Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Some days are just harder than the rest

The kids went back to school today. I stayed up way too late last night. I didn't want to get up and run at all this morning. The motivation was simply not there, but I got up and got after it anyway. I thought I would run my 8-mile route rather than the 6-miler, but by mile 2, I was already thinking of how to cut the run short, so when I hit 30 minutes out, I turned around and started the run back. This route has a pretty steep hill in the first mile from my house, so running back up on the way home is always a challenge, but today I just couldn't make it happen.
Highlights: 6.83 miles in 1:04:39. Average pace 9:27/mile.
Weight: 217.2 first thing in the morning.

I managed to register for Toughman Alabama today. On New Year's Eve Team Magic sent an email with a discount code, but for whatever reason, it didn't work for me. I contacted their customer service and they provided me with another code this morning. With the exception of Ironman Louisville, all of the triathlons I have run have been Team Magic races. They always do a fantastic job and as long as I am living in the area and participating in the sport, I'll keep running with Team Magic.

August 13, 2016. Toughman Alabama 1/2 Iron Distance triathlon. I ran this one in 6:40:00 last year after not training for it. Hoping to cut an hour off of this time this year.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Goals and plans

When people come to me for counsel at church, most often seeking financial assistance, the protocol I have to follow is to help them set the goal to become self sufficient. Once they have that goal set, we have to focus on a plan to get them there. For some, it's a matter of applying for work. For others, it means going to school and getting an education so they can be qualified for employment that will provide them with enough income to be self sufficient. Everyone is at a different level, and although the goal is the same for everyone, the plan for getting there isn't.
The same situation exists for health and fitness. Running an Ironman triathlon is quite a goal, but the plan to get there has to fit the individual. I have seen dozens of training plans, began considerably more than a handful of them, and abandoned each one within weeks. Why is this? Because they haven't fit me and my needs. Also, plans must be adaptable to fit the changing needs of each individual. Here is where a professional coach or trainer is most valuable. That person knows the athlete and adjusts the training program to fit the athlete's needs and progress. The problem is, sometimes there simply isn't money in the budget for a coach.
Over the twelve years I have been running and triathloning, I have had the opportunity to train with a coach only once. Following a specific program and reporting weekly to my coach resulted in my running my PR marathon of 3:10:52. I've never repeated that performance, nor have I come even remotely close to it. If you can afford a coach and can find one that will work well with you and your personality, I highly recommend it. You'll progress far better with a coach than you will on your own.
For me, this year, I can't afford a coach, so I'm on my own.
Goal: Finish Ironman Florida in 12 hours.
Plan: Train consistently for the next ten months, (Race Day is exactly ten months from today,) meaning an average of 6 hours per week. This may be considered an annual training plan of logging 350 hours of training this year.
First 90 days, swim, bike, or run for one hour a day, six days a week.
I prefer running, so the plan is to track my daily workouts, gradually increasing speed and distance in the one-hour time allotment each day.
I also want to get back to a reasonable racing weight, preferably 175 pounds or lighter.
On January 1, I weighed 218 pounds first thing in the morning. I ran 6.12 miles in 1:00:01.

On January 2, I weighed 216.4 pounds first thing in the morning. I ran 6.36 miles in 1:00:01.

On January 3, I weighed 213.4 pounds first thing in the morning. I took Sunday off as a rest day.

On January 4, I weighed 215.6 pounds first thing in the morning. I ran 6.46 miles in 1:00:46.

Today, January 5, I weighed 214.6 pounds first thing in the morning. I ran 6.59 miles in 1:00:01.

My plan will have to adjust as I progress, but for now, the short-term goal is to hit 6 hours a week (one hour per day, six days a week) until March 31. I also want to lose ten pounds a month. Getting rid of the extra holiday sweets will go a long way to accomplishing that.

Monday, January 04, 2016

A plan for 2016

I was more than surprised when my wife gave me the go ahead to register for Ironman Florida 2016. The race is a Saturday race, it's six hours from home, and I had so much fun in Louisville that I couldn't resist the temptation to run another one.

I learned a few important things in my Ironman journey last year.

1- I have been blessed with a body capable of enduring this type of event.
2- I am inherently lazy.
3- I am too busy and or lazy to change #2 and train extensively for an Ironman at this point in my life.

I have to accept the fact that I simply don't have the time or the motivation to be a professional athlete. I honestly cannot expect to give more than ten hours in any week to train for the Ironman, but even more honestly, it's going to take a tremendous amount of effort for me to sustain 6 hours a week effort this year, but that's the amount of time I have, and I want to do the best I can with it.

I have joined a Facebook group of IMFlorida 2016 participants who are going to train 1 hour per day for 90 days, six days a week from January 1 to March 30.

My preferred sport is running. I have run just over 6 miles per day each day (except Sunday) since December 30.

The goal: finish Ironman Florida on November 5, 2016 in 12 hours by training consistently 6 to 10 hours per week.

I'll post running logs and other relevant (and some irrelevant) information here as it happens.

Completing an Ironman (in far more detail than you ever wanted to read)

Thursday, October 8, three days before the race.
I thought it might be a good idea to start hydrating. I stopped consuming Diet Coke at the alarming rate I had become accustomed to and drank electrolyte solution (GU Brew) all day. I drank about a gallon of liquid on Thursday, but my body absorbed most of it.
Friday, October 9, two days before the race.
I continued drinking the GU Brew and my wife and I began the drive to Louisville. It was a lot of fun seeing other cars with tri bikes on the highway. I got checked in for the race, found the hotel we were staying at, went on a crazy shopping spree with my wife, and rented a Redbox movie for that night. We ate dinner at Logan’s Roadhouse and I had the 9 ounce sirloin. I wasn’t anywhere near race ready, but I was enjoying the time with my wife.
Saturday, October 10, day before the race…into Sunday, October 11, RACE DAY.
I was uncertain about the river and the toxic algae warning, even though the advisory had been lifted.[1] I also did not want to try and put a wet wetsuit on for the race on Sunday, so I thought I’d skip the practice swim. We drove some of the bike course, the infamous RT 1694 and half of the lollipop loop into La Grange that morning. We grabbed the bike and the transition bags from the hotel at about 1:00 and headed in to town to mandatory bike and gear check as well as the 2:00 athlete meeting. After that, we drove up to the swim start, then walked up to the swim turn around, back down the river, across the Big Four Bridge into Indiana, down to Fourth Street Live, and back up to the car. Both my wife and I were exhausted as we headed back to the hotel, stopping at a Subway sandwich shop for dinner. I showered and fell asleep at about 8:30, only to be woken by my watch at 9:30 because I had set the alarm for the race cut-offs the next day. My wife was still watching TV, so I struggled to go to sleep for another 45 minutes to an hour. I woke up again at 3:00 A.M. and tried to not toss and turn until 4:00 when I was supposed to wake up. I didn’t sleep again, but tried to at least rest my body.
We left for the race at about 4:40 and found a place to park about a block from the Ironman Village. We were still early arriving and transition didn’t open until 5:15 (like it said in the athlete guide,) so we queued until they opened transition. As athletes only are allowed into transition, I kissed my wife goodbye and went to my bike, pumped up the tires (forgot to carry the chain lube in with me, so that didn’t happen at all) and prayed that everything was set with my bike. I didn’t want to hassle with last minute gear adjustments that would have me waiting in line for the bike techs for who knows how long. I was more concerned about getting up to the swim start to queue there and hopefully be in the water before 8:00 A.M. I dropped off my special needs bags, found my wife and headed to the swim start via a 1-block detour to put my pump back in the car.
Body marking was at the swim start, and the lines for the port-a-johns were consistent with lines before any race: long. Louisville has several public parking lots on the river side of River Road, all with different color names. The swim start was between the Tan lot and the Turquoise lot. Body marking was at the entrance to the Tan lot, so I stopped and allowed my arms and legs to be marked (I should have bought the tri-tats, they are just so much cleaner!) With hundreds of people filing into the Tan lot, I thought I’d skip some of the crowd and walk a few hundred more feet and go in via the Turquoise lot. This was a good decision. There was a port-a-john right on the road that had no wait. I used it then found a dozen people waiting in line for the facilities further into the parking lot. It was about 6:00 when we got to the swim start, but the queue was already more than ¼ of a mile long. Athletes and support crews were all sitting together in one long, chaotic line. I knew the line would tighten up significantly once the officials (volunteers) began separating the support crews out of the line, but even so, by the time the starting cannon fired, the line of athletes was easily half a mile long.
It always gets coldest right before dawn, and the temperature dipped into the 40s before the sun started showing over the eastern horizon. I wrestled my wetsuit on at about 7:00, while the line was still tightening up, so I made quite the spectacle hopping down the sidewalk with my feet in the wetsuit and trying to hold it all together. I was grateful for the wetsuit because it did keep me considerably warmer once I had it on. At 7:30 we heard the starting cannon. Apparently there was a bugler who played just before the cannon, but we were too far away to hear any of that. I did notice that although it hadn’t rained that night and the dew was not heavy, the sidewalk was quite wet where the athletes were lined up. Was that pee from people peeing in their wetsuits? I shudder at the thought…
The line moved quickly and despite the fact that I was about halfway back, I jumped into the water at about 7:50. I had been warned that my goggles would fill with tears as I waited to start the swim. It didn’t happen, but my emotions were high and I could have easily given in and allowed the tears to come. Instead, I took a few deep breaths and focused on the task ahead of me.
When I jumped into the water, I expected to touch the bottom of the river and then push off and start swimming. I should have realized that this was a marina and the bottom was probably 10-15 feet or more down. As I slowly surfaced, the person behind me jumped right in on top of me. That wasn’t quite the start I was hoping for, but I wasn’t injured so I began moving forward. There were a total of 18 sighting buoys in the swim, six yellow buoys along the length of Towhead Island and up the river to the red turnaround buoy, then three more yellows as the course proceeded downriver. The last nine buoys were orange, with the last orange buoy only a few meters from the red exit buoy. I cleared Towhead Island in 18 minutes and rounded the turn in 28 minutes. I had read that the current was significant enough in previous years for people to swim twice as fast after the turn around. Once I saw that I was making the turn in less than half an hour, I began to develop delusions of a sub-one hour swim time. I began celebrating my record accomplishment in my mind and realized after a few minutes that there was minimal current to assist me and not only was I not being swept downriver by the great current, I wasn’t really swimming well anymore either. I refocused on concentrating on long, steady strokes and once again began making good progress. I was pleased to see how quickly I was moving as I sighted along the bank of the river. Things managed to stay fairly open and contact-free until we neared the sighting buoys, where the kayaks and safety volunteers corralled the swimmers into a much narrower section. Invariably, as I approached the buoys, I began getting hit and hitting other swimmers. I tried to get out of their way and leave everyone alone without getting angry about anything that I couldn’t control.
At orange buoy #6, my left calf seized in a paralyzing cramp and I thought I was going to sink to the bottom of the river. This was one of those cramps that when they happen, you immediately collapse, struggling to catch your breath because the pain is so severe that it takes the breath right out of you. Knowing that there wasn’t much I could do about it, I allowed my left leg to go completely limp and hope for the best. I didn’t want to pull my head up and tread water to look for a kayak because my leg wasn’t going to cooperate, so I kept swimming, kicking occasionally with my right leg to keep myself prone in the water and began thinking of exit strategies. I didn’t want this to end my day so soon, but if it was still crippling me when I got out of the water, I had no idea how I was going to continue. Fortunately, over the next couple of minutes the cramp subsided and I was able to flex my calf a little as I swam. By the time I reached the swim exit, the cramp was completely over, although the muscle continues to complain to me even three days after the race.
I made eye contact with a volunteer on the far side of the stairs and made my way over to his outstretched arm. He grabbed hold of me and pulled me onto the stairs and I headed for the wetsuit strippers. As I tried to get my upper body out of the wetsuit, my Ironman wristband got hung up in my wetsuit sleeve and I didn’t have the dexterity or strength left in my hands to try and work it free. I found my stripper and yelled to her that my arm was stuck in the sleeve. She reassured me that we’d get it out and in a few seconds (which seemed like minutes) she had my right hand free and was going for the left arm. I realized that there was no way I’d get the wetsuit off over my wristwatch, so I told her to wait while I took off my watch and she had my left arm out seconds later. Then she yelled at me to lie down on my back and put my feet up in the air. I needed to pull my timing chip off my ankle for the same reason as the watch, but once I had that off, she grabbed my wetsuit and yanked it off. I was astonished at how easily that happened. I reattached my timing chip, grabbed my wristwatch from another stripper who was trying to give it to her athlete, put it on, then took my wetsuit and began the wobbly run into T1.
Swim time: 1:17:46 (a P.R. time for me)
T1 was crowded, hot, and humid, with most of the bodies jammed right into the entrance of the tent. I wormed my way through the crush of bodies and found some open space and a chair. I sat down and pulled my Ziploc bag with my biking equipment out of the transition bag. I wanted to be calm and relax as much as possible during the transition so I could recover a bit from the swim, but also be sure I wasn’t going to skip any important steps in my transition. I made the change, repacked my T1 bag with my swimming gear, handed it off to the closest volunteer and made my way to the exit. I grabbed a sip of water as I left the tent and made my way to the bike racks. I was shocked at how far I had to walk my bike to get to the mount line, but I eventually got there, got mounted, and got underway on the second leg.
T1 time: 15:50
It was still brisk when I got underway on the bike and I was grateful I had thought to bring arm warmers and to change from swimming trunks into a dry tri kit. I can’t imagine how cold I would have been for the first several miles if I were still in wet clothes or had bare arms.
The first ten miles or so of the bike course are quite flat and it’s a good time to just spin and loosen the legs while settling into a rhythm. Unfortunately, the first ten miles of the course are still quite crowded with athletes, so there’s little rhythm to be found. It was confusing to try and stay to the right, avoid a drafting penalty, not block other riders, and often pass two or three riders who were riding abreast. The road leading out of town was also open to traffic, and where the small rollers caused riders to slow significantly, cars were right there blocking the athletes. At one point, a rider in front of me bumped his front wheel into the back of the rider in front of him and he had to unclip and get off the bike. I narrowly avoided the same fate by veering around him right behind a car and up over the crest of the hill.
At mile 17 or so, the infamous out and back section of RT 1694 began. There are a couple of good hills, and again, it’s still early enough in the race that the course is crowded with bikes going both ways. Although I am sure there were others in different places, this is where I saw all of the accidents. Several people’s races ended on that stretch of road. Fortunately, I was able to make it clear of the carnage and the chaos and continue on my ride.
It was still cool and I had to remind myself to eat and drink, even though I didn’t feel any desire to. This was my biggest challenge all through the bike ride, and has been my challenge as long as I have been riding. I knew the only way I was going to survive the day was to be properly hydrated and stay on top of my nutrition, so I focused on that. My plan was to eat two Gatorade chews every 20 minutes and drink 6-8 ounces of water at that time. During the first hour I forgot my second feeding time and was ten minutes late, but payed closer attention to that for the rest of the morning and did pretty well. I forced myself to drink more water than I wanted, but doing so kept me hydrated throughout the day. I actually stopped to pee three times during the bike ride, which some might have thought was high, but I found that the brief stops were actually quite beneficial as I was able to stretch out my legs and flex them a bit.
By special needs at mile 60, I was eagerly anticipating the goodies I had packed in my bag. I enjoyed a chocolate granola bar and a pomegranate 5-hour energy. That little break was a great respite for me and the caffeine and vitamins from the 5-hour energy and the granola bar perked me right up. I headed through the second loop with all kinds of energy, and as I progressed, I realized that it would be better for me to stop at each aid station from that point on and use the bathroom and stretch. My legs recovered well at each 2-3 minute break and I felt fresh each time I got back on the bike. The last 33 miles into Louisville are essentially downhill, but much of the respite we were hoping to feel on the ride back into town was denied us because of a headwind. I didn’t end up going as fast as I would have liked, but the headwind reminded me to stay in the aero position and my last splits were consistent, if not slightly faster than my first splits on the bike. Mile 90 was a wonderful sight to see, although the last 15 miles or so in on River Road were terrible because of how rough the road is. It literally kicked my backside all the way in as my tires hit the cracks and bumps and drove my saddle upwards. Despite the agony of the last several miles, I managed to make it back to T2 without incident and still feeling quite energetic. I dismounted my bike a few feet ahead of the line and began the long walk into T2. I handed my bike off to a volunteer and along the way I saw my wife and stopped to give her a quick kiss. I decided it would be easier to take off my cycling shoes and run in in my socks, despite the wet and muddy grass. Fortunately I had packed an extra pair of socks in my T2 bag.
Bike time: 6:48:41
T2 was less crowded and I focused on drying my feet and getting the sand off of them before heading off on the run. I loaded up my pockets with additional Gatorade Chews (that I never once considered using on the run,) handed my T2 bag to a volunteer, stopped for additional sunscreen, then made my way to the run.
T2 time: 10:12
Now I was out on the run. My average run pace for the 6-mile loop I regularly run is about 9:15/mile. My 14-mile run took me about 2:15, but I knew there was no way I was going to survive a 10:00/mile pace on the run. I wanted to slow down to 12:30-13:00 for the first 10K and then hold it or gradually pick up the pace if I felt I could. In the chaos of the opening mile of the run, I never saw the first mile marker, but my pace was an 11:08. I felt okay with that pace, slowing to walk through the aid stations and running again. This went well enough for the first hour and a half, but then my body and brain started fading. I found that although my body wasn’t screaming at me to stop, my legs were growing extremely fatigued and my brain was getting very cloudy. I remember feeling as if everything was getting soft around the edges as I looked at it. It seemed prudent to me to slow down and walk for a while, so I did. I may have walked a quarter of a mile and things came back into focus. I tried to keep my walk at a brisk pace, and eventually I was able to start running again. My new plan was to run to a specific landmark and then walk to the next one. I found that electrical poles worked well for me. The largest poles were 100-200 yards apart, so I would run to the next one and then walk to the one after that. It meant walking for more time than I was running, but each time I began running, I found that I could start running without any complaint from my body or rationalization from my brain as to why I shouldn’t start running.
The Louisville run course is perfect for me, a double out-and-back, with each leg approximately 6.5 miles. Breaking the marathon into four digestible chunks allowed me to focus on getting to the next turnaround without trying to mentally run the entire marathon all at once. Of course, getting to the start of the second loop only ONE BLOCK from the finish line seems like cruel and unusual punishment to me as you have to veer to the right and start the last half marathon when the finish line and the thousands of spectators are there urging you on but not realizing you still have half the run to complete.
The run course is well-stocked and supported with aid stations roughly every mile. I had all of my pockets full of Gatorade Chews and other food that I had brought, but after the bike leg wanted none of it. I took water at almost every aid station, had Gatorade at about every other one, had grapes a couple of times, took 3-7 potato chips at most stations, took cold sponges 3 or 4 times and once had a volunteer fill my cap with ice. At about 6:30, someone offered me the first chicken broth. It was warm and wonderful! I began looking for that at every aid station while alternating through whatever it was that felt somewhat appetizing at the time. At special needs, I drank another 5-hour energy, but it didn’t have the effect that the first one had on the bike. I was disappointed, but was still able to continue with my run-walk pattern for the rest of the race.
Several times during the run I started to get into my own head, thinking about slowing to walk the rest of the way, (with 7:30 to finish the marathon, I could walk the whole way! Why not give it a shot?) I also thought about the times, but my brain doesn’t do math all that well under such a strain, so thinking I might be able to finish the marathon in 4 hours and end before sundown (at 7:30) just didn’t make sense, but above everything else it was distracting me from moving forward, so as that would happen, I would find someone running beside me and begin a conversation. I told them I needed to talk to them for a bit to get out of my head. This happened five or six times, and each time it worked. By the last leg in to the finish line, I was too tired to want to talk to people and I was beginning to race with a few of them who I had kept pace with for the second loop, so I didn’t talk to anyone other than volunteers and police officers, and even then it was only to thank them for being out there all day.
About two miles from the finish, my brain cleared up enough to realize that I could finish in 14 hours, but to do so I’d have to run more than walk, so I changed my pattern to running for three street lights and walking for one. I opened a gap on the other athletes I had been leapfrogging with for several miles and started gaining on the others who had dropped me some time earlier.
One quarter of a mile from the finish, you are still on 3rd Street. Fan support at 9:45 was all but gone from there, with everyone having moved to the finish line at 4th Street Live! There was one fan/volunteer standing at the turn off of 3rd Street who encouraged me to run hard and finish strong. It felt like he was telling me to reel in a few of the athletes (I could see two or three on the block ahead of me) and pass them, so I decided to run hard the rest of the way.
Turning the corner onto 4th Street was amazing. Three blocks ahead I could see the finish line and the crowd of spectators was pressing in hard against the barriers. The noise, the lights, the music was everything I needed. I took particular delight in going to the left side of the divider that directed me to the finish line, almost reading the “2nd Loop Right” sign with disdain. I passed one athlete who seemed to be tying his shoes or visiting with friends or family at the start of the long finishers’ chute and focused on the finish arch. I had thought for several hours what I might do as I crossed the finish line, but as my legs carried me down the chute, I held out my hands on both sides to high five the fans who had their hands out, and when I crossed over the line, all I could do was throw my arms up in a V. Nobody else in the world existed at that moment. My finish line video shows I gave a high five to the athlete who crossed the line ten seconds ahead of me, but I don’t remember it. I didn’t hear my name announced, (it was,) and then my catcher locked eyes with me and opened her arms to receive me. In the next few minutes I had a medal placed over my head, was handed a finisher’s shirt and cap, had my picture taken, was given a Mylar blanket, had my timing chip removed, then was congratulated again by my catcher and ushered out the back side of the finisher’s chute where my wife was waiting. It was over, and I had finished without the pain and agony that so many people recall when they talk about their experience.
Run time: 5:25:25


[1] Unseasonably warm temperatures and other environmental factors resulted in a massive toxic, blue-green algae bloom all across the Ohio River. City and state officials were warning recreationists to stay out of and avoid contact with the water. There was serious talk about cancelling the swim portion of the race. Race officials tested the water every day during the week prior to the race and finally pronounced it safe to swim in on Saturday morning, 24 hours before the starting gun.

Ironman Accountability

I can't believe I started this blog ten years ago. Some of the intervening blog posts will tell you what I've done with my time, but you have probably figured out that my goals have changed somewhat over the past decade. Kona is no longer (or was it ever really?) a serious goal.
Completing an Ironman, however, always was. Here's what went down... I'll break this down into separate posts just because it's forever long.

Last year I turned 39. I stopped to evaluate all of the things I had accomplished to that point, finishing my Ph.D., earning tenure and promotion, having five amazing kids with my wife, running a Boston qualifying marathon, and a handful of other things, but the Ironman still loomed large on the list of incompletes. There was no way I could qualify for Kona, but surely I could complete an Ironman by the time I turned 40, right?
So I began looking at the Ironman website. Ironman Chattanooga is only three hours from where I live and the 2015 race was to be held on a Saturday. It was the perfect setup for me, only it was double the cost to register. I guess those slots are for the Ironman Foundation athletes. $650 is bad enough. $1300 was impossible. IM Maryland was another Saturday race before my birthday, but Maryland is a lot farther from my home, so that meant a lot more expenses in traveling. My last option was Ironman Louisville, five hours from my home, and held on my birthday. I texted my wife about it and emailed her the website link, and to my surprise she told me she would support me if I wanted to do it. I signed up the next day.
Now I had about one year to get ready for this event. I’ve already mentioned I am lazy. I found several free triathlon training plans and began making grandiose plans for the 12-20 hours of training it would require for me to follow these plans. But there was still a long time before I had to start training in earnest, and I am very busy with everything else I have to do. My plan was to run an ultra-marathon in February (50K trail run,) an Olympic distance triathlon in May, a half-Ironman distance in August, and be ready for the big one in October. As panic set in a few weeks before each of these events, I found myself begrudgingly hitting the road to run, bike, or head over to the YMCA to swim. I managed to run a 25 mile training run before the ultra in February in a little over 5 hours, but finished the trail run in a miserable 7.5 hours after slogging through the mud most of the day. I completed the Olympic distance in about 3 hours after a dismal swim, second time in my wetsuit, and first time in years I had swum more than 200 yards nonstop. The half-Ironman distance was another hot death march, albeit I had conquered my fears in the water. Water temperatures in Alabama in August are akin to bathwater, so it was not wetsuit legal, but I finished the swim in 47 minutes, the bike in just under 3 hours, and the run in about 2:45. It was what I deserved and no better than I expected. A 6:40 half-Ironman time, according to some race predictors should yield a 14-hour full Ironman time, but that’s assuming you are fit enough to go twice the distance. There’s a HUGE difference between 70.3 and 140.6!
I had a triathlon bike, I had a nice wetsuit, I had two tri kits, excellent running shoes, and everything else I needed to look the part. I just didn’t have the motivation to really train. My big training came in three separate weeks/events. First, I had my annual running camp (AKA AP Spanish Exam Reading) in Cincinnati, OH from June 11-19. I ran about 60 miles that week, running twice on most days, once at 5:30 AM and again at 5:30 PM. Second, I had swimming camp while I was a scout leader at my son’s scout camp. That week I trained for and completed the BSA mile swim. I finished the mile swim in about 45 minutes, but that gave me the confidence and the understanding that I needed to pace myself through 2.4 miles of open water. My third training event was a 122-mile bike ride on Labor Day. I totally miscalculated my nutrition needs and ended up consuming all of my nutrition by the halfway point. Miles 70-90 were absolutely miserable, and I was fortunate to be able to stop at a welcome center and grab some water and eat a couple of Oreos to prevent a complete bonk. I finally finished that ride in 8:19, counting the 30 minutes or more that I had to take as a rest at the welcome center 35 miles from my home. Beyond that, there were a handful of 25-mile bike rides, several 6-8 mile runs, one 14-mile run and one 2-mile swim. That would be the sum total of my training for my inaugural Ironman. If I’m truly honest with myself, I might be able to say that I trained an average of 2 hours per week, counting my three concentrated events mentioned above. I joined a Facebook group of Ironman participants for the Louisville race and read more about other people training every day than actual training myself. The common theme was, “you can’t fake it on an Ironman.” I began looking desperately online for some sort of confirmation that you actually could complete an Ironman on minimal training. $650 is a lot of money to throw away because you are too lazy to train. I found an article about three University of Georgia undergraduates who completed an Ironman on minimal training and somewhere else I saw the line, “sure, you can finish an Ironman on little to no training, but you’ll be miserable the whole day.” Being 20 years older than the undergrads who finished their Ironman, I was quite frantic, if not desperate as my Facebook comrades began their taper and I hadn’t done anything to taper from. If anything, I was still ramping up mileage. I was in trouble.

I'm back. Good thing nobody's around here any more to have missed me...

By now, it seems the only people who still blog are the professionals who are making obscene amounts of money for what they write and advertise. I have four separate blogs that I have started and abandoned over the years. I haven't even bothered to see when I made the last post in any of them. Whatever.

I did see that one of the posts on this blog is titled, "New Year, New Resolve."
Yeah, right.

So why am I back?

It's now 2016. When I started this blog who knows how many years ago, it was supposed to track my road to Kona, where I wanted to compete in the Ironman Triathlon World Championships. It was nine or ten years ago. I've changed a lot since then. The blog became a venue for me to post about my travels to Peru and other countries, but even that was replaced by Instagram and Facebook.

I'm back here because I need to keep a training journal and I am hoping that this will be the place to do it.

I'll post some back story in the next post.

For now, I'm back. The party is a little lame, but that's all my own doing.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Peru 2012 Phase 2: Lima to Nazca

The past couple of days have been a blur at best. With our arrival in Lima on Tuesday night, Wednesday was full of experiences in Lima. We began the morning with a trip to the Larco Museum, and then had a brief lunch break and the Mirabus tour of Miraflores. After the Mirabus tour, I took the group to Petit Thouars, the souvenir street and encouraged everyone to get an idea of what they would like to look for as we travel through the country. Prices are okay on Petit Thouars, but we'll see all the same stuff everywhere else in the country for usually a lot cheaper. Of course, it's almost impossible to visit a handicraft mall without spending any money, so most everyone ended up getting something.
Wednesday night took us to the Parque Mágico de Aguas, where there are several lighted, dancing fountains. The high point of the evening is the laser light show projected on a water screen. It's definitely worth the price of admission.
Thursday morning was our scheduled trip to colonial Lima, the Plaza de San Martin, Plaza de Armas, Banco de la Reserva (another museum), and the Saint Francis cathedral and monastery and a trip into the catacombs. This excursion is always popular, as catacombs are not something we have in the US. Traffic in Lima was horrible, and we ended up losing a lot of time in transit. We closed our day with an evening excursion to Barranco to see the Puente de Suspiros and the vibrant night life there.
Today began at 5:45am with a bus ride to Nasca. We arrived in Nasca at 2:30 and checked into the hotel and went straight to the flyover. Weather has been pretty crummy in the mornings for the past several days, and rather than wait around at the airport all morning for the fog to lift, we decided to fly this evening when the weather was good. I didn't fly this time, as the Nazca Lines haven't changed in more than 1000 years, so the pictures I took last year are still good. Everyone enjoyed the flight, and nobody got sick. I think it was also helpful that we hadn't eaten lunch, so nobody had anything to upset their stomach. I hope to remember that for the next time around.
Everyone went their own way for dinner, and I enjoyed a quiet meal by myself at my favorite Nazca restaurant, La Encantada. Once again I had Palta Rellena and Lomo Saltado. I chased it with an Inka Cola, and went back to the hotel, where I am currently enjoying an early evening.
This post is quite boring, so I won't prolong the agony of anyone who may be reading. Tomorrow we have a morning tour of the cemetery and the precolumbian mummies, then an afternoon bus on to Arequipa.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Peru Study Abroad 2012

I write once again from Lima, Peru. This is my third trip to this wonderful country and the second time I have traveled with students. This year I have ten participants, six college-age students and four continuing studies students. Other than myself, there is only one male participant. The dynamic is quite different than last year's group, but it already seems to be considerably more relaxed than last year. I have an extremely full schedule planned for the next two weeks including almost everything we did last year plus Lake Titicaca, Maras, Chinchero, and other sites we missed last time. I may or may not have the time to write and update each day, but I'll do my very best to keep up this year.
So here's how day one shook out.
We met at the Huntsville Airport this morning at 4:30 to check in. Our United Airlines flight was a code share with US Airways, and the latter airline was not feeling at all friendly. I wasn't about to risk the loss of my luggage again this year, so I insisted on carrying on. I had a mild argument with the ladies at the ticket counter about the size of my bag, but in the end, I won out and made it all the way to Lima without having to check my bag through to the final destination. They tried for about one second to bill me for everyone's checked bags, but I reminded them that United policy is to allow one free checked bag on flights to South America. It is a sad indication of the state of air travel in the US to see just how much the airlines have begun to charge for, not just checked luggage (and carry-on in some airlines,) but snacks, wifi, and other luxuries. I'm afraid they'll start charging for the restroom before long.
Our flight left Huntsville for Charlotte, NC, then went on to Newark, NJ. We finally got on a United flight for the 7-hour leg to Lima. We landed at about 8:50pm, made our way through customs, and after a few minutes of trying to locate Liliana, our Lima contact, loaded up on the bus and headed to Miraflores, our center of operations for the next two and a half days. Last year, I booked our Lima hotel myself and it was overwhelmingly considered to be the low point of the trip, so this year I decided to let Karen (my Peruvian miracle worker) handle all the bookings. We're at Hotel The Place not far from Larcomar. We're not quite as centrally located as we were last year, but the accommodations are more private than last year. I will try and get up at 6 and go for a quick run to try and locate myself in the area. I'll be a lot better off if I know which way to direct everyone for their shopping and banking needs tomorrow.
Long story short: the flights were uneventful and the daytime travel allowed for more energy and will give us a full night's rest before really hitting the ground running tomorrow. 
In the meantime, it's late and I'm exhausted. Here's to another fun-filled two weeks of study abroad stress. (I must really love it or I wouldn't do this to myself each year...)

Friday, May 27, 2011

My how time flies when you are having fun!

I just realized that it's Friday night and we've been in Peru for a week. Several people were mentioning today that it seems like we've been here for a couple of months already, and with everything we have done in the last week, I feel it too.
If the next week goes the same as this week, we'll all be too exhausted to actually get off the plane in Huntsville next Friday. This, I believe, is a good thing.
I had hoped that the trip hiccups would all be over after I and three others were separated from the group out of Huntsville and our ensuing jaunt across the US to try and catch up to the rest of the group. Of course, delayed baggage is always a trial, but when Ed's and Paulette's bags made it to the hotel in Lima on Sunday, I thought everything would be smooth sailing from that point on, even though my bag was nowhere to be found. I kept telling myself that as long as problems had to arise, as long as I suffered the worst of them, everyone else could just roll with it. If I stayed calm, they would all stay calm as well. Right?
We are entitled to our theories, and I guess the fact that we have to test them is what makes them theories. I have learned an incredible amount about planning and carrying out a study abroad trip in the last week, and I am far better equipped for any future programs I may choose to run after only seven days. This has been an incredibly grueling week with a steep learning curve for me, but everyone's still alive and the problems or difficulties are minor, so I'm counting it as a success thus far.
Having not written regularly this week, I will now try and give as much of an update as I can. I may also add photos, or perhaps put those in later, as pictures make my words a lot more interesting.
We left Lima on Tuesday morning for Nazca. There is no airport in Nazca (other than the little one used for the flyovers,) so my bag was not going to make it to me there. Thanks to Karen, the real force behind this trip, my bag was scheduled to arrive in Arequipa on Wednesday and I was to go claim it at the Arequipa airport. The LAN Airlines people insisted on delivering it to me at the hotel, so I waited an extra two hours for it to arrive, but what's two hours after SIX DAYS without it? It was good to get my bag back. That's really all I can say.
I must digress at this moment and air a grievance against the U.S. media channels. On May 9, 2011, workers in Puno, Peru began a protest against the government and blocked the highway that runs between Puno and La Paz, Bolivia. The protest has been entirely ignored by the American media channels, and I was completely unaware of the situation until Tuesday night when Karen informed me that the protests had spread and travel to Puno (and Lake Titicaca) is impossible. This meant we had an additional two and a half days to make up in our trip. We would miss Lake Titicaca, Sillustani, Pucapucara, Raqchi, and a couple of other significant sites on our tour as a result. The options available to us were to extend our stay in Arequipa, a city I am entirely unfamiliar with, or go to Cusco early and spend five days there. One benefit to Arequipa is Colca canyon, the debated largest/deepest canyon in the Western Hemisphere, which is a day trip away from Arequipa and is famous for the Andean condors that fly there. After negotiating with Karen about our trip budget and so forth, we (I) decided we would pay the extra money and make the trip to Colca canyon.
I believe I am speaking for the entire group when I say that it was well worth it.
So we're back in Arequipa for one more day and then to take the night bus to Cusco tomorrow night and resume the original itinerary. Machupicchu is the natural climax of this trip, and we will be able to spend most all of Wednesday there, then one more night in Cusco, a flight back to Lima, then back to the USA on Friday.
I hope I last that long.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Baggage Update:

I began yesterday (day two in Peru) with a more serious inquiry into the whereabouts of the lost luggage. I had hoped that the bags had actually completed the journey from Chicago to Miami and then caught the afternoon flight from Miami into Lima on the 21st. This would mean the airline would deliver it sometime later in the afternoon and all would be well. My phone call yielded some answers, but unfortunately not the ones I was seeking. My bag had been located in Chicago, but as of yesterday morning at 9:30, there were no plans to get it from Chicago to Lima. I asked about Ed and Paulette's bags, and they DID make it to Lima and were scheduled to be delivered sometime in the afternoon yesterday. I haven't actually seen the bags, nor have I spoken with Ed and Paulette since midday yesterday, so I can only hope. I have to make the call again, hoping my bag has actually moved forward and is either here or en route. Tomorrow morning we depart for Nazca, then on to Arequipa, Puno, and then Cusco, staying no more than one night in any of these locations until we arrive at Cusco. I'm going to be very hard to catch after 6:00 tomorrow morning.
I'm afraid the odds are not in my favor.

Perhaps it's wise to plan for the worst

It really is a wonderful experience and adventure traveling to another country, even if you’ve been there before. To expand your horizons, to engage a culture foreign to your own, to see the world from even the slightest different perspective are rewards in themselves. It’s an entirely different experience traveling with others, especially when you are the tour conductor or trip leader. To be responsible for the safety and well being of any number of other people is certainly daunting, but with the right people, those responsibilities, although great, are not overly challenging.
Our two-week excursion to Peru was to begin with a noon departure from the Huntsville International Airport on May 20. We were to fly to DFW, then back to Miami, then on to Lima, arriving in Lima at 4:30am on the 21st. Program participants were to arrive at the airport two hours early so we could ensure a smooth start to our journey. When I arrived at 9:45am, a few had already checked into the flight and had found that all flights into DFW were cancelled due to severe weather, and our group had been split up into two: one going to Chicago, the other to Washington, D.C. Both groups were to meet in Miami and resume the trip as originally planned. Sadly, that was not to be the case. For reasons that I did not understand or consider at the time, I was placed in the smaller group of four people sent to Chicago. The remaining 12 went to D.C. on U.S. Airways. (There was a small checked baggage fee issue for the last three in that group, but I was able to see it sorted out.) Both groups departed Huntsville on time, and the larger group (containing all of my undergrads) traveled smoothly for the rest of the trip, arriving at the scheduled time in Lima, with all of their luggage.
My little band of four was not so fortunate. We arrived at Chicago O’Hare to find our 5:30 flight to Miami was delayed until 7:05, putting our arrival in Miami at 11:15, a mere 40 minutes before that flight was scheduled to depart. We were willing to risk the late arrival in Miami because we had told the rest of the group to strongly encourage the Miami flight crew to hold the plane for us. Then the flight was delayed until 7:45. This required immediate action, because missing the flight out of Miami last night meant not getting to Lima until 9:45PM today. This would leave ¾ of my group alone in Peru without me and without the money to pay for the accommodations. Obviously I could not allow this to happen, so I called the rebooking services and managed to maneuver us into a flight to NY La Guardia with a transfer to JFK and a direct flight on LAN Airlines from JFK to Lima arriving about an hour and a half behind the original group.
With too much to detail, we raced to make the La Guardia flight from Chicago, were booked on the LAN flight, only to find that our reservations had been cancelled en route. We were placed on standby with the option of being routed through Guayaquil, Ecuador on a later flight that would arrive at 9:30am in Lima. Fortunately, miracles happen (as stated by the ticketing agent at JFK,) and we made the earlier flight. Unfortunately, when we switched airports and airlines, our bags had no way of knowing where we were headed and had only to wait and carry out the journey as originally planned. I don’t expect them to arrive any sooner than 9:45 tonight, but they have to make it through customs by themselves, then across Lima and to the hotel. I hope we see them tomorrow.
Then again, we have travel insurance that covers our lost luggage up to $300 if the bags are delayed or lost for more than 24 hours. I might get some new clothes out of this little adventure.
For now, we are all safe and secure, albeit travel-weary and worn, in Miraflores, Lima, Peru. I trust that all of the hiccups are now behind us and we can enjoy a smooth trip for the duration.