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.

Tired Taper

I'm not quite sure why, but I'm feeling pretty tired the past few days even though I'm supposed to be tapering. It's probably still related to the cumulative fatigue of E3 and the long wedding weekend.  But it's Wednesday...shouldn't this be done by now? My fatigue may be combined with a couple fairly intense training sessions the past couple days. Last night, before taking Stephanie's wounded car into my dad's repair shop in Simi Valley, I swam 3,000 yards.  Part of that session included a 2,000 time trial at race pace (35 minutes YES!).  This morning, I cycled on my trainer for an hour, with 18 minutes of that session being at time trial race pace.  I followed that effort with a 40-minute tempo run, which was surprising to me in that I figured with essentially 10 days to go before IMCDA I'd be hanging firmly in heart rate zones 1-2.

Apparently not.

The challenge with this approach is that if I'm going on a tempo run, I want to see how fast I can complete it.  Maybe it's a combination of my extra stored up energy or sheer dumb competitiveness.  What I really think the issue is that I'm afraid of getting slower heading into the big race.  Based on Joe Friel's blogs, I know this is partially true -- tapering is about gaining energy and rest at the expense of some fitness. But I get paranoid about losing too much fitness to where it may affect me.  I know this is rubbish, but yet I run hard anyways.  Today, two of my four miles were below an 8-minute mile pace, which I won't need at all for Ironman.  My pace is firmly in the 9-minute category, not including the walk-run strategy I plan to employ.

Anyway, after this morning's brick, I drove to Santa Barbara with Stephanie for our wedding tasting. The food was outstanding and I'm very excited about serving it to our guests.  I think they'll be pleasantly surprised -- this won't be a "rubber chicken dinner" that's for sure!

I just got home and here we are.  After typing all this out, I think it's easy to see why I'm feeling rather exhausted.  I need some more rest.  I'm not sure when I'm going to get it before next Tuesday, when I take off work for the rest of the week in preparation for the big event.

I really hope this doesn't catch up to me when it counts the most.

11 days and counting.

Whirlwind Week

A week of trade shows, bricks in unfamiliar territory and a wedding has finally drawn to a merciful close. I'm simply in awe of the parents who find time to train for an Ironman after a week like this one.  On the go from dawn to well into the night, seven nights in a row.  Usually, I have some measure of a balanced life -- balanced by my standards.  This week wasn't one of those times.  But I'm hopeful to begin a true taper phase this week.

I've neglected to mention one part of my week, which is how it ended. I just returned from my Fortius team Ironman Coeur d'Alene send-off party at Christina's home.  She wasn't kidding when she said she had enough food for an army and drinks for an army and a half!  The entire team joked around light heartedly, celebrating several podiums from weekend races and what seemed to be the true onset of summer.

One thing one didn't feel at the party was a sense of nervousness.  I was pleasantly surprised.  My fellow IMCDA teammates all were frolicking in the pool and totally relaxed.  Last November, I remember being a ball of nervous energy -- of course, I was surprised to have such a shocking send-off (thanks Steph!).  As I explained to my buddy Bob, whom raced IMAZ with me, this time just feels different.  I know the race is in two weeks, but right now it feels like it's two months away.

Finally, my quick weekend wrap wouldn't be complete without mentioning the hospitality of some new friends I met while cycling in Riverside this past Saturday.  I showed up in a parking lot at 7:30 a.m. hoping for a shop ride, but nobody was out.  Maybe I had missed them?  Instead, I found a man preparing to clip in on his own, so I asked him if I could tag along.  He welcomed me in, having just moved here from Kansas City himself.  We met up with some of his new friends, and our own shop ride was born.  We burned around town for a sometimes meandering, sometimes challenging 40-mile ride.  Honestly, I think the first 20 minutes they tried to drop me just to see if I could hang.  Once, I demonstrated I wasn't going anywhere, the mood changed, the riders became more talkative and we bonded.

Here's a look at the bike route, along with a five-mile run I tacked on at the end:

There's something special to me about being able to take a bike anywhere and knowing you can hang onto the group ride (for the most part). It's a sense of community blending with personal confidence.  While it may not have been the best thing for my taper training, it still was a confidence boost nonetheless.

Now, after a week of activities and stress, I'm going to pack it in and enjoy some well-deserved quiet time.  Lights out.

14 days and counting!

Embracing the Unknown

I remember when I first started swimming at Van Nuys/Sherman Oaks pool.  Almost a year-and-a-half ago it seems.  Back when a half-mile swim felt challenging (and satisfying), and all I did was swim back-and-forth without any direction, instruction, or a clue as to how to improve. That's what I thought about today as I blasted through a taper workout of 2,700 yards featuring two 500s and a 1,000 yards broken out by sprint 50s.

I also thought about how today marked my final VNSO swim until Ironman.

The next time I jump into that heated pool and feel the cold concrete sting my toes, I will be an Ironman.  Everything that I've worked for since 2008 will have come to fruition.

What a long, strange, trip it's been.

That also got me thinking.  This journey has been a rite of passage.  I'll be going from a world I knew nothing about -- a Herculean fantasy -- to having full experience and knowledge of it very soon.  It's not unlike other rites of passage over the course of our lives.  Getting our driver's license.  SAT's.  The first day of high school and college.  Losing our virginity.  I don't know about you, but I rushed through all those rites.  All I could ever think about was reaching those milestones, not the journey along the way.  Nor could I appreciate the nervous energy, apprehension and shear terror (at least with the sex part) prior to those gargantuan moments until long after.  When I was safe, comfortable and secure enough to look back at them.

But strangely enough, when I recall those life milestones, I'm surprised to find that I miss the giddyness, stress and anxiety of the unknown prior to"The Big Moment" as much as the moments themselves. As a result, I find myself slowing down more these past few days.  I'm not in a hurry to get to Sunday the way I thought I would be.  I'm truly living in the "Now." I generally don't hang out in that space for very long.  It's the way I'm wired. But since this past weekend -- since my surprise send-off party -- I'm savoring the nerves, the excitement and the feelings of wonder.

I also know, based on all those other "firsts," that this "pre" period just might be the best part.  Maybe the unknown is better than the real.  Maybe the build-up is better than the actual moment.  Either way, I'll know on Sunday.   And then on Monday, it will all be over.  I'll be driving home.  And the countdown to Coeur d'Alene will begin.  How strange indeed.  The countdown clock will reset.  The journey will begin anew, but I'll know what to expect.  It may not be the same as the fabulous wonder of not knowing.

So why not enjoy every moment and sensation of these last few pre-Ironman days? I'll never be quite the same person after the race, and I know that.

Like this morning's swim, this is the end of my "first time" Ironman journey.

And for the first time in my life, I'm going to stop, smile, savor, and embrace the unknown.

Five days and counting.


OK, my energy levels are rising.  I feel tingly at times during the day, like my body is confused trying to figure out what to do with this new-found energy. And for the first time in weeks, I'm eager to get back to working out tomorrow.  I've literally trained one hour (not including yoga) since Saturday.  That's pretty nuts considering my previous schedule of routine 16-21 hour training weeks.

Wish I had more to write tonight but I just don't.  Got home late from work and a work-related dinner function. I'm tired, but not exhausted.  I just want to get a good night's sleep.  The New York Strip steak may have contributed to my food coma though.

Tomorrow is really my last real pseudo-workout until the race.  Sure, I'll do a light bike ride Wednesday and some running in Tempe on Thursday and even a quick brick on Friday.  But those will be even slower than my pace tomorrow.

Right now, clearly less is more.

Six days and counting.

What a Surprise!

Stephanie pulled one over on me last night. So did my family, my friends, and my Fortius teammates.

I thought I was going to dinner with a couple of Steph's friends.  This was technically true, though about 50 other people showed up for what certainly was a surprise Ironman Arizona send-off party.

To make it clear, months ago I specifically told Steph NOT to plan any kind of send-off party for me, though it's tradition on our team to have such events.  My belief was that I've been enough of a burden with this blog, constantly writing about my thoughts and feelings to the point of people probably rolling their eyes with each new post.  That's honestly how I've been thinking about the blog towards the end of this journey.  I didn't want to ask anyone to do anything for me since I believe my friends, family, teammates and co-workers has been more than accommodating with my schedule and my crazy neurosis.  It's one of the reasons why I stopped tweeting every post.  In the end, I simply felt that the people who want to follow this blog do, and those who don't, really don't want to hear about it anymore.

But last night showed me that my grouping of true friends and family don't see it that way.  Which is a relief to me.  A huge one at that.  I haven't made people sick of me or what I have to say after all.

I was truly touched to see so many people show up to wish me well.  I was especially touched by my teammates' turnout, since the vast majority of them raced this morning in Malibu or Calabasas and opted to celebrate with me instead of going to bed early for their pre-race rituals. And many of my friends showed up whom I haven't been able to see in months due to my crazy training schedule.  That's the ultimate form of love and friendship.  Even when I know I haven't been quite there for them, they were most certainly there for me.

Even though I essentially didn't train this weekend (one hour cycling and one hour of yoga...taper rocks!), I still feel like I got a performance boost.  First, I psyched myself up by writing the initials on my shoes of some important people in my life and then I had the ultimate benefit of being stunned and humbled by the outpouring of support I'll have going to Arizona in just a few short days.

My energy level is up. My spirits are up.  My body feels good.  The culmination of more than 600 hours of training is at hand.  Race week is here, and thanks to many important people in my life, I am ready.


Nothin' More to Say

Stephanie asked me on the way home from synagogue tonight what I was planning to blog about. After thinking about it for a moment, I realized the answer was simple:

"There's nothing more to say, really."

I think that's where I'm at with all this.  What else can I possibly say to describe going on this journey?  What new insight am I going to have at this point?  What else is there to learn that I haven't already uncovered?

Then again, maybe it's the reinforcement of the key lessons that matters most.  Take this morning, for example.  Once again, I jumped into the pool early.  Against my wishes.  It was so cold, my feet were numb on the pool deck.  I slogged through 3,150 yards going the long way (50 meters, not 25 yards).  My timed 500s were slower than usual.  I didn't want to be in the water.  At all. Especially for that distance.  I wanted to be in bed, enjoying some extra sleep.  I basically want to do as little as possible right now.

But I didn't quit. I gutted out the workout, despite not wanting any part of the experience.  Despite not having a very good swim.  I got through it.

That happens to all of us every day.  We just have to get through it. If you quit once, you can quit twice.  And then what?  Quitting can become the same habit as displaying grit and tenacity.

So, while I may not have more to say, I do have more to learn. More to remember.  More to internalize. More to project to the world.

I may not have more to say.  But there's still much to do.

9 days and counting.


Energized But Cautious

I enjoyed my fourth or fifth massage in as many weeks tonight, courtesy of Fortius teammate David via LA Body Mechanics. The effects are starting to pay off.  I feel more limber.  Less acidic.  My body aches less.

Combined with the reduced training over the past few days, I think I can start to feel my body replenishing its stores.  Which is what I'm supposed to feel at this point, by golly!

Now I'm just trying to stay focused on remaining healthy the next several days.  If I could live inside a bubble I would.  My boss is sick.  One of our creative directors is sick.

I got a message for y'all...stay AWAY from me!

And I mean that in the nicest of ways :)

To combat any potential problems, I'm taking an Emergen-C packet each day, along with my Echinacea  pills.  And my allergy medicine.  And let's not forget the beta alanine and asthma inhaler.

Yep, I'm going a little overboard.  But I don't want to leave any room to chance.  I can handle an injury at this point if that's what's meant to happen.  But an illness, or something as silly as a cold?  Man, that would just suck.  But, if it can happen to Chrissie Wellington, it can happen to anyone.

So, for now, I'll take each day as a gift of health and energy.  And hope I wake up the same way the next day.

That's all I can do at this point, right?

10 days and counting.

Free Time

It's Monday night.  I'm watching football on the couch.  I'm not packing a training bag for tomorrow.  No water bottles to prep.  No quick load of laundry to toss in the wash. Just relaxing.

Yep, we're fully immersed in the taper period.  And I'm quite enjoying it.

I wish I had more to report today, but I didn't train.  And I didn't miss it one bit.  Not while seeing reports from Bob that he was fighting 15 mph winds in Santa Clarita on a "recovery" bike ride. No thanks.

I suppose today really was just one those quiet days that you simply cross off on the calendar, inching one step closer to November 21.  We're inside of two weeks now.  It seems that every day the excitement grows just a bit more.  More people at work ask me how I'm feeling.  More friends check in to see how the training is going.

The time has come.

13 days and counting.