The Journey

The journey is more important than the destination.

Several years ago a friend of mine asked me if I would do the Fairlee Triathlon in Vermont. After training for three months, feeling like I was going to drown in the swim, feeling nauseus on the run, I crossed the finished line and was hooked.This led to my triathlon journey.

Please consider supporting my latest effort to raise money for Bretton Woods Adaptive through the Janus Charity Challenge at Ironman Lake Placid this July. Check out the Links I Like section of the blog or explore the BWA Fundraiser links.

Friday, October 23, 2009

I've Moved, Come Check Out My New Home

I'm officially moved. After exploring most of the major blogging platforms I've settled on Squarespace...and wish I had made the move sooner.

With the move will come more posts about what gets me excited (outside of triathlon and endurance sports of course!) - social media, marketing and technology.

I'm looking forward to sharing ideas with you at my new home, come visit and let me know what you think.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Where's the parenting manual?

I've experienced plenty of challenges through my 11 years of fatherhood. But, there is no doubt though that the good has far outweighed the bad. After completing a 5k road race with my So recently, one of the things I realized I struggle with the most really has nothing to do with my Son, but rather with me.

I hope I can safely say that all parents want the very best for their kids. As parents, we've experienced things that we want to share with our kids so that we can share that sense of accomplishment or feeling of elation that goes along with the experience.

My 11-year Son and I have done several road races together, all in the 3 - 4 mile range. I'm extremely proud of each one of them and very grateful that it is something we can do together. However, in every single race, I have an internal struggle of how much to push and how much to back off. Depending on the race distance and how much training he's done, he'll want to walk for portions of the race. In most cases I tell him "we'll go at your pace buddy" and "you can walk whenever you feel like it". Inside though, I'm torn up trying to figure out how much to push and tell him to dig through the aches and pains he might be feeling, versus when to just let him go at his own pace.

I'm sure there are some who will read this and think, the kid's 11! Why push him at all! Maybe others think I should tell him not to walk at all and just find a way to deal with the pain.

I believe in the power of sport and competition for kids, when it has the healthy support of the parents and the adults involved in guiding the kids (as opposed to the parents that get thrown out of the crowd for harassing the officials). I think the social lessons of teamwork, and the internal lessons of goal setting and motivation are uniquely ingrained into the brain through sport and competition. As a parent, part of my role is to push him when he needs pushing, sometimes letting him fail when there may be a lesson to learn, and sometimes supporting him before he does fall.

And therein lies my struggle.

In which situations do you apply each role? I know there is no right answer, and I suppose that is part of the lessons we learn as parents. We need to struggle and fail as parents sometimes to learn how to be better parents. However, sometimes I think it would be nice if someone could write a step-by-step guide that is given to you as you leave the hospital.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A tale of two races (Part II)

I did everything I could to recover from my Saturday race. I used The Stick, stayed off my feet most of the day, took a nap and even took a hot bath with some fancy bath salts that my wife had. I don't know what I was expecting to feel like but my muscles still felt pretty beat up from the intense Saturday effort.

It was an early start to the day when I woke up at 2 a.m. and couldn't get back to sleep. My alarm went off at 4 a.m. but my eyes were already open as I lay in bed. After a traditional pre-race breakfast of Green Goodness and protein powder, my family and I were out the door and arrived in South Berwick right at 5 when transition was supposed to open.

Pre-race was pretty laid back. I had a sweet transition area spot at the end of a rack leaving plenty of room for my gear. I had enough time to catch up with the other GSTC'ers racing, Dave and Tom, along with a few other folks I knew from the local tri-scene.

The Swim
After a first place age group swim the previous day I was definitely confident at the swim start. Probably too confident. Instead of going out strong and steady I red-lined for the first 100 yards and found myself hyper-ventilating. After laying off the effort for about 15 seconds and regaining my composure I went back out and finished the swim strong. I ended up 7th out of the water in my age group but pretty sure I lost a couple of places with my early pacing mistake. Overall, I was still happy with a sub 28 minute 1.2 mile swim.

The Bike
The first few miles of the bike is when I started to realize it might be a painful day. Even my intentional effort to spin easily over the first few miles of flat roads, the residual muscle soreness was still very present from Saturday's effort. I tried to get into a steady rhythm and eventually got into a groove and did my best to not work the leg muscles too hard.

I did go through several bouts of doubt as to how I would respond on the run. I tried not to let too many negative thoughts build up about what the run when going to be like if I had sore muscles from going easy on the bike. I was thankful that I did some reading about David Goggins and his perspective on dealing with pain and suffering while racing.

I also kept repeating to myself one of my favorite perspectives on keeping a positive attitude: that nothing we do or feel has any inherent meaning, only the meaning we give it. I could either commiserate with myself about the running pain I was anticipating, or, figure out a way to embrace it and help to feed my drive to finish.

The Run
Thankfully, I managed not to commiserate. However, I did suffer. With every stride my muscles ached but I was able to maintain my nutrition and hydration so that the only thing I had to do was focus on blocking out the leg pain and keep putting one leg in front of the other.

One thing I did better in the race than any other that I can remember is get hyper-focused in the present moment. Typically in longer races, my mind is racing with everything from calculating my pace to watching my heart rate. I have a hard time finding that place I can usually get to in a training run, where a 2 hour run is done before I know it. This race was different. As much as I hurt, I never walked and there were several points where I didn't really remember any details about the previous mile or two.

I do remember virtually every step of the last two miles. I saw the mile 11 marker on the road, my energy level felt good and my hydration felt good, so I went as hard as I could the race of the race. It hurt so so much, but if you are a reader of this blog, then you know about my first and only DNF six weeks earlier, and finishing this race (the 2nd in 2 days) became what I perceived as an emotional must.

As I crossed the line I could feel the lump in my throat grow and eyes start to well up. My wife and son were waiting for me at the line and I couldn't hold it back any longer as I gave each of them a huge hug. I know they didn't care whether or not I DNF'd in Lake Placid, however, they had both sacrificed so much to let me train for my races this year that I was super motivated to finish this race and be able to hug them at the end. Something I wanted to do so badly in Lake Placid but never got the chance to.

A couple of good friends, Paul and Tony, were also there at the line. It was especially good to see them both because they were also in Lake Placid. I had spent the equivalent of several days training with Paul preparing for the event (and he had an incredible inaugural Ironman performance). I think he had a unique perspective on how disappointing Lake Placid was for me and how satisfying it was to finish the Pumpkin Challenge.

My triathlon journey has taught me some valuable lessons this year. I'm expecting next year's journey will be just as valuable!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A tale of two races (Part I)

The original plan for the year was to do the Patriot Half Iron race as prep for Ironman Lake Placid. Knowing the time it takes to train for an Ironman, my original intent was to take the rest of the year off from racing after Lake Placid.

However, after an unexpected and disappointing Ironman result I was compelled to redeem myself and signed up for the Great Pumpkin Challenge. The challenge consists of a sprint distance on Saturday followed by a half iron distance on Sunday. While I finished both races, they were two very different experiences.

The Sprint
My training for the two weeks leading up to race weekend was a little spotty. Work and pool closings have kept my schedule a little tough to manage. So, I really wasn't sure what to expect on race day. My plan for the Saturday race was to go comfortably hard and push it a little if I was feeling really good.

The Swim
The swim was 1/3 of a mile and the way others in my age group were looking to jump the gun I figured it was going to be a fast one. One of the biggest benefits of going through an Ironman mass start swim with 2,400 other racers is that I feel completely comfortable getting to the front and mixing it up to try and move into clean water. I did just that and found that I was able to find a clear line quickly. I saw some other swimmers on either side of me for the first 50 yards or so and then I just saw what I thought was another racer from my age group about 20 yards up ahead. I was feeling good so I pushed it a bit hoping to try and catch up to them. I thought it would be kind of nice to be 2nd or 3rd out of the water.

I never caught that person in front of me but chasing them down helped me nail a good time. I would later find out that the racer in front of me was one of the Elites and I was actually the first swimmer out of the water in my age group! I've only been swimming since I took up triathlon six years ago so I was super excited to have such a good result.

The Bike
I've ridden the bike course a couple of times prior to race day so I was comfortable where I could push and where to back off some. Starting in the 2nd wave behind the elites, and being first out of the water I was able to keep track of who in my age group was passing me (For those that don't know, the age of each racer is written on their calf prior to the start). I was feeling pretty good and was surprised to only see 2 others in my age group passed me during the bike. I was even more surprised to catch up to 2 of the female elite racers that started 1 minute ahead of me. Either they were having a really bad day or mine was going better than I thought.

The Run
As I roll into T-2 I'm still feeling really good and it hits me that I'm currently in 3rd place in my age group! I've never been in this position before! I'm used to finishing maybe in the top third or top half of a race but getting on the podium hasn't ever been on my radar. Now, I'm starting a three mile run in 3rd place but I have no idea how far back anyone else in my age group is. Because the age is written on the back of the calf so you don't know if your losing a position until someone has already passed you.

Even though I'm pretty lean right now from my Ironman training schedule, I'm a larger than average for a triathlete at 190 pounds, which has always been a disadvantage on the run. But, I kept to my plan of going comfortably hard until the 1 1/2 mile mark when I heard footsteps behind me and saw a "35" on the back of the calf of the racer who just passed me. Dang, he's in my 35 - 39 age group! I was feeling good but started to have an internal dilemma. Do I try and keep up and hope I don't over do it before the half-ironman I would be doing is less than 24 hours???

My competitive juices temporarily ruled the day and I picked up the pace to stay with him as long as I could, which ended up being until the 2 1/2 mile mark when I looked at my heart rate monitor and realized that I was pushing the red zone. My more sensible side took over I backed off a bit but it was enough to lose contact. One more person from my age group before crossing the line at a sub 7 minute/mile pace and about 2 minutes faster than last year's time. This was good enough for 5th place out of 45 in my age group and 27th out of 433.

For now I'll just say that the Sunday half ironman the next day was a physically and emotionally exhausting experience. So, in order to do it justice I'm going to tackle that one tomorrow because right now I'm going to have a Guinness, eat more food and hopefully fall asleep on the couch.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The end is in sight

Three days to go until my last triathlon of the year, the Great Pumpkin Challenge. A sprint distance race on Saturday followed by a 1/2 Iron distance on Sunday. My original race schedule for the year didn't include any racing after Ironman Lake Placid, but after a DNF at that race I signed up for the back to back races.

My Son asked me why I was doing this event, which caught me off guard a bit. He's seen me do several races including 2 Ironmans, several 1/2 Ironmans and several marathons so it stumped me why he found signing up for this race so strange. But, I told him straight up that it was an attempt to redeem my season and that I didn't want a DNF to be how it ended.

Had I not signed up for that race I probably would have been a blob on the couch for the rest of the summer. Knowing I had one more major challenge for the year has gotten me out the door to train, even after what has been a very long season that started on January 1.

I've had a hard time staying motivated over the past few weeks but the in the last few days my excitement and desire to race has really grown. I've been reading David Goggins Blog for some motivation. Read about him if you can - he's an incredibly driven person with a perspective on suffering in endurance sports like nothing I've ever seen. His perspective has helped on many of my recent long training sessions.

Yes, I'm looking forward to a break from the intense training schedule. BUT, my mind is swirling with ideas about what's the next endurance challenge. Any ideas...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Ironman Lake Placid Race Report: The Day After

It's been almost four weeks since Ironman but it seems like much longer. I've gone to start this post several times but for some reason it's been tough to find a way to wrap the race report up, which is ironic, because Monday after the race was arguably the most fulfilling days of the of the weekend.

I've been drawn to using athletic events to raise money since I did my very first triathlon six years ago (has it only been seven years?!). I've said here before that triathlon is an inherently selfish sport, especially given the training demands of the longer distance races. I feel incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to participate and I think this is what has driven me to give back in some way.

In the case of Ironman, there is a very sophisticated program set up in the form of the Janus Charity Challenge. I participated in the program during my first Ironman and helped to raise over $115,000 for a local Habitat for Humanity chapter. This year my cause was Bretton Woods Adaptive and we raised $41,500, which earned an additional $4,000 donation from Janus Investments.

A side benefit to participating in this program, especially if you are one of the top fundraisers (we were 4th this year) is that you and your family receive VIP treatment during the Monday award ceremony. Besides being recognized on stage with the other Janus Charity Challenge participants in front of a couple of thousand athletes and guests, my family and myself were in the VIP seating area and had the opportunity to sit with such pros as Michael Lovato, Hillary Biscay and Paula Newby Fraser. Though one of the best parts was being able to sit with and catch up with Carol.

Carol is a fellow Janus athlete and has participated in the program for several years. She does an incredible job fundraising (this year she raised over $400k for her organization) and is one of the kindest and most genuine people I've met. She won this year's Janus Charity Challenge, as she also did in 2006, the first year I participated. One of the thing's that draws me to triathlon is the people. Carol is a perfect example of that and it was great to be able to see and catch up with her again this year.

This year's Ironman was an incredible ride. A friend sent me an e-mail after the race with some incredibly inspiring words. She wrote "...this destination that you've come to has meaning and adds more depth and experience to your life, and allows you to reflect on so many things you might not have if the out come were different."

A DNF was never an option that day, it just wasn't something that I thought about. However, just as my friend wrote, since it happened there are so many things that have I have gained a deeper about. In the end they are all reasons for me to continue to be grateful for the opportunity I have to participate in endurance sports.

What's next? The mind is swirling with ideas! Stay tuned...

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Ironman Lake Placid Race Report: Run

You may have already read the end result of my run. But, I wanted to cover in more detail the time leading up to the pre-mature end and if you'd like to read the details, they were posted the day after the race.

For how the race ended, I felt surprising good on the start of the run. Once I got off the bike I walked briskly to the transition area. I had just ridden 112 miles, and yes the legs were fatigued, but it definitely felt like all the long rides and hill training I had done for the past 7 months had paid off. The idea of running a marathon was still a little daunting, but seemed very possible. And, I finished in about 20 minutes faster than my goal time. This gave me some extra fluff time on the run to try and reach my time goal of breaking 13 hours.

Transition went smoothly and I was in and out much quicker than my 2006 race. I remember thinking that this gives me an extra few minutes to do the marathon and still make my goal time.

One of the best moments of the race was heading out of the transition tent for the run. Just after exiting the transition tent I saw Amy and Connor. I hadn't seen them for over 6 1/2 hours so it was a nice emotional boost for me. As soon as you leave the tent there are spectators everywhere lining the streets. It's like this for the first 3 or 4 miles of the race which makes it hard not to go out too fast because of the adrenaline, but I stayed conservative and tried to just keep a steady pace.

Once you pass the crowd lined streets of the first several miles there is an out-and-back section after a left hand turn onto River Road, which as the name suggests, spends most of the time following alongside the Ausable River. It's a winding road and as my buddy Paul puts it, you kind of feel like your in Groundhog Day. After a while, every bend you go around looks the same as the other and your not quite sure when you'll get back.

I still felt pretty good heading out for the first time on River Road. Though this section of the course becomes mentally challenging. It's flat for the most part, however, except for the aid stations there are virtually no spectators and for me its when the demons start to come out which started at about mile 10 of the run.

I didn't quite understand why I was starting to feel a little mentally beat down. Of course I felt physically beat up, but I had been training for seven months and had put several 15 - 20 mile runs in the training log, most were after a four to six hour bike ride the previous day.

At about mile 11, the first loop back through town begins which is about 3 miles total. I went through some ups and downs during this time but mostly I began to feel myself sliding to a place I was beginning to get nervous about.

In two previous races, a half Ironman and after my 2006 Ironman Lake Placid finish, I ended up once in the hospital and once in the medical tent after passing out at the finish line. Both times dehydration was the culprit. I remember the feeling I had at both races before passing out and shades of that same feeling were creeping in - only halfway through the marathon. Not a great sign. The feeling is hard to explain but it's a groggy feeling where I go through waves of dizzyness and loss of focus.

I'm a pretty heavy sweater and as a result try to stay topped up on my hydration. I didn't think about it at the time (though I've been obsessing about it ever since the race), but even though I pee'd a couple of times on the bike, I hadn't kept close track of how much I was drinking. For a humid and warm day I should have been taking in about 24 - 30 oz of water per hour. Honestly, I don't know how much water I had during that 6 1/2 hour ride. I remember finishing my first two 24 oz bottles in the first 3 hours, which already put me behind. After that, I was using the 20 oz bottles they gave us on course and I'm sure I didn't go through as many as I should have.

And so, after what I remember being my last relatively good section at about mile 14 to 15 of the run, things started to go down hill rapidly. On the run I generally can't take in as much water as I can on the bike. I was shooting for 24 oz per hour but was no where near this. The worse I felt the harder it was to taken in both nutrition and hydration. After mile 15 I can't even recall what I took in for either calories or hydration. Again, not a great sign.

The rest of the race is pretty foggy. One of the last clear memories is seeing one of the GSTC support crew at the 21 mile marker. I remember he suggested that I try jogging 100 yards and walking 100 yards and I told him I was done running. I was completely out of gas.

The rest of the story has already been told here.

I'm incredibly grateful for the support of friends and family prior to race day, on race day and since race day. I've been humbled by the comments of support by my familiy plus new and old friends which has helped put the whole experience into perspective. Without this support, I have to admit that it would be significantly harder to deal with.

Most people who really know me would describe me as a pretty low key guy who doesn't let a lot of things bother me. For the most part I've always had the attitude that what's done is done - let's move on with the situation as it stands and deal with it. Intellectually, that is the easy part, however the challenging part is accepting that logic emotionally. This DNF experience has been tough. Whereas I could normally be pretty disciplined about accepting situations for what they were and moving on, for some reason in this situation, my discipline has been really tested.

Besides asking myself what I could have done differently, the biggest question I'm asking myself is did I give up too easily? Many friends have told me how inspired they were just to see me do the training and make it as far as I did. I'm truly grateful for that and don't want to come across the wrong way. To most, getting pulled off the course by EMT's after 135 miles can be defined as not giving up too easily. My intent here is not to sound tough or somehow inflate my ego. Nevertheless, I'm constantly asking myself that question - could I have gotten up off the bumper of that ambulance and gutted it out to the end. Not knowing the answer really bothers me sometimes.

I'm so thankful to the many friends that have reminded me of my own words that I use as the intro to my blog - "The journey is more important than the destination". The interpretation I'm trying to emotionally solidify for myself from the experience: I learned more about how deep I can go physically, physiologically, mentally and emotionally on July 26th, 2009. Use that experience and apply it to every other part of my life. I know, in time, this is the meaning that will stick.

The rest of the long weekend ended on a high note at the awards banquet the next day as a result of the Janus Charity Challenge. More on that soon....