Monday, December 5, 2011


In 2009, due to my hip socket fracture, I couldn't start running until January, then, did 6 long runs of 12-18 miles prior to St. George. I run/walked the marathon in 5:02, so this worked to a point. In 2010, I began my long runs again in January and did 10 between 14-20 miles (average of 17) prior to race day. Again, I did the marathon in 5:02, albeit after a bike that was 25 minutes faster. I also had GI problems that slowed me down, but my legs felt fine. This year, it's early December and I've already done 4 long runs. My coach has me aiming for a total of 16-20 prior to race day. I'm hoping that this is my year to have a breakout run. My 16 mile run today felt really solid, and I've had no soreness afterwards. My first long run last year didn't happen until January 16th. I've got six weeks until January 16th, and I've already completed 4 solid long runs. I'm on pace to do my 16-20 long runs. This gives me the confidence that I need to have a successful run at St. George this year. I'm excited and I'm confident. I'm ready and committed to the task before me.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Another Journey to St. George

Five and a half months ago I completed Ironman St. George for the second time. As I walk/ran the marathon, I can still remember feeling like I had accomplished everything that I had set out to accomplish. I thought to myself, "I don't need to try to qualify for Hawaii, I'm completing the hardest ironman in the world for the second time." That night I told my wife that I would not do another ironman until she told me it was ok to do so. Life took over this summer, my daughter had a wedding to be planned, we started a new entertainment business, it seemed like there was some new life stress every day! Training diminished to nearly non-existent levels, and I just never felt right. I knew that ironman training was an addiction of sorts, and I kept trying to fight this feeling. After all, I had made a promise to my wife. It seemed like there was never time to contemplate my next step, and I really focused on being there for my family and not let training get in the way. But the uneasiness persisted.

The weekend before last I watched this years Ironman World Championship on streaming live video. "I want to do that again", I kept thinking. Finally, I realized that I had to tell my wife. Which I did. Her immediate response was, "I never believed you anyway". Since that discussion I have felt a degree of calmness that I have not felt in awhile. My coach said that many of his athletes might show nervousness after making this decision. I'm the opposite. I know it's what I want to do.

One thing that I have learned from training for two ironmen is that this is something that suits me. I love the long runs and the long bike rides.. I love the feeling that my body has that there is nothing that I can't do. The level of fitness comes with a feeling almost of indestructibility. Are my competitive juices also engaged? Certainly, but as I have learned long ago in triathlon, I am only competing with myself. If I give it my best on race day, I will be happy, satisfied and proud. That said, I have asked my coach to prepare me for the best race I can do. I am only working 20 hours a week, so I have time to train without sacrificing the time I want to spend with my wife, while I love triathlon, I love my wife more. But I must do both. I will take off the months of January and February. This will allow me the opportunity to fully commit myself to doing the best that I can do.

I met with my coach yesterday. Some of my key goals this year will be to focus on my core and overall strength. More regular tie in the weight room. I will spend more time with more vertical miles training on the bike. I will do 15-20 long runs between now and St. George. From this coming saturday, I am 28 weeks away from the race. I have plenty of time to prepare myself. I am excited. I am ready.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Crescent Moon Sprint Triathlon Race Report

Well, I guess no training had to catch up with me sooner or laterJ. Really, my training declined precipitously after Ironman St. George in early May, but I pretty much proved that you can maintain a pretty good level of fitness off solid ironman training for at least a few months. However, since doing the Boulder 70.3 six weeks ago, I’ve literally done next to nothing. I probably swam a few times (at the most), ran intermittently, and did get in several bike rides (all of them relatively short). So, today was about guts only. I planned to race as hard as possible, and just see what happened.

The swim was a beach start, which is always interesting. I knew that it would be a running start, and I had decided that from now on I need to start my swims as hard as I can, in order to keep up with the lead swimmers, at least until the turmoil settles. For an in water start, this is one thing, for a beach start, it’s double the challenge, but I was up for it! So, I started at the front, in the middle, and ran as fast as I could into the water, did one dolphin swim and then started swimming as hard as I could. If someone pushed into me, I kept swimming hard, no slowing down. I got past the first buoy (about 30 yards), turned right and kept swimming hard. Now, my swim fitness probably sucks, so sooner or later this was not going to work, but what the heck! At about 150 yards, I could still see the lead people right in front of me, decided to take a breath to my left to see what was there, and whammo, inhaled a mouthful of water. Usually, when this happens, I keep swimming and just let the breathing come to me. That idea lasted about 2 strokes, when I quickly realized that I was already anaerobic and not being able to breath was not very compatible with this. So, I did a couple of breast strokes, and the lead group quickly put distance in front of me. I actually felt a little panicky for about 30-40 seconds, but just tried to relax and start swimming easily. I figure that I lost at least a minute doing this. I then got into a nice relaxed rhythm and just kept that until I hit the half way point, I then tried to intermix some harder efforts, until I briefly inhaled a little more water. I actually realized somewhere along the way that my nose felt stuffed and it was affecting my breathing. I also knew that the run from the beach to T1 was all uphill and that if I came out of the water winded, I wouldn’t be running. So, I just kept a solid and relaxed effort for the rest of the swim. Got out of the water, felt reasonably good and started jogging up the hill and stairs. I never walked, passed a number of people and got to my bike and found the guy next to me, Allen, (in my age group and probably a better swimmer than me), still getting ready for the bike. My swim time (including the run up to T1) was 18:06, which was ~100th/470 people. I probably lost 1-2 minute due to my breathing issues, which would have put me much closer to the top of my age group. Considering my lack of swim fitness, have to be pretty happy with this. I made my usual quick transition (just losing about 10 seconds getting my wetsuit off inefficiently, and ironically my 64 second transition was 8 seconds slower than the fastest transition in my age group) and actually got out of T1 before Allen. Mounted my bike, got my left foot in my shoe and made my way as quickly as possible on the bike path to the rode, headed down the road and got my other foot in the shoe and got the straps on. I tried to start out reasonably fast and solid, and shortly thereafter Allen passed me. I stayed right behind him (3 bike lengths) and realized that it was feeling too easy and so I ultimately passed him. Not sure how close he stayed behind me, but he ultimately passed me again on the longest uphill. I kept a solid effort and pace, in fact no one else passed me, not surprising based on the timing of the age group starts and my lackluster swim. I hit the first short hill and hammered up it, and then stayed solid going up the longer hill that Allen passed me on. I didn’t get on his wheel this time, although I probably should have thought about it, but kept him in visual range until T2 (although he kept getting a little further ahead). At the top of the hill I wasn’t able to shift into my 53 front chainring for almost a minute, probably losing some top end speed coming down the hill. My battery was low, oops, my fault! Stayed aero the whole bike, tried to keep a solid effort, but didn’t want to blow up and be trashed for the run. Interestingly, my average power was only 145, and Normalized Power was ~155, less than my half ironman efforts, and probably ironman as well. Still managed to average about 22mph over the roads. My bike split was 33:46 (61st overall).
Got to T2, good dismount and got to my rack, Allen was still getting his shoes on and actually just headed out of T2 several seconds in front of me. My transition was 55 seconds, again, just 10 seconds slower than the fastest transition in my age group. My legs felt good, my breathing was ok, but, per my usual recent M.O., I just wasn’t very fast. I got into a rhythm and kept it the whole run, trying to keep my breathing about every 3rd step, which meant that I was going as hard as I possibly could. Passed half way on the run by John, who never beats me, and he looked fresh, so I just kept pounding away. Hit the finish line, I was tired, as usual, felt like I gave it everything I had, but I didn’t really have that muchJ. My run split was 26:26, 8:32 pace, the slowest sprint tri run I’ve had in a very long time (ranking me 160th overall). My final time of 1:20:16 was 5th in my age group (out of 19) and 70th overall (out of 470 people). Still, not bad for 52 years old, but not up to the standards I’ve been setting for myself. Imagine what I can do if I actually train!

Just as I realized as I finished Ironman St. George that I needed to reduce my training and focus on my life, as I finished the run today, I realized that it is time to fully reengage in training. I needed to focus on life, but that’s under control now, and I want to focus on training and getting back into shape, or at least the kind of shape that I want to be in!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Let's run Medicare like a business!

I've spent the last 22 years of my life trying to deliver the best care to seniors. I've also tried to develop new and innovative programs during that time period. I have evidence that the care I deliver as a Geriatrician is less costly than the average physician. Yet, all I hear from our legislators when it comes to our Medicare program is "we want evidence". Do you think that Steve Jobs asked for "evidence", or a 5 year pilot program, before putting out the first Mac or the first I-pad? Do successful businesses run tests for 10 years before deciding to roll out a new product? Of course not! They hire the best and the brightest and they let them do their jobs.

We Geriatricians understand that less is often more in the care of our patients. Listening to patients and families will often supply us with important clues as to the best course of action. Reducing or stopping medications that haven't helped, but are producing side effects, often helps patients feel better. How do I know this? I've been doing these things for the past 22 years. I have cared for thousands of 80 year olds during that time period. If we put together a room full of Geriatricians with years of experience won't we get better answers on how to care for the older population than by doing a five or ten year pilot program on a limited number of patients? I've been part of such groups and we have developed our recommendations. And our government keeps asking for more "evidence".

We hear daily about the unmanageable costs of the Medicare program. If we're serious about fixing the problem, we don't need any more studies. Let's run Medicare like a good business. Get the best Geriatrician's in the country together and let them tell us what to do. I've offered to share what I know with my legislators on numerous occasions. I have many colleagues that would readily do the same.

It couldn't be worse than the way things are now, could it?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Boulder 70.3 Race Report

Going into this race I tried something different. Since this summer has been quite hectic and my training has been somewhat limited (6-8 hours a week, with little swimming time), I did a “crash week” the week prior to the race, putting in close to 15 hours over one week with some serious intensity. Again, it was mostly biking and running, with a very small amount of swimming. Since my swim is mostly form anyway, I wasn’t that concerned about losing more than a few minutes on the swim without affecting the rest of my race. While I had hoped to bet three solid days of rest prior to the race, Thursday was a 17 hour day with 5 hours of driving, Friday included a solid 45 minute bike and 25 minute run with intensity, and then registering and running errands for my family the whole day (so much for keeping my feet up). Saturday was a little better, but started with buying my daughter a car in the morning (really), then went to lunch and the movies with my family in the afternoon. I did get a good night sleep on Friday and even last night, going to bed around 8:30pm and getting up around 3:30am.

I started right at the front, with my age group and the 20-24 year old men and women. This made for a very hectic start at the front, which I proudly handled pretty well, finally settling into my stroke and focusing on my form. At around 500 yards, a group passed me and I decided to try to draft off them. I got too close and got kicked flush in the nose! It was my mistake and my fault. It hurt! I checked to make sure that there was no bleeding and that I wasn’t about to die (it was at the angle that people doing karate use to try to kill people by pushing the nasal bone back into the brain, ok, I’m a doctor, I can’t help but analyze these things). Didn’t really slow down too much, got back into my groove and continued to swim comfortably, finding people to draft off of for about 50% of the swim. Came out of the water feeling pretty comfortable, in a time of 36:33 (27th in my age group 499th overall). This was about 3 minutes slower than last year, but still my second fastest swim on this course. I felt fine coming out of the water, taking off my wetsuit as I made my was into transition. My T1 was 2:11, which was pretty solid and I quickly got on my back and out. I made a solid push up the one short hill coming out of the Reservoir and then settled into a very solid effort. I actually had my Disc wheel with powertap and monitor on and I set my monitor for wattage and average speed. My goal was actually to maintain 22 mph, and I knew that initially, coming out of the reservoir onto I-36 that my speed would be considerably lower than that, as it it a gradual uphill. That said, I didn’t stress over this and my average speed gradually picked up from about 16mph to 17mph and then, I think, 18 mph. I focused on gaining speed on any downhills and really dialing it in coming up the next hill, staying strong and maintaining my momentum. For one of the few times ever, I was passing people going uphill! In fact, very few people passed me on the uphills today. As I got onto the backside of the course, I could let loose with the speed and by the time I turned to head south again I was getting close to 22 mph average speed. For a change, I was hanging with a number of people as they passed me, and realized that even staying just outside the 4 length draft zone, I was able to get some draft. My wattage was lower and I was keeping up with guys who passed me. Unfortunately, I decided to try to pass one of these guys going up a hill, which I did, but clearly popped up my wattage to do so, and in a way that felt like I had just “burned” one match too many. I settled into a comfortable effort in order to regain my pacing and effort. I got to the half way point in 1:17:50 (21.5mph), and felt reasonably good at this point. Turns out my average power for the first half was 167 watts, with normalized power of 189 (coasting the downhills). Peak 1 minute power was 295w, Peak 10 minute power was 233w, Peak 30 minute power was 186w.

I was starting to feel better from my previous transgression and began getting focused on giving the second loop a very solid effort. Again, anytime a younger guy passed me, I would try to stay just outside of his draft zone and hang with him for a long as possible. The second loop ended up going just about like the first loop, although as I came onto the Diagonal I tried to relax a little, sit/stand up a few times and stretch, and make sure that I came into Transition feeling good. My time for the second loop was 1:18:36 (21.5mph), so I absolutely had the same speed for both laps! I am very happy with my consistency today, I don’t think that I could have done much better. My power data would suggest the same. My average power for the second half was 161 watts with normalized power of 182 (so just slightly lower than the first lap). Peak 1 minute power was 282w, Peak 10 minute power was 216w, Peak 30 minute power was 178w. Again, very similar to first lap. Of note, these are amongst my best 1/2 ironman power data ever. In fact, they compare to my sprint power data, go figure. My bike split was 2:36:26, which was 18th in my division and 320th overall. These numbers were very similar to my numbers last year, and was very close to my 2nd/3rd fastest bike on this course.

Of note, my nutrition on the bike was 5 gels and 200 calories of EFS drink, in addition to about 3 bottles of fluid, so about 700 calories. With about 40 minutes left on the bike, my stomach was feeling full and I was feeling a little uncomfortable, so I backed off the nutrition for about 20 minutes and then started taking some small sips.

I had my usual quick Transition in 1:35, and was quickly out on the run. I immediately settled into breathing every 4th step and keeping a comfortable and solid pace. I walked briefly on a few of the steep uphills, but otherwise ran the whole way. I felt fine, and didn’t know my pacing without a watch, but it didn’t really matter, I was going at the effort that I could go at. Turns out that I did the first lap in 1:02:01, or 9:28 pace, which was similar to last year when my legs were cramping. It was quite hot out, and I did put ice in my shorts at every aid station, and sponges under my top. I actually stayed pretty cool despite the heat. When I got to the end of the first lap, I immediately upped my effort to breathing every 3rd step. I did the second lap in 1:01:12, or 9:20 pace, so I actually did negative split the course. At mile 9 I began to have a slight side stitch, so I worked it while running and it was fine until about mile 11, when it acted up with a bit of a vengeance. I grasped my right ribs under the diaphragm and pushed as hard as I could and managed to stave off the side stitch. I kept pushing my effort with breathing every 3rd step and forcibly, and loudly, exhaling with each breath. I also kept trying to visualize my long run in San Diego two weeks ago, where I kept 7:50 pace for 40 minutes at the end of a 15 mile run. It’s a shame that I could only keep 9:20 pace at altitude for what was a similar feeling effort. As I got close to the finish line, I was able to pick up my pace for the last 200 yards and finish strongly. I really don’t think that I could have given the run a harder effort, and ironically, my run split of 2:03:13 was 16th in my division and 348th overall. I took in one gel and 100 calories of EFS during the run, as well as grabbing some coke during the second loop. I never felt like I was bonking, so I think that my nutrition was fine.

My final time of 5:19:58 placed me 16th overall in my division and 348th overall. Pretty close to last years race. Even though my run was slower than I’d hoped, my run placement was my best placement in my age group, not something that I usually do! In talking to some other guys, they’re run times were slower as well, so maybe not so bad.

I had hoped for a time of 5:08 (that included a run goal of 1:54), so I swam and biked pretty much what I wanted to do, but couldn’t do the run pace that I had hoped for. Interestingly, I was 4 minutes behind 15th place in my age group and 10 minutes ahead of 17th place! That was a bit crazy. Just 12 minutes out of 10th place, who was Kevin Edwards, who has won the age group in previous years. Of course, the winning time in the age group today was 4:37:07 (27’ swim, 2:28 bike, 1:38 run). In terms of my future, clearly I still have to run faster, though my coach would probably say that in order to do that I need to get even fitter on the bike! If I ever have time to swim more, I could probably bring my swim times down as well.

I was actually 2 1/2 minutes slower than last year, which included by far my best swim ever, a solid bike, and a run that was hampered by leg cramps. Ironically, the difference was almost entirely in the swim. Still, I’m not sorry about my recent decrease in swimming, as I used the time to work on both biking and running.

All in all, another race where I can hold my head high, knowing that I gave it everything I’ve got. I really don’t think that I could have gone much harder or much faster. In fact, if I’d tried to go faster at anytime during the race, I probably would have ended up going slower in the end. I gave this race every ounce of energy I had today. That’s always the goal. I also passed a lot of people on the bike and even passed some people on the run. No one older than me passed me today as well, so I had the luxury of passing people 20-30 years younger than me throughout the day, always a nice feeling.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Giving it everything I've got

I had been visualizing this race for the past week. My plan was to swim hard, bike harder and then run as fast as I could.

I had planned on getting to the race site early and getting in a very long easy warm up. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. My daughter got her driver’s license today and we went to the DMV, where it took 2 1/2 hours! So, instead, I had just about 15-20 minutes of easy biking and then 10 minutes of swimming before the race.

The start also didn’t go as planned. There was actually no organized start, people were milling about in the water and on the beach when the horn went off! I was just at the edge of the water, realized what was going on and turned and just swam as fast as I could. I imagine that the guys who happened to be about 20 yards in actually got a good head start. I actually felt like I did a good job getting to the first buoy in what appeared to be the front pack of swimmers. I swam the whole swim as hard as I could, to the point where I needed to walk a bit coming out of the water on the way to transition. My swim time was over a minute slower than last year, but most everyone swam slower and I’m pretty sure that the course was long. I typically do this 1/2 mile loop at the Res in 12 minutes, and today it took closer to 15. It seemed like the last turn buoy kept drifting further away due to the current! Still, I was only a couple of minutes behind the fastest guys in my age group getting into T1. Since the route to T1 was uphill about 50 yards, I figure that my swim was very solid.

I had a very quick transition and headed out onto the course. There is an immediate hill that I had planned to go hard on. Because of the swim, I couldn’t quite go all out, but I still attacked the hill as hard as I could, getting off to a solid start. I got up to speed, kept a fairly high cadence (I’d guess about 90-95) and just kept in my head Phil Ligett’s favorite repose about cyclists “turning themselves inside out”, that’s what I tried to do. I was breathing every 2 pedal strokes and for a change, when faster cyclists passed me, they didn’t put a lot of distance on me right away, I was really maintaining a good pace and effort. There were the usual headwinds at the Res, wind conditions were 15-20 mph; and on the way back, I had hoped to attack the hardest hill, which I did, but couldn’t quite give it the kind of effort I’d hoped to give for fear of completely blowing up. I could feel the lactic acid building up in the form of incipient side stitches, but continued to press hard. As I came down the long downhill (with yet another headwind) and saw guys coming back up the same way, I realized that I had misread the course map and that the course was about a mile longer than I’d thought, and finished with a long mild climb. As I hit the turnaround at the end of the road and came through it, I saw the top woman (she started 5 minutes behind me) and made it my goal to stay ahead of her until the run. I was able to do that and completed the bike in just under 35 minutes, which was a minute faster than last year at a pace of ~ 21 mph, not bad with the headwinds.

I had another quick transition and started out on the run. My plan was to start running as fast as I could, but I couldn’t completely ignore the side stitches and the obvious fact that I’d bike as hard as I could. I tried to focus on good turnover, massaged my diaphragm, focused on grunting hard with every exhalation, and just going as fast as I could. I was breathing every 2nd to third step and to anyone standing on the side of the road, probably sounded like I was near death. But I was committed to running as fast as I could. When the top woman passed me, about 1/4 mile into the run, I stayed fairly close to her for another 1/4 mile, my legs felt absolutely great, but my breathing was holding me back. The faster I would run, and I tried to pick up my pace multiple times, the more difficult my breathing became. Still, I kept pushing, hoping that it would get better. In fact, during the last mile I felt a little more comfortable in terms of my breathing. Instead, I began feeling a bit light headed! But I still continued to push, to turn the legs over, to keep grunting, and to keep breathing hard. As I got to about 100 yards from the finished I turned back and saw someone gaining on me, he was about 20 yards back, so I just picked up my leg speed and went as fast as I could to the finish. Good thing, the guy behind me was in my age group! I got a podium spot in the age group (officially 2nd, but really I was 3rd--they screwed up the aging up numbers and another friend of my should have been first in our age group instead of 3rd in the younger one). My run time was about 8:13 average per mile. My heart and lungs would have rather I did 9:00 pace, my legs wanted to run sub-7:00 pace.

When I got to the finish line I stopped and it was a good thing. I don’t think that I stopped breathing hard for several minutes.

A couple of post mortem thoughts. My legs felt fantastic! If I was at sea level, I could have run faster. This is clearly an issue for me and I need to figure out how to work on it. My heart and lungs and ability to clear lactic acid are holding me back. My legs are capable of running faster. That said, I am just 4 weeks post-ironman St. George. I don’t know how much influence that has on me at this point. I was able to go out first thing this morning and run an easy 10 miles (didn’t wear a HRM or garmin), not sure of the pace but probably in the 9+ minute/mile range

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Lance Armstrong, cyclists and politicians

I don't really know what to make of the Lance Armstrong situation, and am not sure that I really should care. I read a comment recently that we have bankers, insurance companies and politicians screwing us all out of our money, and we're spending our tax dollars investigating guys who choose to risk their health in order to win a bike race. Where are our priorities? I met Tyler Hamilton a few years ago and immediately knew he was lying, funny isn't it. The evidence would seem to be against Lance, but I will always give someone the benefit of the doubt until I have the facts. The irony is, if we believe that even Lance doped, then what to we make of all of the pros today, have they just not gotten caught yet? Did Contador choose a steroid that he could blame on contaminated meat on purpose? The way he is dominating the Giro, either he's just a freak, or he doped too. One thing is clear, whether you're a politician, a CEO, or a top cyclist, it is easy to be seduced by power and fame and believe that you're above it all. So, again, why are we investigating cyclists, and not the real criminals?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Ironman St. George Race Report

Pre-race Race Report

So, it’s Saturday morning, May 7th, I wake up at 3:45 am and drink some vitamin water and eat a banana and a few pretzels right away, as well as a small yogurt. This is about 400 calories right away. I put on my race outfit and then put sunscreen on me, making sure to get all of the important spots. I put on my race chip (that’s one thing you can’t forget). I drink some more, eat some more pretzels and the yam that I prepared last night. Another 200 calories. I have more pretzels to munch on over the next hour.

I’ve got my wetsuit ready to go, my swim cap/neoprene cap/goggles/Body Glide/gel all together and ready to go. I’ve got two bottles of water, my bottle with my race nutrition in it, and an extra bottle of water for getting my hair wet before putting the cap on (one thing about having long hair). I’ll put the chamois butter on now, never know how much of it washes away, but it seems to do ok. I’ve got a couple of top layers and a wind breaker to keep me warm this morning while I wait, as well as sweat pants. I will put all of this on.

I’m bringing my bicycle pump in order to have one less thing to stress about and to save some time this morning, TJ (#1121) will use it as well and his wife will take it back with her. I do double check as I get in my car. I’ve got my Bike and Run Special Needs bags, and my morning clothes bag has my nutrition and 3 bottles of water in it, as well as my wetsuit, cap, etc. And, the bike pump.

I leave the hotel at 4:15 am and drive the 1 mile to find a parking space not far from T2. I then head over to the drop off for the special needs bags. Now it’s time to catch the bus. I get in line for a bus and leave around 4:45am, so I get to the swim site around 5:15 am. Now, since my T1 bag is already there, all I have to do is put my Nutrition bottle on my bike, fill my Profile bottle with water and put air in my tires. Then, I get in line for the port-a-potty. I don’t want to be rushing to get to the start like I did in California. I put on body glide, my wetsuit and my swim caps.

The pros start at 6:45 am, and we start @ 7:00am, so I get in the water about 6:50am and swim to the front of the line, towards the center. The water is cold, but I’m moving and starting to warm up. I originally plan to be right at the front, but people keep getting in front of me and the line is moving forward, and I’m moving backward. Finally, I find some clear water and actually get close to the front of the line.

I start out right in the thick of things and head out solidly when the cannon goes off. I do my best to breath bilaterally when I can, but adjust depending upon any waves and where people are around me. As people passing me or get ahead of me at the start and I make a concerted effort to latch onto feet whenever I can. I maintain form, and really keep in mind all that I’ve learned about swimming properly over the past few years. While I certainly don’t want to “blow up” on the swim, I also don’t want the swim to feel too leisurely. There has to be some “effort” attached if I’m going to have a good swim, but it’s an easy effort. It’s rough at the start, but I’m used to that. I keep my elbows high to ward off blows to the head (only got one elbow in the face about half way through the swim). When the occasional mouthful of water occurs (3 times overall during this swim), I spit it out, maintain calmness and keep swimming. I find myself feeling like I’m keeping pace with the people around me for much of this swim. Calmness is the key, as is enjoying this part of the race. The water is cold, but that feels really good. I attack the turn buoys, making sure that I don’t get too slowed down by the inevitable crush of people around them. I come to the large rock island, that tells me the last turn buoy is around the corner and I need to be getting ready to leave the water. I increase my kicking to get blood flowing to my legs. I start visualizing T1. Out of the water in 1:10:56 just a minute faster than last year, although I feel like I swam better and harder, others tell me later they think the swim was either longer or with a greater current against us this year (comparing folks who raced last year).

I get out of the water, unvelcro my wetsuit, pull my strap down and get the arms off. I make my way up the ramp and lay down for the wetsuit strippers. I have my wetsuit in hand and am just a few feet from my Gear Bag. Last row, #1738, I grab my bag and quickly move to the changing tent, take off my goggles and swim cap, take my bike shoes out of the bag, grab my sunglasses and put them on, then grab my race belt and put it around my waist. Shoes go on my feet, strap them on, grab helmet and put it on my head, buckle up, then stuff my wetsuit, caps and goggles into the bag and get sunscreen put on my neck and shoulders (whoops, they didn’t do my legs and my right calf sunburn will attest to that), then head to row #30, grab my bike and I run down the carpet in T1, not too hard, but enough to remind myself how good I feel. T1 takes me 3:30, over 6 minutes less than last year!

I get the the Mount line get on and clip in. The only focus I have for the first few minutes is getting comfortable on my bike and keeping a good cadence that feels easy. I make the right turn out of the reservoir and head down the road. There’s a slight headwind, but it’s also slightly downhill. I think “be small”, which will be my mantra for the day. I will minimize the wind today. I take some sips from my Profile bottle, it’s just water right now, and continue to get into an easy feeling rhythm. People pass me, but I don’t care, I’m moving pretty fast and I’m not working hard. About 20 minutes into the bike, I start up the longest sustained climb on the course. I take my Nutrition bottle and put took long squirts into the Profile bottle. 300 calories and I’m good to go until the first aide station. The climb feels a little long, but it also feels easy. I stay “small”, tucked into my aero position. I’m hydrating and take my first gel, then my second gel. When I get to the first aide station I slow down, making absolutely sure that I take a bottle of water from the volunteer, and immediately pour it into my profile bottle, filling it to the top. After I get past the aide station, I squeeze two more squirts from my nutrition bottle in the Profile bottle, another 300 calories, stir it and “get small” again.

I keep the effort easy on the bike, the first loop goes by in no time and doesn’t feel that tough, I did have to stand going up “the wall” towards Veyo, but didn’t have to press it, it just felt easier to stand, just like at California. As I climb “the wall” I start thinking about my special patients who have passed away, and as I think of each one, I feel a surge of energy. A ton of people pass me going up “the wall”, in fact, lots of people pass me on every steep climb, but generally I pull many of them back on the downhills and less steep sections. I get the my special needs bag and take my additional gels, eat a few ginger cookies and I’m on my way. I’ve got the downhill to recover some, although I do pedal when the opportunity for some extra speed that doesn’t cost much occurs. I continue to stay “small” in my aero position. One problem I have during the first loop of the bike is stomach cramps. They are manageable, generally worse in my aero position, but I am committed to staying aero. But, I can suffer with stomach cramps on the bike, it only hurts and doesn’t seem to affect my performance. What I didn’t really pay attention to was the reality that the cramps got worse every time I took electrolyte capsules (more on this later). Before I know it, I’m already climbing on the second loop and I still feel good. As I get to the latter part of the climb I decide to just maintain my effort, I feel good, and I continue to make sure that I’m not straining and my legs aren’t burning. The second time up “the wall” feels so much better than last year, I know that my race is on target. No one is passing me anymore, and in fact, after I get over “the wall”, I start to pull back most of the people who had passed me earlier. Of note, my bike pace for the first section (from the swim to the first loop) was 18.54mph, not bad on a rolling section with a headwind, going easy; my pace on the first loop was 17.46mph, not bad for 30 miles of climbing followed by a downhill against a moderate head/crosswind. My second loop was 17.01 mph, really not bad, the headwinds were brutal (I’m going to guess over 20mph with gusts to 30-40mph, a little scary in fact. I stop eating about Mile 108 and just take a few sips of water. Summarizing my nutrition on the bike, I take in 1800 calories of carbopro, about 1000 cal of gel and 4-5 ginger cookies (another 100-200 calories), so about 3000 calories for the 6:24:28 bike ride, 25 minutes faster than last year, and conditions were much more challenging this year. In fact I’m 38th in my age group and 558th overall on the bike.

I’m heading down Main Street and T2 beckons. I dismount and a volunteer takes my bike, I move left to the last row and call my #1738 and a volunteer hands me my bag. I jog to the changing tent, sit down, take off my bike shoes, put my hat on, take my shoes out of the bag, grab the vaseline which I quickly put on my left foot, followed by my left Zoot Compression sock, up to the heel, then up the leg; then do the same with my right foot, vaseline, sock, slide my feet into my shoes and grab my race belt. A volunteer had put my racing shoes into my gear bag, which he takes. I up, on my feet, and moving out of the changing tent onto the course. I stop briefly to get sunscreen (fortunately everywhere), I put water in my two small Fuel Belt water bottles (with 50 cal of carbopro in each already), then grab a couple of cups of water to drink and start moving onto the run course. T2 takes me 4:37, five minutes faster than last year.

I’m excited, all I need is a good run and I will smash last years time. But it is not to be.
My mantra is that I am going to run the whole course this year. I start very easy, breathing every 5th step. I put on my arm coolers and get into a rhythm. I will enjoy the scenery and use it to keep out the fatigue and suffering that is inevitable. I just need to keep running. I only pay attention to the mile markers form the second loop, 14, 15, 16...I’m practicing for how good those numbers will look the second time around. I’ve broken the course into four sections, essentially the turnaround points tell me that I’ve made it through 1/4 of the course. Unfortunately, this plan is not to be. My stomach cramps have returned and as soon as I hit the short 8% grade section, I realize that I have to walk. When the grade is 1% or so, I can run, but anything higher is a killer. Not only am I getting stomach cramps, but a side stitch as well. I start taking in cola, and that’s “ok”, but doesn’t solve my issues. I end up running about 65% of the first loop of the run, keeping an overall pace of about 10:45/mile. It is hot, I’m putting sponges in my tri top. One thing is notable, I’m not upset by how I feel. I’m not disappointed. I’m not discouraged. It is what it is and I will persevere.

I’m getting my Run Special Needs bag after the first loop, those ginger cookies taste ok , but I’m struggling with my nutrition. I decide to hydrate and eat, focusing on cola and pretzels for the next three uphill miles, which I walk. I figure, if I start feeling better I can do better. Adjust to the circumstances. I’m really trying to take control over the situation. But, I’m continuing to have trouble running uphill, every time I try, my GI tract rebels. So, I fall back into last years approach, walk every uphill and run every downhill. Running the downhills is actually a little harder this year, but I do it, because I know I can. The difficulty certainly has something to do with the 90+ degree temperatures and how my nutrition has taken a turn for the worse. With 6 mile to go, I decide to limit my intake to water and some cola and see if my stomach feels better. Not so much. At mile 24 I get a nosebleed! I tear off a piece of sponge and stuff it in my nose and don’t miss a beat. I have to do this twice before the nosebleed is under control. Before I know it, I’ve got 2 miles to go, it’s hard, but I’m running the whole way. As I get to the finish line and hear Mike Reilly say, Michael Wasserman, from Englewood, Colorado, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN! My run time is 5:02:23, 4 minutes slower than last year, but 29th in my age group (best age group result of each discipline!) and 509th overall. Everyone suffered today, I think that this years race was actually harder than last year, but I have gone 33 minutes faster. Overall, I’m 29th in my age group and 509th overall, also an improvement from last year. Not bad for a 52 year old guy.

I was really happy with my swim and bike, and the run was what it was. If I had tried to push harder, I very well could have done much worse. I adjusted and did the best I could under tough conditions. I feel really good about how I did in the worlds toughest ironman (after the race spoke to a guy who has done Lanzarote, he thought this was harder).

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Iron Commitment

It's just 18 days before Ironman St. George and I've been giving a lot of thought lately to the commitment I made this year. Sometimes in life we take on tasks and goals without fully realizing the extent of the commitment we have made and the impact on our lives. Last year I did my first ironman, and finished it. It was an accomplishment, especially completing an ironman just 6 months after breaking my hip and clavicle. I patiently recovered and then decided that I wanted to not only do another ironman, but to do St. George again. As work took over my life last summer and fall, and knowing that there was a light at the end of that tunnel, I decided in the late fall to make my commitment to St. George more than just finishing another ironman. I committed to doing my best at this years race. Whether that brings me a qualifying slot for the World Championship at Kona, I don't know. Ironically, while that is what pushed me to give this years race everything I've got, I am once again confronted with the reality that it still is about the journey. Everything else will ultimately take care of itself.

Ironman training can be all consuming, especially, if you are pushing your limits. It's one thing to train to finish the race, and it's another thing to train to be ones fastest an best in each discipline on race day. That's what I have done. I have achieved new heights in my run, bike and swim training. I've realized that I can be competitive on race day. But this has come at a price. While I'm only working 3 days a week, training 16-17 hours a week ultimately takes twice that amount of time. There's the preparation for workouts, there's the cool down. There's the recovery and yes, the fatigue, an almost constant fatigue. I've handled it pretty well, but at times I'm sure it's made me a bit irritable. My wife and family doesn't really deserve that, and I will be needing to make it up to them in the months following this race.

My wife says that ironman is an addiction, and she is partially true. The highs of realizing that ones body can take more than it ever has is probably an addictive experience. However, it is also a reminder that we can achieve whatever we set our minds to. I'm not sure why I have to prove that to myself, except that achieving physical goals has always been something that seemed out of my reach. Maybe my childhood with asthma has something to do with this. Who knows?

To complete an ironman is one commitment. To be competitive at an ironman is a completely different type of commitment. My mind is now trained to react positively when confronted with the fatigue I will feel on the bike and certainly on the run. Instead of slowing down and "enjoying the view" as I did last year, this year I will remember that I can keep running despite the fatigue.

I am trying to avoid having time goals this year, but I know that they are still in my head. I want to swim faster than last year, and I absolutely am capable of that. I must ride my bike faster, and my training suggests that this is doable. Finally, I want to run the entire course, rather than just walk the uphills and run the downhills like I did last year.

The one thing that I know I can control and do faster are the transitions. Last year was a daze, and I managed to spend almost 20 minutes between the two transitions. This year I will use my obsessive nature and move quickly through both transitions, and they will be much faster.

I will not be defined by my results at St. George. I won't even be defined by my effort, although I expect to give it my best, as I always do. I will be defined by my commitment. However, when St. George is over, I will be defined by my commitment to my wife and family. For, so often, my other commitments in life have typically come before my wife and family. I've always made a good excuse for that, but no more. That will be my primary commitment.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Attaining Goals

When I look back over the past eight weeks, I actually have trouble believing what I've achieved. My buildup of running and biking as been nothing less than remarkable. In fact, I'm achieving goals that I've never been close to before.

In the last six weekends my run totals have been as follows: 20, 22, 18.5, 25.8, 23, and a half marathon (18). In terms of solo runs, in four of the last five weekends I've run 20, 20, 19, and 19 miles.
In terms of biking, for the last 8 weekends I've had bike totals of 94, 100, 85, 116, 80, 0, 80, and 88 miles.

For St. George, I probably still need to get my bike volume up a little bit more. However, from a run perspective, I'm ready. Last year, I never came close to these run distances or totals. It bodes well for me achieving my goals at St. George.

Even more amazing is how I've felt after these weekends and runs in particular. Really, no soreness to speak of. Plus, I'm just enjoying the long runs, they don't really seem very long. This will be nice on race day. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to a short day in 3 weeks at the California 70.3 half ironman!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

No Stress, No Pressure, Just Enjoy the Effort

I can't believe that I haven't blogged since October. Of course, I was consumed with the sale of my business for the last 6 months of 2010. On December 1st I was no longer the stressed out owner of a large company. The amount of stress that came off my shoulders was remarkable, I never really realized how much stress I carried around with me and what an impact it had on me. I have felt good and relaxed for the past 6 weeks. My training shows it! In fact, a few weeks ago, my swim coach had me do 4 x 50 yards fast and I started to say, "I'll do them in 40...", I was going to say 40 seconds. Instead, I said, "I'm just going to go fast and not focus on the time". I did the 50's in 34 seconds each! More often than not now I try not to set specific time goals in my training. I really focus on the effort. The result? I'm going faster in my swims and runs, and I'm producing more power on the bike. There is a lesson in life here. Stress does lots of bad things to us. It isn't healthy. It slows you down. Taking the stress away can be transforming. I'm really trying to remember this when I'm working out, racing, dealing with patients, spending time with my family. There's no point in letting the stress get to you.

My journey to make myself a better person, husband, father, and triathlete has begun. I'm loving it. I'm doing workouts in the pool that I never thought possible. I'm fitter, stronger and faster than I was a year ago (at which time I was just 10 weeks off of breaking my hip and shoulder). This bodes well for all of my races. However, I will really try hard to avoid thinking about specific time goals. I just need to go out and enjoy the work and the results will come.