-- During my first Ironman, I stayed awake at night thinking about crossing the finish line, but worse yet, what would happen if I didn't cross the finish line!  This time, I'm not worried at all.  Even if I do DNF, I'm still an Ironman. It's under my belt already.  However, I've prepared less for bike mechanical problems -- which has me concerned.

-- During my first Ironman, every workout was a challenge in its own way, simply because it was all new.   This meant I was whiny, grumpy and exhausted.  Oftentimes I'd complain to my coach or blog about my training misery. This time, I simply kept my head down, knew what to expect and did the work. As a result, mentally I've been much fresher overall.  GI Joe was wrong, "knowing" is way more than half the battle.

I think, in the end, that's the best thing I can say about training for the second Ironman compared to the first: You know what you're getting yourself into.  It's immeasurably easier and more comforting as a result.  I don't know how it will play out on race day, but getting to this day was nowhere near as stressful as my first Ironman.

The moral, of course, is this: Once you complete your first Ironman, don't make it your last! There's more magic around the next corner.  And it will get a little easier.

6 days and counting.