Monday, December 17, 2007

Looking Ahead - My 2008 Race Schedule

Here's how things are looking for 2008 racing. If you've been reading you may know that I'll be trying something new in '08...ultrarunning. I've added a couple more ultras in my buildup to the 100K in June. So, it looks like running will dominate my early season racing, and triathlon will take over later in the season.

So, the plan for '08 is looking something like this:

April 12 - Chippewa Moraine 50K Trail Run
May 10 - Ice Age Trail 50 Mile Trail Run
June 7 - Kettle Moraine 100K Trail Run
July 20 - Door County Half Iron Triathlon
September 7 - Ironman Wisconsin

So, that's one whole sport I've never tried before, four new races I've never experienced, and one rather familiar event to cap things off. I'm really looking forward to seeing how things go.

If '08 goes well, look for a 100 mile run on the agenda for '09 ;-)


Trail Running + Snow = Snowshoe Running!

My training plan called for a 2 hour 15 minute run yesterday, we got several inches of fresh snow the day before, and I didn't feel like doing my run on the pavement. All that added up to me calling around to find some snowshoes. I'd been wanting some anyway just for this sort of occasion. I found a ski shop nearby that carried a line of snowshoes, so I headed there and picked up a pair that looked like they'd work well for running (Redfeather Trek 25)...not too big, not too heavy, with a narrow tail.

I headed to the park in town where I've been doing most of my trail running. I ran there last weekend on packed snow with just my running shoes and some small steel spikes (by Surefoot) but that wasn't going to work very well in six inches of fresh powder. I strapped on the snowshoes and I was off. It was a bit awkward for the first 10 minutes or so, but not quite as awkward as I'd imagined. I had to lift my knees a little higher with each stride, and widen my stance a bit to keep from clunking my snowshoes together. But, it was certainly a much shorter learning curve than, say, cross country skiing. It was hard work, at a much slower pace than I'm used to, but I was having fun. By contrast to running on the snow in shoes where I have to stick only to trails that are hard packed, I loved the feeling of freedom to wander on trails still covered in fresh powder.

I think I saw more people out on the trails in the snow than I'd ever seen before...cross country skiers, hikers, and a few teenagers trying to sled and snowboard down a steep narrow singletrack trail without dying. But, it seemed I was the only one out there running in snowshoes, and it struck up some curious looks and conversations. Even the group of teenagers asked some genuinely curious questions about snowshoe running.

By the end of my run, it was dark enough to need a headlamp (so I guess this was also my first experience with night snowshoe running, too), and it was getting pretty cold, and I was pretty well wiped out. But it was that really good kind of tired. The kind where you feel a little more alive than you did when you started.

It's a big world, but sometimes you don't have to go far to find something new...and cool. Get out there and find it!


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

New Old Race Reports

Since I have a few race reports from past Ironmans floating around in various places in cyberspace and the nether regions of my hard drive, I decided to try to consolidate all of them here on my blog. So, this is just a head's up that some new "old" posts have shown up in my Archives (over on the right side of the screen). They are all reports from Ironman Wisconsin races...

"Steve Emmert, You Are An Ironman!" - IMWI 2002
Iron Again - IMWI 2003
"Irondaddy!" - IMWI 2004
My First Ever DNF - IMWI 2005 (not so much a report...more of a "what the hell happened?")
IMBrrr! - IMWI 2006 (not so much a report...just some brief reminiscing).

And, just to keep this list complete:

"All The Way To The Finish Line" - IMWI 2007


Sunday, November 04, 2007

A Journey Into A New Unknown

"Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved."
- Helen Keller

I really don't know from where the idea came. I don't think it was a sudden epiphany. I think it was more like a seed that floated into my brain some time ago and waited there to sprout. I've thought about it before, but not all that seriously.

There was nothing particularly special about the moment. I was recently listening to a triathlon podcast with a coach talking about one of his older athletes who had been trying for years to win his age group at Kona. He mentioned the guy's history, like how he'd completed the Western States Endurance Run a few times some twenty years ago. For some reason that I cannot understand, that's when the seed sprouted. I was suddenly a bit overwhelmed with the thought as my mind painted the picture of a new challenge.

Western States was the first thought, but I knew that couldn't be the first step in this new journey. What I knew was this: I had a need to try something new, and it's called ultrarunning. Ultrarunning is a term applied to running distances beyond the marathon distance. Western States, for example, is an infamous 100 mile run through the challenging terrain of the Sierra Nevada mountains in California. So, I set off to learn a bit more about the sport, and about Western States. Western States is not for a newbie to ultras. Entrance to WS100 is via lottery, and you have to qualify to enter the lottery by running a race of at least 50 miles within a specified time.

I remembered having seen something about an ultra distance race in the Kettle Moraine State Forest in Wisconsin. At Kettle Moraine, they offer both a 100 kilometer and a 100 mile run. Since 100 miles as a first ultra would be absolute lunacy, I set my sights on the much more reasonable distance of 100K. That'd be 62 miles if you are metric-challenged.

The run is entirely on trails, in an area I know fairly well as I have mountain biked there many times. It's challenging terrain, over dirt, rocks and tree roots, with numerous hills. The 100 mile course consists of two different out and back sections. The first section is a 62 mile out and back, and this section serves as the complete race course for the 100K. The 100 milers then continue on from there for another 38 mile out and back section. The 100K includes about 7200 feet of climbing and descending. The cut-off time for the 100K is 18 hours, and the cut-off for the 100 milers is 30 hours.

It will be a very different kind of event compared with an Ironman. Ultras, and the ultrarunner community are known for being laid back and friendly. It won't have thousands of spectators, a live webcam, or bleachers packed with screaming supporters at the finish line. What it will have is a couple hundred athletes comprising a tight-knit community of a unique breed of runner, their faithful supporters, a dedicated crew of volunteers, and an overarching ambition to continue moving forward.

And so the challenge is set. At 6:00 AM on June 7th, 2008, I plan to be on the starting line of the Kettle Moraine 100K Endurance Run, taking my first step into a new unknown...probably feeling very excited, and more than a little nauseous. My goal now is to arrive there healthy.

I don't know if I can, but I know why I want to try. I want to try because I don't know if I can.

"It's very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit."
- George Sheehan

Oh, and if you're wondering, this in no way changes my 2008 Ironman Wisconsin plans. It just presents a rather sizable obstacle in my training plan ;-)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

N+1 and eBay

Ask any avid cyclist about "N+1" and I bet they'll know what you're talking about. "N+1" is the answer to the question, "How many bikes do I need?", assuming the number of bikes you have now is "N".

N+1 has led me to my first experience in buying something on eBay. Why waste time figuring out how eBay works by buying a shirt or a toaster when you can dive in head first and start bidding a couple thousand smackers on a shiny new bike?

Here's what I learned about eBay, particularly when it comes to buying something like a high quality bike.
There are a lot of bikes for sale on eBay. It takes awhile to sort through the list of hundreds of bikes to filter it down to a manageable list of bikes you're actually interested in. Then you need to look not just at the bike, but at the seller, too. Being new to the eBay experience I was pretty leery about who was doing the selling. When I came across a great bike, but the lack of details in the description made it clear that the seller knew nothing about bikes, I steered away.

I think an eBay seller of something costly and specialized, like bikes, would be well served to break through the inherent anonymity of the web and tell their prospective buyers exactly who they are. When I finally got serious about bidding on a bike, I was a bit suspect of the seller. He had a very limited history in doing business on eBay, so there was very little feedback for me to use to judge his character. To me he was just "xyz1234" (fictitious as to protect the anonymity of the anonymous). He'd bought a few things on eBay in the past, but had never sold anything. Now, he had several bikes for sale. Not much to go by, but he gave just enough details on his bike descriptions that I trusted he at least knew bikes. But, still, I was a little nervous. I was committing to send a couple thousand bucks to a guy I didn't know and trust that he was going to send me the brand new bike I saw in the picture, professionally assembled and packaged to arrive at my doorstep without damage.

Once I won the auction, I got access to a bit more info on the seller, like his real name and email address. Through some clever Googling, I was able to figure out that "xyz1234" is a real guy named Mark who owns a bike shop in Colorado. I was able to find the website for his bike shop, where I saw his picture with this lovely wife Kathleen. I learned he is referred to in the shop as "The Head", and his wife is "The Real Boss". Without any detriment to Mark's privacy, I learned that the guy I was dealing with is a real bike guy, a community businessman with a reputation to uphold. It's not a lot of information, but it's a lot more than I had when I was bidding, and it's the kind of information that gave me dramatically more confidence that the seller was likely to be a trustworthy, stand-up kind of guy.

Imagine if all the bidders for his items on eBay had that added level of confidence beforehand. It would go a long way to attracting more bidders, and higher winning bids. If I was ever going into online selling, I'd take this experience with me and take advantage of it.

I also learned about "reserves" on eBay. A seller can set a "reserve" which is the lowest price the seller is willing to accept for the item. The problem is, the reserve amount is unknown to the bidders. The result is a lot of wasted time. People start bidding at a fraction of the value of the item, and the system tells them they are the high bidder but the reserve has not been met. To win the item you have to be highest bidder and your bid must be at least as high as the reserve. Until the reserve is met, all the bidding is just a waste of time. I think sellers would be much better served by forgetting about setting a reserve, and instead simply set the starting bid at that price so the buyers know where the real bidding needs to begin. I think a seller who has set a competitive and reasonable starting bid is more likely to attract serious buyers earlier in the auction, which is likely to lead to an actual bidding war and a higher winning bid. With reserves, most of the auction time is spent by bidders just nudging their way up to the reserve, and by the time the reserve is met most of the auction time has already passed, leaving little time for the auction to attract a bidding war above the reserve. That's what I think, anyway.

But, as it is, I think I got a good deal on a great bike. The lowest prices I've been able to find on this bike at the big online retailers is $600 to $800 more than my winning bid on eBay. So, according to my man Mark, my N+1 bike is set to be shipped out of Colorado today.

2007 Scott CR1 Pro, my "N+1"

But, why? Why on earth do I need a new bike? Because right now, I only have "N", that's why. Seriously, though, what I wanted was an actual road bike. I already have two bikes you might think of as road bikes, but each of them has a very specific geometry for triathlon, commonly referred to as a tri bike. My original tri bike is now my dedicated "trainer bike". It pretty much stays in my basement, attached to my trainer for indoor riding during times of foul weather, like winter. My newer tri bike, much nicer and more comfortable than my first one, is the one I use, and will continue to use, for triathlon racing. Tri bikes are great for triathlon racing. They are designed to put the rider in a very aerodynamic position, allowing them to minimize the key nemesis to going fast on a bike...wind resistance. But, for just regular road riding, exploring, off season training, or riding in groups with other riders, a tri bike leaves a bit to be desired. That aero position is not the most comfortable for long rides, particularly in the, uh, crotch region. And, if you ever ride in a group, other riders view those aero bars sticking out in front of a tri bike as weapons, like a knight's jousting lance. If a crash were to happen in a group, they don't want to see those aero bars heading for their internal organs at 30 mph.

Not that I do a lot of group riding, but, well....N+1 requires some reasons, right?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Ironman Inspiration

I did my first Ironman on September 15, 2002, the inaugural Ironman Wisconsin. A couple days later I received an email from my sister, Deb. She was there to watch the race, and through this letter she managed to capture the spirit of Ironman through words as well as anyone could. When people ask why I would do such a thing like the Ironman, all I need to do is show them this. After having done a few Ironmans, I tend to lose track of how special it was that first time, and how the event can touch a nerve in so many people, and in so many different ways. Every time I read this, that all comes flooding back to me. Thanks, Deb.

I've posted this letter several times on trinewbies, usually once in the summer as Ironman Wisconsin is approaching and many triathletes are showing the effects of Ironman fever. The past couple of years I've actually b
een requested to re-post the letter from trinewbies regulars. The letter was even published in American Tri magazine. I remember sending it to American Tri editor Kyle DuFord, who is now the editor-in-chief at Inside Triathlon magazine. Kyle read it once and immediately replied to me that he wanted to print it.

For anyone who has ever completed an Ironman, is training to do an Ironman, or
has even just witnessed an Ironman, this letter strikes an emotional nerve. It seems appropriate that I should share it here. Enjoy.

"Hi Steve -

Well, I made it home safe and sound. Had to pull over for one 30-minute snooze, but other than that the trip went well. Small price to pay for witnessing a midnight Ironman finish line the night before!

I'm still trying to bask in all the excitement I was privileged to see on Sunday. I spent the first 2 hours of my drive just reliving everything I saw in my mind, (the middle 3 hours listening to my book-on-tape since it is due back to the library tomorrow!), then the last 2 hours thinking about what I could do after witnessing an Ironman. You all may not realize what impact you have on spectators so I'll just tell you a little of mine.

I saw real people living out dreams based on goals they'd set for themselves long before race day. I saw determination and "giving it all" like I'd never seen before. I saw people doing this not as much to compete with others, but to simply accomplish something they'd never dreamed they could do before training began. I saw an athlete grab his elderly mom and run her down the finish line with him, arm in arm, both with smiles a mile wide. I saw grandparents waiting in silent anticipation for their grandson just to see him and cheer him on for a second or two as he ran by. I saw kids with "My Daddy's an Ironman" on their shirts. I saw a wife crying as her husband crossed the finish line. I saw marriage proposals and pregnancy announcements. I saw athletes running in silence, very focused on what appeared to be just them, the road, and God, telling themselves "one mile at a time, one mile at a time....". I saw the announcers going to great lengths to mention every athlete's name as they passed by, getting the crowd going to keep the athlete going. I saw a rough, macho-looking male spectator reduced to tears as he hugged his friend after he crossed the finish line. I saw a 2-month-old cross the line in his Daddy's arms. I saw a 73-year-old man cross the finish line. I saw and heard just as much excitement for the guy crossing the finish line at 11:58 p.m. as the first guy to cross that same line many hours before. That spoke volumes to me. This was a spirit of seeing others succeed in a sport like no other I've ever seen. I saw a Dad (ours), sick with a rare disease rendering him less active than he'd like to be at his age, wanting to jump in and run part of the Ironman with his son because he was just so damned proud of him and wanted to show it. And I saw my "little" brother, participating in the event of his life, smiling every time he saw/heard his family cheer him, staying focused on his goal, crossing that finish line with what appeared to be relative ease, still smiling after nearly 12 hours of the most physical work he'd ever done and exceeding his goal to boot! I could go on and on. And I got to see it all.

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to witness something that has truly inspired me like no other event I've ever seen. I may not ever participate in an Ironman, but being able to see the fruits of goal-setting, commitment, determination, perseverance and unconditional love & support right in front of my eyes all in one day, shall not soon be forgotten.

Congratulations Steve. YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!

Love, Deb"

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

"Breathe Into Your Feet"

In my quest to rid myself of the nagging injuries that have plagued me over the past few years, I decided to try something new - Yoga. I know lots of triathletes and runners, including professionals, rely on regular Yoga to help improve their flexibility and balance. I'm not usually one to readily latch onto new things, and particularly tend to shy away from new things in group settings. But, I determined if I don't try something new I'm destined to repeat my past. So, off to Yoga I went.

I selected a class called "Yoga - All Levels", which sounded good to me since my level would be best described as "ignorant". I was briefly prepped by my wife, who has not done Yoga but has done similar sorts of classes. She clued me in that there would be some sort of mat
to lay on, and that I'd do the session barefoot. She even offered for me to borrow her mat, but I didn't want to give any sort of impression that I had any clue what I was doing, so I decided to show up empty handed.

I arrived to a dimly lit conference room at our fitness center, grabbed a mat, and found an open spot as far toward the back of the room as I could find. I noticed several people were taking not just a mat, but also a couple of what looked like foam blocks, and some sort of nylon straps, and some people had these big tube shaped pillows. I briefly considered that maybe I should similarly accessorize myself, but having no idea what any of the extra stuff was for, I thought better of it and just popped a squat on my mat.

The teacher of the class was probably in her late 50s or early 60s, and i
ntroduced herself as a runner and a one-time triathlete. We started by sitting cross legged, back straight, shoulders back...and we just breathed. This breathing thing seemed pretty important to the whole experience. I guess we were supposed to be in a comfortable and relaxed position while taking in our deep breaths, but I actually found sitting up all straight like that pretty uncomfortable. Probably need to work on my posture.

She had us focus on our bodies, from bottom to top. ", breathe into your feet...". Alright, at this point if I were not such a mature adult I may have started one of those back-of-the-classroom giggle-fests. But, I fought past that and restrained myself to nothing more than a compressed smile. She told us to focus particularly on those areas of our bodies that may be sore or injured. I needed to perk up now since it seemed like she was now basically talking to me, as we worked our way up our bodies past all the spots I've injured over the past few years. So, in I breathed, into my Achilles tendons, and into my calf muscles, feeling my "life force" move through my body.... Okay, maybe I don't really know what my life force feels like yet. Perhaps that's a skill I will develop in later classes.

The class moved on through various poses and postures that challenged my ability to bend into curious positions without tearing something, and balance poses that challenged my ability to, well, not fall over. I learned it would have been better to pick a spot close to the instructor rather than hiding in the back, so I could better see what I was supposed to be doing. Trying to understand, "...cross your right leg over your left, then put your right arm under your left elbow with your palms together pointed toward the ceiling...", was, let us say, challenging.

The last three minutes was perhaps the best. They had some name for it that I don't recall now, but it was basically like nap time in kindergarten. I'll have to say, I found myself in one serious state of relaxation.

In the end I was very happy with the experience, and happy that I actually went. It would have been easy for this to be just another of the things I talk about doing, something I know I should be doing, but never follow through on. Like getting help with my swimming :-) I plan to keep going back. As for the swimming...we'll see.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Race Photos Available

The company that does all the Ironman race day photography just got all the pictures up on their website. My pics are here. There might be a couple more in the lost and found section, but it takes awhile to go through all of those.

Here's a low resolution shot of one of the finish line pictures :-)

Hard to tell, but it looks like
we're both smiling :-)

IMWI 2007 - Janus Athlete and Volunteer Videos

Each year at the awards banquet, the folks at Janus are kind enough to sponsor and distribute two DVD compilations of the race for all the athletes. One is focused on the race and the athletes, and one is a tribute to the great volunteers (we could not do these races without the volunteers!). I see someone already beat me to it and put them on youtube, so here they are for your enjoyment.

Unfortunately they do not include the incredible midnight finish of 78 year old Frank Farrar. I think they actually have to start working on this before midnight to get them done in time.

Here's the athlete video...

And here's the volunteer video...

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

"All The Way To The Finish Line" - Ironman Wisconsin 2007

Training, or the lack thereof...

As has become my annual tradition, I returned once again this year to compete in the Ford Ironman Wisconsin triathlon. As has also unfortunately become my tradition, my training was a bit light, and hampered by injuries. Actually, all had been going well up to the end of July. July 22 I did the Spirit of Racine half Ironman and was very pleased with my race, managing a time of 5:03 on a beautiful day.

It was July 28 that things took a turn. My next run after that race, I stopped after just 30 minutes with pain in my lower right calf. I've actually been having trouble with my right lower calf and Achilles tendon on and off since late 2004. But this year, I started doing virtually all of my running on trails to save myself the pounding of the pavement. This had been working very well, I thought, but now I once again found myself unable to run without re-aggravating my chronic right calf condition.

For the next two weeks I did no running, replacing all my runs with sessions on an elliptical trainer. On 8/16 I tried to do some easy running on a treadmill, and found myself with yet another injury. This time it was a sharp pain in the back of my left heel. What the hell?! I made a visit to my podiatrist (who is also an ultra-runner, so not the type to try and tell me, "Well, maybe you just shouldn't run."). He suggested I start using a night splint when I sleep, a heel lift in my shoe, work on my hamstring flexibility, and ice a couple times a day. So, that's what I did.

I continued to replace all my running with an elliptical trainer, so this meant I'd be going into Ironman with my last quality run being my half Ironman 7 weeks prior to race day. I had no idea what was going to happen out there on the run course, but I was going to find out :-)

Independent of the injuries, and pretty much by design, this would once again be an Ironman on very low training volume. I really just focus my training on completing my key sessions each week, those being my long bike and long run. Well, this year I guess it would really just be my long bike seeing as several of my long runs didn't happen. I typically just do one workout per day, five or six days per week, with a long ride on Friday afternoons, and a long run on Sunday. All my other workouts are typically no more than one hour. Taking a look at my training log, I see that my average weekly training volume in the 12 weeks leading up to race week was 7.5 hours. I know a lot of folks put in a lot more time than that, but I try to not let this Ironman thing overtake the other priorities in my life. So, that's all I give it. It keeps some mystery in race day :-)


I arrived in Madison on Thursday, got checked in, perused the expo, and all that good stuff. Friday morning I headed to the lake for a swim. I looked around for some folks from trinewbies, but I didn't really know what anyone looked like except maybe Joe Ryan. I didn't see him, but I did spot someone that looked familiar
from her picture on was kricket. We had a nice chat and then headed into the choppy water. It was very windy on Friday, creating some serious choppy waves coming straight into our faces on the first straightaway. I really wasn't in the mood to fight the whitecaps for very long, and since the weather forecast was looking good for race day, I made it a very short practice swim.

Then it was off to the Pancake Cafe to meet up with a few other folks from TNO. It was really nice to meet everyone, and put faces to the names. I was there with my wife Jennifer, and son Derek who is three. We got to talking about Derek running the kid's run the next morning. When we asked him where he was going to run, expecting him to tell us he was going to run around the capital square, he instead came back quite matter-of-factly with, "all the way to the finish line." How nice it is sometimes to simplify things like only a child can. We decided that was a pretty good mindset for all of us. And thus, the name of this blog was born.

Derek's run
Derek running with Bucky, Mike Reilly calling him in.
"All the way to the finish line!"

Race Day!

I awoke at 4:00 AM, had two Boosts for a quick breakfast, and put myself together. Had another Boost at 4:45, and started heading to the transition area at 5:00. Wow, were we blessed with a beautiful day for an Ironman. It's hard to imagine how you could ask for nicer weather.

Sunrise over
the swim start area on Lake Monona

I got myself body marked, checked my bike to make sure I didn't have a surprise flat, and headed into the Monona Terrace to relax, and to use the bathroom a few times. At 6:20 I started pulling on my wetsuit and gave my wife a call. I found out my family was on the helix so I could see them on my way down to the start. My support crew for Ironman is just unbelievable. My whole family converges on Madison for Ironman weekend to cheer me on and take in the experience...siblings, nieces, nephews, in-laws, parents. Sadly my parents were not able to make it this year as my Mom came down with a nasty respiratory infection just before the weekend. I know they really wanted to be there, and that is one part of why this report is so long. Since they didn't get to be there this year, I'd like to paint the details for them. Hopefully it won't take longer to read this than it took me to finish the race :-)

The journey down the helix begins.

I met up with my crew on the way down the helix and we had a nice chat. About 6:40 they suggested I might be a bit too relaxed about the day and suggested I should perhaps get a move on. And, with some warm well wishes, I was on my own...well, just me and about 2200 other rubber clad athletes.

The crowd, slowly making our way into the water.

The Swim

If you were not aware, I rather suck at swimming. I taught myself how to swim just so I could do triathlons back in 2001, and have really made no improvements since. Oh well. At least I know what to work on if I want to shave some time off these races. I got in the water about 10 minutes before the cannon blast, and picked my spot pretty far outside, and a ways back from the front. A little floating around, and "BANG!", we were off!

Since this was my sixth Ironman, I know just what to expect in the swim, but it doesn't really make the experience any more comfortable. 2200 people simply cannot occupy the same space at the same time, but we sure as hell give it a good go every Ironman. I largely avoided any real damage and just tried to get through it as best I could without expending too much energy. I generally stayed well to the outside to avoid the worst of the combat, and eventually found myself rounding the last turn toward shore. I've got to say, that's a good feeling heading toward the shore. And then you remember what's awaiting you...

Swim: 1:29:02, 337/399 in the M35-39 age group


Some of my support crew was right there behind the wetsuit peelers, so I gave a quick wave and a smile and headed up the helix. It was cool to see more of the crew on the jog up the helix since they've never watched from there before. I made a quick change in the Terrace, jogged out to my bike, and heard a shout from my brother on top of the Terrace. Clipped into my pedals, and I was on my way.

T1: 9:27

Just about to wind down the helix out of T1.

The Bike

Oh, this is probably as good a time as any to go through the long list of race-day no-no's I committed. They say, "nothing new on race day". Let's see... I swapped out my saddle the day before the race. I've been riding the ISM Adamo all season, but I've started getting some very sore spots at pressure points, and made the call to switch to my Profile Tri Stryke for race day. I picked up a new tri top at the expo...might as well give that a try. Just about the time I injured my calf I was really overdo for a new pair of running shoes. I'd been thinking of switching from Brooks Beasts to Brooks Adrenaline, so I picked up a pair. As I did no running in this time frame, all I'd done is some walking in the new shoes. Decided to go with them on race day anyway. They were handing out Wigwam running socks at the expo. I rather liked them, so what the heck, I went with those on race day, too. Oh, yeah, and I picked up a new visor at the expo, too. I always wear a hat when I run, never used a visor. Yep, that sounds good for race day, too. :-) What's life without a bit of risk, eh?

Anyway, back to the bike. What a great day for a ride. Happily, the bike was nicely uneventful. I pretty much stuck to my pacing plan, trying to hold my heart rate between 145 and 150 for most of the ride, particularly the first 60 miles. The Timber Lane hill was awesome this year. It was so lined with people they had to move out of the way a bit as I tried to get by another rider near the top. I didn't even feel that hill...on the first loop. My support crew was all gathered at the top of the Midtown Road hill, so it was great to get a boost of energy from the yelling and cheering and cowbell ringing. The sight of little Derek, scampering out from somewhere, wildly shaking a big red cowbell, wearing his "My Daddy's an Irondad", that image carried me along for the next two hours.

Just past my cheering section, under the red and black tent.

As I came into Verona near the end of the first loop, a sign caught my eye. It simply said, "KNOW YOUR REASONS". That message sank into my brain, then into my heart, and...tears welled up in my eyes. I knew my "reasons", but suddenly it hit me hard how much this all meant. KNOW YOUR REASONS. You see, later in the day, when you're somewhere in the middle of the run and everything hurts and you feel like crap, and the doubts and the negatives start to creep in...the question will come. "Why am I doing this?" When that question comes, you damn well better have an answer that means something to you. KNOW YOUR REASONS.

My son has become my reason. What I mean is this... As I grew up, through my 20s and early 30s, I never would have thought I was capable of doing something like an Ironman. To me it was just impossible. I figured those people...those Ironman people...they had some special gift for endurance or something that I just did not have. I thought they were extraordinary, and I was not. But, now I know that I am capable of doing things that once seemed simply out of reach...impossible. I dreamed bigger, and I realized that dream.

I want my son to grow up with a different definition of what is possible. I want him to start from a different start dreaming bigger dreams, earlier. I don't know what his dreams will be. I don't care if they have anything to do with Ironman. But I want him to experience examples of people "achieving their impossible". What I know is that he won't live a single day of his life thinking that something like an Ironman is impossible. I can't wait to see what his impossible dreams might be.

That's my reason. And, that's why it means so much to me to cross the finish line with him, either in my arms...or this year, even running with me, hand in hand, by my side. That's my reason. And, out there on the bike in Verona, with 56 miles and a marathon still to go, it hit me like a hammer. "All the way to the finish line", hand in hand with my son.


And onward that carried me like a swift breeze all the way through the second loop of the bike. I'd never felt more solid in my purpose during an Ironman.

Back through the hills, and their crowds, and back up Midtown hill past my family one more time. And with their rowdy cheers, it was back to Madison to get this thing done.

Bike: 6:15:28, 176/399 M35-39 AG


You don't feel the ride back up the helix at the Monona Terrace. You're just glad to be getting off the bike. One of the great volunteers grabbed my bike, I headed into the Terrace for a quick change, and I was off.

T2: 3:23

The Run

Oh yeah. The run. I really didn't know what was going to happen here given my earlier injuries and subsequent suspension of running. But, I had a feeling. There's something special about race day. I don't know what it is, but somehow my body knows that race day is important and it usually comes through for me. What I was hoping was that I could maintain 9 minute miles and manage the run in under 4 hours. I didn't know if I could, but that was my internal goal. After a few of the early miles clicked by, I checked my watch and saw I was indeed holding something a bit better than my goal pace.

I got a great boost again from my cheering section at the State Street turn around, a bit past 6 miles. My stomach wasn't really feeling all that great, and I could feel some blisters forming on my feet. Neither of those is anything new...typical Ironman pains to work through. I kept rolling along, running from aid station to aid station, walking through the aid stations taking in whatever nutrition I thought my body might be calling for. Other than that, I only walked just the steepest sections of the hills on Observatory Drive.

Somewhere in the first half of the run.

A little before the half way turn around, I got another shot of positive energy from my family, and capped that off with a few more high fives as I went by again after the turn around. I was starting to drag a bit now, and my pace was slowing some. But I was still running aid station to aid station and wasn't about to start walking in between them.

I got to look forward to seeing the family once again as I approached the State Street turn around for the second time, and was now past 19 miles. Derek had now awoken from a nap and I gave him a quick hug. Around mile 20, I starting eating some pretzels at each aid station, and this immediately seemed to help calm my stomach. Around mile 23 a guy came past me, and I dug a little deeper, found a little extra, and hung with him as long as I could. When that rubber band snapped, I started picking out people ahead of me as targets to pass. I was peeking at my watch, and I could see that if I kept up my pace I should make my sub-4 hour marathon goal.

Somewhere in the second half of the run.

Around mile 25 is when I started to smile. The spectators are great in the last couple miles of the run, and you really start to absorb their energy. It's like a magnet pulling you in. And, then I rounded the last corner, down MLK Blvd. I starting scanning the crowd, looking for my family or one of their signs. My brother was along the right side of the barricades and had Derek. I started to pick Derek up and a volunteer said, "no, he has to run with you". That was fine with me, I was just thinking I'd carry him part of the way toward the finishing chute and then set him down to run with me. But I was more than happy to run the whole stretch with him, and he hit the ground running. I checked behind me and slowed to let a few folks pass by, leaving Derek and me nice big gap in the final stretch of the finisher's chute for us to enjoy our moment. With Derek's hand in mine, I raised my other arm in celebration as we crossed the line together! "All the way to the finish line."

Derek and Daddy crossing the tape.
"All the way to the finish line!"

Run: 3:56:17, 71/399 M35-39 AG

Total: 11:53:34, 124/399 M35-39 AG, 571/2209 Overall

Post Race...

We got our goodies and worked our way to the back of the finishing pen. My catcher did a great job of not assuming I was okay, and guided me all the way to my family at the pen exit. Smiles and handshakes and hugs and high fives ensued. It really does feel good to finish an Ironman.

Jennifer, Derek, and me - happy.

I know little Derek is just three years old, and all of this Ironman stuff might not mean that much to him now. I know it's what I do as a father the other 99.999% of the time that matters most. But, hopefully one day he will look back on this and come to realize that there was a reason I wanted to include him in the magic of this 0.001%. Perhaps it will come at a time in his life when he's hurting, when he's doing something that just seems too damn hard, when the question comes into his mind, "Why am I doing this?"


IMWI 2007 - Video "Snipet"

Well, Ironman #6 has been conquered! I'm hoping to find the time to put a full race report here once I, (a) find enough time, and (b) actually figure out how to do this blogging thing. For now, I grabbed some of the video Jenni was able to capture. Kind of hard to compress a 12 hour Ironman into 3.5 minutes, but here we go....

Thank you so much to everyone for coming out to support me, or keeping me in your thoughts while tracking my progress online. I would find it much harder to keep pushing on without the support of my loved ones.

I'll let you know when I get a chance to write a full report and share some pictures and thoughts here.

Thank you!