swimstart

This is the start of the swim for this year’s Ironman Arizona.

Yes, we started swimming in the dark. Made it difficult to sight the route once the sun came up.

But I still had a better swim than I could have imagined – which was followed by a bike segment that was also much better than expected – which was followed by a run which was 15 minutes faster than last year.

All that SOUNDS good. But, in reality – not so much. But, then, maybe so…

“Lemme ‘splain. No, is too much. Lemme sum up.” – Inigo Montoya

For what seemed to be good reasons, I was particularly freaked out about this race; I knew that my training had not gone as well. I hadn’t had as much volume, it had been slower, I had done very few 100+ mile rides. I had also gotten overtrained in late summer, which made me slower; and I had to recover from being overtrained, so that made me slower. I was fat and had been sick.

In addition, the strange injury which had crippled my previous IM had returned. This was a weird something in my calf such that, when I started running, it would seize up, and it wouldn’t even let me walk freely for a few days. I kept testing it in the weeks leading up to the race, and it always showed up. This injury had caused me to walk the 26 miles of IMCdA, only daring to run the last two tenths down the chute.

So I wasn’t really looking forward to this race. I mentioned several times in the weeks leading up to IMAZ that perhaps we should just go ahead and sell out and move to Cozumel; this is my default response to anything I don’t like.

I was actually walking around scared for days before flying down to PHX, and then for the days before the race; on Saturday, I was well-nigh paralyzed. (My friend Tia decided to rub some lavender under my nose, as she thought this would calm me down. I had mixed emotions about that 🙂 I was doing a lot of praying and going through Step 10 over and over again. Ethel was remarkably consistent throughout this period; she just kept telling me that I was going to do the race, even though I kept asking her to take me back to the airport.

So when I woke up on Sunday morning, I could barely move; I thought for a while that fear had actually paralyzed me, or made me comatose. But I got in the car and Ethel drove me to the transition area and I went through the motions and eventually realized that, no, I wasn’t actually scared any more – I was calm. As has happened with so many things in my life, the purpose of the fear was to stop me from acting; once I realized that I was going to go ahead, the fear gave up and went back to wherever it comes from.

I made some mistakes in setting up transition that would haunt me later, but as scattered as I was, that’s to be expected. I said my prayers and got my last set of hugs and kisses and got into the line to go into the water.

Unlike previous Ironman events, I found myself looking forward to getting into the water; Corch Ian had given me his old Blue Seventy Helix wetsuit, and that darn thing was shaving 10-15 seconds/100y of my swim times. I’d done the practice swim the day before and knew that the water felt just the right temperature, so in I went! Wheee!

Corch had told me to stay to the right, out of the craziness, so I did that, and encountered none of the normal panic or shortness of breath that usually attends big swim starts. From the get-go I felt like this was something I knew how to do; the only real issue occurred when the sun came up, and it became more difficult to sight staring directly into the dawn. It cost me about 150 yards worth of wasted distance on the way out, but once I made the turn, that was over. Time to swim!

It seemed like I was passing folks the whole way, and I came out of the water in 1:25:58 – according to my Garmin, the 4224 yards turned into 4331 (due to my wandering) at 1:59/100y.  Sub-2 pace for an Ironman! Woo-hoo!

…While I love the way that the Helix lets me swim, it is a tight fit, so I lost a good bit of time in transition while two volunteers tried to get my rather corpulent self out of the wetsuit. But even though I lost minutes, I was still so excited about my swim that nothing could affect my spirits, and I went through transition in 12-something and was on the bike and heading down the road.

And that’s when the trouble started.

For one thing, I had put my BAT tracking beacon in the wrong bag, so I didn’t have it with me on the bike. And I was going through transition in a hurry, so I forgot to get my FOOD! So I started the bike without having eaten anything yet.

The bike course is a triple out-and-back – surface streets through Tempe, then out the Beeline Highway to the eastern edge of Fountain Hills. It’s a mild uphill on the way out – no real hills for somebody who’s been doing St. George and Coeur D’Alene. I figured it would go great.

The forecast had said “High of 78, calm wind”, but everybody who’d done this race had said beforehand that “There will be a headwind on the Beeline Highway”. I need to remember to listen to folks.

As soon as I came out of the built-up area around the race start, I felt the headwind. The further out I went, the worse the wind got. I watched my speed drop and drop even though I was putting out the same number of Watts, and started to get discouraged.

But I told myself that “winds are usually at their highest in the early morning and late evening, when the temperature changes are greatest” (note: I have no idea if this is true, but it sounded good, and it got me through the first loop).

I stopped on the way back down the Beeline at Special Needs and went ahead and got my bag of goodies, since I hadn’t had anything to eat, and ate my first burrito by holding it between the aero bars. Came back down to Tempe and made the turnaround.

Uh-oh – if anything, the wind has picked up for the second loop! NOOOO!!!!

All the way back out to Fountain Hills, I got more and more discouraged; I finally told God that, if He would get me out of this, I wouldn’t do another Ironman until He told me to do so. Made the turn and ate my second burrito, and really picked up some speed on the way back to town; but as I got near Tempe, I realized that I was about to learn something about my character; would I actually have the will to turn around and head back into that uphill headwind a third time? Or would I just wave at Ethel and head on into the chute and say “Well, it wasn’t my day!” ?

It seems, though, that when I got back to Tempe I was so busy looking for Ethel on the way into town that I forgot to quit, and I headed back out – and Glory be! …the wind had died down!

At this point, something clicked, and I just started pushing hard – all during the third loop, the only folks who passed me were half my age, half my weight, and were on bikes that cost three times as much as my Noble Steed. I was flying, and having a ball! For the second time – wheeee!

Came off the bike in 6:09 – a 59 minute improvement over IMCdA – and came out of the second transition under 8 hours; so if I could maintain the 15 minute pace walking that I did the previous year, I was assured of at least an hour PR. Wheeee!

But the first two walking miles, I wasn’t maintaining that pace; I was more along 16:00 or 16:30 for some reason. I reckon it was pushing the bike so hard that was keeping me from being able to walk with the same stride and cadence as last year.

Well, as Shepard Book told Jayne, “If you can’t do something smart, do something right.”

I decided that, even if I had to limp, I’d still be able to finish under the cutoff, so I might as well try to run. I started running 400 steps and walking 400 steps, and that got my pace down around 12 minutes.

When I came through the transition area after four miles, Ethel saw me running and freaked out. I said “Well, might as well try it”. And I kept going.

The “run” (read: run/walk) went up and down both sides of the river – first a 4 mile east/west, then a 9 mile loop that went west, crossed the river, went east to the turnaround, and back. So from the four mile mark all the way to the half marathon, I didn’t see Ethel. But I kept going – 400 run, 400 walk – and was still doing that at the halfway point, at which point Ethel seemed amazed. Made it around the second 4 mile loop (Ethel was still amazed, but I was starting to hurt) and kept going until the mile 18 sign.

At this point, Church was Out 🙂

The run/walk was now over; the death march began.

It HURT – EVERYTHING hurt. And it kept hurting worse and worse. I just kept walking. I watched my pace get slower and slower, but it didn’t seem to matter – I knew that I could fall down and roll the rest of the way, and I’d still have a PR.

My friends Tia and Chad came out to meet me around mile 24, by which time I was actually whimpering with every step – “hmmpp! hmmpp! hmmpp! hmmpp!” They thought that this was hilarious (I hate my friends Tia and Chad 🙂 and they accompanied me almost all the way to the chute.

I was in more pain than I could recall ever being in before, but I picked up my feet and managed to “jog” through the chute. I was delirious and stupid with fatigue; I did not hear Mike Reilly say that I was an Ironman. But I did see Kim as I came through the chute – in addition, our friends Bob and Caroyl, whom I had understood were in Cozumel, seemed to be with her, and so now I knew delirium had set it.

I crossed the line in 14:22, an hour and twenty-eight minute PR.

Turns out that Bob and Caroyl were really there – they had flown back to PHX, and had decided to come see me finish before going to their house. Corch Ian was waiting for me at the finish as well, and there was my sweetie girl, all smiles and encouragement.

I was in more pain than I would have believed, and I was hungry, and I was tight – gave high-fives all around, and then went into the massage tent.

(The after-race events were rather peculiar, and will be discussed under separate cover).

I was very pleased with the race, and wound up signing up for next year just three days later (I’m assuming that God told me to, but sometimes God sounds like Ethel). I’d’a thought that a 14:22 would be a good place to quit, but the fact that I still wasn’t able to maintain a run/walk through the whole marathon left me determined to do a full Ironman right, at least once.

I had an easy week, and then started winter training. I’ve decided to (maybe) get a new tri bike, but not until I get down to race weight. I’m going to do everything I can to have at least ONE complete race next year.

 

 

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Well, currently, my job is no fun 😦

It’s a peculiarity of my life that, at any given point, some aspect of my existence will be a squeaky wheel – job, training, health, family, finances, recreation, church or the Fellowship; one of them will seem out of kilter.

It’s more likely that I simply have a magic magnifying mind that casts about to find the one thing that it wants to focus on as being cause for unhappiness. Right now, my training is going as well as can be expected, the wife and I are living like kittens, meetings and church are a blast, we’re getting close to ski season, I’ve got more money than I ever expected to have – and, oh yeah, the Crimson Tide are 6-0.

And I live in Whitefish, Montana, so – there’s that 🙂

slider_mainst_summer

So it must be the job that’s out of whack 🙂

Now, let’s be clear – I work for a great company – just how great cannot be overstated. And I work with great folks – there’s no dead weight or grumpiness at Workday, unless it’s me.

When I say the “job” is out of whack, I mean my job, specifically – and the way that I am doing, and HOW I am doing, at that job. I got myself into a project that is painful and slow. It was my own nosiness that brought the project about; I happened to notice some technical debt, some refactoring that seemed necessary, and I created a Jira to point it out.  “When you’re warm and happy in a pile of poop, KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT“. Then my overconfidence caused me to agree to take the project on.

Hubris, ate, nemesis.

Now, to be sure, I was already the dumbest guy in the room before I took this project on; Workday is full of extremely smart, happy, productive people.

(I’ve been thinking about when I took this job – when I cleared away the stuff I wasn’t interested in, there were still three offers on the table. In one of them, I would walk in as a star; I not only aced the interview, but I showed them that there were things in their interview materials that they weren’t aware of. In another, I would have come in as a guy who would have been a good, average contributor once I came up to speed.

Instead, I took the job with the wildest bleeding-edge technology and the most hyped-up, hardworking, happiest workforce – shoulda known I’d wind up in the back of the pack 🙂

So being the dumbest guy in the room, I should have said “Gee, that’s a problem” and let somebody else take the lead. Did I do that? Noooooo!…and ever since, my life has been an increasingly miserable mess. And I’ve become acutely aware that I am not earning my salary at my present rate of productivity; that really eats my lunch.

So MY plan for fixing this problem is simple – quit. I should quit, and lay around the house and be a househusband, and take care of everything else in our lives, leaving Ethel nothing to do but her job (which is going swimmingly, by the way).  We’ve got plenty of money – sure, as long as I’m working, we have MORE money, which no doubt gives us a better lifestyle long-term, but let’s tell the truth and shame the Devil – I’m not going to alive much longer. My telomeres are a mess; my chromosomes are out to kill me. Plus, the Yellowstone volcano is gonna blow any minute, and where will my IRA be THEN?

But Ethel says no – she’s so mean and selfish.

So I’ll try to get the current changeset pushed into our codebase, and then maybe get the next-to-the-last (of some fifteen) Jiras out of the way, and hope that the next thing that comes down the pike doesn’t leave me frustrated and helpless to the point of despair.

Who knows? Maybe my job will take a big upswing, and I’ll be on top of things, and feel productive again!

…just in time to get injured and miss the Ironman. Or have my church go crazy (it happened in the early 2000s). Or we won’t get any snow 🙂 “Rozanne Rozanna Danna, it’s always sumpthin’…” 🙂

wedding

I was living – serving God my own way
And calling life sufficient my alone way
‘Till Someone thought that I’d be better serving
With another – one much more deserving.

That Someone brought you to me, cold, defenseless,
Knowing the sight of you would knock me senseless
(I must admit – your spirit was inspiring,
But ’twas other things that started me perspiring)
We kept fighting, and re-fighting, till I woke up
To the fact – we’d break up, but could not stay broke up.

Someone that I’d gladly run away with,
Someone that I’d cry and laugh and play with,
Someone that I’d always want to stay with –
And someone that I’m honored now to pray with.

Happy Anniversary, my love!

Okay, here we are in August of 2017.

Dow5Year

The Dow, S&P, NASDAQ, and my company’s stock are all at or near record highs. From the looks of things, I have plenty of money (or quick, liquid equivalents) in the bank.

At the same time, my job isn’t going great – I’m the dumbest guy in the room, and the other folks are all about half of my age and seem to do nothing but work and sit in traffic (they are Californians). So any day they are going to fire me, and I’ll be sitting on the sidewalk selling pencils in a jar.

At the same time, I’m 58 years old. Males in my family don’t live long – they fall over dead.

So I would think to myself (and I do, several times a day) “Self, this would be a great time to cash out and head to Mexico; with what I have now, I could get a nice little condo on Cozumel – just a few blocks from the beach, from the meeting house, and from the square – and I could put up a hammock on the back porch and nap. I’d be able to run and bike, I could swim at the Alberca Municipal, go to meetings and dive.” (I’ve got a pretty good connection for reasonably-priced scuba). “Ethel’s enjoying her job and is at the top of her game, so I could just be a househusband and dog daddy”.

That’s what I think to myself, several times a day – and Self, unsurprisingly, always agrees with me.

However – and equally unsurprisingly – Ethel does not agree with me. She just flat won’t do it.

She’s so mean and selfish!

The Big Book says “Selfishness – self-centeredness. That, we think, is the root of our troubles.” And it’s correct – obviously, Ethel’s selfishness is the root of my troubles 🙂

Okay, okay – no, that’s not what it means. But it’s amazing how quickly I can see selfishness in somebody else without seeing my own.

But the important thing is this – I have no idea whether or not Ethel’s refusal to sell everything and go to Mexico is actually selfish or not. But I do know this – I can never see selfishness in anyone else unless their actions or attitudes are somehow interfering with my own selfishness. My ego can only bump into other egos.

So I have three simple rules –

1) If I spot it, I got it.

2) If it makes me mad, I’ve got it bad.

3) Just because I think I see it, doesn’t mean you have to be it.

To amplify:

  1. I can spot a lot of things, often fairly accurately – say, active alcoholism, or binge eating, or grandiosity or laziness. I can spot them, because I’ve got them.
  2. Active alcoholism and binge eating, though, don’t bother me when I spot them. I’ve got those issues, but the have been dealt with and solutions found years ago. But grandiosity and laziness? Those I still suffer from – and I can be very short-tempered and unforgiving when dealing with folks who I believe to have the same defects. It’s only the things that still trouble me in me, that trouble me in you.
  3. However, I can spot these things in others even when they don’t suffer from them– but since I do have these problems, and feel guilty about them, I want to see them in other people so as to make other folks guiltier than I am, and thus see myself as ‘better than’ they are.

So Ethel may, indeed, be working at a much higher level than I am – she may be working with God Himself to save me from myself; she may be holding out for a better life that we might have together, later, instead of bailing on all responsibility now and heading to Mexico.

Maybe.

But one thing is for sure – since I see her as causing me a problem, that means that I have a problem, and if I have a problem, that means that I’m not seeing things correctly. So as long as I’m irritated that Ethel won’t run off to Mexico with me, I shouldn’t be trying to run off to Mexico, because the irritation itself shows me that it’s my selfishness at work – and my selfishness never does me any good at all, but only causes me (and all those around me) troubles!

So now my path is clear – I need to reach a place where I want to go to Mexico, but I’m not upset that Ethel won’t go. Then we’ll be free to go.

However, I’m not sure that I can get there while I still want to go to Mexico, because my ‘wanter’ is the problem, after all. So now I’ve got to stop wanting to go to Mexico, so that Ethel can then decide that we should go.

Whew. I’ve worn myself out 😉

On the 25th of last month, I did the half Ironman in Coeur d’Alene, for the second time.

I’m finally ready to decide how I feel about it.

CdACycle

Here’s the deal – last year, I had a fair swim, a pretty good ride, and not-a-good run. So I spent the winter and spring working on my swimming and running, and letting my bike slide a bit. You know – work on your weak points. Heck, there were a couple of months where I barely saw the pool or the trainer – I was in a “running block”.

Three weeks before the race, I was swimming better than I had ever imagined swimming, and I was consistently running over a minute per mile faster than I was running the year before in the period leading up to the race.

I figured I’d lose something in the bike, but I’d more than make it up in the swim and run.

Then the taper started, and I started doing a lot more open water swims. Suddenly my legs turned to wood, and I couldn’t swim but 100 yards or so at a time, and then I’d have to take a break – this after doing a full Half-IM swim every Saturday morning, before my long bike ride.

Okay, okay, it’s taper jitters – it’ll pass.

Hah. On race day, I had to keep stopping about each buoy on the way out – I could swim all the way back, but the damage was done; my swim was four minutes slower.

And the run was hot, sure, but it was hard to believe that I ran slower this year than last year – when I looked at my training log, it was just not possible. But it happened.

Meanwhile, my bike was TEN MINUTES FASTER. (Here’s the Garmin file from just the bike portion.) Everything on the bike was easier – I was passing people for three hours, and passing on both the uphills and the downhills. I was out of my mind on the bike. 

So the things that I prepared for, trained for, and was ready for, went straight to heck – while the discipline in which I had slacked off and taken it easy in order to work on the other stuff is where the day shined.

I just don’t know anything at all about anything, and nothing that I do goes the way that I think it will 🙂

This would be a great time to quit triathlon – I mean, what’s a fellow to do, when his efforts result in the exact opposite of the any reasonably expected result?!? 🙂

But instead, I’m now in full training for Ironman Arizona, in November, and getting ready to sign up for IM Hawai’i 70.3 next June.

See,here’s the way these things work – the fact that nothing ever works the way that you think it will does NOT stop one from thinking. So the poor brain steps back and says to itself “Okay, then, if I had done THIS, then THAT would have happened”. And the brain goes right ahead and, next time, does THIS – but THAT, that should have happened, doesn’t happen.

Pirsig pointed out in “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” that the scientific method – while pretty good, and the best thing we’ve come up with so far – has an obvious, but overlooked, flaw; the more information you get, the MORE hypotheses you can produce, instead of LESS. So what we do is we pick one hypothesis, and go with it, and ignore everything else that’s yelling at us from the edge of our consciousness.

I have no real idea why the things that I tried didn’t work – but the fact is that, unlike the scientific method, I can’t “keep everything else the same and change one variable”. All of my variables are changing, all the time, and all I can do is try to steer a course that makes sense, while having to admit that it isn’t going to work the way I expect it to – but it might work someway.

So how do I feel about IMCdA/2?

Whimsical. All I’m left with, in all honesty, is shaking-my-head whimsy, a crooked smile and rolling eyes.

And an entry blank for the next race 🙂

 

Yesterday I had the worst swim I’ve had since the day that I squealed like a girl in May 2014.

CityBeachOWS

(editor’s note – I’ve never done a straight post about IM/2 St George 2014, the day that I didn’t do the Half IM, and I don’t know why. Maybe I will soon). When I squealed like a girl, it was my first open-water swim (OWS) and it was water cold enough to cause the hyperventilation reflex (also known as Cold Shock Response ) and it resulted in me being, well, terrified, and I went home instead of doing the race.

That might even be a reasonable reaction to swimming out into the middle of a lake, and suddenly finding oneself unable to breathe. Prayer didn’t help, as it seems to be a reaction of the trigenimal nerve that requires adaptation for some folks (well, of course, prayer ALWAYS helps; in this case, it helped me to keep trying over and over again, and satisfy myself that it wasn’t going to work).

Well, for the last few months, I’ve been swimming with the Coach On Deck group at the Whitefish Wave, and Ive actually been getting faster; consistent, reasonable progress. It’s reached the point where I was doing three triathlon-distance single sets a week (two Olympics and one Half) all well below 2:00 pace (that’s 2 minutes per 100 yards).

I finished my last hard week of training on Sunday; yesterday morning I was supposed to go to the pool, but I couldn’t get my rear up and moving. So late yesterday, I decided to head to Whitefish City Beach to put on my wet suit and get some OWS time done.

It was awful.

I couldn’t seem to swim more than 50-60 yards at a stretch, then I would stop, hit my Garmin, and lay back and float on my swim buoy. Then, after I rested, I’d try again.

And again.

By the time I got out of there, I was pretty darn discouraged – rather than swimming 2000+ yards at 1:53, I was doing 50 yard segments at what my Garmin reported as 2:24 average pace.

As a result, I don’t even WANT to go to Couer d’Alene for the race.

Now, swimming slowly in open water while training for a triathlon is almost certainly classifiable as a “First World Problem” – it just ain’t important in any scheme of things. We’re healthy, sober, living happily and usefully whole while gainfully employed in a mountain paradise – who cares if I suddenly can’t swim fast? Trivial issue.

But therein lies the rub with ALL human endevours – in order to attempt something, you first have to make that something matter – and once it matters, it is hard to minimize it.

I heard a fellow in an NA meeting, back in the late 80s, say that whenever his truck got dirty, he started driving slower past car lots, looking at other trucks – and the dirtier the truck got, the most he was looking. He soon realized that, eventually, he was going to wash his truck, or trade it.

Now, I took that home with me and meditated on it, and realized that, for me, this expresses a general truth; I used to think that something got important to me, and so I put my effort into it. I have since realized that it’s the “putting in of effort” that MAKES it important. “Where your treasure is, there will your heart lie also” — Matthew 6:21.

So I put all of this effort into training – so how, now, do I minimize the importance? How do I just shrug it off and say “Oh, well, it’s a First World Problem?”

I suppose the Twelve Steps might get me there – they are, as I understand it, “a means of reducing our demands” (among many other things).  And, right now, I’ve got some demands.

If this is Sunday, then I must have done a two hour treadmill run.

But today, I did it slightly differently. But not, I fear, differently enough.

Zeno

For a good while now, on normal weeks, I’ve done two hour treadmill runs and always did them the same – just a hair under 10:00 pace for the first hour, and then sped it up by 0.1 mph for the second hour. Since my Sunday run always follows a hard Saturday swim and bike, these runs give me all the fun I can stand.

Splitting the pace like that – about 10 seconds/mile faster for the second hour – gives me a slight “negative split” – i.e the second “split” (time/distance) is slightly less than the first. That’s always been the way that I’ve run my best races, speeding up slightly as I go. (There are sound physiological reasons why this is so).

But today I got this silly notion – why don’t I check out Zeno’s Paradox? (For the uninitiated, Zeno’s Paradox has a lot of descriptions, but the one that I first heard was this – if you’re going to walk a mile, then first you have to walk half of that distance – then you have to walk half of the second half, then you have to walk half of the last quarter, then half of the last eighth – thus, there will always be another half of whatever you have left, so you will never get there).

I decided to try, instead, Zeno’s Negative Splits – so I ran the first hour at the normal speed, and then I sped up 0.1 mph for the next half hour, then increasing 0.1 mph for the next fifteen minutes, then 0.1 mph for the next 7:30, then 0.1 mph for the next 3:45, then 0.1 mph for the next 1:52, then 0.1 mph for the next 56 seconds, then 0.1 mph for the next 28 seconds, then 0.1 for the next 14 seconds, then 0.1 mph for the next 7 seconds, then 0.1 mph for the next 3.5 seconds, and so on….

TIME MPH
100:00.0 6
30:00.0 6.1
15:00.0 6.2
07:30.0 6.3
03:45.0 6.4
01:52.5 6.5
00:56.3 6.6
00:28.1 6.7
00:14.1 6.8
00:07.0 6.9
00:03.5 7
00:01.8 7.1
00:00.9 7.2
00:00.4 7.3
00:00.2 7.4
00:00.1 7.5
00:00.05 7.6

Now, if I could have done this correctly, I would have eventually been running at infinite speed, since I would always be increasing by a tenth of a mile an hour, always for the next 1/2 of the remaining period, all the way down to the picoseconds.

Unfortunately, there’s a quantum problem – that is that it takes a certain amount of time to press the up arrow on the speed control, so I can’t keep increasing the speed forever, because the time it takes to change the speed is longer than the period left in the run.

Oh, well. That’s why you don’t see the graph, above, going all the way to a vertical line at the end – it’s because the treadmill just doesn’t have the fine granularity of control it would take to keep speeding up. It’s not my fault – I tried!

(There’s another practical problem, that being that, once I hit the speed of light, I would have attained infinite mass, and the entire universe would have collapsed around me because I would have infinite gravitational attraction, and you’d all be dead, and not reading this anyway.)