Sunday, September 15, 2019

Journey to Kona Day 222: The Ironman "Light Switch"

I'll never forget the feeling of a light switch going off during the bike portion of my first ironman in 2010.  I was around mile 80 on the St. George bike course, still with a considerable amount of climbing left, when it happened.  After fourteen ironman's I now know what it means and what to do. It usually means that you're not adequately nourished, or your fatigue level has hit a wall.  The solution is to slow down, eat, drink, and recover.  It's a long day and there's actually time to gain by slowing down.  Pushing hard is not only the wrong approach, but any short term time gains are overshadowed by far greater time losses later in the race.  During Ironman Chattanooga in 2016 I got dehydrated towards the end of the bike, and didn't realize it until I got to the first mile of the run.  But, I knew what to do.  I walked until mile 6, hydrated, nourished, and recovered.  I then ran the last 20 miles, passing most if not all of the people who had passed me while I was walking.

I encountered the "light switch" during my long run today.  I was following a strict MAF protocol for my run today.  I was solely focused on my HR and never looked at my pace.  The first mile was around 120 bpm, and my HR came up to ~130 by my third mile. The next eight miles saw my heart rate go up slowly, but still was mostly in the low 130's. I was sweating a ton, and probably not drinking enough.  Since the loops were 5.2 miles, and I only brought one bottle along to drink, I certainly wasn't getting enough fluids for the amount I was sweating.  That won't happen at Kona.  I'll be able to practice in hot yoga for drinking a ton while sweating a ton.  Still, my legs felt fine, albeit still fatigued from Friday's bike ride.

My run pace actually held very steady right around 10 minute per mile pace through 11 miles.  My heart rate was also ok, considering that it was getting warmer the longer I ran.  From a MAF perspective, my first 11 miles were excellent.  And then the light switch went off.  Miles 12-16 were a slog.  My heart rate was trying to increase, and I managed to keep it from going up too much as my pace dropped a full minute to 11 minute per mile.  The interesting thing was that I held that for five miles.  My legs were tired, with no soreness whatsoever. This was about fatigue, and possible hydration and nutrition.  However, to some degree, I think that this was the fatigue that I wrote about yesterday.  It was time to start my taper.  My 20 mile long run would be 16 miles today.  My three hour run, would be 2 hours and 45 minutes.  Physically, there was no reason to push further on either front.  I know that I can run a marathon.  I know that I can suffer with the elements.  I know that I can slog forward despite fatigue.

I hope that I won't feel the "light switch" go on during Kona.  But, if it does, I'll know what to do.  In the meantime, it's time to start my taper!

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Journey to Kona Day 221: The Training and Fatigue Dichotomy

Yesterday was a remarkable day.  The six hours of cycling were compounded by extreme heat.  I woke up this morning and I was tired.  Not too tired, but tired nevertheless.  I drove to the pool, and as I prepared to get in the water, I looked over at the jacuzzi and thought to myself, I'd rather be there.  I swam for about 20 minutes, and the only thing that I could think of was how tired I was.  So, I got in the jacuzzi.  After getting back home, I alternated between laying on the floor watching television and taking a nap.  I was definitely tired.  At the same time, I felt no soreness.  The six hours on the bike left no major impact on my muscles.  But it did leave me quite fatigued, though probably more from the heat than from the cycling.  Preparing for an ironman is as much about off loading fatigue as it is allowing the muscles to heal and recover.

My present plan for tomorrow is to run up to 20 miles, and no longer than 3 hours.  The way I feel today, the idea feels a little daunting.  Not because my legs are sore, or even weak.  I'm just tired today.  However, I remember how I felt just a little more than a week ago, and how quickly I both recovered and did some heavy duty training.  Theoretically, I could rest another day and do my run on Monday. On the other hand, the epitome of ironman training is running with fatigue.

It's kind of funny.  Despite my fatigue today, I'm looking forward to running tomorrow. I want to maximize my fatigue before I start my taper.  And, I want to start my taper!  Somehow, I think that this dichotomy is a good thing.  I know that I will successfully be able to shed my fatigue over four weeks.  I also know that starting that four weeks of tapering without feeling sore is a good thing. I should be able to keep training in a way that keeps my muscles stimulated.  This should be fun.

There are four weeks left before Kona.  My coach and I will start working out my tapering plan on Tuesday.  I expect to feel pretty tired on Monday.  I know that I've been living a bit on the edge in terms of fatigue for a little while.  That's what ironman training is all about.  It's a remarkable test of the human body, physiology and spirit. We push ourselves, and we recover. We push ourselves some more and we recover some more.  When our key race is coming up, the dynamic changes.  Kona is more than my key race.  It's my dream, and I want so much to go into it at my best.  I want to see what I can do on the iconic course that is known to define the human spirit.  The course itself isn't that difficult, but the conditions are often epic.  There may be wind.  There will be heat and humidity. There will be lava fields and no shade.  It will be Kona. It's time to start getting ready!

Friday, September 13, 2019

Journey to Kona Day 220: Overcoming my Central Governor

29 Days until Kona and my last real long bike ride was today.  My coach suggested that I ride 112 miles on a relatively flat course.  The weather cooperated by simulating Kona without the humidity.  My goal was to keep my wattage low and comfortable, and hopefully keep my heart rate down as well.  I did a good job keeping my wattage down.  My heart rate did start to rise as the temperature went up.  Not much that I could do about that.  I managed to keep a consistent effort and a consistent pace for the entire ride.  I felt good the whole time, but did finally manage to hit a rough patch when I got to 100 miles. It was hot, although until mile 100 I really didn't feel too hot.  However, during miles 100-105 I finally hit the doldrums.  I felt like I was baking.  Ironically, I only slowed down by less than a minute during the loop.  And just to show that I can overcome my central governor, knowing that my last loop was my last loop, I was able to do that loop at an effort and pace similar to all of the earlier ones.  I didn't feel as hot.  The mind is an amazing thing.

I learned more about myself and my preparation for Kona today.  The heat and humidity are going to be the greatest challenge on race day.  I can begin to have a better understanding of what happened to Julie Moss.  Even the great Paula Newby Fraser succumbed one year to Kona.  When you ignore your central governor, you can accomplish great things.  On the other hand, you can outsmart yourself and end up on the ground.  The real challenge will be to stay hydrated and nourished, and know how and when to cool down enough to recover during the race. This ride gave me a pretty good idea of how my body will respond.  It's not perfect, because I didn't have the humidity to deal with. Still, I got a good idea of how my body felt and how it reacted.  At the same time, it's always good to know that we can temporarily overcome our central governor.  Unfortunately, doing so in the middle of a race is probably not a good idea.  The best time to do so is at the end of the race, but you'd better time it right, otherwise you end up crawling to the finish line!

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Journey to Kona Day 219: Thirty Days!

Wow!  I started this blog 219 days ago.  There are now 30 days left to race day.  It's getting real.  In 22 days I will get on a plane and fly to Kona.  In one week, I'll probably officially start my taper. This journey has been a remarkable one.  When I started it, I was recovering from my first 100 mile event. That experience was both unique and profoundly impactful on many levels.  I was also recovering from a job experience that left me beaten up and unsettled.  There were times that I had questioned my own reasons for doing Kona. The last 219 days have helped bring a lot of things into focus.  My excitement for Kona has only increased, to the point that I now fully understand and appreciate that I am truly fulfilling a long held dream.

With thirty days to go, there are a lot of things I can do to screw things up.  I can do too much. I could get injured. I could fall off my diet.  There are a few simple things that I can do to come into Kona fully prepared.  I can not and will not miss opportunities to rest.  The ironman distance deplores fatigue.  I've already seen the value of reducing fatigue over a week ago when I took the greater part of a week off from training, leading to a couple of my best training days ever this past week.  I've learned the importance of having balance in my life and focusing on the things that truly matter to me.

Has the last 219 days been about Kona?  In many ways, it has been.  At this point, the next 30 days had better be about Kona.  I've hit the home stretch.  I'm looking forward to competing in the most iconic triathlon in the history of the sport. It's more than a race.  It's more than a healthy experience.  It's a metaphor for life.  In many ways, my approach to ironman reflects my approach to life, which is probably why I've gravitated to the sport.  Kona is where Julie Moss crawled to the finish line.  It's the ultimate stage where the best in the world compete.  It will be an honor to race in Kona.  Thirty days!

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Journey to Kona Day 218: Threading the Tapering Needle

Taper time is coming soon.  I can feel it.  I nearly felt it a week ago, but managed to pull myself up off the floor and put in a solid week of training.  Today was a "rest" day.  No training, but essentially a twelve hour workday, consisting primarily of driving and flying.  I felt tired by the end of the day.  Not nearly as tired as I did a week ago, but the same type of tired.  Soon it will be time to officially start my taper.  To some degree, the transition is already beginning.  On Friday, I'll ride my bike for six hours, if all goes well.  However, I won't do any climbing.  I'll keep the ride mellow and just put in the volume and the time in the aero position.  Similarly, on Sunday, I plan to run twenty miles if all feels right. Again, no climbing, and I have permission to cut the run short depending upon how I feel.

As of Sunday, I'll have four weeks to go before Kona.  An ironman taper generally start at three weeks, but you have to pay attention to how you're feeling at four weeks in order to be able to effectively taper starting at three. Tapering is part science, part art, and part voodoo. Unfortunately, what works one time, may not (and probably won't) work the same way the next time. On a positive note, the week of rest I just took left me with the energy to pound out some incredible workouts over the past week. Still, I was carrying some fatigue.  If I can combine that type of response to the rest with truly reduced fatigue, I'll not only have the endurance for an ironman swim, bike and run, but I'll have the speed and power to produce my best results.

I've had the goal of not only experiencing Kona, giving it 100%, but having my best possible performance.  That would be cool!  No result will be disappointing to me, however, so long as I leave it all out there on the course. I remember doing the Boulder half ironman in 2009, having "tapered" by spending the week not training at all, barely getting 3 hours of sleep every night in the week leading up to the race, and having the maximal amount of stress due to the fact that we were filming a t.v. pilot (

So, with the help of my coach, I will thread the tapering needle and we'll see what happens in Kona!

Journey to Kona Day 217: Finding Myself

My wife recently told me that something's changed in regards to my general demeanor and attitude.  Ever since I was offered a part-time job to do things that I truly enjoy without the typical stresses that are normally attached to a job, something has clicked. Since last year when I walked away from my last job, something wasn't right. I wasn't sure what mattered.  I was unsettled.  Training for Kona has helped me to some degree, but even that didn't feel right until the job offer came.  I think the pieces of the puzzle fell into place.  Balance matters.  Ever since I got offered an opportunity to do the things I love, my love for training for Kona felt right. Ironically, I've had the best couple of months of training that I've ever had, and my fitness level is at an all-time high.

This journey to Kona has had a few twists and turns.  I've been learning things about myself.  In the past, I haven't been certain about how much I truly loved exercise, often "blaming" my addiction to triathlons on a combination of wanting to be healthy and satisfying my type A tendencies.  All of a sudden, as everything falls into place, things feel more natural.  I decided to spend 8 days in Kona prior to the race, to fully enjoy the experience.  It also allows me to participate in the practice swim the Sunday before the race.  The fact that I've signed up to do Ironman St. George, instead of retiring from ironman after completing Kona told me something. I'm already thinking about other races to do.

I really do enjoy ironman.  I really do enjoy the training. However, I also need the right balance, otherwise, everything doesn't fall into place.  It's kind of funny how that works.  I remember after I retired for the first time, I thought that my ironman training would explode.  But, it didn't.  I blamed it on being distracted by other things, including an entertainment business diversion.  In retrospect, I was unsettled again.  I didn't have my balance, and so nothing really made sense.  But now it does. I've found myself, and with that I've verified my love for the sport of triathlon and the pursuit of ironman experiences.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Journey to Kona Day 194: Harry B. Doyle, RIP

I just discovered that this blog didn't get published, it remained in draft form.  So, here it is.  And, it was a meaningful one.  I'm going to also take the opportunity to ask whomever reads this blog, or any of my other daily "Journey to Kona" blogs, to send me an email at  I'm interested in knowing who has been following me on this journey.

During my run on Thursday at Cherry Creek State Park, I stopped at the bench honoring Harry.  He was an older runner at our track club, and he was faster than me.  He moved out of state, and the next year we’d learned that he had passed away.  It turns out that he died on my birthday, during a race, in 2004. Harry was one of those guys who was a natural ambassador for running. You just enjoyed being around him.  I remember hearing that he had died and was both saddened and taken aback.  I didn’t know at the time that it occurred during a race.  In many ways, that’s the way it should be.

Sitting on Harry’s bench, all I could think about was making the most of ones time.  How we spend our time on this earth matters.  It’s an interesting question as to what matters.  Lately, I find that I spend too much time feeling both annoyed and upset by what I read and hear in the media.  While my passion, which I’ve blogged about, leads me to respond on social media, how useful and effective is that time?  The ease to which information is available today might actually lead to being too up to date.  There isn’t a need to respond immediately to everything I see and hear.

I took a photo sitting on Harry’s bench.  I know that I can be a good ambassador for exercise, and that’s definitely something that I enjoy.  I will do my best to carry on positively and effectively in the spirit of Harry B. Doyle.