Saturday, October 4, 2014

Ironman Chattanooga Recap

Heading into this race last weekend I was excited.  If you've read the previous entries you can probably tell I was full of confidence because the 9 week training block I had put myself through had gone flawlessly.  I had little doubts this was going to be my best race ever at the Ironman distance. 

Monday before the race I could feel a bit of a sore throat.  No big deal...it was barely noticeable.  Tuesday morning I awoke with a tad more soreness so I thought I would play it smart and visit the doctor and stay home from school.  I was hoping to get an antibiotic to be preventative but my normal doctor wasn't in and the doctor I saw didn't think my minor symptoms warranted any medicine.  I was fine with that because I liked hearing that I was pretty healthy. 

Thursday after school Jen and I drove most of the way to Chattanooga.  We stayed in Nashville late in the evening and drove the rest of the way Friday morning.  Shortly after arriving we met up with friends Dan Ward and Robert White who were also racing.  I then attended the pro athlete meeting and drove the race course with fellow Iowa pro and Ironman Wisconsin champion and course record-holder Daniel Bretscher.  The bike course had a lot of rolling hills but nothing scary at all.  Overall it looked like a pretty fast course even though it was slightly longer than any Ironman event in history with 116 miles to bike rather than the usual 112.  I got my bike ready in the hotel and then we met up with Dan and his wife Wendi, Robert and his wife Jana, and local Jeff Kaczinski who had made the trip to support us.  It was over the course of 1 hour at dinner when things got weird.  All of a sudden within this hour I began to lose my voice and also get really congested.  By the time we arrived back at the hotel I didn't sound very good.  I started pounding Vitamin C tablets and prayed I was just getting a minor head cold.  Saturday morning things were the same.  My voice was continuing to go downhill and the congestion wasn't disappearing.  I didn't have a temp and didn't feel like I had any lower energy than normal so I tried to put it out of my mind.  We did all the bike and gear check in required and I was soundly asleep at a good hour awaiting the big day. 

Sunday morning I woke up for the race still without much of a voice and slightly congested.  I warmed up with about 2 miles of running.  I found out we had missed wetsuits by 1 degree.  The water was 77 and Ironman cutoff is 76.1.  Either way I knew it would be a fast swim because we were swimming down the Tennessee River with the current.  From experience I knew the lack of a wetsuit would leave me many more minutes behind the leaders than normal but my big goal was to break 9 hours and I thought even without a wetsuit the current would make this a fast swim.  I was right. 

SWIM: We started the swim just before 7:40 AM at the first sign of sunlight.  I was off the pack very quickly and settled in behind 1 other swimmer for about 500 yards before I lost contact with him.  My goal was to get 1/2 way before the first women passed me.  They were starting only 3 minutes behind us.  I didn't make that goal.  Despite not being in very good position I could tell the swim was going quickly based on how fast I was getting to the next buoy.  About 3/4 the way into the swim I started getting passed by a few amateurs not knowing how far behind me they started.  1 that really impressed me was a guy in a wetsuit.  At first I wondered why a guy in a wetsuit got to start so early.  They allow wetsuits up to 82 degrees but only for people who agree they won't be eligible for any age group awards.  They always make them start after all the non-wetsuit swimmers.  It was after he was all the way past me when I realized why he was in a wetsuit and so far up in the race.  HE HAD 1 LEG!!!  This guy with 1 leg just went flying by me in his Xterra Vortex suit!  It was super impressive.  I exited the water in my best Ironman distance swim time of 51:xx.  I have yet to look up official results so that's going on what I saw on the clock when I emerged from the water. 
 
I had a what felt like a pretty quick transition.  I was not feeling sick so I didn't even think about that.  I was excited to get out on the bike.  My goal was to hold 235-240 watts.  It was a goal I was sure I could hit.  I had done nearly 100 miles in a long training ride 3 weeks prior to the race at that wattage.  I planned to hit my lap button every 7 miles to restart my average watts.  In the first 7 miles I was right in the zone but it felt like more work than it should have been.  Maybe my legs aren't warmed up yet?  I teamed up with a guy about 5 miles in and we rode the next 45 miles or so trading the lead.  My wattage would drop at the same speed by about 10 watts when I rode legally 10 meters behind him so I knew this was helping me conserve.  I was riding really well on the down hill sections and spinning a high cadence going up the hills.  I stayed in my zone but it was much more difficult than I expected.  Just after the 1/2 way point of the race this guy fell back and I was solo.  I passed 2 professional guys just after the 1/2 way point but the power was getting very difficult.  I was occasionally coughing up some nastiness but it wasn't anything I was too concerned with.  It wasn't long after the 1/2 way point that the power started dropping fast.  I was taking in all my calories, salt, and water.  I couldn't figure out why the wattage that was so easy in the training rides was this difficult now.  I continued on and ended my last couple 7 mile segments at only about 200 watts.  I had my watch going and knew the sub-9 goal was probably out of the question.  With a 3 hour marathon I could still had a shot at a PR and I thought from my training I was capable of running 2:55 however the way I felt on the bike I realized this was probably not going to be the case. 
 
 
RUN: Out on the run is when things really started to go downhill.  My back ached out of transition.  I had ridden 9 times over 100 miles in my 10 week training block.  Most of that riding was spent in the aero position and I never once had any back issues.  I couldn't figure out why it was tight now.  I began the run and saw my pace and it was disheartening.  I was working hard and was only running about 8:00 pace.  Deep breaths were getting more and more painful.  I was starting to cough up garbage more frequently.  At about the mile mark I realized I needed to try to get things right.  I stopped to stretch out my back.  When I resumed running things were not any better.  I realized then that this was not going to be a good run...instead it would be a suffer-fest to the finish line.  I was having a hard time keeping my breathing calm and my knees were not coming up.  I was reminded of this because I kept scuffing my shoes on the pavement and I would tell myself to get my knees up but they just wouldn't respond.  The miles went by ever so slowly and the pain began mounting with each mile.  I was completely in suffer mode with over 20 miles to run.  I knew I could end the pain by just pulling the plug.  I realized that this little cold I had was affecting my body far more than I had anticipated.  I thought about stopping but deep down I knew this wasn't an option.  My kids would want to know how I did when I got done.  I didn't have the heart to tell them I didn't finish.  In my classroom we emphasize goal setting throughout the year.  I teach a 2 day lesson on the topic and we revisit goal setting often.  Students fill out goal sheets every quarter for both school goals and out of school goals.  I teach about the importance of having steps to achieve those goals and I had gone over my goals for this race and the steps I took to achieve those goals with my class before I left.  Having to tell them I didn't finish the race was not an option.  I accepted the fact that this was going to be a long and painful run.  The only walking I did was at aid stations trying to get something that would make my body feel better.  Nothing did the trick and I gave up on the aid station revival at about mile 20.  I decided to just try to get my mind off the pain by thanking every volunteer and spectator I could.  Around mile 23 my friend Robert White passed me going the other direction and I said, "Thanks for coming out."  I didn't even realize it was Robert until he was gone.  After the race he said he almost turned around to see if I was okay because he heard what I said and he could tell by the way I looked something was off.  I was extremely relieved to cross the finish line and end the suffering.  I was somewhere between 10 hrs. 20 minutes and 10 hrs. 30 minutes.  It was easily the most difficult Ironman I have finished.  The highlight of the day was watching Dan Ward and Robert White both finish looking awesome under 13 hours!!  They were first time Ironman finishers!! 
 
In the evening after the race I was still coughing up garbage and noticed that it contained blood.  This had me a bit concerned.  I was guessing maybe I had bronchitis.  I still had barely a voice to talk with.  Monday was much of the same...no voice and coughing up blood.  It was a long ride home.  Tuesday I really wanted to get to school.  I had missed 2 days and I am teaching a unit I love.  I went in but called for a sub pretty early.  I was coughing up blood still and knew I needed to get that checked out.  I also could barely talk which made teaching about impossible.  At the doctor's office he listened to my lungs and said he thought I had pneumonia.  He ordered a chest X-Ray and I had that immediately.  It was confirmed.  I had bacterial pneumonia in both lungs.  I went on some heavy antibiotics and was given an inhaler to use for the first time in my life.  Now 5 days into the medicine my voice has come back to near full strength and I'm stating to feel pretty good.  At my follow-up the doctor said he was guessing I'd had it for 2 weeks based on the patches of infection in my lungs.  The stress of the Ironman made the symptoms much worse.  He reminded me that pneumonia kills people every year and I should not take it lightly. 
 
It would be easy to sit around and wonder why.  After such a great block of training why did this have to happen to me now?  I've never had pneumonia in my life.  Feeling sorry for myself would do no good.  There are far too many people in the world with things way more serious than a case of pneumonia and a bad race.  I got passed by a guy with 1 leg in the swim.  I have much to be thankful for.  The training that put me in such great shape was a fun journey.  The race was not.  I set out to control what I could...which was my training...and I did that.  Some things in life you cannot control and this was one of those things. 
 
Over the past 5 days I've been reminded how blessed I am.  The most important thing for me racing is to raise funds for the iHope Foundation.  This week we raised over $5,000.00.  We received a matching gift from Toyota of $2,500.00 that matched local dealership Smart Toyota's $2,500.00.  My parents made an incredible donation of $2,000.00 this year after matching the $4,000.00 I earned the foundation through racing a year ago.  We also received extremely generous donations this week from Chris and Sarah Chamberlin and from Michelle and Jim Russell.  Since January 1st the foundation has received over $18,000.00 in contributions which is allowing us to set the foundation up for long-term giving of iPads and scholarship money for low-income students in our community that display outstanding character and work traits.  I am so thankful for all the support.  It has completely surpassed my wildest dreams for what I thought this foundation would be when it was created.  Over the next few weeks we are going to be able to present students with a gift that could have a life-changing impact.  If you'd like to help you can donate through either the iPad portion link above or the scholarship portion link above.  My goal is to increase the endowment of the foundation to $100,000.00 before I retire.  This would have an annual payout that would provide 3 students each with an iPad or other technology device valued around $500.00 along with a $1,000.00 scholarship for eternity.  We are over 1/4 the way there.  Since the foundation was created in March of 2013 over $33,000.00 has been contributed. 
 
I'd like to give a HUGE thanks to my wife Jen who is always so supportive of my training and racing.  I was glad to have her by my side in Chattanooga through my difficult day.  Also, huge thanks to Jason Rangel who made the trip to Chattanooga to watch my race.  Special thanks to so many individuals who sent me messages through texts, calls, facebook...etc leading up to and after the race.  You inspire me so much to DREAM BIG!  The video below was taken at the finish line in Chattanooga.  I knew many people would be wondering what happened and without a voice and not wanting to tell the story of suffering many times through I decided the best thing was to just tell the story.  As the famous line from Monty Python and the Holy Grail goes..."I'm not dead yet!"  Next year will be my best ever! ever. 
video



Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Trust the Process...Ready to Race!

Taped to the cover of my weekly goals checklist book I have a quotation from 3x Ironman world champion Craig Alexander that goes like this..."But as far as the race goes, I'll just try to do what I always do, which is control what I can control-my training- and I think a lot of the fun is just getting in great shape."

I have always felt the same way.  I sometimes think I love the process of getting ready for a race more than the race itself.  I love the feeling of working towards a single goal every day over a period of time much like a boxer prepares to enter the ring for a big fight.  For Ironman Chattanooga I set my sights on a 9 week build period which was my longest ever for a single race.  I had just finished Challenge Atlantic City and despite not training for the Ironman distance race I missed a professional award by 2 spots.  I vowed that my next Ironman would be one that I was prepared for.  I started this big 9 week build just 2 weeks after Challenge Atlantic City.  My body felt a bit worn down and lacking recovery when I began.  I reminded myself of something our varsity girls basketball coach Jennifer Goetz often says to her athletes..."Trust the Process." 

My planned out process was to emphasize a number of things which included...
1.  Long bike rides of 100+ miles
2.  Long runs of 20+ miles
3.  Lower my body weight and body fat %
4.  Emphasize improved biking by alternating weeks of 300+ miles with still solid bike weeks of 220+ bike miles
5.  Keep time swimming low until the last 4 weeks.  This is the one I sacrifice to be home more with 2 young kids, a wife, and a full-time job.  I planned to swim 2 days/week until the last 4 weeks. 

As I began the training process I was initially extremely fatigued.  "Trust the process."  My first 2 bike weeks were 340 and 240.  My long rides were 116, and 120.  I knew I needed to build my long run a bit before getting to 20 so my first 2 long runs were 15 and 18 miles.  After I started to 10 week build weighing 166 lbs.  After 2 weeks I was only 165..."Trust the process."  In weeks 3 and 4 I biked 350 and 217 miles.  My long run was 20 on week 3 and I had a race in week 4 and didn't run long.  I weighed in at 163...4 weeks in and I had only lost 3 lbs..."Trust the process."  Week 5 I biked 325 miles and week 6 was 200.  My long rides were 130 and 104.  My long runs were 20 and 20.5.  That took me to August 23rd.  I weighed in the morning of the 24th at 162...6 weeks of high training and I had only lost 4 lbs..."Trust the process" I reminded myself.  Week 7 I biked 325 miles and week 8 was 215.  My long rides were 140 miles and 115 miles.  My long run week 7 was 22 miles at 6:40 pace...starting to feel more fit..."Trust the process."  Week 8's long ride was the last 50 miles at my Ironman bike wattage goal of 235-240 watts right into a 10 mile run that was supposed to be 6:30 pace comfortable.  I ran 6:17 pace comfortable..."Trust the process."  I weighed 164 as I started week 8.  This is when I really buckled down with eating clean.  I didn't run long during week 8 because of the test workout.  Week 9 I biked 300 miles with a long ride of 121.  My long run that week was 20 miles.  This put me 2 weeks out from the race.  I also weighed 156 at the end of the week which was a positive sign.  Today I stepped on the scale and was 152...my lowest weight in 2 years.  Nearly all of this weight came off in the past 3 weeks.  I had a body fat % test today and I am carrying 16 lbs. of fat which was 11% body fat.  At my first test this year in April I was carrying 26 lbs. of body fat.  In the past few weeks I'd begun to see the signs that the body fat was finally coming off...I only have 1 pair of shorts that fit without a belt and that is a pair I normally can't fit in.  While swimming I've almost lost my ring from it sliding off my finger.  I take it off or switch it to a fatter finger to keep it on.  I was running and my watch was flopping around and had to tighten it to the last hole in the strap which I've never had to do.  I have swam my highest 3 yardage weeks in the last 3 and have swam 12 of the last 14 days.  My swimming is the best it's been all year.  "Trust the process."

The pro field in Chattanooga is going to be VERY large.  47 guys were on the start list and IM Lake Tahoe was cancelled last week with a wild fire in the area and now some of those guys will be coming.  Top 10 is probably setting too high of a goal.  Realistically I'd like to be in the top 1/2 of the pro field...let's say top 20.  I'd love to break 9 hours which will be tough with a bike course of 116 miles rather than the normal 112.  That will add 11 minutes.  If we get a nice current on the down river swim it's still possible...or if I have a magical run.  I'd like to average between 235 and 240 watts on the bike.  This would give me a nice bike split of around 5 hrs. flat and leave me with good run legs. For the run I'd like to run a new PR by at least 5 minutes with a 3 hr. 3 minute split in the marathon.  This would certainly move me up in the field.  More than anything I want to celebrate the fitness I've gained and the shape I've gotten myself into these past now almost 11 weeks.  I've controlled what I can control...my training.  I've enjoyed the process so much.  Now it's just about doing what I've trained my body to do which is race fast and race smart.  What I worry about most is what I cannot control...things like flat tires, water temps...etc.  If you'd like to follow along you can track the race at www.ironman.com  Then click on races and there will be an athlete tracking page.  You can filter pros to see what place I'm in after the swim/bike/run.  They should also have a live video stream of the finish.  We start at 7:40 TN time which is 6:40 Midwest time.  I'd expect to be done around 3:40 Midwest time give or take 15 minutes each way.  Thanks for reading..."Trust the process"...DREAM BIG!!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Dreaming BIG! 13 days to IM Chattanooga

As I write this entry I am just 13 days from my peak race of the 2014 season, Ironman Chattanooga.  I am so excited for this race.  It is the only race this year I will be doing a full taper for.  After finishing Challenge Atlantic City just 6 minutes outside a professional payout I was motivated and confident in what I was capable of.  I made the decision to stop racing through July, August, and September so I could devote every day of training for 1 goal race.  I put together a plan of 10 weeks building my volume and not having to worry about being tired or resting up for races.  My plan was to increase my bike volume substantially, run less days each week but get in more long runs, and be patient with my swimming until 4 weeks out from the race.  As my kids have gotten older and involved in more activities I have managed to keep training at a high level by making concessions and one of those has been to swim much less until I get close to a race.  Then I ramp up my swimming A LOT over the last 4 weeks and get in good swim shape quickly. 

9 days ago I did a test workout I had planned since the beginning of the 10 week block.  I wanted to ride 100 miles with the last 50 at my Ironman goal wattage of 235-240 and then get off the bike and be able to run 10 miles at 6:30 pace rather comfortably.  I thought if the goal went well I would use this pace as my Ironman race pace in Chattanooga.  I did the first 50 miles at 7% under my goal wattage and stayed right around 220 watts the entire time.  At mile 50 I ramped it up into my Ironman zone and completed the last 50 right inside my goal holding each 7 mile split at 235-240.  I got off the bike and started running.  What felt easy was under 6:20 pace.  I stayed right there the entire 10 miles and averaged 6:17/mile.  I did 5 loops of 2 miles from the house and had the support of Payton and Owen who set up a table in the driveway and stocked it with about 25 cups of water.  Each loop as I came by they handed me water, coke, GU Chomps, GU gels, and salt pills.  They were tremendous aid station volunteers.  I was thrilled to not only finish the workout hitting my goals for it but also in how I felt the following day.  I couldn't even tell I had done a workout let alone one that lasted nearly 6 hours at a race pace I'd be very happy with on Sept. 28.  I did this in the midst of heavy training volume. 

This past week my was last week of big training.  It actually ended up being my biggest of the year.  I biked 300 miles, ran 46, and swam 20,000 yards.  I also attended class at Barre563 twice and got all my goals of plyometrics, lunges, jump rope, and core done.  I rode 101 miles Saturday morning and added another hour in the evening on the trainer and then woke up Sunday morning and ran 20 miles very comfortably at 6:53/mile pace.  Saturday's ride was my 9th ride of 100+ miles over the past 10 weeks and Sunday's run was my 5th run of 20+ miles over the past 7 weeks.  The quick ramp up in swimming has me swimming my loop at Lake G faster than I have all year.  Despite the cool air temps the lake temp is still awesome in the mid-60's.  I am in the middle of a stretch where I will swim 9 of 10 days.  As I look back to my best triathlon swims ever they have come after periods where I swim much more frequently than I typically do.  Even though I begin my taper this week I will continue to swim often.  Starting Thursday I will drop my bike mileage over the final 10 days to 100 miles.  I have been averaging 400 miles every 10 days through the last 10 weeks.  I learned a lot about how my body responds to tapering last year when I created a spreadsheet of all the races I have tapered for the past 5 years.  I tracked what I did each of the final 10 days leading into the race.  I totaled my last 10 day volume as well as my last 5 day volume and feel I have a pretty good idea what my body responds well to.  I found some good patterns in what lead to races with good swim, bike, and run performances.  I have used this data to create my taper for Ironman Chattanooga and it has me feeling very confident.  Over the past 10 weeks I was blessed to make it through this build exactly like I hoped.  I wanted to alternate big bike weeks with really big bike weeks.  I did that to a "T" through the 10 weeks alternating 200-240 mile weeks with 300-340 mile weeks.  I got in the long rides and runs I hoped to.  I hit my test workout just like I hoped.  My swimming is improving like I hoped.  The plan has been successful and now I have to do what I've prepared my body to do on race day.  One of my goals has been to go under 9 hours in an Ironman distance.  Not many from Iowa have ever seen the lower side of 9 hours.  I've been close twice at 9:04 and 9:05.  Chattanooga will be especially tough because Ironman added 4 miles to the bike course!!!!  Yes, that's right...the brand that created this race couldn't figure out a route for 112 miles on the bike so they have announced it will be 116 which will add nearly 11 minutes to my time.  That will be tough to find and would likely take a strong river current or an incredible run PR which I think I'm capable of.  My goal for the race is to finish in the top 10 and a dream goal would be to finish in the top 6 to earn some money for the iHope Foundaiton and my first professional race prize purse.  I was inspired to watch the results of Ironman Wisconsin last weekend.  There were some local finishers who completed their first Ironman race, others who raced to new PR's, and 3 Iowans who finished in the top 8 of the professional race including Daniel Bretscher who won the race in a new record time and Adam Bohach who finished 8th.  I have gotten to know Daniel over the past few years and he is an incredible ambassador for the sport.  He's always been willing to share his knowledge with me and has been a great inspiration to me.  Adam is a buddy I had the privilege of training with while he was living and teaching in Clinton, Iowa a few years back. I really miss having him around.  He's had a fantastic season this year. 

Now onto the best news of the week!  I got a call last week from Sara Boyle Keeling.  Sara is a local triathlete who works at Quad City Bank and Trust.  She told me they took up a collection for the iHope Foundation and presented me with a very generous check.  This was so exciting to me because one of my goals this season was to get 15 iHope business sponsors.  I had been stuck on 13 until 2 weeks ago when I received a commitment from Smart Toyota general manager Nick Tarpein.  Nick said Smart Toyota was going to contribute and incredible $1,500.00 to the foundation.  They became the 14th business sponsor.  Thanks to Sara and the generosity of Quad City Bank and Trust I can now check off my most important goal of the season as they became the 15th business to support the iHope Foundation.  It gets even better...today I went to Smart Toyota to pick up the contribution and I was completely surprised when I walked into Nick's office and he informed me that they were going to increase the commitment to $2,500.00 and they also secured a matching contribution from the Toyota corporate office!!!  This means $5,000.00 to the foundation which will provide 10 low-income students in our community who display outstanding character and work traits with iPads!!!  I feel so blessed.  Never in my wildest dreams did I think the iHope Foundation would impact the number of students is has and will for many years.  Each student that receives and iPad in junior high will also be awarded a $1,000.00 iHope scholarship upon graduation from high school.  If you would like to help contribute to the foundation you can click on the donation links at the top of my page to give to either the scholarship portion or the iPad portion of the foundation.  All contributions are tax deductible.  The support this foundation has received continues to inspire me daily to DREAM BIG and believe that nothing is impossible!

 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Under 4 Weeks...

Ironman Chattanooga looms less than 4 weeks away and I'm very excited about how the plan has gone to date.  This past week was another big week.  I've been alternating big bike weeks with even bigger ones.  This past week was 325 bike miles.  I've averaged 280 miles a week on the bike over the past 8 weeks.  It's definitely my highest average ever over an 8 week period.  I will be down a bit this week at around 220 and then back up over 300 for one more week before cutting back and beginning my taper 10 days from the race.  I ran 42 miles last week but only swam once at 3,000 yards.  This week begins a higher swim build which will last until the race.  One of the changes I've made to cut back training time as my kids have grown up is to cut my swim yardage until close to a big race.  With 3-4 weeks swimming at high volume and even more importantly more days per week I make pretty quick gains in swim fitness.  Honestly I'm surprised where it is at right now given my limited time in the water.

I have continued to get big loads of long training in on the weekends.  This past week was slated to be my highest single day totals on the bike and run.  Saturday morning I rode 130 miles and kept most of it easy with an exception of 1 hour at Ironman effort between the 4:30 and 5:30 mark.  I felt very strong through the entire ride.  Big thanks to Daniel Westbay for joining me for the first 50 to keep time going by quickly.  I ran 2 miles off the bike at 6:30/mile pace and then did 30 more minutes easy on the trainer in the evening.  Sunday I got up early and started my long run at 5:45.  I ran 22 miles at 6:40 pace.  It felt very good despite humidity over 90%.  At mile 5 my average pace was 7:06 and it slowly kept dropping until the finish.  In the last couple miles I glanced down to see current pace hovering around 6:00/mile.  It leaves me feeling confident I can run a good marathon if I stay in my wattage zone on the bike (235-240) which I intend to do regardless of the dynamics of the race.  I know through my training that a power output in that zone will leave me with a fast bike split and with good legs to run well.

This Saturday I have a big test workout I have had penciled in for the last 6 weeks.  I planned to do it 3 weeks out from the race.  I'm pretty excited about it.  I will ride 100 miles with the first 50 easy at 210 watt average.  I will keep the power output consistent up and down hills.  At mile 50 I will ramp up into my Ironman zone of 235-240 and hold that for the next 50 miles.  I will get off the bike and run 10 miles right away hoping to be 6:30 pace without feeling uncomfortable.  If it feels easy I have promised myself I will not drop more than 5 sec./mile under that pace until the last 2 miles where I'll allow my self to drop as low as 6:00 pace but no lower.  If 6:30 pace feels good off the bike I will plan to go out at that pace in Chattanooga.

Monday was the final Run With Carl, a memorial run that has gone on for the past 20 years for Carl Schillig, a friend and teammate of mine whose life was taken way too soon by a drunk driver that ran a red light and killed him in 1994 when we were high school freshmen.  It was great doing the run with Chris Chamberlin, a local guy I've been coaching for the past 20 weeks.  He ran 32:20 averaging 6:22/mile after averaging 6:47/mile last year.  His big goal this year was to run a 1/2 in under 7:00 pace this year and I have no doubts he will do that.  Owen ran the 1/2 mile and had so much fun he walked back up the hill and ran the mile finishing just behind Payton.  Jen and I were very proud of them for tackling the hilly mile without walking.

This has been a great week for the iHope Foundation.  HUGE thanks to Tim and Marlene King, Jim and Michelle Russell, and all those at our PVXC alumni reunion who contributed to the foundation.  To date the iHope Foundation has raised over $27,000.00 to purchase iPads and provide scholarships for low-income students that display outstanding character and work traits.  When I began the foundation I was hoping we would be able to provide 1 iPad each year.  Due to the incredible support we are hoping to do 3 iPads each year with each recipient also getting a $1,000.00 scholarship upon high school graduation.  If you'd like to help contribute to either the iPad portion or the scholarship portion of the iHope Foundation you can click either of the links at the top of my page.  Thanks so much!  25 days to Ironman Chattanooga.  I'm dreaming of my best race ever.  DREAM BIG!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Welcome Smart Toyota...iHope Business sponsor

The week was another big one in the block of training for Ironman Chattanooga.  I have made the bike and overall long workouts my main focus.  I biked 325 miles this week, ran 36, and swam 7,500 yards.  It was a challenging week time-wise with the start of a new school year.  All of a sudden I have 8 hours a day that are taken up that I haven't had in a few months.  I do a lot of my bike miles in the evening after the kids go to bed.  I constantly have to weigh the costs and benefits of a ride from 8:30-10:00 PM versus the extra sleep I could be getting.  If I'm riding until 10:00 it's rarely before 11:00 when I'm in bed after stretching, core, massage (with the Podium Legs), and then shower.  I continue to ride and run long on Sundays.  This week I changed my long run to Saturday.  Payton was doing the Hy-Vee Kids Triathlon and I wasn't going to miss that.  I ran 20 miles before and after her race.  It was awesome watching her compete.  To be honest I was not excited about her doing it and tried to talk Jen out of signing her up.  She just learned to swim and had never gone across a pool and back like she would in the kids triathlon (50 yard swim for 6-8 yr. olds).  We just got her a new Specialized bike and I've ridden with her a few times on it and she's pretty shaky on it so that had me worried.  Being around hundreds of other kids in a race setting without being confident in the swim or bike had me very nervous for her.  The bike was 2 miles and the run only 500 yards.  To my pleasant surprise she did awesome and had a blast.  When she was done I asked her what her favorite part was and she said, "All of it!"






Sunday I followed up the long run with a 112 mile ride.  I was feeling awesome early and averaging 21.6 mph at the 1/2 way point before I started my efforts at Ironman wattage.  I rolled off the next 35 miles at my Ironman wattage zone of 235-240 but it felt more tiring than I was hoping.  It was warm and I had steady drips of sweat coming off my helmet.  The wind was picking up by the hour and I was battling it on the way home.  I was happy to make it 112 and my average pace was still 21.6 even though my last 20 miles were pretty slow.  I rode another hour on Sunday night after the kids were in bed to loosen my legs back up. 

I was super excited this week after meeting with Nick Tarpein, the general manager of Smart Toyota of the Quad Cities in Davenport.  Nick notified me that Smart Toyota would be joining on as the 14th iHope business sponsor in 2014 and at a Gold level!!  The contribution from Smart Toyota will help so much in providing low-income students in our community that display outstanding character and work traits with iPads and scholarships.  I'll be pleased to add the Smart Toyota logo to my jersey next year!  In addition to the contribution Nick said that Smart Toyota would be happy to contribute an additional $300.00 to the iHope Foundation for anyone who purchased a new or used vehicle at Smart Toyota with a mention of the iHope Foundation as a referral.  He assured me this referral credit to iHope would not affect the purchase price in any way as the referral money comes from a different pot than what they make on a vehicle purchase.  If you are looking for a new or used vehicle please give a visit to Smart Toyota and mention iHope to help the foundation in an incredible way.  The website for Smart Toyota to see inventory is here.  If you'd like to make a tax deductible contribution to the foundation click either link on the home page to contribute to either the iPad fund or the scholarship fund.  I'll be buying my next Toyota Prius from Smart.  I set a new PR on my last tank of gas in my 2005 Prius with 50.1 MPG.  I hope that is the start of a new PR streak as I get ready for Ironman Chattanooga in just over 5 weeks.  I can't wait!  DREAM BIG!!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Scheels Dam Duathlon Report

Sunday Jen and I participated in the final duathlon of the Scheels Series.  We both came out well with wins in the race and overall series wins.  It was a bit disappointing to find out after the race that they decided not to pay out for the series win this year.  Earlier in the year I e-mailed the race director and he said they were going to pay out less for the series because they were paying more for the individual races.  I didn't realize less meant nothing.  I was a bit disappointed because I was hoping to give more to the iHope Foundation but still was happy to earn $300.00 at the final race.

RUN: The first run started out fast as all of these runs have.  I've gotten used to it going out fast.  Being in the middle of a huge block of Ironman training I wasn't sure what my legs would have in them.  I've worn myself out with big loads of training for the past 4 weeks and did not back down for this race much at all.  In fact I was so tired on Thursday I had to walk in my long run and pulled the plug after only 11 miles of a planned 20 miler.  I was pretty dehydrated and it led to a complete suffer fest the last 2 miles.  I woke up weighing 158 after being 163 just 2 days prior.  I was sweating heavily and suffered.  In the first run of the duathlon I hung back about 10 seconds behind the leader and entered T2 with another guy who was new to the series.  I had been told he was one heck of a bike rider being Cat 1/2.

BIKE:  About a mile into the 10 mile ride the strong rider went by me.  I was able to hang back 7 meters without too much difficulty.  I wanted to share the work with him and press the lead on the others hoping to make it a two man race.  Every time I would pass him he would almost immediately pass me back.  I'm pretty sure he didn't know the USAT overtaken rule but I wasn't upset about it.  This was a small race and I was more than willing to let him lead the majority of the bike.  I probably passed him 4 different times but each time he would almost refuse to let me be in the lead for more than 20 seconds before passing me back.  I sat back the required distance to the end of the ride and we both had super fast transitions heading out on the run.  The bike course was brutally hilly which I expected since I did the race last year.  He had a faster bike split than me by 5 seconds.

RUN 2: I almost forgot to take my helmet off I was in such a hurry to get out of transition.  I was almost out when I noticed my shadow and realized my helmet was still on.  I disposed of it just before the end of the transition area.  I tried to set a strong pace early and I could tell he was fighting to hang on.  I could hear his breathing on my shoulder and I continued to press as the first mile is uphill before returning a mile downhill.  I'm not a very strong hill runner being a bigger guy.  I still tried to lift the pace and about 1/2 way out to the turn I was able to put some ground on him.  I wanted to press hard to see if I could get him to throw the towel in.  At the turn I was about 20 seconds up and knew I had done the job.  I still pushed hard back and actually ran about the exact same time as my first run and it didn't feel as hard as the first one.



After I finished I waited for Jen to come in.  She won by quite a bit so it was a good day for the Paul family with double wins.  Now my focus will shift back entirely to getting myself as ready as I can for my best race ever at Ironman Chattanooga in just 6.5 weeks.  I'm in the middle of the really big weeks as I focus all of my workouts around this one race.  I'm struggling to get leaner like I normally can before an Ironman.  I'm keeping the faith and remembering to trust the process.  My body always seems to lean down for me before the big ones.  It's been a tough week with the start of school.  More than the extra 8 hours a day is the emotional energy that goes into the classroom as I get back into the swing of things.  Hopefully by next week I'm back in a good routine and the stress of getting ready for school is in the rear view mirror.  I'm excited to have the opportunity to be a positive influence on a new group of kids and realize the impact I can potentially make on them.  It motivates me each day to make a positive difference in their lives and get them to set high goals, work hard, and DREAM BIG!  If you'd like to help contribute to the iHope Foundation click here.  I'm hoping we can provide 3 more students this year with an iPad and a $1,000.00 scholarship.  THANKS!

Monday, August 4, 2014

8 weeks to Ironman Chattanooga

I got officially registered this week for Ironman Chattanooga.  I wiped everything off my racing schedule except a duathlon that is part of the Scheel's Series next weekend.  I wanted to be able to devote a big chunk of training towards 1 goal date...September 28th. 

I picked this race for a few reasons.  I always look for a fall Ironman distance event to finish my season.  There are quite a few good options.  Being that it may be my last pro race I wanted to give 1 more crack at an Ironman branded event because it may be many years before I venture back into this brand should I stop racing as a professional.  I'd like to do more Rev3, Challenge, and independent events if I race as an amateur.  I get asked a lot about Kona as an age grouper.  That is a goal of mine some day but right now it is not something I am overly excited about.  The trip is incredibly expensive.  On top of that Kona is tough for teachers.  I wouldn't go there unless spending at least a week on the island and that week would be unpaid and also wouldn't be the best situation for the kids sitting in my classroom.  I have an obligation to them.  Kona is a goal of mine when I'm 55.  That will be my first year retired and I plan to train like crazy.  That's still 21 years away so I'm not thinking too much about it right now.  The best thing I can do to be ready for Kona when I'm 55 is continue staying fit year in and year out so when that day comes I'll have a chance to place really high in the 55-59 age group.  Another big reason I picked Ironman Chattanooga is because local friends Robert White and Dan Ward are racing there.  Robert has actually moved to Florida so this will be a great opportunity to catch up with him.  For both of them it will be their first Ironman distance event so I'm excited to watch those finishes.  Another big factor for me is a down river swim.  This puts me in a better position to be successful in the race because the time gaps after the swim should not be as large as what I'm used to.  One more reason was the rolling terrain on the bike course.  I've always ridden rolling terrain well and my plan to be lean for this race should help even more on this kind of terrain.  The final reason is the race is sponsored by "Little Debbie".  I've always loved my Little Debbie snacks and couldn't pass on a race sponsored by this brand.  Hopefully the aid stations will be stocked with Swiss Cake Rolls, Fudge Rounds, Oatmeal Cream Pies, Star Crunch's, Boston Cream Rolls, and Nutty Bars.  That fuel source should lead to a good marathon time :)

My 3rd week of Ironman prep was a big one by design.  I continue to make the bike my main focus in training.  I will increase my swimming a lot about 4 weeks before the race.  I only swam 7,500 yards.  I ran 43 miles (in 4 days of running), and I biked 350 miles.  I did hill intervals Tuesday, longer intervals on Wednesday, and Saturday was my long ride.  Saturday's ride I did 117 miles with the first 55 easy and then the next 56 at my Ironman goal wattage which is 235-240 for this race.  I hit my split to reset my average wattage every 7 miles of the 56 mile portion.  My watts for each 7 mile segment were 241, 240, 241, 241, 243, 245, 243, and 237.  I had almost 2,000 feet of climbing over that 56 miles.  I kept my normalized power within 2 watts of my average power on each segment.  Normalized power takes into account hard accelerations and these are what I intend to avoid.  I want to keep a steady smooth effort both up and down hills so keeping the normalized power close to the average power is important.  What I was most excited about is my 56 mile time was 2 hrs. 25 minutes.  This is about what I need to average speed wise to have a shot at breaking 9 hours.  I did it in a training ride with my training wheels, road helmet, and big saddle bag on the back of my bike.  I found at Challenge Atlantic city I was riding 1-1.5 mph faster during the race with my race wheels, aero helmet, and bike stripped down at the same wattage I had been training which at that time was 225-230.  This is a big confidence booster.  I also hope to pick up more speed as I reduce my body weight allowing me to get up hills faster without increasing my wattage. 

Sunday I ran 20 miles and I felt as good on the 20th as I did on the 1st mile.  I have run 15, 18, and 20 the last 3 weeks respectively coming off long rides of 110, 120, and 117.  This next week will be my only week without the long workouts until the week before the race.  After this approaching weekend I'll have 5 more long rides/runs.  3 weeks out of the race I plan to do a long brick of 100 miles on the bike with the last 1/2 at Ironman wattage followed by a 10 mile run at goal pace of 6:30/mile.  This week I only dropped 1 lb. which was frustrating.  On Thursday morning I was down from 165 to 160 but may have been dehydrated because by this morning I was back up to 164.  I'd like to be 150 by September 20th.  Lots of work to do. 

I was thrilled this week to get word of 2 VERY generous contributions to the iHope Foundation.  Huge thanks to Mark Nagan and Daniel Westbay for helping with the foundation.  I'm hoping we can award 3 more iPads and $1,000.00 scholarships to low-income students that display outstanding character and work traits this upcoming school year.  If you'd like to help with the iHope Foundation click here.  Speaking of Daniel Westbay I've been having fun coaching him this year.  I'm amazed and inspired by how much he has improved.  He placed 11th in the Crossroads Triathlon this year on Saturday morning moving up from 32nd last year.  His swim time improved from 9:14 to 8:11, bike time from 43:25 to 41:21, and run time from 23:09 to 20:51.  Overall he dropped 6 minutes 20 seconds.  I am super proud of the commitment he has made and the hard work he has put in to see these substantial improvements.  It shows when you are willing to work and DREAM BIG incredible things will happen.  DREAM BIG!